The prevalent religions of the modern times have mostly received their traditions and wisdom from the ancient theologies. Here an attempt is made to decipher common-points in the histories of their formations.
Brahma, the creator god; Vishnu, the sustainer god; and Shiva, the destroyer god; constitute a trinity of godhead from the teachings of the most ancient cultures to the theologies of the modern day practised religions. Egyptians called it Osiris, Isis, Horus; Christians call it Father, Son, Holy Spirit; and this triad astrologically is denoted by the Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable zodiacal signs. But the least understood function is the relationship of this ancient formula to the Abrahamic religions, especially to Judeo-Christianity and Islam. Although Abrahamic traditions categorically state the ‘unity of Godhead’ as their paramount theological foundation, however it is very interesting to explore the associations of Abrahamic traditions derived from the trinity formula of the ancients.
The Gnosis of Trinity
The formula of trinity actually defines the three modes of phenomena existent in nature. The ancients conceived that the processes of nature occurred in the stages of three. Like Sunrise, noon, and Sunset; humans are born as infants, grow up to the strength, and ultimately decline to the decrepit old state. Also, the process of taking food into the mouth, digesting it in the stomach, and afterwards which is followed by the loosening of bowels forms a parallel to the triad of processes. Similarly, all things have been constantly produced, consumed, and disposed of by the principles and forces of nature throughout the human history.
From these observations, the ancients derived a formula for spiritual relevance and significance called the ‘trinity’. It can be described in three steps; 1) the process of birth in the mother’s womb during gestation, being the realm of creation (the creator god); 2) air breathing humans in the active world, being the realm of sustenance (the sustainer god); 3) departure of soul/spirit from the physical body to be transformed into the ethereal body, being the realm of destruction (the destroyer god).
The creation of physical organs such as eyes, arms, and legs can only happen inside the mother’s body, because that is the realm of the creator god. If the mother receives proper nourishment and care, the baby comes out to be of healthy and vibrant state; or otherwise defective in some way. Once in the world, the human body gets in the realm of the sustainer god, who makes the body to grow, enlarge, and reproduce but no new organs are added into the body at this stage. Here, according to the gnosis of trinity, this human body acts as a gestation organ similar to the mother’s womb for the creation of a new ‘Spirit’. Just as the creation of human body occurred during the stay in the mother’s womb, the human spirit undergoes its creation during the stay in the physical world, to be finally transferred to the spiritual world. And just as carelessness on the part of mother might cause lasting defects or deformities in the child, similarly, actions based on inequity might cause permanent weaknesses in the spirit, so as to render the spirit incompatible to the higher spiritual world. Also, the child had no need for the physical organs like eyes in the mother’s womb, but he still manufactured them for the next proceeding stage; and therefore, the righteous actions of a human being would bring to him the spiritual sight to exist in the spiritual realm. Thus the journey that started with the conception of a baby, ends in its integration with the divine spirit. Also, it is worth mentioning here that the ‘Christian trinity’ which comprises of Father (creator), Son (educator, preserver, or sustainer), and Holy Spirit (spiritual being) provides the best terminological illustration of this trinity formula.
Abraham’s Stories in the Judeo-Christian and Islamic Scriptures
The stories of the great patriarch Abraham in the Bible and the Quran are very symbolic for the raising of human consciousness from the base to its ultimate spiritual, or divine transcendence. It is evident from those stories that the cherished goal of these traditions is to reach the spiritual realm. Abraham being the pioneer of both Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions, had expounded the need to reach the higher levels of spirituality throughout his life experiences and actions. Here, firstly I should mention the story of Abraham as a youngster defying his father’s gods, followed by his attempt to sacrifice his own son, and that followed by his building of the shrine at Mecca(the temple of Shiva). It is also noteworthy that according to the Abrahamic traditions, in order to reach the spiritual realm one has to defy or leave the earlier two realms of the creator, and the sustainer gods. Just as once a child has been out of the mother’s womb, there is no going back in it; or once the spirit has departed from the body, there is no coming back for the deceased. The focus on the ultimate goal with purity and totality is the major theme of the Abrahamic traditions, and the ‘unity of Godhead’ in this doctrine simply means that only one God of spiritual growth can be served by human beings effectively, because that alone constitutes the present need and objective of their existence.
The Story of Abraham and the Idol Shop of His Father
In the book of Genesis Rabbah, Chapter 38, the Jewish account of the affair of Abraham with his father is related. His father being the carver and seller of idols is symbolic of the worship of the creator God. But since the physical creation of Abraham’s body had already been accomplished, so Abraham defied his father and his creative works. Here, I should include some quotes from the Genesis Rabbah, Chapter 38, for illustration purposes.
“The father of Abraham and Haran, was a dealer in images as well as a worshipper of them.”
“Abraham taunted him (a customer of his father) with want of sound sense in calling the work of another man’s hand, produced perhaps in a few hours, his god; the man laid the words of Abraham to heart and gave up idol worship.”
“Again a woman came with a handful of fine flour to offer to Terah’s idols, which were now in charge of Abraham. He took a stick and broke all the images except the largest one, in the hand of which he placed the stick which had worked this wholesale destruction.”
“When he (Abraham’s father) learnt also of the customers whom Abraham had lost him during his management he became very incensed, and drove Abraham out of his house and handed him over to Nimrod.”
“Nimrod, becoming weary of arguing with Abraham, decided to cast him before his god — fire — and challenged Abraham’s deliverance by the God of Abraham, but God saved him out of the fiery furnace.”
