Religion is the great divider of mankind. More grief has proliferated,
more blood has been spilt in the name of religion than in any other
single cause. But this unenviable history is generally more characteristic
of the humans who practise the religions rather than of the religions
themselves. The traditional roles of religious cultures have been
to unite people in the face of the great unknown and to offer mankind
a sanctuary for his troubled spiritual and intellectual aspirations;
a vessel for his joys and his griefs. We aspire to greatness; to
this end we invent gods, heroes and legends that demonstrate this
search for our role model. Humans are incurably mythopoeic - we
love to invent myths, and dare to dream they are real....
All religions are man made, and so were all that ever have been.
Religions serve the needs of mankind, not of our gods. Human social
needs trigger our conscious and unconscious collusion, and this
gives rise to cults and religions.
GOD - FACT OR FICTION?
The recurrent weakness of any cult or religion is their inability
to tolerate debate, question or interpretation. Free thinkers are
quickly condemned as hypocrites and the religion becomes a dictatorship,
with followers dependent upon it and afraid of it - and sinners,
antichrists and infidels ring-fencing the faithful.
We perform religious rites, ceremonies and sacrifices in obedience
to our cultural traditions and the teaching of our great spiritual
gurus - Christ, Buddha, Mohammed and many others. None of them were
gods, and none ever claimed to be, but their followers, in their
enthusiasm, deified their status early on and in so doing demonstrated
their failure to fully comprehend the spiritual nature and direction
of their teachings.
Freud observed the parallels between a child's insecurity in his
new and unpredictable world, giving rise to the hero worship of
the parent in whom it sought refuge. To a child, parents are gods.
Religions provided this self same refuge from those fearful aspects
of life and death that we are unable to comprehend. The all-powerful
god, the divine patriarch, the universal father, became our archetypal
refuge from the neurosis of unknowing that is the lot of a child...
and the child's unquestioning obedience perpetuates this unhealthy
BIRTH of RELIGIONS & APPARITIONS
Notes to be read in conjunction with diagram above.
Mythopoea draws colourful folk tales of archetypal
heroes, kings, wise men, wicked stepmothers and ogres. And of course,
the undefiled maiden, the messiah, the saviour....
Visionaries, avatars and saints - Mother Meera, Vassula,
and the Marys of Lourdes, Medjugorie and Fatima. And St Christopher,
the travellers' guide, an old myth founded on folklore and finally
discredited by the Vatican this century.
Weeping Madonna of Civitavecchia - widely hailed
as a 'miracle' and found to be the natural action of osmosis, drawing
water up into a pottery figure and expelling it through cracks in
The Turin Shroud - a 700 year old fraud that people
wanted to believe, right up to the 20th Century. Now scientifically
discredited as a fake in much the same words as the official report
by Bishop Faus to the Vatican in 1395.
Stigmata - St Francis became, in 1224 AD, the first
known stigmatic; there are about 150 stigmatics in the modern world,
of whom Padre Pio was the best known. His extraordinary and painful
experience of the wounds of Christ gained him world-wide attention
which, like most other psyche driven phenomena, defy rational explanation.
The Vatican banned Padre Pio's teaching as unprovable and outside
of established Christian doctrine, and then in the face of outraged
public opinion, beatified him..
Ecstatics - are those who experience intense spiritual
exaltation outside the realms of their physical bodies, and include
St Theresa, assorted saddhus, ascetics and yogis.
Mariolatory - The virgin Mary has become the recipient
of much psychological projection throughout history. Often driven
by fantasy, she is portrayed as the undefiled maiden, god-woman
and spiritual consort, as well as the Mother of God.
Ghosts - Metaphysical energy waves, locked in time
and readable by psychics and sensitives. Ghosts are typically repetitive
in their manifestations, lacking the resource to be either creative
People through history have continually elevated their leaders to
deity for somewhat less than spiritual reasons. Like the Emperor
Hirohito of wartime Japan, whose station was so elevated that none
could even look at him with impunity13.
