This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

5.7. Proselytism and Religious Expansion

Christian fundamentalism and contemporary evangelicalism

In contemporary American Christianity, what were once called “Fundamentalists” are now called “Evangelicals.” And in fact the latter have outdone their predecessors in the sense that they do not cling to “fundamentals,” like a child to its training wheels, but have narrowed the faith down to one idea: proselytism. They build everything else around that, and the consequences are always poisonous.

As often happens, a group will shed a term not because it is no longer appropriate or accurate but because it has become inconvenient. Since Americans have begun speaking of “Islamic Fundamentalists,” who are in fact the Islamic counterpart to the Christian Fundamentalists, sharing the same mentality, the term has taken on a negative meaning and had to be discarded in favor of something else. That “something else” is Evangelicalism, since it conveys the idea that its members are simply carrying out Christ’s orders. And no one believes this more than they do. And we see in them many of the same attitudes, the same rhetoric, that we see in the Islamic version: and insistence on only the most superficial interpretations of Sacred Scriptures; a view of the world where everything is framed as “us vs. them,” and “them” is always an ambiguously defined and unjustifiably wide categorization, so much so that we get the impression that Fundamentalists classify people as enemies not because they know them to be hostile but simply because they do not know them.

Modern life obscures the limits of religious expansion

That “the world” could refer to anything less than the entire globe is not something comprehensible to the modern man, because for him there are not “humanities,” each with a world of its own, but only the global humanity and the globe on which it lives. This has had the effect of destroying the natural barriers to religious expansion and has led religious people to believe that, because the natural limitations have ceased to exist, that limits of any kind are purely artificial and senseless. This is because religious people in the modern world tend to be as materialistic is their non-religious contemporaries.

One sun among many stars

One side of the modern mentality, for example the Evangelicals, interpret Christ’s claims as though they exclude the possibility of other manifestations of the Logos in other worlds; the other side of the same mentality sees the diversity of Christs and concludes that because they are multiple that they must be false. Neither group can conceive of a multiplicity of Revelations, because they only see human life through the lens of uniformity and globalism. They cannot see that multiple humanities divided into multiple worlds would obviously require multiple Revelations. The first type of person, when faced with the discovery of other solar systems beyond our own, would insist that, nonetheless, there is still only one sun, his own, reducing the whole of the cosmos to his own perspective. The second type of person would respond by saying that since our own sun is not, after all, unique, that there is no such thing as a “sun” at all. Obviously they are both partially right and partially wrong. The sun is unique, as the first man insists, but it is only unique for us, on Earth, and contrary to the belief of the second man, this does not diminish its significance for us, because even if it is not unique in an absolute sense, it is our center and the cause of our life.

Christ’s world

The world for which Christ was “the Way” and “the Truth” and “the Life” is, as I’ve already said, coextensive with the Roman Empire, or what we could call today “the West.” This seems to be the most reasonable interpretation of what the Bible itself actually says. For example, when “every nation under heaven” is mentioned in Acts 2, it clearly could not mean that there were people present from every nation on the planet. Nor do we have to guess at what exactly was meant by this designation, since we are given a list: Parthians, Medes, Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, parts of Libya, Cretans and Arabs. That is a large area, but it is emphatically not “every nation under heaven” in the modern sense. It is, however, just about every nation known to the Roman world. And so, when we later hear that “there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), it would be unreasonable to assume that a much larger geographical area was intended, as if the author’s way of speaking had changed drastically from two chapters before. But again, we must not be too superficial, because if it is meant that the name of the person, Jesus Christ, must be known by name in order to be saved, then this can only apply to the world into which Jesus Christ came. But if it is meant that the Word, which is the Divine Name of which Christ, Buddha, the Prophet, are so many manifestations, is the one name by which alone men are saved, then it can indeed be taken as inclusive of all mankind. The two interpretations just mentioned are not mutually exclusive, but are two different levels of meaning and are both true simultaneously. The error of exoteric Christianity is in confusing the two levels, applying the unicity of the universal to the relativity of the historical.

Uniqueness within the chain of being

To understand how Jesus Christ is the “Sun” and the unique center of the Christian world while not excluding other “solar systems” outside that world, it may help to provide another example among the lower orders of existing things: The solar principle, of which the sun is one of the most prominent symbols, also manifests itself in creation as the eagle, the sunflower, or as gold. Each of these is “unique” and supreme as the sun-symbol of that particular order of reality. But obviously they do not exclude one another, nor does the acknowledgment of the supremacy of the eagle involve denying the supremacy of gold in its own order.

Is America part of Christ’s providential sphere of expansion?

