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Basic Worldview:
104 Why Christianity?

Propositional Religions 7 -
Neopaganism, Mysticism (and Syncretism)

Propositional Religions 1 - Deism, Pantheism, and Naturalism
Propositional Religions 2 - Intro, Hinduism, Buddhism
Propositional Religions 3 - Jainism, Taoism
Propositional Religions 4 - Shintoism, Confucianism
Propositional Religions 5 - Sikhism
Propositional Religions 6 - Babism and Baha'ism, Zoroastrianism
Propositional Religions 7 - Neopaganism, Mysticism (Syncretism)
Propositional Religions 8 - Mysticism
Propositional Religions 9 - Mysticism, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism

| Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3

Pulling it all together

Before we at last move on to examine the three great Evidentiary religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, there are a few loose ends that we should first tie up including a much needed summary of this long study.

In this section of our study we have covered and dismissed the claims of the following Propositional religions for the reasons stated:

1. Hinduism was rejected for lack of historical information about origins and lack of sufficient evidence to substantiate the accuracy of its claims.

2. Though Buddhism has known historical origins in regards to Gautama, it assumes a Hindu worldview, whose origins are obscure. There is also a lack of sufficient evidence to substantiate the accuracy of its claims.

3. Jainism is similar to Buddhism. Its immediate origins in Vardhamana are known to us, but its roots in Hinduism are uncertain and clouded. Likewise, there is also a lack of compelling evidence to substantiate the accuracy of its claims.

4. Taoism was rejected due to a lack of historical information about its origin. Additionally, like the other Propositional religions, potential followers do not have objective evidence to verify its claims, but are asked to accept Taoist beliefs based upon circular reasoning and subjective experience.

5. Shintoism is also rejected because of a lack of historically identifiable origin and a dependence upon subjective experience. It lacks sufficient evidence to substantiate the accuracy of its claims and also incorporates the beliefs of many of other religions we have studied in this section.

6. Confucianism was rejected because it may only be appropriate categorize it as a religion because of its incorporation and therefore dependence upon the religious beliefs of other theological systems, which we have discarded.

7. Sikhism was rejected for several reasons. First it is the by-product of combining two conflicting and irreconcilable religions, Hinduism and Islam. Second, Sikhism violates and denies fundamental principles of at least one of its parent religions, Islam, thereby undermining its own foundation. Third, Sikhism provides no compelling or objectively verifiable evidence that would persuade us to accept the accuracy of its claims.

8. Babism and Baha'ism were rejected because of internal inconsistencies that exist within themselves and with their dependance upon Islam.

9. Zoroastrianism was rejected because of the historical uncertainty of both its founder and origins as well as the questionable authenticity of its known beliefs. Additionally, it may also be said that there is in sufficient evidence to substantiate the accuracy of its claims.

In summary, have rejected each of these religions for one of several reasons. First, it was not possible to perform an objective evaluation of the religions truth claims. In some cases this was due to a lack of sufficient historical information regarding the origin of the belief system. In other cases no evidence was offered by the religion to substantiate its truth claims. Second, in cases where historical information was available, the information provided by the historical record was found to not to have any corroborating relationship to the accuracy of the truth claims. Third, internal contradiction was found to undermine the claims of the belief system.

With this we finish our examination of Propositional religions. Admittedly, we have not and cannot cover all the religious concepts that have ever been offered or even all those that might be proposed today. However, what we have attempted to do is to cover the major world religions that have had significant influence in the past as well as in modern times. Religions that we have left out of our study will tend to borrow from or be based upon concepts from one or several of those we have looked at. Indeed, some of the Propositional religions that we have looked at have done just that.

In this way those religions that we have not covered are disqualified for similar reasons as those we have looked at. They will tend not have historically identifiable origins. They may not offer any objective evidence to substantiate their claims. They will rely upon subjective experience to compel potential followers to accept their truths. Their sacred texts may be composed of highly corrupted, late dating, and/or fragmented or few ancient manuscripts. Newer religions, will borrow from older theological systems. More ancient religions will borrow from still more obscure theological sources. They may contain internal inconsistencies or in some way be in conflict with a parent religion upon which they base their claims and authenticity.

Whatever the case may be, whatever the religion may be they will tend to fail due to these same fatal flaws. Because of this it is not necessary to discuss all of the potential religions only those, which demonstrate the trend and provide the foundations for those more obscure or less popular ones.

With that said, we will close our look at Propositional religions by taking a brief look at a few more religions, which we may categorize correctively as Neo-paganism.

