And [Jacob] dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on earth, and the top of it|
reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
— Genesis 28:12
The purpose of this paper will be to consider the potential realization of an integral religion. As the philosopher Ken Wilber suggests, human evolution is driven by the teleological ascension of Mind or Spirit. In this way, Mind is both transcendent as God and immanent as evolution. Following this understanding our thesis is simply that human evolution is the underlying principle of both Eastern and Western religious traditions. As this paper will show, Eastern religion demonstrates the spiritual psychology of evolution, while Western religion demonstrates the spiritual sociology of evolution. Eastern religion, following the course of Ascent, seeks to unite humanity's consciousness with God; while Western religion, following the course of Descent, serves God's manifest unfolding. The profound and engrossing work of Ken Wilber and his interpretation of the Eastern spiritual traditions will be examined here as the basic architecture for a transpersonal understanding of psychological development. In addition, we will attempt to decipher the Western spiritual traditions in terms of the transpersonal advance towards divine civilization. Finally, we will suggest a basic framework for uniting these two paths in one complimentary form, in one integral religion.
As the modern mystic Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) writes in the Ideal of Human Unity,
A spiritual religion of humanity is the hope of the future… A religion of humanity means the growing realisation that there is a secret Spirit, a divine Reality, in which we are all one, that humanity is its highest present vehicle on earth, that the human race and the human being are the means by which it will progressively reveal itself here. It implies a growing attempt to live out this knowledge and bring about a kingdom of this divine Spirit upon earth. By its growth within us oneness with our fellow-men will become the leading principle of all our life, not merely a principle of cooperation but a deeper brotherhood, a real and an inner sense of unity and equality and a common life.
— Chapter XXXV, p. 307 (July 1918)
As Aurobindo concludes, the foundations for a universal humanity are to be found in a spiritual unity. Yet, no such worldview has become embedded within modern political institutions thus far. Lacking a framework for such transpersonal advancement, humanity has achieved little progress beyond modern mental-egoic civilization. Today, postmodern thinkers are consumed by the urge to transcend the maladies afflicting modern society; yet, as Aurobindo writes, the motivating force behind human transformation still remains to be fully actualized. Through the course of this paper we will consider the potential realization of this higher transformation within an emerging "religion of humanity".
1. Integral Spirituality
Aurobindo is perhaps the first thinker to envision an integral approach to spiritual development. As Georg Feuerstein observes, Aurobindo's approach combined personal aspiration "from below" with divine grace "from above". As Aurobindo writes,
A divine life in a material world implies necessarily a union of the two ends of existence, the spiritual summit and the material base. The soul with the basis of its life established in Matter ascends to the heights of the Spirit but does not cast away its base, it joins the heights and the depths together. The Spirit descends into Matter and the material world with all its lights and glories and powers and with them fills and transforms life in the material world so that it becomes more and more divine.
Aurobindo's Integral philosophy synthesized the mystical realization of the East with the earthly transformation of the West. He believed that a universal spirituality was inevitable in the course of Spirit's evolution. Today, our task is to continue his work, to unite the Eastern and Western religious traditions and thereby contribute to Spirit's ultimate emancipation.
Eros and Logos
There is a simple key to understanding the world's diverse religious systems. This is particularly evident using the insights of Neo-Platonic philosophy. Employing Neo-Platonic ideas, we might say that spirituality is (abstractly) understood in two complimentary forms: in the form of Ascent or Eros, and in the form of Descent or Logos.[i] This is especially demonstrated in the dualism between Platonic Idealism and Aristotelian Realism: While Plato explores Ascent or Eros- humanity's realization of the Divine, Aristotle explores Descent or Logos- the mirrored unfolding of the Divine in nature.[ii]
For Plato, material existence was transitory and illusory, a mere reflection of a deeper divinity. True knowledge, therefore, emerged through reasoned contemplation rather than sense perception. For both Plato and especially Plotinus, human development was driven by Eros or the mystical realization of this transcendent archetypal Fount.[iii] This meant an ascetic withdrawal into the depths of one's interiority, a communion through which the soul could be gradually purified of all bodily associations. As Plotinus writes, this interior ascension transcended the rational mind, returning the soul to its divine wellspring,
Once ascended There, she [the soul] becomes herself and what she was, life in this world of sense being a falling away, an exile, a 'shedding of wings'…There she possesses the heavenly Eros, but here the vulgar.
As we shall see below, this path of Ascent is explored exhaustively throughout the Eastern religious traditions.
Complimenting this path of Ascent or interior communion is the path of Descent or Divine manifestation. Ancient Greeks believed that the universe was governed by Divine Mind or Logos, manifesting in humanity as reason and in nature as ordered laws. Unlike his teacher Plato, Aristotle applied this reason to nature in the form of empirical observation. "Where Plato had placed direct intuition of the transcendent Ideas as the foundation of knowledge, Aristotle now placed empiricism and logic". For Aristotle, matter was the substrate of being: a potentiality only realized as actuality in nature's teleological striving for fulfillment. Unlike Plato, the Aristotelian form was not a transcendent Archetype, but an indwelling impulse in nature, ordering and motivating its development. Largely basing his thinking upon scientific observation, Aristotle taught that nature evolved from an imperfect or immature condition towards full maturity: "The seed is transformed into a plant; the embryo becomes the child, the child becomes the adult." Aristotle realigned Plato's archetypal perspective from a transcendent focus to an immanent one. And in so doing, he introduced the intellectual foundations for a theory of evolution.
It was, in fact, Aristotle's explicit focus upon nature (upon the empirical world) that gave formal structure to much of the Western worldview. As Richard Tarnas notes, it was Aristotle's meticulous emphasis on observation and classification that would mold the foundations of Western epistemology:
To understand the basic tenor of Aristotle's philosophy and cosmology is prerequisite for comprehending the further movement of Western thought and its succession of worldviews…For Aristotle provided a language and logic, a foundation and structure…without which the philosophy, theology, and science of the West could not have developed as they did.
Where Plato had focused upon the "Ideal" world, the world within, Aristotle would focus upon the "Real" world, the world without: "While Plato employed reason to overcome the empirical world and discover a transcendent order, Aristotle employed reason to discover an immanent order within the empirical world itself." In so doing, Aristotle would declare, "So, goodbye to the Forms. They are idle prattle, and if they do exist are wholly irrelevant." It is here, in his criticism and dismissal of Plato's mystical realization that Aristotle helped reinforce the dualism (already established by Plato), that would carry through into the modern age. In this way, Aristotle's beliefs anticipated the materialism that would come to characterize modern science and modern civilization.
Unlike many moderns today, however, Aristotle was not simply a materialist, his God was pure Mind and humanity alone shared in this divinity. Aristotle's God was the perfect Actuality towards which nature, and particularly humanity, was telelogically drawn. Unfortunately, the perfect transcendence of this God negated any relationship to nature or humanity. With no room for mystical communion, Aristotle was committed exclusively to the path of Logos, to the manifestation of the Divine in nature.
It is in these axiomatic figures, Plato and Aristotle, that we see the tragic dissociation of Eros and Logos that characterizes much of the philosophical and religious thought throughout human history. Plato's neglect of evolution and devaluation of nature is inversely complimented by Aristotle's dismissal of interior transcendence and mystical union. As Frederick Coplestone makes clear, there remains a need for integration between these two currents: Platonism as thesis and Aristotelianism as antithesis "need to be reconciled [with]in a higher synthesis, in the sense that the valuable and true elements in both [approaches] need to be harmoniously developed [into] a more complete and adequate system."
The focus of this paper is an attempt to resolve this divide, to follow the lead of thinkers such as Sri Aurobindo and Ken Wilber in the search for a true union between Eros and Logos. In Chinese philosophy (perhaps the equivalent influence to the East, of Greek philosophy to the West), we see that it is relationship that reveals harmony, the relationship between the polarities of yin and yang, heaven and earth, mind and civilization. As we will see, it is the complimentary union of Eros and Logos, Ascent and Descent, that constitutes integral religion as well…
East and West
In both Eastern and Western religious traditions, the basis of spirituality is the descent of a mediator between humanity and God. In the Hindu tradition, for example, this mediator is the God-man Krishna, the avatar of Vishnu. In Judaism this mediator is Moses, Yahweh's chosen prophet over Israel. However, there are significant differences between the spiritual worldviews of East and West. As Moojan Momen observes,
In the Western religions, the highest reality is called God. In these religions, God is the creator of all that is. He is the Lord of all, who intervenes in human affairs and sends his prophets to bring laws and teachings to humanity. The duty of human beings is to recognize the prophet and to lead their lives according to these laws and teachings.
In the religions of the East, the highest reality has different characteristics. Whether we consider Nirvana or the Dharma of Theravada Buddhism, Shunyata in Mahayana Buddhism, the Tao in Taoism, or Brahma in Advaita Hinduism, the highest reality in these Eastern religions does not have the personal characteristics of God in the Western religions…Rather, this highest reality is seen as the Absolute Reality of which our worldly reality is an aspect. If human beings could see things as they really are, they would recognize that their reality and the Absolute Reality are one and the same. This is expressed by various formulae in these religions, such as the truth that Atman (the individual soul) is Brahman (Absolute Reality) in Advaita Hinduism, or that Samsara (the contingent world) is Nirvana (the Absolute) in Buddhism.
While in the East, spirituality is most often understood in terms of Ascent or union with Divine; in the West, spirituality is understood in terms of Descent or the unfolding of Divine civilization. There are, of course, exceptions to this distinction in both religious paradigms, but the predominant thrust of each spiritual approach is primarily in one direction.
The ultimate goal of Eastern spiritual development is transcendence: That is, the overcoming of the illusions (Maya) that separate humanity from the divine. "To transcend" means to go beyond and to rise above the limits of material existence, to realize the divine within. In practical terms, to transcend the world means to awaken from all attachments and all conditioning. The Buddha, for example, "transcended" the world by transcending the mental conditioning that fuses consciousness to physical existence. As Ken Wilber writes, this is the inner discovery of Wholeness, much as a wave becoming conscious of the ocean. "This is the phenomenon of transcendence- or enlightenment, or liberation, or moksha, or wu, or satori. This is what Plato meant by stepping out of the cave of shadows and finding the Light of Being…"
Unlike Eastern transcendence, Western spirituality, beginning with Judaism, transforms nature itself. Within the Western traditions, history is understood as an unfolding covenant between humanity and God. The core of this belief is, of course, monotheism. The God of the Jews- and later of the Christians and Muslims- is a singular, all-powerful Creator. Through this union, humanity is promised delivery from political bondage. In the Book of Exodus, for example, we observe:
Say therefore to the Israelites, 'I am the LORD, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob...
— Exodus 6:6-8
Ultimately, those who serve God and follow His teachings are promised emancipation into the "Divine Kingdom". As Wilber observes, this covenant is the foundation of the Western psyche:
We cannot forget that, in the West, God and history are profoundly inseparable. Jesus is absolutely significant to the Christian not just because he is the Son of God, but because he was a historical event, a token of God's intervention in the historical process, a pact between [humanity] and God. Moses brought not merely ethical commandments, but a covenant between God and his peoples, a covenant to be played out in the course of history. For the Judeao-Christian world- i.e., the Western mind- history is the unfolding of a pact between God and [humanity], a movement ultimately to bring [humanity] and God together. 
It is this teleological thrust that has defined the trajectory for modern moral, economic, and artistic development in Western civilization. Unlike Eastern religion, the Western approach to spirituality is grounded in nature, in a "this-worldly" approach to the Divine. In Genesis 1:26, humanity is given authority as stewards over the whole of God's creation, "to work it and take care of it":
And God said, "Let us make [humanity] in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, over the cattle, over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."
