the human quest

a reflection on the human approaches towards the supernatural
At present you can choose in Munich approximately between 10 different Buddhist groups, at least 20 different schools with a Hindu or Yoga background, some Sufi people, some resident and a lot of visiting Satsang teachers, shamanic practitioners and lots of syncretic groups, which are combining various traditions. Many of them are promising you immediate results or quick help that make you feel better, without really exploring deeper into your original quest. Add the hotchpotch of offers from the media and you will get a confusing variety of possibilities, where the danger of getting sidetracked is immanent.
Says the Bhutanese lama, filmmaker, and writer Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche in an article on his facebook page "...Even more dangerous are the self-made gurus who use mindfulness and other Buddhist practices to turn the essence of the Buddhist path into techniques for increasing our love of samsara. By doing so, they utterly destroy the entire purpose of the Buddhadharma, which is to liberate suffering beings from samsara. If this perversion of the Buddha’s teachings is not demonic—the ‘devil incarnate,’ as Christians might say—what is?"
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that “liberation from samsara” is the good solution and “ increasing your love of samsara” the bad one. But these two approaches are indeed often opposed to each other and one has to be clear, which direction to take. Trying to follow both directions simultaneously will get you into frustration and confusion, no matter how noble your causes may be. For example, if you have a desire for world peace, you can take an action or pray for it. You might achieve something temporarily and it may give a meaning to your life, but it will distract you from the realization of your transcendental nature, which is always focused on the here and now without any purpose or future achievement. Perhaps meditation has positive effects for your daily life or for your environment, so I'm not saying that meditation can't lead to improvement. But that positive side effect is not guaranteed and would disturb the meditation rather than support it, if it would become the main purpose. It's often a subtle difference, whether you are trying to improve samsara or be liberated from it. Not seeing the difference clearly, has a long history within the human quest, because leaders often benefit from the lack of clarity of their followers.
This reflection on the human quest attempts to show, how the two basic approaches "liberation from samsara", which is the essence of the non dual matrix, and "improvement within samsara", which is the priority of the Abrahamic matrix, have taken form and consequently shaped the history of mankind and our present situation. I'm not recommending any choices for you. But by looking at the "bigger picture" you might be able to find out yourself, what your choices are today.
First we look at the historical development of the human quest with its various transformations in time and space. Later we shall try to get an overview of the present situation and finally we are looking to the future.
Misunderstandings are in the nature of our subject, as we are talking with a mind of limited possibilities about the realms beyond mind and language. So you are welcome to ask any questions to the author via e-mail: Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein!.

1. overview

A diagram displaying the main matrices and systems, which emerged within the collective human quest:


