by Victoria LePage
President Nursultan Nazarbayev
Can we ever expect world peace to materialize
out of what amounts to a worldwide battlefield?
Commenting on the great natural catastrophes of 2011, as well as the escalating rebel activities in north Africa, Wilhelm Augustat, Austrian president of the European office of the Peace Through Culture International, said:
Those who hold to Augustat’s view and see the building of a peaceful worldwide commonwealth of nations as a possibility that must begin at the highest cultural and spiritual level, are turning their attention to Kazakhstan in Central Asia, whose new capital, Astana, hosted the above-mentioned World Forum of Peace through Spiritual Culture in October, 2010.
In Kazakhstan they glimpse something immensely hopeful for the rest of the world taking place:
Central Asia ceased to be a part of the Soviet Union in 1991, a large part of it becoming instead the independent nation of Kazakhstan.
Now one of the largest countries in the world,
this vast new state spreads across the heart of the Eurasian landmass from
the shores of the Caspian sea to the Tien Shan mountains and the Altai,
uniting East to West. Crisscrossed by ancient trade routes and revealing to
archaeologists the ruins of long-buried civilizations, the whole region is
now striving to reconstitute its shattered identity as guardian of the
world’s oldest traditions of sacred knowledge.
Widely regarded as the crucible of civilization, Central Asia is even more than that: it is the generative heart of the planet, a place of evolutionary birthing that has become active again and again throughout history, spawning religions, sciences and civilizations that have fanned out across the world.
Here where the ancient Silk Road ran and
invading hordes and new religious movements swept to and fro remaking
civilizations, history reveals that the influence of a single powerful
spiritual source has been radiating out under various names, promoting peace
and righteousness to the ends of the Earth for countless millennia.
It sent forth the Sons of the Sun or Sons of Heaven, sometimes known as the Sons of Light, to build a network of temples around the globe that brought knowledge both scientific and spiritual to the people and civilization to the whole planet.
Supplanting Ice age shamanism and the earlier worship of the Pole star in the constellation Draco for that of the Sun, the new faith nevertheless preserved a great deal of reverence for the lofty principles of its predecessor, as indeed is testified by the totemic masks of birds, animals and fish still worn by the neter gods in ancient Egyptian art.
This mysterious hierarchy also lay behind the
Sun religion of the Shang dynasty in China and the Kibieri of the Celts, and
behind the Solar religion of the Egyptian kings of Heliopolis who, as Sons
of the Sun, were closely allied to the original Asiatic order.
Travellers say that the whole of Central Asia still rings with stories of Shambhala, a place of enlightenment and peace hidden among the most remote mountain valleys, and once known also as the Land of the Living Gods, the Forbidden Land and the Land of White Waters where the culture-bearing Sons of the Sun originated.
Faced by the devastation of their ancient
culture, the hopes of many of the Central Asian peoples are still high that
soon this will be rectified; the king of Shambhala will lead his great band
of warriors out to destroy his enemies and reclaim the kingdom as his own,
as a Buddhist prophecy has long declared.
Shambhala, therefore, symbolized the great
future, when the Panchen Lama would be reborn as Rigden Jyepo and
the reign of Maitreya, the 'Coming One',
However that may be, today there are signs in
Kazakhstan of the birth of a Muslim reforming program that owes nothing to
the more combative Buddhist scenario, yet fulfils in every essential way the
Shambhala prophecy, promising to usher in a new era and a new sacred society
based on culturally enlightened principles.
As well as the indigenous Kazakhs, here are
established Nestorian Christian and Sufi communities, indigenous Buddhist
groups and shamanic nomads still roaming the steppes, as well as a large
population of Jews who fled here after the Romans sacked Jerusalem in the
second century CE; besides which there are Jewish converts
known as Khazars who have migrated eastward and settled in their
thousands in this foreign land.
Breaking the traditional Muslim mould of power-driven dynastic autocracy that featured until very recently in all the Muslim caliphates, he recently rejected a referendum that would give him a further ten years in office, and showed readiness to actually shorten the term of presidential office.
He has initiated the People’s Assembly of Kazakhstan, which gives every ethnic group the right to take part in the decision-making congresses associated with the political, cultural and social activities of the country.
And his attitude to women is also modern.
Schools for girls are a priority, with attention given to getting girls into
science and technology.
But the President’s chief initiative remains one that first materialized in 1992, soon after Kazakhstan’s independence from the Soviet Union.
In 2003 the Congress of the Leaders of World
and Traditional Religions was held with great success in Astana, and
again in 2006 and 2009. Emphasis was laid on the principles that bind
religions together rather than those that separate them.
