'Everyone is God' is the Common truth behind all World Religion
All the Worlds Religions are really the same Religion when we strip away the more superficial aspects of the Great Faith Traditions, i.e. the rules, the rituals and the regulations. Then we find that at the esoteric core of all Religion is the eternal idea that a persons ultimate and real identity is God.
In this section we show that the idea that a person's real identity is ultimately God, lies at the heart of all world religion. At first this assertion may not seem evident or even plausible and most people don't associate the religions of this World with the idea that everyone is God, But there are reasons why this should be the case. It will be shown how the idea that everyone is God has either been kept secret from most of the adherents of a religion or else becomes actively denied and made heresy though it is the truth that gave rise to the religion in the first place. It will be demonstrated that the unbelievable and inescapable truth that everyone is God, is also the original and founding truth behind the World's great faith traditions.
A truth that in the past had to be kept hidden
It wouldn't be at all obvious to most people that the founders and originators of World religion, the spiritual greats of history i.e. Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad etc. believed that a person's real identity is God. When we first come to learn about the various religions of the world we encounter a variety of different moral and metaphysical ideas, but we almost never encounter the idea that everyone is God, though perhaps with the exception of Hinduism. However there is a reason for this. When we study religion more in depth we learn that without exception religion is a two-tiered affair with all the World's religions made up of two separate, related but distinct divisions. The first of these two divisions may be called the outer mysteries of religion or the exoteric traditions. These are the facets of a faith which comprise what most people understand by the word religion i.e. the rules, rituals, regulations and also the myths, fables and celebrations associated with a religion. The other division or second tier which exists in all the World's religions may be called the inner mysteries or the esoteric, which means hidden. These are the aspects of religion which deal with the matters of religion which are not so transparent and harder to accept or understand.
So to give some examples, for instance in Judaism you have Rabbinical Judaism associated with the Torah and synagogue worship. This would represent the outer mysteries of the faith. But then you also have the Kabbalah or the so called hidden teaching of Moses. In Islam you have the zahir or the outer meanings of Islam but then you also have the batin or the hidden meanings. Correspondingly in Buddhism you find the mahayana and theravada traditions, which are also known as the Greater Vehicle and Lesser Vehicle respectively but then you also find there is vajrayana Buddhism also known as the Diamond Vehicle and believed to be the hidden teachings of the Buddha. Finally in Christianity we have a situation described in the Gospels where it is stated that Jesus revealed the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven only to the disciples, whereas to everyone else these mysteries were spoken of only in parables so that they 'may be ever seeing but never perceiving and though ever hearing they are never understanding.' And so we find early in the history of Christianity the existence of a very mystical interpretation of the teachings of Christ whereby his message is not merely that he himself is God but that everyone else is God as well.
So generally we find a division inherent in the make up of the World's religions which separates the manifest or clearly apparent aspects of religion from a hidden or esoteric inner core. When we study the beliefs and practices of this esoteric component found in all the World's religions then we discover a lot of commonality of belief. This is in contrast to the difference and diversity that exists with respect to the exoteric or visible aspects of religion. It is quite self evident that the World's religions differ greatly from one another in terms of the rules, rituals and regulations of the respective faiths. This is the cause of much interfaith and sectarian conflict. But it is not commonly known that there exists at the same time a lot of harmony of belief when we examine this esoteric side which exists at the heart of all the World's great spiritual traditions. Furthermore when we look in depth and examine what is believed within this esoteric and mystical inner core of World religiosity then remarkably we discover that two central beliefs recur throughout all the major religions. The first of these beliefs is reincarnation, a subject which is dealt with systematically in another section of this website (Click here to see reincarnation section). But the second of these beliefs and the one more relevant to the present discussion is the idea that a person's real identity is God. We will examine some of the World's major religions in turn, showing how it is that for these religions the idea that everyone is God, is indeed the central idea behind them all and one that is to be found within their respective esoteric traditions.
I'd like to say at this point that I am using the word God as a general term for the ultimate i.e. the source of all being and the ground of all existence. Of course different terms and labels are used to describe God within the various religions of the world. So in Hinduism, the ultimate is called 'Brahman', in Islam God is named 'Allah', in Christianity God is the 'Logos' or the 'Father', in mystical Judaism God is referred to as 'Ein sof', in Taoism the ultimate is called the 'Tao' and in Buddhism the ground of all being is called the 'Void'. So for the sake of succinctness and consistency, instead of constantly using these more unfamiliar terms, in what follows the word 'God' will be substituted in their place.
