Book Interview with Dr. Andrew Cort for “The Door is Open”
The following interview is a glimpse into Dr. Andrew Cort’s new book, The Door is Open, a book which describes seven steps toward spiritual awakening found in unity among the Western spiritual traditions.
(1) What is “THE DOOR IS OPEN: The 7 Steps of Spiritual Awakening that Western Scripture and Mythology Have Been Trying to Tell Us All Along” about, and why should people read it?
The wonderful myths and legends of ancient Greece, as well as all the beautiful stories of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have the common aim of showing us, through symbols and allegories, a practical method for reaching enlightenment. This information has been lost and forgotten, even though it has been right before our eyes the whole time. As a result, our traditions have been reduced to mere literal fundamentalism and a childish belief in an “invisible friend in the sky”, while atheists scoff and many serious religious people turn to the East for ‘real’ spirituality. What I demonstrate in my book, is that when read symbolically and allegorically, the stories in our magnificent Western tradition all have the common aim of illuminating the soul’s journey of Awakening. Sometimes the story is called “Returning to the Promised Land”, sometimes it’s called “The Quest for the Holy Grail”, sometimes it’s called “Muhammad’s Journey to the Seven Heavens”, sometimes it’s called “Persephone’s Return to Olympus.” It doesn’t matter what it’s called. We are all on the same path to the same God, and the method of walking the path is right there in the stories. I enhance the information with practical and enjoyable exercises and activities – some very old and some of my own devising — at the end of each chapter.
At a time when religious differences continue to breed violence and animosity, my book is about the underlying decency, spiritual wisdom and Unity of our various faiths. The purpose of religion is not to retell history, it’s not a demand that we adhere to an impossible moral code, and it doesn’t require us to believe all sorts of fantastic claims that defy rationality and logic. Rather, the real purpose of religion is to present the great Wisdom Teaching that shows us how to raise our level of being, to become all that we ought to be, and to return to communion with Divinity. In other words, each religion presents an instruction manual for Spiritual Initiation!
(2) You’ve said that THE DOOR IS OPEN can help reconcile the differences between religious people and atheists. How does it do that?
Atheists object that religious teachings are filled with justifications (or even ‘divine commands’) for violence and cruelty toward others, and that religious people turn their backs on the splendid opportunities of life in exchange for the promise of something better after death. When religious teachings are taken only literally, this is true! The stories are filled with gore and terror and impossible demands for a rather hypocritical morality. If an earthly father treated his children the way God often treats the characters in the Bible, we would declare him crazy and have him locked up. But what I show in my book is that these stories are not meant to be taken literally. They are symbolic stories about the internal battles that an evolving soul must wage against its own negativity and weakness. It all takes place in here! The harsh treatment against ‘wicked people’ is really talking about how we can conquer and destroy our own negativity.
When the Bible is read this way, it’s not about “blind faith in an angry God” or “killing in the name of the Lord”. It’s about working on oneself to become all that a human being ought to be, here in this life, right now. There is nothing offensive about this to any open minded person, whether they call themselves atheists or believers.
(3) You’ve suggested that all religions are really teaching the same thing, an idea that is certainly going to be offensive to many adherents of different faiths who believe they are following the only ‘real’ teaching. What do you say to them?
First I would say that they are right, they are following the only ‘real’ teaching. Because there’s only one ‘real’ teaching – just different ways of expressing it. Here’s an example of what I mean: When Jesus tells his followers that the “only way to the Father is through him”, it’s true. But this is not because Christianity has an exclusive path to God. It’s because the Level of Being that the Bible calls “Father” can only be attained through the Level it calls “Son”. The ‘Son’ represents the mediator between the Father and the material world, and this means that we are connected to God only through this very high Level of Being which is represented in Christianity by the Christ. You can’t get around it.
But needless to say, there are countless other “Father and Son” stories in the various traditions – Abraham and Isaac, Uranos and Cronos — as well as “Mother and Daughter” stories such as Demeter and Persephone. They are all teaching the same inner Truth.