It is its' this-worldly focus (its path of Descent) that thematically defines the Western Paradigm. As Huston Smith explains, unlike the East, "the West resists [merging] the soul with the Absolute". Largely rejecting the Eros Project as reflected in Plato and various other schools of mysticism, the West focuses upon nature and the construction of a moral social order. It was this pursuit of a natural epistemology (as largely interpreted through Aristotle) that would ultimately give birth to modern science and the age of modernity. 
[In Western religion] we find an appreciation of nature, blended with confidence in human powers to work with it for the good that, in its time, was exceptional. It was, as we all know, an attitude that was destined to bear fruit, for it is no accident that modern science first emerged in the Western world…From this basic premise three corollaries follow: (1) that the material aspects of life are important (hence the strong emphasis in the West on humanitarianism and social service [not to mention technology] ); (2) that matter can participate in the condition of salvation itself (affirmed by the doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body); and (3) that nature can host the Divine (the Kingdom of God is to come "on Earth", to which Christianity adds its doctrine of the Incarnation). 
From within the Western traditions, spirituality is expressed as the unfolding liberation of humanity, or, as Aurobindo envisions, the unfolding of Spirit's liberation in nature. In this way, the Western traditions follow a sociological orientation which we have called the course of Descent. This is the path of eschatological agency or simply, the Logos Project. Unlike this approach, however, the Eastern traditions follow a psychological orientation which we might call the course of Ascent, the path of interior realization or simply, the Eros Project.
Though differing significantly, the ground of both East and West is ultimately the evolution of consciousness. While the Western Paradigm focuses consciousness development outwards onto society and nature, the Eastern Paradigm follows consciousness inwards (and upwards) to its Root. In other words, the Eastern Paradigm is largely the domain of humanity's "subjectivity", the domains of consciousness and mysticism; while the Western Paradigm is largely the domain of humanity's "intersubjectivity", the domains of socio-political evolution and moral justice. Put simply, the culmination of the Eastern Paradigm is Self-realization, while the culmination of the Western Paradigm is Divine civilization. In the first, earth is drawn upwards to heaven (Immanence to Transcendence); while in the second, heaven is drawn downwards to earth (Transcendence to Immanence).
Esoteric Spirituality and Exoteric Religion
In order to effectively understand the concept of an integral religion, it is important that we first consider the distinctions between the esoteric and exoteric dimensions of spiritual development. This difference is illustrated, for example, in the Islamic differentiation between al-zahir and al-batin. Religion's social framework is the outward, "al-zahir", while its spiritual teachings are the inward, "al-batin" (Sura 57:3). In order for religion to truly effect transformation, it must manifest in both the inward and the outward dimensions of human existence. It must both advance the consciousness of humanity and evolve its socio-political institutions. As Bahá'u'lláh, the prophet-founder of the Bahá'í Faith asks:
...is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of [humankind], a transformation that shall manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions? For if the character of [humankind] be not changed, the futility of God's universal Manifestations would be apparent.
To better appreciate this distinction we might borrow from Wilber's differentiation between deep and surface structures of consciousness development. For Wilber (following Plato), deep structures are realized or remembered (anamnesis), while surface structures are learned. He writes,
… the ground unconscious contains only the "deep structures" of human consciousness, but not their "surface structures". And while the deep structures of each level [of development]…are indeed determined and bound by invariant and cross-cultural developmental logic, the surface structures of each level are molded and conditioned by the force of cultural and historical contingencies. In short, deep structures are natively given, surface structures are culturally molded…
Think of it this way: if you picture an eight-story building, each of its floors is a deep structure, and the rooms, furniture, objects, etc., on each floor are its surface structures.
More than merely rituals, the exoteric forms of religion (when they serve authentic transformation) function as educational frameworks for spiritual developmental. Through norms, values and laws, the surface structures of religion are shaped to serve as housing for the process of spiritual evolution. In other words, interior/esoteric stages of spirituality are framed by exterior/exoteric institutions of religion. These institutional structures are phase-specific, however. As collective consciousness ascends beyond a specific institutional framework, faith in that religion naturally erodes. For this reason, new religions continually emerge over the course of history to serve the continued advance of consciousness.
The "Age of Reason" and the emergence of rationalism marked Europe's formal differentiation and transcendence of the medieval worldview. In place of superstition and dogma, Enlightenment thinkers sought a more progressive society that was grounded in evidence for beliefs and tolerance towards differing perspectives. A new methodology was established in order to see things "objectively", to see things from the outside. Over time, a differentiated self-consciousness, a mental ego, emerged supported by the rule of law. In place of mythic beliefs, entrenched hierarchy and religious fanaticism would come rational science, technology and faith in human reason.
In place of an ethnocentric mythic-membership, based on a role identity in a hierarchy of other role identities, the Enlightenment sought an ego identity free from ethnocentric bias (the universal rights of man) and based on rational and scientific inquiry. Universal rights would fight slavery, democracy would fight monarchy, the autonomous ego would fight the herd mentality, and science would fight myth: this is how the Enlightenment understood itself (and in many cases, rightly so).
With the Enlightenment, self-consciousness had been raised to a new level. However, this transformation in consciousness did not simply mean the death of religion. Even as this civilization of mental reasoning came to fruition, religion would shape its' social trajectory and moral values. The driving telos of Christianity, its Logos Project, would simply be transformed into a secular vision. As Tarnas notes,
…perhaps the most pervasive and specifically Judaeo-Christian component tacitly retained in the modern world view was the belief in [humanity's] linear historical progress toward ultimate fulfilment. Modern [humanity's] self-understanding was emphatically teleological, with humanity seen as moving in historical development out of a darker past characterised by ignorance, primitiveness, poverty, suffering, and oppression, and toward a brighter ideal future characterised by intelligence, sophistication, prosperity, happiness, and freedom…The original Judaeo-Christian eschatological expectation had here been transformed into secular faith.
Nonetheless, Europe's mythical childhood was coming to a close, and an adolescent humanity was now advancing towards a new worldview. As Wilber suggests, the key to this new worldview was a differentiation of the value spheres, the differentiation of art, science and morals. In the modern era, each domain would now develop independently and without external manipulation. With this cultural advance, however, also came new challenges,
The "bad news" of modernity was that these value spheres did not just peacefully separate, they often flew apart completely. The wonderful differentiations of modernity went too far into actual dissociation, fragmentation, alienation. The dignity became a disaster. The growth became a cancer. As the value spheres began to dissociate, this allowed a powerful and aggressive science to begin to invade and dominate the other spheres, crowding art and morals out of any serious consideration in approaching "reality". Science became scientism- scientific materialism and scientific imperialism- which soon became the dominant "official" worldview of modernity. 
Under the microscope of modernity and its demand for empirical precision, the transcendental essence of religion withered. Instrumental reason emerged as the only legitimate framework for human development. What had begun as an explicitly religious quest for knowledge amongst the first scientific revolutionaries, Newton, Kepler, Galileo and Descartes, was now translated into an equally explicit materialism. The final blow to spirituality came in the form of Darwin's theory of natural evolution, which to the sophisticated modern mind, finally undermined the credibility of divine authority.
Today, the differentiation of the value spheres has become so extreme that it has reached pathological dissociation; each sphere now completely divorced from the others. Moreover, the domain of objective truth, the domain of science, has come to dominate all other dimensions of reality. It would seems that an integral vision is needed in order to overcome this fragmentation. Not by re-imposing a new church doctrine or the dominance of another sphere instead of science, but by recognizing the autonomy and interdependence of each sphere in an unforced and organic unity.
With the demise of religion, scientific materialism has emerged as the predominant worldview. Today, the material universe is seen to be soulless and mechanical. Spirituality has been largely rejected as mere superstition. Matter has become progressively dissociated from consciousness: the quadrants of exteriority divorced from the quadrants of interiority. This unfortunate division has fragmented modern civilization.
On a philosophical level, materialism asserts that "only relative knowledge is valid", and yet to assert this, this statement is made absolutely. One is left asking: "What empirical proof is there that only empirical knowledge is true?" And further, "How can this even be proven?" To add to this, Darwinian evolution has been raised to the status of a dogma. Evolution is understood as a purely chance phenomenon, even though by its very nature, blind chance can never be empirically validated. According to materialism, all of existence should be reduced to its material foundations, to blind mechanics. But if this were true, then all theories of truth would themselves be merely extensions of blind mechanics. In fact, there could be no such thing as theories or truth at all. It would seem that in the modern age, science has been made to do the work of religion. Perhaps instead, we should once again consider the differentiation of the value spheres.
It was necessary for Enlightenment thinkers to drive for revolution, and in so doing transcend the Mythic worldview. Even to this day, modernity has had good reason to be suspicious of religion. However, religious fundamentalism can not be overcome by scientific fundamentalism. As Wilber writes,
The conflict between empirical-science and religion is, and always has been, a conflict between the pseudoscientific aspects of religion and the pseudoreligious aspects of science. To the extent that science remains science and religion remains religion, no conflict is possible.
Could there in fact be new avenues for reuniting the value spheres and healing modernity?
As Wilber suggests, the union of the value spheres is found in integral evolution. His work provides a worldview beyond "scientific materialism". In an attempt to integrate the modern understanding of evolution with the premodern understanding of spirituality, Wilber has attempted to build a postmodern, all-encompassing epistemology of universal development. In so doing, his work offers a broader and deeper framework, linking the central project of human evolution with the perennial need for spiritual growth.
Many thinkers have come to accept the view that human development unfolds in organic stages (e.g., Abraham Maslow's stages of growth needs; Jean Piaget's stages of cognition; Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral reasoning). Human development, Wilber explains, should be understood as an unfolding continuum of consciousness,
At one end of this continuum of being or spectrum of consciousness is what we in the West would call "matter" or the insentient and nonconscious, and at the other end is "spirit" or "Godhead" or the "superconscious" (which is also said to be the all-pervading ground of the entire sequence). Arrayed in between are the other dimensions of being, arranged according to their individual degrees of reality (Plato), actuality (Aristotle), inclusiveness (Hegel), consciousness (Aurobindo), clarity (Leibniz), embrace (Plotinus), or knowingness (Garab Dorje).
Wilber suggests that external assessments of development (technological, political and economic) should be seen alongside interior stages of consciousness evolution. As consciousness ascends this continuum, new stages emerge reflecting an increase in complexity and an increase in the sophistication of values and goals.
Each emerging stage in development satisfies needs not met (needs often repressed) by a previous stage in civilizational growth. Unlike Social Darwinian thinking on evolution, however, Wilber suggests that human evolution is holonic, that is, its development is one of transcend and include. In other words, each stage of evolution is maintained as a living layer -- or holon -- within the next stage of development. Everything is simultaneously a part of something larger than itself (a higher whole), and a whole in its own right made up of its own smaller parts.
There is a growing realization that addressing the challenges confronting modernity will require a more integrative methodology. Within a mere century, materialistic beliefs have established a cultural worldview devoid of interiority. Narrow, disciplinary, and reductionist perceptions of reality are proving inadequate to addressing the complex, interconnected problems of the current age. What modernity has made clear, however, is that human development is multi-faceted, that is, it is made up of interdependent dimensions of reality. Wilber calls these dimensions the intentional, the behavioral, the cultural and the social. Put differently, they are the domain of the "I" (the artistic and psychological), the domain of the "we" (the moral and cultural), and the domains of the "it" and "its" (the scientific and technological). For Wilber, it is the interdependence of these four dimensions or quadrants that constitutes the Integral worldview:
The Upper Left [quadrant] is the interior of the individual (e.g., Freud). The Upper Right is the exterior of the individual (e.g., behaviorism). The Lower Left is the interior of the collective (e.g., the shared cultural values and worldviews explored by interpretive sociology). And the Lower Right is the exterior collective (e.g., the objective social action system studied by systems theory). 
