A RELIGION WITHOUT A DEIFIC CREATOR
When we venture to speak in this Chapter on Religions without a Deific Creator, we do not wish to imply that there can be genuine religions that exclude in the absolute a deific principle or originator of the contingent and visible world of things. The religions we are going to talk about admit such principle; but they do not explain in terms of a deific personal Creator. The deific principle of which they speak is not a god, but a godhead and the ultimate reality of which the gods and creaturely beings are manifestations. It alone is the absolute, and is the universal spiritual principle that is immanent in all contingent things. It is the Brahman, the impersonal godhead and principle of all things.
Until the present we have been maintaining that the concept of a personal deific Creator is the original, fundamental, essential and primary object or element of the religious phenomenon of peoples. Hence, the encounter with religions that positively exclude a personal deific Creator poses a fundamental problem. Nevertheless, we insist on our original position; and we say that the latter kinds of religion are historically posterior developments in civilizations which started with the acknowledgment of a universal deific personal Creator. They are, therefore, not original religions.
We have already noted that when the original religious concept of the deific Creator was left to itself untouched, it remained pure and sublime. But, when men endeavored to explain the manner of creation matters started to go awry. The matter of creation is indeed not an easy thing to explain, even to understand. Hence, starting from the ancient Greeks and prehistoric times, the recourse that men easily took was explain the matter by way of generation, even sexual at that, and to introduce a female divine co-principle, hopefully for better understanding.
The concept of a universal deific Creator was well expressed, although in a veiled metaphorical manner, as "Heavenly Father". "Heavenly" meant that he was an unearthly being, spiritual and sexless, dwelling in the heavens. Yet, he is the "Father", that is, the originator of the ensemble of the world and its beings. However, when early men were asked to and tried to explain the formal reason of the concept of "Father" as applied to the deific Creator, or to explain the manner how he produced creatures, they came to grips with a big problem. For uncultured early men the theorization easier to understand was that of sexual generation, notwithstanding the incongruity when applied to an unearthly spiritual being like the Deity. The term itself "Father" was ambivalent, and the first concept that came to the mind of uncultured early man was the sexual one.
The problem that confronted all would be explainers was the following truism: "From nothing, not a thing can be made"; "No one can make anything out of nothing". This truism early men took as so evident, that they could not take that the Creator produced the whole universe from nothing. Christians later explained that the Deific Creator did originally produce the contingent world of the universe and of creatures from nothing. They did take cognizance of the incongruity mentioned earlier concerning the production of something out of nothing. Hence, Christian sages taught that the expression "from nothing" can be taken in two different meanings, to wit:
1) taking nothing as if it had been the raw material from which the Creator should have supposedly made all creaturely things, and this would be preposterous because it would imply the contradiction of taking nothing as if it were something.
2) The expression "from nothing" can also be taken as meaning the starting point of Deity's creative action.
Now, there is no contradiction in that the universal Creator of heaven and of earth should have started his creative action from nothing as the starting point; that is, that he should have produced the universe and the primordial first contingent beings starting from non-being, just as we produce a chair starting from a non-chair, a house from a non-house. In truth, Christian sages said, such is the manner of production that befits the universal Creator. For, since he is the universal Creator, he produced everything, even the raw material, of physical things. Nay, owing to the reason that there is no contradiction or inconsistency involved in such manner of production, it is the manner that is commensurate with the infinite power of the Creator or with his omnipotence. Hence, Christians explain the original creative act of the universal deific First Cause as, "the production by the Deity of the world of contingent beings and of the stuff of which they are constituted from nothing."
The Christian concept and interpretation of creation is of posterior vintage by comparison to the ancient religions of mankind, like Hinduism, and by comparison to the philosophical systems of men. In general, pagan folks when confronted with the need to explain how the Creator originally produced the world of creation, excluded matter from his creative act and placed matter as an already existing raw material, the Creator originally produced the ensemble of created things. He is the universal Creator not simply, as Christians took it; but with the exclusion of matter, because he originally fashioned out all physical things from matter. This was the posture commonly taken by the ancient Greeks, including their famous philosophers Plato and Aristotle.
