I found Michael Baigent's Racing Toward Armageddon: The Three Great Religions and the Plot to End the World a compelling read overall. Certainly, I do not disagree that many proponents of elements of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are locked into unproductive ways of communication both within and without concerning their respective similarities and differences. I think Baigent provides a lot of detail that helps to disentangle the convoluted threads of social, cultural, and political agendas integral to all three, thereby exposing some rather strange--but more believable by the end of the read--bedfellows.
I was struck by the absence in the book of any explanation of the history of Freemasonry, in light of references that Baigent makes to accusations of Freemasonry as a co-player in several different camps. As a prominent Freemason himself, this absence of disclosure does not resonate with the overall spirit of the book; namely, the critical importance of educating people regarding the past and current sociopolitical context of the vested interests of individuals and groups in the promulgation of certain "religious" beliefs and practices. I think Baigent missed an excellent opportunity to perhaps put to right some widely held misconceptions about Freemasonry, if indeed they are misconceptions.
Although I was quite relieved to read in the final few pages, the author's recognition of the existence of mystic or esoteric knowledge and practice within all three so-called monotheistic religions, I feel that this book does not go far enough in that area. Perhaps it is a reflection of the author's own limitations of knowledge of certain epistemologies. I don't know. This is the first of his books that I have read. However, it is by virtue of this very limitation in focus on the mystic elements of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, that I believe Baigent makes two major errors in his reasoning.
First,Baigent, like many others, expounds the premise that a core problem is the erosion of the boundary between "church" and "state". What such thinkers fail to recognize is that sacredness is an integral part of ALL creation and therefore, cannot be arbitrarily removed from one component of human existence without creating a sense of void within the ecosystem of the human psyche. (Baigent himself senses the presence of sacredness in certain "non-religious" settings like Ground Zero in New York City.) The underlying motivation of the separation of church and state is laudable of course, with respect to putting in place, structures and institutions to safeguard human rights. However, the establishment of a dualistic societal framework as the means to safeguard our basic rights, has created the very impetus that drives the fundamentalists to insist their religious beliefs and practices be present in the classrooms; the boardrooms; the courts and the offices of governance. It is an integrative impetus that underlies the very essence of inclusiveness. And, as Baigent makes clear, it is gaining momentum all over the world.
The second error comes out of the first. Despite his obvious reverence for inclusiveness and universality, Baigent makes no welcoming gestures toward the fundamentalists of any of the Big Three. They are the definite "other" in Baigent's universe and by virtue of making them "other", Baigent is demonstrating the limitations of his own adherence to the principle of "oneness".
There are many points in the book where Baigent ponders without giving pat answers. I like that about this author. He does not presume to have all the answers. It is often said that a sign of intelligence is NOT knowing the answers; it's knowing the next set of questions to be asked. Some of the important questions that Baigent ponders in this book can be answered by the application of modern science--of Chaos and Complexity Theory, in particular--to an understanding of the process of universal consciousness evolution. And therein lies the ultimate paradox. It is in the re-integration of materialism and spirituality; of science and the occult; of "state" and "church" that the solutions to what Baigent erroneously concludes are intractable disagreements between Islam, Judaism and Christianity, are awaiting discovery.
This process of re-integration is not a step backwards; it is not a re-establishment of theocracy (and that's where the fundamentalists are wrong). It is a "state" of integrative consciousness evolution that has not yet arrived. In the meantime, books like Racing Toward Armageddon, however flawed, are critically important reminders of our individual accountability for what we believe and how we practice our beliefs, as they impact on the rights of all other human beings to fair and equal access to material, procedural, and spiritual resources.
Arguably the greatest scientist/mystic who ever lived, Albert Einstein, said it best when he declared, repeatedly, his disbelief in a "personal God." Deeply devout himself, Einstein was essentially saying, Everything about life is personal; we are hard-wired in such a way that we each stand at the centre of the universe; we are each of us "at rest" when we sit; we are each of us sitting "in silence" when we do not hear; we are each of us "the chosen one;" "the beloved one" when we reference to that which is beyond our comprehension in a profoundly intimate fashion--be it the grandeur of a waterfall, the soft snoring of a newborn baby; a musical masterpiece. The fundamental spiritual task of each human being is to realize that everyone else is also having the same experience. In other words, Einstein was saying, Everything is personal; just don't take it personally.
The binary I Am/I Am Not paradox of the unfolding of ever greater complexity of consciousness is a non-dualistic phenomenon. At its heart, in the psyche of a human being, lies the realization that "other" doesn't exist. To the extent that Baigent's book expounds this basic law of the universe, I am a most appreciative reviewer.
Judith A. Mills, M.D.
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada