9 Ultimate Questions; 1
The following program was originally released in 1969. Nine old image questions a series of explorative talks adding contemporary perspective to the vast legacy of world philosophies with Dr. John Theobald as an introduction to this series Dr. Theobald devotes the first of the nine old woman questions to the religious traditions of man. Dr. Theobald was born in India educated in England and the United States and now teaches at San Diego State College as he has for 20 years with the first of nine ultimate questions here is Dr. John Theobald. What is the religious tradition. The best part of these programs will be a brief and bestand silence off the subject of each has been announced. Five seconds of silence may seem like an eternity to some listeners but you may have cause to wish that the speaker would keep still for longer.
Some years ago I was asked to broadcast some talks about comparative religion and the deeper problems of life. There were 15 such talks broadcast in various parts of the country under the general title the ultimate quest. I frequently been asked to do the same sort of thing again and I thought it a good idea but also not so good. Good because if you try for they mean what you say and have no sectarian prepossessions why expressing your thoughts in public may help others to be serious and clear. Not so good because of well lacking enough wisdom this wisdom gap is always there is it not. But it's partly met by the sincerity with which wisdom is disclaimed by listening to you my listeners by listening to the silence and listening to the higher self such listening
is rather like what happens before you run a difficult race. Climb a dangerous mountain or go on a long journey with daunting strangers. It's really a prayer you know. If you are complete That's prayer. Subject need not be called religion or philosophy or enlightenment or self-realization or any other thing of the sort. Although I suppose it belongs around all of them with some questions as before. What is the most important truth for us. What is death. Who am I. Especially this last one and then will try to tell no lies. And listen to nod neither letting down our guard to welcome nor the shop of danger this with most of us allowing our entrenched defensiveness to take full hokum any Mistry able to threaten our complacency which is to say be patient
suffer a semblance of the recognised status quo like that scientist of repute who referring to flying sources remarked with jovial condescension. I would not believe in them if I were to see them. How much less not we expect his consent to look into what might merely account for the quantities that he can measure if we sometimes expect from listeners the reach and acuity associated with philosophy and technical philosophy that is they will have no difficulty in following along. And if on the other hand we assume from them too little knowledge and depth they won't mind this either does it matter whether water is shallow or deep. So long as it isn't muddy and so long as there is light. Light is light and not a case. If we concentrate on experience rather than on my ideas on life rather than philosophy and on religion rather than
theology then even though we may disagree they'll be no reason for us to be opinionated on either side. It's the it's the unyielding commitment to opinions that distracts us from what is the more ultimate question is the more important it is not to make up our minds about it let alone allow somebody else to make them up for us. Taking a journey of discovery is not the same as arriving in our minds before we begin you know. And thinking something through is not the same as fastening labels on so called chyme it's a thought. Liberal conservative romantic classical hitcher dogs Orthodox theist pantheist logical positivists Neoplatonism cetera et cetera. Dear fellow scholars. If you are there let's not have any of this arid business.
The decline of great religion in this country comes in part I think from a disenchantment with metaphysics which is often nothing but an incapacity for it all is to say disinclination for it even though we pride ourselves on our practicality. And it is impossible to be practical without being metaphysical because it's impossible to be real. I mean by metaphysics I mean well the basic at this time a logical question what is thought matter means behind all beyond. And we feel more comfortable about trying to explain what is previous to our behind the domain of physics. But what is inside it or after it than the other way around. But you don't explain a seed by what sprouts from it but you can but it's not the natural way to go or a cow by its milk. And if you say what percentage can there be in going after the known through through what I know nothing about. The answer is that
what you are so sure of knowing is itself the product of touch and see and the logical intellect which must necessarily be the product of product. You are an ant floating in the milk without inquiring whether milk came from. I fishel science is still touch see and measure science even after Heisenberg has shown that the devices with which we measure the thing condition the thing measured. I mean while our official religion instead of being intuitional metaphysical and practical is conceptual social and ritualistic which is to say watered down Group Grope so that it is lost almost all interest for my students. What then does retain that interest and what what is this journey of ours going to be like. Well if it's to reach anywhere near the top of the
mountain that it should have to belay it from space is unabashedly metaphysical and our questions themselves will have to bypass many of the old campgrounds. Let's ask first what has led up to the situation today in regard to the two questions which always matter most that is to say the meaning and purpose of life. This situation strikes us as in part singularly dead with the consequent hope for what is beginning to be alive. You noted that these two conditions may not be confused. Let's begin by describing what seems dead in order that we may clear the way for what is living and what is dead may of course be the same as what always has been dead and years previous. It is the deposit of inheritance possessiveness and pride. Socrates and Jesus both died by
this combination before they and that became names that help to preserve it. SOCRATES In the academy is Jesus and the church is the Buddha also encountered this stubborn complex of pride timidity and bullying. For him the Brahmins occupied a position comparable to that of the Pharisees in Jesus time and off most a TCAS tical and event Jellicoe establishment today. After the Buddha's death there's good reason to think that the order which he founded resembled Christianity and its hardening process substituting for inspiration and passion towards the found attention to his teaching that is to the four noble truths and the eightfold path. All Buddhism would have a lesser vehicle and a greater vehicle Mahayana and age after age the Catholic Henney on ice so to speak will be telling the Protestant my honor that the latter had strayed from the canon.