Neo-paganism, the Occult, and Satanism

Neo-paganism is a term that is used to collectively refer to the recent popular revival of pre-Christian religious practices especially in the west. The prefix "neo" is not intended to shift the meaning away from paganism. Religions of this category are, in fact, attempts to reconstruct ancient paganism. As such it is appropriate to simply refer to this group as paganism. However, the prefix "neo" is useful in that it emphasizes that modern pagans do not have a continuous connection to their ancient predecessors. As such modern pagan religious systems are all formed from a deliberate attempt to reconstruct ancient pagan beliefs and practices from ancient sources. The use of the prefix "neo" distinguishes between those ancient religious systems, which developed naturally from the cultures we find them in. And those of the modern era, which are synthetically recreated for the most part as a reaction against the Christian tradition.

"Neopaganism - any of several spiritual movements that attempt to revive the ancient polytheistic religions of Europe and the Middle East. These movements have a close relationship to ritual magic and modern witchcraft. Neo-Paganism differs from them, however, in striving to revive authentic pantheons and rituals of ancient cultures, though often in deliberately eclectic and reconstructionist ways, and by a particularly contemplative and celebrative attitude. Typically people with romantic feelings toward nature and deep ecological concerns, Neo-Pagans centre their dramatic and colourful rituals around the changes of the seasons and the personification of nature as full of divine life, as well as the holy days and motifs of the religions by which their own groups are inspired." - Britannica.com

Additionally, while paganism itself is an ancient phenomenon, the origin of modern Neo-pagan groups all date from within the last few centuries, making them all relatively recent in origin. This characteristic again is underscored by the application of the prefix "neo," which simply means "new" or "recent." (Another term that is commonly used to collectively describe such groups is "the occult.")

"Neopaganism - polytheistic religious movement, practiced in small groups by partisans of pre-Christian religious traditions such as Egyptian, Greek, Norse, and Celtic. Neopagans fall into two broad categories, nature-oriented and magical groups, and often incorporate arcane and elaborate rituals. Two of the movement's most influential thinkers were Alphonse L. Constant (1810-75) and Gerard Encausse (1865-1916)." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Neopaganism - Modern Neo-Paganism has roots in 19th-century Romanticism and activities inspired by it, such as the British Order of Druids (which, however, claims an older lineage). Sometimes associated with extreme nationalism, Neo-Pagan groups and sentiments were known in Europe before World War II, but contemporary Neo-Paganism is for the most part a product of the 1960s. Influenced by the works of the psychiatrist Carl Jung and the writer Robert Graves, Neo-Paganists are more interested in nature and archetypal psychology than in nationalism." - Britannica.com

"Neopaganism - Neo-Paganism in the postwar decades has flourished particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom and in Scandinavia. Some of the major Neo-Pagan groups are the Church of All Worlds, the largest of all the pagan movements, which centres on worship of the earth-mother goddess; Feraferia, based on ancient Greek religion and also centred on goddess worship; Pagan Way, a nature religion centred on goddess worship and the seasons; the Reformed Druids of North America; the Church of the Eternal Source, which has revived ancient Egyptian religion; and the Viking Brotherhood, which celebrates Norse rites. Beginning in the late 1970s, some feminists, open to feminine personifications of the deity, became interested in witchcraft and Neo-Paganism." - Britannica.com

There are several main groups within Neo-paganism, including Wicca, Druidry, Theosophy, and New Age Religion. As the quotes above state, the two main characteristics of Neo-pagan groups are affection for nature and the practice of magical arts. These principal attributes are perhaps the most readily evident and identifiable with witchcraft.

"Witchcraft - The origins of witchcraft in Europe are found in the pre-Christian, pagan cults such as the Teutonic nature cults; Roman religion; and the speculations of the Gnostics (see Gnosticism), the Zoroastrians, and the Manicheans. These religions and philosophies believed in a power of evil and a power of good within the universe. Later, among certain sects, the worship of good was repudiated as false and misleading." - Britannica.com

"Witchcraft - In the 20th cent. there has been a revival of witchcraft known as Wicca, or neopaganism. This form of witchcraft has nothing to do with sorcery, and is instead based on a reverence for nature, the worship of a fertility goddess, a restrained hedonism, and group magic aimed at healing. It rejects a belief in Satan as a product of Christian doctrine that is incompatible with paganism." - Britannica.com

"Witchcraft - 1a: the use of sorcery or magic b: communication with the devil or with a familiar 2: an irresistible influence or fascination." - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

When one examines such occult groups it becomes evident their connection with and reliance upon other ancient religious systems, including some which we have looked at and will look at later in this study. According to Britannica.com witchcraft is in part rooted in Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism, and Manicheanism. We have looked at Zoroastrianism already, and we will shortly look at Gnosticism and Manicheanism.

