Thank you. I recall a comment from Marianne Williamson that Buddhism came along with its insight into karma, and then Jesus came along to speak further on how to deal with “sin”—through love.
Instead of Chinese whispers, then, in which an original message disintegrates or changes, I wonder if a model for comparative religions could be a conversation. Though I am hardly able to summarize such grand themes, I wonder if that conversation might be represented like this:
Hinduism: Life is a cycle of reincarnation.
Buddhism: This process is controlled through the law of karma.
Confucianism: No, stop. The domain of our experience is social order, family, obedience. Do not become lost in metaphysical dreams.
Essenism: Human activity, focused on ritual and exorcism, can create the conditions that generate a divine being in our midst. A new order, a heaven on earth, will then become possible.
Jesus arrives, but though he can seem to be the realization of the Essene dream, and augured by John the Baptist, a Temple priest educated by the Essenes, he is rejected by all existing traditions. His teaching is an unexpected idea: that it is possible to leave the cycle of mortality and become divine—through a practice of love.
. . . but this is a message that “Christianity,” per se, did not adopt.
Rather, the purported worship of Jesus hatched, in Rome, into a modified form of Confucianism, emphasizing order and family, but with a twist: the spirituality is formed by understanding that sexual feeling must be divested, as if “lust” is the karma that must be overcome.
Rabbinic Judaism forms and establishes itself as a set of practices, rituals and regulations, it now understands, are inherently divine—not for the goal of ritual purity for the Temple, but in themselves.
Islam arrives, formed with Jewish ideas, agreeing with the rabbis that ‘submission’ to rules is divine, agreeing with the Essenes that a messiah will be generated by human worship, and agreeing with the priests of Christianity that regulating gender is the underlying problem that holiness solves. You please your Creator through restrictions, which are rooted in the problem of sexual division and sexual touching.
Over the following centuries, as Alan Watts surmises, pieces of insights do seem to float between “religions.” As new ideas are added to the conversation.