By George Capsis
Dusty floats in the infinite, spiritual dimension so when we began talking about how to use the Church of St. Veronica—a 115-year-old, very dead church—she took me to a meeting of The Temple of Understanding, just opposite the United Nations Headquarters. There, a Buddhist priest got up in saffron robes to begin the meeting by draining tensions, “You feel the constraints flowing out of your body,” and so they did.
Of course, all ancient religions tread around the truth or they would not survive, but learning that fact—how the hidden truth of existence is shared—is not well known and certainly not well demonstrated by a disciplined study. ‘Comparative religion’ is more history than astonishment at a common inspiration.
So, here is another way we can use the temple of one faith to join with others.
The phrase ‘The Temple of Understanding’ evokes the common, almost instinctive, belief that all religions share a common dimension, that beyond self-awareness (‘I exist.’) there is an often deeply etched belief in a continuum of life with absolute moral principles.
As formal, historic religion wanes, we know ‘our’ religion with varying degrees of inaccuracy, and nothing about the major religions of the world, which are now changing history because their original moral exhortations are no longer understood or felt. (The current distance from the origins of Islam is so attenuated, it now only provides a rallying cry of hate between the factions.)
No study of history, from cave paintings until today, is without discovering common beliefs beyond tangible reality. Religion is that single question of consciousness: “Who Am I?”
It is the postulate of The Temple of Understanding that the shared, common beliefs exhibited by the several great religions gain greater strength than the set of beliefs in only one faith. The more we understand the many common beliefs we share, the more powerful and universal the message.
But how do we learn what moral DNA runs through all religions? Suppose you could visit a 115-year-old church, which has lost the last of four generations of parishioners and stands silently fibrillating with more than a century of those seeking spiritual truth and, in it, you hear the clear, simple message of the world’s great religions, as well as sacred music touching our emotions without translation.
I am proposing a real Temple of Understanding—a place where articulate and knowledgeable spokespersons present a brief history of their religion, let us hear and see bits of the chants and dances of the religion (audible and visual choreography) via singers and dancers, and contrast it with Western religions about which we have more knowledge.
We might hear and see on a screen the translated words of a Buddhist or Gregorian chant and learn how many common truths are shared. We might hear a Greek Orthodox Easter hymn and see the words translated. Each event would feature one or more major religions for study and contrast.
What do you think of this proposed Temple of Understanding? Send me your thoughts at GCapsis@gmail.com.