We are dividing the various approaches into matrices, which are defined by some common fundamental concepts. Within a matrix there are certain systems and within the systems we are talking about subsystems, movements or streams. As an example: the Abrahamic matrix divides into three main systems, Judaism, Christianity and Islam and within Christianity there are Catholics, Protestants and so on as subsystems.
Animistic and shamanic matrix: we are looking at a time from about 100000 years ago to about 10000 BC. This period is widely regarded as part of the stone age and humans were living as hunter/gatherers. Naturally the quest of our ancestors from this period was very practical. It is highly unlikely that a person from this period would find the time to think about some hidden meaning of life, when you had to be constantly on the lookout, whether something edible came within your reach, or another living being came along, who might classify you as edible for them. Besides, a consideration of the meaning of life would require a language with abstract terms, which from all we can guess only slowly develops during this period. But certainly the search for entities existing beyond the sensual perceptions starts during stone age and the ideas of spirits, ghosts and other supernatural entities are passed on verbally from generation to generation. The step from animistic to shamanistic practice happens, when some humans develop the ability to see and contact these entities and manage to influence them in favor of their tribe or members of their tribe. These people become specialised as healers, mediators, spiritual leaders and general advisors. Originally shaman was their name only in Siberia, but today the term is used globally.
Polytheism: When some nomadic tribal bands form larger groups and settle in groups, human interaction is getting more organized for practical reasons. In these early cultures the first forms of organized religion with emperors and priests creating their own polytheistic pantheon with special local protective gods emerge.
Abrahamic matrix: While the majority of humans in the Middle East worship either shamanic or polytheistic deities a rebellious shepherd in Mesopotamia called Abraham introduces a new concept with a single almighty god and moves with his small tribe to Judaea. Henceforth the system created by him and his descendants is called Judaism. Later this system is reformed by a son of a Jewish carpenter into Christianity and another six hundred years later it is further developed by an Arabic camel caretaker into Islam. All three religions are built on a monotheistic belief system based on the mythological events from the Old Testament. In their practical implementations there are big differences between the three and within their fold there are often contradictory and competing subsystems. Countless wars have been fought between the three main groups, but also amongst the subgroups there are lots of conflicts.
Non-dual matrix: In various areas in Eurasia a few exceptional individuals start searching within themselves and reach upon a realization beyond the borders of individual happiness. In some cases they decide to share their realization. Some impress their fellow human beings so much through their extraordinary radiance, that they attract large followings and devotees. In case of Mahavir, Buddha, Lao Tzu and others their talks where memorized and later written down as sacred revelations, but the emphasis has been and still is the nonverbal transmission from the master to the disciple. I've only included the three biggest groups in the non-dual matrix in the illustration to keep it simple, but there are other systems like Jainism, Sikhism and Yungdrung Bön, which are also part of the non-dual matrix.

All belief systems do include various concepts and patterns as guidance to their followers, just like a doctor would temporarily offer a stick to a patient, who is slowly regaining his eyesight. But only in the non-dual variant there is a possibility of transcending the concepts of the matrix and to achieve liberation from samsara. If one decides to take that path, one has to go beyond all concepts (like morale and ethics) and beliefs to realize the unspeakable and unthinkable truth.

2. early movements

Chart of the early human migrations between 100000 and 10000 BC.


Even though our knowledge about this period is based solely on archeological and genetic researches, which are sometimes contradictory, we need to start by looking at the origins of our quest. Even without written testimonies we can certainly say that the first ideas about an existence of a transcendental reality beyond the material phenomena occur in this period and these ideas find their expression in the original forms of animism and shamanism.
The scientific estimate for the whole world population around 10000 BCE is between one and ten million, which is about a thousandth part of todays population of 7.5 billion. These few millions, which could be squeezed into the area of Paris or Berlin nowadays, were spread over all continents. People live as hunters and gatherers. Movement happens for various reasons: climate changes, overpopulation and the migration of the prey are likely motives. The map only shows some of the main moves, but a lot more movement happens in reality. .
Migrations out of Africa across the Sinai peninsula occur definitely a few times and perhaps quite frequently. There are also traces of reverse movements back into Africa. .
Also the crossing of the Bering Strait is done more than once.
The central Eurasian steppes offer great possibilities for hunting, so many nomadic tribes move around between today's Ukraine and the Lake Baikal region.
Some transcontinental sea journeys take place, even though we do not know exactly how and when. Our main consideration here is that a lot of migrations happen in the paleolithic period. When tribes or groups of tribes move, they take their knowledge and habits with them, so by 10000 BCE animistic practice is spread over all continents.
Myths about the creation of the world, the creation of gods and their relationship with each other and humans are formulated and passed on by word of mouth. So within a few generations the contents of a myth might be changing gradually according to the inaccuracies of oral transmission, but commonly used themes and simple symbols (circle, triangle etc.) are spreading globally. Ritual practice, chanting, dancing and the use of psychedelic substances are developing in the tribal communities and are evoking trance states amongst the members. The trances are primarily used for practical purposes like healing diseases, influencing natural deities like the sun, the winds or the water for environmental changes, talking to ancestors and preparing warfare. In short, the functions of the human mind, which distinguish its capacities from other mammals, start to evolve. Humans learn to manipulate themselves and others and the environment.
In some indigenous cultures, which have survived until today, there is the concept of a supreme divine principle. which is the cause of everything that exists. I.e. the Lakotas of North America speek of Wakan Tanka (the Great Spirit) and the Mongolians are talking about Munkh Khukh Tengri (Eternal Blue Sky), which both are precursors to concepts within the non-dual matrix like Brahman, Nirvana or the Tao. All these terms describe the Eternal and Ultimate, which were and are and will be always there. But we cannot find out, if these super-concepts were termed in the stone age already, or if they were named later. There might have been some individuals aspiring for and realizing a unification with the supreme principle, even though it wasn't named in those days. There are no reliable testimonies available, as there was no writing in the Paleolithic. But some of the deities, which have been and sometimes still are venerated in polytheistic or non-dual systems, might go back to prehistoric and legendary awakened humans, which later became deified through the embellishment of oral transmissions. That might apply to Shiva and Krishna from the Hindu pantheon, Hercules from the Greek myth, Osiris from Egypt, Inanna from the Babylonian tradition and others. Even less certain we can be about how often such awakenings might have occurred within the animistic communities.