The ancient Gnostics explained the production of the lesser gods by way of emanations from the Supreme Deity, and assigned to a demiurge or lesser god the production of the physical world and of physical beings. Hinduism brushes aside the production of contingent beings by a personal Deity, because then it would have to produce them either from itself as a kind of "raw material" which is preposterous: or, from nothing as raw material, which again is preposterous. But, to say the truth, the problem of Hinduism in this matter is one that it has itself created because it postulates that in order for the Creator to place the creative act, he would have to produce things from some raw materials. This manner of producing things does not essentially surpass the limited manner of producing things that is proper to humans and creaturely agents.
On account of the foregoing postulate, Hinduism postulates further that the ensemble of this world and of the things found therein are not effects proper produced by any deific Creator, but are just the processual manifestations of a universal dynamic spiritual principle that underlies them all and is immanent in them. It is the Brahman, which is not a god, but the godhead of which all the gods and what we call "creaturely beings" are its manifestations. The Brahman is the only absolute reality, the others are just relatively so, that is, as manifestations of the Brahman. This is a third postulate, and Hinduism is adopting it, has failed to take cognisance that an "absolute" that is vinculated to other things, even if just as manifestations of the same, is really not something absolute, that is, rid of all accretions and ties; and a principle that is under process, lacks its ultimate perfection even when it just concerns its manifestations, so that it cannot be absolute.
To be the subject substratum of a process, even if it be just a process of manifestation, compares to the process in a material manner; so that the said substratum is passive with regard to the process and is not lord of it. The manner would be different if the dynamic principle, by virtue of its dynamism, were a personal agent exercising creative action or causal production. For in that case the personal dynamic principle would be the master of its causal action. The trouble is that Hinduism postulates further that the Brahman is not a personal being or agent. We shall see about this more in detail later on.
AN IMPORTANT OBSERVATION.
In the preceding Chapter we invited attention to the fact that in the great civilizations of the ancient times, owing to the greater leisure and occasion that their intellectual elite had to speculate on matters of their religious beliefs, the latter were usually the object of conceptual manipulations and theorizations so that in the course of centuries their religious concepts had little resemblance with the original.
There are two kinds of conceptual manipulations of religious concepts that have to be distinguished. One is the manipulation on the lower level by popular folks with their mythical theorizations; and the other is the manipulation on the higher level by the intellectual elite with "philosophical" or abstract theorizations. Oftentimes creedal elements are made to submit to and to fit into strait jacket theorizations. There is not much influence from the side of the popular folks and their myths on the higher level of the intelligentsia and their lucubrations. But there is also not much seepage from the level of the intelligentsia and of their abstract theorizations into the level of the popular folks, so that each group has tended to march on its own course along parallel lines without much meeting of minds or of religious practices.
Owing to the inability to explain the creation or production of the universe by the Deity, the intellectual elite of Hinduism has junked the concept of the deific Creator, and substituted in its place the concept of a universal spiritual principle that is immanent in all things which are its manifestations. As such, things have no reality of their own, and the only true reality is the said immanent universal principle, which the Hindu intellectual elite designate as the Brahman. But, there remained the other fundamental deific roles associated with the Creator, to wit, the roles of Supreme Lawgiver and Retributor. After junking the concept of the Creator, Hinduism shored up the deific attribution of Supreme Legislator into an autonomous Law of Karma, and the deific role of Supreme Retributor into automatic retributional cycle of reincarnations.
As a religious conceptual system Hinduism is a unique case to which a religious conceptual system can reach on the basis of postulates and a heavy overlay of lucubrations. When in the present Chapter we make mention of religions without a deific Creator, we have in mind later-day Hinduism and Taoism which have woven out their respective conceptual system premised on the inability of their intellectual religious elite to explain how a personal Deity could have originally created or produced the world of contingent beings, as we have already indicated. We also have in mind Buddhism because it has worked out its systems taking as premises the Hindu postulates of an autonomous Law of Karma and its retributional cycle of rebirths.
