August 24, 2006

Transcendent Unity of Religions

The System of Antichrist: Truth & Falsehood in Postmodernism and the New Age by Charles Upton
Matter is Entropy., February 16, 2004 Reviewer: Pillsky (Pennsylvania) - See all my reviews Charles Upton's _The System of Antichrist_ is a lengthy treatise that discusses the nature of the power of evil in today's world and functions as an introduction to the reader of the various thinkers of the obscure "Traditionalist" school. The Traditionalists are a small group of scholars (Rene Guenon, Huston Smith, Frithof Schoun, Coomaraswamy, etc.) who believe in the "Transcendent Unity of Religions." What this doctrine teaches is that there was once one universal spiritual state of mankind that was corrupted during a primeval fall.
The traditional religions of the world (Orthodox Christianity, Judaism, Sufi and Shiite Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroasterianism, and a few versions of tribal Shamanism) share common roots and maintain similar views on the nature of the universe and the first and last times. Basically the universe operates on a vicious cycle where the created world starts off with a Golden Age, a Garden of Eden of perfection and Divine Love, but humanity falls from this state and progressively gets worse and worse. Demons rule openly and work to convince humanity to accept the rule of the Antichrist, totally opposed to Godliness. The Messiah, Christ, Madhi, Tenth Imran, Kaki Avatar, Buddha, i.e. Truth Incarnate arrives, slays the Antichrist and initiates a new Golden Age, an New Heaven and New Earth and utterly transfiguring the old, sinful world.
Part of the mass apostasy seen today manifests itself in the philosophical development of postmodernism and blatant demonic activity giving psychic weight to the New Age phenomenon, UFO sightings and government mind control. Upton also differentiates between different types of religions, such as folk/worldly, Church/otherworldly and mystical paths that seek liberation from the world and connection to God. Mainline and Evangelical Protestantism have lost their esoteric, ascetic, mystical aspects (such as can be seen in monastic practice) that go above and beyond merely living in the world and believing a set of laid out precepts.
Most of America practices a form of secular folk religion in the public sphere which does not have much to do with the liberation of the soul or beliefs but rather good luck in this life (pep-rallies for instance). The hippie movement erred seriously when it equated folk religion with mystical traditions. The biggest problem with this book is that it deals with a metaphysical perspective and is not a specific religion itself, although Upton attempts it in a fashion towards the conclusion. He says to choose one of the world's traditional faiths and stick to it in its conservative form, but I would question the whole process of "choosing" a religion. Religion is above human decisions and if the decision behind choosing them is not overtly political or social, they are not "chosen" in the same way as a kid deciding to buy a lollipop or chocolate bar (the Spirit goes where it will).

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