3. the emergence of polytheistic systems

Within the first larger human civilisations various polytheistic pantheons come into existence at different times and locations


The world population estimate at the time of Christ is about 150 to 300 million, that is about fifty to hundred times more than 10000 years earlier. In certain areas with favorable living conditions people become sedentary and form bigger settlements, new forms of social organization evolve, and food production and livestock breeding are replacing hunting and gathering of plants. The newly arising states are organized very hierarchically. The ruling elites enjoy their status and start to exploit the commoners, who sometimes even become the property of the aristocracy. Communication with the metaphysical world is changing as well, as the deities are now used to control and manipulate people.
Generally speaking the term "polytheistic" applies also to the shamanic matrix, as it simply means "with many gods", but we are using the term here especially for polytheistic systems, which include deities created by humans and having human appearances with special powers and abilities. The animistic deities like sun gods, moon gods or animal spirits are still worshipped, but new gods, like Isis in Egypt, Indra in India or Zeus in Greece, come into being and gain superior influence. Some shamans are turning into priests and oracles, who are mediating between gods and humans. Cities and empires often have their own special protector gods and sometimes kings claim to be of divine origin to justify their leadership. Around the year 1 the polytheist religions were dominant in most densely populated areas around the globe. Only India had turned Buddhist after emperor Ashoka the Great converted to Buddhism in 258 BC.
On the esoteric level wise man and women establish the first mystery schools like Pythagoras in Greece, but also in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Rituals, dance, chanting and other practices are adopted from the animistic matrix. We do not know, if the liberation from samsara occurred in some of the mystery schools.

4. the emergence of the non dual matrix

Some exceptional individuals have new insights about the transcendental realms and change the gestalt of the human quest:


Besides the rise (and fall) of civilizations and their countless gods, we have testimonies of special beings, who leave a lasting impact on their fellow human beings. We don't know, if all of them really existed or if some are completely or partially myth. Most likely additional legends were attributed to each of them. Yet we can safely presume, that starting from the iron age there were humans at various places, who had extraordinary realisations, which gave their appearance a special radiance. In some cultures they were called mystics, in Greece philosophers and in India rishis or yogis. Probably not all of them went public and many were probably forgotten soon after their physical disappearance, but a few like Buddha or Lao Tzu started big traditions, which still are practiced widely today. Similar to the shamanic traditions there are men and women likewise, who are questioning the common beliefs and explore beyond the common grounds. In the eastern half of Eurasia the focus of these wise people is on the inner search. After having profound realisations individuals like Mahavir, Chuang Tzu or Shenrab Miwoche start to to share their wisdom through words or nonverbal transmissions. Their sayings and life stories are memorized by some of their followers and become the substratum for the systems within the non dual matrix. While various techniques and methods (which have developed into many different schools) can be practiced, the realization is always happening through dissolving into the divine. Each individual has the potential to have the same realization like Buddha or Lao Tzu. Gods and deities can be worshipped, but they are incarnations or symbols of an impersonal divine isness.

