|Problematizing God's Interventions in History|
|Sunday, 12 February 2006 15:40|
This essay problematizes the way certain cultures have historicized divine intervention and viewed it as the primary mode of knowing about spiritual truth. It compares this mode with ahistorical insight received through esoteric methodologies of transformation of consciousness.
Problematizing God's Interventions in History
This essay problematizes the way certain cultures have historicized divine intervention and viewed it as the primary mode of knowing about spiritual truth. It compares this mode with ahistorical insight received through esoteric methodologies of transformation of consciousness.
There are two different, and often competing, ways of arriving at spiritual truth: (A) via historical narratives (about “holy” events, for example), and (B) via adhyatma-vidya (inner “science” or esoteric processes) which tends to be direct and ahistorical. While both methods exist within every major tradition, a given tradition tends to emphasize one or the other. The methodology by which truth gets discovered, debated, validated, and accepted, becomes a central part of the core competence of the tradition, and the basis for its continuity. The essay challenges A on scientific and ethical grounds.
On scientific grounds: Can universal truth-claims be considered scientific, if they are contingent upon a particular account of history, especially a historical event that could never be replicated? Specifically, what does a scientist think of claims of God's unique interventions that are space-time discontinuities, and that either violated or permanently changed the laws of the cosmos? Can science afford to legitimize any Grand Narratives of Human History, including the teleology that God intervened to reveal? It is not this essay's intention to “blame God” for intervening; but, rather, to problematize the history-centric tendencies in societies.
On the other hand, B is a set of ahistorical methods that includes first-person empiricism. Of special interest is the question: What does science have to say about truth-claims which are based on discoveries brought about by human potential, and not based on God's interventions in history via prophets? In other words, is adhyatma-vidya (based on inherent human potential) an empirical “science”, and, if so, could it be reconciled with historically unique revelations?
Should the scientific approach to spirituality be to “prove” historical narratives, or should it be an open-ended process that also examines the methods used to arrive at religious canons? Should the thriving new discipline of science and religion apply scientific standards of inquiry to question religious Grand Narratives, and not just serve to legitimize certain religions? Are many scholars invested too heavily in the dominant scientific theoretical models and/or the religious outcomes of their inquiries?
The essay also analyzes the socio-political and ethical contrasts between the two modes.
The academic study of religion, and hence of science and religion, has been rooted in Western categories. These categories define religion based on Grand Narratives of God's interventions in human history, and have become the lens through which much of this historiography has developed.
At the same time, non-Western truth-claims of adhyatma-vidya are often first (i) harvested for their fruits, by repackaging them into Western categories, and then (ii) become ornaments, either digested into Western science/religion, or worn as exotic museum pieces that are not seriously examined as truth-claims. Because they are no longer nurtured as living traditions, non-Western traditions cease to serve humanity as laboratories of inner science, especially in former colonies where the West is seen as the gold standard to emulate. This has ethical implications, and has sometimes resulted in cultural genocide.
In this classification, I interpret Jesus' original teachings as type B (ahistorical and esoteric), whereas Christianity later became type A (exoteric institutionalized power). The Grand Narratives in Jesus' name have often not been faithful to his message. The category of “Abrahamic religions,” as used in this essay, denotes the institutions and their history-centric Grand Narratives. Prior to Constantine, Jesus had inspired movements quite similar to Indic traditions.
This paper challenges the trajectory of the field of science and religion, and shows how the use of Abrahamic categories has limited the inquiry. It includes a lively discussion with “liberal Christians” at the end.
Most philosophies, both theistic and non-theistic, Indian and Western, accept some kind of upper limits to human knowledge. For instance:
Intentional choices --> Sanskara traces --> Nama-rupa --> Avidya/Maya.
The maya principle, as the theory of mental distortions and limits, is a common foundation to many Hindu, Buddhist and Jaina traditions, even though the terms used might be different.
II. Western secular theories on the limits to mental representation: Modern Western thought has notions of similar limits of mind: (i) Gödel's theorems demonstrate that all the truths of common mathematical systems cannot be written in any language. Linguistic expression, such as that involved in mathematics, is limited in what it could possibly state .(ii) Wittgenstein's theory of language as a game is built on problematizing the “meanings” of sentences and the limits of what may be representable. (iii) The quantum uncertainty principle describes the uncertainty built into the state of all physical systems. (iv) Kant considered his transcendental realm and the notion of nuomena to be outside the mind's capacity. (v) A variety of post-modernist philosophers -- from Rorty, to Putnam, to Derrida -- each in their own way, refute any mental representation of an objective ultimate reality. I have benefited greatly from the study of Western thought in deepening my understanding of the avidya/maya principles, although Western thinkers have mostly avoided making any reference to Indian systems.
III. Abrahamic religions' approach to bridging the infinite gap between God and man: In contrast with the Indian traditions, the Abrahamic religions -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam -- emphasize that the infinite gap of knowledge between man and God can only be bridged when God initiates a dialog with man. This is why God's interventions in human history are all-important, and become the cornerstone of each Abrahamic religion. Without God's prophet bringing the ultimate truth to man, it would be impossible for man to transcend his limits. (See the endnote after IV, on why Prophet ¹ Living Guru, and a sub-heading towards the end on why Savior ¹ Avatar.) Hence, Abrahamic religions are largely about history, more specifically, about God's interventions in history. These miraculous interventions occur very rarely, and therefore, must be documented in canons and doctrines, and studied meticulously, in order to know the ultimate reality. Man has no other recourse available except this. While direct intuitive knowledge of Christ is also available, it is only after the individual has been conditioned by history-centric scriptures.
IV. Indian theories of transcendence: In Hindu, Buddhist and Jaina systems, maya, or its equivalents, masks (as avidya) an underlying state of all mundane knowing. In other words, every human has the potential to transcend avidya. What distinguishes these systems from the Abrahamic systems is that they do not depend upon a God-initiated intervention via a prophet or son, in order to transcend the ordinary human limitations. Rather, every human has the potential, no matter how rarely achieved, to experience the state claimed by rishis, advanced yogis, jivanmuktis, buddhas, or the equivalent, wherein the ultimate truth is known directly and without mediation by nama-rupa. This is a most extraordinary claim, and one that is central to the Indian traditions. (The adhyatmika process used is itself in nama-rupa, and must, therefore, be transcended eventually.)
The Abrahamic means to bridging the gap emphasizes a top-down, God-initiated intervention in human history. This intervention is via a prophet, who is also God's son in the case of Christianity. In most interpretations, as shown below, unless such an intervention is taken literally and its message is implemented, man is doomed to remain in darkness, for his mind has no other way to escape from its delusions and limits. On the other hand, the Indic traditions claim an endless stream of enlightened living spiritual masters, each said to have realized the ultimate truth while alive on this earth, and hence, able to teach this truth to others. Unlike in the case of Indic traditions, the great teachers of Abrahamic traditions are not living models of embodied enlightenment for the student. Instead, Abrahamic teachers proclaim the truth based on historical texts. The consequences of these divergent systems are enormous, and are at the heart of Indic-Abrahamic distinctions.
The diagram that follows gives an outline of the main points that are discussed in this paper. “A” and “B” correspond to the paths of history-centrism and ahistorical spiritual enlightenment, respectively. The former's premise is that human limitations are inherently insurmountable without divine intervention. The latter's premise is that humans have infinite potential. These, in turn, correspond to (A) the view of man being essentially evil, and hence in need of being salvaged by God's agency, versus (B) the view of man being essentially sat-chit-ananda, the Supreme Being in limited form, with the built-in capability to achieve self-realization.
While the Abrahamic religions have been predominantly A, this does not imply that there have not been mystics in these religions who practiced and taught the methods of B -- Meister Eckhart and numerous Sufi mystics were such exemplars. Nor is it true that all Indic traditions are free from history-dependency: the recent Hindutva focus on Ram's birthplace is an example of history-centrism.
Each culture has had both the adhyatmika (esoteric) and the laukika (worldly or exoteric) movements within it. But there have been differences between Indic and Abrahamic cultures, in the manner in which this competition played out.
Mystics in the Abrahamic faiths were mostly on the margins of mainstream religions. They were often persecuted by the religious institutions, and were rarely accepted within their own faith communities during their lives. Hence, they did not create lineages that could further test, develop, enhance, discover, and teach the “B” processes that they had discovered, often accidentally. Therefore, there were no peer debates amongst mystics who made experiential claims. Consequently, these sporadic mystical experiences did not result in the systematization of sophisticated epistemologies, nor into rigorous procedures for reproducing them -- unlike in the case of India. In the West, “mysticism” became a pejorative that meant pre-rational and inferior, and was frequently subject to persecution.
