Does Each Religion See Only Part of the Truth?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

The vast majority of us believe in some kind of supernatural realm, but more and more people are uncomfortable saying that one religion possesses more truth about the supernatural than others.  We are becoming, in the US, a nation of religious pluralists.  A popular mantra of the religious pluralist, according to pastor and author Timothy Keller is: “Each religion sees part of spiritual truth, but none can see the whole truth.”

One of the most popular and enduring illustrations used to convey this mantra is recounted by Pastor Keller:

Several blind men were walking along and came upon an elephant that allowed them to touch and feel it. “This creature is long and flexible like a snake” said the first blind man, holding the elephant’s trunk. “Not at all—it is thick and round like a tree trunk,” said the second blind man, feeling the elephant’s leg. “No, it is large and flat,” said the third blind man, touching the elephant’s side. Each blind man could feel only part of the elephant—none could envision the entire elephant. In the same way, it is argued, the religions of the world each have a grasp on part of the truth about spiritual reality, but none can see the whole elephant or claim to have a comprehensive vision of the truth.

Christians see only their slice of supernatural reality, but all the other religions likewise see their slices of supernatural reality.  It is foolish to align oneself with a single religion, to make a commitment to one religion and deny the truths taught by others.  They are all grasping only part of the elephant and none can claim to know the entire elephant (i.e., supernatural reality).

Does the elephant and blind men illustration prove its point?  Not at all.  Keller explains, “This illustration backfires on its users. The story is told from the point of view of someone who is not blind. How could you know that each blind man only sees part of the elephant unless you claim to be able to see the whole elephant?”

The person giving the illustration (the religious pluralist) is claiming to know what the blind men (followers of single religions) do not know.  The religious pluralist knows that there is an elephant, even while saying that followers of single religions are blind.  But how does the religious pluralist have complete knowledge of the supernatural (the elephant)  if none of the followers of single religions do?  Why is he able to see and they are blind?

This is a case of false humility.  Every religion thinks it knows the truth about supernatural reality.  All the religious pluralist does is claim that every religion is blind and that only he can see! That, my friends, is not humility at all.  The pluralist should, instead of trying to convince everyone that he is above the fray, come down off his high horse (or elephant) and engage in the debate with the rest of us.  All religions are making the case for their beliefs and the religious pluralist needs to do the same.

*Note: If you want to hear from one of the preeminent religious pluralists yourself, then listen to this Unbelievable? podcast featuring John Hick from Feb 2011.

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  • How can you take anything so idiotic seriously? I feel stupider just for having read Keller’s argument.

    The point of the illustration is that it is possible for people who perceive different parts of a whole to draw such different conclusions about the nature of the whole that they might not even realize that the parts they perceive belong to the same whole. This might occur regardless whether or not there is someone who perceives the whole. Even if there wasn’t anyone who knew that the blind men were all touching the same animal and that the animal was an elephant, it is still logically possible for several blind men to feel different parts of an elephant and draw different conclusions about the animal they perceive. In the case of religion, no one, including the pluralists, can perceive the whole of the supernatural realm, but that doesn’t mean that all religions might not still be different parst of the same whole.

    Does the illustration prove its point? Of course not, but not for the reasons Keller suggests. Illustrations don’t prove points. They ILLUSTRATE them!

    The point of any analogy is to find similarities in particulars in things that are otherwise unlike. As such, an analogy is always vulnerable to being attacked on the grounds that the situations are different because they always are in some way—it wouldn’t be an analogy if it weren’t. To attack an analogy without addressing the similarities in particulars just demonstrates ignorance of how an analogy works. Keller’s criticism of the elephant analogy is nonsense because it has nothing to do with the point that the analogy is being used to illustrate.

  • James

    Vinny,

    You are missing the point that Billy is making. Indeed, you are claiming that you “feel stupider” having read the argument and that you can explain the “point of the illustration”. I believe that you are missing the point of the illustration.

    Billy clearly states his position by asking the question “…How could you know that each blind man only sees part of the elephant unless you claim to be able to see the whole elephant?”