For Wilber, the field of Integral Studies promotes an epistemology of evolution that embraces both the rational, objective world of scientific empiricism and the intuitive, subjective world of spirituality. Following Aurobindo, Wilber suggests that evolution is driven by the progressive manifestation of Mind or Spirit. Unfolding in nature, Spirit's evolution manifests in stages as a naturally ascending holarchy of development. According to Wilber, the Great Chain of Being frames this unfolding: Each stage (including matter, life and mind) reflects Spirit's progressive emancipation:
Each expanding link in the Great Chain of Being represents an increase in unity and wider identities, from the isolated identity of the body through the social and communal identity of the mind to the supreme identity of Spirit, an identity with literally all manifestation. 
Reaching self-consciousness in the advance of human self-awareness, sleeping Spirit is slowly awakened to Its true nature as Transcendent Spirit. Put another way, the highest stages of human consciousness progressively embrace super-conscious states of mind, reaching a level of transpersonal unity. What is needed, then, is a framework that supports the progressive emergence of this spiritual unity...
As Fritjof Capra writes, "we live today in a globally interconnected world, in which biological, psychological, social and environmental phenomena are all interdependent." This interdependence has only been enhanced by the rise of Enlightenment rationality: Reason, by its very nature, is universal, transcending ethnicity, class and nation. But as Wilber writes, the rise of rationality has not yet produced the institutions for a planetary civilization. Cultural evolution may begin in consciousness but in order to achieve objective transformation it must be embodied as moral and political institutions.
As Wilber's Four Quadrant theory suggests, the evolution of civilization is perhaps best understood in terms of the interdependent advance of culture and economy. Or put differently, it is the advance of the intersubjective and interobjective spheres of human evolution. Over the course of history, human civilization has evolved from a techno-economic base of foraging with a tribal worldview to an agrarian base of farming with a mythic worldview to an industrial base of manufacturing with a rational worldview. Today modern civilization is giving way to a planetary society with an information base and an Integral worldview.
Advancing upon contemporary biology, Margaret Wheatley argues that institutions of the future will begin to consciously model themselves upon organic systems. These institutions, she suggests, will be designed to facilitate growth in the context of shared evolution. Much as a living organism, the foundations of humanity's physical unity will ultimately enable the emergence of a collective consciousness. As Pierre Levy argues, in his book Collective Intelligence, the future represents more than an age of information it will be an age of evolution. In this future economy human potential will form the new raw material. As Levy writes,
Those who manufacture things will become scarcer and scarcer, and their labour will become mechanized, augmented, automated to a greater and greater extent. Information processing skills will no longer be needed, for intelligent networks will soon be able to function with little human assistance. The final frontier will be the human itself, that which can't be automated: the creation of sensible worlds, invention, relation, the continuous creation of the community. 
The incredible pace of transformation brought by modernity has displaced the social bonds of virtually every community in the world. Levy argues that the urgent need for social cohesion will, in part, spawn the foundations of a civilization built upon human qualities. He explains that as the world is "deterritorialized" by a capitalist market, national competition will be replaced by a global commons. Issues of ethics and human development will become contingent upon a shared, interdependent and evolving consciousness. What is emerging to facilitate this process is a postmodern planetary religion.
Fundamental to any religion of humanity is an enlightened understanding of evolution. As Laszlo writes, we are starting to comprehend that evolution unfolds through all three planes of existence, the physical, the biological and the psychosocial. This means that evolution occurs not only in nature but in civilization as well. From tribes through to nation states through to an emerging global commonwealth, an evolving unification has been the underlying matrix of social advance. Today, the leading edge of humanity is emerging from modernity in search of a planetary civilization.
For the first time in history it is possible for the entire planet to know itself. Yet an adolescent humanity remains largely imprisoned by petty boundaries: by various prejudices, by narcissism, by a growing moral apathy. As Wilber concludes, any form of integral religion must be grounded in universal pluralism. At the same time, any emerging religion must transcend and include religions of the past. Over the course of history religions and religious philosophies have galvanized cultural development. Today however, the perversion of many of these systems has lead humanity into a moral crisis. The twin forces of religious fundamentalism and moral decay reflect a rising spiritual anomie. Underlying all of these challenges has been a systematic glorification of materialism that now holds humanity captive. Largely ignorant and subjugated masses are unable to articulate or even comprehend their imprisonment. In place of dying religions, modernity has introduced various ideologies which have deified nation, race, or culture. All of which has been compounded by maladies of hunger, disease and exploitation. If our spiritual adulthood is to manifest, humanity will have to transform this tragic state in which it finds itself.
Liberation from this cultural adolescence is ultimately dependent upon a collective realization: The oneness of humanity is the foundation of spiritual adulthood. The unification of the human family is not merely a remote utopian vision but constitutes the next, inescapable stage in the process of social evolution. Until this reality is acknowledged and addressed, none of the ills afflicting our planet will find solutions, because all of these essential challenges are global and universal, not particular or regional. Forging a universal order, however, should not subordinate humanity's rich diversity to an excessive uniformity. Rather, nations, cultures and peoples should be united around their common spiritual evolution. This means, religions too should be respected as indispensable aids to human development. The covenant of such a civilization would be "universal pluralism". Not merely a static system of dogmas but a living spiritual science of ever-advancing civilization. Not merely, rituals of belief, but intuitive and scientific experiences of higher consciousness. An integral religion would mean, in short, a true liberation of the mind and the realization of human agency in the emancipation of Spirit.
Any such religion of humanity would seek to liberate manifest Spirit, and that means (at the very least) liberating humanity from bondage. The key to this liberation lies in building the moral frameworks that support human unity. It means establishing a transnational commonwealth and planetary justice system. It means forging universal education around an Integral curriculum. It means transforming the structures of sectarianism that breed conflict. It means ending the retarding cruelty of prejudice. It means emancipating women from subjugation. It means devising global political and economic models that eliminate hunger and malnutrition. It means establishing the machinery to enforce universal laws. It means, in short, building the necessary superstructure for a planetary civilization. Only as humanity comes to the realization of its' organic unity, will its' adulthood be established.
As Nader Saiedi writes,
The Divine design of Creation can be described schematically as the arc of descent and a corresponding arc of ascent. The arc of descent comprises the stages of creation, while the arc of ascent delineates the path of return to God. 
The distinction between Creation and Return, Ascent and Descent, Transcendence and Immanence is one of perspective. From the view of God, the One becomes the Many, the Transcendent becomes Immanent; from the view of humanity, the Many becomes One, the Immanent becomes Transcendent. The point that is being made here in this a paper is that- in addition to Wilber's transpersonal model of humanity's Ascent- there is a complimentary model of Descent. The holonic sequence of the Western religious traditions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Bahá'í Faith, serve as frameworks for the unfolding of Creation or God's manifestation. Put differently, the Godhead materializes as Creation in stages, and these stages are overseen by developmental frameworks of "Revelation". While (as Wilber makes clear) Ascent -- from the Many to the One -- unfolds, in stages of enlightenment or transpersonal realization, Descent -- from the One to the Many -- unfolds as God's "Kingdom" on earth, or divine civilization. Put simply, evolution is a continuously unfolding relationship of Unity-in-Diversity.
We will examine all of this further below. For now, however, we will take a more rigorous look at the individual traditions that make up the Eastern and Western approaches to spirituality.
2. The Eastern Paradigm: Interior Ascent
Leaving Western religion aside for the moment we will begin by exploring the religious traditions of the Eastern Paradigm. Perhaps the simplest way of describing Eastern spirituality is the realization of Divinity through Yoga. Put differently, Eastern spirituality is transcendental union via psychological discipline. In his book, The Yoga Tradition, Georg Feuerstein examines the phenomenon of Yoga as it appears in Eastern religion. As he observes, India contains perhaps the most diverse expressions of self-transcendence or "God-realization" in the world. Feuerstein writes, "India's great traditions of psycho-spiritual growth understand themselves as paths of liberation. Their goal is to liberate us from our conventional conditioning and hence also free us from suffering…". Feuerstein describes this as verticalism.
Reality is thought to be realizable by inverting attention and then manipulating the inwardly focused consciousness to ascend into ever-higher states in the inner hierarchy of experience until everything is transcended. 
In the Indian formulation, "God is the transcendental totality of existence, which in the nondualist schools of Hinduism is referred to as brahman, or the 'Absolute'. That Absolute is regarded as the essential nature, the transcendental Self, underlying the human personality. Hence, when the unconscious conditioning by which we experience ourselves as independent, isolated egos is removed, we realize that at the core of our being we are all that same One. And this singular Reality is considered the ultimate destination of human evolution."
For Feuerstein, Yoga is psychospiritual technology, enabling the vertical evolution of consciousness. Yoga is ecstasy, or samadhi, "both the technique of unifying consciousness and the resulting state of ecstatic union with the object of contemplation." He elaborates:
The Sanskrit word yoga is most frequently interpreted as the "union" of the individual self (jiva-atman) with the supreme Self (parama-atman). This succinct definition is at home in Vedanta, the dominant branch of Hindu philosophy, which also greatly influenced the majority of Yoga schools. Vedanta proper originated with the ancient esoteric scriptures known as the Upanishads, which first taught the "inner ritual" of meditations upon, and absorption into, the unitary Ground of all existence.
All forms and manifestations of Deity, in fact, are held to be expressions of this root Superconsciousness. The goal of the yogin is to recover this true Identity, to realize the transcendental Super-Consciousness (or "Witness" Self) and thereby affirm: "I am the Absolute" (aham brahma-asmi, or ahambrahmasmi). It is this liberation (mukti, moksha), which is the final objective of all Yoga. The fundamental surface structure of Yoga is the teacher-student relationship. The Hindi word for "student" is chela, or "servant"; the Sanskrit equivalent is shishya, stemming from the verbal root shas, meaning "to instruct" but also "to chastise". In Yoga, this education is compared to a purifying fire that burns away the ego-personality until the transcendental Self is reached. Feuerstein writes,
Yoga, like all forms of esotericism [or mysticism], presupposes the guidance of an initiate, a master who has firsthand experience of the phenomena and realizations of the yogic path [the path of Eros]. Ideally, he or she should have reached the ultimate spiritual destination of all yogic endeavor- enlightenment (bodha, bodhi), or liberation (moksha). 
This emphasis on personal realization clearly differentiates Eastern from Western religion. While in the West, it is the prophet's Revelation that is authoritative; in the East authority rests upon the experience of realization itself. Nonetheless, in both circumstances, teachers or priests serve as formal administrators of spiritual education.
Hinduism: Atman is Brahman
The world is not what it appears to be. Behind this surface life, where we experience the play of life and death, there is a deeper life which knows no death; behind our apparent consciousness, which gives us the knowledge of objects and things…there is…pure…consciousness…Truth…is experienced only by those who turn their gaze inward.
— Swami Prabhavanada
Perhaps Judaism's equivalent in the East, the tradition of Hinduism forms the foundations for the Eastern Paradigm. The earliest Hindu scriptures are the Vedas, possibly composed as early as the fourth millennium BCE. Born out of the Sanskrit-speaking Vedic (or Indus-Sarasvati) civilization of India, the Vedas are a collection of early hymns believed to contain divinely revealed knowledge. The tradition of Yoga emerges out of Vedic religious rituals of sacrifice. The earliest term for Yoga is tapas (Sanskrit for "heat"). In the development of Yoga the original Vedic fire rituals were interiorized and progressively developed into sophisticated forms of contemplation.