5. the emergence of the abrahamic matrix

The Fertile Crescent and the surrounding Middle East deserve some special attention as all three Abrahamic religions originate there:


The area between Egypt and modern day Iraq can be seen as the area of the first traffic jams in human history, as all of the early migrations out of and back into Africa had to pass through this area. Additionally this region , which is called the Fertile Crescent because of its shape and natural richness, offered excellent conditions for domestication of animals and cultivation of plants for food production. So it is not surprising, that the first bigger human settlements and empires are developing here . Since the early days until today the area has been highly disputed between various religious and ethnic groups, who are all claiming these lands as their ancient homelands. While the ethnic heritage is still present with the present populations, the ancient religious traditions have been swept away by three men of low descent, who rebelled in their respective times against the established belief systems.
Abraham: According to the bible Abraham originally lived in the area of Ur, which was one of the ancient fortified cities. He is a simple shepard and apparently not happy with his environment. From Ur he is leading his small tribe to Haran and later to the land of Canaan. According to the Koran he rebels against Nimrod, a legendary Assyrian king, in Urfa, which is close to Haran. He is frequently instructed by a heavenly being, who claims to be the supreme god. Abraham convinces his people to worship this god, which they do after god performs some miracles for them. As we don’t have any other sources besides the Old Testament and the Koran he might just be a myth and perhaps he never existed as single physical being. But nevertheless he stands out as the original symbol and the main inventor of monotheism and the main founder of Judaism.
Jesus of Nazareth: Some centuries later, when the Jewish people are quite unhappy with the Roman occupying forces, Jesus is born to a carpenter's family, claims to be god's son and attempts to reform the Jewish belief system. His message is widely rejected in his homeland, but after his death the new faith is spreading to Asia Minor and a becomes the state religion of the Roman empire a few hundred years later. From Rome and Constantinople Christianity spreads to central and western Europe and Russia and from there with the colonization of America to all areas of the new world.
Muhammad: Around 600 AD in Mecca on the Arabian peninsula a new prophet appears , who claims to get direct messages from god. His proper name is Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim, but to the world he becomes known as Muhammad. He, too, is initially not very popular with his fellow citizens. But already during his lifetime he gains a big following and unifies Arabia. Within 150 years his successors conquer a huge empire from Spain to Kyrgyzstan and spread the new religion to South East Asia, Central Asia, parts of Africa and Europe.

Even though Judaism, Christianity and Islam emphasize very different laws and rules, they share a lot of concepts and refer to a similar past, which is written down in their holy books. That's why they are often called "the book religions" or "Abrahamic religions". The basic theme of this matrix is the relation between god and the human beings, who were created by him, but never can become god themselves. That's why we are talking about dual systems here. As god is the stronger part in the partnership and decides about an individual's joyful or horrible afterlife, humans are striving for god's appreciation. The principles of life are outlined in the respective holy books, which cannot be questioned by the followers of the system. For example we read in Genesis 1:28: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth...” ."
In each tradition mystic schools are developing, like the Hasids in Judaism or the Sufis in Islam, who are trying to overcome the fundamental duality of the Abrahamic matrix. But they are small minorities and often suppressed by the mainstream organisations within their traditions. The priests and leaders within the Abrahamic matrix tend to be very controlling and strictly sticking to their monotheistic principles.

6. the main differences between the matrices

The fundamental concepts of the three main matrices (animistic, Abrahamic and non dual) about who we are, what life and the universe is all about and how to achieve lasting happiness, vary considerably. We will start looking at the common ground and from there look into the differences. In most systems, that we know, there is a basic three tier model:
- the surface of the earth, on which the humans and animals are dwelling, is in the middle.
- the below, which is deep in the ocean or under the surface of the earth, often called the underworld. Demons and other mostly unfriendly creatures are living there.
- the above, which is high in the sky on or some unreachable mountains, sometimes called heaven. Mostly deities are living there.
I selected five models from the internet from various cultures and areas as an example, a systematic description from the Middle East, a drawing from the Chumash Indians, the Nordic universe, a Christian variation by Dutch painter Frans Francken and an Inca version:

