Thursday, December 18, 2008

Comparative Eschatology

My religious past includes Christeranity, Hinduism (and especially Vedanta), extensive research into occultism, Buddhism, and, finally, the Religion of No God. By comparison of the various eschatological theories of the faith, I have determined that one's view of the End Times is as good as any other. Which is not to say that some of them seem to have an edge on others. In the Orient, generally speaking, time is seen as a cycle, not as as something having a beginning (Genesis) and an end (the Apocalypse). In the West, we speak of "aeons," but in the Hindu faith, there are only yugas.

Yet the apocalyptic literature in Hinduism promises calm and peace following upheaval, while that of the Jebus people predicts something they call "the Rapture," basing its likelihood in code language found in John of Patmos' epistle with its Great Beast, meaning Nero Caesar, a living human. The narrower Jebus Christer sects go so far as to put bumper stickers on their cars saying, "In Case Of Rapture, This Car Will Be Empty." One supposes it gives them smug satisfaction that they are saved, while those who don't believe or, worse, believe somewhat differently, are not. All that is necessary to join the Rapture is to accept Jebus Christer as your Lord and Savior and be born again in the blood of the Lamb.

To paraphrase Woody Allen, I don't mind the Apocalypse, I just don't intend to be there when it happens. The trouble with the Christer eschatology is that, jihadist-like, the true believers see the Apocalypse as a foregone conclusion. And, from that view, they do all they can to exacerbate existing tensions in order to bring it about -- literally. It is the same kind of rationale that dictates some fanatical Muslims to become suicide bombers: after all, Allah wants us to annihilate ourselves by taking out all of the Jews and Westerners possible, the promise being 72 white grapes or raisins in Paradise. Don't even get me started on such loony, brainwashed ideas these are.

My romance with Hinduism in general, and the antinomian sects in particular (we know ttheir holy books in the West as the Tantras), gave me a good grounding in the notion that time is but a construct and something we deal with as part of reality, not to be feared but looked forward to. Death is not the end, however, as the soul will be reborn again and again until good deeds allow it to escape the wheel of becoming, though my later study of Buddhism allowed me to see a subtle but highly important distinction between the two faiths. Wheres the Hindu believes profoundly in an immortal soul (and part of the oversoul, Brahma), the Buddhist says that this, too, is egoic delusion: there is no soul, only a self, which is, again, a construct, a collection of traits from past lives.

There is no Apocalypse in these notions. There is only, in Hinduism, a dire prediction of social, religious, and governmental wrongs, as we belong to the Kali Yuga, the yuga of destruction. But that is not the end of the road. The yuga that follows will be Paradise on Earth, which later, of course, degenerates across the yugas to become in the end the next Kali Yuga. One is reminded of Anthony of Padua, who was wont to liken the idea of clergy to the behavior of plants and birds and, by comparison, finding the human wanting. A cyclical time needs no "God," and describe such a deity in such terms gives offense: Brahma is Brahma. There is no limit.

As if the Christer eschatology were not bad enough, those who remained Catholic perpetuated a hierarchy of hereafterness that allowed one to buy one's father, say, out of one level, and then from that middle level into the next up: and there I thought Jebus threw all of the money changers out of the temple. Guess not. Hell is cold (or hot), and there is a little man from a comedia del'arte mime show with a red suit and pitchfork, variously known as Satan, the Devil, or anyone you wish to name, the late Aleister Crowley having once said, "The devil is the god of anyone you do not like."

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