The foundation of Vedic religion are complex cosmological rituals of sacrifice. Beginning with the Upanishads (c. 600 BCE), a movement emerged within Hinduism towards interiorizing these Vedic rituals of sacrifice. Over time, while orthodox Brahmin priests maintained the formal spheres of religious observance, monastic movements advanced to lead the spiritual seeker towards higher mystical development. This was a goal implied in Vedic worship, but only made explicit with the Upanishads. External rites of sacrifice were progressively converted into interior rites of renunciation (of inner worship, upasana). It is out of this ideological revolution that the Yoga tradition proper would unfold, eventually leading to the more explicitly monastic religions of Jainism and Buddhism.
This new mystical practice approached the Divine as "unconditional Reality", as Brahman the Absolute (derived from the root brih, meaning "to grow"). As Feuerstein clarifies, "The Upanishadic teachings revolve around four interconnected conceptual pivots: First, the ultimate Reality of the universe is absolutely identical with our innermost nature; that is to say, brahman equals atman, the Self. Second, only the realization of brahman/atman liberates one from suffering and the necessity of birth, life, and death. Third, one's thoughts and actions determine one's destiny- the law of karma: You become what you identify with. Fourth, unless one is liberated and achieves the formless existence of brahman/atman as a result of higher wisdom (jnana), one is perforce reborn into the godly realms, the human world, or lower (demonic) realms, depending on one's karma." 
The Yoga tradition as a whole is actually a diversity of paths and practices, united only in their common goal of spiritual liberation. As Alan Watts points out, this is also termed atma-jnana (Self-knowledge) or atma-bodha (Self-awakening). In the Upanishads we read,
The formless Brahman is the breath and the space within the self…There is nothing higher than this, for it is the Real of the real.
— Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad
There are at least six independent Yoga schools, each appealing to a different perspective on liberation. They are: Raja-Yoga (or "royal Yoga"; the way of meditative introversion); Hatha-Yoga (the way of bodily transmutation); Jnana-Yoga (or philosophical yoga, the way of "knowledge" or "gnosis"); Bhakti-Yoga (the way of "devotional love"); Karma-Yoga (the way of self-less actions); and Mantra-Yoga (the way of sacred sound).
According to Hindu mythology, creation is the act of God's self-dismemberment- or self-forgetting- in which the One becomes the Many. As Brahman or the Absolute has sacrificed to make manifest the universe, so too must humanity sacrifice in order to return to Brahman. As Parrinder explains, "this unity, indeed identity, of the soul and the divine Being, was called a-dvaita, non-duality, not-twoness". 
Bees collect the juices from different trees and reduce them to unity so that they cannot distinguish whether they are the juice of this tree or that. So when creatures merge into Being, they do not know what individuals they were formerly. Similarly, when rivers flow into the sea they do not know their former individuality, but they become that Being. 
Indian philosophy therefore is the means to this end, and only secondarily a system of ideas and conceptualized epistemology. Exactly as an actor abandoning his or her part, each must awaken to God; this is moksha or liberation. In this regard, liberation can only be described in terms of what it is not, since it is a return to the Whole and transcendent of all conditions. Brahman is without opposite, without duality (advaita). It is prior to phenomena but not opposite to or other than phenomena.
All manifestation therefore is referred to as maya, as an illusion or veil, covering the underlying Reality of Brahman much as the letters written here cover this blank page. In other words, maya is relative and interdependent, the realm of contrast and duality, while Brahman simply cannot be reified. Even classification and description of Brahman as "Brahman" is maya because it suggests specific identity. In this way, Hindus (as well Buddhists) refer to Absolute Reality as empty. This is not to say that all things are simply One (Monism) because ultimately, there was never any "thing" to begin with, at base all manifestations are empty of self-existence.
Jainism: Liberation from Karma
For both Jainism and Buddhism the goal of spirituality is enlightenment or Nirvana. Jains believe that the universe is eternal, fluctuating through cycles of emergence and dissolution. They believe that within each cycle there manifests Jinas or Tirthankaras- "fordmakers"- who teach humanity the way to salvation. The most recent fordmaker, according to Jainism, has been Mahavira or "great hero" (599-527 BCE). In Jain theology, the universe is alive with eternal souls, but these souls (much like the Hindu atman) are imprisoned in matter. Undergoing a disciplined practice of purification- including vegetarianism, fasting and penance, the goal of Jainism is to attain liberation from matter's hold (or karma). Liberation or Nirvana means reaching the summit of the universe. Parrinder explains,
The soul is eternal and indestructible, but is bound by karmic matter from which it must be freed to rise to Nirvana. There is no Supreme Being to help in this struggle and the... gods are themselves caught in the round of transmigration, while the liberated Jinas are free from all concern with the world. The soul, by discipline and knowledge, frees itself and rises through the spheres of the universe, changing colour as it goes from dark to light. Jain texts compare its progress to a bubble rising to the surface of water, or to a gourd whose clay covering melts away in water so that it bobs up to the surface. Thus the soul, rid of karmic matter, rises from the imprisonment of the world up to the ceiling of the universe. Beyond the gods and all currents of transmigration, the soul abides forever in solitary bliss in Nirvana. 
What is perhaps most striking about Jainism, however, is its moral precepts, particularly its central teaching of nonviolence (or nonharming), ahimsa. This principle was greatly influential to Gandhi and later to Martin Luther King. For Jains, one may alter one's karma (moral consequences), even achieve liberation but only through following moral rules. To compensate for negative actions and reverse the flow of karma, one should engage in penance, particularly kind actions towards animals, who, like humanity, are also manifestations of Spirit. According to Jain teachings, there are fourteen stages of spiritual emancipation, known as the levels of virtue (guna-sthana). Like Hindu and Buddhist Yoga, the goal for the Jain contemplative is to awaken from the delusion (mithya-drishti) of finite material existence.
Buddhism: Reaching Enlightenment
Similar to Jainism, Buddhism seeks Nirvana through monastic discipline. Advancing upon the path of Raja-Yoga, Buddhism is very likely the most explicitly psychological of all the world's religions. Unlike Hinduism, it is ambivalent about the existence of a personal God, philosophical or otherwise. Rather, Buddhism focuses exclusively upon the experience of Nirvana or enlightenment itself, methodically seeking to penetrate to the very core of the Absolute. Pursuing a missionary approach to delivering these teachings, Buddhist scriptures elaborate various practical methods for achieving mystical realization.
According to Buddhist scripture, Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 BCE) was born to a royal family. Striking out to obtain enlightenment at the age of twenty-nine, he achieved this goal at the age of thirty-five (hence the honourific title, siddha meaning "accomplished" and artha meaning "object"). Tradition accounts that Gautama reached enlightenment while meditating under a fig tree (known as the bodhi or "enlightenment" tree) and emerged the "awakened one" (or buddha). 
Upon his enlightenment the Buddha set about building monasteries to liberate others. Having experienced both decadent luxuries in his early life and cruel self-abnegation as a wandering ascetic, the Buddha believed that enlightenment could only be found in the "Middle Way". As Alan Watts explains, Guatama realized that the search for enlightenment was itself a paradox: "however much he concentrated upon his own mind to find its root and ground, he found only his own effort to concentrate". Guatama came to understand that the ground of human existence-- Brahman-- could not be grasped (this is a hand seizing itself) rather, it must be surrendered to.
The Buddha taught that human life is dominated by instinct or attachment to physical existence, by the "thirst for life" (trishna). The ignorance of this was the cause of human suffering. Suffering was the result of samsara, grasping for permanent existence in the realm of impermanence or maya. The goal, therefore, of meditation was the elimination of this thirst through detachment and the gradual realization of one's true Nature- as prior Consciousness. Any reification of consciousness in conceptualizations such as the self or the atman, were negated as maya because only the "fabric" of Brahman was Real. The Buddhist formulation was anatman or no-self. As Robert Ellwood clarifies,
One of the fundamental points of Buddhist psychology, and a key to understanding the whole system on a deep level, is Anatman- "no self". This Buddhist teaching can be compared to the Upanishadic doctrine that the Atman, the innermost self or soul, is really identical with Brahman. The Buddhist negative expression Anatman, or no self, is a difference of emphasis rather than a contradiction, for if the self is simply the one universal Brahman, it is also "no self" in any individualistic sense. But the difference points to the Buddhist tendency to psychological analysis rather than ontological statement. 
In other words, it is a difference in emphasis rather than a difference in theology. Put simply, this realization of Nirvana might be called "a-karma", that is, cessation or release, of exertion returning to rest.
Some time after the Buddha's death, the religion he began split into two forms which continue to this day: Theravada (the "Path of the Elders"), its classical form, and emerging later, Mahayana (the "Great Vehicle"). Mahayana regarded its senior as too individualistic, too self-interested, because it sought enlightenment for the yogi or arhant ("worthy one") alone. In response, it introduced the ideal of the compassionate savior or Bodhisattva (meaning being, sattva, dedicated to enlightenment, bodhi). While the Bodhisattva could achieve complete enlightenment he or she would do so only after serving the liberation of others. This was a logical realization considering that all multiplicity is unified as manifestations of Brahman: In liberating others, one is merely liberating one's self in disguise.
In Mahayana the conception of Nirvana itself was altered. It was observed that samara and Nirvana were not entirely different, that one does not "go anywhere" to enter Nirvana. The Bodhisattva experiences both Nirvana and samara, because Nirvana is not a place to be obtained and neither is samsara more than illusion. As Feuerstein explains,
The famous Mahayana formula is nirvana equals samsara; that is, the immutable transcendent Reality is identical with the world of impermanence, and vice versa. What this means is that the realm of changeable forms is inherently empty (shunya) and that nirvana must not be sought outside samsara.
This was expressed by the thinker Nagarjuna (c.150-250) simply as "Emptiness", meaning the underlying source of all phenomenal manifestation was the same fluid "no-thing-ness". In this way, Emptiness was (metaphorically speaking) both immanent as form and transcendent as Nirvana.
Unlike the Theravadan understanding, in Mahayana, liberation was not found in release from the world, but rather in the transcendence from the illusion of the world, that is- in consciousness itself. In the Yogacara formulation introduced by Nagarjuna's successors, the brothers Asanga and Vasubandhu (c. 280-360), form was interpreted as a projection of Mind or Consciousness,
[Mind] is beyond all philosophical views, is apart from discrimination, it is not attainable, nor is it ever born: I say there is nothing but Mind. It is not an existence, nor is it a non-existence; it is indeed beyond [or prior to] both existence and non-existence…Out of Mind spring innumerable things, conditioned by discrimination [i.e., classification] and habit-energy; these things people accept as an external world…What appears to be external does not exist in reality; it is indeed Mind that is seen as multiplicity; the body, property and abode- all these, I say, are nothing but Mind.
— Lankavatara Sutra, 154, 29-30, 32-33.
In the Mahayana formulation, it was the "Buddha-nature" within which drives humanity to seek liberation in Nirvana. As Zen (a form of Mahayana Buddhism in China and Japan) instructs: "To study the way of the Buddha is to study your own self. To study your own self is to forget yourself." As Alan Watts explains, the "Buddhist yoga therefore consists in reversing the process, in stilling the discriminative activity of the [rational] mind, and letting the categories of maya fall back into potentiality so that the world may be seen in its unclassified 'suchness'." In his book, The Religion of the Samurai, Kaiten Nukariya summarizes for a Western audience the Zen notion of enlightenment:
Having set ourselves free from the misconception of the Self, next we must awaken our innermost wisdom, pure and divine, called the Mind of the Buddha, or Bodhi, or Prajna by Zen Masters. It is the divine light, the inner heaven, the key to all moral treasures, the source of all influence and power, the seat of kindness, justice, sympathy, impartial love, humanity, and mercy, the measure of all things.
