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Many Westerners, including many American Jews and Christians, are seeking new, less demanding, more inclusive, religious consciousness and forms. The growing communication with the East, its own embrace of Globalism (which is destroying Eastern traditional culture) is seen by many as critical in developing a widely desired global secular religion and political union. Through uniting the diverse religions and countries into a proposed Global Union of Nations many believe they have found the Path to Peace.
However Globalism has been tried before (remember the 1930's?) and it will work no better this time (Genesis 11:9)! This Path will certainly seal our downfall as once free countries if it is not halted. As the saying goes: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely!
As we read in Talmud:
Sanhedrin Folio 97a: ...Thus hath R. Johanan said: in the generation when the son of David [i.e. Messiah] will come, scholars will be few in number, and as for the rest, their eyes will fail through sorrow and grief. Multitudes of trouble and evil decrees will be promulgated anew, each new evil coming with haste before the other has ended.'...
Sanhedrin 97b: ... Rab said: All the predestined dates [for redemption] have passed, and the matter [i.e. of the redemption] [now] depends only on repentance and good deeds...
R. Eliezer said: if Israel repent, they will be redeemed; if not, they will not be redeemed.
R. Joshua said to him, if they do not repent, will they not be redeemed! [i.e. this is not so] But the Holy One, blessed be He, will set up a king over them, whose decrees shall be as cruel as those of Haman, whereby Israel shall engage in repentance, and he will thus bring them back to the right path.
Is Globalism and Multi-culturalism laying the foundation for this planetary despot who will be 'more cruel than haman'? Similarities between this and Christian New Testament prophecies of the coming Rex Mundi (global potentate) are obvious (note that this is not a topic most Jews focus on nor are even aware of). Still the world careens onward into the fog and American religious experience is an intrisinct element of what is happening.
At least as far back as the Persian ruler Darius I (c.500 B.C.E.), the West has had first hand knowledge of basic Eastern concepts. It has long desired to incorporate these (note 3). By the time Alexander the Great conquered Darius III (Codomannus) at the Battle of Issus in 333 B.C.E. Western influence was permanently established in India (HA 6,7). Even the Buddhist architecture of Ashoka, with its pillars and winged lions owed much to Western influence (S 13,14). Indeed, the link between India and the West, in architecture, Indo-European language, economics, religion, and philosophy is of great antiquity and is still growing.
After the Roman Christian subjugation of Europe the exchange of ideas between what was then considered the Christian West and the Heathen East was largely halted except for missionary work. As Rick Fields points out, in the West the Buddhists, regardless of how pure their ideals or sound their ethics may have been, were condemned as unrepentant sinners destined for eternal torment. Eastern thought was almost universally rejected in the West and most communication ceased for hundreds of years (S 20).
It would be incorrect to say however that during the Church's theocratic stranglehold on the West only its missionaries confronted Eastern religionists. While contact was minimal, it did occur. For instance, there were the travels of explorers such as Marco Polo (1254-1324). La Loubere, King Louis the XIV's envoy to the king of Siam (1678-1679), discussed the intellectually challenging concept of nirvana in his Description du Royaume de Siam (S 24). Likewise, in 1727 Englebert Kampfer in his History of Japan Together with a Description of the Kingdom of Siam published the first English book on Zen Buddhism. He introduced zazen, satori and Koans to the West (S 24,25; note 4). Despite these exceptions, due to the religious exclusivity that typified Medieval Christianity, meaningful dialogue between East and West remained infrequent until the Third Great Awakening in late nineteenth century. More on this below.
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- Note 3: Darius I took possession of Gandhara and Hindukush. Later, Indian troops formed an alliance with Persia and fought the Greeks at Thermopylae. Return
- Note 4: Zazen: Sitting meditation
Satori: Sudden awakening or enlightenment
Koans: Fundamental principle which is directly experienced; a story which points to this experience. Return
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