Since America is in a way the child of Europe, then we could say that America is a colony of the Christian world, but that wouldn’t really be true. America has been modern since its birth and so no Revelation really applies to it. America has no “Way” and is not interested in a Savior, despite rhetoric to the contrary. For Americans, America is the temple, and the flag is the cross. America brings salvation to itself, and this is why it takes it upon itself to deal out salvation (or ‘liberation’) and damnation to the rest of the world as it sees fit. According to this description, the United States is pagan to an extreme, and so, interestingly enough, the United States presents itself not so much as a ‘colony of Christendom’ but as a perfect candidate for evangelization, but we suspect that it will be the last to convert.

Is missionary activity valid?

When trying to discern whether or not Christian missionary activity can be legitimate, we need to ask first if it is legitimate in principle; and, if so, we then need to examine the nature of missionary activity in the present day and ask if this activity is a valid application of that principle. As to whether or not missionary work is valid in principle, it should be obvious that it is, since this is how a new revelation must propagate throughout its providential sphere of expansion. That is the objective side of the question, but there is also a subjective side, in that missionary activity constitutes a valid vocation for a select few, and therefore demands expression in the world if these few are to be enabled to realize their possibilities. And so we can see that missionary activity has a positive aspect in that it is objectively necessary for the expansion of “the message,” and is also subjectively necessary for the development of individuals called to the missionary way.

The specificity of the Great Commission

The error of Evangelical Christianity is to extend to every believer, without distinction or discernment or concern for vocation, temperament, and ability, the implications contained in the Great Commission. The fact that Christ instructed a very exclusive and select group of men (the eleven apostles) to “go make disciples of all nations” should not be taken to mean that he intended for every believer to pursue a missionary vocation. Moreover, the apostles were told to make disciples, which is to say, students or followers. This clearly defines the line between those he instructs to teach and those who are to be taught, and does not imply that everyone who is taught is thereby ordained as a teacher, simply because they have learned something important. Christ did not say to go and make preachers of all men.

Legitimate missionary activity in the modern world is extremely rare

Based on what’s already been said about missionary activity, it should be clear that in the present day legitimate missionary work is almost nowhere to be found. It is legitimate in principle and therefore valid under certain conditions, objective and subjective, but these limitations have been so completely ignored that even those who may actually be called to such a path are misled by the Church and by “Evangelical culture” so that they apply their gifts wrongly, damaging their own development and that of other peoples as well. For example, the work is too often carried out among people such as Hindus or Muslims, who are already “Christian” in the sense that they have the Universal Christ and therefore do not part of “the sick” who need saving. But, even so, we should always be careful with sweeping statements, and it remains true that legitimate missionary work is still possible. First, both the objective and subjective aspects of the work can be positively realized if the spiritual influence of the missionary is strong enough that it is able to overpower the waning spiritual influence of the indigenous people. This may happen when the existing spirituality is in a decadent stage, or when the mentality of a society has altered in such a way that Christianity is more suitable to it, or because the onset of materialism has nullified pre-existing religious forms to the point of impotence. Secondly, even if the proper objective conditions are not met, the sacrificial character of the work is still beneficial to the individual whose vocation it is. But this last situation, while I think it is possible, is so rare that I’m not familiar with any examples.

St. Paul as the Christian model for missionary activity

For obvious reasons, missionary activity is perfectly legitimate within the bounds of a particular world. For St. Paul, who worked within the bounds of the Christian world and was, notably, prevented by the holy spirit from travelling outside that world, we can say that his missionary work was precisely what it should have been and is the model on which all missionary work should be based. This is because he worked within set limits, obedient to the spirit with regard to these limits, and among the people for whom his revelation was intended, which included the Jews as well as various pagan peoples whose religion was in a decadent stage.

Evangelism in East and West

Everything I’ve said about evangelical missions in the West also applies to the East. But it goes without saying that this activity is far less pronounced in Eastern religions, and for that reason “conversions” are not so frequent. The reason for this discrepancy is first of all the different in human types: in Westerners, the rajastic element is predominant, and this creates a tendency toward horizontal expansion that is not present in other peoples. It is also a question of material and political power, which is the West’s specialty. Hindu culture, for example, does not possess a powerful military presence capable of colonizing the globe. And Islamic societies tend to not be affluent enough to send members of their youth on mission vacations to far away places in order to pity the less fortunate, dazzle them with toothbrushes, and hopefully “win” them over to the faith, all in a few days time.

