Your daily life is your temple and your religion.
A dictionary definition of religion is a good place to start in our exploration of the relationship between religion and human behavior because it would be how most people would define their religion, in general terms at least.
Dictionary definition of religion: Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power recognized as the creator and governor of the universe.
The word religion is from the Latin religio, which means “tying up, reconnecting, yoking up,” much as the Sanskrit word yoga means “yoking up, reuniting.” The healing aspect of any religion worthy of the name would result in “making whole” the shattered worldview of humanity.
Suffice it to say, in P-B an unconscious humanity does not know what the experience of authentic religion is, or the experience of reality itself for that matter. In our ages-old story all human behavior is based on illusion. Nothing is what is “seems” to be. Nothing is what our senses would have us believe. Building on Gibran’s insight we can add that an authentic religious life would be lived moment-by-moment and by that we mean response by response. It is indeed that simple.
In the context of Simple Reality it is very clear what a true religion is and very easy to measure whether one is being successful or not “spiritually.” One question is sufficient. When I am experiencing the energy of an afflictive emotion am I going to choose to express that energy as a reaction or am I going to exercise restraint until I can respond and express compassion? The truly religious or spiritual person must have an extraordinary level of self-knowledge and self-control.
The intellect has had a field-day analyzing religion with disappointing results. Philosophers, psychologists, historians and theologians throughout human history, in trying to define religion, have been groping like blindfolded, disoriented and dizzy children trying to whack a piñata. For example, historian Will Durant had this thought-provoking definition of religion: “The use of man’s super-natural beliefs for the consolation of suffering, the elevation of character, and the strengthening of social instincts and order.” These are laudable goals but has this been the actual effect that religion has had on human behavior, or just the hoped-for result, or mere wishful thinking? Let’s begin the fascinating process answering these and other questions relating to religion and its effect on human behavior.
C. G. Jung was one of the most respected intellects in the realm of psychology (the science of mind and behavior). He had this to say about religion: “Religions are seen as psychoanalytic systems that express the whole range of psychic problems in mighty images; they are the avowal and recognition of the soul, the revelation of the soul’s nature.” If the world’s religions express the “soul’s nature” then humanity has a very dark soul indeed.
Jung continues. “All theology is said to be a series of archetypal images intended to describe an unimaginable transcendence; together they comprise the collective unconscious. Because the unconscious is ambivalent, producing both good and bad effects, the image of God is also twofold. The dangers and fears of surrendering oneself to the Holy Spirit are said to be so great in view of this ambivalence that no one today would suggest that he is possessed by it.
“The task of the Holy Spirit is to reconcile and unite the opposites in the individual through a special development of the soul, which, like God, is paradoxical. The Holy Spirit will manifest himself in the psychic sphere of man and will be presented as a psychic experience. He then becomes the object of empirical psychology, through which he can translate his symbolism into the possibilities of the world. The Holy Spirit becomes of extreme importance, for it is thanks to him that the man of good will is drawn towards the divine drama and mingled in it, and the Spirit is one.” See what we mean about the intellect? What Jung says may all be true, but how do we apply these insights in our moment-by-moment life as we actually live it?
“Religious statements refer without exception to things that cannot be established as physical facts. If they did not do this, they would inevitably fall into the category of the natural sciences. Taken as referring to anything physical, they make no sense whatever, and science would dismiss them as non-experienceable. Miracles appeal only to the understanding of those who cannot perceive the meaning. They are mere substitutes for the not understood reality of the spirit. These happenings can neither replace nor bring about an understanding of the spirit which is the one essential thing. Whenever we speak of religious contents we move in a world of images that point to something ineffable.”
