Religion and Spirituality


At this Religion and Spirituality webpage, we provide highlighted links to informative and detailed essays on the histories, insights and vocabulary of our different religions, extensive bibliographies, and a special focus on the lives and teachings of the most esteemed holy persons who have ever appeared on this planet.

The emphasis, as always with this enlightened-spirituality.org website, is on the deeply transformative, mystical aspects of our sacred traditions, that is to say, the profoundly spiritual aspects of these traditions.

I do believe that, beyond all of our religious differences (see my model of the Twelve Spiritual Temperaments ), there is, most assuredly, a Perennial Wisdom from the Great Traditions, a universal spirituality available to anyone. At this section on Religion and Spirituality, and at the Nondual Spirituality section, you can tap into the many riches and treasures of our sacred Perennial Wisdom traditions, which go well beyond the Four Competing Western Ideologies dominating our society today, arguably not for the better.

This Religion and Spirituality section is intended to be one of the largest resources at Enlightened-Spirituality.org, introducing the reader to the very best of our Sacred Traditions.

We turn first toward our Western traditions of religion and mystical spirituality. (See further below for the Eastern traditions.)

We can start with an overview of Judaism, with an additional essay emphasizing the ancient and current expressions of the mystical Jewish traditions of Kabbalah and Hasidism. I have included a profile of the eminent kabbalah philosopher sage, Rabbi Moses Cordovero (1522-70), along with his teachings on the Ein Sof, the Divine Infinite, and his "imitation of God" ethical teachings. I have also included an essay providing details on the life and wonderful spiritual teachings of the amazingly holy founder of Beshtian Hasidism in the early 18th century in Eastern Europe, the Ba'al Shem Tov (Master of the Divine Name), Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer (1698-1760). In our own era, a highly respected Jewish mystic, with a radical nondual theology as his esoteric teaching, was the head of the Chabad/Lubavitcher movement of Hasidic Judaism, Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. And here is a selection of the Teachings of Jesus/Yeshua, drawing on the best of the various sources that we have for these teachings from Jesus, that enigmatic and incomparably influential Jewish rabbi-healer-sage-prophet-mystic of 2000 years ago. (I have included prefatory discussion of the major six sources of these Jesus teachings, including the Q-text, the crucially important Gospel of Thomas, and the four mainstream, canonical Gospels—Mark, Luke, Matthew and John). Here, too, is a fairly long overview of Christianity featuring key figures and crucial developments and dates within its long history, as well as important terms, pilgrimage places, and, as with most of these offerings on our religions, a good list of books to read for your own ongoing education.

Going deeper, here is an old paper drafted in 1980 for an independent study in Christian mysticism, presenting, with ample quotes, the most eminent Christian mystics' views of the nature of God --including Jesus, Paul, St. Augustine, Meister Eckhart, Bl. Jan van Ruysbroeck, St. John of the Cross, Jacob Boehme, and many others.

Along with these more general overviews of Christianity, you can read of the teachings and doings of certain especially important Christian mystics, like Saint Anthony the Great (c.251-356 CE), founder of the Christian Desert Father/Mother movement; the amazing 9th-century mystic philosopher-theologian, John Scottus Eriugena; the widely beloved St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226); the soaring nondual mystic-theologian Meister Eckhart (1260-1327/8); and that eminent mystical doctor of the Church, the Carmelite poet-sage St. John of the Cross (1542-91). We will have more Christian mystics, including dazzling women spiritual masters, featured here in the future.

Readers especially interested in women spiritual masters will be interested to read our book Women of Power & Grace: Nine Astonishing, Inspiring Luminaries of Our Time --which features two saintly Catholic women (Francesca Cabrini and Therese Neumann), two Eastern Orthodox Christian women (Mother Maria Skobtsova and Pelagia the "holy fool"), one old Muslim wonderworker (Hazrat Babajan), and four women of Hindu India (Anandamayi Ma, Anasuya Devi, Shyama Ma, and Mata Amritanandamayi).

