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The Quest of Every Heart

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Seven Pillars of Wisdom
World Religions & Teachers
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Acknowledging Contradictions

Identifying the True Light

My Spiritual Journey
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Mike Shreve was a teacher of yoga at four universities. (The portrait above was drawn by one of his students in 1970.) Then a spiritual rebirth brought him into a real relationship with God and drastically changed his heart, his life and his belief system.  Read his story here.

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Site Completed - 10/15/01
Major Revision—5/28/03
Last Updated - 03/19/09

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Mike Shreve.
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Acknowledging the Contradictions

from In Search of the True Light Part 2

After contrasting the beliefs of various religions and sects, it is easy to see that they often exhibit irreconcilable differences on major doctrinal issues. In the mind of any studious, sincere and reflective person, questions such as the following will inevitably surface:

And the inescapable questions keep surfacing,
again and again?????

These are certainly not trifling issues, of negligible importance. These are matters of deep concern for all of us. The validity and the dependability of the doctrines we embrace determine whether or not the "seven pillars of wisdom" we choose crumble or stand forever!

Choosing Between Three Options

So what are we going to do with all of this conflicting data?

At this 'pivotal point' we are constrained to choose one of the following three options:

(1) Ignore-We can ignore the contradictions and refuse to deal with them.

(2) Synthesize-We can make a supreme, philosophical effort to force all these views into syncretistic, monistic harmony.

(3) Distinguish Right from Wrong-We can carefully review all of these concepts in order to discern that which is correct: retaining what is right and discarding what is wrong.

Normally, only those who passionately love the truth find it. Because ordinarily, only lovers of truth are willing to pay the price that truth demands. And what is that price? First, it often involves becoming intensely focused on transcendental things, at the expense of sacrificing, neglecting or rising above things which are temporal. Second, it often involves a willingness to sacrifice beliefs that are dear or comfortable to us, culturally, intellectually and religiously. This is certainly not easy, but necessary at times.

So pause for a moment. Recommit yourself to the role of a truth-seeker. Dare to scrutinize your own heart-then release it to explore possibilities-without the restraint of preset doctrinal biases. Purpose in your heart of hearts that whatever cost is involved in knowing the mysteries of God, you are more than willing to pay it. My hope and prayer is that your love for the truth will undergird you with strength, put the fire of discernment in your eyes, and guide you like a knowledgeable boatman in this journey of all journeys-from the dark shore of spiritual uncertainty to the bright shore of absolute assurance.

Is Truth Really Relative?

As a yoga teacher, I taught that all world religions were just different paths to the same God. I firmly believed that part of walking in the "True Light" involved accepting the monistic view that 'All is One.' However, I could not hide my eyes, nor my heart, from the evident contradictions that kept rising to the surface of my worldview. The more I studied, the more I wondered, "Was I trying to mix oil and water?" (These two liquids, when vigorously shaken, seem to blend, but within a few moments they always separate. Philosophically, was I doing the same thing: 'forcing' a merging of all religions, which given to themselves would automatically separate?)

During this pivotal phase, I poured over numerous books and pamphlets dealing with the human condition. Comments similar to the following from S. Radhakrishnan seemed to prop open the door of understanding:

"The truth, which is the kernel of every religion, is one and the same; doctrines, however, differ considerably since they are the applications of the truth to the human situationRites, ceremonies, systems and dogmas lead beyond themselves to a region of utter clarity and so have only relative truthEvery work, every concept is a pointer which points beyond itself. The sign should not be mistaken for the thing signified. The sign-post is not the destination."1

Statements like this temporarily stilled my concerns. They seemed to exude compassion and wisdom. Yet this idea of 'relativism' increasingly left me with an uncomfortable feeling. I pondered, "How can anything be correctly labeled 'Truth' if it is true only for those who can relate to it because of their culture, tradition or era? If it is untrue for others, how can it be substantive at all?"

Convincing myself that truth is relative felt like cutting a boat free from its moorings-with no sails, no oars, no steering mechanism and no fuel for the engine-to drift on an ocean of human speculation. If relativism is correct, why should the 'truth-seeker' confine himself within the boundaries of a single religion? If none of them has a verifiable belief system that is universally acceptable and eternally dependable, why adhere to any religious dogma?

Why should a Buddhist believe in Buddhism, a Christian in Christianity, a Hindu in Hinduism, a Muslim in Islam or a Jainist in Jainism-if the doctrinal base of all these religions, as well as their ceremonial traditions, are filled with erroneous assumptions, wrong beliefs and false conclusions? If God is beyond human reasoning, and if differences of opinion concerning his nature are simply the by-product of human imagination (as relativism suggests), why should we even bother investigating the recorded explanations of various religions concerning his character and being?

Eventually I realized that I had to make a choice. I had to choose between two possible scenarios. Either truth is vague, all-inclusive, fully syncretistic and doctrinal differences have no real relevance. Or truth is precise, definable and exclusive, and doctrinal differences have extreme relevance-demanding the discarding of certain beliefs in order to embrace others. If the former is true, then it matters little what any religion promotes as truth. Words and concepts are just symbolic. Wrong concepts and warped views will all blend into one Ultimate Reality anyway, like muddy rivers emptying into the ocean, to be purified in the process. However, if truth is definable and exclusive, words and concepts are of absolute importance.

Something drastic happened when I dared to entertain the latter of these two conclusions as the probable scenario. Inspiration, like a mother eagle, flapped its wings without warning and threw my soul like a baby eaglet into the air, so it could learn how to fly. It wasn't long before I caught the wind under my wings.

At this point, you may want to explore:

1 The World's Great Religions (New York: Time Incorporated, 1957) p. 38.

"In Search of the True Light" 2002 copyright by Mike Shreve.
All articles unless otherwise noted are copyright by Mike Shreve.
Personal Stories are the work of the individuals.
All Rights Reserved.

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