Now we are getting somewhere in that Jung realized that the intellect can only point to but not understand the “ineffable.” Only the human heart, our intuitive aspect, can “feel” the profound reality of Creation. The heart of Simple Reality involves simplifying what the human “heavy thinkers” have unnecessarily “complexified.” Jung’s Holy Spirit is the True self naturally present in every human being and not in any way dependent on religion per se. When we can get our mind out of the way, the human heart will step forth and reveal our natural and life-affirming identity. Religion is not needed and indeed is often one of humanity’s chief impediments to entering the present moment.
“The spiritual is not the religious. A religion is a dogma, a set of beliefs about the spiritual and a set of practices which rise out of those beliefs. There are many religions and they tend to be exclusive. That is, every religion tends to think that it has dibs on the spiritual—that it’s ‘The Way.’ Yet the spiritual is inclusive. It is the deepest sense of that realm of human experience which religion attempts to connect us to through dogma and practice. Sometimes it succeeds and sometimes it fails. Religion is a bridge to the spiritual but the spiritual lies beyond religion.” In distinguishing religion from the experience of the spiritual (Simple Reality) Joan Borysenko has introduced the fundamental challenge for all of humanity regarding the subject of religion. Religions are out of touch with Simple Reality and drive fundamentally self-destructive behaviors.
The following table may help to clarify the distinction between the expression of religion in P-B and the expression of what we could call spirituality in P-A.
|Religion (P-B) Spirituality (P-A)|
|Life-Changing (temporary illusion) Life-Changing (permanent)|
|Intellectual (Head) Experiential (Heart)|
|Volumes written (convincing Inexpressible (in words)
Jung again: “Religions that most easily reconnect us to the divine are based on a psychology and philosophy of spiritual optimism. Religions that try to control us by generating fear—that we are evil, that we may lose our souls, and that only they (or the particular manifestation of Spirit that they worship) can save us—create spiritual pessimism that feeds fear, soul sickness, unworthiness and guilt. These beliefs are dangerous to our psychological and physical health.”
Jung lived in a religious paradigm (P-B) and said that all of his patient’s problems, if they were over age 35, could be traced to their lacking a religious outlook on life. To draw a parallel between Jung’s conventional religious worldview (P-B) and Simple Reality (P-A), Oneness is a “religious” worldview in the context of a truly profound narrative.
Ideally, the purpose of any true religious practice would be awakening to and the experience of the Great Insight, the nature of Simple Reality, the Oneness of Creation. The behavioral goal of moment-to-moment human behavior would have all of humanity expressing service to others as the highest human attainment. Unfortunately, when the intellect takes over the institution of religion, as it has done in all religions, it is fear that drives human behavior into the embrace of form. What does that look like?
An observation inspired by Edgar Cayce repeats the type of critical distinction already made by Joan Borysenko and which cannot be over-stated: “If we inflate form we may concern ourselves too much with matters of concepts, ideas, belief systems, dogmas, doctrines, organizations, rituals, techniques, procedures, policies, and traditions. We may become so concerned with our religion that we cut ourselves off from the spirit which would give life to that religion. We fail then to make attunement with the divine within, and we fail to give expression to the spirit in guided service to others.”
My religion is compassion.
“Religion, too, can be helped by an empirical study of transpersonal states. All religions are based on the transpersonal experiences of their founders and other inspired individuals. However, they are also public institutions with all their shortcomings, beginning with failure in their central task: to bring human beings into contact with the sacred. The study of transpersonal experiences leads to the core of religion, shows beyond dogmatism the universality of the Self, and can therefore foster religious unity.” One goal of Simple Reality is to affirm intuitive transpersonal states or peak experiences achieved with meditation and the Point of Power Practice but also to draw an indictment of the self-destructive aspects of the world’s religions as they have been historically expressed and are currently practiced.
We carve an idol out of our fear and call it God.
Ingmar Bergman, The Seventh Seal (1957)
It is important in this article to make the distinction between religion and what is not religion. Most of what passes for religion in the global village today is not.