On the other hand, Indians who claimed enlightenment using the “B” methods were glorified and honored as spiritual leaders during their lives, and often developed massive followings. Bhakti saints, Ramakrishna's integral yoga, and Sri Aurobindo's “purna Vedanta” are each examples of innovations to prior methodologies, based on embodied experience, and not based on a reinterpretation of old scripture. Such living masters have always been the loci of spirituality in India, in contrast to the institutions in the case of Abrahamic religions. Living masters often override and subvert institutional loyalties. It has also been argued that Tantra, in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions, was a reaction against institutionalization and hierarchy. These innovators discover new spiritual technologies, and also re-contextualize the truth for their given culture, time, place and audience. As living laboratories, they subject the classical methodologies and experiential claims to test, improvement and adaptation -- generation after generation.
India seems to have enjoyed a very long-term and continuous free-market of adhyatma-vidya ideas, practices, and lineages, where freelancers competed just as modern high-tech start-ups do. There was no attempt to enforce top-down standards, to root out quackery, or to control and license only the “best” or “true” practices. The consumer had free choice in a vibrant spiritual marketplace. There were always dissidents, many of who launched new spin-offs in a big way, just like today's entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. The kshyatriya kings' non-interference in the spiritual free-market was an important tradition.
By contrast, top-down institutionalized religions became obsessed with history-centrism and canons. They collapsed spirituality into canons, and this could be compared with a Soviet style controlled economy -- the mentality of one airline, one kind of toothpaste, one kind of breakfast cereal, and central licensing of movies, music and fashions.
Ironically, just as the Soviets derided the US free-market -- as being anarchical and inefficient -- so also, some of today's Indologists and liberal arts scholars look for “canons of Hindu Law” or historical Grand Narratives, and stereotype Hindus as irrational and unethical.
There are, indeed, trade-offs: Religious institutions provide continuity, whereas living spiritual masters disrupt bureaucracy and accumulation of power. Abrahamic traditions have institutional continuity, with historical canons as their center. Indic traditions have a flow of living spiritual masters, often with considerable spiritual creativity. These processes roughly correspond to coherence and power that is diachronic (in the Abrahamic case) versus synchronic (in the Indic case).
It is interesting to note that in Roman Catholicism, saints are always dead persons: As per the church's rules, only years after death is an exemplar entitled to be considered for sainthood. Why? My understanding is that living saints would threaten the institutions, because their word might overrule the dogma of the hierarchy in control. Carl Jung referred to churches as institutions designed to protect men from the awesome power of the Divine. Also, the vast majority of early Christian saints were glorified as martyrs, who died violently for the cause of Christianity, and not based on esoteric maturation. But martyrdom was never the basis for Indians to consider someone as a saint.
Yet, some liberal Christians have disagreed with my analysis that Christianity is history-centric. For example, Alex Alexander, a liberal Indian Christian, commenting on Sulekha, explains that there is no single historical Grand Narrative in Christianity:
But this inter-denominational conflict described by him does not imply the absence of history-centrism. The above explanation does not refute my point, and in fact supports it: each of the Christian denominations mentioned is based on its own history-centric canons. The fact that they disagree amongst themselves mainly about history only goes to show how much importance is given to these competing historical narratives. The symbols being disputed are also historical. This clash of narratives confirms my thesis that Christianity is contingent upon the validity of some historical narrative or other.
In order to evaluate how widespread history-centrism is amongst American Christians, a good source of data is the book by George Gallup, founder/CEO of the famous Gallup Poll, and a self-identified Christian evangelist. This book is based on decades of systematic polling of Americans about their religious beliefs. Here is a snapshot of Americans' religious beliefs prior to September 11, which have become even more literalist since this data was collected:
Here is yet another recent example to demonstrate the centrality of historical detail: Twenty eight clergy of the 8.4 million strong United Methodist Church recently filed a charge within the UMC tribunal against a liberal bishop, for doubting “the virgin birth, divinity and bodily resurrection of Jesus.” Indian spiritualists wonder why there is so much fuss about charges that are entirely about historical interpretations. Because the bishop said that Jesus was not the only way to salvation, he was charged with being guilty of "dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrine" of the church -- clearly showing the rigidity by which truth-claims are established in mainstream Christianity even today. The charge acknowledged that the accused bishop “is obedient to Christ's teachings” -- showing that Jesus' teachings are less important than his history. This has generated a major internal fight amongst the Methodists, about the interpretation of Jesus' history.
A recent report on CNN says: “The Kentucky Mountain Bible College has finally dropped the 666 prefix [from the phone numbers] that disturbed Christians who recognized it as the biblical mark of the beast… In the Book of Revelation, 666 is stamped into people's foreheads or right hands during the last days. Those who receive the mark, according to Scripture, are damned to eternal punishment.” MacGrego, the college vice president, said, “the beast represents Satan.” True Christians, he said, will not accept the mark.
Christian movies, music and books are enjoying very high growth rates. For instance, Hollywood's Mel Gibson is now a high profile actor, director, financier and spokesman for “Catholic traditionalists,” who reject the Vatican II reform that would give respect to other faiths. His planned movies will center on Catholic literalism. His Oscar-nominated movie Signs, directed by M. Night Shyalam, was about Catholic miracles coming true.
Apocalypse and Americans Today:
In the Abrahamic religions, the future is also frozen by the Grand Narrative of History. TIME magazine recently devoted a cover story on this:
A recent TIME/CNN poll showed that a growing number of Americans are taking the Bible's Book of Revelation literally as the final predictor of events:
Among the best-selling fiction books in recent years is a series about the End of Time, written by Tim F. LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkens, based on the Book of Revelation. In 1995, they published “Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days.” The recent TIME magazine cover story explains the mass hysteria related to this kind of literature:
Wyoming state senator Carroll Miller has retired from politics, and speaks at churches and men's clubs, helping people come to grips with the prospect of the Second Coming of Christ. “It's very important that we as a Christian nation know what the Scriptures have said about these days,” he says. Many Americans have prepared Bibles highlighting the relevant passages about what will occur during the Tribulation, so that their left-behind friends and relatives “will know to prepare for the earthquakes and locusts and scorpions…”
While liberal Americans acclaim how pluralistic the country is becoming, here is TIME magazine's analysis of the growing xenophobia and exclusiveness:
An employee of Boeing decided not to buy Microsoft's Windows XP, because it carries a method of tracking e-mail: “If the Antichrist were to come,” she fears, “and you want to contact another Christian, they could see that, trace it.”
However, most true believers do not see the end as a threat, but as a great promise coming true. “If we keep our eyes on Israel, we will know about the return of Christ,” says one man in Ohio. “Everything that is happening -- wars, rumors of war -- in the Middle East is happening according to Scripture.”
It is interesting to note that Islamic extremism is also driven by history-centrism that is very similar to the Christian history-centrism described above. TIME magazine analyzes:
America's Historical Identity:
Such thinking is nothing new or atypical in Western civilization. It is deeply rooted in eschatology, the Jewish and Christian doctrine about the end of history, at which time the dead would get resurrected, and there would be The Last Judgment. Encyclopedia Britannica explains: 
“In New Testament Christianity, history is viewed throughout in eschatological terms: the future of God has already begun with the appearance of Christ; the end of history is near; the end of time is therefore filled with danger and salvation, faith and unfaith, Christ and Antichrist, will be consummated through the resurrection of the dead, the judgment of the world…”
TIME magazine writes that the United States was always seen by many of its leaders in light of this Grand narrative:
“From as early as the 17th century, many had seen the New World [i.e. USA] as the linchpin of a particularly optimistic End Times scenario. Unlike earlier believers who thought humans were helpless to influence God's cosmic plan, they thought they could trigger Christ's Millennium by purifying and perfecting America. Ministers preached America as Revelation's New Jerusalem. Many colonists saw the Revolution in millennial terms, with George III as the Antichrist. Those most convinced, whom we would now call Evangelicals, helped shape the nation's culture of civic engagement, founding movements to abolish dueling, drinking, slavery and other sins. By the mid-1800s, some announced confidently that the Millennium might be a mere three years away…”
However, things did not go as planned:
Therefore, a new edition of the End of Time narrative had to be developed. John Nelson Darby, an Anglican priest and traveling evangelist, and Cyrus Scofield, a minister, grabbed this opportunity to come up with a new Grand Narrative on God's future plans. Their new Grand Narrative was a big hit, and went as follows: 
TIME explains how the same Grand Narrative has also been driving recent political history:
Neo-Abrahamic Secular Grand Narratives:
This sub-heading might come as a surprise to many neocolonized Indians, who imagine secularism to be free from the kind of superstition and dogma described above. But Encyclopedia Britannica explains otherwise:
Critics of Westernism:
William Higgins, as one example of many Westerners who are bitterly opposed to Eurocentrism, wrote: 
To justify history-based religious claims, some scholars have pointed out that even science has a history. Of course, science has a fascinating history. But the history of science has not been the basis for resolving scientific disputes, and nor has it been the source of serious conflicts, because it is not a necessary condition for the validity of scientific claims. Science is not contingent upon history.
