Toward a Unified Metaphysical Understanding: Reclaiming Genuine Religion for Humanity    
 Reclaiming Genuine Religion for Humanity
2008-06-18, by John Ringland

Before joining the conversation, please read and accept this Invitation to a Conversation.

Also see Thoughts on the Outline of a Unified Science.

In previous articles I briefly addressed the issue of the memetic war between politicised-science and politicised-religion (Naïve Realism and Empiricism), and also provided a little information that may help lead us in the direction of reclaiming genuine science for humanity (Scientistic Heresy). But what about reclaiming genuine religion for humanity?

First we need to understand what religion is. For many people in nominally Christian or Islamic cultures this is a very confused issue due to centuries of political-abuses of religion.

To explain what religion is we will need to first go back to its source, which is mysticism. The term 'mysticism' first arose in relation to the Eleusinian Mysteries however it has become a blanket term for all spiritual paths that revolve around personal contact with and direct communion with the deeper reality. This direct personal connection is the root of all religion. (see Virtual Reality Analogy Alongside Science and Mysticism)

This connection is our true natural state when the mind is not caught in delusion. It arises spontaneously for people in countless ways, throughout all cultures and all ages. When this connection is made it forms a channel between the transcendent reality and the experiential world. Inspiration flows through this channel in the form of symbols, teachings, practices and all manner of cultural artefacts. These spread through the surrounding cultural networks and inspire others to turn within and discover for themselves the deeper reality that dwells beyond the world of appearances within the mind. The essence of mysticism is overcoming naïve realism (articles), which is the root of all delusion. With a mind freed from delusion, either permanently or even for just a moment, the mystic realises aspects of the deeper reality.

But as these cultural forms spread they are re-interpreted in countless subtle ways by minds that have never tasted the deeper reality and by degrees they become distorted. Hence, in a cross-section there are many layers of symbols, teachings and practices. As they flow through the world, which is rife with delusion, they are mixed with delusion. At their outer edge they become expressed as many rules, injunctions, traditions and essentially meaningless rituals, but at their core they are pure liberation, unconditioned consciousness and spontaneous response to the flow of spirit. So long as there are those, in each generation, that make direct personal contact with reality and channel inspiration into the world, the flow is continually renewed and replenished.

The flow of this mystic wisdom through the world IS religion.

When a religion is cut off from its mystic roots the source of the flow is cut off and the wisdom drains out of it, leaving only delusion, a dry husk of symbols, teachings and practices that have lost their true meanings. A religion is a living resonance of minds. If only for a generation the connection to the source of nourishment is lost the religion will whither.

A quote from the Tao te Ching:

"A man of highest virtue [connection to the source and inner brightness] does not keep to virtue [the idea of virtue] and that is why he has virtue. A man of the lowest virtue never strays from virtue [is occupied by the idea of being connected and inwardly bright but conceives of this from a worldly perspective] and that is why he is without virtue [he is attached to the ‘idea’ hence disconnected from reality so he is without inner brightness]. The former never acts yet leaves nothing undone [flows freely with the Way and the holistic dance unfolds]. The latter acts but there are things left undone [trapped by cultural constructs, believing that they are the doer and acting upon agendas and illusions arising through their worldly subjective perspective, thereby out of harmony with the whole].

A man of the highest benevolence acts [acts on the idea of harmony, abundance and goodness but conceived of from a worldly perspective], but from no ulterior motive [not isolationist and agenda based]. A man of the highest rectitude acts [acts in conformity to rules, which are just ideas about correct behaviour], but from ulterior motive [pursuing a worldly, egoic agenda, working within the rules].

A man most conversant in the rites acts [acts according to traditions and laws that are cut-off from their meaning], but when no one responds rolls up his sleeves and resorts to persuasion by force. [the obvious thing to do in the worldly, egoic delusion; there is separation, struggle and use of mechanistic force – which inevitably leads to violence and the principle that “might is right”]

Hence when the Way [connection to reality] was lost there was virtue [the idea of being in contact with reality but conceived of from a worldly perspective]; when virtue was lost there was benevolence [the idea of harmony and goodness]; when benevolence was lost there was rectitude [conformity to rules]; when rectitude was lost there were the rites [meaningless traditions].

The rites are the wearing thin of loyalty and good faith, and the beginning of disorder [people become cynical and lose trust in the universe, and think of it as random, meaningless and dangerous. Hence they turn away from reality and become trapped in their delusion. When the people are cut off from reality they undergo successive stages of degeneration, eventually all that is left is meaningless practices and traditions, countless competing delusions and violent struggle ending in destruction]" (Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching)

A religion does not simply die and that is it; it is a memeplex. It is a complex and subtle phenomena; to draw out some of its aspects I will relate an ancient analogy of the “World Tree”. Some examples of this analogy are:

“This is that eternal Asvattha Tree with its root above and branches below. That root, indeed, is called the Bright; That is Brahman (ultimate reality) and That alone is the Immortal. In That all worlds are contained and none can pass beyond. This, verily, is That.” (Katha Upanishad: Part Two: Chapter II: Verse 1 )

“... the Asvattha, ... Which hath its boughs beneath, its roots above, - The ever-holy tree.” (Ganguli XV.1)

“They speak of the imperishable aśvattham (peepal tree) as having roots above and branches below. Its leaves are the Vedas and he who knows this is the knower of the Vedas.” (Bhagavadgita Chpt XV verse 1)

The Asvattha tree is also known as the Peepal tree or the Bodhi tree and its botanical name is ficus religiosa, which is fitting for this analogy. Direct personal contact with the deeper reality is the roots that nourish the entire tree. The trunk, branches and leaves are aspects of the cultural spread of inspiration that penetrate throughout the world. When this tree is severed from its roots the tree becomes dead wood.

But the tree of religion is like a Camphor Laurel tree, which when cut, the roots are activated, pushing up hundreds of new sprouts. As these are cut there sprout more. Even when the tree is cut for timber, unless the timber is aged for a long time it too can re-sprout if it comes into contact with a source of nourishment. There have been many cases of fence posts and furniture made from Camphor wood, which when coming into contact with the ground again re-sprout into a living tree.

Thus like the Camphor Laurel tree, a religion is very difficult to wipe out, and even if one does, there are still new shoots sprouting from the seeds of spontaneous mystic experiences, which are an essential part of human nature.

This illustrates the danger of co-opting religion to use as a propaganda front for a political movement. Although the tree may seem to be nothing but dead wood and useful timber for the construction of an empire or regime, new sprouts will emerge and the 'dead' wood can even come back to life when least expected.

Hence, to reclaim true religion for humanity all we need do is to turn within and connect with the deeper reality, which is a perennial part of our nature. New religions can arise to communicate new inspirations and even long dead religions can come back to life. Once they are drawing nourishment from the Source their symbols, teachings and practices are invigorated with meaning as living sap pulses through them once again.

Before joining the conversation, please read and accept this Invitation to a Conversation.

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