Followers of a healthy religion would be expressing compassion in the present moment. True religion involves being in response to other human beings or aspects of Creation. On the other hand, for example, the Medieval Crusades were not an expression of religion but of the false self. Rivalries among the Pope, European kings and emperors and Muslim caliphs were expressions of projections of the collective shadow, the security center of the false-self survival strategy (greed), the sensation center (glory-seeking) and power center (control). What passes for religion in human history and even today is often the false self run amok.
Let’s consider Andrea Sachs’ interview with Deepak Chopra where he revealed that there is more than one way to define God. Sachs: “Should the deaths of more than 150,000 people from the tsunami affect our image of God?” Chopra: “Actually, our image of God is outmoded anyway, whether the tsunami occurs or not. Religion is the reason we have all this conflict in the world. We have squeezed God into the volume of a body and the span of a lifetime; given God a male identity, an ethnic background; made him a tribal chief and gone to war. Yet people are not ready to forsake their image of God.”
The perspective of Vedanta, the sacred Hindu scriptures, gives us an objectivity that will aide in our evaluation of Western religions. They warn of being mesmerized by the false self and identifying with the senses and the world of form. Then they go on to emphasize the importance of self-reliance and Self-realization. “The objects of sense rob us of the perception of the Self. Scriptural injunctions are only for those who are in ignorance. They are of no use to a man of Self-realization.”
Ironically, the Vedanta encourages transcending the scriptures themselves, a profound concept not found in the religions of the West. As Shankara says, “Study of the scriptures is fruitless as long as Brahman [The Great Insight] has not been experienced. And when Brahman has been experienced, it is useless to read the scriptures.”
This is an affirmation of Joseph Campbell’s classic observation regarding Simple Reality that we should aspire not to know the meaning of life but to have an experience of life. Could the Bible and the Koran also be impediments to spiritual fulfillment?
The importance of the Point of Power Practice is acknowledged in Vedanta, not by that name of course: “To detach both kinds of sense-organs—those of perception and those of action—from objective things, and to withdraw them to rest in their respective centers—this is called self-control. True mental poise consists in not letting the mind react to external stimuli. To endure all kinds of afflictions without rebellion, complaint or lament [reaction]—this is called forbearance [response].”
When we consider history as a chronicle of humanity’s supposed progress, we realize it is not the story of conscious beings but rather that of lost souls. “On the intellectual side of religion and spirituality we are still dwelling in the lingering shadows of a medieval night, hypnotized and victimized by superstition of the weirdest types flaunted from pulpit and seminary. This beclouded day of gloom will continue as long as we have not the acumen to dissociate sublime myth, allegory, drama and symbol from the dregs of history.”
Every religion started out as a deeply personal experience of a self-reliant person experiencing The Great Insight. “At the historic core of every religion is not ritual, but someone who broke through ritual to direct contact with the transcendental. They were not following religion. They were discovering it and living it. Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Mohammed were not following anything but the expression of their direct contact with the actuality of life. But we follow them, not our own direct contact with life. In fact, we follow merely the ritual that represents these mythic figures and we follow the religious hierarchy that controls these rituals.”
The Nag Hammadi manuscripts discovered in the Egyptian desert in 1945 were written 1600 years ago at the time of the New Testament gospels. They were labeled the Gnostic gospels after the Greek gnosis which means insight or the intuitive process of knowing, familiar to students of Simple Reality. The Gnostic gospels reveal an early form of Christianity more in keeping with Jesus’ teaching to his disciples than the later hierarchical, fear-driven version.
As an institutional expression of P-B and the unconscious, false-self religion was bound to foster unsustainable human behavior. Historian Will Durant was no mystic but his lifetime of studying human behavior has led him unerringly to this evaluation of religion in human history: “The moral function of religion is to conserve established values, rather than to create new ones [and] it ends by fighting suicidally in the lost cause of the past.”
Human history and therefore the history of religion, which was there from the beginning, is a chronicle of the human pursuit of plenty, pleasure and power. “One king, Urukagina of Lagash [2375 B.C.], was a royal reformer, an enlightened despot who issued decrees aimed at the exploitation of the poor by the rich, and of everybody by the priests.”