And this Mahayana greater vehicle would proliferate all sorts of sects wearing yellow robes all red robes held to 50000 milder ones turning a prayer intoning the sutra etc. etc. all of which would have been most wearisome to the divine founder. Never the less always through the centuries there was a living seed of refusal to be fooled by life in this world. Moreover though the faithful might be persecuted they never persecuted anyone. I wish the same could be said of Christianity or Islam. Both of them has the hunting creeds and both of them soaked in blood. Islam has quietened down a lot partly the historical cynic might say from the lack of weight to throw around. It's quite a while since a Sufi has been mooted or tortured or since a Muslim country has ravaged another country
before looking at Christianity. I want to quote something from an old Christian bishop of Bishop Beveridge writing about the 700 just natural he says for all men to have an overbearing opinion and esteem for that particular religion they are born and bred up in. That therefore I may not seem biased by the prejudice of education. I am resolved to prove and examine them all that I may see and hold fast to that which is best. Hence being conscious to myself how great an ascendant Christianity holds over me beyond the rest as being battered agend wet and too I was born and baptized that which my parents educated me in that which everyone I meet with all highly approves of him which I myself have by a long continued profession made almost natural to me. I am resolved to be more jealous and suspicious of this sort of John than of the rest. This you agree is a fine utterance especially for
one with the bishops vested interest. I just hope we may be as successful as this old bishop and placing ourselves at a decent distance from the culture in which we happen to have been born and brought up. But this would not be a reason for automatic junking such prepossessions what it is a story told of another church dignitary and no less than being a great man. Still I suppose one of the ranking authorities of the century the Christian era story is that when he was called upon to lead the mansion's investors and sent for and came to the interning of the Apostles Creed one who was close enough to him could hear apparent pedicle saving clause slipped in sort of Archie stupidly. God the Father All right it's the story is proud apocryphal although there are two or three items in that declaration of belief with which so odd and to disciple the protagonist as the dean
may be expected to have a little difficulty. But it would be more pertinent to inquire why it is so deep and free of spirit as NG's with almost any career open to him should choose to remain within the church. Also why after nearly 2000 years of such varied history Christianity is still as strong as it is. The leading asset of Christianity is unquestionably its founder. If indeed Jesus maybe called Adam not Paul. When we think of jesus what springs to mind first is that an out of body of doctrine. Although his teaching was sufficiently simple drastic and sublime little children love one another. Kingdom of Heaven is within you. Judge not that you be not judged. Certainly it's not a metaphysical dogma concerning his own person Christology it was left to his professed did after his death who had little or
no understanding of what he was talking about anyway. He himself in the synoptic gospels had no Christology that I know of though some of his sayings have been twisted to seem so it may not yet was to confer on all who are capable of it. The same sense of kinship with what he called his father in heaven as he had himself no rabi to member Jesus for his extraordinary integrity that's to say his oneness his his all of the pieces. The story about him in the four gospels is fragmentary and shows unmistakable signs of having been seriously tampered with. Nevertheless and in the teeth of all the subsequent cultist misrepresentation their words and actions of the central figure hold together in a unique and most impressive way. He spoke with authority and not as the scribes always simply quietly and inevitably he presided. He was always at the center when he was talking to
children crossing the lake in the storm healing people snubbing the snobbery of formalism and sanctimoniousness of some of the just leaders of the fanatical nationalism of others siding with disreputable characters prostitutes prodigals bums facing down the Roman procurator by shift force of conviction teaching praying being tortured turning water into wine for a party getting salt commercialism straightening out his disciples about ambition superstition wealth never having any fixed lodging but always lordly actually unspoiled and unaffected superior to playstyle electic authorship all these things always the fearless absolute man. Whether he wished to institute something radically new it used to be said or whether it was the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls now it makes it appear he was more like Bach in music the crowning development of a long tradition as seen in this case
