Reconciling Symbols of Islam, Judaism and Christianity
BY TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 1 Jan 2018
Catalytic Methodology for Effective Interfaith Dialogue
31 Dec 2017 – Importance of the highest degree is attached by their respective believers to the symbols of the monotheistic Abrahamic faiths. Their mutual hostility over millennia is focused by and through those symbols. They are displayed and brandished on ever possible occasion — and are associated with both constructions and designs to protect their distinct integrities, in their efforts to sustain and extend their communities and their territory, and in the violence exerted by each against the other. The most radically fundamental of each religion may cultivate this violence against unbelievers interpreting their sacred scriptures to justify both this violence, inequality and even new forms of enslavement.
Much is made by some of the efforts of interfaith initiatives to remedy this historic pattern. Given the levels of violence sustained by these faiths it can only be concluded that these are purely token palliative measures, a case of “virtue signalling” and essentially ineffectual — except perhaps for their participants as individuals (Damon Young, Virtue Signalling, New Philosopher, 31 July 2017). Primary examples include the Parliament of the Worlds Religions from which Catholicism tends to exclude itself — preferring instead to promote a competitive focus through the successive International Meetings of Prayer for Peace in Assissi (Learnings for the Future of Inter-Faith Dialogue, 1993). Less evident are initiatives inspired by Judaism and Islam. Each of the Abrahamic religions sees itself as the only viable nexus of truth and peace. There is little indication that the situation is improving.
The complementary approach explored here is to treat the central symbols of those faiths as elements of a puzzle embodying the essence of the sacred texts with which each is associated. The details of such symbols are typically the focus of meditation and commentary over centuries. Their lines, points and symmetry are carriers of significance and insight — with which particular words, precepts and stories may be associated. Disparate symbols are therefore indicative of unreconciled insights — although some “points” and “lines of argument” may be readily shared.
Metaphorically, as a kind of symbolic jigsaw puzzle, the two-dimensional symbols obviously do not “fit together” — a condition highly indicative of the current condition. The question here is whether they can be “fitted together” in three dimensions, if not four or more, as previously suggested (Cognitive Implications in 3D of Triadic Symbols Valued in 2D, 2017). Do the Abrahamic religions constitute a symbolic jigsaw puzzle as yet unrecognized as such — especially since there is no recognized singular symbol of the monotheism by which they are together inspired? What is the “spiritual geometry” that they share? This could be explored in terms of the potential of mathematical theology (Mathematical Theology: Future Science of Confidence in Belief, 2011).
The issue here is not whether disparate symbols fit together but rather when they fit together — perhaps as a transitional phase in a dynamic cycle, possibly as emergent perspectives from a viewpoint to be discovered (even one in higher dimensional configurations). “Visions”, can then be understood as fundamental perspectives with which some resonate to a far greater degree. These insights then tend to be reframed as intellectual or cultural property, to be institutionalized as “denominations” — derivatives of the “nameless” in the theological understanding of apophasis or unsaying. One approach to such configuration was previously explored in terms of the possibilities of spherical geometry (Middle East Peace Potential through Dynamics in Spherical Geometry, 2012).
Whilst the symbols can be understood in each case as serving metaphorically as a cognitive or spiritual “aerials” in two dimensions, there is the possibility of a more complex aerial in three or more dimensions which could serve as means of enabling resonance with insights of a more fundamental nature. In emphasizing resonance, the question is whether such a complex nexus would be more than an interesting device — a cognitive gadget. In the emerging context of virtual reality, fundamental to organizing and sustaining a knowledge-based civilization, would the possibility of a dynamic symbol be even more capable of evoking the kind of resonance valued in the two-dimensional symbols? Would this enliven the symbolic dimension to a greater degree than their current display on fluttering flags?
Expressed otherwise, are the individual symbols effectively elements of a pattern in a pattern language which merits exploration in the spirit of Christopher Alexander (A Pattern Language, 1977) as the design of a place where one could “eel at home”. This sense of “home” is the ” quality without a name” which Alexander identified as the quality of “a place to be” (The Timeless Way of Building, 1979). It is in this sense that the configuration of symbols could serve as such — in knowledge space.
Is each symbol better understood as a distinctive “window” onto a more fundamental order of higher dimensionality which it has as yet proved impossible to embody in a form which resonates with those preferring other windows? Rather than “window”, is it a question of viewpoint and perspective calling for a more complex symbol which must necessarily be viewed from a variety of perspectives for its integrity to be implied and comprehended to some higher degree?
Could such a language enable forms of mapping of the contrasting arguments and occasional sympathies of the Abrahamic religions? In those terms it is curious to note the seeming total absence of any form of concept map of the positions in interfaith discourse — one respectful of both dissonance and consonance. Is there a superordinate pattern as yet to be discovered (Using Disagreements for Superordinate Frame Configuration, 1992)? The approach explored here is effectively a form of mapping using symbols rather than the features of such mapping when undertaken through mind mapping and the like (University of Glasgow, Philosophy of Religion Mind Mapping Project; Ibrah Leman, Road to Interfaith: “mind mapping” method, 2016).
The approach here follows from a previous argument with regard to Jerusalem as a symbol — perhaps the only one — valued by all the Abrahamic religions (Jerusalem as a Symbolic Singularity: comprehending the dynamics of hyperreality as a challenge to conventional two-state reality, 2017). The intention is to demonstrate potentially fruitful possibilities which merit further exploration — rather than seeking closure, necessarily premature. It is a “proof of concept” exercise to elicit further insight.
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