    So the problem presented in the illustration is that when a pluralist claims all religions contain a portion of the truth of the supernatural. The pluralist is claiming they can see enough of the truth of the supernatural to accept that all religions are describing portions of the same whole.

    Why does this matter? It matters because in order to have a reasonable discussion about the supernatural, you have to first logically accept that all religions cannot be talking about the same whole.

    The concept of God in Islam and Christianity is so different in crucial respects that both religions cannot be right. Muslims claim that Jesus was a man and a prophet of God, nothing more. Christians believe in a triune God (three persons in one essence or nature) and claim that Jesus (a member of the trinity) came to earth and was both fully man and fully God. Both of these claims cannot be true. I would argue that the Muslim and Christian view are so directly opposed, that to pretend that you can take portions of both claims to find the whole truth is absurd.

    James

  • Matt

    For clarification, the illustration was Keller’s, but the argument the religious pluralists need to get off their high horse was Pratt’s (at least he didn’t cite another source). Am I right?
    Like Vinny said, all this illustration does is present a possibility which can be tested. Now theists (also called monotheists) a group which includes Christians, Jews, Muslims, Jehovah’s witness and Mormons(to some degree), hold to the truth that God is simple. He is one essence, one nature; He is not composed of parts, unlike the elephant. So even if those who hold to theism only apprehend but do not comprehend (or reach/touch but do not grasp) the nature of God, like the blind men (I almost wrote blond men), one truth about God will not contradict another.
    Another way to know that we are not all groping the same animal is if someone who is not spiritually blind tells us. A prophet who prophesies accurately is from God and a portion of truth has been revealed to him. By my first argument and because God is unchanging, two true prophets won’t contradict each other. Therefore only one set of beliefs can be entirely true; the other religions, while they may get a portion correct, miss portions of the truth.
    On a different note, within the JudeoChristian beliefs, there are topics in which one trait of God seems to contradict another. For example, God’s unwavering wrathful justice seems to contradict his loving patience, but it doesn’t in the same way that a man can be both strong and gentle.
    Thank you for bothering to read that; I know it was long
    Matt

  • Unhappily, I have to agree with Vinny here.
    I agree, although with less heat, and more sadness; as I have always thought very highly of the Rev. Keller. It may be illogical, but I have found that a weak, uncomprehending blow in support often is more painful than a powerful and accurate stroke of an adversary. My unhappiness comes from two sources.

    First, the declaration that the one who is declaring that all the others are describing different bits of the same elephant can only say that because he “knows” what an elephant looks like, is fatally flawed on its face. He need know nothing of the kind. He does perhaps need a belief that all these observers are faithful and accurate, he could even be one of the observers himself, but being unwilling to throw out the data of honorable men, deduces that the differences must be different aspects of the same entity.

    He doesn’t even need to believe that! All that need be true is that he notes differing descriptions of what is purported to be a unique object. He formulates the following possibilities:

    Some (most?) of the observers are reporting false data, innocently or willfully.
    The object each is describing is NOT unique; there is a multitude, each with individual characteristics.
    There is indeed one entity, the reports are all accurate, but the entity possesses all the traits.

    To reach the pluralist position (and understand, I am decidedly NOT a pluralist); all one must do is believe the best of all observers, and believe the Shema –“Hear oh Israel, the Lord your God is One…”

    Further, this is the way science usually progresses: one sees data A, and that it is incompatible with data B. Yet through peer review, replication, and perhaps personal work, you trust both observations. Light as particle or wave comes to mind. You further believe philosophically that the data is never capricious, that there is one underlying reality. The only explanation left open is that an “elephant” is both sharp and pointy, and soft and massive depending on where one looks.

    The whole idea is quite rational and testable. It requires no a priori knowledge of God, light or elephants to decide that the truth must be a synthesis of the data produced by worthy and honest examiners.

    Keller’s argument falls apart.