in a way he was such a supremely Paddick magic figure to use gestures expression and that it was natural for the ensuing centuries after the aegis of Rome what with the nervous search for new objects of worship to replace the old discredited Campion as it was natural for those theocrats and Mr. dogs with a considerable assist from sectarian politicos to make Jesus into the sort of I kind of graphic pin up that they did any good history of Rome to the reign of constant and tells us by what we did. This is the Jews and transpositions it all happened and I know the whole thing got out of hand all right. If you were really determined to involve 900 years of history with the idolization of one individual not to speak of the incredible superstructure social philosophical and PC and stick that was written upon that idolization why it begins to
look lucky that the individual to whom the central role was assigned should have been Jesus. So it is hard to think of another who could have had such pure majesty and grace. And we may be quite sure that not all that divine force has been lost. Countless obscure unnamed Saints commune still with the spirit of this master his loving kindness like that of the compassionate but a so called has been impressed repeatedly on the eye and hearts of men. Could this have been softened as well as perpetrated in his name. Despair has been put to flight. Insulted and injured. Give a new hope for this life and the life everlasting. And it's not only that individuals have been can so inspired and new to meet the challenges of life by the example of Christ or that they love between individuals has been immeasurably refined
as we see that love in the medieval conception of chivalry quick a blossoming in Spenser Shakespeare into a many faceted adoration not primarily indebted to sex nor is it any way that the Lord's Prayer has governed the tone and stress of worship for millions of individuals who have knelt and prayed in secret. But that has been the historical impact in a wider sense. It influence of Christ. Yes and all Christian orders has infused a breath of holiness. Not always for the worse. Into schools of philosophy and has has UN brutalized many waves of barbarism as it may yet do again. Of all the mechanized barbarism is conducted with the chaplains blessing the day. But honesty compels admission that this is not the whole story. Face it not love alone but hate has been a Christian staple. Another loan or chiefly the light of a free inquiry but persistent obscurantism
and suppression of the truth. I've also been its stock in trade so that so that whole nations when they have the power have like Japan and China tried desperately to cleanse the realm of incursions from the Christian evangelists which they found displeasing whilst others like the Near Eastern peoples even when their religion was nurtured at the same teat as Christianity proceeded to vie with it in protracted wars of the of the utmost for all city whilst others again like Peru surrendered a happy attractive indigenous religion to the ruthlessness of invading priests with whose religion. To this day they have had no choice but to compound their own in an unstable complex. Where only their own rings true. Then if we turn from the qualified enthusiasm of the neighbors and victims of Christianity to look at its own internal life whether this religion be considered as a polity or is a mystique
the picture again is maad that a religion should feel the compulsion to clothe itself in power politics at all would seem intrinsically adverse to its purity. What does the truth have to do with staying on top on the love of God with the control of human souls. But history's struggle and the psychological clues to men in the mass for many centuries have been on the one hand the craving to be told what to do what to believe whom to worship. And on the other the craving for power to exploit this weakness and hints in a vicious circle. The ensuing nourishment of the weakness in order to entrench the power. So it requires no great cynicism to anticipate abuse of power from institutional Christianity as from any other organized religion exceeding to par. It's just that the. It's just that the contrast between on the one hand the simple and obscure founder of Christianity had not where to lay his head and who instructed his disciples to give everything away. And on the other the enormous systems both Catholic
and Protestant constructed around him focuses in the wildest fashion. The irony of these encounters of truth and power. If you ask what what then is the trouble with Christianity. A good Christian would of course quickly amend the question to what has been the trouble with mankind. I accept the correction that was Christ and it has been mankind. Christianity belongs more to mankind than to Christ. And if we ask again What is Christianity. We may take separate the two Sayid's of the tradition that I have named its polity and its mass mystique. And then an easy way out would be to say that all the trouble is with the first the public posture as well as the second the individual Christian alone with his cries that he's all right but Mr. Quatermain sounds a bit pat to me I suspect it
should always be a gap between the public and the private self or Brahmans and Zen Buddhists and Taoists also not speak of upright atheists and dedicated Epicureans. But my fear is that in the case of Christianity some of the difficulty is intrinsic to the essence. Not again of Christ but off Christianity public or private. But one sees the mistake they made as two fold and each respect adverse to their recorded utterances of Jesus himself in the synoptic gospels. The fourth Gospel is already a Greek or Roman mystical tract of extraordinary part about it as a factual biography and wavering as it say the first these mistakes was to equate the personal with deity. When did Israeli transpersonal and the second was to mistake the idea of mediator ship for the real vehicle of divine grace which is the self in every man. Both mistakes are