As the British scholar and philosopher Peter Kingsley notes,
According to the same open principle, high-level representatives from about seventy-five countries, "from all cultures, ‘cults’ and worldviews," attended the historic gathering in Astana.
In his Conference report on the International Forum for Peace through Culture, Augustat stated that the world initiative launched by Kazakhstan’s President is based on non-violence, harmony and cooperation between nations.
Similar world gatherings to those in Kazakhstan are of course being held elsewhere, for example in Turkey and Australia very recently.
But the key objective of the Executive Committee of Spiritual Culture as proposed by President Nazarbayev strikes another new and even more revolutionary note. It aims at nothing less than the furtherance of an integration of science, socio-politics and religion in one overarching transcendental order.
As Kingsley notes, from the very earliest times but now long lost, this idea of a comprehensive divine whole uniting all that exists was also a core principle of the philosophy of central Asian shamanism from which the Sun religion directly emerged, and in which there was a constant overlapping of,
Consequently, one of the most important highlights that came out of the Kazakhstan World Forum, notes Augustat, is the awareness of the necessity of a synthesis of the political and spiritual-cultural as well as scientific spheres in society, and the gradual overcoming of their present entrenched separation.
This very postmodern approach, which even today is entertained by only a minority of western thinkers as the necessary basis for a more enlightened world civilization, characterizes the Kazakhstan Executive and raises the interesting question:
Seventy years before the birth of the Kazakhstan nation a similar Buddhist attempt was essayed in the Altai in southern Siberia.
Nazarbayev’s has been guided, it would seem, by
a different star, a gnostic vision from a far more distant time; but
nevertheless, the earlier attempt to establish a Buddhist New Country of New
Russia in the Altai may well be seen as a rehearsal for Kazakhstan’s more
ambitious Muslim experiment.
In his book Red Shambhala, he reveals the underground occult agenda of a visionary Russian clique working within the very core of the new Bolshevik State to bring about a political condition impregnated with the Buddhist wisdom of Shambhala.
Inspired by Buddhist prophesies, this clandestine group active within the Soviet Secret Police believed that the social ideals of Communism were compatible with those foretold of the Buddha Maitreya, the One to Come, and that with the amalgamation of the two a glorious mystical era of Communism would result that would benefit the whole world.
So persuasive was this vision that for a while
the movement gathered many Communist adherents, and indeed was to be
destroyed only by the later Stalinist purges. But not before a number of
expeditions were either planned or actually sent forth from Russia and
elsewhere in eastern Europe, with the intention of finding the fabled
kingdom and embracing its immortal teachings.
Nicholas established a Master art school in New York and Helena, a mystical clairvoyant, channeled guidance from Masters Morya and Koot Hoomi, the same Mahatmas whom Blavatsky had claimed as her unseen Adepts and spiritual mentors a few decades earlier. (According to recent research, these two Masters were most probably Hindu and Sikh Indians, presumably high initiates in their respective religions.) 9
The Roerichs were also strongly influenced by
the shamanic teachings and legends of Shambhala that had been trickling into
Russia from Russian expatriates in southern Siberia for the past hundred or
so years; and in 1923, at the behest of the Master Morya and under his
continual guidance, the Roerichs set out for central Asia on an arduous
odyssey to find the wondrous kingdom.
Shambhala, he said, was,
Its further meaning would unfold in the establishment of a sacred New Country, a New Russia in the Altai, a mountainous country in southern Siberia lying at the intersection of Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Tibet.
There the Roerichs were to found the New Country
on the highest Buddhist principles. It was to be governed at a spiritual
level by the exiled Tibetan Panchen Lama - whom they were commissioned to
find somewhere in Mongolia and bring back to the Altai - and on an
administrative level by Nicholas himself, who sometimes wore the robes of
the Tibetan Dalai Lama.
In fact the New Country was to be nothing less
than a unification of all Inner Asian peoples into a spiritual kingdom. Thus
would be established the Sacred Union of the East.
The Panchen lama, at that time enjoying a profligate lifestyle in Mongolia, was not interested in the New Country. And visiting Soviet Russia to elicit support for their Great Plan, the Roerichs received only a cautious and limited response from the government while antagonizing all the other great powers - Japan, America, Britain and China - at that time mutually competing to gain access to the riches of central Asia.
Nicholas and his son George made a further
attempt to materialize the Masters’ plans in 1937, but this attempt
too failed, and having earned the fury of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the then
president of the US who saw their endeavors as a betrayal of US interests,
the Roerichs were obliged to retire to India for the rest of their lives.