Hinduism is more a religious culture than a religion, more an ethical and ritual system based on caste distinction than a creedal system. (Cf. Hardon, J.; Religions of the World, Hinduism; Vol. I, p. 47)
Present day Hinduism is much posterior to the religious importation that the prehistoric Aryan invaders brought with them into India, and to the religion of the Vedic period, between 3000 to 1300 BC. The ancient Aryans. believed in the “Heavenly Father,” Dyaus Pitar, and the 10th and last book of the Rig (Verse) Veda (c. 1000 BC) still speaks in sublime language of creation and of the Creator; notwithstanding that the verse writer speaks of the Creator as the "Unknown God" and makes reference to him as Ka or "Who."
Present day Hinduism is not even the religion of the period of Brahman ascendancy, when the Brahmin caste of priests enjoyed prestige because their regular sacrifices and sacrificial rites were considered as indispensable for the maintenance of the universe. However, already during this period, the universe was considered as pervaded by a neuter spiritual force, the impersonal Brahman, which sustained the universe. The priest-magicians or Brahmins were considered to be partakers of this exalted power because the sacred mantras or prayers that they articulated were thought to be necessary for the mainstay of the universe.
Even in the earlier period of the Vedic books the seeds can already be found of the pantheistic monism that pervades present day Hinduism. The Rig Veda posits a neuter principle, the One Real (Ekam Sat) which, we are told, is variously called Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni, etc., so that the different gods are just phenomenal aspects of the said absolute principle. In another place, creation is attributed to "That One" (Tad Ekam) who presides over the universe, and is known only through the "insight of the saints", not from tradition, or from the gods. Within this conceptual religious context it is not surprising that Indra, who enjoyed the supreme lordship in remote times, was supplanted by Pra japati, “Lord of Creatures”; Vishva-karman, the All-Maker; Brahmanaspati, Master of the magic potency that maintains the universe.
THE "BRAHMAN" UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLE.
In Hinduism the concept of a transcendent Creator has been effaced and in its stead we find a universal spiritual-principle of things, by way of substratum and reality-principle, immanent in them. At the same time this universal spiritual principle immanent in things transcends them according to its nature as the absolute reality, of which things are just manifestations. Such universal principle is the Brahman. It is a neutral thing, not a personal being. Consequently, Hinduistic religious theorization has no place for the concepts of any divine Lordship or of divine providence associated with the Brahman. The Brahman is not even an object of prayer and of divine worship but only of religious meditation and devotion.
There are other fundamental deific attributions associated with the deific Creator, to wit, the attributions of Supreme Lawgiver and Retributor. The Hinduistic religious theorization has set them apart and raised them up into:
a) a supreme, impersonal and autonomous Law of Karma, which not even the impersonal Brahman or the gods can change;
b) and into a complementary retributional cycle of rebirths on earth .and a "caste system", which automatically operates in accordance with the individual's merits or demerits in a previous earthly existence. All these conceptual lucubrations and postulates stem from the original inability of the Vedic and Hindu sages to conceive a Creator who should have produced the universe and the world from nothing, even on the basis of an infinite power. For them, "nothing can be made out of nothing," that is, not-a-thing can come out or be made out of "nothing".
The foregoing statement and principle is true if we take the last mentioned "nothing" in the sense of raw material, as they did. It is not possible "to produce or to make something out of nothing" understanding this "nothing" in the manner of raw material, because then simultaneously a raw material is postulated and is negated by identifying it as "nothing". In other words, there is a contradiction involved in the statement as understood. Christians say that God created the world originally from nothing (ex nihilo), they do not take the nothing in the given statement in the sense of raw material, but merely in the sense of "starting point". There is no contradiction involved in this meaning. In truth, the Universal Creator had to start that way on the basis of his omnipotent power; otherwise he would not be the universal Creator who made heaven and earth and all the things contained therein.