This diagram is meant to show that the common truth behind all world religion is the idea that everyone is God. In the outer sections of the circle we have the outer mysteries of religion. That is the rules, the rituals and regulations. In the inner part of the circle is depicted the mystical heart of each religion comprising the mystical practices and disciplines designed to bring people into union with God. Towards the centre we find God. The ultimate truth and ground of all being. Though God is given different names, the assertion here is that all the different labels are really referring to the same thing.
'Everyone is God' is the truth behind Judaism
When we think of Judaism what comes to mind is what can be called Rabbinical Judaism which is centred around the Synagogue and which involves holy texts and religious works such as the Torah and the Talmud. One may also consider some of the more well known Jewish festivals such as the Passover, Hanukah or Yom kippur the Day of Atonement. However there has always existed in Judaism what is known as the Kabbalah which means 'received tradition'. It was the received tradition because to learn about the Kabbalah a Jewish person had to be introduced into it through a process of initiation. It was not something that was open to every Jew and there would be a process of selection. Therefore it was an esoteric or hidden tradition. The Kabbalah is also known as 'the hidden teachings of Moses'. Though this claim isn't provable it does attest to the fact that the Kabbalah are seen to be ancient in origin. The Essenes of the 'Dead sea scrolls' fame, who were an esoteric Jewish sect, which existed around and before the time of Jesus, are known to have practiced an earlier form of the Kabbalah. So we know that the Kaballah has existed as a part of Judaism for a very long time. It is in the Kabbalah that we find in Judaism the belief that a person's real identity is God or 'Ein Sof', as the ultimate is referred to in this mystical tradition. One of the meditations of the Kabbalah is to meditate on the Cosmic Tree of the Sepphiroth and the cosmic androgen Adam Kadmon. The initiate does this in order to experience being one with the cosmos and realize himself or herself as God. It may well have been the case that a particularly well known young Jewish man who claimed to be one with God i.e. Jesus Christ was himself involved in the Kabbalah.
Judaism is a religion with a rich tradition of prophecy and a long list of prophets who spoke the word of God. These special people are also known in hebrew as nabim which means mouth pieces of God. It is the assertion of the author that in Judaism the prophets were able to speak the truth of God by becoming one with the mind of God.
Everyone is God is the truth behind Christianity.
In Christianity the idea of the divinity of Jesus is perhaps the central tenet, but this is in the exclusive sense i.e. only Jesus is God. The idea that 'everyone is God' in Christianity has generally been considered highly heretical and in some cases even punishable by death. It is the assertion of the author here that the original message of Jesus was that 'Everyone is God' but that this truth became suppressed and lost as the religion evolved, or degenerated depending on how you look at it.
Even in the Bible, in the Gospels we discover hints that Jesus believed that everyone is God and not just himself. For instance in the Gospel of John an incident is related where Jesus was about to be stoned to death by his fellow Jews for claiming to be God. Significantly in his defense he quotes from the Psalms 82:6 saying...
"Is it not written in your law, 'I have said you are gods' "
The clear implication here is that not only is he claiming that he himself alone is God but by the fact that he quotes from this psalm in defense of his own claim to be God, he is in effect saying that everyone is God.
If we examine some of the early Christian literature which was excluded from the Bible then we find further evidence supporting the idea that the message of Jesus was one of universal divinity. In the Gospel of Thomas, which many scholars consider a more accurate source of Jesus' sayings than the Bible, he says quote...
'Whoever drinks from my mouth shall become as I and I shall become as he and the hidden mysteries to him shall be revealed.'
Also if we study the very early history of Christianity then we discover that indeed some of the early Christians were like their founder, going off into the desert and trying to achieve a state of union and oneness with God. And this idea of the divinity of a person was shared by some heretical sects known collectively as the Gnostics.
Everyone is God is the truth behind Islam
Most Muslims in this world, 85% or so, belong to the main division within the religion known as Sunni Islam. The word Sunni derives from the arabic word sunna, which means the customs of the prophet. So corresponding to its definition this branch of Islam has a predominant focus on the outward and visible aspects of religion, i.e. on the legalistic, historical and moralistic details of the faith. Within Sunni Islam therefore it is no surprise that the idea that everyone is God would be considered quite anathema. However there also exist sects and other branches of Islam where the focus is more on the mystical and transcendent. For example the various Sufi orders, the division of islam known as the Shia, the Alawi sect and also the Druze. It is within these parts of Islam that we find more interest in and expression of what are known as the batin or the hidden meanings of the koran and the sayings of Muhammad. This is as opposed to the zahir or the outer and ostensible meanings of the Koran etc. Some clues as to what these hidden and esoteric truths are all about are provided by a couple of key sayings of the prophet Muhammad. A lot of people are familiar with Muhammad's saying...
'Who ever knows himself knows God.'
