The Vision of Paulos Mar Gregorios

A New Civilization for Humankind

The Vision of Paulos Mar Gregorios

At the eve of his life, Paulos Mar Gregorios had a clear vision of a new civilization that humankind needs to build up, and as a skillful engineer, he mapped its foundation. The details of his plan can be read in his work in the nineties. An excellent summary of this plan was presented by him in a talk he gave at the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago in 1993. It is entitled “Towards a New Enlightenment” and it is published in the book Religion and Dialogue. Here I am making an attempt to summarize it further so that the readers will be encouraged to read the work of Mar Gregorios, and to share the vision of the new world. Mar Gregorios begins with an analysis of the foundations of the present civilization in our world. After pointing out the widening cracks in its foundation, he presents the framework of a new civilization.

The European Enlightenment

The dominant civilization of our world today began in Europe in the 18th century with a movement called European Enlightenment (EE). Out of this seed grew the gigantic tree of our modern western civilization. Mar Gregorios praises it as the most significant development of the last millennium, and advises us to be thankful for the great contributions of EE.

“It is hard to imagine what a miserable place the world could have been if EE had not happened. Humanity would have been disintegrating through ignorance and squalor, thorough plague and pestilence, through disease and natural disasters, through starvation and epidemic. The EE has given to us modern science and technology, the institutes of democratic polity, systems of education, healing, information-gathering, transport and communication, without all of which six billion people could not have lived on this planet. ” P.109

Although we have to acknowledge and be thankful for all these good things we have received from EE, we can’t ignore the one huge drawback it has, which makes the continued existence of the humanity impossible. It is true that it helped us see a part of the reality clearly, but in that process, it made us blind to the rest of the reality. It is a light which is so bright that it makes us blind.

“Like bright sunlight that shuts out the night sky with its myriads of stars and millions of galaxies. If we lived 24 hours a day by the sunlight, who would know that the reality that the sunlight revels is only a billionth part of the gigantic universe? What we see so clearly by the modern science makes us blind to the mighty mystery that lies behind and beyond what we see and hear.” P.109

EE has such a drawback because it has its foundation upon secularism. Mar Gregorios defines secularism as

An ideology which believes that the world open to our senses and our instruments is the only world that exists, and that meaning has to be found in that universe without reference to anything outside of or transcending our field of sense-perception and our rational mind. P.102

The first manifestation of EE was the French Revolution of 1789, which publicly repudiated God and religion. Its two prevailing manifestations today are the western liberal Humanism-Secularism and the western Marxism-Socialism. Both of them see science as the principal way to vision and meaning. Both say “In science we trust”, and regard religion as something that belongs to the childhood of the humanity.

Modern science was created by putting together the Empirical Aristotelianism of Bacon and the logical Platonism of Descartes, and it now takes over the structure of authority from religion and philosophy. It created a new world-- a world that is..

subject to human reason and human technological manipulation. In that the ruling authority is the secular-scientific ideology, which throws into margin not only religion, but also art and literature, poetry and philosophy. P.104

As a result, the human race now lives in the untruth, caught in the darkness of evil, and dying and killing each other. We pray the Vedic prayer from the bottom of our hearts:

  • Asato ma sat gamaya -- lead us from untruth to truth
  • Thamaso ma jothir gamaya -- lead us from darkness to light
  • Mrithyor ma amrutham gamaya -- lead us from death to life
The Buddhist Enlightenment
Now Mar Gregorios makes an attempt to understand EE further in the light of Buddhist Enlightenment. The concept of enlightenment is important in all religious traditions, but Buddhism made it its central concept. Buddha means the enlightened one. Prabuddhatha (enlightenment) is a state of being and consciousness. The Buddhist enlightenment (BE) is similar to EE in many aspects, but different in certain crucial aspects.
Both were reactions against misuse of authority by the dominant religion—Brahminism in India and Christianity in Europe. They also repudiated the authority of the accepted scriptures. Both appealed to the human being to stand up in defiance of authority and to think and act for oneself. Both were exhortations to a new way of understanding the nature of the reality and the human mechanism of knowing. Both were regarded Godless by their opponents. Both sprang from deep socio-economic changes.
But unlike the EE, the BE provides a trans-sensual and trans-conceptual vision of the Infinite Whole, transcending the subject-object dichotomy. EE relies on the senses and conceptual thought for its vision, and subject-object dichotomy is always maintained. BE transforms and heals the human person by putting an end to suffering and desire, by generating a sense of co-being, compassion and friendship for all reality, and by making him/her unpretentious, humble, non-domineering, and capable of transmitting peace, joy, and meaning to others. However, EE gives knowledge-derived power over the object and impels the desire to possess, manipulate and dominate. It gives power to produce goods – both that are necessary for humans and much more that are not only unnecessary but also harmful to all life on earth. It makes war and violence more sophisticatedly destructive.

The New Enlightenment
Now Mar Gregorios tells us that the need of our world today is a New Enlightenment (NE). NE needs to be created taking the best aspects from the BE and EE, and avoiding their harmful aspects. It may begin with a few pioneering individuals as in BE, but it has to become a mass movement that spreads like fire as in EE.

NE will be grounded on a three-in-one perception of reality:

  1. the transcendent un-manifest reality (God/Brahman/Allah/Buddha nature/Tao),
  2. the manifest reality (world/universe)
  3. the human entity which participates in the above two realities , with the mediatorial task of manifesting the un-manifest in the universe, and leading the universe to the un-manifest.
In this perception of reality, the universe is the body of the humanity, and we are supposed to take care of the universe just as we take care of our own body. The dichotomy of manifest and un-manifest exists due to the limit in our power of perception. However, from the perspective of the un-manifest, such a dichotomy does not exist. Thus what appear three to us is really one in reality.

Mar Gregorios claims that such a perception of the reality will have earth-shaking consequences in our ways of life.

Politics and religion: In NE, a state will not be a sovereign power, but the enabler of the local community; not as a dividing boundary but as a unit in a global community. Instead of separation of religion and state, there will be the right relation of religion and state. The problem of multiplicity or religions will be avoided by adopting the policy of democratic pluralism in the polity. The religions will occupy a central role in the state, competing each other in serving the whole community in spiritual and moral creativity. In NE no one will speak of foreigners and aliens, but only of neighbors and friends. In NE politics will not be for opportunists, but for sages, for men and women of wisdom and maturity.

Education: The purpose of education will not be to run the machinery of economic production, but education will be a genuine search for meaning and fulfillment.

Healing: Diagnosis will not be to detect the defects of the body, but to detect the arhythmias in the functioning of the human person and society. Therapies will be more human and spiritual directly related to the transcendent and to the society.

Economics: Its focus will be away from commodities, and closer to right relations of humans among themselves, to the environment and to the transcendent.

Gregorios, P. (2000). Religion and Dialogue. Kottayam: Mar Gregorios Foundation



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