MIXING THE SPIRITUAL VIBES
Thanks to Prince Charles on June 19th the rafters of Westminster Cathedral are due to resound to the 99 sacred names of Allah conveyed in an oratorio-like piece, The Beautiful Names of God which England’s future head of the Church of England (if it survives in its present form!) has commissioned Sir John Tavener to compose. There will be protests. Does this religiously unusual event matter either way for good or ill as some believe? Is it the step forward for religious understanding that Charles and others hope for, or a step backwards into incoherence in matters of faith?
I suggest that even if you believe the monotheistic faiths are worshipping the same God – which is often assumed but doesn’t automatically follow – something is going wrong here, a general spiritual principle is getting overlooked, one that even somebody like the Dalai Lama without any specific Christian beliefs to weigh in with on the subject might remind us of if asked.
There is no question that the three major monotheistic religions worship towards one God in principle just as polytheists worship many gods in principle. But the God of Islam has no more for that reason to be the same God as that of the Christians than Mars is/was identical with Venus for polytheists. Undeniably the Koran makes statements (such as that God could never have a son or be any kind of composite One) which are at such variance with claims of Christian scripture that it would not seem possible the same God is revealed in the relevant scriptures. (Interestingly, it's recorded in the Hadith, the Sayings, that Mohammed originally had doubts about the source of his visions, doubts his wife resolved for him. The situation constrasts with the Biblical picture where doubts about the divine source are never really recorded outside perhaps Job's argument with God).
Contradiction of this kind raises issues of doctrine and logic that can get people arguing at the intellectual level, but this isn’t all that’s involved. There is hardly anything less true than as Christopher Howse has written in UK'S Daily Telegraph paper about this event that:
"In a way, the word used to refer to God is arbitrary. It functions as a common noun, in the same way as tree or mountain".
Not quite. The fact is that in almost every religion known to mankind the name or names of the gods or spirits were originally understood and experienced as something more spiritual, a secret or a special revelation, a vibration, a power in its own right. It’s true, and has been stated in defence of Charles’ project by such as Howse, that Arabic Christians can use Allah as a name for God. However that’s precisely a generic name just as God is a generic word in English. The “Allah” or the “God” word that believers use covers for other more essential names like Yahweh, Jehovah, Father, Lord, Jesus, the name Yahweh having been specially revealed to Moses. These, then, are the more private, devotional names of prayer and intimacy somewhat as within marriages and families people use special names.
GOD NAMES IN REVELATION AND DEVOTION
…..And that’s just the point. Even if there were not major doctrinal issues to consider like Christianity’s “No one comes to the Father but by me”, which cannot be lightly dismissed and is distinctive (Allah is not a Father nor related to as such) devotion would still need to act at the level of a certain “privacy”. The husband doesn’t automatically give out the pet name of his wife for all to use. And he presumably wouldn’t tell his wife that he loves her….just as he loves all other women. Which is where the Dalai Lama comes in because of his disapproval of syncretism as opposed to toleration among religions and his belief one just can’t muddle traditions and be true to one's deepest spiritual impulses which are a special exercise and a tradition that inevitably make for their own kind of exclusivity.
Beyond that we might add a sort of magic. Prayer and devotion generate their own energy, an energy sensitive people feel in some churches and buildings. Mixing the vibes can be a confusion, a chaos, a bad “magic”. If Westminster Cathedral was consecrated to the worship of the Christian God then that is the direction in which its worship should flow. It’s an esoteric claim that speech and music and especially praise have their own power. The walls of Jericho were understood to have fallen before the force of an insistent praise linked vibe.