“More immediately, however, magic made the priest. Gradually, as religious rites became more numerous and complex, they outgrew the knowledge and competence of the ordinary man, and generated a special class which gave most of its time to the functions and ceremonies of religion. The priest as magician had access, through trance, inspiration or esoteric prayer, to the will of the spirits or gods, and could change that will for human purposes.” Religion from the outset lent itself to the “purposes” of the false self.
Myths reveal the advent of the “splits” that characterize the dualisms found in P-B which form the foundation of human suffering, including those beliefs found in the institution of religion. Joseph Campbell tells us that, “Mesopotamian myths began to appear of men created by gods to be their slaves. Men had become mere servants; the gods absolute masters. Man was no longer in any sense an incarnation of divine life, but of another nature entirely, an earthly, mortal nature. Matter and spirit had begun to separate. I call this condition, ‘mythic dissociation,’ and find it to be characteristic mainly of the later religions of the Levant, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.” In Simple Reality we call this the split between nature and man. This is a critically important aspect in the evolution of the human descent into unconsciousness.
“In the Orient the guiding ideal is that each should realize himself and all others are of the one substance of that Universal Being of beings which is, in fact, the same Self in all [Oneness]. Hence the typical aim of an Oriental religion is that one should experience and realize in life one’s identity with that Being; whereas in the West, following our Bible, the ideal is, rather to become engaged in a relationship with that absolutely other Person who is one’s Maker, apart and ‘out there,’ in no sense one’s innermost Self.” This belief is nothing less than psychic suicide.
“We in the West have named our God; or rather, we have had the Godhead named for us in a book from a time and place that are not our own. And we have been taught to have faith not only in the absolute existence of this metaphysical fiction, but also in its relevance to the shaping of our lives. In the great East, on the other hand, the accent is on experience; on one’s own experience, furthermore, not a faith in someone else’s. And the various disciplines taught are of ways to the attainment of unmistakable experience—ever deeper, ever greater—of one’s own identity with whatever one knows as ‘divine’ identity, and beyond that, then, transcendence.” We can see that Western religions were integral to the shattering of Oneness and establishing the illusion of P-B.
Attempts on the part of Western mystics to advocate for the Gospel, the “good news” that all of Creation is a perfect unity, have been met with violent reactions. “When Jesus said, ‘I and the Father are one,’ he was crucified for blasphemy; and when the Moslem mystic Hallaj, nine centuries later, said the same, he too was crucified.”
Religious doctrine is rife with contradictions. For example, Jesus’ teaching includes statements in which he regarded himself as a dualist, devoted to God and also those in which he described himself as one with the Godhead (I and the Father are one). Contradictions like this in the Western worldview are not conducive to the clarity necessary for attaining the insight of Simple Reality.
The religion of humanity today is P-B. If we profess to be Christians, we must ask ourselves in all honesty if we practice the essence of Jesus’ teaching which is to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” That statement encapsulates all of the parables and all of the profound precepts, the essence of “Christ Consciousness.” The whole teaching of Christianity can be further reduced to one word—compassion—compassion for thy neighbor and compassion for thyself.
If we profess to practice the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) then likewise, our behavior has to grow out of our understanding of The Four Noble Truths. With Muslims, it is the same in that we must acknowledge there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet and we must practice the precepts of Islam. Fundamentally as a Moslem we would be practicing “peace” and “surrender.” Or paraphrasing Krishnamurti, “I accept what is happening,” I am not resisting or “reacting” to my experience of life.
Needless to say there are almost no Christians, Buddhists, or Muslims on the planet today in the truest most profound meaning of those religious teachings. Instead the Universal Religion accepted, chosen and practiced by virtually everyone (albeit unconsciously) is the seeking of security, sensation, and power within the narrative of P-B. The religion based on truth and beauty that will lead all humanity to the behaviors sought in all the religions of the world today would be Simple Reality.