There is a history of Isaac Newton, for instance. However, Isaac Newton's history's relationship to the validity of gravitation laws is entirely different than the centrality of history in the Abrahamic religions. Newton's life history is neither a necessary condition nor a sufficient condition for the validity of the gravitation laws. It is possible for Newton's life history to be valid -- that he lived at a certain time and place, that an apple fell on his head, and so forth -- and yet for his gravitation laws to be found false. Hence, his history is not sufficient for the validity of the laws he propounded. Conversely, it is possible that Newton's history is false -- i.e. he might have been an entirely different kind of person and lived in a different time and place, might have been a woman, and it might have been an orange that fell on his head rather than an apple -- and yet the gravitation laws could be found to be true. Therefore, Newton's history is not a necessary condition for the validity of the laws of gravitation.
While it is true that there is a history of Isaac Newton, it is largely a matter of side interest to scientists, and their belief in gravitation laws is independent of any such history. The history of science, and science itself, are two separate bodies of knowledge. Imagine if there were rival schools of physics fighting over whether it was an apple that fell on Newton's head or an orange, whether Newton had a brother, whether Newton was a woman, whether s/he existed in one place and time or a different one. Would such a profession be capable of scientific advancement?
Therefore, we must distinguish between two kinds of history. The mundane history of human events is not what I am problematizing. This would include the histories of scientists, rulers, cultures, and so forth. The laws of nature are not contingent upon such histories, and we do not have an obsession to prove any such history in order to live our lives scientifically today. However, the history of God's interventions has entirely different implications.
The Big Bang and the evolution of life are examples of unique historical events of great scientific importance. But the reason scientists believe in them is because empirical data available today leads to those conclusions, and not because of any historical narratives passed down to us.
This section discusses several means of attaining spiritual truth, which are not history-centric, but are existentially immediate.
Alan Wallace explains the role of mind in any empirical investigation of consciousness:  “The primary instrument that all scientists have used to make any type of observation is the human mind…” However, like any scientific laboratory, one has to first clean, fine-tune, and calibrate the mind:
In the pursuit of inner discoveries, the scientist is himself/herself the instrument of observation/experience. Anindita Balslev has called this “second-order empiricism,” and feels that this has been a unique achievement of Indic traditions.
To refine and develop the inner scientist's capabilities (i.e. cleaning the antahkarana), an important process is the cultivation of a lifestyle that minimizes mental perturbations and distractions that would reduce the resolution and clarity of experience. Rishis, yogis, and buddhas were such living human laboratories. Lineages evolved that continued the adhyatmika experimentation across many generations. These states led to the development of many sophisticated conceptual models and epistemologies over time. There were philosophical peer debates among inner scientists, based on these longitudinal experiments.
Sunthar Visuvalingam writes:
Lack of Western Adhyatma-Vidya:
My U-Turn Theory may be used to model the tension between adhyatmika and history-centrism in many Western individuals and movements: First, there is a period of freedom from historicity, during which there is extensive learning from Indic traditions and expansion of consciousness. Then the Grand Narrative of Western History raises its head out of insecurity; it fights, and eventually conquers whatever adhyatma-vidya had been embodied or conceptually learnt by that time.
Consequently, what Indians consider to be spirituality is not primary to the Abrahamic religions' self-definition. As Visuvalingam explains:
He goes on to state that the messianic impulse, embodied especially by Christianity, is focused on transforming the (external) world (as much as, if not more than, the inner man), even and especially when it breaks free of the (Jewish) Law. The same socio-political tension also exists between Sufis and the Islamic historical Grand Narratives.
Although the institutions that held power over society could be characterized in this manner, I feel that one must not ignore the morality, imitation of Christ-love, and inner salvation through works that were also taught by these traditions.
In each given Abrahamic religion, God gives collective bargains to man: Jews as the chosen tribes; Christians as all those who subscribe to the Grand Narrative of God's Son's sacrifice for them; Muslims as all who unquestionably believe in and comply with the final and complete words of God sent via his last Prophet (PBUH). Therefore, the focus of Abrahamic religions has often been extroverted. Many important canons are not about individual spirituality, but about collective salvation, calling for organizing society and politics to defeat non-believers. Individual salvation is experienced only in an afterlife in Heaven. Too often, success on Earth has been measured by collective socio-political mobilizations -- and, hence, via organized religions.
Robert Thurman's book, Inner Revolution, is about the need for a second renaissance, one that would be adhyatmika. He feels that the first European renaissance was only laukika and extroverted, and that the West has not developed serious esoteric technologies of its own.
Alan Wallace goes deeper in order to explain why the West has no systematic science comparable to adhyatma-vidya:
In the Middle Ages, Europeans considered extraordinary mental abilities to come from the Devil. This association of non-ordinary consciousness with the demonic precluded the development of a technology of consciousness. European superstitions literally killed the freedom to pursue any adhyatma-vidya, as witch-hunting became the craze from the late fifteenth century through the mid-seventeenth century. Wallace shows that even Christian mystics imposed serious limitations on human potential, because of:
Struggles between mystics and dogma-based hierarchy almost always resulted in the defeat of the adhyatmika at the hands of the history-centric. Christianity saw any rishi or buddha type of state as a threat to its historicity. Claims by spiritual adepts were condemned as man-made religions, because the notion of human transcendence during life was inconsistent with the canons. Protestantism, says Wallace, closed the Western mind even further with regard to serious inner investigations:
European outer science did not bring about any serious inner sciences into Europe, and the towering influence of Descartes made it worse:
Even William James, the pioneer of Western psychology, did not have the required empirical tools:
Wallace sums up the West's lack of adhyatma-vidya methodology as follows:
The rishi-state achieved by esoteric psycho-physiological adhyatmika practices is one of several kinds of embodied knowing. Bhakti sants use a different set of processes to achieve transcendence of ordinary human limits: These processes are based on intense devotion and surrender of the ego, combined with a simple lifestyle without anxieties. Natya, which includes dance, music, and performing arts in general, has served as another set of sophisticated processes for transcendence and embodied knowing, and is available to every human. Ramana Maharshi taught a Vedantic process of “inquiry” at all times, that leads to present moment transcendence.
Sri Aurobindo explains that the experience of jnana (“supramental knowledge”) gives human beings the possibility of knowing the relative in light of the absolute: one sees, touches, feels, and knows first the infinite, and then every form is known or seen through that infinity. This extraordinary claim is that a state is possible that goes beyond the relativity and limits of ordinary mind. This transcends the distinction between experience and interpretation of experience, i.e. between ontology and epistemology.
The following summarizes the distinctiveness of Indic traditions, on account of their emphasis on embodied knowing:
1. Every human has this inherent potential of embodied knowing of ultimate truths.
2. The state of embodied knowing is achieved during one's life on Earth, and does not depend upon death (i.e. it is not after entering “heaven”).
3. Such living enlightened gurus are sometimes seen as divine. They re-verify and re-contextualize the embodied (as contrasted with historical) truth to a given community of followers, at a given time and place. This continually refreshes the knowledge, and prevents history-centrism and ossification.
4. Embodied knowing also has major ethical implications, because (i) ethical conduct is a prerequisite for cultivating a clean mental instrument, and hence rishis must be ethical; and also because (ii) as a byproduct of this inner pursuit one's external conduct becomes spontaneously ethical. Ethics is inseparable from epistemology. This is important in order to understand the ethical foundation of Indic traditions -- they are based on embodied knowing.
5. Sophisticated epistemologies were developed based on embodied knowing. However, theoreticians also had to be experimental scientists, i.e. they had to engage in long-term adhyatmika practices and the prerequisite lifestyles, in order to achieve the states discussed by the epistemologies. Today's academic scholars simply lack this empirical foundation to be able to understand the epistemologies, much less being able to critique them -- regardless of how many diplomas and licenses they might have secured from their institutions.
6. Embodied knowing is forever reproducible, even though difficult to achieve. This is very different from history-centric claims that are even theoretically non-reproducible. Therefore, shruti -- the ultimate truth that is “heard” in such states -- is ahistorical. It was always there, and is always available to be rediscovered in the appropriate state of consciousness. Hence, shruti is not the same as revealed scripture, because the latter is contingent upon history. Shruti is not only ahistorical, but is regarded as supra human (a-paurusheya) and unchangeable to the letter -- similar to any physics formula, such as E = MC2. By contrast, smriti is knowledge that has become contextualized in a given socio-historical context.
7. The achievement of embodied knowing by any individual is not a discontinuity in the natural laws of the cosmos -- i.e. it has nothing to do with any new covenants.
8. Miracles are not necessary as a means to validate embodied knowledge, although the practitioner may acquire them as a byproduct along the way. Each practitioner must self-validate the embodied knowing, through the practice of the adhyatma-vidya, during his/her life on Earth.