There may be some ambiguity as to the meaning of this statement. However a second but less familiar saying found in what is know as the Hadith, which are the sayings of Muhammad outside the Koran, has the prophet uttering this piece of verse...
'Man is mystery and I am his mystery, for I am he himself and he is I myself.'
What this is telling us is that the religion of Islam like all the other religions of the World derive from the experience that a person has of becoming God and as a result returning with prophecy and divine teachings. These sayings really point towards the idea that a person's real identity is Allah or God.
The idea that everyone is God has been kept alive but secret in some Sufi orders and most notably in the Shiite sect called the Ismaili. It is also interesting to note here that accompanying the belief that everyone is God, we also find a strong belief in reincarnation. Sometimes it may not be apparent that these groupings of Islam believe that everyone is God but the main reason for this is a doctrine practiced by these groups called taqquiya which means secrecy or caution. The adoption of the practice of taqquiya means keeping ones beliefs hidden from everyone else which traditionally would have meant other Muslims. A powerful reason for this is illustrated by the story of the famous sufi martyr Al Hallaq who in 10th century Baghdad, openly declared that 'I am the truth', 'I am God'. As a result of this proclamation he was forced to recant on pain of death by the religious authorities. However he refused to do so and so was executed in the most horrible of circumstances. For this and other reasons the idea that everyone is God has since the time of Muhammad existed as a hidden truth, working behind the scenes but rarely revealed openly.
Everyone is God is the truth behind Hinduism
The notion that everyone is God has been a more prominent feature of the Hindu faith through the ages, than has been the case of most of the other world religions. This belief is by no means universally accepted by all Hindus either in present times or at any time in history. However when we study Hinduism then we discover a very significant mystical under current inherent in Hinduism where the belief that everyone is God is a central tenet. Sometimes in the vedic tradition, this idea that a person's real identity is God is referred to as Advaita Vendanta. This is a widely held belief in Hinduism though not as widespread as reincarnation. The idea that a person's real identity is God finds its fullest expression in a heavily mystical strain of Hinduism known as Tantra.
In the ancient Hindu holy literature called the Upanishads the idea that everyone is God is well elaborated upon. Also in the books called the Brahma Sutras and even the most important text in Hinduism, the Bhagavad gita, allude to the notion that the soul of the person or self i.e. atman and the essence of God i.e. Brahman are one and the same. In the classical Hindu conception of existence the atman or self is seen as being essentially illusory and the same for the physical world. The appearance of our physical being and the external objective world is thus a manifestation of God, a projection created through the play of Brahman known as lila. In avidya which means ignorance, we believe ourselves to be existing in our physical bodies, separate from the rest of the universe, gazing out on a vast seemingly impersonal cosmos. In vidya which means to see things as they really are, then we realize that all along we were God reflecting upon the universe that is our true self. So we find that in Hinduism not only is the belief that everyone is God fairly common place but also that elaborate philosophical and metaphysical systems have been developed in order to try to make sense of this most ultimate of truths.
However there are branches and schools of thought within Hinduism that actively deny the idea that everyone is God. One example would be the revisionist Bhakti movement which emerged relatively recently in medieval India. This popular movement within Hinduism emphasizes a devotional form of spirituality centred around the veneration of an 'Avatar' which means a manifestation of Godhead. Examples of avatars would be the ancient god-men Krishna and Rama. This is quite similar to the worship of the god-man Jesus Christ in Christianity. The Bhakti movement's rejection of the idea that a person's real identity is God was given philosophical justification most notably by two thinkers named Ramanuja and Madhva, who lived in India around the time of the 11th and 13th centuries respectively. Ramanuja in his thinking formulated the doctrine of Qualified Non-Dualism which drew subtle distinctions between a person and God, and also between the universe and God. Later on the philosopher Madhva would assert a total separateness and unrelatedness between a person and God and also God and the Universe. So these currents in Hinduism have served to oppose and deny in Hinduism the idea that everyone is God. But even so, as stated earlier, the idea has persisted even up to present times to an extent that is more evident than in the other World religions.
Everyone is God is the truth behind Buddhism
The case for the idea that the truth behind Buddhism is that everyone is God, is less clear cut not least because the Buddha made a conscious decision that the emphasis of his teachings should be on the practical, shunning philosophical speculation. Hence we have what is known as the 'Silence of the Buddha' whereby when he was asked about metaphysical matters, he deliberately said nothing relevant or meaningful in reply. Also he specifically denied that he was a 'god'. So how can we reconcile these facts with the assertion that the truth behind Buddhism is the idea that a person's real identity is God?
Firstly the historical Buddha emerged from a pre-existent spiritual tradition i.e. Hinduism, which as we have already seen, has a long history of a strong association with the idea that everyone is God. The fact that he absorbed various hindu teachings and also learned the mystical practices of hindu holy men that he'd encountered, would suggest that there is some relationship between the truth behind Buddhism and that which is behind Hinduism.
