Unity in Religion
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Christianity, Islam, and Taoism are examined with specific reference to each tradition’s conception of unity, both with God and with other humans. Conceptions of unity are used as a heuristic device in order to examine the potential for their use in inter-religious dialogue. Challenges in the representation of exoteric forms of religious expression are considered and it is determined that, while it is impossible to completely ignore the exoteric representations of religious practice, the primary focus must be on the transcendent and esoteric experiences of each tradition. One or two philosophers from each tradition are chosen because of their commitment to a particular tradition and systematic representation of the aforementioned experiences within. Thomas Merton, with his doctrine of Contemplation, represents the Christian tradition, Islam is represented by Ibn ‘Arabi’s doctrine of the unity of being (wahdat al-wujud), and Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu represent the Taoist tradition with the Tao te Ching and other foundational texts. Their writings are then analyzed to determine if there are common expressions of unity found within each tradition. It is determined that there is a common emphasis in each tradition on the inability to perceive things as they really are, a reference to an absolute reality, a push to experience that reality, and a fundamental correlation between that experience and the actualization of human relationships. These concepts do not represent theological or philosophical equivalents, but, when used as a heuristic device, they do provide avenues to foster in depth inter-religious dialogue.
Wester, Jeremy (2007). Unity in Religion. Available electronically from