    The second reason for my sadness hits me deeper. And that is that Keller’s error derives from a particular climate of thought: that knowledge comes from the top down. The one who would synthesize must already “know” the truth. Human knowledge often goes the other way: it is built stone on stone by observing that data A is not data B, and yet there is one reality, so we redefine our map of reality so that A and B both fit. Keller gives the appearance of not understanding this, and it is fundamental. It is actually the way we know most of the things we know about this physical world. That he would be blind to such a basic process is disheartening at best. But there is worse.

    The worst is that I do reject pluralism. And my basis for my rejection is that I believe that in Christianity (and its inherent Judaism) we profess exactly that sort of “truth by revelation” which is the mindset that I proclaimed to be the foundation of Keller’s error. For him to have failed, not because he neglected, but because he used my argument is devastating!

    And yet, there it is. But the truth remains that I think the pluralist synthesizer is almost right, that, barring God actually telling us the truth, honorable men will touch pieces of it, and a construct can and will be made. The only exception would be if someone does actually know from personal experience what God is like, and told us. That would upset the entire pluralist construct.

    And our assertion is that this is exactly what Jesus claimed to do, and who he claimed to be. That he had not studied the deep things, but he KNEW personally and totally. “the Father and I are one.”

    Even based on that claim, Christianity must stand (or fall) outside any construct.

  • Mick Curran

    The story of the blind men and the elephant has surely been flogged to death by everybody and his uncle but as far as apologetics is concerned it seems to me to be well–suited to one of the Catholic arguments. In that illustration, the Bible is the elephant and the Bible–only types (having rejected the teaching authority of the Church and thus necessarily forced to lean upon their own individual understandings) are the blind men. 🙂

  • We know that each of the blind men perceives part of the same elephant because it is given to us as part of the illustration.

    It is perfectly legitimate to ask how one would go about determining that different religions are in fact partial manifestations of the same supernatural whole. However, that is not a point that the illustration addresses and since no illustration or analogy can be expected to address absolutely every issue that might be of interest, attacking the illustration on that basis is just silly.

    If I wanted to use the same analogy to address the point, I might suggest that the blind man who is touching the elephant’s side might feel his way over to the one who is touching the leg and thereby figure out that they are perceiving different parts of the same whole even without seeing the whole animal. Or perhaps the blind men could get together later to compare hair and skin samples and thereby determine that they came from the same animal without any one of them knowing much about the whole. However, I think that is demanding too much of the analogy, which is the same mistake that Keller and Pratt are making.

    I will give Matt credit for trying to address the question that isn’t addressed by the illustration. He suggests reasons why different religions aren’t part of the same supernatural whole. I doubt that the pluralists would find these reasons entirely persuasive, but Matt is arguing the relevant points rather than engaging in nonsensical attacks on the analogy.

    James, on the other hand, doesn’t bother trying to offer a positive argument for his position as Matt does. He simply asserts the conclusion that “you have to first logically accept that all religions cannot be talking about the same whole.” He seems to think that by attacking his opponent’s analogy he has somehow established his own position. It is precisely this kind of fallacy that Keller’s argument encourages (and I believe is intended to encourage).

  • Mick Curran

    John Godfrey Saxe’s (1816-1887) version of the famous legend:

    It was six men of Indostan
    To learning much inclined,
    Who went to see the Elephant
    (Though all of them were blind),
    That each by observation
    Might satisfy his mind.

    The First approach’d the Elephant,
    And happening to fall
    Against his broad and sturdy side,
    At once began to bawl:
    “God bless me! but the Elephant
    Is very like a wall!”

    The Second, feeling of the tusk,
    Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
    So very round and smooth and sharp?
    To me ’tis mighty clear
    This wonder of an Elephant
    Is very like a spear!”

    The Third approached the animal,
    And happening to take
    The squirming trunk within his hands,
    Thus boldly up and spake:
    “I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
    Is very like a snake!”

    The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
    And felt about the knee.
    “What most this wondrous beast is like
    Is mighty plain,” quoth he,
    “‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
    Is very like a tree!”

    The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
    Said: “E’en the blindest man
    Can tell what this resembles most;
    Deny the fact who can,
    This marvel of an Elephant
    Is very like a fan!”

