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The Great Awakenings

The Essence of Contemporary American Religion

Part Thirty-Two

By Shlomo Phillips © 1989
(most recent update February 26, 2015)

Recorded Live on Facebook
Video 7:
Parts 29 - 33

The Third Great Awakening Concluded

The World Parliament of Religions

The 1893 World's Fair, housed along the banks of Lake Michigan in Chicago, was much more than a fair. It included pavilions from across the globe and was intended to be the celebration of the dawning of a New World Order. At the very least the fair was an opening salvo in the ongoing social engineering revolution. The Third Great Awakening accompanied the birth of American Consumerism, the corporatism that emerged in earnest with the creation of the Federal System and Globalism. In 17 Things You May Not Know About the 1893 Chicago World's Fair Barbara Maranzani sheds light on this aspect of the fair:

2. The fair produced a number of firsts.
Among the well-loved commercial products that made their debut at the Chicago World's Fair were Cream of Wheat, Juicy Fruit gum and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Technological products that would soon find their way into homes nationwide, such as the dishwasher and fluorescent light bulbs, had early prototype versions on display in Chicago as well. The U.S. government also got in on the act, issuing the country's first postcards and commemorative stamps and two new commemorative coins: a quarter and half dollar. The half dollar featured Christopher Columbus, in whose honor the fair had been staged, while the quarter depicted Queen Isabella of Spain, who had funded Columbus' voyages, making it the first U.S. coin to honor a woman.
What is not mentioned in her list, and it is a sign of the times in which we live, is the White City World Parliament of Religions. The stated purpose of this historic three week religious 'city' was "to house a larger conception of human history, a new and more religious idea of divine providence through all ages and all lands, the World Parliament of Religions." Possibly borrowing his presentation from Isaac (ben Solomon) Luria Ashkenazi's (1534 - July 25, 1572) teachings on Tikkun Olam (i.e. the repairing of the shattered soul), the event's chairperson, Presbyterian minister Reverend Barrows, proclaimed:
"Religion, like the white light of heaven, had been broken into many-colored fragments by the prisms of men. One of the objects of the Parliament of Religions has been to change this many-colored radiance back into the white light of heavenly truth."
From around the globe truth seekers and teachers came to this "Universalist" convocation to share spiritual insights. Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Unitarians, and adherents of the Shinto and Zoroastrian traditions all gathered in a unitive spirit never before seen in the West (many have noted the intentional absence of Native American participation in the event).

In a real sense the World Parliament of Religions was an American Kumbh Mela, although of course much smaller, more modest, and limited in scope and history. Such a significant public gathering would have been impossible during the days when the hold of Christianity was more firm. Even a decade before most Christians would have viewed the event as utterly blasphemous, a sign that the End of Days had surely arrived. It would probably have been forbidden, but now the Secular Humanist state and federal government endorsed it fully. The historic Christian hope of America as "New Zion" was now officially dead.

By the 1890's the Church had lost its near absolute religious control over the US and the world. More and more people were now questioning and rejecting the accepted religious traditions of society.

The event was not without its critics of course. It was not only Fundamentalist Christians who refused to take part in the universalist parliament. The Ottoman Turkish sultan Abdul Hamid II refused to attend without citing a reason, although his belief in the supremacy of Islam was doubtless it. The Archbishop of Canterbury was clear about his reasons for refusing. He explained: "the Christian religion is the only true religion."

Although Reform Rabbi E.G. Hirsch of Chicago's Sinai Congregation was present, there was no traditional (i.e. Orthodox) Jewish representation at the event. Likewise, despite the presence of liberal Catholic Bishop P.A. Feehan, the European Roman Catholic hierarchy, just like most North American Evangelical leaders, including D.L. Moody (see above), also openly opposed the convention both in practice and in intention.

A Core Dividing Line Exposed

In these refusals we find a core dividing line among people of faith. Those who embrace a more universalist spiritual perspective as advocated at the WPR usually focus on faith in more abstract terms. From this perspective we find the credo: "It doesn't matter what one believes as long as one believes." Beginning with the Third Great Awakening this eclectic belief was becoming the dominant Western view.

The traditional Christian belief in Jesus as the only way to God, the traditional Jewish belief in its unique Covenant relationship with God, were both under direct attack. The Jewish Reform Movement rejected the Mosaic Covenant of the Jews as a Chosen People and other traditional foundations. Their reformed views fit nicely with the Parliament's unitarian goals.

The advocates of this dawning unitarian-universalist paradigm saw spiritual awareness as an ever developing flow of culturally relative experiences that tends towards a united global religion. Those who reject this view are dismissed as passe, as counter spiritual revolutionary. This lack of respect for the traditional religions led to their being blamed for most evils in the world. This view reached its zenith in Chairman Mao's declaration that religion is the opiate of the people. The traditional religions had become antiquated and should be dissolved with the help of science, Social Humanism, and legislation. Faith was becoming an enemy of the dawning new world religious order.