13 After Emperor Hirohito renounced his immortal status following capitulation in 1946, many bewidlered Japanese projected a status of immortality onto General MacArthur instead.
And Stalin, a charismatic
mass murderer, and Chairman Mao, a womanising despot whose influence
on the Chinese reached near hysterical levels of adoration and devotion.
He was loved as a saviour and revered as a god and feared as a tyrant.
Such is the nature of humans' unerring potential for inaccurate
judgement, where we rally to project upon our heroes qualities of
unsustainable wonder and given the chance, build a world religion
on the strength of it.
Every experience of god is an inner experience. Our god can't be bought
with prayer or penance; I believe we all have to awaken our own
god and become one with the great force of eternity that successive tribes, races and cultures have all wanted to call god.
The early social groups on this planet, from primal hominids of
3,600,000 years ago, to Homo Sapiens, around 600,000 years ago,
to the hunter gatherer tribes of 40,000 years ago, lived in harmony
with their spiritual selves, their primitive consciousness and the
developing awareness of their souls. The last survivors of these
tribes, our contemporary Kalahari bushmen, whose history goes back
40,000 years to the early stone age, the Aborigines and the isolated
Javanese hill tribes exhibit this inner spiritual balance now so
curiously absent in our modern world.
Differing colour, creed and culture created the social divisions
which demanded tribal unity in the face of alien influences.
Many tribes turned to weaponry in active defence of their people,
their property, their beliefs, against the certainty of violation,
moral or physical, from less socially evolved neighbours.
The mighty, 4,000 year-old megaliths of Stonehenge
Through the ages a host of priests and chiefs were quick to recognise
that the unseen and wrathful face of their gods was their mandate
for tribal power. They established vociferous propaganda campaigns
against neighbouring tribes for their different, blasphemous beliefs;
the people shook their fists and rallied around their leaders and
fought the self righteous wars of divine indignation, and died the
death of folk heroes and martyrs to their tribal cause. Then as
Missionaries, Crusaders and Armies of God they set out to convert
all non believers and infidels to their way of religious thinking,
using sweet words of love backed up by the sword and the cudgel.
And their gods looked on, and said nothing....
Little has changed to the present day, except that we now call it
Ethnic Cleansing.... With knowledge of other cultures came fear
for ourselves and our beliefs; no longer the blind acceptance of
our unquestioned social and religious stance, but the doubts, the
heresies and the excesses of fundamentalism, with holy wars, jihads
We are still threatened by the cultural clashes of our world's
religions. Moslems fight Jews, Catholics fight Protestants, Hindus
fight Moslems, and we all call them Holy Wars. And now we are talking
of the 20th century, and we have guns, not clubs....
Just as our social perspectives have changed and matured through
the interminable aeons of time since early man, so have our religious
needs. We no longer seek to appease the gods with child sacrifices,
the hot blood of newly slain infants spilled in what would appear
to be, to our civilised minds, a lamentable error of spiritual judgement.
Slaves are no longer buried alive, wide eyed and startled, in the
temple foundations. Paganism has given way, in very recent history,
to the monotheistic religions of Judaism, (from 2,000 BC) to Buddhism,
(500 BC) and Christianity, (30 AD) to Islam, (622 AD). The great
Indian flowering of Hinduism, (from 2,000 BC), differs but slightly,
a polytheistic cult in whose many faces lie the infinite light of
the Paramatman, the divine essence of Brahma.
A cursory glance at our world religions show how predictably they
accommodate mankind's need to gratify his social and psychic perspectives.
These social needs have powered the development of all the great
man-made religious myths.
Rather than reflecting the demands of the gods they worship, they
reflect the psycho-social needs of the people who practice them.
The chart that follows compares the four main religions and
the primary motivations governing them, like the way we perceive
things giving rise to the structures which serve our social perspective
FUNCTIONS OF HUMAN PERCEPTION POWERING
THE DEVELOPMENT OF WORLD RELIGIONS
HINDU - Feelings Oneness
with the gods of love, of war, of art and the expressible
feelings for life. Vegetarian, non kill. Festivals, fakirs
BUDDHISM - Intuition
Meditative response and culture of inner values. Individual
nirvana and spiritual transcendence fired by the psychic
spark of intuition.