9. Embodied knowing is best transmitted orally in a direct interpersonal manner, though many yogis have systematically documented their experiences. Once it gets collapsed into conceptual categories, it is already disembodied. Hence, while Indic traditions have developed many highly sophisticated logical and conceptual systems of discourse, embodied knowing is considered a higher state than any intellectualism. Embodied knowing transcends all “propositions.” It transcends all the linguistic boundaries of nama-rupa. This is why rishis and yogis have been placed higher than pandits.
10. Historical prophets are not a necessary condition to embodied knowing. Historical Grand Narratives can also become a major obstacle in the achievement of higher states of embodied knowing. To advance in adhyatma-vidya, one must give up history-centrism.
Is Adhyatma-Vidya a “Science”?
The historicity of Buddha is not a prerequisite for the validity of Buddhism, just as the historical Newton is unnecessary for the validity of gravitation theory. Buddha emphasized that he was not a prophet. No God had sent him, and he was neither the first nor the last person to have discovered the nature of reality and how every human may achieve nirvana just as he had. He made it very clear that each person should verify his teachings for himself/herself. (Tibetan Buddhists use various deities just as Hindus use devas/devis, but they are ahistorical forces or archetypes.)
Likewise, the validity of Vedanta, as expounded by Shankara, is not contingent upon Shankara's life history. The validity of Patanjali's Yoga-Sutras is not dependent upon the historicity of Patanjali. The sphota theory of Bharthrhari is not based on the personal life events of that genius.
In more recent times, Ramana Maharshi's and J. Krishnamurti's teachings are not about with any historical events. The same could be said of the teachings of Sri Aurobindo, Ramakrishna, and so forth. Tantra is entirely about embodied knowing, and there are no historical pre-requisites as necessary beliefs. When one takes a course on The Art of Living, by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar -- which is the fastest growing Hindu movement amongst well-educated Indians worldwide -- one learns various techniques to achieve higher states of consciousness. The results are experienced here and now. One also learns new ways of experiencing the nature of the self. It is nowhere close to being a lesson in the history of God's interventions in some remote past.
To spiritual masters from such traditions, a fixation with a historical Grand Narrative is the worst kind of nama-rupa grasping and delusion that there could be. History-centrism is seen as a major obstacle to spiritual progress. (Therefore, to appropriate Indic spiritual methods via the “new age,” into an Abrahamic historical Grand Narrative, is often counter-productive.)
There are largely two types of participants in the science and religion dialogue: (i) those that engage it from the perspective of science, but who are themselves Judeo-Christians; and (ii) those that engage it from the theological side, who are well versed in scientific theory as it applies to theology.
The latter are having a remarkable impact on the re-construction of Judeo-Christianity as a “scientific theology.” They make Judeo-Christianity look very sophisticated indeed, for they deploy philosophical categories, such as Whiteheadian thought, much as the ancient Christian theologians did to undermine Greek philosophy and science. Having lost in its fight against science in Europe a few centuries ago, Judeo-Christian theologians are now busy repackaging their Grand Narratives in science-compliant ways.
However, God's interventions in history are not easily resolved in scientific ways, even though these interventions are the defining moments of these religions, and the cause of most disputes.
For instance, there has been an ongoing Judeo-Christian discussion about the “mechanics” of God's activity in the world. While Abrahamic theologians bear the burden to scientifically explain God's intervention in the world, Indic traditions have no such problem to begin with, because, within Indic theistic traditions, Saguna Brahman acts through his Shakti (the kinetic/intelligent power), which is innate and immanent within the physical universe. No fracture of natural law is necessary for Brahman to act in Indic systems. Hence, there is no need to patch up the contradictions in order to “explain.” This is a radical alternative to the problem of historical intervention.
One of the most important debates in the Judeo-Christian science and religion dialogue has been the issue of proving or disproving “intelligent design.” However, this issue exists because those religions perceive the “Creative Consciousness/Intelligence” to be extra-natural (and indeed, supernatural), while Indic traditions understand it to be pervasive, immanent, and non-local. Thus Prakriti, being penetrated by Chit (Intelligence/Consciousness), can organize itself into life. There are a variety of ways in which Indic traditions deal with the intersection of materiality and consciousness, but nowhere does one find the position that creative consciousness is extra-natural.
Itihas is not literal history in the Western sense. Itihas is a view of the past that is continually updated, based on the present context. As Shrinivas Tilak explains, 
Not being handcuffed to literalist history, itihas is pliable, fluid, and allows many versions, with no compulsion to find “one true canon.” Therefore, Western projects to write “critical editions” of Indian itihas are inherently flawed. Madeleine Biardeau cogently argued this for the Mahâbhârata (against V. Sukthankar). By a forced mapping onto Western notions of history, such projects would alter Indic traditions, in the same manner as many 19th century colonial interventions re-engineered Indian society, narratives and identities. This is cultural imperialism.
Itihas is more about identity and continuity with one's ancestors. Itihas is not seen as a necessary condition for spiritual truth-claims, because there have always been many mainstream Indian spiritual movements with no reliance upon itihas. Vaishnavism, as one of many ways of being a Hindu, comes closest to having a Grand Narrative of God's interventions in human history, i.e. via the avatars of Vishnu. But even Vaishnavism accepts multiple avatars, and the puranas are able to adapt to include Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed as avatars -- because of the pliable nature of itihas. itihas is like an ecosystem of narratives, in which new peoples may incorporate their own narratives in a mutually respectful manner.
Finally, Shiva's dance is completely ahistorical. It is the universe. There is no question of a specific time or place where a “unique” intervention by Shiva occurred, because Shiva's Shakti is engaged with us at all times and in all places, and is immanent in, and as the universe.
Having said all this, itihas can also include literal historiography in the Western sense, especially in mundane human events.
Theologians of Abrahamic religions study ancient canons, with the same intensity as business attorneys study complex commercial contracts. They examine canonical amendments through various covenants from God, look for annexes to various clauses, try to find escape clauses in specific situations, and so forth. In fact, discussions amongst theologians often remind me of corporate attorneys debating a complex and convoluted contract that allows many divergent interpretations.
To support this kind of theology, historiography is very important. Historiography looks at “evidence” to re-construct the “contracts” between God and man, which theologians can then work with. Hence, legal jurisprudence and historiography have dominated much of the scholarship of Abrahamic religions.
All this seems very strange and irrelevant to most Indian spiritualists, who fail to see what any of this has to do with true spirituality. This points to the core difference between Indic and Abrahamic traditions. Continuity and success, therefore, depend upon two different kinds of core competences.
The Abrahamic religions are built around institutions of jurisprudence and historiography. These institutions maintain the canons, (re) interpret them, protect them from false claims and threats, control their distribution, and leverage them as assets in expansion campaigns.
On the other hand, the core competence that determines the continued success of many Indic traditions has been the ability to produce living spiritual masters across the spectrum of space and time, in order to serve specific communities with customized teachings. This means that the techniques to achieve embodied enlightenment are all important -- including various esoteric systems of meditation, tantra, Vedanta, bhakti, etc. These are the tools, and not the history.
Using Pierre Bourdieu's theories of culture as capital, one might say that in Indic traditions, embodied cultural capital is given greater value, whereas in the Abrahamic religions, the disembodied cultural capital of institutions and doctrinal “property” has been valued higher.
What, one wonders, is the reason for so much inter-religious tension and competitiveness, given so many similar conclusions across all religions? After all, there are “liberal” interpretations that show various religions agreeing on physics and cosmology. Furthermore, ethical principles, such as loving all humans, charity, truthfulness, and so forth, are common to religions in general.
My answer is that no amount of commonality amongst religions could resolve the conflicts caused by non-negotiable Grand Narratives of History. Even if different religions' rituals became common, houses of worship became similar or even common, dress codes became the same, and so forth, as long as they have non-negotiable and proprietary Grand Narratives of History, they would continue to clash.
Grand Narratives are in competition for market-share. They serve as mechanisms for appropriation from others, including the use of hostile and friendly takeovers. For example, if extrapolating some obscure Christian text legitimizes the claim that “Christian Yoga” was “always a part of Christianity,” then it would enhance the Christian Grand Narrative. Given the popularity of yoga today, it would correspondingly inflate Christianity's brand value. Likewise, if “dowry murder” can be blamed as a “Hindu problem,” then it devalues Hinduism. These brand wars are the natural consequence of history-centric canons, just as a proprietary computer operating system is the basis for exclusiveness. What Windows is to Microsoft, the proprietary Grand Narrative of History is to an organized religion.
Since superiority must be claimed in order to justify aggressive proselytizing, and no intrinsic superiority may be found in the evangelical religions over other faiths, either in scientific aspects or in ethics, the only way to claim superiority is via some unique claim to history. Therefore, the Darwinian expansionism of Grand Narratives overrides any and all other considerations -- including commonalities of cosmology and ethics. When interfaith dialogs proclaim commonality of morality and belief in one Supreme Being, etc., they evade the point that history is the real cause of conflicts.