    The Sixth no sooner had begun
    About the beast to grope,
    Then, seizing on the swinging tail
    That fell within his scope,
    “I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
    Is very like a rope!”

    And so these men of Indostan
    Disputed loud and long,
    Each in his own opinion
    Exceeding stiff and strong,
    Though each was partly in the right,
    And all were in the wrong!

    MORAL.

    So oft in theologic wars,
    The disputants, I ween,
    Rail on in utter ignorance
    Of what each other mean,
    And prate about an Elephant
    Not one of them has seen!

  • Todd

    I love poetic justice…

  • Boz

    I agree with Vinny and R. Eric Sawyer – the assertion that a pluralist is claiming to see the whole elephant is very obviously false. Timothy Keller is constructing a strawman. Bill Pratt, why do you bother posting such poorly thought out arguments?

  • Mick Curran

    Hi Bill,

    You suggest that the United States is becoming nation of religious pluralists and it’s apparent that you don’t approve of such a trend. What exactly are your expectations as you reflect upon the fact that people have different ideas as to what God is like? I assume you oppose religious persecution? Earnest reformers might suggest that the remedy for religious persecution would be to legislate “religious tolerance.” But legislating religious tolerance wouldn’t necessarily result in the eradication of religious discrimination, would it? I assume you don’t approve of religious discrimination? So I guess one might then advance to the idea of “religious liberty” whereby the general populace was encouraged to accept that the people could form themselves into religious groups or non–religious groups as they saw fit without fear of bad things happening to them even if they were in a minority. I suppose a nation that carried out business in that fashion might be called “a nation of religious pluralists” but it seems to me to be a scenario that’s in the best interests of the people. Is there a superior alternative?

  • Mick, I think the difference would be that the pluralist would blend all beliefs together into a homogenous blend, a sludge; with no dissent allowed, because dissenters are not sharing in the common vision and were intolerant.  

    I would rather we co-exist as a bowl of mixed nuts.

  • Mick Curran

    You may well be right, Eric, but it seems to me that if “religious pluralism” is to be bashed so enthusiastically then in fairness it ought first to be carefully and cautiously defined. I’ve never actually met anybody who has thought through this stuff and then seriously concluded that all beliefs are pretty much the same and can therefore be blended. Have you? I have a feeling that a man who believed such a thing might turn out to be a straw man. Nevertheless, I’m prepared to stand corrected. Yet perhaps the best example of the “homogenous blend” to which you’ve made reference, if you’ll forgive me for stating so, is the situation inside Protestantism wherein many contradictory interpretations of biblical truth are homogenized under the heading of “Christianity.”

  • Bill Pratt

    I understand Keller as hearing the pluralist say the following two things:

    1. Nobody knows the truth about the supernatural.
    2. I know the truth about the supernatural.

    If this is what the pluralist is saying, then he is obviously contradicting his first statement with his second statement. If nobody knows the truth about the supernatural, then neither does the pluralist. This is Keller’s point made simple.

    This kind of statement is all too common these days and I have personally spoken to many people who make these kinds of comments. As an example, a few years I was talking to one of my relatives while we were on vacation, and he said the following: “There is no truth.” I asked him: “Is that statement true?” After 30 more minutes of conversation, he had backed way off his initial statement and admitted that there is truth, that he had overstated his case. He had never been challenged by anyone before when he made the statement, “There is no truth.” Once I pointed out to him that his statement was self-refuting, he began to understand that he didn’t really believe there was no truth, even though he said it all the time.

    We live in a very relativistic culture where many people are uncomfortable with absolutes and constantly utter self-refuting statements (e.g., There is no truth). Religious pluralists sometimes fall into this camp as well.

    Now, there are perhaps pluralists who do not make the mistake of claiming that nobody knows the truth about the supernatural, but in the next breath claiming they know the truth about the supernatural. Keller’s argument does not apply to them. But to the pluralist who is saying these things, Keller’s argument does apply.

