People in practically every culture on the planet turn to religion and other schools of thought to understand the unanswerable questions of life. At best, religion is enlightening and reassuring, but at its worst it causes fear and separation between those who believe we are different from one another.
I see all religions like vehicles. Belief systems and modes of spirituality might seem as different as bicycles and airplanes, but they take us towards the same place. What I mean is that people’s modes of worship may be very different, but they are tapping into the same higher energy.
Yoga practice led me to the study of Tantric philosophy*. One of the teachings, put very simply, describes everything, at its essence, as made of the same ‘stuff’. This is not unlike the scientific description of atoms being the main substance of everything.
I decided to study other religions, via the art form of yantra design, to see if our different world views are made of the same ‘stuff’ after all.
I began with the nine planet yantras from the Tantric philosophy and decided to relate each planet to a different religion. I quickly learned that this was very apropos as most popular religions are anthropomorphized versions of astrology and the galaxy surrounding us.
“The Christian religion is a parody on the worship of the sun, in which they put a man called Christ in the place of the sun, and pay him the adoration originally paid to the sun” (Tomas Paine, 1737-1809).
Indeed the Christian cross is based on the axis of an astrological diagram. If this is true, than Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. may be more similar than different. I went on to find that Shiva, the Tao Te Ching, the Gospel of John, Allah, the Torah etc. have a lot of similar guiding principles.
Here are two of my favorite examples:
This yantra (the centerpiece) represents Jupiter. In this piece I am drawing similarity between Greek thought and the Tantric Goddess Parāvāk. The Greek text reads, “God was the Logos”. From the Gospel of John, “ ‘the word’ is the English translation of logos, denoting the deep structure of reality, the harmonic animating principle of the universe.” The Tantric Goddess Parāvāk is known as “the Supreme Word”. She is revered as the highest principle of reality, “the totality of existence is understood as an expression of the Supreme Word, and thus all beings are ‘the Word made flesh’” (Wallis, Christopher D. Tantra Illuminated. Anusara Press, 2012).
Upper Symbol: the Greek symbol for the planet Jupiter
Lower Symbol: SAUḤ in the sacred Śāradā script, the mantra of Parāvāk “breathing forth Her revelation”.
Around this yantra, representing Saturn, I chose Hebrew text. This excerpt from the Torah: ehyeh Asher ehyeh, translates to “I am That I am”. This phrase is strikingly similar to The Sanskrit phrase, aham idam idam aham, from Tattva #4 (Isvara), which means “I am This; This I am”.
*When I use the word Tantra, I am not referring to the common association of Tantra as sex. For more information regarding Tantra I recommend reading What is Tantra Really? by Christopher Wallis.