In the above texts, the business of Abraham’s father of idol making, and selling was a vocation requiring creative skills, and therefore not in line with the God of destruction (Shiva). Thus, Abraham himself the worshipper of the spiritual God of destruction, breaks his father’s idols in an act of defiance to the creator God. But when Abraham was cast into the fire for his crime against the creator God; the God of destruction intervenes and saves his loyal follower from the fire of destruction. Also, Abraham was never afraid of the fire, since he was not interested in his personal creation or preservation anyway. The example illustrates that anything interfering with the sole purpose of man tires his efforts without producing constructive results because such is the nature of idol worship, and therefore it must be abandoned.
The Story of Abraham’s Attempt to Sacrifice His Son
The Bible quotes this story in the following fashion,
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Genesis 22 : 9–12
At the time when Abraham attempted to sacrifice his son, he was an old man and his son was his sole inheritor. This Abraham’s vision of filicide makes sense only if it is symbolic to the defiance of the sustainer God. Since survival through preserving the blood lineage among descendants is the only source of continuation of a race; Abraham went through the trial of filicide to ascertain his faith to the spiritual God of destruction, in defiance to the sustainer God by overcoming his own emotional associations because of their irrelevance to the realm of spirit and redemption.
The Story of Abraham Building the Temple of God
The temple of God (Shiva) was constructed by Abraham in the land of Paran (present day Mecca), after Abraham had left the boy (Ishmael) with his consort (Hagar) in the middle of the desert. This story is mentioned in the Bible,
God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt. Genesis 21 : 17–21
The well of water mentioned in the above text is that of Zam-Zam, in Mecca. The building of the temple (Kaaba) is referred in the Quran as being built by Abraham with the assistance of Ishmael.
And (mention) when Abraham was raising the foundations of the House and (with him) Ishmael, (saying), “Our Lord, accept (this) from us. Indeed, You are the Hearing, the Knowing. Al-Quran (2:127)
Our Lord, I have settled some of my descendants in an uncultivated valley near Your sacred House, our Lord, that they may establish prayer. So make hearts among the people incline toward them and provide for them from the fruits that they might be grateful. Al-Quran (14:37)
Here, the wisdom of building the cherished mosque in an uncultivated land surrounded by a desert must have been to get the followers away from the materialistic, proletarian, and bourgeois existence; and closer to the more natural, heroic, and spiritual behavior; and to inculcate the nobler and knightly attitudes in the lives of humans so as to make them grow in their spiritual significance. Also, the temple enshrines the black stone, which is essentially the symbol of Shiva (the destroyer God).
Prophets of the Abrahamic Traditions
When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it. Exodus 32: 19–20
In the text from the Bible above, Moses expresses his anger towards Israelites who had manufactured an idol of calf in his absence, and started to worship it. The Cow as a symbol of fertility is actually revered in the Hindu traditions, and also respected on account of the utilities it provides to sustain the basic features of human lives. The Cow produces milk for human children, does labour in the fields for adults, and also fertilizes the land through its dung acting as a manure for agriculture. Therefore, Cow being the best associate of humans to provide them with ease in their affairs of the world had to be sacrificed or destroyed, because the human objectives must be focused only on the spiritual realm that is beyond this world.
Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:32
In the given text, Jesus condemns every blasphemy or action against the Holy Spirit (the destroyer God) as the unforgivable sin. The text can also be implied to mean that sins against the Father (the creator), and the Son (the sustainer) can be remitted on account of their transient nature; but sins against the Holy Spirit (the destroyer) is permanent, and therefore cannot be absolved.
Before Mohammed was born, his father was chosen for sacrifice to the God of Kaaba by his grandfather. This was arranged on account of a pledge which the grandfather had made to sacrifice one of his many sons by a lot. His father’s sacrifice was then remitted by the sacrifice of 100 camels according to the local custom of Arabs. Therefore, Mohammed had said, “I am the son of two sacrifices” referring to the sacrifices of his father Abd Allah, and his ancestor Ishmael, son of Abraham, both of which sacrifices were prevented. This sacrifice of the two fathers can also be equated to the Abraham’s defiance of his father against the idol selling business, or the creator god. Also the Quran says,
Mohammed is not the father of (any) one of your men, but (he Is) the Messenger of Allah and seal (i.e., last) of the prophets. And ever is Allah, of all things, Knowing. Al-Quran (33:40)
According to the Muslim traditions, Mohammed had many sons; but none could live up till the age of puberty because of the God’s commands in the Quran. Therefore, above verse of the Quran shows the Mohammed’s defiance to the sustainer God, similar to the Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of his son.
Say, “The truth has come, and falsehood can neither begin nor repeat.” Al-Quran (34:49)
This above verse of the Quran, Mohammed has been reported to have repeatedly recited while breaking the idols of pre-Islamic Arabs, after the conquest of Mecca. Here, Mohammed had shown the same iconoclastic behavior peculiar to Abraham and Moses, by breaking the idols of the time, and instituting reforms in his society. The wordings of the verse (34:49) is particularly interesting, since it says that falsehood can neither begin, nor repeat; which might refer to the defiance of the creation and the preservation principles associated with the Abrahamic traditions.
The End Note
I hope this article would have contributed toward the understanding of the ancient theologies, and their relationship to the Abrahamic traditions. I should end here by quoting the following verse from Quran.
Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was one inclining toward truth, a Muslim. And he was not of the polytheists. Al-Quran (3:67)