The superficiality of conversions

If Western Evangelicals would like to pride themselves on their ability to convert other peoples to their religion, citing the fact that conversions in the opposite direction are much more rare, we should point out to them that this is more an insult than a compliment. Eastern people turn from one religious doctrine to another, from one belief to another; but Western people turn from belief to unbelief. They do not convert: they become atheists.

Alienation and exoterism in a global world

The insistence on the exclusive possession of truth that is the hallmark of exoterism and which is not, in itself, a bad thing, becomes very problematic in a global world where religions collide on a daily basis. On the basic level of human relationships, for example, has proven toxic. The Christian who believes that he is the exclusive possessor of spiritual truth will, as a natural outcome, view everyone who is “not Christian” as deficient: and judging from experience I can tell you that this “deficiency” is assumed to be not only on the doctrinal level, but on the mental, emotional, and even moral level. This is because exclusivity creates a dualism: us and them. And since we have what we need for goodness, happiness, and truth, then “they” cannot have it, or at least can only have it in some deficient way. In other words, the exoteric man who sees the world in this way is automatically conceited and judgmental of anyone whose spirituality does not mirror his own. And this “us and them” view inevitably becomes “us vs them.” And if this does not lead to actual violence it leads to the fear of violence, and whether victim or oppressor, it seems to always be initiated by the exoterist. Thus, the Christian West accomplished something like a slow genocide in North America, often justified on the basis of their religious superiority; and then in today’s America, not two centuries later, the Christians are adopting the opposite pose, as if they themselves were suffering the worst of persecutions. That is why the exoteric view of religious truth, unguided by the universality of an esoteric spirit, leads to either the active persecution of some unfortunate people or a martyr-complex that leads Christians to feign persecution at the hands of some imagined enemy. In practice, both attitudes tend to operate at the same time, with believers complaining that they are persecuted for their faith while cheering at the occupation and perpetual bombing of various Muslim nations.

Decadence around the world

Both the East and the West are in the advanced stages of decadence. Those are wrong who would set the East up against the West as if the one was impervious to the onslaught of the Dark Age, which affects everyone if it affects anyone. If some people seem to miss this point, it is because they express their decadence in very different ways due to a difference in nature. They manifest two types of decadence that are almost the inverse of one another. We could say that the decadence of the East resembles the natural decay of an aging creature, becoming progressively weaker and more senile as death approaches. This decay is passive–it is suffered. The decadence of the West, however, is strikingly different in that it is active and takes the form of a consciously chosen path. This is why we can speak of a “modern mentality” when referring to the West. This distinction–active and consciously chosen error vs. what we can only describe as “the inertia of the dying” in the East–is what gives the West its illusion of superiority, since it leads to a rapid and rabid material development that has spanned the globe and created incredible affluence for the nations who’ve driven it. But both suffer from the same “dying out” of intellectuality and spiritual vitality. The two paths simply show two possible results of a civilization that begins to lose its connection with transcendence. It either falls asleep or becomes delirious, the latter clearly being for more dangerous because far more aggressive.

Conversion and apostasy

It may appear from my way of speaking that, since there are a number of traditional forms, that “conversion” from one legitimate, living form to another is permissible, and that’s obviously true. But be careful not to conclude, on this basis, that there is no such thing as apostasy, which is the illegitimate abandonment of one’s faith. An ‘apostate’ is basically someone who moves from one religion to another without valid reason. From an exoteric point of view and from within a particular tradition, this is how most “conversions” to a foreign religion are viewed, and this makes sense based on the exclusivist viewpoint maintained by believers. There is also a third case, which takes place only on the esoteric level: that of a person who adopts a religious form that is not his own for the sake of spiritual expediency and without any “conversion” taking place, since on the esoteric level one need not be “reborn” in order to appreciate other revelations.

Then the end will come

“This Gospel of the Kingdom will be taught among all men as a testimony to all nations; then the end will come.” These words should not be taken as a command, but as a prophecy. The message of the Kingdom, carried by the Universal Christ, no matter what his form, will have expended itself when all barriers between the traditional worlds have been dissolved and all the Revelations have been given. Jesus Christ, the Kalki Avatara of the Hindus, and the Bodhisattva Maitreya of the Buddhists, all refer to the apocalyptic redeemer who sets things aright, and in this way all paths converge before the same throne, resurrecting the and making whole all that was broken, restoring the Primordial Tradition at the end of the cycle.