Secondly, though his teaching tended to concentrate on the practical, certain key metaphysical assertions that he did make, namely the doctrines of 'rebirth' and sanyatta do point towards parallel teachings in Hinduism which derive from the central tenet that atman i.e. the self and 'Brahman' i.e. God are one and the same. The doctrine of 'rebirth' was an amendment to the existing idea of reincarnation except that Buddha specified that there was no individuated soul that was transmigrating merely what is known as the 'entity' which holds information transferred between the succession of rebirths. So from this we have the Buddhist doctrine of anatman i.e. no soul or no self. This directly parallels the Hindu notion of an illusory atman or self, that disappears upon union with 'Brahman' or God. Interestingly there is a corresponding early Sufi doctrine called fana which means the annihilation of the self in Allah. So the doctrine of rebirth is saying that there is no self or soul because we are the Buddhist void which is the correct expression for the ultimate or God in Buddhism, and so our lives, moment by moment, are a succession of manifestations of the Void. And furthermore our entire lives are themselves a succession of rebirths with the precise details of the next rebirth exactly specified by the entity, which is itself an aspect of the Void or God.
The other key metaphysical assertion referred to earlier that Buddha made, which finds correspondence with an existing idea in Hinduism which is associated with the idea that everyone is God, is the doctrine of sanyatta. In sanskrit sanyatta means emptiness and the idea that Buddha was trying communicate is that objects and things in the physical world, exist as appearances only and that behind that superficial manifestation is nothing, i.e. everything in the material world is empty of real existence and is really illusory. This doctrine corresponds perfectly with the idea of maya in Hinduism which also asserts the illusory nature of physical reality. It is the assumption of Materialism i.e. the belief that existence has its basis in a physical universe comprising of matter, which is the main misunderstanding which prevents us from being able to entertain let alone accept, the idea that our real identity is God. Hence the closely related doctrines of sanyatta in Buddhism and maya in Hinduism, are key ideas which point towards the notion that everyone is God.
Regarding Buddha's denial that he was a god, this has to be understood in context. What Buddha was saying was that he was not a god in the way that people expected a god to be, that is a magical entity with supernatural powers who could perform miracles. The mystical experience he had becoming one with the Buddhist 'Void' under the boddhi tree was an encounter with the transcendent and a realization of the true nature of things that all through history was impossible to adequately articulate. This state of union with the ultimate or God has never reconciled itself with popular conceptions of what constitutes God. Therefore this can compel anyone who has had the direct experience of becoming God to deny to those around him or her, that he or she is a god.
Finally there exists within Buddhism a highly mystical practice known variously as Vajrayana Buddhism, Tantric Buddhism or the 'Diamond Vehicle'. It is also sometimes referred to as the hidden teachings of the Buddha. Here as is the case in Tantric Hinduism, the central tenet is the idea that everyone is God. One of the spiritual practices of this kind of Buddhism is called 'deity yoga' where the spiritual aspirant attempts through various mystical disciplines to realize himself or herself as God. Though this form of Buddhism is a small section of the whole religion, it none the less has very ancient roots and though it is impossible to be certain one way or the other, there may well be truth in the suggestion that Tantric Buddhism along with the idea that everyone is God, was taught by the Buddha.
For all these reasons given, it is therefore not unreasonable to suggest that the truth behind Buddhism is the idea that everyone is God. Though this is not explicitly stated by the Buddha it is possible to read between the lines and make a compelling case supporting this notion.
Summary and conclusion
We have seen then that when we examine the World's major religions, we find within them without exception the idea that a person's real identity is God. This would not seem obvious to most people and the reason for this is that this most ultimate of truths is usually kept hidden from the masses and only revealed to a chosen few who are initiated into these higher mysteries. Or else the idea is kept as a guarded secret by certain esoteric sects that exist within the various religions of the World. The main reason for this state of affairs is that the notion that a person's real identity is God has never been an easy one to understand or accept. The proclamation of this truth has traditionally invited ridicule or even the execution of the claimant.
Another reason why it is not evident that the idea that everyone is God is the truth behind all World religion, is this. Even though this truth gives rise to religion and is its well spring, due to its unfathomable and totally counter intuitive nature, this truth has historically found itself censored and suppressed. The ultimate truth has always been for most people the unbelievable truth. And so it is a truth which once realized and attained, is easily forgotten and lost over the passage of time. Then the truth lies dormant through the passage of history and the flow of human affairs, waiting to be rediscovered by another prophet, avatar or some other creator of religion, whence it will once again impact upon humanity in powerful and transformative ways.