Let’s face it. Religions tend to lose their way. They are started usually by the immediate followers of some highly realised and wise individual – Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Zoroaster, Buddha, etc. – with the best of intentions, aiming to keep that original flame alive. But in the process of codification and institutionalisation this soon gets lost. The church becomes an end in itself; the institution itself becomes the way, the path, the mediator with God.
Often the true flame is understood by a special group of truly spiritual individuals – Sufis, Gnostics, Cathars, St Francis and many of the catholic saints etc. – despite them, the less realised and more worldly and ambitious often seize their chance to dominate the organisation.
Worse, with codification there comes that element that believes their ‘book’ is the word of God, and absolute truth. Without real justification they think their truth is more valid than that other lot. Then we have the fundamentalist nightmare, and the long history of wars of religion – still all too evident today.
To my mind, the only way forward is when we recognise the spiritual nature of man, and regard these religions as equally valid paths to the one universal truth, which is about the nature of man and reality. The modern increase in the number of people who regard themselves as ‘spiritual ‘, but not necessarily attached to any particular religion, is thus a positive sign that man as a whole is beginning to transcend the baleful influence of much of the lower level of religion.
[NB I use ‘man’ in its original sense as relating to the human mind, and not as a sexist term relating to the male of the species.]
Featured image is ‘Les 3 Chemins de l’Eternité’, woodcut by Georgin François 1825,
courtesy Cornell University Library and Wikimedia Commons