The limits of Islamic law

Although we’ve spoken most directly of the limits of Christian expansion, but the same principle applies to other traditions. As an illustration of this limitation at work we can look to Islam and the way it altered the application of its revelation outside the Arab world. During the Muslim explosion, neighboring Arabian polytheists were given a hard choice: follow Islam or meet death. Such were the rules for the world in which that revelation was given. But when the Message journeyed outside of the Arab world, for example when Islamic monarchs ruled over Hindu lands, the principle of force was abandoned even though Hindus are certainly not monotheists (or polytheists).

Hinduism and the serenity of age

Hinduism stands apart from all others when it comes to evangelism and its view of the place and value of other revelations. It is the oldest of the traditions, and this is perhaps what enables it to look on the children of the faith with a benevolent eye. This is not to say that Hinduism sees them as equals, but it does not see them as infidels, faithless people in need of saving. Hinduism possesses the Sanatana Dharma, the ‘Eternal [hence Primordial] Law’. The younger revelations possess this law, but in partial form, and are therefore in error but due mostly to the progress of the disorder that characterizes this age, and therefore there is no point in trying to convert them to something that is beyond their reach. They have that which they ought to have, and if they were not meant to have the revelations they possess, the Avataras, such as Christ, would not have been given to them. And for these reasons, even if the truth they possess is partial, their error does not exclude them from salvation, even if their spiritual conditions is less favorable–and sometimes downright deplorable–hence the use of the term “barbarians” to describe the West.

Mleccha Avatara

The benevolence of the Hindus can be displayed in the concept of the Mleccha Avatara or “Divine Descent among the Barbarians,” which allows Hindus to venerate the prophets and saints of other revelations, such as Muhammad or Christ, without distinction or contradiction.

The decay of Hindu social structures and the balance of Islam

Occasionally, the encroachment of one tradition into the sphere of another may serve the purpose of restoring balance and order, and in that sense is not inappropriate. This was the case when Islam ruled Hindu territories. Even if Hinduism has always retained its unity and its doctrine, and has been successful in adapting and re-adapting itself to changing conditions, this has also had effects that, even if secondary, are detrimental to its objective stability. Hence almost limitless splintering of its caste system. Moreover, Hindu civilization has been impregnated by the passional element, since this must be the case in the Kali Yuga, and this eventually overshadowed the contemplative element. One striking example of this is the general acceptance of a strictly literal interpretation of its scriptures on transmigration which gave rise to the contemporary idea of reincarnation, which is a metaphysical impossibility. Moreover this superficiality also led to tendency to take the vast, symbolic tapestry that is the Hindu pantheon and interpret it in a theistic manner–in other words, it has led Hindus to become something like polytheists, which is idolatry. In this context, Islam, being the youngest of the revelations and therefore most suitable to the disorder of present conditions, was able to offer something of great value to Hindu civilization. Islam was able to “absorb,” so to speak, the elements in Hindu society that Hinduism itself could not organize or account for (in practice, even if they were accounted for in Hindu theory). Moreover, since Islam is synthetic (as a cross between Mosaic and Christian temperaments) and simple in its form, and is therefore quite effective and closing up the gaps in a system that has become too complex, neutralizing to some degree the progress of decomposition. And that is truly what is in question here: the castes, being the reflection of cosmic order and “distinction” among nature, have dissolved back into the primordial indistinction.

The dissolution of the Hindu castes

We spoke of the dissolution of the Hindu caste structure. While we don’t praise this as an advance, like Western observers, and see it as the progress of a fatal disease, it cannot be otherwise and we should not try to restore what belongs to cyclic conditions that are not our own. Of the lower castes, they have become a new people all their own, and since every human possibility is intermingled among them, members of the intellectual elite spontaneously appear. And of the higher castes, their decadence is more exaggerated because of the basic principle that “the corruption of the best is worst” (corruptio optimi pressima.

The flames of hell grow cold

Ibn Arabi said that in the end, the flames of hell would grow cold. The Prophet himself said the same: that in the beginning of Islam, he who neglects a tenth of the law shall perish, but that by the end, he who accomplishes a tenth shall be saved. Hinduism also speaks of this on a higher level, teaching that the laws of previous ages cannot be applied to persons living near the end.

The duality of Divine manifestations

The name Jesus Christ illustrates a certain duality. “Jesus,” just like “Mohammed,” indicates the limited and the relative aspect of the manifestation which supports the Divine; “Christ,” like “Buddha” and “Rasul Allah” indicate the Universal aspect. The former terms are necessarily tied to individual personalities, specific revelations, specific geographies, and specific historical periods. The latter, however, should be considered synonymous, as names for the Word. Such is the true meaning of the distinction, in Christian theology, of the Divine and the human natures in Christ.

The barriers set for the Apostles

“I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt. 9:13)

“Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.” (Acts 16:6-8)