The Historical Grand Narrative of God's interventions is usually non-negotiable, for it becomes a source of power, and serves as a marketing brand. It leads to exclusiveness: that there is only One True History. Monotheism turns into My-Theism, the belief that only one's own conception of theism is valid, and that all others must be falsified and demonized. Religious institutions get obsessed to defend, control and enforce their Grand Narrative of History. It becomes one's religious duty to do this as God's work. Most religious conflicts have originated with the groups that insist on a historical narrative as central, and many of these aggressions have been visited upon groups for whom such a narrative is secondary or irrelevant. Nowadays, this triggers a chain reaction of responses.
History-centric religions demand bondage to historical dogma and hence deny freedom to discover spirituality for oneself. They also have irreconcilable conflicts with other history-centric religions, such as those between Christianity and Islam. Furthermore, they tend to prey upon non-history based faiths, claiming this to be their civilizing mission.
While history is culture specific, adhyatma-vidya is pluralistic, as has been proven by the many different forms it has taken in Asian cultures that have embraced Buddhism. The great advantage of this, as noted by Rita Sherma, is “that it does not need to destroy whole cultures and undermine entire civilizations to inculcate an acceptance of a history that, by its very nature, is exclusively representative of a specific time and place.”
2. The West is strong in constructing Grand Narratives for itself, defending and propagating them via institutions, and using them as a source of power, including conquest and expansion. Indians today lack a Grand Narrative in the Western sense, while the traditional itihas style of Indian narrative has been marginalized by “secularism.” Adhyatma-vidya is incomplete by itself, as it leaves Indian society exposed to external forces that assert a God-given socio-political agenda, which is their mission on Earth. On the other hand, India has been very strong in developing a wide range of adhyatma-vidya, whereas the West lacks this dimension. A civilization must have both, but the narratives must not be history-centric or exclusivist. A strong Grand Narrative without adhyatma-vidya can become demonic and a global menace. On the other hand, an adhyatmika society that lacks laukika (worldly) narratives becomes subjugated.
3. Hindutva may be seen as a recent attempt to fill this Grand Narrative void, not as anything to do with adhyatma-vidya, but as an indigenous response to competing foreign Grand Narratives. However, I have many issues with the specific Grand Narrative of Hindutva, given its own kind of exclusivism. I would like to see Indians across all faiths (and non-Indians who choose to adopt Indic traditions) jointly construct a pan-Indic Grand Narrative for themselves. (This is why I have preferred the term “Indic”.) This process should be based on a critical but fair study of Indic traditions, and should not be Eurocentric in the way Nehruvianism, Indian Marxism, and Westernized Indian Feminism have unsuccessfully tried to be. This narrative would strengthen Indian culture, giving it both: (a) individual level adhyatma-vidya and (b) collective laukika identity.
4. India's subaltern scholars have ignored the spirituality of the subaltern people, while claiming to champion them. This has to do with Marx' use of Eurocentric categories in his analysis of “religion.” Unfortunately, he, and subsequently the Indian Marxists, blindly applied the conclusions that were based on Abrahamic religions, as being universal to all faiths worldwide. Consequently, most subaltern scholars neither have the interest nor the training to be able to understand that the true transmitters and preservers of adhyatma-vidya were the rishis, siddhas, natha yogis, tantrikas, sadhus and bhakti sants, many of whom were from non-Brahmin and non-Kshyatriya varnas. The Brahmin priesthood did preserve oral and written textual works of importance, but in terms of adhyatma-vidya, the prize goes to the renunciant/yogic lineages. Unfortunately, since European religions were, indeed, dominated by elitist interests, the same lens was superimposed on the study of Indic traditions, and remains the academic practice even today.
5. The core thesis of this paper is that absolute and literal historical grand narratives are (a) unscientific, and (b) the cause of many conflicts. When these narratives are given up -- or reinterpreted as ahistorical, in the manner in which Carl Jung did with Christian myths -- they cease to serve fundamentalist evangelism.
6. The West is rapidly appropriating adhyatma-vidya from Indic traditions, because it knows that it lacks this area of knowledge systems. The goal of much Western scholarship is to assimilate Indic adhyatma-vidya into Western Grand Narratives. This is explained in my U-Turn Model. They look for obscure references in their own traditions, that could be stretched and extrapolated, to claim that whatever the scholar studied in Indic traditions for several decades is also found in his/her own Western tradition. This appropriation gets justified in various ways, each of which I have responded to elsewhere. Simultaneously, a parallel team of Western scholars are busy forcing Western categories upon Indic traditions, to depict them as incoherent, pre-rational, deficient in ethics, other-worldly, backward, etc. This two-pronged strategy -- appropriate and demonize the source -- was previously used to devastate pagan, Native American, and African cultures. Many powerful Indian scholars, journalists, English language award-winning authors, and others, are deeply invested as sepoys in this strategy.
Since the foregoing treatment of Christianity assumes mainstream Christianity, I sent the draft to several scholars who define themselves as “liberal Christians.” Their criticisms and my responses are summarized below, in a dialog fashion. I have learnt a great deal from this exchange, and feel that we could open “history centrism” as a new category for analysis in religious studies.
Liberal Christians: There is no requirement in Christianity to take God's historical intervention literally, and, indeed, if you do try to take it literally, the result is a complete contradiction.
My Response: But there are so many mandatory official creeds, which focus mainly on the literal interpretation of history. Also, why do 39% of Americans believe the Bible literally, as per Gallup Poll, and 59% after September 11 believe in the literal interpretation of Revelation? Secondly, if historical literalism were to be abandoned by the powers of the church, and Jesus were interpreted metaphorically as one of many equivalent rishis/avatars/gurus, would it not make conversion moot, and would it not usher in a new era of cooperation amongst religions, rather than competition? Your position is not the ground reality today. 
Liberal Christians: Don't fall into the methodological error of comparing popular Christianity with the very highest and best traditions of India. It would be wrong to assume that historicity is absent from the Indic traditions. You compare exoteric Abrahamic religions with esoteric Indic religions. By far the most widely practiced forms of Hinduism are bhakti, and look to the god in a historical context.
My Response: Western scholars readily acknowledge that most Hindus are not people of the book. Have you ever come across a single Hindu who reads the Manu-smriti (other than an academic scholar)? I have never come across such a person in my entire life. When they do read a Hindu text, it is most often the Gita; but Gita is ahistorical, as it makes no demands to believe in any literal account of history. Furthermore, under the sub-heading, “itihas ¹ History,” I explain that the past as seen by common Indians is not the same as the Western notion of literal history. Vedas, Tantras, and several other scriptures do not belong to any author. Devas/devis are ahistorical intelligences. Time and temporality are mithya, and not seen as literally real. Mainstream Christianity depends upon prophets, and prophetic = history-centrism. You are trying to de-prohpetize Christianity, which will not be easy, and it won't be the same religion anymore. Prophetic encounters between God and man are fundamentally different than the ahistorical experiences in yoga, tantra, bhakti, and other esoteric methods.
Liberal Christians: Christianity has had many internal tensions: Mark is the earliest and in some ways the most challenging. Matthew is the account that most deeply connects the life of Jesus with Judaism. Luke is interested in the human-interest stories and in the founding of a new religious order. John is the most mystical. “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Bless the bed that I lie on,” is an old chant.
My Response: True. But Alex Alexander already made this point, earlier in the essay. My response was that, despite there being different Christian narratives, the overall meta-narrative, as accepted by mainstream churches, is history-centric. Competing history-centrisms do not negate history-centrism.
Liberal Christians: An ahistorical way of knowing might not really exist. Even the body, and certainly the conceptual matrix, are arguably historically conditioned, if not historically determined.
My Response: Any conceptual matrix is nama-rupa, and hence, within maya. The state of consciousness claimed by rishis transcends all nama-rupa. History fixation is the worst kind of nama-rupa.
Emphasis Upon Jurisprudence:
Liberal Christians: Christianity criticizes Judaism for too much focus on jurisprudence. Christian theologians see Jesus as coming to rectify this obsessive interest in the law. That is part of his appeal.
My Response: While Christianity is less focused on jurisprudence (as compared to Judaism), it is still very much focused on “God's Laws”, and various covenants that come from time to time, that need expert lawyers to interpret.
God's Immanence, and Embodiment:
Liberal Christians: The presence of God is considered always accessible to every Christian, merely a heartbeat away, as in the psalms, and God is always and constantly active in the world. Christians have experienced Christ in the same way as Shiva's dance.