There seems little question that Charles, who would prefer to be defender of faith than “the faith” has a love affair going for Islam. Some, rather extremely, have even suggested he is a secret convert. Clearly, though, his intense interest in all things Islamic, his intellectual willingness to give even Sharia law its due, is on the extreme side as was his determination to include a mosque within plans for an estate he was overseeing despite local protests there was scarcely a Muslim around to justify the idea. Charles’s public defence of Islam owes considerably to the late Dr Zaki Badawi unofficial Grand Mufti of Britain who became a consultant and friend of the prince and took broad and apparently moderate views of how Islam and Muslims should integrate in England.
THE MODERATION IDEA: THEORY AND PRACTICE
But moderation in Islam is perhaps always a/the problem. Moderate, peace loving, liberal Muslims undeniably everywhere exist, it’s just that their voice is never notably strong because the religion has a certain dynamic, essentially fundamentalist and severe. which has always relied on an excommunication if not execution system guaranteed to silence dissent sooner or later and which regularly generates fear. Plus, in dealing with infidels complete open reciprocity is not a scriptural principle, so that peace deals and any deals could potentially disadvantage non Muslims. Certainly there is hardly a place Islam has been present where those of other religions are not sooner or later under some degree of threat – at very least they must pay infidels tax to be tolerated at all. Presently there is such frequent persecution of Christians in Muslim lands – Iraq where Christians are fleeing in great numbers, Iran, Egypt, Afghanistan, Sudan where they are being decimated, even in Israel where Palestinian fanatics have been making for a decline in the Christian centres of Nazareth and Bethlehem through constant harassment, that this dimension of the picture cannot be ignored however accommodating one might wish to be. Accordingly it is quite shocking that Charles is either not more aware of this or if aware not protesting it more as journalist Julie Burchill has said would be more to the point in the circumstances than just sweetly gesturing in the direction of harmony ( that is really an illusion).
And all said and done, though the Church of England is in a parlous state it is supposed to stand for something Christian within England and its future nominal head should be taking a more specifically Christian position. That he is not currently doing so arguably puts him in line with the faithless kings of Israel who compromised with other religions. (The person he has commissioned to compose the musical work has himself reportedly abandoned his rather noisy conversion to Greek Orthodoxy in favour of experiments with oriental faiths). It is incidentally an interesting speculative point with which I can close whether like the kings of Israel Charles is actually engaging divine disfavour as at least one would-be prophet has strongly maintained and well before the current controversy arose.
PRINCE CHARLES IN PROPHECY AND "WEIGHED IN THE BALANCES"?
Among vocal would-be modern visionaries I admit not to rate the American, Cindy Jacobs, very highly for reasons I needn’t outline here except to say I think she’s usually more intuitional than truly prophetic. Even so, and in harmony with some observations made in articles here about assessing modern visions (see April and May archives on Lennon) I’m always a little more interested and impressed when visionaries come up with claims somehow against the grain which in relation to Prince Charles Jacobs did in April last year. Jacobs claims an angelic visitation and a Word from the Lord “to the true church in England” during a service for Bishop Hamon and Christian International, a Word she didn’t perfectly understand at the time. She is quite simply American and not particularly knowledgeable about or concerned with Britain’s royal family.
The obvious, predictable thing for any attention seeking prophet to take up, particularly if they didn’t know much beyond the tabloid level, would be that Charles had displeased God on account of his love life. But this wasn’t at all the message. It was that darkness was beginning to close in on Britain and a door to negative spiritual influences had been opened. Also that Charles, apparently in relation to this general development “had been weighed in the balances and found wanting”. Only two days later while reading a paper did Jacobs finally have conviction that involved in the condemnation she’d heard was Charles’ over involvement in especially Islam to which he was, however unwittingly at a spiritual level, helping open the doors to in England.
Praise is almost central to the Jewish and Christian faiths. The dedication of Solomon’s temple and its invocation of God had to be in music and praise. Singing the music of the mystic names of Allah in a Christian church is a very special departure in the spiritual realm and like invoking Allah rather than the God of Israel (and Muslims seem to hate no country more) that Christians claim specifically to worship. Perhaps indeed Charles has been weighed in the balances and found wanting.