Humans as the inhabitants of the middle region are facing challenges from the superior forces from above and below and have to find practical solutions for survival and successful procreation in the middle area. In indigenous societies, which are always within the animistic matrix, the basic patterns of life have been established after the creation and are continuously repeated, unless there are environmental changes. Each generation repeats the tasks of their ancestors, no evolutionary impulses originate from the societies within. Major climate changes or natural disasters may lead to migration and rearrangement of a group's life style. Shamans have the task to communicate with the spirits of the ancestors and the celestial beings. After death you might get promoted to a comfortable place in the sky, but there is no mentioning of dissolving into the big emptiness.
With the evolving of the Abrahamic matrix the concepts are changing. You get just one life and after death you are punished with eternal hell or rewarded with eternal heaven, depending on your sins and merits.
The cosmic models of the non dual matrix have a similar structure. One example is the Wheel of Life from the Buddhist and Bön system, which can be seen as a mural or Thanka in many monasteries in Tibet and Central Asia. It includes the three realms of the universe as in the above pictures and three more realms are added. Additionally there is something extra, which is missing in the above models: There is a nondescript background, on which the Bhavachakra is taking place. The leaders and founders of religions within the non dual matrix have found that background to be our true nature and every human has the potential to realize the true nature and attain liberation from the wheel.

The three tiers, which are present in the other models, are arranged in a circle (that's, why it's called "The Wheel of Life" or in Sanskrit "Bhavachakra") tightly controlled by Yama, the Lord of the Underworld. The additional element is the Buddha, who has managed to escape from Yama's grip through Self realization. For an individual it is possible to attain the realization with the support of the Buddha. But the solution cannot be found within the wheel. The idea of being a separate being creates suffering. All our actions without exception keep the roller coaster going. The clue is to detach from the ego and the dissolving of the I thought is liberation from samsara. When the I disappears you realize that you are consciousness. You are the screen on which the universe is reflected. This aspect is hidden in the abrahamic matrix and only rarely in secret schools it might be disclosed. The Abrahamic systems don't acknowledge a beyond. They remain completely in the illusionary realms and illusionary promises. Everything is based on the belief that the phenomena within the wheel are real. This actually applies to atheist systems like communism as well. They deny the existence of the realms of the gods and the demons. But they still declare humans and animals as separate from the rest of existence, so they are caught in the same illusionary bubble just like Jews, Christians and Mohammedans. "In Christianity, Mohammedanism, and Judaism, however, the personality of the divinity is taught to be final—which makes it comparatively difficult for the members of these communions to understand how one may go beyond the limitations of their own anthropomorphic divinity. The result has been, on the one hand, a general obfuscation of the symbols, and on the other, a god-ridden bigotry such as is unmatched elsewhere in the history of religion." (J.Campbell, The Hero with a thousand Faces).
If any of the three founders, Abraham, Jesus and Mohammad, would show up in Europe or North America today and say the things, they are reported to have said, I presume, they'd be sent to mental institutions pretty soon. But in their own eras they were outstanding charismatic leaders and attracted manyf followers. Abraham's group stayed comparatively small until today, because Judaism was designed for and stayed confined to Jewish tribes. Yet the Jews created the fundamental concepts, which where later adopted by Christians and Muslims, and by escaping from prosecution by various enemies they spread all over the world and planted the seeds of their belief systems everywhere. Christians and Muslims took over large parts of the world in later times, often fighting against each other, but nevertheless they converted millions of animistic worshippers to their respective beliefs . How could the Abrahamic matrix conquer the planet so successfully? Certainly many factors have contributed to this development, I will just outline a few prominent ones:
- a clearly defined meaning of life
- motivation for improvement of life circumstances
- strong beliefs
- the idea that conversion of non believers are a service to god and humanity (only Christianity and Islam)
Looking at them, we can see the strength and weakness of the Abrahamic matrix simultaneously: following Abrahamic belief systems people become successful in life. The Abrahamic concepts for life are excellent strategies for survival and improvement of living conditions. The monotheistic myth provides great motivation to tackle earthly matters. So in terms of the human evolution the Abrahamic matrix has proved to be superior to the other matrices, but as a tool for Self realization the Abrahamic systems are very limiting.Regarding the transcendental realms we are dealing with pure fantasy. Nobody has ever witnessed the salvation, which supposedly happens after death, and nobody has ever seen hell from inside. It's only speculation, which creates a certain insecurity in people, which in turn creates fanaticism and extra effort in the believers. Ironically options like "Know Thyself" (Socrates) or "Be a Light unto Yourself" (Buddha), have not been missed much, because the majority has not even heard of the idea of liberation or awakening. The world has seen quite few Christian mystics, but they are rather seen as a weird deviation from the mainstream believer. "A direct encounter with absolute truth, then, appears to be impossible for normal non-mystical consciousness. We cannot know the reality, or even prove the existence, of the simplest object: though this is a limitation which few people realize acutely and most would deny. But there persists in the race a type of personality which does realize this limitation: and cannot be content with the sham realities that furnish the universe of normal men. (p.14)...Further, there is no trustworthy standard by which we can separate the “real” from the “unreal” aspects of phenomena. Such standards as exist are conventional: and correspond to convenience, not to truth. It is no argument to say that most men see the world in much the same way, and that this “way” is the true standard of reality: though for practical purposes we have agreed that sanity consists in sharing the hallucinations of our neighbors. (p.16) " (Christian mystic Evelyn Underhill in "Mysticism - A Study in the Nature and Development of Consciousness")
On the other hand within the non-dual matrix awakening has been commonly known as the supreme fulfillment of a human life. So it is not surprising that in the East many more individuals have been focusing towards the transcendental realms and regard earthly matters as secondary. "Emptiness is the essence of all entities. This means that the most fundamental truth of things and beings is that they have no essential identity. Entities conventionally exist as conceptual designations but their identity is not intrinsic; it is situational and transitory. As conditions supporting an identity pass away and new conditions arise, the identity changes. A tree is set alight and becomes fire, then ash; eventually no trace of the tree can be found. Where did the tree go? Even our subjective sense of self is conditional, conceptually designated, changeable, and impermanent."(Rinpoche, Tenzin Wangyal. Healing with Form, Energy, and Light...)

7. the present situation

The spreading of the matrices in our time and the distribution of the world population:


The countries in yellow are all predominantly influenced by the Abrahamic matrix, the red ones by the non dual matrix. The white parts are too sparsely populated to be taken into account. In many places shamanic and syncretic systems are practiced, mostly by indigenous people, but they are always in the minority compared to the followers of the main religions of a country. Countries that have been dominated by atheist systems for some time I am counting with the matrix, which was dominant during long periods of their history.
At first glance it looks really surprising, how three rather grotesque belief systems invented by three simple guys from the Middle East could spread around the whole planet, while the non dual matrix with its far less belief-based fundaments is confined to a much smaller area and the originally wide spread shamanic matrix has almost disappeared.

53 % of the world population lives within the marked circle. The columns list the countries within the circle and their population. Comparing it with the first picture we see that all of the area of the predominantly non dual influenced countries are within the circle. Just a coincidence?

8. the dynamics of change

The regularities of samsara, their consequences and our chances of influencing:

Verse 26 of the Old Testament : “God created the earth; let [human beings] have dominion over the earth; behold, it was very good…”

Tao Te Ching: "Those who would take over the earth and shape it to their will never, I notice, succeed."

From "The Parrot of Bagdad" by Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rumi:
Good wine and bad are by their perfume known,
And only in results are truth and falsehood shown.

At the moment the article is in preparation. In the meantime you might want to have a look at my favorite object for the observation of the dynamics of change...the clouds above Lake Walchensee in the Bavarian Alps.

- work in progress - chapters will be filled in by and by-