natural to those who have not had direct experience of the Divine Spirit. Or who are trying to make a better little experience go too far. Especially go to offer others. The third is the personal thing has become especially American I believe. The great thing with us is to have a strong personality and a more distinct and compelling over against other personalities the better the president talk with it's dwelling on the personal force and attractiveness of the historical Jesus may serve as exhibit A of addiction. You notice how nearly every Sunday School and church office is adorned by a large print of Jesus represented as a calm and easily dominating metamorphic type frequented blessing little children one whose bid I predict will soon have to be shaved since to be her suit has come to have associations with the flower people who in other inconvenient respects also appear to be carrying out the injunctions of Jesus. And later talk same as think what man is. Since this is by far the best hope of understanding
what God is. Latest is in this one we mistook meditate for a minute on how it was with us in those moments but only looked in on our own selves because it is this concentrated in what look as we said at the beginning. The kid is the way the what remains alive in religion today. And when we exert this inward look we're giving in and throwing do and one which presents us with something much more than an individual. Oh no doubt among the objects presented to us is I myself. John Theobald along with you and him and them. But we're not now to think of what is presented but the consciousness that presents this me along with other individuals. And if you say that this conceiving consciousness in order of all beyond me is the same self as the self which it which it perceives then you have been deluded and have fallen into the trap.
The metaphysical realisation of this absolute subject. Of consciousness makes possible a vision straight into the real and a continued grasp on the ethical consequences that this vision makes possible the life of Christ. Then Glory be to the father no mediator is any longer necessary. Well we have been thinking this first time about the religious tradition is something inherited from the past mostly with the idea forgetting about it in future talk. This was what Jesus insisted on forgetting. Behold I make all things new he said. And you have heard how it has been said but I say unto you. But don't forget that now what Jesus said also belongs to what has been said and rough as this may sound to some of us it's of no use to us. Saving only as this too is made new once again by us.
Today the indifference which you guessed it troubles to conceal toward organized Christianity will not be met by reaffirming orthodox Christian doctrine nor by restoring the party's yesterday institutions and priestly castes nor by further expanding already huge presbyteries and congregations held together by a mortgage in common. This is the space age remember. Kids are taken to Pella mall where they're made witness to the size of the visible universe. They've got those galaxies and quasars and that blood these starry explosions are some billions of light years away from the religious tradition and our children begin to know pretty well what these distances mean. But they don't know what light means one world is dead another struggling to be born. The scheme of creation redemption that their Sunday School teaches so them is not just pre-scientific it isn't interesting to them. Ask them what they think of the Apostles Creed even after you've
updated the semantics they'll tell you that sort of thing doesn't really interest me and I think it wiser to be polite is silent. In their silence and under arrest and in their secular songs a new religion is struggling to be born. But about if you say to them Do you think there is any connection between the nature of light and the meaning of human life. Why then they might well reply it say that again and assume a thoughtful expression. This sets up the subject that comes next the question what is human life what is man. This verse talk has been mostly negative and has assumed a rather chilly attitude towards the teachings of the religious establishment. Their long history and present decline starting with the next we want like hawks to aim straight for the sun before signing off I should like to read rather slowly as seven principles which my listeners might care to think about at leisure since they like it to be basic to what is said in the seven talks first.
Take nothing for granted. Everything is special all that lives is holy. Second Chance is necessity. Freed in disguise. Three. Symbol in myth language of intuition are truer than logic and language of cause and effect. For space time is subject to illusion. All that was all will be is now. Eternity is now five. Love is transpersonal. Also when personal. 6. All religions and loyalty is yielded to truth and 7. Reality is why I am God is the inmost self that self is all nothing exists except this one next time. What is man. You heard the first of nine ultimate questions of a series of explorative talks adding contemporary perspective to the vast legacy of world philosophies by Dr. John Theobald a member of the English department faculty at San Diego State College.
- 9 Ultimate Questions
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