A Prophetic Criticism of “Great” Religions
The religious awareness and experience of the Western world is trapped within an archaic structure of myths, dogmas, and irreducible social conflicts that no longer serve the true religious and Spiritual process of humankind. These myths, dogmas, and irreducible social conflicts are, even now, being forcedly perpetuated by the large-scale cultural, political, and economic dominance of the religions of the ancient world.
Human beings themselves cannot awaken to the esoteric process that fulfills their Spiritual heart-impulse until the spell of mythological and ego-possessed thinking is broken. And a unified, whole bodily culture of humankind, in which East and West will realize a new cultural synthesis, cannot take place until all the old religions are submitted to the Principle of Truth Itself—or to the Universal Principle of Prior Unity and the Inherently egoless Transcendental Spiritual Principle (or Self-Condition) That Is Reality Itself. As a matter of urgent necessity (for the sake of global cooperative order and peace), it must be universally accepted that every human being, and every collective human manifestation—and, thus, every religion—must be always held subordinate and accountable to the Self-Evident (and Universally Self-Manifested) Truth That Is Reality Itself.
People tend to think of religion as a benign influence on individual thought and behavior—and this is, indeed, the case when the more benign aspects of religious awareness and experience begin to inform the thought and behavior of any individual. Yet, in the context of the larger world of the collective of all of humankind, religion is only rarely found to be functioning on the basis of its benign aspects—and, indeed, most characteristically, the ego-based and even negative aspects of religion are most apparent in the collective (and inherently non-sectarian) larger world of all-of-humankind-together. And, at large, it is certainly the case that very few individuals become truly creative personalities, mystics, Saints, or even reliably good men or women as a result of their religious beliefs and associations.
Religion is, in general, an exoteric cultic phenomenon that controls the thought and behavior of individuals through external and psychologically manipulative techniques. Thus, the principal religious phenomenon that is common in the world is not true (or free) religious awareness and benign behavioral habits on the part of individuals. The principal phenomenon of religion is all the separate and separative institutions that contain and otherwise manipulate broad and massive segments of the human population.
The primary institution within any religious tradition is (itself) the religion—insofar as any religion affects the world at large. And large-scale (or “great”) institutional religion is—because of its worldly public status—not primarily a benign power in the world. One has only to look at the cultural and political conflicts in the total world of today to see that the immense institutions of ancient religion have now become, for the most part, contentious, absolutist, and the perennial sources of irreducible social conflicts. And “great” religions characteristically are “established” (and their power legitimized) by a nearly indivisible union with the State (or the otherwise secular national power). And the problem of all of this is made extreme by the immensity of these “great” religious institutions, each of which controls even many millions of people.
The power of the “great” traditional religious institutions is, for the most part, a worldly power. That is to say, these institutions are actually political and broadly social agencies that manipulate the political, social, and economic motivations of the citizens of all nations. The only public alternative is control of the people by exclusively secular political institutions, which tend to suppress and exclude not only religious institutions but also every kind of benign religious (and, otherwise, esoteric) awareness, experience, practice, and association—and this pattern of enforced secularization has also begun to spread to many areas of the world that have, traditionally, been under the powerful influence of religious institutions.
In the popular media of the present time, small, non-“establishment” religious groups are often (with negative and “demonizing” intent) called “cults”—thus making such groups “fair game” for hostile and suppressive commentaries. Nevertheless, any religious (or, otherwise, esoteric) group (or non-“orthodox” sect, or even “great” religion) may appropriately be called a “cult”, if the word “cult” is intended simply to mean a system and a culture of devotion to a particular subject.
Therefore, all exoteric religions and all esoteric sects (or cultural entities) are cults—and to use the word “cult” with bad intentions is nothing but a power game, whereby “established” cults (and the agencies, within the larger society, which support the dominance of the local “established” cults) make suppressive efforts to subordinate, de-legitimize, and exclude the non-“established” cults. Indeed, the fact of the matter is that, in general, non-“establishment” cults (or minority sects) are, characteristically, oriented toward the promotion of a more universal (or de-provincialized, and non-“tribal”, and not at all “bonded-to-the-State”) form of the religious (or, otherwise, esoteric) practice of life. Truly, the worldly domain of the “establishment” of so-called “great” institutional religions—and not the small-scale, and, especially, esoteric, domain of non-“establishment” religions and otherwise sacred institutions—represents the more direct and practical threat to human development, and (ultimately) to the communication of the Truth of Reality Itself.
Why is it that “great” religious institutions, which seem to be founded on the greater human and cultural persuasions, ultimately become the primary basis of social conflict and even personal neurosis? The reason is that “great” (or popular, and, necessarily, public-oriented, and even State-“bonded”) religious institutions are (because of their orientation) obliged to include (and identify with, and even to pander to) masses of immature people who have very little will or capability for the practical personal and cultural exercise of true religious or, otherwise, Spiritual (or esoteric) life.
As a result, the institutions of “great” religion develop much like the institutions of State develop under the same conditions of universal human immaturity—and, indeed, because of that likeness, “great” religions (and even all "establishment” institutions) are, characteristically, “bonded” to the State in which they are “established” (and by which their public power is legitimized). Thus, true religion (or, otherwise, esotericism in general) characteristically eschews mere popularism, and all subordination to “establishment” cults, and all tendencies toward the non-separation between “religion” and “State”.