From the inability to understand how the deific Creator could have produced the ensemble of contingent and visible reality "from nothing", the Hindu sages
explicitly taught that the first and universal principle of things, the Brahman, is the substratum of the universe and is immanent in it.  The visible
world is just a process through which the Brahman manifests itself. In this world process the Brahman is the absolute immanent dynamic principle. It is not something personal, because it is identified with all the things and beings of this phenomenal world. The Brahman is. Even if it is everything, we should not say that it is "this" or "that", because that would be limiting its universality and destroying it conceptually. The correct manner of speech is to state that the Brahman is "not this or that". The Brahman is not the god or gods proper; although the gods and the souls (Atman) of men are the Brahman. The Brahman is the godhead, the divine principle. The sages do not pray to the Brahman, they meditate on it. There is, therefore, a two-fold Brahman: one is the existing, visible world, the phenomenal Brahman; and the other is the reality that underlies this phenomenal world, which is the true Brahman. Only the latter is absolute and real; the other is real only in the relative sense, that is, to us.
THE "ATMAN" AND THE "BRAHMAN".
The foregoing line and conceptual theorization is the basis for the parallel doctrine that the "Atman" of the Self within man and the Brahman are identical: in other words, the reality-principle of the world outside is also the same reality-principle of the self within us. The discovery of the identity of the Self with the Brahman is the result of a long and painful search. But, when this ultimate revelation is grasped and attained, there comes the rapturous cry, "I am the Brahman." Brahman is the immanent universal spirit principle and transcendent godhead, and the Atman is the eternal portion of the Brahman that abides in every living thing. The Atman is part of the Brahman as salt is part of the water in which it is dissolved. The attainment of the ultimate truth that "my inner Self or Atman is the Brahman which is the only reality, and everything else is illusion or maya," releases and saves man from the cycle of rebirths, otherwise known as "the Wheel of Existence".
For the purpose of attaining the said ultimate truth and liberation (moksha) from the "Wheel" or illusory lives and deaths, three ways are proposed.
a) One is the path of meditation and systematic self-control (jnana-marga);
b) the second is the path of the unselfish performance of duty, according to the norm proper to one's caste, and of charitable and social works (karma-marga);
c) and the third path is the practice of intense devotion or contemplative love for a god (bhakti-mara). This god is an individual personal being with divine attributes. In Hindu belief, divinity is an extension or manifestation of the Brahman and, therefore, devotion to a god draws nearer to Brahman. This is evidently a concession to popular devotion than a result of logical thinking: for, if the inner Atman of man is also part of and manifestation of the Brahman, just like the gods, there is no cogent reason why man may not achieve the same effect of drawing nearer to the Brahman by devotion to his Atman. A favorite god for the popular folks is Vishnu, or any of his reincarnation (avatars) either as Rama, or as Krishna. Another popular god is Shiva. The Shakti or female divine consort of either the one or the other, is also a popular Deity: Thus, although the higher level of Hinduism is more concerned with the practice of meditation and self-control (yoga), - than with the worship of the gods an with the practice of rituals and good works, popular Hinduism is more characterized by the latter practices and the worship of the gods.
EVALUATION OF THEORETICAL HINDUISM.
There is a basic flaw in the Hinduistic theorization that the attainment and living awareness of the ultimate truth that; "I am the Brahman, Brahman is the only reality, and everything else is illusion", leads to the liberation from the cycle of rebirths. There is no connection between the former conceptual "enlightenment" with the latter effect; hence, the statement is just another postulate. It would, perhaps, carry more sense if, instead, it were said that the apprehension and comprehension by the individual of the objective identification of his "Self' with the Brahman as the only true reality leads to the dissolution of the worry, about one's cycle of rebirths. Indeed, the said individual would also come to see that there would be no candidate in him and in other men for "rebirths", because the only true being which is the Brahman is not such a candidate. As a universal principle the Brahman is already in all "things"; as an impersonal being the Brahman is not capable of any transgressions and, therefore, not a candidate for retributional rebirths.