Likewise, Druidry is also connected with some ancient religious practices that we have already studied. This connection is most evident in their belief that the human soul passed from one person to another after death. This is similar to the belief in reincarnation (also known as the transmigration of souls or the process of death and rebirth), which is found in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and many other ancient eastern and Asian religions.

"Druid - They studied ancient verse, natural philosophy, astronomy, and the lore of the gods, some spending as much as 20 years in training. The Druids' principal doctrine was that the soul was immortal and passed at death from one person into another." - Britannica.com

"Druid - The Druids were suppressed in Gaul by the Romans under Tiberius (reigned AD 14-37) and probably in Britain a little later. In Ireland they lost their priestly functions after the coming of Christianity and survived as poets, historians, and judges (filid, senchaidi, and brithemain). Many scholars believe that the Hindu Brahman in the East and the Celtic Druid in the West were lateral survivals of an ancient Indo-European priesthood." - Britannica.com

Though technically it should be distinguished from Neo-paganism, Satanism also can be discussed in this section because the two often intersect within Occult circles. Satanism itself is not expressly pagan because it presupposes a Christian worldview, whereas Neo-paganism replaces that worldview by attempting to revert to a more "ancient" one. However, Satanism does share some common elements with Neo-paganism including similar motivation (a reaction against the Christian tradition) and the practice of magical arts or rites.

"Satanism - 1: innate wickedness: DIABOLISM 2: obsession with or affinity for evil; specifically: the worship of Satan marked by the travesty of Christian rites." - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

"Satanism - The cult of Satan, or Satan worship, is in part a survival of the ancient worship of demons and in part a revolt against Christianity or the church. It rose about the 12th cent. in Europe and reached its culmination in the blasphemous ritual of the Black Mass, a desecration of the Christian rite. The history of early Satanism is obscure. It was revived in the reign of Louis XIV in France and is still practiced by various groups throughout the world, particularly in the United States. One of the largest and most influential Satanic groups is the Church of Satan (1966), founded by Anton LaVey in San Francisco. A splinter group, the Temple of Set (1975), was organized by Michael Aquino. Many Satanic groups, including the ones mentioned, attest that such worship does not necessarily imply evil intentions, but rather an alternative to the repressive morality of many other religious groups. Such groups see no harm in their indulgence in 'worldly pleasures' that other religions forbid. Other, more severe brands of Satanism likely exist, although much of the activity pegged as 'Satanic' has less to do with the religion than with various forms of sociopathy. Indeed, reliable research has found no evidence indicating the existence of alarming, large-scale satanic phenomena. An unfortunate mistake is the unfounded—yet common—linkage of minority religious traditions, such as the African-derived voodoo and Santería, with Satanism. See also witchcraft." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Satanism - also called Devil Worship worship of Satan, or the devil, the personality or principle regarded by the Judeo-Christian tradition as embodying absolute evil in complete antithesis to God. This worship may be regarded as a gesture of extreme protest against Judeo-Christian spiritual hegemony. Satanic cults have been documented in Europe and America as far back as the 17th century, but their earlier roots are difficult to trace, just as the number of real satanists in any period is frequently overestimated. Churchmen have readily attributed satanism to 'witches,' and to such heretics as Gnostics, Cathars, and Bogomils, but that charge does not correspond with the heretics' own understanding of their beliefs, and the alleged satanism of those persecuted in the heyday of witch-burning may rest on no better foundation than the overheated imagination of witch-finders and confessions obtained by torture. By the same token, devil worship ascribed to non-Christian religions is usually based on polemic or misunderstanding. Modern witchcraft and neopaganism are not to be confused with satanism, since these groups worship not Satan but pre-Christian gods. Satanism, as devotion to the Judeo-Christian source of evil, can only exist in symbiosis with that tradition, for it shares but inverts its worldview." - Britannica.com

"Satanism - Satanist worship has traditionally centred on the 'black mass,' a corrupted rendition of the Christian Eucharist, and ritual magic evocations of Satan. Some recent satanist groups have supplanted those practices with rites of self-expression reminiscent of psychodrama and hyperventilation." - Britannica.com

It is easy to disqualify these groups along with those we have also studied for several reasons. First, they intentional connect themselves with ancient religious systems, which we have already rejected. Second, they employ a similar approach to spirituality as those we have rejected so far, including presumption and subjectivity as the principle means of accepting their "truths." Third, the contrived nature of their modern re-emergence clearly places them within category of Propositional religions because they are artificially proposed in order to simply create an alternative to the Christian tradition.