  • Bill Pratt

    Mick,
    Great questions. There is a difference between respecting a person’s dignity and value regardless of their religious beliefs, and believing that all religious beliefs are equally true. I fully embrace the first, but I think the second is wrong. The religious pluralists that I am speaking of fall into the second group; they believe that all religious beliefs are essentially the same. And yes, these people really exist because I have met them. What you generally find with these pluralists is that they have never seriously examined the core beliefs of the major religions. They say things like: “All religions believe in love, so all religions are the same.” These comments are so attractive to a population who wants to avoid disagreement over religion at all costs, but they are just false. Anyone who seriously studies the major religions quickly discovers that there are profound disagreements about the nature of God, the creation of the universe, the meaning of life, and the afterlife, to name a few.

  • Mick, I have seen such outside and inside Christianity. When it is from the outside, I almost have to agree with Keller; it is not inherent in their argument, but the tone seems smug and superior, coming from an attitude of “I am wiser and more perceptive than these religious plodders, for I have the high truth that lies behind all their petty certainties.” (Yes, I hear the irony, in that we Christians can sometimes deserve that ‘smug and superior’ label, to our discredit.)

    I think part of the error comes from mis-identifying what parts of a religion are core, and which may be discarded.  If one discounts the metaphysical and spiritual elements, the three traits that may remain are tribalism (a sense of corporate identity), a moral code, and a typical affect toward the world (optimistic/pessimistic/annihilistic; all-is-one, the individual is supreme, etc.). Since the moral codes are so often similar in many ways, it’s not hard, and perhaps comfortable, to see them all as variations on a theme. But just as a small example from the religion I actually know, Christianity has a moral code, but the religion is not ABOUT that code. The heart of Christianity does not depend on any particular moral code. Its core is the issue of our manifest inability to regularly, thoroughly,  and dependably keep a moral code at all, and the claim of a historical AND metaphysical event that purports to address that fact. Take away the metaphysics, and there is nothing distinctive left. The spiritual is not the accretion, it is the core. 

    As for the blenders inside Christianity,  we sometimes fall into two errors:
    one is to ignore the distinctive, and pretend the varying opinions don’t matter. Earlier, I used the term “sludge” I think it fits.
    The other error is that we ignore the unity that encompasses “all who proclaim the Gospel” and think that unless someone agrees with my 100%, he is false.

     But these are intramural issues, outside the scope of this forum, other than to affirm that they exist. An ark full of different animals is not a bad thing.  (just don’t try to make a giraffe and hippo pretend to be the same)

  • I understand Keller as hearing the pluralist say the following two things:

    1. Nobody knows the truth about the supernatural.
    2. I know the truth about the supernatural.

    If this is what the pluralist is saying, then he is obviously contradicting his first statement with his second statement. If nobody knows the truth about the supernatural, then neither does the pluralist. This is Keller’s point made simple.

    If you really understand Keller that way, then you need to think about it again. The point isn’t that “Nobody knows the truth about the supernatural.” The point is that like the blind men touching the elephant “Nobody knows the whole truth about the supernatural.” Each person perceives part of the truth. Moreover, I have never known a pluralist who didn’t think that the limitation applied to himself or herself as well as everyone else. The idea that anyone is claiming to know everything about the supernatural or to see the whole truth is a straw man.

  • Mick Curran

    Many thanks Bill and Eric for your responses and I stand happily corrected.

    The idea that all religions are the same because one can apparently identify a particular characteristic or virtue that appears to be shared by them all is, as far as I am concerned, flawed. Consider:

    All Englishmen are Europeans
    All Irishmen are Europeans
    Therefore all Englishmen are Irishmen

    I should simply have said that I consider such thinking to be illogical and mistaken. I think the way I’ve worded it might give the impression that I regard somebody who comes to a conclusion different from mine as somebody who isn’t as smart or as thoughtful as I am. That’s definitely an example of the smug and superior tone that Eric mentioned and I’m very sorry for my incautious wording.

  • Mick,

    I don’t think the claim is that all religions are the same. I think the claim is that all religions are equally valid or have equal access to the truth. In other words, Irishmen are neither more or less European than Englishmen.