We can see from these Eastern traditions, particularly Buddhism, the path of interior or psychological transcendence that Wilber describes as the Eros Project. It is precisely in Hinduism's transition from ritual to Yoga that Eros is given its most sophisticated institutionalization. It is this transition that would continue to bear fruit in many forms over the course of history. What is most important to keep in mind here is that the Eastern Paradigm introduces a transpersonal psychology of human development. We will now examine the Western Paradigm so that we might ultimately integrate the transpersonal psychology of the East and the transpersonal sociology of the West in one form.
3. The Western Paradigm: Serving Divine Descent
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed way.
— Revelation 21:1-4
What makes the Western paradigm a course of Descent, is its explicit emphasis on serving God through prophetic revelation. It is this service which paradoxically enables sociocultural Ascent towards the eventual "Kingdom" on earth. As we have seen, the sequence of spiritual evolution in both Eastern and Western traditions is punctuated by Divine Descent, by emissaries of God. As we shall attempt to show here, it is through this process of progressive revelation in the Western religions that the "Divine Kingdom" (both literally and figuratively) descends to earth. This final end to history, or "Day of God" is the most essential aspect of the Western Paradigm. All religions within the Western Paradigm speak of a final end and call for repentant obedience to the Will of God before the coming "Kingdom". This eschatological conviction has been the central axis of the Western Paradigm for the past two thousand years.
In practical terms, the Western paradigm follows the path of eschatological agency, of action towards the teleological goal of divine civilization. It is this emphasis on agency within the matrix of sociological development that we shall see is the thesis of the Western paradigm. To illustrate this Logos or path of Descent we need only begin with the Book of Genesis. In the Western traditions humanity is created as stewards over the earth, as trustees of the Divine. The Judeo-Christian Bible opens with: "God created the heavens and the earth," and pronounced it "very good". And further, "The Lord God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it" (Genesis 2:15). As Smith writes, the "entire arc of Western thought, from its science through its philosophy to its religion, remains firmly and affirmatively oriented toward Nature. In specialization, Western humanity has been, par excellence, the natural philosopher". 
As we said at the outset, the Western religious traditions find their roots in Judaism. Beginning with Judaism, history becomes teleology. As Smith observes, "The real impact of the ancient Jews…lies in the extent to which Western civilization took over their angle of vision on the deepest questions life poses." In the Judeo-Christo-Islamic worldview, history becomes defined as the matrix for moral evolution. Through this worldview social life becomes a dialectical struggle between what is and what should be, between manifest existence and divine ideal. Through the moral protests within the Hebrew Bible, social evolution becomes a driving engine of modern Western civilization. 
God reveals Himself to the Jews (and later to the Christians and Muslims) through His actions in the course of history. This is the fundamental difference between the Eastern and the Western paradigms. As Bernard Anderson writes,
In Hinduism, for instance, the world of sense experience is regarded as maya, illusion; the religious man [or woman], therefore, seeks release from the wheel of life in order that [their] individuality may fade out into the World-Soul, Brahma. [This is] vastly different from the Biblical claim that God is found within limitations of the world of change and struggle, and especially that he reveals himself in events which are unique, particular, and unrepeatable. For the Bible, history is neither maya nor a circular process of nature; it is the arena of God's purposive activity. 
While in Hinduism liberation from nature (and union with Brahman) is the goal of spiritual development, in the Abrahamic traditions, God is at once transcendent from nature and yet also intimately related with nature as its Creator. "By that double stroke of involving human life with the natural order but not confining it to that order, Judaism established history as both important and subject to critique." More exactly, Judaism establishes human history as the medium for sociocultural evolution.
Judaism: The Law of God
The bedrock of the Jewish Faith is the Torah or "holy teaching". According to tradition the Torah is divine instruction revealed through the prophet Moses to the "people of Israel" (Num. 16:28). The Torah consists of the Five Books of Moses (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. In obedience to the instructions of the Torah, the Jews see themselves as the dedicated servants of God, as His "chosen people". David Ariel puts it this way,
The chosen people are a spiritual nation with a unique mission and purpose. Jewish spirituality is the experience of the transcendent dimension of life as an individual and as a member of a people. This spirituality, however, is not otherworldly but rather emphasizes the belief that the truest path to God does not involve leaving the concerns of this world…Jewish teachings emphasize that a human being is a ladder placed on earth whose top touches heaven. This does not mean that we are to transcend this world in order to view it as inferior to the heavenly world. God created this world in order to give heaven a resting place. God gave this world to Adam and Eve in order that they and their descendants might make of it something heavenly. The sacred Jewish myth does not draw the Jew up to heaven; it draws heaven down to the Jew… 
In this simple statement: "Judaism draws heaven down to the Jew", Ariel concisely summarizes the Logos Project.
The locus of the Torah is a radical belief in monotheism, in a single transcendent creator God who governs the universe and who is the eternal Source of all existence. According to Judaism, God is beyond description but is revealed metaphorically in scripture. God is transpersonal, transrational and transnatural, "He" is fundamentally other. In practice, the commandments of the Torah (mizvot) form a moral architecture sanctifying the Jewish people, placing them under the complete authority of Yahweh. For the Jewish people the commandments give outward demonstration to the inner religious experience, drawing the Transcendent into ordinary life. The mizvot legislate a way of life (Halakah) for the Jewish people and the manner for relating to God. Halakah prescribes what to say during daily prayer and religious observances, when to pray, what to eat, and how Jews are to relate to one another in their social behaviour. Halakah is the spiritual path Jews are to follow and the means for governing the community. In this way religious belief and social morality are united in one form. Put simply, Jewish law represents the medium for hallowing human existence in order to make possible the Descent of Spirit.
Above all else, Judaism's God is a moral God. His morality, codified as law, is the developmental axis of Jewish spirituality. Mysteriously made in the image of God, humanity is to worship Him through the Torah and become like Him, shunning all other mediums or "idols" of worship. As Ariel observes:
The belief in a moral God shaped the character of the Jewish religion from its beginning. Because people are created in the image of God, any offense against another person is an offense against God. The call to imitate the moral character of God is the challenge placed before every human being.
This spiritual awareness is not merely expected of the Jewish people it is demanded. In Judaism the Jew has the responsibility to develop holiness, to overcome evil through his or her deeds. Since each person is a unique reflection of God, the life of one individual is held as equivalent to the life of all.
The spokesman of God is Moses. He is perceived in Judaism as the greatest of all human prophets because he spoke to God "face to face" (Num. 12:8, Ex. 33:11). According to the Hebrew Bible, Moses, serving as God's messenger, delivered the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt and introduced them to the sacred Torah:
Then Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, "Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites."
— Ex. 19:3-6
Through Moses, the people of Israel are governed by a relational contract, a "covenant" (berit) so that they may serve as God's unique agents. Since God is the universal judge of humanity- rewarding the righteous and punishing the unjust- Jews believe they have a very unique responsibility. As God's "chosen people" the Jews are often personified in the Torah as His "suffering servants", both persecuted by other nations and even punished by God Himself. Ultimately, however, God's Kingdom awaits them for their service.
Infusing this relationship between God and Israel is a conviction that the history of the world is meaningful, that it is teleological and eschatological. History is understood as the progressive establishment of God's kingdom on earth, culminating in the "Messianic Era". In this final time, God's authority is to be absolute, governing humanity through the Torah's commandments in the person of an ideal saviour-king. As the medieval theologian Maimonides writes,
The great benefits which will occur in those days include our release from oppression by other kingdoms which prevents us from fulfilling all the commandments- a widespread increase of wisdom, in accordance with the Scriptural promise: "For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Is. 11:9)- and the end of wars, again in accordance with the scriptural statement: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more"
— (Micah 4:3).
This eschatological belief in divine civilization forms the spine of the Western paradigm and we shall examine this more closely as it manifests in Christianity, Islam and finally the Bahá'í Faith.
Christianity: Theology as Eschatology
What Judaism and Christianity especially share in common is the figure of the Messiah. As Ariel observes, "it is primarily through the spread of Christian teaching, from the early Jewish Christians to the later Gentiles, that the Jewish messianism has become a part of world culture." In fact, it is this issue of messianism that joins the Abrahamic traditions together in sequence.
For the apostle Paul, himself a Jew, Christianity was the progressive development of Judaism, transcending and including the religious covenant of Israel. Paul writes,
It is not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called [Gen. 21:12]. That is, They which are the children of flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.  [Gen. 18:10,14]
— Roman 9:6-9
Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham,saying, In thee shall nations be blessed.
— Galatians 3:6-8
Following the Jewish tradition, Christianity sees itself as the continuation of a dialectical relationship between God and human civilization. For the Christian theologian Jürgen Moltmann, messianism- or more specifically, eschatology- is the central thesis through which the Christian religion is to be understood. In the face of the suffering of humanity, Christianity is for Moltmann, the promise of hope, of humanity's resurrection from death and the erection of God's authority over the earth.
According to Moltmann, in Jesus the Christ, the future kingdom is present, but as future kingdom; Christ's resurrection is the first fruits of the future resurrection of humanity. For Moltmann, God is manifest in the way in which His future masters the present. The future is the mode of God's being. It is in the future kingdom that God's glory is made manifest and His authority made visible. Moltmann elucidates,
[Christianity] inquires after the kingdom of the God who raises the dead, on the basis of the appearances of the risen Christ. It inquires after the future of God and proclaims his coming, in proclaiming Christ. Christian theology begins with the eschatological problem, introduced by Jesus' proclamation of the kingdom and the appearances of the risen one.
Since Christian theology raises the question of God on the basis of the Christ event, it asks for God in that it asks for the coming kingdom of God. It introduces the question of the future in which God is immediately and universally God. It begins with the real misery, the godlessness, and the godforsakeness of [humanity] and the world as it becomes manifest as true misery in the cross of Christ. It recognizes in the resurrection of the crucified one the initiative of God for overcoming the predicament of [humanity] and the world. 
According to Moltmann, since the beginning of the early Church, Christianity's native focus of concern has always been the "end of history"- the eschatological parousia. He writes,
In Greek, parousia means the coming and the arrival of persons and events. One speaks of the parousia of a ruler, but also of the parousia of the gods at sacred places and at sacred times. Also Israel knew the parousia of its God in the tent of the covenant, in theophanies and the calling of the prophets. It knew the parousia of its God in history (song of Deborah), his coming for judgement and for the salvation of his people and his worldwide and final coming in the glory of his kingdom, as well as in prophecy. Parousia as description of Christ's coming in glory penetrates the thinking of primitive Christianity since St. Paul. The word is never used with respect to Christ's having come in the flesh, but always only for the imminent coming of the glorified one in messianic glory, so that parousia never signifies coming again, but rather the future of the historical Jesus Christ, which implies his universal advent. 