My Response: But the experiencing of Shiva is not as a historical man, who came in a specific time and place, and directed certain people to act on his behalf. Therein lies the central difference in the nature of the “experience.” An experience of the historical Jesus brings his whole history as context into the mind. This is nama-rupa. Most Abrahamic people are very reluctant, and some outright afraid, to let go of this nama-rupa grasping. The Abrahamic religions posit an external God who drives history, which, in turn, creates ideology, separation, and imperialism. The ahistorical religions posit embodied adhyatmika processes (devatas) that operate the decision-making to create history. The embodied ahistorical creates unions, communities, continuity, moksha, nirvana.
Furthermore, Indic paths deal not just with spirituality that is attainable by everyone -- consciousness as awe, saintly virtues of courage, love of all, and righteousness -- but also with deep potentials of the body-spirit to the point of revealing the “anatomy” of the “ensouled body,” -- it's subtle body, chakras, energies, and maps. On the other hand, the worship of historical events/persons could also be correlated with the poor record that the Abrahamic religions have regarding the body in spiritual growth. The milieu of India has nurtured sadhus, rishis, yogis, and tantrikas for millennia, at all tiers of society. The milieu of RISA and others like it is based on hermeneutical training and career advancement. These are entirely different.
Liberal Christians: Christianity may have turned away from adhyatmika, but Jesus taught “The kingdom of God is within you,” and Judas went wrong because he assumed that Jesus was a this-worldly messiah or political leader.
My Response: Agreed. How I wish Jesus' followers had understood him in the same manner as he would have been understood if he had been born in India!
Liberal Christians: Hindus and Buddhists are not immune from the us/them disease, or from chauvinism.
My Response: Agreed. Indians had many intense disputes also, and there were centuries of debates. But the criteria on which this bifurcation occurred had nothing to do with competing accounts of history. Rather, the disputes concerned the nature of the self, the pramanas to be allowed, whether certain states of consciousness were ultimate or provisional, and so forth.
Liberal Christians: I don't think there is really much of a difference between monotheism and polytheism. Jack Miles writes in his book, “God: A Biography,” that the Abrahamic traditions replaced many gods with a single God having multiple personalities. To this, the Abrahamic traditions added Satan, who functions as a Zoroastrian “other,” and a whole bunch of angels, saints, Mother Mary, the Virgin of Guadalupe, supernatural icons, etc., not to mention the Trinity. Before you know it, the so-called monotheistic religions seem polytheistic in practice.
My Response: I agree with that account. But monotheism is a fundamental “Western” concept taught today in virtually every school, in college courses on comparative religions, and in Western media portrayals. It defines the teachings of Main Street's church priests. It cannot be imagined away by a few liberal intellectuals. I am glad to be in dialog with the enlightened liberal minority of Christians, but this essay is about Christianity as being promoted worldwide today. I have no complaints against either monotheism or polytheism, but only (i) against “My-Theism”, and (ii) against imposing these categories upon non-Abrahamic religions.
Savior ¹ Avatar:
Finally, in response to these liberal criticisms, Antonio de Nicolas also sent me his own writings on the subject. He has written one of the finest explanations of the key distinction between Abrahamic and Indic traditions. As an eminent scholar of both East and West, his interpretations of Vedas are valuable for contemporary audiences. He contrasts the Savior of Abrahamic religions with the Avatar of Indic traditions to make his point.
First, here is his explanation of the Savior as an essence of Abrahamic myths:
By contrast, the Avatar is different:
He goes on to explain how the Indic process involves an entirely different mechanism of ethics, one that is not dependent upon outside rules, (which, in turn, would be dependent upon historical revelations.):
He concludes: 
“It comes down to this. The West has trained its people to perform veridical agreements -- this is true, this is false -- but all these Western people lack the ability to make decisions in complex situations, where they have multiple choices and need the frontal lobes to view those situations. The only people who did this in the West were interlopers from other cultures -- Ignatius, John, Teresa, etc. They founded Orders to be able to practice these skills without the Inquisitions ears around the corner, but in public they talked theology. Moreover, these skills are borrowed from Indic texts and practices, and it is time they came together as "ONE" tradition. You are doing a very good job pointing to the problem and the differences. The opposition you encounter is that of experts (so-called) unable to make complex decisions in need or frontal lobes, but are trained in "veridical" decisions for which you need nothing biological except agreement to a priori rules.”
Many liberal Christians are now propagating a new ”Scientific Christianity” in the West. But this is largely constructed from the many unacknowledged U-Turns from Indic traditions. These appropriations reached a frenzy in the mid 19th century, when virtually every major European university created a large-scale Sanskrit department, often at the expense of Latin/Greek. A few prominent examples of Indic appropriations into Christianity include:
Furthermore, the new liberal Christianity is not the variety being exported to third world countries, because history-centrism is required to establish Christian uniqueness for conversion purposes. I am asking liberal Christians to make a choice -- between adhyatmika Christianity on the one hand, and evangelism and proselytizing on the other. I hope that this essay triggers the following two healthy tensions within liberal Christians:
2. Eurocentric appropriations are making Indic adhyatma-vidya traditions seem irrelevant, because many scholars reference only the European equivalents to the Indic sources that they have studied, thereby making it unimportant for students to study Indic thought. Consequently, Indic traditions are facing rapid atrophy in Western influenced scholarship. To make matters worse, a large number of highly educated and Westernized Indian intellectuals have recently been appropriated and deployed by liberal Westerners to prosecute Indian traditions, while at the same time, these very traditions are being appropriated into Western society. For example, techniques such as yoga, meditation, mantra, and guided imagery are being demonized in India as superstitious, chauvinistic, communalistic, and even fascist, by Western funded “progressive” Indians, denying a billion people the benefits of their own traditions in terms of reduced stress, violence, and psychological disorders -- while the West now enjoys these very traditions. The ethical dimensions of this must not be ignored.
1) Adhyatma-vidya is a methodology that many spiritual traditions have used as the basis for arriving at their truth-claims.
2) Historical narratives about God's interventions have served as a methodology by many traditions to make their truth-claims.
3) Both these methods tend to exist in most major traditions.
4) One or the other method tends to dominate over time, and this has a drastic impact on the nature of the tradition that develops.
5) History-centric traditions tend to be more fixed in their claims, because history cannot be renegotiated easily. Adhyatmika traditions tend to allow new insights because their methodology allows them to do so. Hence, the former tend to gravitate towards “finality” of truth-claims and fixed canons, while the latter end up compiling massive libraries of texts based on large numbers of adhyatmika claims.
6) History-centric movements easily get institutionalized, and this gives continuity. Adhyatmika movements depend on the living masters who claim the “rishi state”, and hence cannot easily become institutionalized.
7) Between these two categories, adhyatmika based traditions tend to have greater flexibility, accommodation of diverse views, and ability to peacefully change over time.
8) Bhakti saints, Vedas, Upanishads, Gita, Buddha's teachings, Mahavira's teachings, are some of the many examples where truth-claims are not contingent upon any historical events. In other words, you do not have to accept or prove any history, in order to practice and receive the benefit claimed.
9) Major (but not all) denominations of Christianity and Islam insist on a set of historical events as being necessary to their belief system, making them history centric. Examples include: Sunni, Shiite, Ahmadiyya; Mormon, Baptist; Vatican; Presbyterian; Methodist; etc. (Many Hindutva followers would also fall under this classification, such as those that claim Ram's birthplace in Ayodhya as a necessary (not just “nice to have”) part of their religion.)
10) Major Christian and Islamic denominations also believe in a fixed set of future events, i.e. the Apocalypse.
11) Surveys by prominent American research firms (Gallup, CNN, TIME) show that history centric religious beliefs are held by a large percentage of Americans, and that this percentage has increased recently. Furthermore, many very important Americans hold these beliefs.
12) For a variety of reasons explained by scholars, such as Alan Wallace, the West has not develop sophisticated systems of adhyatma-vidya, even though they have had “individual” mystics over time.
13) Much of the theological work in the Abrahamic religions has centered on analyzing, arguing, and interpreting historical claims and counter claims.
14) History centric religions find it difficult to consider another conflicting historical grand narrative to also be valid. Therefore, for a given religion to be valid, it must find the others to be false, or at least partially false.
15) Adhyatma-vidya allows that there can be many different kinds of adhyatmika experiences, at many stages, and many levels. Furthermore, there can be many methods to achieve various stages.
16) Since the academic study of religion started in the West, it is based on the use of Western categories, and hence, this privileges the lenses of the Abrahamic religions over others.
17) Many Indian subaltern scholars have ignored or dismissed spirituality as an important part of life, whereas the subaltern people of India have considered spirituality as very important to them. In other words, these scholars do not fully understand the very people they claim to champion.
18) While subaltern scholars have depicted Hinduism as elitist and Brahmin controlled, the sadhus have been subaltern people; the bhakti saints were almost always subaltern people; tantrikas were subalterns and not Brahmins; and the puranas have traditionally been performed by all jatis. Hence, these scholars have thrown the baby out with the bathwater, because they simply assumed Marx' conclusions about Abrahamic religions as being universally applicable to all cultures – the blind spot from becoming neocolonized.
