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The Quest of Every Heart

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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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©2002 copyright
Mike Shreve.
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Worldviews Contrasted

from In Search of the True Light Part 2

Through the centuries, fervent voices have been heard in every kind of cultural setting promoting diverse notions about God's nature, man's condition and what the future holds for all of us. From thatched roofs to towering skyscrapers, from mountaintop stone altars to temples overlaid with gold, from isolated caves to high-spired cathedrals-the expression of religious opinions is as endless as the shifting images of a kaleidoscope. As a yoga teacher, I explained that these differences, though often appearing contradictory, are actually complementary and compatible. An ancient Hindu parable illustrates this stance quite well:

A king gathered a number of men who were born blind. He positioned them around an elephant, then asked each one to describe the appearance of this animal to the best of his ability. Because they were all positioned near different parts of the elephant's body, disagreements were inevitable. One was placed next to the head, another near the trunk, and another, next to the elephant's ear. Another was positioned near a leg, another by the tail and so on.

The blind man standing near the head exclaimed, "The elephant is like a pot!" The blind man who was near the trunk argued, "The elephant is like a hose!" The one who handled the ear insisted, "No, the elephant is like a fan!" The one who touched the tail countered, "The elephant is like a rope!" In like manner, the rest submitted their differing observations: the elephant was like a pillar, a wall, a brush, a branch and so forth.

The evident 'moral of the story' is a unifying statement, an attempt to blend together the whole assortment of spiritual hues and shades that color this planet. At one time, I would have whole-heartedly embraced the analogy just mentioned. Without hesitation, I would have instructed my yoga students that just like the elephant, religious groups whose doctrines seem radically opposed actually unite to make one homogenous whole. Then, during a time of deep soul-searching and self-evaluation, I learned to my own amazement that the 'elephant trunk' hanging next to me actually belonged to a different 'animal' altogether-and the 'elephant tail' being gripped by another truth-seeker was really a manmade 'rope.'

Constrained by deep love for God, for truth and for all men, I embarked on what has since become over a thirty-year pilgrimage-exploring the tenets of the eleven main living religions, and numerous smaller religious sects and groups. As I crossed cultural boundaries and journeyed into various worldviews, I discovered many notable similarities, but I also encountered remarkable differences of opinion on key issues.

The following seven categories emerged, in my thinking, as the most important subject areas. These deal with the revelation of God, the nature of the universe and the understanding of man's condition: past, present and future. These seven categories are the primary supporting 'pillars' that uphold the doctrinal 'ceiling' of most religious expressions encountered in this world.

  1. The Origin and Nature of the Universe

  2. The Nature of God

  3. The Nature of Man

  4. The Nature of Salvation, Liberation or Enlightenment

  5. Dimensions or Planes of Existence

  6. The Spiritual Journey and Ultimate Destiny of Man

  7. Cycles, Ages and the Ultimate State of the Universe

Notice that three of these categories deal primarily with the universe ("The Origin and Nature of the Universe," "Dimensions or Planes of Existence," and "Cycles, Ages and the Ultimate State of the Universe"); three deal primarily with man's situation ("The Origin and Nature of Man," "The Nature of Salvation, Liberation or Enlightenment," and "The Spiritual Journey and Ultimate Destiny of Man"); and one category deals with God ("The Nature of God"). So there are three main areas of revelation, three essential themes, on which we will be focusing our attention-(God, Man and the Universe)-but under these headings there are seven divisions of important and insightful information.

You will quickly detect, as you continue reading, that in this section I make no effort to prove or disprove any doctrinal stance. My objective is to offer an unbiased examination of each religion's position concerning these "seven pillars of wisdom." Contrasting the beliefs of the eleven main religions is the major emphasis in this section and usually, in each category, viewpoints from all of these religious groups are included.

At times, the beliefs of certain smaller or more modern sects, individual teachers and even some extinct religions are also inserted, if the additional information is unique and warrants inclusion. Some of those included are: Astrology, Bahá'í, ECKANKAR, Egyptian mythology, Gnosticism, Greek mythology, ISKCON, Kabbala, Kriya Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Raja Yoga, Scientology, Theosophy and the United Church of Religious Science. Sometimes different opinions can be found on a given subject within separate sects of the same religious group. Sometimes I include all these opinions; at other times, I emphasize the viewpoint that seems to be the most predominant. An eighth category of essential wisdom that could have been included in this section is "The Origin of Evil." However, since this is a negative subject, I decided to deal with it later in the book. The seven subjects included here are all primarily positive.

As you gaze into this 'kaleidoscope' of concepts, I believe you will marvel at the unique patterns that emerge. I think you will also be challenged to answer a crucially important question. Is it really trueis it even remotely possiblethat all of these religious groups and doctrinal views actually make upone elephant?

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Complete List of World Religions & Teachers

"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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