by George A. Boyd ©2002
Dogmatism is parent to fundamentalist religion and
terrorist political persuasions. Dogmatism cannot be argued away; arguing
only entrenches the believer in his faith and may lead him or her to see
you as an enemy of the faith, an infidel or non-believer, or someone deluded
by the Devil.
Shifting from dogmatism is a gradual, experiential,
conceptual and perceptual change that arises from inner growth and transformation.
Being able to accept the truth of other faiths may take the form of seven
different belief positions about God and the Divine Nature. These belief
states are as follows:
- Only my vision of God and belief in the Nature
of God are true and all others are false. My scripture and/or spiritual
teacher verifies this and I believe it, too.
- My vision of God and belief in the Nature of
God are true for me now but I entertain the possibility that, sometime
in the eternal future, God may reveal aspects of Himself that I cannot
conceive at present. I do not understand why others see God differently
than I do and I assume that they must be misguided.
- I have known God in different ways and forms
as part of my spiritual development, so I would not be surprised if
I know God in a way than I conceive Him at present. Maybe it is the
same God Who shows Himself to others in different ways through the
filter of language and culture, but I am not sure if this is true.
I cannot ascertain why others see God differently than I have and
do at present.
- I have been taught God is what I believe Him to be
by people in my life: parents, friends, neighbors, my priest, minister,
rabbi or clergyman of my faith. Maybe other people are taught something
different about God and they have been taught to believe differently
than I do as a result of their indoctrination. I will study other
faiths in an attempt to understand their beliefs and why they believe
the way they do. I will create a dialog with members of other faiths
to learn what they understand about God.
- I have had a mystical experience that has given
me a glimpse of God in a way that is vaster than I had conceptualized.
Maybe God is infinite and our varied conceptions are simply our ways
to try to make sense of that infinitude through our limited intellect
and individual perspective. This suggests that there may be multiple
perspectives by which to understand God, each one representing a metaphor
by which to grasp the Ineffable.
- In meditation, I have seen several different
visions of God, each corresponding to different Planes. This suggests
that people see God according to their level of spiritual evolution
on the Great Continuum of Consciousness. I suspect, but have not verified,
that those of other faiths view God from other levels of this GCC.
- I have verified through my own experience that
God does exist in different forms on the Inner Planes and I have fully
experienced the God of my faith and the God known to others. Both
experiences are true revelations of God, relative to my/others
current stage of spiritual evolution. As we grow towards our respective
spiritual horizons, we will ultimately be revealed new aspects of
God upon our paths.
Belief positions one and two are strongly dogmatic,
position two showing a little more flexibility in attitude.
Positions three and four represent a philosophical
shift that permits the believer to at least entertain that different perceptions
of God may be culturally-based, or due to alternate religious education
and indoctrination. This produces a greater open-mindedness that ultimately
leads to a quest for greater understanding of other faiths and dialog.
Positions five through seven represent the individuals
shift beyond a conceptual, ontological or theological understanding of
God, to a mystical, noetic or Gnostic experience of Mystery. This is a
shift from being a believer to a Knower, an aspirant to an Initiate, having
the keys to the Inner Kingdom of Light.
The reader is invited to evaluate where he or she
is on this continuum of belief positions. We point out that until an individual
has experienced mystic transcendence, beliefs about God will be fundamentally
conceptual. The quest to move beyond conceptual models of God into experiential
areas is the beginning of the aspirant spiritual path, where the individual
seeks to enter the Great Way of the sages and seers.