Traditional Pathways to the Sacred
Today, we begin our study of the traditional pathways claimed to lead to awakening, enlightenment, or liberation, depending upon the aspirant’s psychic composition. The traditional pathways were primarily developed for use by mendicants, monastics, and wandering holy men and women. For example, the Brahmins divided life into four periods: the celibate student, the married householder, the forest hermit, and the wandering recluse. In the early centuries after Christ, Christianity had its desert hermits and recluses, most noted being Anthony the Great. Such hermits formed the nidus for future Christian monasticism.
However, prior to such descriptions of the three traditional templates for enlightenment, awakening, or liberation, we must pause so to address a radical difference in metaphysical understanding of the ‘perceived’ endpoint to mortal life between the Oriental and Occidental points of view.
The Occidental view in favor of a single mortal life experience followed by an eternal afterlife, the quality depending upon how one chose to live his or her life. In compliance with the dictates and will of a person’s perceived highest Godhead (at ethical life) or in opposition of such dictates and will of the Godhead, i.e., a moral versus an amoral life, altruistic or selfish, non-harming or harming, and so on.
The concept of an everlasting afterlife is seen at its earliest in predynastic Egypt and continues until the full censorship of the Egyptian religion in the 5th century CE by pseudo-Christianity adherents. At its maturity, the Egyptians believed that after mortal death, each soul would be judged by weighing the heart. Those who had lived a life founded upon the divine principle of Maat (lived ethically and useful lives filled with altruism) would be sent to dwell in Osiris’ Field of Reeds so to live without pain and suffering eternally. Those who had lived a mean and selfish life had their souls devoured by the beast called Ammit and so be annihilated forevermore.
The Sumerians and the early Greeks taught of an afterlife in the underworld which was most unsatisfactory–for the good and the bad. Read Homer.
The Oriental view in favor of reincarnation with its well-defined, consecutive, temporal realms of existence consisting of gods, demigods, human, animal, hungry ghosts, and hell, which one dependent upon the quality of ones good deeds. Such view being an admixture of the indigenous religion of India with those of the invading Aryans, the Vedas.
The Oriental views are widely divergent. Such beliefs ranging from an eternal afterlife predicated upon Divine Love sought by the devotees of Krishna to either merging with the unfathomable, impersonal Brahman into One Self or obtaining permanent release from existence.
Subsequently, it is important to keep in mind, this seemingly impassible cultural divide between Occident and Oriental, when choosing a particular template to endorse. I used the phrase, ‘to keep in mind’ so to stress the truism that no awakened being has absolutely determined the actual state of existence, or nonexistence, human beings may enter after mortal death. How can I claim this? Simple, as none of these awakened beings can agree. If agreement is not possible, all we can say are that what is presented by their reports is no more than a possibility. Perhaps, at the level of our universe, all are possible in the empyreal realms. I am at least honest with you!