Every popular (or even “great”) religious institution tends—except during periods of renewal by living Adept-Realizers—to become more and more dogmatic, and, eventually, to become irrevocably associated with fixed ideas that, in one manner or another (and to one or another degree), deny the very (and, necessarily, esoteric, recondite, and intensively demanding) Truth relative to Which all religions (and all mere ideas) are mere pointers. Likewise, the fixed-mindedness of dogmatic popular religiosity also tends vigorously (and in a presumptuous “culturally superior” manner) to deny the religious authenticity or religious completeness of people who belong to other religious institutions or cultures. The conventional (or ego-based, and ordinary, or merely public-oriented, and, therefore, less than Truth-oriented) religious institution, like any other mortal (or inherently threatened) entity in the world, tends to become more and more centered in itself—and more and more devoted (more or less exclusively) to its own survival (and its own public power).
Conventional religious (or even esoteric) institutions learn how to survive by serving and manipulating a massive membership that is largely incapable of true religious (or, otherwise, esoteric) responsibility in practice. This is done by minimizing the true religious (or, otherwise, esoteric) demand for literal and personal conversion of mind and action, and replacing that difficult demand with the “easier” (less rigorous) and more secular demand for mere allegiance to systems of myth, belief, ritual, dogma, and rote practice of ego-supportive “methods” and ego-reinforcing “techniques”. Thus, the condition for membership in most institutions of “great” (or merely public-oriented and society-bound) religion is allegiance to fixed ideas and other outward or superficial signs of belonging to the cult—whereas true religious (or, otherwise, esoteric) practice is founded on active conversion of body and mind to the Divine Reality, and on the acceptance of behavioral disciplines that (at the very least) make the individual an outwardly benign (or socially self-restrained) character.
Of course, “great” institutional religions do recommend various “social morality” attitudes, but the practice of self-restraint is not made a condition of membership—except, perhaps, in the case of a few selected acts that are, often for absurd reasons, taboo. Furthermore, institutionalized “morality” tends to be associated with archaic, neurotic, and petty sexual and social taboos, rather than with the truly human obligations of ego-transcending love, service, and compassion. Likewise, most religious institutions today have abandoned the detailed (and even ancient) religious disciplines associated with “right life”—including, for example, the ancient recommendations relative to personal disciplines of a healthful dietary nature—such as the obligation to avoid meat or other killed food, impure food, toxic stimulants, and so forth. And the esoteric and universal Spiritual teachings that are the only real significance of religion have been almost totally abandoned and even lost by the non-esoteric “orthodoxy” of the “great” religions.
In the conventional affair of popular religion, the communication of rigorous religious demands (and, also, of esoteric understanding and practice) is avoided, because conventional religious institutions are trying to survive (and, also, to achieve, or, otherwise, maintain, public power) by acquiring and maintaining massive memberships. Thus, conventional (or popular, public-oriented) religion is promoted and sold by hyped appeals to the non-discriminating mind of “Everyman”.
In contrast to conventional popular religion, true religion is a superior human impulse, founded in self-understanding and profound psycho-physical conversion (or change). However, over time, only false and merely exoteric (or popular, and public-oriented) “religious” inventions are communicated by so-called “great” religions. And, at last, not only is the esoteric Truth and practice of true religion eliminated as the core of religious instruction, but the survival pressures of dogmatic popularism make both Truth and right practice unacceptable. Thus, over time, “great” religions tend, in fact, to make true religion secondary to “membership”—and, likewise, “great” (popular) religions (or cults of dogmatic belief) tend to become the enemies of authentic esotericism (or of the experiential “knowledge” and the “gnosis”, or the tacit “knowledge-beyond-mind”, that makes both mere belief and mere ideas obsolete).
This was the situation that confronted Jesus of Galilee—and it was (and is) the situation confronted by all prophets of true religion and all Realizers within esoteric schools and traditions.
Since actual and mature (and both true and right) religious practice has been generally (or popularly) replaced by outward adherence to false (or deluding) exoteric beliefs and merely superficial behavioral modifications, the true esoteric core of religion has lost its use within the “great” traditional cults that exist today. The entire affair of traditional religious institutions has become (in a sense) dangerous, because such religious institutions long ago abandoned the practice of making true religious and esoteric participation a condition of membership within the “official” domain of popular religious institutions.
If the demand for authentic (or wholly true and right) participation had, historically, been continued, the institutions of religion that are now, as a matter of convention, called “great” would likely have remained small esoteric communities (if they survived at all). However, the ancient religious institutions chose gross survival and worldly power, to the exclusion of Truth—and, therefore, they adapted to the world, rather than persist in the demand that the world change itself.
True religion is a universal and (necessarily) ego-transcending psycho-physical motivation of human beings. However, up to the present stage in human history, only relatively few individuals in any generation have been willing and able to make the gesture that is true religion (or, otherwise, true esotericism). In their great numbers, most people have, up to now, never yet been ready or willing to adapt to the true (and progressive) practical, moral, devotional, Spiritual, and Transcendental Wisdom-culture of right life.
An authentic true religious (or, otherwise, esoteric) institution must be devoted entirely to both the communication and the practice of religious (or, otherwise, esoteric) Truth and the relentless demand for right and always greater human transformation (and, ultimately, Perfect Truth-Realization). Historically, only relatively few people in any generation of humankind have been interested in accepting that Truth-message!
An authentic true religious (or, otherwise, esoteric) institution must never subordinate itself or its message to either the pattern and the demands of egoity itself or to the stream of daily secular or worldly society. Indeed, until humankind in general is able to become truly religious (or, otherwise, Really Awake), true religion (or esotericism otherwise) must remain largely prophetic in its function. That is to say, true religion (or esotericism otherwise) must (even always) accept the role of critic (and, thus, of the “outsider”) in the (public and popular) world—and true religion (or esotericism otherwise) must never become like the world (or function as an “insider” within the world) in order to become powerful and “great” in the world.
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