All these comments reveal the basic postulative nature of the Law of Karma and of the cycle of rebirths. These postulates are inconsistent with the premises of Hinduism and are debunked by the said premises. For, if the real truth versus the apparent one is that the Atman or inner self of risen is the Brahman, and the Brahman is the only true reality of which everything else is maya or illusory manifestation, then there are not true candidates, but only illusory ones, for the Law of Karma and for the cycle of rebirths. The understanding of this does not entail the liberation from the cycle of rebirths, but the collapse of the said postulate as an illusion. For, the only one true reality which is the Brahman, as impersonal being, is not capable of merits or transgressions and, therefore, is neither candidate for retributional rebirths. And so, the whole preoccupation of Hindu believers for deliverance from the "Wheel of Existence" and all their undertakings for that effect are void. They are delusions based on maya or illusions.
High level religious Hinduism is largely a theoretical lucubration that parts from the inability of its religious intelligentsia to conceive how a transcendent universal Creator can create the universe out of nothing. From such inability it went further to deny the personal nature of the godhead and its entitative distinction from the word of nature and of men. Then, from this denial, it went on to deny to the external sensible world its own reality, postulating the world of nature and of men to be merely processual manifestation of the absolute monistic immanent principle, the Brahman. Again, from the inability to conceive a transcendent personal Creator who, thereby, is also the supreme Legislator and Retributor, high level Hinduism went on to place an autonomous Law of Karma and an automatic retributory mechanism of rebirths, associated with a Caste system.
POPULAR RELIGIOUS HINDUISM.
Popular Hinduism is the lower level religion of the folk masses. Of this level, Hardon writes: "Together with the gods who are invoked and worshipped, Hinduism has a myriad of demons and evil spirits against whose influence the people must be protected. For this reason amulets are worn, usually around the arm, and contain an image of a gad, a piece of paper or bark on which some spell has been written, a coil of thread or a tuft of hair."
Spirits who wander are propitiated by giving them a home and due homage. They are often represented by a stone, smeared with vermillion, and surrounded by other stones. During worship the stone is bathed, smeared with ghee, the vermillion renewed and oblations of fruit and sweet-:heats offered. Particularly dangerous spirits are propitiated by bloody sacrifices, which may involve the devil-dance performed by a medium who allows himself to be temporarily possessed by the demon, to the accompaniment of furious music. Exorcisms are also practised, and vary from physical violence to the recitation of simple prayers."
Observe that popular religious worship is premised on the distinction between the worshipper and the god or gods that are worshipped. This includes the spirits that are worshipped for protection purposes. The mentioned distinction is an integrant of the greater distinction between men and the external world and between the different beings that integrate such world. However, for high level Hinduism all this is maya or illusion. The popular masses must be tolerated in their belief in the distinction and reality of such things, because they cannot easily rise to the level of the liberating truth that there is only one true reality, the absolute Brahman, and everything else is only a processual manifestation of the Brahman. They have no true reality of their own and are, therefore, illusions, maya.
AN IMPORTANT FINAL REMARK.
Within the Hinduistic conceptual religious backdrop it is not possible to have genuine religion. There is no sense to worship any god or deity, if one's inner self or Atman is identical with the Brahman, just like the personal gods. On that premise, there would be no real superiority of the gods over men; their worship has no sense except, perhaps, for protection purposes. Within the context of a rigid monism, men worshipping the gods would just be worshipping themselves. Theoretical Hinduism has not only effaced the genuine concept of the deity and the object of religious worship, but has also made of religious worship a non-sensical undertaking and a superfluous one.
 It was Sankara (788-820 AD) and his school who started the explicit teaching that the world and the Brahman do not really exist separately. Their conceptual base was absolute monism, only One is real; the many are illusions or maya. Conf. Hardon, Op. cit., p. 79.