19) Many Westerners have appropriated Indic adhyatma-vidya into their own Abrahamic religions. Often, the source of the appropriation gets blurred, and eventually erased, in the minds of most Westerners and neocolonized Indians.
20) Monotheism is not a true mark of distinction of the Abrahamic religions, because: (i) many other traditions also believe in one Supreme Being; and (ii) some of the Abrahamic religions have had polytheistic backgrounds and polytheistic present beliefs.
 I wish to thank the following scholars for their extensive comments, criticisms, and suggestions: Jack Petranker, Sunthar Visuvalingam, Antonio de Nicolas, Rita Sherma, Cleo Kearns, Billie Grassie, Kundun Singh, Francis X. Clooney, S.J., Srinivas Tilak, T. S. Rukmani, Patricia Reynaud, Matthijs Cornelissen and Stuart Sovatsky.
 While most Christian theologians today would go for the latter option, in practice, they treat the historical claims in the Bible as boundary conditions in any such “open” thinking.
 Some reviewers suggested including the debate between third-person (“it is said that…”) claims and first-person (“I know…”), but that is a major topic of its own, and already much has been written on it.
 Unfortunately, genocide is only defined in terms of physical human deaths. Therefore, eradication of entire cultures, languages, ways of life, religions, etc. is not being included as genocide. Endangered species of animals and plants have more rights and ethical oversight than do human cultures. Could it be that the very “liberal” forces that champion “human rights” are, in many instances, endangering cultural diversity by facilitating Westernization in the name of globalization?
 For instance, Kashmir Shaivism does not accept maya as defined by Vedanta, but has its own notion of ignorance in ordinary man.
 Such as the proofs of all possible theorems.
 Schopenhauer in "The World as Will and Representation" linked Kant's theory of knowledge and Maya.
 This explains, perhaps, why the Hellenic philosophy and the sources that Plato and Aristotle used constituted a major issue with the first Christian theologians, who resorted to the 'theory of borrowings' ancient knowledge. The Greeks would have been taught these divine truths by fallen angels (Origen, Clement of Alexandria). The Fathers of the Church could not imagine such knowledge imparted without divine intervention.
 Any intuition based on history-centric “beliefs” is still in nama-rupa bondage.
 In Buddhist and Jaina systems, there is no atman occupying such a state, but the state is claimed.
 There are strands in Indic traditions that say that without the presence of the teacher, enlightenment and the transcendence of human limitations are not possible. But Indian living masters are not historically unique, and there is an endless stream of them, with always some in the present moment. Hence, unlike the dependence on historical Prophets, this is not history-centric.
 Christian saints are often deemed to be embodied models, but (i) only after they die is it allowed to declare them as saints, and (ii) the notion of embodiment is itself dependent upon the historicity of Jesus. The master-disciple connection is extremely important in certain orders of Islam. All the Tariqas nowadays are centers around living spiritual masters. In some countries such as Syria, they are deemed more important than exoteric hierarchies. But these connections are non-existent neo-Wahhabism.
 Note that while “Original Sin” is a specific space-time (i.e. historical) event, avidya is beginningless, and hence ahistorical.
 Islam is a dual tradition: apart from sharia, Islam is also haqiqa defined as the divine reality in the human heart. It has a double hierarchy, one of theologians and doctors of the law inscribed in history, and one hidden, composed of holy men around the qutb or pole. These “mystics” have a structured and systematic teaching, transmitted from master to disciple in the Tariqas. Notwithstanding this, the power and control of Islam has been based on the historical canon.
 Unfortunately, Hindu nationalism today sometimes seems to be mimicking the worst things about the West, by becoming obsessively history-centric. But this is different than the past of Hinduism, and is atypical amongst Hindus even today. (See the section titled, Itihas ¹ History.) In the case of Christianity, history-driven exclusivism has dominated ever since Constantine took control over it in the 4th century.
 In very early Christianity, and in 8th to 13th centuries, Christian mysticism was widespread, although always overshadowed by canon-based institutions.
 Even though religious orders did keep alive their mystics, such as Teresa, John, and Ignatius.
 It is a fair criticism by a Christian scholar that this was not always good, because it could also be abused, as it lacks institutional oversight.
 In Shiite Islam, Saints reinterpret the eternal truth for each historical period. One of the names of Ibn Arabi is “the one who revitalizes religion,” religion being more than sharia and theological dogmas. This is one of the core reasons for the Arab-Iran conflicts -- the Iranian Shiites refuse to succumb to Arab controlled Law of Islam, and have kept it fluid and open. Shiite Islam, therefore, comes much closer to Indic traditions.
The invention of apostolic succession was an attempt in Christianity.
 The vast majority of them did not do the violence; they were the objects of persecution and execution.
 With the exception of Sikhism.
 “Religious Traditions of the World,” Edited by H. Byron Earhart. HarperCollins. 1993. p.540.
 C. Alex Alexander's comment on Sankrant Sanu's Sulekha column, “Need I belong to only one religion?” at: http://www.sulekha.com/column.asp?cid=294339
 John Davidson, “The Gospel of Jesus: In search of his original teachings,” Element, Rockport, MA, p.75
 “Surveying the religious landscape,” by George Gallup and Michael Lindsay. Critics have complained that statistics cannot define a religion, but then it must also be pointed out that Western anthropology's data gathering of India's “caste, cows, and curry” stereotypes would also have to be invalidated.
 See “The Axis of Neocolonialism,” at: http://www.sulekha.com/column.asp?cid=218625
 “Dismissal of heresy charge called 'dysfunction',” by Larry Witham. The Washington Times. February 20, 2003. http://www.washtimes.com/national/20030220-6816151.htm
 “Bible College hangs up on 666 prefix.” Sunday, March 2, 2003: http://edition.cnn.com/2003/US/South/03/01/offbeat.ky.prefix.ap/index.html
 “Mel Gibson's a Catholic now,” The Economic Times. March 13, 2003. Based on Reuters, March 8, 2003:
 All quotes in this sub-heading are from: “Apocalypse Now,” by Nancy Gibbs. Cover Story in Time Magazine, July 1, 2002, pp. 41-48. Includes sidebar, “The End: How It Got That Way,” by David Van Biema. pp. 46-47.
 “The End: How It Got That Way,” by David Van Biema. Time Magazine, July 1, 2002. pp.46-47.
 “Apocalypse Now,” by Nancy Gibbs. Time Magazine, Cover Story. July 1, 2002, pp.41-48.
 “Eschatology,” in “The New Encyclopedia Britannica,” Vol. 17. pp. 401-408.
 TIME Magazine.
 TIME Magazine.
 “Eschatology,” in “The New Encyclopedia Britannica,” Vol. 17. pp. 401-408.
 Mercea Eliage, “The Sacred and the Profane,” pp. 296-207.
 In an email forwarded by Holly Gwyn Lavender, in March, 2003.
 The validity of any specific first-person claims is not crucial to my thesis: What matters is that the basis for making the claims is ahistorical.
 While his writings are about Buddhism, similar principles also apply to other Indic traditions.
 Alan Wallace: “Why the West Has No Science of Consciousness: A Buddhist View”. Global Renaissance:
 Private communication.
 Private email of 3/3/03.
 Butler, Dom Cuthbert. (1967) “Western Mysticism: The Teaching of Augustine.” Gregory and Bernard on Contemplation and the Contemplative Life. 3rd. ed., with “Afterthoughts,” by Prof. David Knowles. London: Constable & Co. p.26).
 Burnaby, John. (1938/1991) Amor Dei: “A Study of the Religion of St. Augustine.” Norwich: The Canterbury Press. (1938: 52 & 67)
 M. O. C. (trans.) (1979 & 1987) Meister Eckhart: “Sermons & Treatises,” Vols. I-III, Longmead: Element Books Ltd. (1979: 1:7)
 James, William. (1890/1950) “The Principles of Psychology.” New York: Dover Publications. I: 416-424.
 Wallace: this was due “in large part to the fifty-year domination of academic psychology by behaviorism.”
 I do not accept orthodox “science” as the court of last resort in matters of religion. “Science” is used loosely in this essay to represent reproducible and ahistorical methodologies.
 I am indebted to Dr. Rita Sherma for suggesting the ideas in this section.
 Private email, 3/10/03.
 See 2.1.1 and 2.1.7 at: http://tiger.bun.kyoto-u.ac.jp/letter/003/symposium/basenote/witzel-2.html
 For an example of Indian “history” from indigenous Indian sources, see: Ronald Inden, Daud Ali, Jonathan Walters (Editors): “Querying the Medieval: Texts and the History of Practice in South Asia,” Oxford University Press. 2000.
