Religion 21st Century

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Myths of Rapture

Joseph Campbell described the ancient myths that emerged as the religions of India as myths of rapture. Buddhist and Hindu ideas came from the same ancient origins. The original ideas are found in the Upanishads that emerged more than 5000 years ago. These “religious traditions” are older and quite different from the now dominant religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The Upanishads are considered to be the more philosophical texts of ancient India of various origins. Upanishads were orally transmitted stories and teachings passed from generation to generation that were eventually written as Sanskrit texts. In contrast to the Bible, a collection of Upanishads is not concerned with stories and claims of group privilege under one God. The texts explore ideas about the natural world, human experience and moral order. There are attempts to understand what lies behind appearances. Upanishads appears as the great intelligence that originates the universe and links the Self as a transcendent essence to individual persons. Since a human self originates from Brahman, with proper conduct and the right understanding, a human self can return to Brahman.

You can view the Upanishads as early attempts to understand the natural world and to understand each other. Some of the ideas are sophisticated and relevant today. Discussions of innate human tendencies and remedies for human aberrations are among the more relevant. The stories of Gods are fantastic and, while interesting as historical myths, are expressions of early and local communities with limited understanding. The central theme that emerges in most Upanishads is that the human mind is a local inflection of a universal mind, marred by ignorance and greed.The attachment to the material world is described as an impediment to be overcome by practicing yoga.

Despite world denial, there are elements of rapture , of immediate connections with all the expressions of life, connections with the earth, its plants and animals and connections with spirits that remain present, immanent in all events that happen.

The term "Hinduism" was an English invention that refers to prolific, polytheistic expressions, symbols and celebrations common in India. Colorful costumes, dancing, drumming and singing in the street are normal in Hindu India. A variety of gods and goddesses express local inflections of Hindu beliefs. One could argue that every village has its own version of the Hindu religion.


The major Gods are Vishnu, Brahman, Shiva, and Shakti. In the Trimurti version of Hinduism, three gods interact: Brahman is the creator, Vishnu is the maintainer or preserver, and Shiva is the destroyer or transformer. The Shaivism traditions view Shiva as the supreme deity. Shakti refers both to a goddess and a more abstract idea of feminine energy. She may be called 'The Divine Mother'. In some towns and villages, Shakti is worshiped as the Supreme Being. A more metaphysical version views Shakti as the power of male deities such as Vishnu or Shiva. Vishnu's Shakti counterpart is Lakshmi. Parvati is the female Shakti of Shiva.

  • Religion for the 21st Century is available as an eBook download. The book is intended for a well-educated smart reader who is interested in a world view of religious expressions past, present and future. The main theme is that each religious group has its own claims and stories and will tend to reject others. A reader committed to one point of view may not accept the egalitarian review presented here. Innate tendencies are expressed as religions and in the past have created conflicts that hinder progress towards the real and true. The book examines paths for religious renewal in the 21st century.

    The author is Stephen Gislason

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