ISLAM - Thinking Auditory input, minarets and the daily
call to prayer. Poetic and thinking style of abstract Islamic
art and design, and the unseen face of Allah.
CHRISTIANITY - Sensation
Crucified saviour. Lots of agony and earthly sensation.
Visual and tactile art. Participatory and theatrical sacrifices,
Mankind's social needs are still fulfilled by religions, this cannot
be doubted; the fervour of the annual Moslem migration where 1,000,000
pilgrims travel to the desert locked city of Mecca, to attend the
ten day Haj pilgrimage, and encircle the Kaa'ba, the great black
box of spiritual symbolism and kiss the Prophet's sacred meteorite.
The faithful then climb the adjacent mountain and throw stone after
vengeful stone at the devil's symbolic image in a frenzy of purgative
outrage. All this is an unparalleled and unprecedented statement
of the religious needs of mankind and his desire for oneness with
his spirituality, his god.
And the Christian churches, Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant,
where mighty cathedrals stand in timeless tribute to the willing
hands that toiled for so many centuries to build them. And like
Islam, Christianity was the inspiration for an endless stream of
the greatest art in existence. Holy words and the verse of ages
was intoned with music of sublime delight, ascending in an unending
toll to the sorrowful voice of man's lament for his lost soul. Here
revealed is the fundamental difference between mankind and every
other life form on this planet, the joys and the griefs of intellect.
WILL OF GOD
We still need our religions - nothing has changed. We need our
role model, we need to aspire to a moral order, a social charter,
a cultural code. But in 2000 years of Christianity, much has changed.
We have witnessed every excess of ungodly behaviour in the name
of our silent, unspeaking and unmoved god; wars have been fought,
empires won (The Papacy, Conquistadors), and lost (Colonial missionaries,
Crusades), and we defend our actions, like everyone else, in the
name of our god.
Are we performing the will of our god? Christianity, the daughter
of Judaism, came into being 2,000 years ago at a time of general
illiteracy and was fostered by a poor and politically subjugated
society; religions thrive in such situations. The 'Word-of-God'
expressed, in common with all other world religions, the unchallengeable
authority of its promoters, and Faith was the word used to explain
away the inexplicable. The people, some of them, followed this new
cult of Christianity, lived for it and died for it. The remainder
held true to their Jewish persuasion, the faith of Christ's earthly
heritage, and wondered if the world wanted a new religion, born,
as it were, off the back of the old one. Martyrdom (in Roman amphitheatres)
became fashionable around 200 AD and the message of Christ spread
far as a result. Meanwhile the Romans, in their decadence, relished
the new sport.
Subsequent Christian history revealed mankind's every excess enshrined
in the Word of God. Avarice, immorality, exploitation and persecution.
But Christianity survived, and survives still, sometimes resting
on the true pillars of Christ's enlightened teaching, and sometimes
whipped into line by vociferous bigots wagging accusing fingers
and empowering themselves with threats of Satan and the Day of Judgement.
But its continued survival is a tribute to the sincerity and truth
of this 2000 year old religion.
What is wrong with Christianity? There is nothing wrong with Christianity,
but humanity and Christianity have grown apart, become estranged.
The religions of the Piscean age served the needs of the uneducated,
non-questioning majority of its supporters. Religion has stood still,
as religions do, but mankind hasn't. Western mankind, men and women,
are now blessed with education and intellect which is accelerating
faster than at any time in history. We are growing at an unstoppable
rate, and we must respect that gift and cherish it.
We learned our social code, and respect the greatest of Christ's
teachings to 'love our neighbour'. We accept the Christian stance
on moral righteousness. But I suggest these are social attributes,
not spiritual ones, and for decades we have been subjugating our
intellectual gifts to the demands of an outmoded religious dogma.
Priests have been suspended for talking of 'the symbolism of the
Mass'... or that greatest of biological contradictions, the Virgin
Mother. Nobody mentions the soul or its needs, we are all too busy
arguing some very ungodly principles, often ringing of clerical
chauvinism, and missing the spiritual point of our very existence.