  • Mick Curran

    That makes sense to me, Vinny, but what about people that understand truth to be relative? Situation ethics. No such thing as absolutes, circumstances alter cases, it all depends, and so on and so on. So when the relativist is in a good mood and feels disposed to cordial debate he may magnanimously concede that all religions are equally true. But when he’s had a bad day he may feel inclined forcefully to assert that all religions are equally false. It’s all the same to him, isn’t it? With Whitman, he sings of himself: “Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes).” I think this attitude perhaps reflects something of that which Bill is trying to illuminate.

  • Andrew Ryan

    Situation ethics doesn’t mean truth is relative. It just means that an act may be immoral in some circumstances but not in others. I think most people actually agree with this. Self defence is an acceptable reason for causing another’s death, in some circumstances, for example. Throwing someone to the ground is understandable if you’re pushing them out the path of a speeding car, etc.

  • Mick Curran

    Thank you for the correction, Andrew. Perhaps you’re right. I’ve been under the impression that the only absolute in Situation Ethics is agape love and that truth is subservient to it. Am I mistaken?

  • Mick,

    As a matter of logic, I believe in absolute truth. The problem, however, is that human beings are inherently finite creatures so that I am not sure that we can ever know the truth absolutely rather than provisionally. I think we can be highly confident of many things—e.g., the Golden Rule is always morally good and genocide is always morally evil—but our confidence is nonetheless based on our reason which is fallible. We see in a mirror darkly.

    According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, time and space aren’t nearly as absolute as Newtonian physics might have led us to believe. However, since human beings rarely approach the speed of light, this doesn’t pose much of problem. By the same token, even if we cannot know truth absolutely, it doesn’t pose much of a problem since we can achieve a sufficient degree of certainty for all practical purposes.

  • Mick Curran

    Thoughtful point, Vinny. So which religion or philosophy or authority or standard do you think best reveals and demonstrates absolute truth thereby inviting finite human beings to discover and embrace it?

  • I don’t think that truth is revealed by religion, authority, philosophy, or standard. I believe that truth is approached by applying reason to evidence.

  • Mick Curran

    Fair enough. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    The updated story of the blind men and the zoo http://bit.ly/lM0avb

  • David

    We don’t know everything… And perhaps we never will.

    The version of the story that was meant to provide insight into human belief, perception and understanding of the universe is as follows.

    There is an Elephant. And this Elephant is larger than any living thing in the universe. This Elephant is so large that no human could ever physically see it in it’s entirety. This Elephant represents the Truth about not just human existence, or the world as we know it – but the universe and beyond.

    5 human beings, considered devout, highly respected and scholarly followers of their respective religion set out on a journey to find…. Truth.

    The Muslim human finds the trunk, and is convinced he has found the Truth. The Christian human finds the stomach, and is convinced she has found the Truth. The Jewish human finds the tusks and believes he has found the Truth. The Buddhist human finds the tail, and is convinced she has found the Truth. The Hindu human finds the legs of the Elephant and believes this is the Truth.

    They are all touching a part of the same energy. The same force. The same Elephant.

    All of them are right. Yet not one of them see the entire Truth.

    These 5 explorers would only find the Truth when they engaged with each other and discussed what they had discovered.

    We are but humans in a world larger than ourselves. Anything beyond this fact is merely human perception, interpretation, speculation or indoctrination.

    We are all human. To respect ourselves and discover the truth we must respect and communicate with each other.

  • Samuel Maynes

    If you are interested in some new ideas on religious pluralism and the
    Trinity, please check out my website at http://www.religiouspluralism.ca. It previews my book, which has not been published yet and is still a “work-in-progress.” Your constructive criticism would be very much appreciated.

    My thesis is that an abstract version of the Trinity could be Christianity’s answer to the world need for a framework of pluralistic theology.