Our disqualification of these groups will be even more justified when we consider two fundamental principles that unite all Propositional religions, including Neo-paganism and Satanism, into a single overarching theological system.

Mysticism and Syncretism

Having taken a look at nine Propositional religions along with Neo-paganism and Satanism it may have already become apparent that they all share quite a bit in common with each one another. All the borrowed concepts, renamed deities, and similar approaches to human spirituality do more then just allow us to compare and reject them. These common traits actually unite them into an overarching composite theological system produced by their interconnection and interdependence with one another.

We will now examine two of these traits, mysticism and syncretism, so that later we can compare this composite theological system, which we will call Propositional Mysticism, with what we will later call Evidentiary Monotheism. As we examine these traits we will also mention a few religious groups that exemplify them and demonstrate the codependence and interrelatedness of all Propositional religions, chief among these will be Gnosticism and Manichaeism.

Before we establish the existence of Propositional Mysticism from its sub-religions, which we have already studied, it is first necessary to define what mysticism and syncretism are. We will begin with mysticism. As we start please keep in mind some of the religious teachings that we have studied so far and how they exemplify these traits.

"Mysticism - the practice of those who are initiated into the mysteries], the practice of putting oneself into, and remaining in, direct relation with God, the Absolute, or any unifying principle of life. Mysticism is inseparably linked with religion. Because of the nature of mysticism, firsthand objective studies of it are virtually impossible, and students must confine themselves to the accounts of mystics, autobiographical and biographical, or, as the mystics themselves say, they must experience for themselves. - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001.

"Mysticism - in general, a spiritual quest for hidden truth or wisdom, the goal of which is union with the divine or sacred (the transcendent realm)." - Britannica.com

"Mysticism - 1: the experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality reported by mystics. 2: the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight) 3a: vague speculation: a belief without sound basis b: a theory postulating the possibility of direct and intuitive acquisition of ineffable knowledge or power." - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

"Mysticism - The goal of mysticism is union with the divine or sacred. The path to that union is usually developed by following four stages: purgation (of bodily desires), purification (of the will), illumination (of the mind), and unification (of one's will or being with the divine). If 'the object of man's existence is to be a Man, that is, to re-establish the harmony which originally belonged between him and the divinized state before the separation took place which disturbed the equilibrium' (The Life and Doctrine of Paracelsus), mysticism will always be a part of the way of return to the source of being, a way of counteracting the experience of alienation." - Britannica.com

"Mysticism - At once a praxis (technique) and a gnosis (esoteric knowledge), mysticism consists of a way or discipline." - Britannica.com

"Mysticism - Although mysticism has been the core of Hinduism and Buddhism, it has been little more than a minor strand—and, frequently, a disturbing element—in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam." - Britannica.com

As we can see Mysticism is not defined as simply the belief in the existence of the divine, divine interaction, the miraculous, or divine revelation. It has a much more specific notion in mind. The above sources define Mysticism as any religious system, which incorporates the idea that the believer can transcend material existence and become one with God through subjective, personal, or intuitive experience by participation in mysteries or initiation rites.

But, besides these characteristics, our study of Propositional religions also reveals that they tend to be syncretistic. Syncretism can be understood as follows. "Syncretism - 1: the combination of different forms of belief or practice." - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

"Syncretism - 1. Reconciliation or fusion of differing systems of belief, as in philosophy or religion, especially when success is partial or the result is heterogeneous. - The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

"Syncretism - the fusion of diverse religious beliefs and practices. Instances of religious syncretism—as, for example, Gnosticism (a religious dualistic system that incorporated elements from the Oriental mystery religions), Judaism, Christianity, and Greek religious philosophical concepts—were particularly prevalent during the Hellenistic period (c. 300 BC-c. AD 300)." - Britannica.com

"Eclectisicm - in philosophy, the selection of elements from different systems of thought, without regard to possible contradictions between the systems. Eclecticism differs from syncretism, which tries to combine various systems while resolving conflicts. Many Roman philosophers, especially Cicero, and the Neoplatonists were known for eclecticism." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001.

So, Mysticism involves four principal traits, which are exhibited in at least the larger, foundational, Propositional religions:

1. Dependence upon subjective, personal, or intuitive experiences of the individual, rather than objective or historic evidence, to validate their truth claims.
2. The goal of transcending material existence and becoming one with the divine or ultimate reality, often inclusive of escaping a cycle of death and rebirth.
3. A path or discipline, which usually involves the purging of bodily desires, purification of the mind, illumination of the mind, and ultimately unification with the divine.
4. The incorporation, combination, acceptance, or fusion of different concepts and different belief systems.