Two practices (behaviors) that have proven to work in harmony with the principles of Simple Reality are Vipassana or Insight meditation (taught by Buddha) supported by the Point of Power Practice.
Within the exclusive context of P-B, it is impossible to under-stand any religion let alone practice it. The aspirations of the great teachers of wisdom have been frustrated in the current historical narrative. The possibility of humanity surviving much less becoming compassionate looks unlikely. We have not thus far chosen liberation from suffering, compassion for ourselves and our neighbors, or peace by means of responding to what is happening. What are we waiting for? The means of doing that are at hand? Just do it!
But if you are not yet ready to “just do it,” then let us continue to deepen our understanding. Religion, for the most part, has failed humanity. The purpose of religion, as profoundly conceived in Simple Reality, is to deliver humanity into an experience of the present moment, to turn us from an outward focus to an inward experience, to return us to “the heaven within.” Instead, religion has gotten caught up in the false-self illusion as have all of our institutions. We must retain our sense of humor if we are to retain our sanity as the Zen philosopher Dr. D. T. Suzuki did in speaking of Christianity. “He stood up slowly rubbing his sides and said, ‘God against man. Man against God. Man against nature. Nature against man. Nature against God. God against nature—very funny religion!’”
Religion is an important part of a believer’s system of ethical values or system of conduct, and hence a key part of their worldview. If religion helps determine one’s values, beliefs, and attitudes it has a powerful influence on one’s behavior. In short religion helps explain why we behave the way we do.
When did it all begin that human beings should come to feel so powerless? Religions played their role and continue to do so. “During the first century of Christianity, pagan religions in the Mediterranean were characterized by a syncretism of Greek philosophy, Jewish theology, and a variety of mystery cults. All these mythologies shared a common notion: The destiny of men and women was out of their control.”
The contradictions within the Bible give the lie to scripture as divinely inspired and makes it impossible to be taken literally because how is one to know which of the opposing instructions is correct? “In his Epistle to the Romans (III, 20-28) Paul taught that man can be saved only by faith, not by works; the Epistle of the Apostle James (II, 24) taught precisely the opposite; which was God’s view and Word?” Spinoza answers an obvious question: “In what sense, then, is the Bible the Word of God? Only in this: that it contains a moral code that can form men to virtue.”
A Healthy Religion
We know that both individuals and collectives are capable of transformation. What would a healthy, transformed religious institution look like? The first step would be to transcend fear. “Another characteristic of divine love is that it knows no fear. Swami Vivekenanda said that to worship God through fear or punishment is degrading religion.”
If one were to synthesize both the teachings and practices of the worlds’ major religions selecting the healthiest elements of both categories, could a healthy religion be created? Huston Smith attempted to answer that question. In the paragraphs below we compare Smith’s experience with the principles of Simple Reality and put the whole notion of religion on the operating table. It will be up to each of us to decide if the patient survives the procedure.
Religion discourages the development of an adult ego-state. By having the Pope, priest, minister or other Church authority assume the role of parent the congregant must assume the ego-state of the child (immature). Spiritual maturity and self-reliance is thereby discouraged. The Buddha said: “Be ye lamps unto yourselves.” It is through self-reliance that the greatest spiritual growth will occur. A misguided person attempting to help a chick by breaking the egg so it can get out robs it of the very struggle by which it develops the strength to survive once it emerges into the world. In like manner, reliance on a religious authority, allows us to escape the struggle that self-reliance demands and we end up spiritual cripples, weak and uncertain in our spiritual practice. Again Buddha: “Every individual must tread this path himself through his own energy and initiative. Those who, relying upon themselves only, shall not look for assistance to any one besides themselves, it is they who shall reach the topmost height.”
Religion originated in people celebrating together but that celebration eventually became mindless ritual. “They are trappings and rigmarole, irrelevant to the hard, practical job of ego-reduction and spiritual release.”