    In a constructive worldview: east, west, and far-east religions present a
    threefold understanding of One God manifest primarily in Muslim and Hebrew intuition of the Deity Absolute, Christian and Krishnan Hindu conception of the Universe Absolute Supreme Being; and Shaivite Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist apprehension of the Destroyer (meaning also Consummator), Unconditioned Absolute, or Spirit of All That Is and is not. Together with their variations and combinations in other major religions, these religious ideas reflect and express our collective understanding of God, in an expanded concept
    of the Holy Trinity.

    The Trinity Absolute is portrayed in the logic of world religions, as follows:

    1. Muslims and Jews may be said to worship only the first person of the
    Trinity, i.e. the existential Deity Absolute Creator, known as Allah or
    Yhwh, Abba or Father (as Jesus called him), Brahma, and other names; represented by Gabriel (Executive Archangel), Muhammad and Moses (mighty messenger prophets), and others.

    2. Christians and Krishnan Hindus may be said to worship the first person through a second person, i.e. the experiential Universe or “Universal” Absolute Supreme Being (Allsoul or Supersoul), called Son/Christ or Vishnu/Krishna; represented by Michael (Supreme Archangel), Jesus (teacher and savior of souls), and others. The Allsoul is that gestalt of personal human consciousness, which we expect will be the “body of Christ” (Mahdi, Messiah, Kalki or Maitreya) in the second coming – personified in history by Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Buddha (9th incarnation of Vishnu), and others.

    3. Shaivite Hindus, Buddhists, and Confucian-Taoists seem to venerate the synthesis of the first and second persons in a third person or appearance, ie. the Destiny Consummator of ultimate reality – unqualified Nirvana consciousness – associative Tao of All That Is – the absonite* Unconditioned Absolute Spirit “Synthesis of Source and Synthesis,”** who/which is logically expected to be Allah/Abba/Brahma glorified in and by union with the Supreme Being – represented in religions by Gabriel, Michael, and other Archangels, Mahadevas,
    Spiritpersons, etc., who may be included within the mysterious Holy Ghost.

    Other strains of religion seem to be psychological variations on the third
    person, or possibly combinations and permutations of the members of the Trinity – all just different personality perspectives on the Same God. Taken together, the world’s major religions give us at least two insights into the first person of this thrice-personal One God, two perceptions of the second person, and at least three glimpses of the third.

    * The ever-mysterious Holy Ghost or Unconditioned Spirit is neither absolutely infinite, nor absolutely finite, but absonite; meaning neither
    existential nor experiential, but their ultimate consummation; neither fully
    ideal nor totally real, but a middle path and grand synthesis of the
    superconscious and the conscious, in consciousness of the unconscious.

    ** This conception is so strong because somewhat as the Absonite Spirit is a synthesis of the spirit of the Absolute and the spirit of the Supreme, so it would seem that the evolving Supreme Being may himself also be a synthesis or “gestalt” of humanity with itself, in an Almighty Universe Allperson or Supersoul. Thus ultimately, the Absonite is their Unconditioned Absolute Coordinate Identity – the Spirit Synthesis of Source and Synthesis – the metaphysical Destiny Consummator of All That Is.

    After the Hindu and Buddhist conceptions, perhaps the most subtle expression and comprehensive symbol of the 3rd person of the Trinity is the Tao; involving the harmonization of “yin and yang” (great opposing ideas identified in positive and negative, or otherwise contrasting terms). In the Taoist icon of yin and yang, the s-shaped line separating the black and white spaces may be interpreted as the Unconditioned “Middle Path” between condition and conditioned opposites, while the circle that encompasses them both suggests their synthesis in the Spirit of the “Great Way” or Tao of All That Is.

    If the small black and white circles or “eyes” are taken to represent a nucleus of truth in both yin and yang, then the metaphysics of this symbolism fits nicely with the paradoxical mystery of the Christian Holy Ghost; who is neither the spirit of the one nor the spirit of the other, but the Glorified Spirit proceeding from both, taken altogether – as one entity – personally distinct from his co-equal, co-eternal and fully coordinate co-sponsors, who differentiate from him, as well as mingle and meld in him.

    For more details, please see: http://www.religiouspluralism.ca

    Samuel Stuart Maynes