From this we can see why many of the religions that we will categorize as Propositional are in fact variations within a larger mystical, theological system. To be clear, all religions including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have at least developed mystical and syncretistic forms or sects. The question, however, in determining whether a religion can be considered mystical or syncretistic is not whether later forms of that religion became mystical or incorporated concepts from other religious systems, but the extent to which religious systems originate through syncretistic processes and are founded upon mystical concepts or approaches to spirituality as defined above.

Later as we discuss Judaism and Christianity we will demonstrate that both originate from non-mystical events and experiences and contain a strong prohibition against syncretism (the incorporation of beliefs and practices from other religious systems). What we will establish now, however, is the extent to which Propositional religions, in contrast to these two Evidentiary religions, originate from syncretistic processes and are founded upon mystical principals. The earliest and foundational ones develop guided by these principles from obscure historical circumstances.

The final quote above discussing mysticism (from Britannica.com) articulated the mystical nature of Buddhism and Hinduism.

"Mysticism - Although mysticism has been the core of Hinduism and Buddhism, it has been little more than a minor strand—and, frequently, a disturbing element—in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam." - Britannica.com

We will now demonstrate the mystical nature of not only Buddhism and Hinduism, but of the other main religions we have studied in this section with more quotes from our familiar reference sources. We will begin with Hinduism and continue through the list of at least the major Propositional religions that we have studied. In each case we will show that the specific religion in view was formed from syncretistic processes and inherently founded upon mystical principles about God, the universe, and the spirituality of man (as we have defined these two terms above.)

As we proceed it will also become more apparent the extent to which these religions borrow and share fundamental concepts from and with one another including, but not limited to: reincarnation, karma, transcendence, a path of steps to achieve enlightenment, the importance of subjective experience, a dualistic view of God or the divine, some form of pantheism, polytheism in the form of emanations of the supreme God, magical arts, mystical rites, etc.