Jesus is the "Lamb of sacrifice", the prototypical servant of God's Kingdom and demonstration of God's love for humanity. His crucifixion serves as vehicle for the resurrection of humanity, as substitute for its transgressions. In Jesus, the Kingdom of God is revealed but is not yet culminated. "Since…the being of God is present as future, but not as yet as eternal presence, it constitutes history as the time of hope." As Moltmann explains, Christian life and Christian faith (in the promise of the future dominion of God) are the leading edge of the emerging kingdom. Christ signifies the dawn of this coming age: "Through his death Jesus became historical. Through his resurrection he became eschatological." For Moltmann, this future is not determined by past events, it makes itself known in the course of history through God's messengers. It descends from eternity as revelation. In other words, in the person of Jesus, Christianity extends the God of salvation history to the Gentiles. In response, humanity is merely to prepare itself, to make itself obedient in faith.
Christians are commissioned through faith to serve God in anticipation of the final end. Moltmann perceives Judeo-Christianity as a war against misery and the Christian identity as that of agent in the unfolding Kingdom of God. He writes,
…Christian ethics is the forward-moving, evolutionary and revolutionary initiative for the overcoming of [humanity's] bodily predicament and the plight of injustice.
The eschatological concept of history in which the faith in the reality-prolepsis of God's future in the crucified Christ becomes conscious of itself is no theory of world history and no illumination of the history of existence, but a "battle doctrine" with the cross as a victory emblem. This concept does not want to interpret the world religiously, but wants to transform it through creation of the obedience of faith. 
For Moltmann, religion is the protest against injustice that has set in motion the pattern of revolution and transformation which now characterizes modern civilization. In response to the world's injustice, Christians are to engage in apostolic service, overturning all conditions that sustain human misery. This mission, argues Moltmann, is the heart of Judeo-Christianity:
How does the mission of the Christians for the future of the world realize itself? It cannot be realized in contemplation, since contemplation relates to that which has come into existence or to the eternally existing. The future of the world that Christians hope for, however, is in its reality something still expected and thus also something still originating and coming. The Christian hope in the Spirit anticipates this future and brings it into the present. This means that Christian hope must be creative and militant…We are construction workers and not only interpreters of the future whose power in hope as well as in fulfilment is God (Metz). The Christians must understand themselves as "co-workers" of the promised kingdom of God and its universal peace and righteousness. 
As Moltmann observes, the figure of Christ serves as a living channel beyond history and a window into its completion. In believing in Jesus as Messiah, humanity is raised in consciousness above the instincts, resurrected from its slumber in nature and united with its own teleological completion. While in the Eros Project, humanity rises to heaven inwardly through the Ascent of consciousness, here, in the Logos Project, progressive revelation and, the spiritual service it requires, delivers the kingdom of God to earth. Indeed, for St. Augustine, this eschatological dominion was described metaphorically as the "City of God". In his famous comparison of this spiritual ideal with its "earthly" equivalent Augustine writes:
We see then that the two cities were created by two kinds of love: the earthly city was created by self-love reaching the point of contempt for God, the Heavenly City by the love of God carried as far as contempt of self. In fact, the earthly city glories in itself, the Heavenly city glories in the Lord… The earthly lifts up its head in its own glory, the Heavenly City says to its God: 'My glory; you lift up on my head.' (Psalm 3:3) 
And ultimately, we see this "Heavenly City", illustrated in Christian scripture at the close of the New Testament, as descending to earth:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed way.
— Revelation 21:1-4
Taken together there is a double movement here: Moltmann's sociological Ascent towards Heaven and Heaven's Descent through the course of revelation in the "Holy City" to come. We shall explore the global dimensions of this spiritual society with the Bahá'í Faith, but first we must examine this ideal through the Revelation of the Prophet Muhammad.
Islam: Serving the Reality of God
The essence of Islam is consciousness of the Reality of God. In the Quran we read:
Roam the earth and see how Allah conceived the Creation. Then Allah will create the Second Creation. Allah has power over all things; He punishes whom He will and shows mercy to whom He pleases. To Him you shall be recalled. Neither on earth nor in heaven shall you escape His reach; nor have you any beside Allah to protect or to help you.
The religion of Islam teaches that creation is contingent upon the absolute Reality of God. "Islam" literally means submission or surrender to God. "Only God is God", La ilaha ill' Allah. Only Allah[iv] is absolute Reality. It is the spiritual clarity of the realization of this that is the heart of Islam. For Muslims, it is not simply a corruption of the will that isolates humanity from God but a corruption of the mind -- a spiritual amnesia. In this regard, it is humanity that is veiled not God. Moreover, this amnesia necessitates revelation to awaken humanity and return it to its Divine nature (fitra). It is humanity's negligence (ghaflah) of Reality and of its' true identity that must be overcome through islam.
As Seyyed Hossein Nasr observes in his book Ideals and Realities of Islam,
The revelation of the religious message is actually the opening of heaven to the human receptacle. Either it descends like lightning and leaves its effect rapidly or it flows like water and seeps in gradually. In both cases what exists before tumbles down and a new creation comes about. 
In Islam, (as with the whole of the Western paradigm) humanity's identity is found in being a channel of God's grace and thereby in serving God's will. In order to maintain this clarity, Islam (like Judaism) requires a covenant (al-mithaq) with God in the form of religious law. The supreme symbol of this relationship is the black stone of the Ka'ba in Mecca. Nasr explains,
To accept the Divine covenant brings up the question of living according to the Divine Will. The very name of Islam is intimately connected with this cardinal idea. The root 'salama' in Arabic, from which Islam is derived, has two meanings, one peace and the other surrender. He who surrenders himself to the Divine Will gains peace. The very idea of Islam is that through the use of intelligence which discerns between the Absolute and the relative one should come to surrender to the Will of the Absolute. This is the meaning of Muslim: one who has accepted through free choice to conform his [or her] will to the Divine Will. 
The pivot of Islam is Unity (tawhid), meaning God is one. "Unity is, in addition to a metaphysical assertion about the nature of the Absolute, a method of integration, a means of becoming whole and realizing the profound oneness of all existence." This means both unity in nature and unity in human society. In this way, Islam does not distinguish between the "spiritual" and the "political", they are indivisible expressions of God's creation. For Islam, all religions are equally expressions of one Divine outpouring, and all prophets are teachers of different aspects of this Unity. Muslims believe that Islam is the primal monotheism of Abraham in finalized form. Moreover, they maintain that surrender to God ("facing towards God") is the authentic character of humanity.
From the Islamic perspective, humanity is a theomorphic being created as God's trustee over creation, as God's vicegerent or khalifah on earth. In humanity, God has created a mirror of His own Names and Qualities. There is, therefore, a divine purpose to humanity, a higher nature (malakuti). In order to actualize this, Islam has been sown as a seed in the human soul, as a bridge between humanity and the Divine Essence (al-adhat). The Quran reads: "Serve Him and be patient in His service" (Surah 19:65). In this service, the Muslim is bound in discipline to "the straight path", to humility, moral duty, patience, and inner quiet.
Islam begins with the Prophet Muhammad (570-632). Muhammad is the envoy of God, much as Moses and Jesus before him, called out by the archangel Gabriel to proclaim God's unity and sovereignty. He is simultaneously the religious, political and military leader of the religion, having managed (within his short lifetime) to bring all of Arabia under the authority of the Islamic Revelation. As Muslims point out, "Islam is a religion based not upon the personality of the founder but on Allah Himself". For Muslims, Muhammad is both the channel of God's designs and also the perfect exemplar of humanity's final actualization. As Nasr writes, Muhammad is the mirror in which God contemplates universal existence: outwardly he is the messenger of God's Will to humanity, but inwardly he is identical with the Logos, the Divine Intellect. As the Prophets before him, Muhammad is alchemically transformed by its Light . 
The instrument of God's Will for humanity is the Quran,
The Quran for the Muslim is the revelation of God and the book in which His message to [humanity] is contained. It is the Word of God revealed to the Prophet through the archangel Gabriel. The Prophet was therefore the instrument chosen by God for the revelation of His Word, of His book of which both the spirit and the letter, the content and the form, are Divine. Not only the content and the meaning comes from God but also the container and form which are thus an integral aspect of revelation.
…In other religions the 'Descent of the Absolute' has taken other forms, but in Islam as in other Semitic religions but with more emphasis, revelation is connected with a 'book' and in fact Islam envisages the followers of all revealed religions [i.e., Judaism and Christianity] as 'people of the Book' (ahl al-kitab). 
Revealed to Muhammad in segments over the course of twenty-three years, the Quran is, for Muslims, nothing less than a miracle. Continuing from the Jewish and Christian Revelations, the Quran is presented as their culmination. As Kenneth Cragg explains, the "Quran is the culminatory truth from all the past, enfolding God's education of humanity through the prophets, of whom Muhammad is the seal. Thus it sees history as preparation for itself". The Holy Quran is, for Islam, nothing less than the living presence of God's grace (barakah) and a window into the Divine Mind.
As Nasr explains, "The Islamic conception of history is one of a series of cycles of prophecy, each cycle followed by a gradual decay leading to a new cycle or phase." According to Islam, a new age comes about through Divine Revelation, each rejuvenated civilization building upon the last. As Nasr explains, the "Divine Will was revealed in Judaism [through Moses] in the form of a concrete law according to which the daily life of [humanity] should be molded". Somewhat differently, "Christ and the Christian revelation…represent the esoteric aspect of the Abrahamic tradition, the internal dimension of the primordial religion." Nasr explains, that as Judaism emphasizes the exoteric dimension of the Abrahamic tradition (or the Western Paradigm) and as Christianity emphasizes the esoteric dimension, Islam integrates the two; in both an exoteric law, shari'ah and an esoteric way, tariqah. He writes,
Moreover, it can be said that in a sense Judaism is essentially based on the fear of God, Christianity on the love of Him and Islam on the knowledge of Him although this is only a matter of emphasis, each integral religion containing of necessity all these three fundamental aspects of the relation between [humanity] and God.
Islam is foremost an explicit social order, "the House of Islam". Like Judaism, the matrix of the Islamic Faith is Divine Law, the Shari'ah. Shari'ah is the concrete embodiment of the Divine Will according to which a Muslim should live. Unlike Christianity (in which the esoteric dimensions of Judaism were grafted onto the exoteric administration of Rome), in Islam the Shari'ah is the surface structure of Islamic civilization. As Nasr writes,
It is the way by which [humanity] is able to give religious significance to [its'] daily life and be able to integrate this life into a spiritual center. [Humanity] lives in multiplicity; [it] lives and acts according to multiple tendencies within [itself], some of which issue from animal desires, others from sentimental or rational or yet spiritual aspects of [its] being…The Divine Law is like a network of injunctions and attitudes which govern all of human life…[It] is the means by which unity is realized in human life.
The Muslim family is the basic unit of Islamic society and its' miniature. In it, the "man or father functions as the [authority] in accordance with the patriarchal nature of Islam." In addition every Muslim must pray at sunrise, noon, afternoon, sunset and night with the purpose of keeping sober and awake from the amnesia that negligence induces. Like the Torah, the Shari'ah is for Islam the means of spiritualizing human society:
In the Islamic perspective God has revealed the Shari'ah to [humanity] so that through it [humanity] can reform [itself] and [its'] society…The presence of the Shari'ah in the world is due to the compassion of God for his creatures so that he has sent an all encompassing Law for them to follow and thereby to gain felicity in both this world and the next. The Shari'ah is thus the ideal for human society and the individual. It provides meaning for all human activities and integrates human life. It is the norm for the perfect social and human life and the necessary basis for all flights of the spirit from the periphery to the Center. To live according to the Shari'ah is to live according to the Divine Will, according to a norm which God has willed for [humanity]. 