Even St. Augustine said, “That which today is called the Christian religion existed among the ancients and has never ceased to exist from the origin of the human race until the time when Christ himself came and men began to call ‘Christian’ the true religion which already existed beforehand.” [from Augustine’s ‘Reconsiderations’, I.13.3]
(4) You’ve mentioned aspects of Christianity, Judaism, and Greek Mythology. What about Islam? Do you include Islam in your theory of the underlying Unity of religions?
Absolutely. No religion is more emphatic than Islam in teaching that we are all children of the same God. No religion states more clearly, “There is no God but God!”
We’re all human, and one thing that happens to humans is that wisdom and understanding tend to fade over time and our souls need to be refreshed. In many ways, Christianity was a response to a dwindling of wisdom that had gripped Judaism — many Pharisees, for instance, were observing rituals automatically but had lost touch with their real inner meaning. Likewise, Islam was in many ways a response to a dwindling of wisdom in Christianity – people were focusing so exclusively on God and the afterlife, that they thought God’s creation, this world, was somehow “evil”. Muhammad’s mission was not to create a new religion, but to re-balance the two already-existing expressions of the One religion of the One True God. This meant that he had to adjust the harmonious equilibrium between the ‘Above’ and the ‘Below’, and renew humanity’s respect for all of God’s Creation.
Contrary to the foolish assumptions of a few Islamic terrorists (who are really no different than Crusaders and Klansmen and the JDL and countless other boorish fools who have misunderstood religious teachings and gone off murdering in the name of God), Islam is not about violence. Islam is the religion of harmony, a harmony that is brought about by Faith in God’s Oneness, Surrender to God’s Will, and moral Virtue which is achieved through the constant remembrance of God throughout the day.
For people who worry that Islam teaches hatred, intolerance and war, consider this small sampling of statements from the Qur’an:
“There is no compulsion in matters of Religion.”
“We have …made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know each other and to honor each other, not so that you should despise each other.”
“And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community. But He willed it otherwise in order to test you by what he has vouchsafed to [each different tradition]. Vie, then, with one another in doing good works!”
(5) A common complaint among secular people is that religion degrades women: Orthodox Jews separate them off in Synagogues, Catholics refuse to ordain women priests, Muslims keep them veiled and at the mercy of tyrannical husbands. Do you discuss this issue in your book?
Yes. In fact, the meaning and significance of the Sacred Feminine — in individuals, in society, and in the cosmos – is a major theme that runs throughout the book. And again, an exclusively literalistic reading of the stories has led to horrifying misunderstandings and distortions that have become ingrained in many people. But we have to look deeper.
It begins, of course, with the story of Eden, where God allegedly created Man first, and only secondarily created Woman from the man’s rib. Actually, the name ‘Adam’, in Hebrew, is a genderless noun that means “creature of the earth”, and the word tsela, which is translated in Genesis as ‘rib’, is translated everywhere else in the Bible as ‘side’. So what the Bible really says is that God created an androgynous being first (“male and female created He them”), and later separated one side of the creature into a distinct female and the other side became a distinct male. Neither of these creatures is secondary or subservient to the other. By the way, this story of an original androgynous creature that is later broken in half, is a common tale throughout the world’s mythologies. Among other things, it conveys an acknowledgment of the perfect equality of men and women.
There is much, much more of course, but I’ll leave that to a reading of the book. Let me just conclude by saying that in THE DOOR IS OPEN I make it eminently clear that the reason we must restore the Sacred Feminine to her full divine stature in our lives and culture is because without her all spiritual evolution is impossible. Without her all the ancient myths and holy scriptures are useless! We cannot follow Demeter and Persephone back to Olympus, we cannot obey the Law of Moses, we cannot walk in Christ’s footsteps, if we continue to misconstrue the perfect equality, the required harmony, and the absolute inter-dependence of `Male’ and `Female’ at every level of Creation. If for no other reason, I hope people will read this book right now.