"Hinduism - Hinduism is a synthesis of the religion brought into India by the Aryans (c.1500 B.C.) and indigenous religion. The first phase of Hinduism was early Brahmanism, the religion of the priests or Brahmans who performed the Vedic sacrifice, through the power of which proper relation with the gods and the cosmos is established. The Veda comprises the liturgy and interpretation of the sacrifice and culminates in the Upanishads, mystical and speculative works that state the doctrine of Brahman, the absolute reality that is the self of all things, and its identity with the individual soul, or atman (see Vedanta)." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Hinduism - Post-Vedic Hinduism in all its forms accepts the doctrine of karma, according to which the individual reaps the results of his good and bad actions through a series of lifetimes (see transmigration of souls). Also universally accepted is the goal of moksha or mukti, liberation from suffering and from the compulsion to rebirth, which is attainable through elimination of passions and through knowledge of reality and finally union with God." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Hinduism - The four stages of life are brahmacharya or celibate student life (originally for study of the Veda), grihastha or householdership, vanaprastha or forest hermitage, and sannyasa, complete renunciation of all ties with society and pursuit of spiritual liberation." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Hinduism - Magic rites, animal worship, and belief in demons are often combined with the worship of more or less personal gods or with mysticism, asceticism, and abstract and profound theological systems or esoteric doctrines." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - Hindus believe in an uncreated, eternal, infinite, transcendent, and all-embracing principle, which, 'comprising in itself being and non-being,' is the sole reality, the ultimate cause and foundation, source, and goal of all existence. This ultimate reality is called brahman. As the All, brahman causes the universe and all beings to emanate from itself, transforms itself into the universe, or assumes its appearance. Brahman is in all things and is the Self (atman) of all living beings. Brahman is the creator, preserver, or transformer and reabsorber of everything. Although it is Being in itself, without attributes and qualities and hence impersonal, it may also be conceived of as a personal high God, usually as Vishnu (Vis nu) or Siva. This fundamental belief in and the essentially religious search for ultimate reality—i.e., the One that is the All—have continued almost unaltered for more than 30 centuries and have been the central focus of India's spiritual life." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - Such doctrines encourage the view that mundane life is not true existence and that human endeavour should be directed toward a permanent interruption of the mechanism of karma and transmigration—that is, toward final emancipation (moksha), toward escaping forever from the impermanence that is an inescapable feature of mundane existence. In this view the only goal is the one permanent and eternal principle: the One, God, brahman, which is totally opposite to any phenomenal existence. Anyone who has not fully realized that his being is identical with brahman is thus seen as deluded. The only possible solution consists in the realization that the kernel of human personality (atman) really is brahman and that it is their attachment to worldly objects that prevents people from reaching salvation and eternal peace. (Hindus sometimes use the largely Buddhist term nirvana to describe this state.)" - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - In the middle of the first millennium B.C., an ossified Brahmanism was challenged by heterodox, i.e., non-Vedic, systems, notably Buddhism and Jainism. The priestly elite responded by creating a synthesis that accepted yogic practices and their goals, recognized the gods and image worship of popular devotional movements, and adopted greater concern for the daily life of the people." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Hinduism - the beliefs, practices, and socioreligious institutions of the Hindus (originally, the inhabitants of the land of the Indus River). Introduced in about 1830 by British writers, the term properly denotes the Indian civilization of approximately the last 2,000 years, which evolved from Vedism, the religion of the Indo-European peoples who settled in India in the last centuries of the 2nd millennium BC. Because it integrates a variety of elements, Hinduism constitutes a complex but largely continuous whole and has religious, social, economic, literary, and artistic aspects. As a religion, Hinduism is a composite of diverse doctrines, cults, and ways of life." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - In principle, Hinduism incorporates all forms of belief and worship without necessitating the selection or elimination of any. It is axiomatic that no religious idea in India ever dies or is superseded—it is merely combined with the new ideas that arise in response to it. Hindus are inclined to revere the divine in every manifestation, whatever it may be, and are doctrinally tolerant, allowing others—including both Hindus and non-Hindus—whatever beliefs suit them best. A Hindu may embrace a non-Hindu religion without ceasing to be a Hindu, and because Hindus are disposed to think synthetically and to regard other forms of worship, strange gods, and divergent doctrines as inadequate rather than wrong or objectionable, they tend to believe that the highest divine powers complement one another. Few religious ideas are considered to be irreconcilable. The core of religion does not depend on the existence or nonexistence of God or on whether there is one god or many. Because religious truth is said to transcend all verbal definition, it is not conceived in dogmatic terms. Moreover, the tendency of Hindus to distinguish themselves from others on the basis of practice (orthopraxy) rather than doctrine (orthodoxy) further de-emphasizes doctrinal differences. " - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - Hinduism is both a civilization and a congregation of religions; it has neither a beginning or founder, nor a central authority, hierarchy, or organization." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - The Rigveda contains many other Indo-European elements, such as the worship of male sky gods with sacrifices and the existence of the old sky god Dyaus, whose name is cognate with those of the classical Zeus of Greece and Jupiter of Rome ('Father Jove'). The Vedic heaven, the 'world of the fathers,' resembled the Germanic Valhalla and seems also to be an Indo-European inheritance." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - The Indo-Iranian element in later Hinduism is chiefly found in the initiatory ceremony (upanayana) performed by boys of the three upper classes, a rite both in Hinduism and in Zoroastrianism that involves the tying of a sacred cord. The Vedic god Varuna, now an unimportant sea god, appears in the Rigveda as sharing many features of the Zoroastrian Ahura Mazda ('Wise Lord'); the hallucinogenic sacred drink soma corresponds to the sacred haoma of Zoroastrianism." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - The Central Asian nomads who entered India in the two centuries before and after the beginning of the Christian Era might have influenced the growth of devotional Hinduism out of Vedic religion. The classical Western world directly affected Hindu religious art, and several features of Hinduism can be traced to Zoroastrianism. The influence of later Chinese Taoism on Tantric Hinduism (an esoteric system of rituals for spiritual power) has been suggested, though not proved. In more recent centuries, the influence of Islam and Christianity on Hinduism can be seen." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - The Aryan conquerors lived side by side with the indigenous inhabitants of the subcontinent, and many features of Hinduism, as distinct from Vedic religion, may have been adapted from the religions of the non-Aryan peoples of India. The phallic emblem of the god Siva arose from a combination of the phallic aspects of the Vedic god Indra and a non-Vedic icon of early popular fertility cults. Many features of Hindu mythology and several of the lesser gods—such as Ganesa, an elephant-headed god, and Hanuman , the monkey god—were incorporated into Hinduism and assimilated into the appropriate Vedic gods by this means." - Britannica.com

The above quotes are sufficient to establish the mystical and syncretistic nature of Hinduism in its continued practice and current form, but most importantly in its origin. Hinduism's mystical and syncretistic origins are even more significant, however, because of the foundational place Hinduism has in terms of its influence upon other Propositional religions, such as Buddhism, which we will study next. And which we will see fully embraces the mysticism and syncretism of its predecessor, Hinduism.