The existence of God and other metaphysical questions cannot be empirically demonstrated and can only be speculated upon. Buddha observed that: “Greed for views,” on metaphysical questions, “tend not to edification.” Speculation can be a major distraction, as can ritual, from the discipline and focus required for Self-realization.
Religion, like other human institutions has transmitted the wisdom of the past. The problem, of course, is that tradition can get humanity stuck in the past and the forward progress demanded by a paradigm shift can be impeded by outmoded or erroneous teachings and practices.
God’s sovereignty and grace
“This realization that one’s existence is completely dependent upon factors beyond one’s control—factors unified by the mind’s instinctive drive toward simplicity, coherence and oneness—issues in the theological concept of God’s sovereignty.” By refusing to take responsibility for our inherent wisdom and power, depending on the religious fantasy wherein we have no control in creating life’s experience, actually blocks any hope of attaining the consciousness of Oneness which is the heart of God’s (Creation’s) sovereignty.
Religion is often getting mixed up with “magic and mysticism and miracles; with the occult, the esoteric, and the uncanny; with things like spiritualism and the supernatural. Religion’s final business is the infinite, the beyond, the beckoning, and its coin is ecstasy.” Buddha said, “It is because I perceive danger in the practice of mystic wonders that I loathe, and abhor, and am ashamed thereof.”
What would an effective religion, devoid of the flaws discussed above, look like? Direct personal experience needs to be the ultimate test for truth. We must know for ourselves, not taking the word of any authority. Buddha said: “Do not go by reasoning, nor by inferring, nor by argument.”
The universe is logical and operates according to natural laws that are knowable and obey cause and effect relationships.
Addresses the problems of the human condition effectively.
Addresses the cause of suffering and how to end suffering.
Deals pragmatically with human behavior.
Benefits all of humanity without any discrimination.
Directed to individuals not institutions or collectives. “Churches, Orders, theologies, philosophies have failed to save mankind because they have busied themselves with intellectual creeds, dogmas, rites and institutions, as if these could save mankind. [They] have neglected the one thing needful, the power and purification of the soul. We must go back to the one thing needful, take up again Christ’s gospel of the purity and perfection of mankind, Mahomed’s gospel of perfect submission, self-surrender and servitude to God, Chitanya’s gospel of the perfect love and joy of God in man, Ramakrishna’s gospel of the unity of all religions and the divinity of God in man, and, gathering all these streams into one mighty river, one purifying and redeeming Ganges, pour it over the death-in-life of a materialistic humanity so that there may be a resurrection of the soul in mankind and the Satyayuga, for a while, return to the world.” This is how the mystic Sri Aurobindo would synthesize the world’s religions.
Roberto Assagioli a colleague of Freud, Jung and Maslow describes how Oneness or Simple Reality can be seen as a religion. “Finally there is love of God, or whatever designation may be preferred to represent Universal Being or Beingness: The Supreme Value, Cosmic Mind, Supreme Reality, both transcendent and immanent. A sense of awe, wonder, admiration, and worship accompanied by the urge to unite with that reality, is innate in man. Present in every age and every country, it has given birth to the many varieties of religious and spiritual traditions and forms of worship, according to prevailing cultural and psychological conditions. It reaches its flowering in the mystics who attain the lived experience of union through love [compassion].”
What is the status of religion in the U.S. in recent times and what effect do religion-related beliefs, attitudes and values have on the quality of our lives? We must be mindful that what we are asking unfortunately is: in what way are Americans using religion to achieve the goals of the survival strategy of the false self?
The Christian adult who is stuck in mythic consciousness will see the followers of other religions (or “isms” such as Marxism or feminism) as “evil” and probably headed for hell. If someone dies for Christianity (a martyr), the Christian God will bring them straight to “heaven” (mythic-level Muslims, as we know from accounts in the newspapers, think the same).