Undoubtedly, the most controversial aspect of Islam is the principle of Jihad, (particularly in light of the events of September 11, 2001). As we said in the beginning of this paper, the focus of the Western paradigm is eschatological agency and the goal of this process is divine civilization. Jihad literally means "exertion" or "struggle"; it is the divine campaign for justice in the world of creation. Jihad is applied to both inner purification as islam and outer purification as the eschatological Kingdom of God on earth. Muslims are encouraged to maintain sabr, "toughness" or patient vigilance, reaching inner peace before the final Day of God. Cragg explains it like this, "The Quranic sabr…presupposes triumph. It is an outlasting of evil, rather than its transmuting. Its task is to outstay all opposition so that the good of prophecy is not overcome by the enmity of unbelief". 
Here again we see eschatological agency as the axis of the divine in Western religion. History is eschatology for Islam: a developmental sequence of progressive revelation. As Cragg writes,
It is this historical review [within Biblical Scripture] of the past in the present which gives to the Quran and Islam the characteristic quality of Jihad, or struggle in the deepest and non-technical sense of that term. The very sequence of the prophets is a sequence of law and claim, of insubordination and nemesis. The logic within it is the unremitting necessity of struggle and the necessary sinews of strength. To bring a divine message is to incur a human enmity and so, in turn, to enter a trial of stamina and resolve, of the will and the means to outstay opposition. Noah at length rides securely over the inundation of ridicule. The lonely Abraham, breaking down his people's idols, incurs and survives persecution. The maligned and rejected Joseph finds a providence in his tribulations which brings him to the seat of utmost power. Joseph and Moses especially, with David, are exemplars of the conjoining of prophecy and power, of the representative of the divine will properly becoming the holder of the human government. In this logic, suffering is present as preliminary to redress. It is that which has to be endured before it can be terminated. It bears the odds until they can be evened and reversed. The successful eventuality is held open by the refusal to be denied it, and this demands persistence and noncompromise. History, then, by this toughness of will and under the divine hand, will yield the proper verdict. 
It is in this holonic unfolding of God's revelation that we see the true unity of the Western paradigm. Through the sacrifice of manifold prophets who accept suffering as a vocation, humanity is spiritually resurrected. It is in these liberators of humanity that the course of history is revealed as moral agency. Indeed, as Cragg eloquently puts it, in fidelity to God, loyalty as a message becomes a mission and its confession a campaign. 
In Islam, political authority is conjoined with spiritual destiny. It is as trustees of creation and servants of God, that Islam sees the purpose and meaning of "civilization".
And…the Lord said to the angels,
"I am setting in earth a viceroy."
Through Muhammad as Prophet, the Divine Will is made manifest on earth, preparing the ground for God's Holy Kingdom. Through Islam, Muhammad returns humanity to its created nature, fitrah, and to its Divine purpose as khalifahs over the earth. Humanity as a whole, in turn, is unified in its obedience to God through Divine Law. For Muslims, the Quran is the anchor of this Reality. Simply put, the locus of Islamic civilization is the recognition of God, such that every action becomes a channel of the Divine.
The Bahá'í Faith: Divine Civilization
In his book, The Eternal Quest for God, Julio Savi introduces the principles of the Bahá'í Faith. He writes,
As [humanity] comes to realize and know the world of [God's] Kingdom within [its self], [it] will manifest [this Reality] in society as well. It is thus that civilization is born. Civilization itself- in its twofold aspect of material civilization, with its offspring of science and technology, and of divine civilization, with its progressive stages as regards [humanity's] awareness of spiritual reality and the higher stages of cooperation and unity within society…
Bahá'ís believe that their founder Bahá'u'lláh, has inaugurated a divine dispensation destined to unify the whole of humankind. Bahá'u'lláh claimed that he is the most recent prophet or "Manifestation of God", in the course of humanity's spiritual evolution. Bahá'ís believe that all the world's religions are divinely inspired, and that each Prophet-Founder- including Moses, Jesus and Mohammed in the West, and Krishna and Buddha in the East- are the fundamental cause of humanity's advance. According to Bahá'u'lláh, now nearing its spiritual maturity, humanity is at last capable of cultivating a single interdependent civilization. He writes:
This is the day in which God's most excellent favours have been poured out upon [humanity], the Day in which His most mighty grace hath been infused into all created things. It is incumbent upon all peoples of the world to reconcile their differences, and, with perfect unity and peace, abide beneath the shadow of the Tree of His care and loving-kindness… Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead. Verily, thy Lord speaketh the truth, and is the Knower of things unseen. 
As Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, explains,
[Bahá'u'lláh 's] mission is to proclaim that the ages of the infancy and of the childhood of the human race are past, that the convulsions associated with the present stage of its adolescence are slowly and painfully preparing it to attain the stage of [adulthood], and are heralding the approach of that Age of Ages when swords will be beaten into ploughshares, when the Kingdom promised by Jesus Christ will have been established, and the peace of the planet definitely and permanently ensured.
At essence, the Bahá'í project is a collective spiritual enterprise to create and preserve a divine civilization.
Shoghi Effendi summarizes it like this:
The Bahá'í Faith recognizes the unity of God and His Prophets, upholds the principle of unfettered search after truth, condemns all forms of superstition and prejudice, teaches that the fundamental purpose of religion is to promote concord and harmony, that it must go hand-in-hand with science, and that it constitutes that sole and ultimate basis of a peaceful, an ordered and progressive society. It inculcates the principle of equal opportunity, rights and privileges for both sexes, advocates compulsory education, abolishes extremes of poverty and wealth, exalts work performed in the spirit of service to the rank of worship, recommends the adoption of an auxiliary international language, and provides the necessary agencies for the establishment and safeguarding of a permanent and universal peace. 
The key to humanity's advancement according to Bahá'í teachings is spiritual evolution. Bahá'í theology concludes that divine revelation is a continuous and progressive process, in which the great religions of the world are but facets of one truth, representing successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society. The keystone of the current stage of humanity's evolution is unity-in-diversity. That is, unity eradicating the prejudices of race, creed, class and gender that blight humanity's progress. As Bahá'u'lláh explains, animated by the breaths of the Spirit, humanity is a single organic body. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Exemplar of the Faith writes,
Racial and national prejudices which separate [humanity] into groups and branches…have a false and unjustifiable foundation…There should be no racial alienation or national division among humankind. Such distinctions as French, German, Persian, Anglo-Saxon are human and artificial; they have neither significance nor recognition in the estimation of God. In His estimate all are one, the children of one family; and God is equally kind to them. The earth has one surface. God has not divided this surface by boundaries and barriers to separate races and peoples. [Humanity] has set up and established these imaginary lines, giving to each restricted area a name and the limitation of a native land or nationhood. By this division and separation into groups and branches of [humanity], prejudice is engendered which becomes a fruitful source of war and strife…Therefore, it has been decreed by God in this day that these prejudices and differences shall be laid aside. 
For Bahá'ís, devotion to God is demonstrated through service to humanity. As 'Abdu'l-Bahá asks, "Dost thou desire to serve God…serve thy fellow [humanity] for in [them] dost thou see the image and likeness of God". The aim of the Bahá'í Faith, therefore, is to generate the moral and technological tools necessary to establish a planetary society. Human development is seen as directly advanced through education and professional expertise, both for the benefit of the individual and for civilization as a whole. Put another way, the spiritual significance of professional work is held as the foundation for an ever-advancing civilization. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, writes:
It is enjoined on every one of you to engage in some occupation- some art, trade or the like. We have made this- your occupation- identical with the worship of God, the True One. 
As Shoghi Effendi writes,
In such a world society, science and religion, the two most potent forces in human life, will be reconciled, will cooperate, and will harmoniously develop. The press [or media] will, under such a system, while giving full scope to the expression of the diversified views and convictions of [humanity], cease to be mischievously manipulated by vested interests, whether private or public, and will be liberated from the influence of contending governments and peoples. The economic resources of the world will be organized, its sources of raw materials will be tapped and fully utilized, its markets will be coordinated and developed, and the distribution of its products will be equitably regulated. 
At the centre of the Bahá'í Faith is a focus upon moral and social justice. It is this emphasis on justice that makes it so specifically apart of the Western paradigm. Bahá'u'lláh writes, "The light of [humanity] is justice. Quench it not with the contrary winds of oppression and tyranny. The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among [humankind]…" One of the main instruments for arriving at justice, according to Bahá'í teachings, is the process of consultation. 'Abdu'l Baha explicates,
…consultation must have for its object the investigation of truth. [One] who expresses an opinion should not voice it as correct and right but set it forth as a contribution to the consensus for the light of reality becomes apparent when two opinions coincide. A spark is produced when flint and steel come together. [Humanity] should weigh [its] opinions with the utmost serenity, calmness and composure. Before expressing [one's] own views [one] should carefully consider the views already advanced by others. If [one] finds that a previously expressed opinion is more true and worthy, [he or she] should accept it immediately and not willfully hold to an opinion of [his or her] own. By this excellent method one endeavors to arrive at unity and truth…Therefore, true consultation is spiritual conference in the attitude and atmosphere of love…Love and fellowship are the foundation. 
Undoubtedly, the most significant dimension of the Bahá'í Faith is its administration. Founded upon a unique set of democratic and consultative principles, the Bahá'í administrative order is organized around freely elected governing councils which Bahá'u'lláh called "Houses of Justice". These councils operate at the local, national, and global levels in an organic hierarchy. The head of this global administration is the Universal House of Justice. Located in Haifa, Israel, the Universal House of Justice is composed of nine representatives elected from around the world to preside as trustees over the Bahá'í community. The election of the Universal House of Justice takes place every five years in which delegates from more than 160 national communities participate. The aim of this theological democracy is to provide bottom-up governance. Decision-making rests at the local levels while authority and coordination can be established from above. Conducted by secret ballot, the Bahá'í electoral process prohibits the nomination and presentation of candidates, thereby giving maximum freedom of choice to each elector and avoiding the partisanship and power-seeking behavior so characteristic of conventional political elections.
In the Western paradigm the exoteric housing of religion is crucial because it represents the skeleton of humanity's sociocultural development. For Bahá'ís, the Bahá'í Faith represents the culmination of the Western eschatological process, bringing to fruition the "Kingdom of God" on earth. The administrative institutions, outlined by the Founders, are imbued with a sacred and mystical authority. In Bahá'í terms, these institutions constitute nothing less than the infrastructure for divine civilization.
In Exodus we read of the commandments of God regarding the methodical construction of the Tabernacle, the housing for God's Spirit:
…Then they brought the tabernacle to Moses: the tent and all its furnishings, its clasps, frames, crossbars, posts and bases…
The Israelites had done all the work just as the Lord had commanded Moses. Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded. So Moses blessed them…
Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
— Exodus 39:33, 42-3; 40: 34-5
We find this emphasis on building an ark for God in several places in the Hebrew Bible, the most notable being Noah's ark (Gen.6-9). More importantly, however, the ark is the channel of Israel's covenantal obedience before God. The ark symbolizes a vessel for the sacred upon the sea of the mundane. In this way, the Bahá'í administration too serves as the exoteric vessel of God's order on earth, and is therefore named the Arc of the Covenant.
As Ervin Laszlo writes, "Social systems, like systems in nature, form 'holarchies'. These are multi-level flexibly coordinated structures that act as wholes despite their complexity. There are many levels, and yet there is integration." For this reason human civilization requires sophisticated structuration which is dependent upon a flexible moral-legal infrastructure. Developing this moral infrastructure has historically been the role of religion. From the perspective of theology, religion's role has been to harvest humanity's moral and spiritual development. This spiritual and civilizational guidance is often described in Western theology as progressive revelation: That is, the sequential unfolding (or descent) of layers of moral structuring. We see this principle especially in the Western Paradigm, each "revelation" transcending and including the previous. While the exoteric structures of these religions differ, the esoteric core remains the same: the realization of God and the manifestation of God's Kingdom over the course of history.