"Buddhism - In his teaching, the Buddha strongly asserted that the ontological status and character of the unconditioned nirvana cannot be delineated in a way that does not distort or misrepresent it. But what is more important is that he asserted with even more insistence that nirvana can be experienced—and experienced in this present existence—by those who, knowing the Buddhist truth, practice the Buddhist path." - Britannica.com

"Buddhism - a religion of eastern and central Asia growing out of the teaching of Gautama Buddha that suffering is inherent in life and that one can be liberated from it by mental and moral self-purification." - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

"Buddhism - The basic doctrines of early Buddhism, which remain common to all Buddhism, include the 'four noble truths': existence is suffering (dukhka); suffering has a cause, namely craving and attachment (trishna); there is a cessation of suffering, which is nirvana; and there is a path to the cessation of suffering, the 'eightfold path' of right views, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Buddhism - The ideal of early Buddhism was the perfected saintly sage, arahant or arhat, who attained liberation by purifying self of all defilements and desires." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Nirvana - in Indian religious thought, the supreme goal of the meditation disciplines. The concept is most characteristic of Buddhism, in which it signifies the transcendent state of freedom achieved by the extinction of desire and of individual consciousness. According to the Buddhist analysis of the human situation, delusions of egocentricity and their resultant desires bind man to a continuous round of rebirths and its consequent suffering (dukkha). It is release from these bonds that constitutes Enlightenment, or the experience of Nirvana." - Britannica.com

"Buddhism - Buddhism accepts the pan-Indian presupposition of samsara, in which living beings are trapped in a continual cycle of birth-and-death, with the momentum to rebirth provided by one's previous physical and mental actions (see karma). The release from this cycle of rebirth and suffering is the total transcendence called nirvana." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Buddhism - India during the lifetime of the Buddha was in a state of religious and cultural ferment. Sects, teachers, and wandering ascetics abounded, espousing widely varying philosophical views and religious practices. Some of these sects derived from the Brahmanical tradition (see Hinduism), while others opposed the Vedic and Upanishadic ideas of that tradition." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Buddhism - The aim of religious practice is to be rid of the delusion of ego, thus freeing oneself from the fetters of this mundane world. One who is successful in doing so is said to have overcome the round of rebirths and to have achieved enlightenment. This is the final goal—not a paradise or a heavenly world." - Britannica.com

"Nirvana - in Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism, a state of supreme liberation and bliss, contrasted to samsara or bondage in the repeating cycle of death and rebirth. The word in Sanskrit refers to the going out of a flame once its fuel has been consumed; it thus suggests both the end of suffering and the cessation of desires that perpetuate bondage. Epithets of nirvana in Buddhism include 'the free,' 'the immortal,' and 'the unconditioned.' Nirvana is attainable in life, and the death of one who has attained it is termed parinirvana, or complete nirvana. This has often been interpreted as annihilation, but in fact the Buddhist scriptures say that the state of the enlightened man beyond death cannot be described. Nirvana in the different Indian traditions is achieved by moral discipline and the practice of yoga leading to the extinction of all attachment and ignorance. See also karma." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Though Buddhism is clearly mystical and syncretistic in its own right, it does clearly borrow these traits from its predecessor, Hinduism. However, Jainism, another Indian religion, which developed under similar circumstance at about the same time as Buddhism is also mystical and syncretistic, which makes sense since it is also predicated upon Hinduism.


"Jainism - Jaina tradition teaches that a succession of 24 tirthankaras (saints) originated the religion. The last, Vardhamana, called Mahavira [the great hero] and Jina [the victor], seems to be historical. He preached a rigid asceticism and solicitude for all life as a means of escaping the cycle of rebirth, or the transmigration of souls. Thus released from the rule of karma, the total consequences of past acts, the soul attains nirvana, and hence salvation." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Jainism - a religion of India originating in the 6th century B.C. and teaching liberation of the soul by right knowledge, right faith, and right conduct." - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

"Jainism - An ascetic religion of India, founded in the sixth century B.C., that teaches the immortality and transmigration of the soul and denies the existence of a perfect or supreme being." - The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