A recent (2005) Gallup poll reported that:
- 46% of Americans describe themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians
- 48% of Americans believe in creationism
- 68% of Americans believe in the devil
- 77% of Americans believe in angels
“Religion tends to sentimentalize the light and demonize the darkness. If you turn to spirituality to find only a positive and wholesome attitude, you are using spirituality to avoid life’s dark beauty. Religion easily becomes a defense and avoidance.” Religion then can regrettably aid and abet the denial of Simple Reality. It can assist us in avoiding The First Noble Truth that life is suffering, which is where the process of self-transformation begins.
Religious worldviews are inherently dualistic preventing a profound response to the question Why am I here? A dualistic world view is based on pairs of opposites, distinctions such as heaven and earth, life and death and god and humanity. Such “separations” contradict the fundamental reality of Oneness and hence the very reality of the Universe. To try to navigate life with dualistic “charts” has led to a disaster for humanity. The chart of the ocean (P-B) is not the same as the experience of the ocean (P-A). The sailors are asleep and the ship is running aground.
To put it in the starkest of terms: “‘Tradition is the living faith of the dead,’ wrote religious historian Jaroslav Pelikan. ‘Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.’”
“Philosophies that teach denial of the flesh must ultimately end up preaching a denial of the self and building a contempt for it because even though the soul is couched in muscle and bone it is meant to experience that reality, not to refute it.”
“As we stand divided on religion, we can learn from a deeply spiritual man who was deeply skeptical of religious dogma, who felt guided by a divine will but insisted that every public act be justified in secular language and reason. Lincoln doubted the divinity of Christ and the infallibility of the Bible.”
“Yet the churches continue to exhort man without any knowledge of what the soul of modern man is and how starved and empty it has become. They have done nothing to inform themselves in a contemporary idiom of ‘The Dark Night of the Soul’ to which Saint John of the Cross pointed in a poetic and saintly way. They behave as if repetition of the message of the Cross and reiteration of the miracles and parables of Christ were enough.” Fundamentalism or Evangelical Christianity, for example, is characterized by biblical inerrancy, full immersion baptism, belief in original sin and salvation dependent upon accepting Jesus Christ.
Religions have learned to use power to control and manipulate the faithful. Ironically, this is successful because the survival strategy of the faithful involves their need for power. The “powerful” attain power by offering the illusion of power. In the end no one achieves anything but the illusion of power in P-B.
Goethe well expresses this psychological truth:
His own internal self, is all too fain to sway
His neighbor’s will, even as his haughty mind inclines.
“Another tendency which is nourished by religious dependency is that of getting one’s feeling of worth, prestige and power through identifying with someone else. This usually takes the form of identifying with an idealized figure of minister, priest, rabbi, bishop, or whoever above one in the hierarchy has prestige and power. It is as though everyone were trying to live vicariously through someone else, until no one knows where he himself is.”
Whatever religions offered humanity in the past, they are no longer viable institutions as they are practiced around the world today. “The psychological interest of the present time is an indication that modern man expects something from the psyche which the outer world has not given him: doubtless something which our religion ought to contain, but no longer does contain, at least for modern man. For him the various forms of religion no longer appear to come from within, from the psyche; they seem more like items from the inventory of the outside world.” And that outside world has deteriorated into a house of madness.
Religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell,
and spirituality is for people who’ve been there.
“The saying ‘extra ecclesiam nulla salus’—outside the Church there is no salvation—rests on the knowledge that an institution is a safe, practicable highway with a visible or definable goal, and that no paths and no goals can be found outside it. We must not underestimate the devastating effect of getting lost in the chaos, even if we know that it is the sine qua non of any regeneration of the spirit and the personality.”