Christians spend an inordinate amount of time arguing the sometimes
obscure meaning of parables, or miracles, or the merits of birth
control, or celibacy, or marriage for priests, or the ordination
of women. The Pope recently renewed the ban on Astrology, once itself
a sacred art. More recently, in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor,
this fervent pontiff revealed the great distance between his traditional
perspectives, born out of centuries of unquestioned papal authority,
and the rapidly changing needs of his now educated flock. The encyclical
reiterates the papal stance on Roman Catholic matters; no birth
control, no divorce, no women priests, no clerical marriage - all
of which suggest an untimely renewal of the excesses of papal empowerment,
typical of the death throes of any timeworn dictatorships. Shouts
of papal infallibility fall on deaf ears in our intellectual age.
Followers of a cult which denies the individual's right of conscience
and moral destiny will not last long in this Aquarian epoch.
It is clear that the development of our soul, our interface with
true enlightenment, should be our one religious goal; but our Western
religions have always promoted the concept of an external god, outside
and beyond our humble perspective, and have consistently failed
to awaken the god force within, the spark of the divine that is
our totality and our destiny.
Religions today generally serve an increasingly social role and
a decreasingly spiritual one. Our changing social priorities have
robbed us of one of our great cultural traditions, the weekly celebration
of our ancestral beliefs. The Islamic call-to-prayer, the Jewish
Kabbalah readings, the Christian Sunday Mass, all bind tight the
knot of family unity. And we are much the poorer for its world-wide
But lament for past glories does not rekindle devotion to a culture
that is wanting for spiritual percipience. A developing intellect
will always clash with traditional perspectives, and we live in
an age of tremendous intellectual change. Farmer's boys now train
as bankers, housekeepers spawn research chemists and atomic physicists,
each driven far from their social origins by their new commercial
Religions bring us tantalisingly close to a rich spiritual encounter
- encouraged by the timeless splendour of our traditional rituals.
But they seldom engage that inner fire that unites us with our own
divinity. We project upon our religions impossible demands and seek
externally that which lies within. We worship our religion but forget
to nourish our soul. Only we can awaken our inner enlightenment
- Buddha taught us this long ago - and in an age fired by an intellectual
perspective, rather than by a disciplinarian one, nothing less will
While the religious concept of our gods has changed through history,
the needs of our soul remain constant and continually in need of
succour, whether through religion or not. Religions are not the
only route to our god, and god is not the property of our religions,
but of humanity. Churches and their priests sometimes forget that.
Different people have different religious callings. Our religious
rituals serve an irreplaceable need, albeit a social one. The solemnity
of baptism, the sanctity of marriage, the spiritual dignity of death.
Religions nourish and sustain us at times of grief, times of chaos
and times of inner confusion. They are a sanctuary for our prayers
and exhortations, our only available response to the unfathomable
mysteries of life and those powerful experiences of feeling that
cannot be ordered or controlled; qualities which awaken such deep
feelings for life and spiritual love. In these and more reside the
many good experiences of our spiritual encounter of divinity.
There is no better way of communicating with our inner, spiritual
self than through patronising our religious calling. We need our
religions and we need our rituals - but we need to acknowledge their
limitations, and not to project upon them something that they are
not. It is only to ourselves that we must answer for the nature
of our own spiritual destiny, and only we who will judge the veracity
of our spiritual endeavours. Embracing our religions may further
our psycho-spiritual goals; becoming a compliant servant of an unquestionable
religious discipline, dominated by those who would derive some sense
of power from their elevated clerical status, will clearly have
the reverse effect.
Religions may demand an undying devotion to their god, but this
commitment is valueless until we have learned to quantify our concept
of god - if we are searching for the lost father, a social saviour
or spiritual redeemer, then we are falling into the role of the
dependant child trying to find someone worthy of his ill-considered
Spiritual empowerment is all about taking responsibility for ourselves
and our spiritual beliefs.