More traditionally minded people stressed the importance of what people believe. They pointed out that while many evils have certainly been done based on wrong/negative beliefs about God and religion, some of the most important advancements in human history have occurred because of and through religious faith. Society should not "throw the baby out with the bath water." If God/Truth exists as we (whoever "we" are) have traditionally believed, then abandoning those traditional convictions surely is not the way to curry Divine favor nor continued advancement. The opponents replied that if God does not exist as traditionally accepted, then everything we as a people have believed has been built on a lie. Everything should therefore be opened up to the current skepticism. For these people the WPR and globalism represented the best aspects of human nature: the desire to recast God in their own image.

How can these views ever be reconciled? While the prior perspective has become the social norm throughout the non-Muslim world, faith in the traditional beliefs is still strong among a healthy minority of the people. Even as the Third Great Awakening witnessed a blossoming of religious thought from one perspective, it also oversaw a major decline in religious specificity and practice.

Among the changes taking place during the period was the role of women. In the PWR women were afforded an opportunity that foreshadowed their growing role in religion. Antoinette Brown Blackwell, the first woman to be ordained as a minister in the US (by the Congregational Church in 1851) spoke. She told the assembly: "Women are needed in the pulpit as imperatively and for the same reason they are needed in the world - because they are women." The fact that most women who enter the clergies of the various religions embrace a more liberal than traditional perspective has significantly contributed the universalist trends for better or for worse.

This globalist assembly was hailed as 'the noblest and proudest achievement in history' and as 'the crowning work of the nineteenth century' by Anagarika Dharmapala (September 17, 1864 - April 29, 1933), one of the founding contributors of non-violent Sinhalese Buddhist Nationalism. The gathering was the virtual embodiment of the Third Great Awakening. Through this conference, the western world was introduced to some of the most influential religious thinkers of the day. Swami Vivekananda, who had received the mantle of Sri Ramakrishna and established the Vedanta Society, B.B. Nagarkar of the Hindu Brahma-Samaj, and Buddhist Master Anagarika Dharmapala were among the main speakers; however, a host of other religious leaders spoke as well. Japanese Buddhists, such as translator Zenshiro Noguchi, Rinzai Zen master Soyen Shaku (the first Zen master in America and teacher of D.T. Suzuki), Kinzai R.M. Hirai, Prince Chandradat Chudhadharn of Siam, Z. Noguchi (who spoke for Banryu Yatsubuchi -- who introduced Esoteric Buddhism to the west), and assorted representatives of the Jodo Shinshu, Nichirin, Tendai and various other esoteric sects also spoke (S 119-129). This was an amazing meeting that spiritually opened the U.S. to the world!

Anagarika Dharmapala likened the Parliament to the re-emergence of the ancient Council of Asoka that had occurred twenty-four centuries earlier. He proclaimed that it was his destiny to, "share the Buddha's noblest lessons of tolerance and gentleness, and that in this great city, the youngest of all cities, this program will be carried out, and the name of Dr. Barrows [the organizer of the Parliament] will shine forth as the American Asoka" (note 33).

Thanks to the World Parliament of Religions, eastern spiritual traditions, especially Buddhism and Mayavadhi (i.e. Impersonalist, see note C).) Hinduism, gained entry into America and the western thought (S 122). It is said however that "Zen was brought to the West single-handedly by Daisetz (Great Simplicity) Teitaro Suzuki." Suzuki was born two hundred miles north of Tokyo in 1870 and first arrived in America (at San Francisco) in February 1897. His teacher, Soyen Shaku, was the first Zen master to visit the West. At the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, in the heart of the Third Great Awakening, Shaku offered a very down-to-earth presentation of the Buddhadharma (as is appropriate for a Zen master). Due to language difficulties, an English translation of that speech (by D.T. Suzuki) was read by the Rev. J.H. Barrows, the chairperson of the Parliament (S 126). The impact of D.T. Suzuki on western religion is often likened to the significance of Aristotle and Plato (ZM 9; S 34; NR 32-73).

The End of the Third Great Awakening

In 1914 the First World War began in earnest and the Third Great Awakening became one of its many casualties. The extent to which the Third Great Awakening reshaped the world is difficult to overstate. There are certain watershed events in human history that serve as markers of time: time before and time after. The Third Great Awakening is one of these markers. Life before was fundamentally different than life afterward. Arguably the world wars were manifestations of the social upheavals caused by the Third Awakening. The world had become a much smaller, more interconnected place in which to live. The days of isolationism were ending.

With the spread of political globalism, globalist philosophies, reformed religions, and corporatism, the world had forever changed. Into this manipulated and arguably inevitable void entered a new breed of social planners: the Social Humanists. The past was gone and these elite social engineers intended to shape a new future: the New World Order.

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