But there are significant differences.
For one thing, and an important one, in the Buddhist venture Nicholas Roerich laid no discernible emphasis on interdisciplinary unification, a reform of the utmost importance to Kazakhstan’s President. Nor is there any indication that Nazarbayev draws to any degree on the mythology of Shambhala.
Indeed the warlike outlook that lurks behind the Altaic venture and plays such a large part in the Buddhist prophecies of Shambhala - leading Nicholas and Helena to regard themselves as "Shambhala warriors" - is entirely absent from Nazarbayev’s idealistic program.
To trace the bond that does undoubtedly seem to exist between these two regional ventures seventy years apart, we must delve more deeply into the nature of the ancient spiritual hierarchy that lies at an even more hidden level beneath Shambhala’s folk mythology.
To find a precedent for them we have only to
turn back to the great days of the Sun religion that peaked during the third
But in the higher prophetic ranks we find a
counterbalancing trend of a quasi-clandestine nature that preserved the
original unicentric Solar policy, even to maintaining an overseeing
brotherhood with its headquarters remaining in Central Asia.
A hierarchic philosophy in the higher Solar
echelons balanced a democratic one in the lower, leading to a spirit of
accord and international harmony unprecedented to this day, yet at the same
time allowing ideological differences to flourish creatively in the lower
levels of the religion.
Even as the Earth and the stars of the firmament were seen as related elements of one transcendental order, so that divine Whole was believed to be inclusive of, and to bring into relationship all areas of human knowledge, whether they be religious, psychosocial or physical.
Two famous historical figures who fall into this category are Visvakarma of the Arunachala temple in India, a renowned expert in geometry and number, and Imhotep, ancient high priest of Heliopolis in Egypt, an engineer and architect who famously built the step pyramid at Saqqara.
By means of this policy of multidisciplinary
integration which brought together at all levels the opposite poles of human
knowledge, those of the spiritual and natural orders, societies were unified
at a high overall level, but without stifling the creative potential that
lies in the challenges of diversity and opposition.
But in time, as the initial impulse spread ever more widely throughout the Old and the New Worlds and discord inevitably increased, the religion increasingly found expression in various more esoteric orders bearing different names but inherently the same liberal principles.
One of these orders was the international Order
of Melchizedek, widely believed to be involved in the beginning of all three
Semitic religions, Judaism and Christianity as well as Islam.
Superior to any local cult or priesthood and
steeped in the wisdom of shamanic gnosis, the order claims to be, like the
Sun religion, an underground spiritual stream, itself invisible and
timeless, from which all our disparate belief systems ultimately stem.
As the esotericist René Guénon notes,
As a consequence of the rite Abram acquired the
new name of Abraham.
Thus, Welburn says, since Judaism was primarily a lunar religion, these Solar initiations would have been strictly esoteric Mystery events.
The Letter to the Hebrews (5-6) in the New Testament implies a similar distinction in Christianity, for the writer, Apollonius of Alexandria, declares that Jesus Christ too has been given the office of high priest of God Most High.
Here, says Welburn, we meet again the old
Canaanite priest-king Melchizedek, who was so central to Essene and Gnostic
teachings and whose name is linked to the hidden Solar symbolism that runs
through the lunar religion of Judaism.14
Although nowhere stated in the Koran, not only would Muhammad therefore have come automatically under the tutelage of El’s high priest Melchizedek, but also it is an Arabic tradition that Abraham, as the first of Islam’s prophetic lineage passed the wisdom he had received from Melchizedek down the line to the prophet Muhammad and his Islamic reformation.
And there in Islam it was preserved by the
Sufis, a spiritual order that had existed long before Islam.
Like the Sons of the Sun and the Righteousness adepts, the Sufis were direct heirs of neolithic shamanism and more than any other religious system of the day carried forward the two key principles of the Sun religion.
For a time Sufism became a powerful democratic
influence wherever Islam spread, constellating especially along the
Afro-Eurasian "hinge" referred to by Tiberio Grazianhi.
For centuries the Sufis ensured that Jews, Christians and Muslims lived at peace with each other, extending the boundaries of knowledge and together rebuilding the cultural wealth that had been lost after the demise of the Roman empire.
And Sufism also ensured that in the Fatimid
caliphate of the eleventh century a mosque became the first university in
Islam in which theological expertise united with that of chemistry,
astronomy and medicine, mathematics and geometry in an overall metaphysic of
great intellectual force.
This is a time of critical challenges and
perhaps only time will tell.