In addition to being the most recent instalment of the Logos Project, we see in the Bahá'í Faith the potential underpinnings for a planetary civilization. But how might we integrate this emphasis on spiritual sociology with the spiritual psychology of the East. This is exactly what we shall explore briefly in this next section. Firstly, however, we should reflect upon the realities of religion in its current context.
4. Integral Religion: Uniting Eros And Logos
In describing the influences upon Moltmann's Christian theology, Millard Erickson writes,
The first [influence upon Moltmann was] conversations with modern atheists, humanists, and Marxists, in which one always arrives at the recognition of a deep schism of the modern age. In the past two centuries the Christian faith has increasingly become a faith in God without hope for the future of the world. At the same time, because of the need for hope, a secular type of hope has arisen, a secular hope for the future of the world- but without faith in God. This is the result of Christianity's failure to meet an inevitable need of [humanity]. Thus, Christianity has a God without a future, and atheism has a future without God. The messianic hopes "emigrated from the church" and became invested in progress, evolution and revolutions. The church was left with only a half-truth. The question is, Should there be a parting of ways in history, with faith aligning itself with the past and unfaith with the future? He [Moltmann] answered: "I think that we can overcome this present dilemma only if Christians begin to remember the 'God of Hope', as He is witnessed to in the promissory history of the Old and New Testaments, and thus begin to assume responsibility for the personal, social, and political problems of the present." 
This characterization of Christianity's decline could be equally applied to the whole of religion today. The surface structures of the various spiritual traditions seem little more than anthropological relics of history. A modern translation of spiritual development is needed so that a future religion might come to serve the practical needs of humanity's continued evolution. Moving beyond outworn religious structures, a spiritualized humanity must necessarily come to serve as conscious agents of evolution. With this in mind, we might say that the building of a spiritual civilization is itself the exoteric dimension of any potential planetary religion.
Today, we stand at the threshold of a global age. Yet there is a growing sense that events are running out of control. As postmodernism has made clear, we live in a pluralistic world in which it is no longer acceptable to impose one culture or worldview upon others. More to the point, it is no longer tolerable for one ethnicity or culture to be dominated in any way by another. To add to this, people are coming to recognize that there are a diversity of value systems and a diversity of religious traditions. However, the loss of a common point of reference or common authority is making human existence increasingly unstable. On the one hand, humanity desires a better world, and yet on the other, it tacitly rejects the global structure of governance necessary for dealing with the challenges the world faces. The result is essentially a world adrift, where no certain values remain.
Add to this, the reality that economic globalization is leading to ever increasing economic polarization between haves and have-nots. According to World Bank figures, the income ratio between the world's wealthiest 20 percent and the world's poorest 20 percent has increased from a ratio of 30:1 in 1960 to one of 75:1 today. This socioeconomic polarization reflects serious moral and social decay. Fundamental to our collective security is the realization of humanity's common interdependence. As Robert Kaplan suggests in his book, The Coming Anarchy, the alternative to a future unity may well be a return to tribal warfare on a global scale. The modern materialistic view of human existence only exacerbates the problems we face. As Kaplan observes, the age of nations and borders is drawing to a close. Transcending the barriers of ethnicity and class that delude humanity of its common unity can only be achieved through enlightened education. In order to facilitate the rise of a planetary civilization we must establish a planetary pedagogy forged around integral evolution.
A planetary society requires new virtues, new moral standards, and new models of behavior. Such a reality, however, will only take root when revolutionary changes are introduced into humanity's social, political and economic thinking. This means, at the very least, a transformation in the models of education which sustain human growth. More than any other single factor, education is the vehicle for spiritual emancipation. The entire sweep of religious history, Eastern and Western, has found its central force in the pursuit of knowledge. Any planetary religion of the future will have to anchor this process, not retard it. With this in mind, humanity must now begin to integrate the profound wisdom of East and West, in order to reach forward into an integral tomorrow. Our task in this paper has been to help negotiate this process.
Perhaps we might see in the Book of Genesis a metaphor for the complimentary relationship between Eros and Logos,
And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give them light on earth." And it was so. God made two great lights- the greater to govern the day and the lesser to govern the night…and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning- the fourth day.
— Genesis 1:14-19
Borrowing from this passage we might consider an integrative approach to spirituality. In the day, existence is obvious and manifest, while at night it remains hidden and subtle. Following this analogy we could say that Western religion emphasizes the construction and development of the surface of reality: the social sphere, the world of "day". Through architectures of morality and reason, history unfolds in stages of evolutionary progress. In contradistinction, Eastern religion explores reality's mysterious interiority; the emptiness beyond all form, the world of "night". Taking this interpretation one step further, we could also say that Western religion, following the day ideal, demonstrates masculinity (or exteriority); while Eastern religion, following the night ideal, demonstrates femininity (or interiority). As Alan Watts writes, the insights of Chinese philosophy show that "opposites are relational and so fundamentally harmonious. Conflict is always comparatively superficial, for there can be no ultimate conflict when the pairs of opposites are mutually interdependent." In this way we should conclude that there is a natural unity between the Eastern and Western paradigms, a divine complimentarity only waiting to be discovered.
As Wilber writes,
…Spirit or Godhead, when apprehended by the mind, is a paradox: both Goal and Ground, Source and Summit, Alpha and Omega. From the view of the Ground, history is pure illusion. Since God is equally and wholly present at every point of time, then history can neither add to nor subtract from God's omnipresence. From the view of Summit or Goal, however, history is the unfolding of God to Itself, or the movement from subconscious to selfconscious to superconscious modes; only the latter or superconscient mode can directly realize an everpresent unity with God-as-Ground, and thus the latter alone, of all the modes, is the direct realization of God by God. From that point of view, history is the unfolding of God to Itself, an unfolding that appears to us, through a glass darkly, as evolution. From this side of the paradox, history is no mere illusion, it is the very substance of this drama and the very means of its enactment.
Thus, to maintain that history is mere illusion is to take a very univocal (nonparadoxical) and dualistic view of Spirit; it is to cling to the timeless One and deny the temporal Many; it is to hide in Spirit-as-contemplated and not see Spirit-in-Action; it is to see only Spirit transcendent and not also Spirit immanent. 
Ascent from the Many to the One is the standard perception of spiritual development. However, since Spirit is both transcendent (as the Absolute) and immanent (working out Its realization in history), we may say that one is the psychology and the other the sociology of evolution. It is the latter which is perhaps more difficult to visualize.
With the Jewish Torah, its Divine law and absolute service to the "One True God" (monotheism) we see the progressive awakening of a transpersonal sociology. While the transpersonal psychology of the East focuses upon union with God (Spirit-in-Contemplation), the transpersonal sociology of the West focuses upon the service of God's evolution (Spirit-in-Action). We might say (with Greek philosophy) that God is the name for the Overmind: the living Summit of Consciousness. In this regard, God is often described in the Western traditions, as governing from the top of a holy mountain. Mystical unity is often marginalized in the Western approach because its' focus is sociocultural evolution, that is, the liberation of humanity over the course of history. And it is through the progressive working out of a moral order in the course of history that this eschatological Reality becomes manifest.
As Aurobindo makes clear, an integral spirituality must unite Ascent and Descent, yoga and divine civilization. As the Eastern paradigm demonstrates, nondual realization joins humanity with the Source and Summit of consciousness. As the Western paradigm demonstrates, through service to this Summit, the Godhead manifests in stages of Revelation towards an integral civilization. Put simply, these paradigms are interdependent dimensions of an integral Reality (inward and outward, feminine and masculine, yin and yang).
Through the course of this paper we have examined these two complimentary spiritual currents: the current of Ascent or Eros and the current of Descent or Logos. Uniting these two interpretations we have said that God is Mind. As Aurobindo points out, it is this Mind that powers evolution, moving humanity towards ever higher stages of consciousness. In humanity, we see the living mirror of this Divine Mind, the image, par excellence, of Its' Descent. And ultimately, as humanity ascends into the heights of consciousness, the Godhead ceaselessly descends as an ever-advancing civilization.
What is needed today is a catalyst for moral and spiritual transformation. Modern society boasts brilliant scientific and technological achievements and yet the world remains rife with poverty and conflict. Why has modern civilization, despite its great wealth and power, been unable to remove the injustices that are tearing its fiber apart? The simple answer is a lack of consciousness. Transcending the social fragmentation that obscures festering disease, humanity must come to realize its oneness. Only from this vantage can a new moral framework be established that will inspire the radical changes needed to construct a global civilization.
As Aurobindo makes clear, what is required is a religion of humanity, a spiritual emancipation transcending the dissociation of Eros and Logos. As he suggests, Divine Mind both drives humanity's interior ascent and descends in stages as manifest creation. From the view of God, the One becomes the Many, the Transcendent becomes Immanent. From the view of humanity, the Many becomes One, the Immanent becomes Transcendent. In addition to Wilber's analysis of transpersonal psychology we have suggested a complimentary model of transpersonal sociology. Our conclusion is that in the course of Mind's unfolding, Western Revelation progressively builds the moral infrastructure for human civilization. The holonic sequence of the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Bahá'í Faith, serve as frameworks for the unfolding of divine civilization. While (as Wilber makes clear) Ascent- from the Many to the One, unfolds, in stages of enlightenment- or transpersonal realization, Descent- from the One to the Many- unfolds as a divine Unity-in-Diversity, as God's teleological Kingdom upon earth.
Whether we ascend to the Apex of Consciousness through meditative practice or serve Spirit's teleological drive towards emancipation, we are participants in a single spiritual evolution. Always we must remember that in integral religion it is wholeness that we seek: the integral embrace of immanence with transcendence, of Ascent with Descent, of humanity with God, and of enlightenment with the divine kingdom come.
i. It will become obvious that this formulation of Ascent and Descent departs from Wilber's model. Suffice it to say that Wilber's understanding of "Descent" suffers from an incomplete integration of the Western religions and their emphasis upon divine civilization.
ii. And we see this distinction perfectly illustrated, for example, in Raphael's Renaissance masterpiece The School of Athens: Where Plato points to heaven, his student Aristotle points to earth.
iii. Unlike Plotinus, Plato's Ascent was complimented by a partial formulation of Descent or socio-cultural governance in the form of the "Philosopher King". As John Gregory writes, for Plotinus, the "unification of the soul on its inward progress is a solitary experience. There is no political dimension to the life of the sage, for Plotinus disparages the life of action as a poor substitute for contemplation…Even the practice of the social virtues is valued for its contribution to inner purification, not as the fulfilment of individual responsibility to the community. The aim is to escape from the world, not to engage it. There could hardly be a sharper contrast with Plato's philosophers, after their escape from the Cave to behold the Sun, sent back into the Cave: for Plato, knowledge of the Good is the basis not only of private virtue, but also of the law and policy, and the duty of the philosophers to apply their wisdom to the government of the state as shepherds of the people." But what Plato neglects, of course, (as Aristotle clearly understood) are the physical and spiritual realities of evolution. (The Neoplatonists, p. 18)
iv. "Allah", meaning literally the God from the combination of al meaning "the" and Llah meaning "God".
About the author (from archive.org, 2003):
Dan Araya is a graduate student in Toronto examining instructional technologies and values development within Education. He is Director and co-founder of The Institute of Integral Evolution, located in Toronto, Canada. The focus of the institute is to provide an open forum for the discussion of the Integral paradigm and the advance of a global civilization. The website can be found at: http://www.integralevolution.org