In a period just over one thousand years the world witnessed the birth of two world saviors, four religions, and the great philosophical minds in history.
Between the lifetime of the historical Buddha (563 – 483 BCE) and the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (570 – 632 CE) the scriptures of the world’s major religions were composed, canonized, and indoctrinated into the fabric of humanity. In no other period of human evolution has such an explosion of significant spiritual development occurred.
In just over one thousand years the world witnessed the birth of two world saviors, in the Buddha and Christ. The greatest philosophical minds in history established the foundation for philosophy in the east and in the west. From Socrates to Confucius; and from Taoism to Christianity to Islam—the teachings, scriptures, and the foundations of the modern religions were born, recorded, and migrated across the known world between the sixth century BCE and the sixth century CE.
The World Saviors
As Christ is the savior in the Occident, the Buddha is the savior in the Orient. Within a miniscule five hundred years between the Buddha’s birth in 563 BCE and the birth of Christ; the two world saviors established spiritual paths that transcend the boundaries of life and death; each altering the course of human spiritual development forever.
The Creation of the World’s Religions
The golden millennium (500 BCE – 500 CE) started off with the equivalent of the big bang of religion. Within the first one hundred and fifty years of this period no less than four major religions were born or evolved into significant movements: Buddhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and Manichaeism.
The birth and life of Christ, occurring at the heart of this period, became the turning point in the course of history for the Occident and the Orient; changing the political and spiritual evolution of the west forever. The birth of Christianity and its nascent beginnings altered the flow of power from Rome to Constantinople, and linked the Levant (Jerusalem) with the west (Rome).
Approximately five hundred years after the birth of Christ, Muhammad was born and lived (570 – 632 CE). Islam burst into the world, permanently influencing the lives of billions of people. The last major religion born, Islam spread across the known world faster and father than all the others.
The Canonization of the Scriptures
Buddhist and Taoist texts were composed hundreds of years after the lifetimes of Buddha and Lao Tzu. Most of each religion’s scriptures were drafted and canonized (Hinayana Canon and Mahayana Canon) between the first century BCE and the fifth century CE. Those scriptures include: The Diamond Sutra, the Lotus Sutra, the Tao Te Ching, and the I Ching.
Concurrent with the development of Buddhist and Taoist scriptures in the east, most of the Hebrew canon, especially the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) were written and canonized. The dates commonly agreed upon by scholars are 500 – 450 BCE.
In less than one hundred years after the birth of Christ the first Gospels of the New Testament were being composed in the late-first and early-second centuries. Then only five hundred years after the apostle Paul’s life, the Prophet Muhammad divinely received the verse of the Quran in the seventh century CE (610 – 632 CE).
This golden millennium started the birth of the Buddha and Buddhism which has influenced billions of people, changed the course of history in the east, and established a religious movement that vibrantly survives across the world.
The golden millennium concluded with the divine composition of the Quran by the world’s last and final great prophet, Muhammad. Islam undoubtedly changed the course of history in the east and the west. The Quran symmetrically includes the teachings and stories from the Hebrew scriptures composed at the beginning of the millennial period—creating a perfect bookend to a period of stunning spiritual development.
The Philosophical Minds: From Confucius to Socrates
Confucius (551- 479 BCE) gave birth to the fundamental Chinese mode of thought. His philosophical teachings aimed to instill benevolence and magnanimity in the hearts and minds of rulers and their people. His aphorisms are widely known today, but his school of thought played a fundamental role in the course of China’s evolution.
Establishing the foundation and direction for intellectual and cognitive thinking in the Occident, Socrates (469 – 399 BCE) was the founder and teacher of modern philosophy in the west. Out of the tutelage of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle emerged.
- Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology, Penguin Compass, 1962