Han Marie Stiekema Sermes
Q. You once said, that the de-sacralization of
the world, ultimately is responsible for the current global crisis. Could you give us an
idea how this all started?
A. The underlying forces have
their origin in dualism. As you know, Christianity is a syncretistic religion, that made
its "own brew" out of many different movements, that preceded it. The major
trend was dualism - understood as the gap between God and the world - derived from India
(a.o. Advaita), Persia (Zoroastricism) and the Essenes (Jewish sect). They divided life
into a sacred and a secular realm.
Q. What was the driving force behind dualism? I
mean, why this separation in the first place?
A. It was the reaction of men
against feminine dominance. In the old days, life was greatly determined by women, who
were in charge of almost all daily activities. In order to create "space for
themselves", the former tried to escape from this "cycle of birth and
death", projecting their "ideal" into "the quest for
Q. Like the Buddha leaving his wife and child,
in order to discover a "higher Truth?"
A. Ever since, the realm of
religion has been claimed by men, degrading the Mother and earth-related beliefs of
Q. When actually came the state into play?
A. The male-dominated religion
became state religion, finding its culmination in the Roman Empire. State and religion
were interwoven, with the Emperor as "God on earth". This oneness of the sacred
and the worldly lasted until Constantine. Even he, as a Christian Ruler, originally
embodied the two realms. (like the Byzantine Emperors did until their very last moment in
1453). In the mean time, the imperial aspirations of the bishops of Rome had grown
considerably. Until then, they had been only one among others. This they changed through a
falsification, a forged document, called the "Donation of Constantine",
conferring central power on the bishop of Rome, acquiring a status equal to that of the
emperor, while "receiving" worldly territories. It is the illegal foundation of
the Vatican* as "Holy See".
See also: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05118a.htm
Q. Which gave further impetus to the
separation of worldly and religious power e.g. realms.
A. That's right. While the
emperor used to embody the unity of both realms, with the establishment of the papacy as
highest "spiritual" authority, the world was split into two. The consequences
were grave. It resulted in the de-sacralization of the world e.g. secularization of the
Q. Giving rise to endless quarrelling, as I
have read in history books.
A. O, yes. Emperor and pope
have continuously been fighting for supremacy. Eventually, it culminated in the
controversy about installing German bishops and other clerics, called
"investiture". Both the Holy Roman Emperor and pope claimed the right to do so.
Both powers continued to try to become dominating, until this very century. In fact, the
"discussion" has never died out. Against the context of the current global
crisis, consisting of many factors, like materialism, the coming of Islam to the West,
degradation of nature and the disintegration of society as a whole, a new orientation
See also: http://www.bartleby.com/65/ch/churchNs.html
Q. What has changed recently in the
relationship between religion and state?
A. As long as there was
consensus about their separate realms, no major problems did crop up. Two things have
fundamentally changed though. On the one hand people (Christians) have abandoned
institutionalized religion, while on the other hand large groups of immigrants have been
bringing in all kinds of new belief systems.
Q. So things are shifting?
A. The paradox is this. The
strength of Europe - its secularization - becomes its weakness, when confronted with new
religious movements. "Suddenly", one becomes aware of the fact, that there is a
gap - the absence of spiritual culture - that can be easily filled up by others. The
one-dimensional materialistic politics has neglected spiritual substance. In order to
prevent, that intolerant politicized religious groups get the upper hand, Europe has to
fill up the gap by itself, before others are going to do it.
Q. Are you in favor of abolishing the
separation between church and state?
A. Not at all. Religion is
identifying itself with a particular belief, savior, holy book, dogma's, rules and
prescriptions - apart from being linked to a certain culture - that can never become
imposed on others. To the former, people who do not believe are "non-believers",
"pagans", "ignorant" or worse. Religion is exclusive, it is
emphasizing only one part of reality, while rejecting everything, that doesn't fit in
their system, hence it is not suitable to become the "common denominator" to
all. We have to search for a new foundation, in which all "denominations" can
recognize themselves. I call this new approach "spiritual humanism".
For Dutch readers, click: spiritueel humanisme".
Q. Mankind is desperately longing for
"Unity in Diversity". But what could that possibly be?
A. We have to search for a
solution, that suits all parties involved. It should satisfy the state in its attempt to
keep the realms apart; it should satisfy the individual in finding meaning in life; it
should satisfy the community in its efforts to restore wholeness; it should contribute to
the re-sacralization of nature, and it should become acceptable to the various religious
beliefs and congregations.
Q. How could "spiritual humanism"
play a role here?
A. Well, apart from personal
beliefs all people have something in common, which they call "existence" or
"condition humaine". Every human "exists". What does that mean? What
are the basic requirements, that make human life possible? What is the foundation of life,
something that all people share? Is there something inclusive, in which all people may
Q. You say it.
A. Well, regardless belief,
conviction or philosophy, all people without exception, prove to be part of "Heaven,
earth and the community". It is the difference between spirituality and religion, the
former reflecting the realm everybody has in common. They may give different names to it,
but the essence is the same. For instance, a Christian will call "Heaven"
"God", a Muslim calls it "Allah", a New Age follower calls it
"Cosmos", while an intellectual will call it "Consciousness". In fact,
these are all names for the Same Thing. Subsequently, being "part of the earth and
the community", well, there will be very few people, who deny this all too obvious
aspect of our common existence. Hence, people - after having studied the matter - would be
prepared to eventually accept it. Why? Because it is reflecting the existential situation
of everybody on the one hand, while not negatively affecting a particular belief on the
other. If it indeed satisfies all parties involved, then maybe for the first time in
history, religions have found a common ground.
Q. I recognize the same principle in
Chinese Religion (Taoism, Confucianism). It indeed appears to be quite universal.
A. In fact "being part of
Heaven, earth and the community" has been the foundation of all cultures of all
times. Against the background of increasing fragmentation, sectarianism, fundamentalism,
meaninglessness and violence, this concept is appearing exactly at the right time. It is
connecting to the deepest longing of people. Moreover, once you have accepted the common
ground - Unity - diversity will not be a threat anymore. On the contrary. If you see what
connects, then you start appreciating the differences as well. Rather than excluding
"the other", everything becomes part of one colorful spectrum. It means nothing
less, than the removal of a major source of misunderstanding, discrimination, conflict and
violence. It is like creation itself: diversity as an ode to Unity.
Q. Do you think, this has a chance to further
becoming worked out?
A. It will depend on the will
of every party involved. It will come, when people really see the necessity of it. Let's
hope, that the time is ripe for it soon.
The way of action consists of
"doing out of non-doing".
Do what you have to do.
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