Einstein’s seminal question, Is the universe friendly? is answered by Jung’s Christian worldview with a resounding No! Allowing a man-made institution which is a projection of the human shadow to usurp Simple Reality has doomed humanity to a life of suffering (hell) with no redemption possible. If we have been born into a Creation that is either chaotic or hostile to humans, no wonder we have accepted the desperate escape into the fantasy offered by the world’s religions. In a hostile universe it might have seemed to humanity it was either a hierarchical, patriarchal religion or chaos and madness. It turned out to be chaos and madness either way.
Simple Reality provides the security and courage that enables us to cease fleeing from the truth of what it means to be human. Jung tells us why we can no longer depend on religion to give us that support. “Although Christianity is credited with the understanding that man’s inner nature is of prime importance, this understanding is not considered to have penetrated deeply enough.” As a result of the influence of religion among other influences, human identity is distorted as if we were looking into a funhouse mirror. Freud comments on this sadly twisted figure. “So long as a man’s early years are influenced by the religious thought-inhibition, as well as by the sexual one, we cannot really say what he is actually like.”
Even the nature of the “Creator” will have to be redefined if religion as a barrier to human awakening is to be removed. “If religious war is ever to become unthinkable for us, in the way that slavery and cannibalism seem poised to, it will be a matter of our having dispensed with the dogma of faith. The God of Abraham is not only unworthy of the immensity of creation; he is unworthy even of man.”
“Most of what passes for religion, Mary Jo Meadow believes, is ‘simply a group projecting their own images onto the concept of God and worshipping themselves.’”
Not only is self-reliance and courage called for in confronting the false self, but we must “grow up,” that is to say, achieve a mature identity in order to be free of existential anxiety. Rollo May cites a helpful insight that Freud had. “Freud, however, was correct technically in that he asked the right question with respect to religion: does it increase dependency and keep the individual infantile? I use the term dependency as standing for ‘morbid dependency,’ that is, a dependency which would be fitting at a more infantile state of development.”
Religion is a defense against the experience of God.
C. G. Jung
The world’s religions have been co-opted by the false self. They are too often caught up in conflicts between various sects or factions in a disintegrating world. “Even Buddhism has lately suffered this degradation, in reaction to the lessons of the West. The universal triumph of the secular state has thrown all religious organizations into such a definitely secondary, and finally ineffectual, position that religious pantomime is hardly more today than a sanctimonious exercise for Sunday morning, whereas business ethics [or lack thereof] and patriotism stand for the remainder of the week. Such a monkey-holiness is not what the functioning world requires; rather a transmutation of the whole social order is necessary, so that through every detail and act of secular life the vitalizing image of the universal god-man who is actually immanent and effective in all of us may be somehow made known to consciousness.” That is the way Joseph Campbell expresses the need for a paradigm shift.
“Religion has, by its nature, created division in the world. It is the greatest of ironies that wars are fought over religion. Religion has brought us the concepts of sin and hell in the West and of acceptance of poverty and injustice in the East. Religion, as a basis for culture, is a force for fragmentation.”
One’s “feeling” or intuition or the so-called “still small voice” in the final analysis remains the final authority. Awareness or consciousness itself bringing one into the present moment and into contact with what in religious terms would be the “inner spirit” or the Holy Spirit should be the ultimate goal of all human “religious” endeavors. Again, in religious terms, the goal is the attainment of the Divine Reality of the present moment.
All religions have made premature claims that they have accomplished this goal. They cite that they have achieved the truth by divine authority, by inspiration, by truth revealed or by special prophets. However, so-called Divine Reality cannot be “given” to anyone. Self-realization is the responsibility and the joy-filled opportunity of each individual. Teachers, gurus and indeed the institution of religion may provide temporary assistance, but all will eventually become hindrances as the seeker approaches The Great Insight, the shift from P-B to P-A. All form must be transcended or the seeker will be suspended in limbo and will never reach true awareness and the accompanying liberation from the illusion that enchains us all.
References and notes are available for this article.
Also find a much more in-depth discussion of Simple Reality
on this blog and in published books by Roy Charles Henry.