"Jainism - a religion of India that teaches a path to spiritual purity and enlightenment through a disciplined mode of life founded upon the tradition of ahimsa, nonviolence to all living creatures." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - The name Jainism derives from the Sanskrit verb ji, 'to conquer.' It refers to the ascetic battle that it is believed Jain renunciants (monks and nuns) must fight against the passions and bodily senses to gain omniscience and purity of soul or enlightenment. The most illustrious of those few individuals who have achieved enlightenment are called Jina (literally, 'Conqueror'), and the tradition's monastic and lay adherents are called Jain ('Follower of the Conquerors'), or Jaina. This term came to replace a more ancient designation, Nirgrantha ('Bondless'), originally applied to renunciants only." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - Even though Jain doctrine holds that no one can achieve liberation in this corrupt time, the Jain religious goal is the complete perfection and purification of the soul. This, they believe, occurs only when the soul is in a state of eternal liberation from corporeal bodies. Liberation of the soul is impeded by the accumulation of karmans, bits of material, generated by a person's actions, that attach themselves to the soul and consequently bind it to physical bodies through many births. This has the effect of thwarting the full self-realization and freedom of the soul. As a result, Jain renunciants do not seek immediate enlightenment; instead, through disciplined and meritorious practice of nonviolence, they pursue a human rebirth that will bring them nearer to that state. To understand how the Jains address this problem, it is first necessary to consider the Jain conception of reality." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - Because of karman a soul is imprisoned in a succession of bodies and passes through various stages of spiritual development before becoming free from all karmic bondage. These stages of development (gunasthanas) involve progressive manifestations of the innate faculties of knowledge and power and are accompanied by decreasing sinfulness and increasing purity." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - In Jain thought, four stages of perception —observation, will to recognize, determination, and impression—lead to subjective cognition (matijnana), the first of five kinds of knowledge (jnana). The second kind, shrutajnana, derives from the scriptures and general information. Both are mediated cognition, based on external conditions perceived by the senses. In addition there are three kinds of immediate knowledge—avadhi (supersensory perception), manahparyaya (reading the thoughts of others), and kevala (omniscience). Kevala is necessarily accompanied by freedom from karmic obstruction and by direct experience of the soul's pure form unblemished by attachment to matter. Omniscience, the foremost attribute of a liberated jiva, is the emblem of its purity; thus, a liberated soul, such as a Tirthankara, is called a kevalin ('possessor of omniscience'). However, not all kevalins are Tirthankaras: becoming a Tirthankara requires the development of a particular type of karmic destiny. For the Jains all knowledge short of omniscience is flawed. Because reality is characterized by arising, change, and decay, as opposed to simple permanence (for the Hindus) and impermanence (for the Buddhists), the Jains developed an epistemological system based on seven perspectives (naya). This system, anekanta-vada, 'the many-pointed doctrine,' takes into account the provisional nature of mundane knowledge. To gain some approximation to reality, a judgment must ideally be framed in accord with all seven perspectives. According to Jainism, yoga, the ascetic physical and meditative discipline of the monk, is the means to attain omniscience and thus moksha, or liberation. Yoga is the cultivation of true knowledge of reality, faith in the teachings of the Tirthankaras, and pure conduct; it is thus intimately connected to the Three Jewels (ratnatraya) of right knowledge, right faith, and right practice (respectively, samyagjnana, samyagdarshana, and samyakcaritra)." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - However, as time passed, the line between Hindu and Jain became more and more unclear. Soon Hindu gods such as Rama and Krishna were drawn into the Jaina pantheon, and Hindu Brahmans began to preside at Jaina death and marriage ceremonies and temple worship. The caste system, which primitive Jainism had rejected, also became part of later Jaina doctrine." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Jainism - The Jains developed their own legendary history, the Deeds of the 63 Illustrious Men, which Western scholars call the Universal History. The most important figures in this history are the 24 Tirthankaras, perfected human beings who appear from time to time to preach and embody the faith. Other important figures in the history are from the Hindu tradition, most notably Krishna—regarded by the Jains as a cousin of the 22nd Tirthankara, Arishtanemi—and the hero Rama, who is treated as a pious, nonviolent Jain. By incorporating yet redefining such important Hindu figures, the Jains were able to both remain part of and separate from the surrounding Hindu world." - Britannica.com

"Jainism - Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism share many key concepts derived from the Sanskrit language and dialects that have enabled them to hone their religious debates. For example, all three traditions share a notion of karman as the actions of individuals that determine their future births; yet each has attached unique connotations to the concept. This is also true with terms such as dharma (often translated 'duty,' 'righteousness,' or 'religious path'), yoga ('ascetic discipline'), and yajna ('sacrifice,' or 'worship')." - Britannica.com

The above quotes inform us that Jainism is even more syncretistic than Buddhism. This is because after emerging from Hinduism, Jainism later occasionally fused with Hinduism so that the two were at times indistinct from one another. With that said, we will now move on to the next religion that we have previously studied, Taoism.

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