I have adopted, and retained, at least five belief systems in the course of my life. They all contradict each other in some sense and overlap in others. Why have I engaged in what probably sounds like a frustrating project such as this?
It’s quite simple:
1. The Universe is, according to scientists, “very large.”
2. Human societies all, to a certain extent, limit what individuals can perceive and think.
3. So to me, the odds that one group of people, all more or less trained to see and think in the same fashion, and limited in one way or another by their knowledge of the Universe, at some point managed to discover the Ultimate Truth about that Universe, are minuscule at best.
It may be countered that since that which is above is as that which is below, any one of those groups of people could have received the Ultimate Truth. This leaves open the question of why a representative of culture A was so privileged, and not a representative of culture B, C and D. We could invoke the concept of “purity” and try to figure out which culture most closely approximates our construct, but this would only tell us more about our own prejudices. An interesting exercise in personal insight, but it tells us little about that elusive Ultimate Truth.
No, I think it far more likely that particular cultures, by nature of their conditions, are fitted to attune to and receive a particular slice of a much, much larger Gnosis. The ways to deal with that in terms of Truth go beyond what I want to speak about here, which is something related to the above in a somewhat lateral fashion. I hope the digression will be understood as necessary when I reach the end.
For a moment, adopt the perspective that a set of ideas can be, in a certain sense, a “God.” For esotericists this shouldn’t be much of a stretch, as we are pretty much all familiar with the concept of an “egregore.” Briefly, this would be the synergetic whole that transcends and includes all constituent parts within a particular sphere of manifestation.
Many people, I think, still follow a “Jealous God.” That is, their worldview is so fixed and rigid that they still feel the need to “convert” others and dominate the mental territory they encounter. This occurs in religion, of course, but also in politics and even arenas of less import, such as musical genres.
One cannot blame the Big Three religions exclusively for this Psychological Monotheism. The problem has its root, I think, in something called the reification fallacy. That is, the mistaking of abstractions to be concrete things. In other words… get ready for it… Confusing the Planes.
Yes, we’re back to that.
Really, next to mistaking the map for the territory (which could arguably be a specific instance of it) Confusing the Planes is probably one of the most widespread cognitive distortions in modern society. Yes, a cat is a cat, and a dog is a dog. If you hate dogs, but love cats, you will want to choose a cat as a pet. But ideas and sets of ideas do not exist as closed, concrete things in the same way that a dog or a cat does. Their openness or closedness depends only on how far the individual dealing with them is ready to push their edges.
Now, each culture, belief system, or ideology will arise from certain neurological biases in society and individuals as instances thereof. A Circuit 3 mindset is going to have great difficulty accepting a Circuit 2 ideology. As far as I’m concerned, this is the only practical limit, and can be dealt with in many ways. See almost any program of spiritual development and you will find methods to expand which range of circuits you work on.
Getting back to the original thought somewhat, it seems to me that the best way to deal with apparent contradictions is to build a larger structure into which “opposite” elements can fit, and see what kind of synergy develops between them. This will not be a discovery of the “real x” but an inclusion of “x” into a new, transcendent whole.
So, rather than worrying about conversion, I would suggest learning and evaluating, borrowing and in some cases rejection, to develop a personal system that can interact with more diverse elements. This may be more difficult than it’s worth in the end, and not everyone will want to do it. But it is one way to deal with the strange, complicated world we find ourselves in.