Here is an overview essay and very lengthy roster of names, terms, movements, places and texts, on Islam and Sufism --that is to say, the religion of Islam and its mystical aspect known as Sufism (this is a pdf file 47 pages long). And here is a useful one-page collection of Muslim greetings, sacred phrases and daily prayers. Most recently, I have added (in June 2012) a substantial selection of quotes from the Qur'an, Islam's holy scripture, prefaced with much material about scholarly assessments of the Qur'an, how to make spiritual sense of its apocalyptic tone, recommended resources (translations and audio-visual websites) for approaching the Qur'an, etc. Among the many Muslim-Sufi saints and sages you can further read about at this section of the website, are the ecstatic "nondualists," Bayazid Bistami and Mansur al-Hallaj; that highly popular "sober" Muslim Sufi saint, Qadir al-Jilani of Baghdad; and the illustrious Persian-language poet-saints, Hakim Sanai and Jalaluddin Rumi. (My essay on Rumi [ironically, the most widely read poet in the USA] features a rich biographical section drawing on the yeoman work of Franklin Lewis, who has cleared up so many myths about the great saint of Konya; my long essay on Rumi also provides hundreds of verses from his dazzling poetry, with fine translations by Ibrahim Gamard, F. Lewis and Zara Houshmand, much more accurate and meaningful than the "renderings" of Rumi's poetry by Coleman Barks, Andrew Harvey, Jonathan Star and others.)

An overview on China's sacred tradition of Taoism can be read, along with really splendid and delightful teachings from Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu.

Turning to the sacred traditions of India, you can peruse a rich overview of mantras, prayers, artwork, vocabulary terms, and insights and practices of different strands and stages of Hinduism along with an extensive book-list on Hinduism and Hindu saints and sages. You can read here a linked-page on the prodigious young medieval Hindu yogi-sage-poet-philosopher Jñâneshvar (or Jñânadev, c.1275-1296), and his really wonderful nondual wisdom-love view. For modern era sages arising in the context of Hindu India, consider the towering sage Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) of Tiruvannamalai, India; the link www.ramana-maharshi.org takes you to a major website generously presenting his teachings, his life-story, scores of photos, etc. Our Buddhist section here begins with extensive details on the life, virtues and attainments of that stupendous spiritual giant and master psychotherapist, the Buddha and his amazingly sophisticated psycho-spiritual teachings. I consider this "must-reading" for anyone interested in the Buddha and Buddhism. You can view a shorter, denser "cribnotes" webpage (in PDF format) on Buddhism --with a clearly laid out outline of all the essential terms for Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism, as well as a comprehensive list of texts. A formidable voice of early Buddhist Tantra is that of Saraha , a Mahasiddha or Great Adept of the 8th century, who articulated the Sahaja natural/innate way of Realization beyond the unnecessary complications of both the tantric path and mainstream religion. I have also included here a long profile of Tibet's renowned medieval singing saint and yogi-sage Milarepa (1040-1123) of the tantra/Vajrayana tradition. For an exemplary Zen Buddhist leader, we include here a profile of the life and teachings of the late medieval Japenese Zen master, so beloved among tens of thousands of persons from all walks of life, Bankei Yotaku (1622-93), a straight-talking sage always pointing us back to an intuitive recognition of our “Unborn” Infinite Buddha-mind.

For more information on Hinduism and Buddhism, you may read the first few sections of an old paper I drafted in 1980 on Philosophy & Psychology, East & West --specifically, the opening sections featuring the Hindu Vedanta and Samkhya-Yoga systems, and aspects of Buddhism. You can also get a more recent and fairly brief but detailed overview of the ancient origins of the nondual Hindu Vedanta tradition in the first part of a paper also posted at our Nondual Spirituality section, but which I'll link here, too: Nondual Awakening, Its Source and Applications. I would like to upload many more essays on the lives and teachings of saints and sages from Buddhism and Hinduism and other traditions of India. But because of the considerable time it takes to upload these items to the web with HTML coding, formatting, etc., the vast treasure of materials I've created on these Hindu, Buddhist, Jaina, Tantric, Sant and Sikh sages and saints is primarily being channeled into our upcoming twin book-volumes, India's Sages and India's Sages Source Book, available in the future; see the announcement and more details at the section for our Wake Up Press.

Here is some material on our most ancient form of religion, Shamanism and the heavily endangered indigenous tribal people of our world. Much of this essay is an "engaged spirituality" lament over the extinction of these long-standing societies (most of them thousands of years old).

In addition to the various items on religion and spirituality that are being uploaded to this site, in the future we will also have available here some more excerpts beyond what is already included on this page from a final work in Timothy Conway's trilogy to be published at a later date, Our Religions' Future: Truths, Trends & Challenges for Old and New Spiritualities, part of the Spirituality in the New Millennium series.

And while we're mentioning books on religion, spirituality, mysticism, etc., I would in general strongly recommend the works of Professor Huston Smith, the late Prof. Ninian Smart, and the several works of a modern mystic, Swami Abhayananda (Stan Trout), such as his fine overview (with detailed chapters on numerous renowned mystics), History of Mysticism.