 It is interesting to note that Prof. Jack Hawley of Barnard College, NY, has launched a campaign across American campuses to charge that Diaspora Hindus are “constructing a new Hinduism.” But he fails to appreciate that the very nature of adhyatma-vidya is to continually renew itself, in contrast to history-centric canonized belief systems that must wait for the next Prophet (who must first prove his status by doing miracles). Furthermore, Liberation Theology was a successful “construction” by Catholic bishops in Latin America, to counter Marxism. They were able to show that Catholicism had its own internal resources to offer better human rights, without having to adopt Marxism. Catholic theologians would not accept that they invented a new religion. Rather, they would point out the long history of Christian reconstructions as reinterpretations, each true to the Bible. Since Hinduism has been colonized, and is now neocolonized, it has not recently enjoyed the same freedom and rights to be able to re-interpret itself for each situation. But in earlier times, Hinduism did reinterpret itself many times, each time from within, i.e. without Western grants to scholars to document “human rights” violations. So this process is to be seen as: (i) natural organic development in any system that is not fossilized; (ii) the tradition within India for a long time to make changes; and (iii) similar in some ways to what Christianity has been doing to itself. Therefore, could one surmise that Hawley's problem is that the changes would be brought about by insiders, and not imposed by (neo) colonialists from the outside? Note that Veena Oldenburg's and also Dirks' latest books point out that a major part of the colonial agenda was to blame native culture for all sorts of problems, and then to use this excuse to “reform” in ways that suited the colonial interests. Indigenous reform or natural evolution was seen as a threat to colonial control -- a moving target makes the job more difficult for the hit men. Might there be a similar threat perception on the part of the Western-controlled academic study of India? This comment points the microscope back at the role of asymmetric power in Indology.
 There are major academic campaigns to try to show that Indic traditions lack progress, ethics, etc. and that these are unique gifts brought by Christianity. However, these are distortions, which are sustained only through control over the production and distribution of Religious Studies in the academy.
 On the other hand, some agreement of a different kind can be found when one looks at the metaphysical principles underlying these narratives. For example, some masters of the Chisti Tariqas translated the Bhagavad-Gita, and found that the core teachings of Krishna were the same as the doctrine of the Unity of existence, the very metaphysical essence in Islam -- they recognize Krishna as a very old prophet.
 The adhyatmika traditions could be analogized as being similar to Linux.
 I am indebted to Ravi Ravindra for first suggesting the term “My-Theism” to me, in an email comment.
 Private email.
 For example, see: Pinch, William R. “Peasants and Monks in British India.” Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft22900465/
 Texts are also historical or ahistorical, and have the same implications as any other historical or ahistorical methods. I regard Vedas as ahistorical, Puranas as itihas and not literally historical.
 A summary is given in “The Axis of Neocolonialism”: http://www.sulekha.com/column.asp?cid=218625
 The Mormons are an interesting example of history centrism. Their Grand Narrative is roughly as follows: From 1827 to 1830, a man named Joseph Smith in New York State (near Ithaca), got a series of dreams, in which God guided him to go to a particular forest, and to find a specific location for which the dreams provided landmarks. Upon finding the exact spot, he was to dig the ground and find a set of gold plated tablets. He did all this, found the tablets, brought them home, and transcribed them onto paper. After the tablets were transcribed, he returned them back to the place where he had found them, and covered the hole in the ground with dirt, hiding all evidence. He was not to disclose the location to anyone. The written transcript he produced was God's message to humanity. This became the Book of Mormon – their Bible. It contains narratives of ancient peoples in America, which gives the Mormons a very “American” Christianity. They believe that Christians had come to America thousands of years ago, as per the Book of Mormon. The set of historical events concerning Joseph Smith's activities between 1827 and 1830 is the basis for having complete faith in the Book Of Mormon as God's truth. While they also believe in the conventional Christian narrative of Jesus, the more recent instructions from God via this latest prophet take precedence. Mormons are not some tiny fringe cult. They are the fastest growing Christian denomination in USA. They are immensely wealthy, and their members include many of the top businessmen, and tend to be well educated. They tend to be very articulate, and go out of their way to help those in need. They make good friends, and live under a strict code of ethics.
 I have a speculative side theory that does not impact this paper: India's Varna system was a classification of job descriptions, before it degenerated, and especially before it got re-engineered in the 19th century into the modern caste system. [See Nicholas Dirks', “Castes of Mind.” 2002.] It was merit based. Kshyatriya and Brahmin were separate jobs, whose duties were defined as 'Kshyatriya dharma' and 'Brahmin dharma,' respectively, and never held by the same individual. The king was always a Kshyatriya, never a Brahmin, thereby avoiding the possibility of a theocracy. This separation also corresponds roughly to exoteric and esoteric domains, respectively. Hence, neither of these domains was supposed to subvert the other, and each had its own separate champion. Theocracy doesn't have much meaning in the Indian context, for the Brahmins never entertained the project of making everyone else embrace their mode of living. The term is more suitable for societies held together by a common uniform theology imposed by a religious elite firmly holding the reins of power. Furthermore, the true transmitters and preservers of adhyaatma vidya were the rishis, siddhas, natha yogis, many of whom were from non-Brahmin and non-Kshyatriya varnas. The Brahmin priesthood did preserve oral and written textual works of importance, but in terms of adhyatma vidya, the prize goes to the renunciant/yogic lineages. However, it could be that the very existence of a Brahmin domain, that the rulers could not meddle in, might have protected the entrepreneurial spirituality of all jatis. Because Varna has not been objectively examined today, and has simply been conflated with the abusive caste system, this feature of classical India deserves further inquiry. Might it explain the long-term respect and empowerment for esoteric movements across all social strata in India?
 I am reminded of a conversation with Francisco Varela, one of the top Western practitioner-scholars of Indic adhyatma-vidya, who did a U-Turn into Euro-Phenomenology. I asked him where one could find practitioners of Husserl's phenomenology, and where the Western adhyatmika adepts were being nurtured. He was silent for a while, and then replied, “One of the problems of Western hermeneutics is that we don't have a yoga. There is no such place.”
 I do believe in the veracity of Jesus' teachings, when interpreted in an Indic framework, such as the analyses done by Ravi Ravindra.
 For his complete collection of essays on the Internet, please visit: http://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/i_es/i_es_denicolas_frameset.htm
 “The Avatara and The Savior: The Philosophical Foundations of Politics,” Antonio de Nicolas. Presented in Madrid to the Ministers of the European Community, and later published in “The World & I,” under the title, “The Philosophical Foundations of Neo-Conservatism,” September 1986.
 Private email.
See: (a) Ursula King, “Towards a New Mysticism: Teilhard de Chardin and Eastern Traditions.” London: Collins, 1980; (b) B. Bruteau, “Evolution toward Divinity: Teilhard de Chardin and the Hindu Traditions,” Wheaton: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1974; and (c) Ann Hunt Overzee, “The Body Divine: The Symbol of the Body in the Works of Teilhard de Chardin and Ramanuja,” Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Harold Coward, “Jung and Eastern Traditions,” SUNY Press, 1985. Also, Harold Coward, “Yoga and Psychology,” SUNY Press, 2002.
 See: J.J. Clarke, “Oriental Enlightenment,” Routledge, 1997. Carl Olson, “Indian Philosophers and Postmodern Thinkers,” OUP India. 2002. Thomas McEvilley, “The Shape of Ancient Thought,” Allworth Press, 2002. Silvia Federici (Editor), “Enduring Western Civilization: The Construction of the Concept of Western Civilization and is 'Others,'" Praeger, 1995. Cleo Kearns, “T.S. Eliot and Indic Traditions,” Cambridge University Press. P.S. Pai, “T.S. Eliot, Vedanta and Buddhism,” University of British Columbia Press, 1985. Alan D. Hodder, “Thoreau's Ecstatic Witness,” Yale University Press, 2001. Sumita Roy, Annie Pothen, K.S. Sunita, (Editors), “Aldus Huxley and Indian Thought,” Sterling Publishers, 2003. Graham Parkes (Editor), “Heidegger and Asian Thought,” University of Hawaii Press, 1987. T.R. Rajasekharaiah, “The Roots of Whitman's Grass,” Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 1970.
 Eurocentrism is a sort of collective superego, sometimes unknown to the person and unconsciously applied. It becomes more extroverted under stress – for instance, after September 11, there is sudden prejudice against brown-skinned Americans, contradicting all sociological trends. The Eurocentric grand narrative, that was always there, got activated under perceived threat.
 Thomas McEvilley, “The Shape of Ancient Thought,” Allworth Press. 2002. P.550.
 Albert M. Wolters, “A Survey of Modern Scholarly Opinion on Plotinus and Indian Thought,” in “Neoplatonism and Indian Thought,” ed. Baine R. Harris, Norfolk, Virginia: International Center for Neoplatonic Studies, 1982. P.295.
 See “Liberalism and Empire: A Study in Nineteenth-Century British Liberal Thought,” by Uday Singh Mehta. The University of Chicago Press. 1999.