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At the Feet of The Mother

Beyond Credal Religions (1) The Age of Religions is Over

The Mother declared boldly that the age of Religions is over. This is not just a declaration in the sense that it is not just a thing that She foresaw and revealed. It is also a silent occult action wherein She was removing the scaffoldings of the Old World to prepare for the New World that was being formed behind.

Religion, Philosophy, Occultism and Spiritual Experience were the four pillars of the Old World that supported man’s inlook and uplook and outlook towards the doors of Truth. Their main work was to keep the human consciousness striving and straining towards That Reality which the eyes see not and mind grasps not and yet which is the secret Source and Truth of everything. Religion with its heart turned towards God had sown the seeds of piety and worship. It had opened man to the idea, belief and some kind of early contact with the Beyond. It had even given some far off glimpse of the One through the luminous masks we know as the Gods and beings of the higher worlds. In rare lucid moments it gave hope not only of individual but also collective emancipation. The idea of an ideal collective earthly life, of a universal brotherhood, of Ram Rajya where none went hungry, none was poor, none was sick, the kingdom of Heaven was kept alive in the human heart. But it stopped there and since it could not take us further it left the seeking soul of man dissatisfied.

As the waves of time rolled further and the direct Influence of the divine being or someone who came from the higher realms began to fade in the background and in its place the unripe, uncharted and limited mind of man took over the religious impulse began to fade. It’s spiritual core, the spiritual experience or realisation that was the starting point began to be replaced by human interpretations. The spontaneous movements of the heart began to change into mechanical rituals, the throne where once the Representative of God sat began to be occupied by men moved by ambition and lust for power. The congregation of seekers and aspirants and disciples and devotees began to change into a community of believers held together by custom and tradition. Faith was replaced by belief systems and the vision of God by narrow domestic conceptions. The Groups life that had centred around the being who had the experience began to change into a social life where only lip service was paid to God and for the rest the community was governed by an increasing list of do’s and don’ts, those human edicts and formulas that the mind devices to govern life with the rule book as guide rather than the living and only sure Guidance of the Soul within and the Master as the divine representative of outside. The Scripture of course was there, – every great or small religious movement has left some kind of Scripture for man to follow when the Master is gone, but it was tied with the silken strings of interpretation, most often by men who lacked the force of a living realisation and their small and narrow minds were quick to turn it into fixed, unalterable, rigid and narrow dogmas. The journey of faith and aspiration turned into a coded formal belief system to which one was supposed to subscribe. The acceptance of the belief system or its formal outer practice was considered enough whereas those looking at it anew and afresh in the light of their inner spiritual contact with the consciousness of the Master or the Divine were considered as heretics.

The final death knell was sounded when politics and money entered the kingdom of God’s representative and propaganda and the urge to expand the religious empire through forced or lured conversions using fear and favour took over. Truth was given a formal and solemn burial and a shrine was built around it to draw the gullible with the promise of an other-worldly salvation or a seat booked in heaven for the believing and the faithful.

Sri Aurobindo reminds us of this danger:

For the way that humanity deals with an ideal is to be satisfied with it as an aspiration which is for the most part left only as an aspiration, accepted only as a partial influence. The ideal is not allowed to mould the whole life, but only more or less to colour it; it is often used even as a cover and a plea for things that are diametrically opposed to its real spirit. Institutions are created which are supposed, but too lightly supposed to embody that spirit and the fact that the ideal is held, the fact that men live under its institutions is treated as sufficient. The holding of an ideal becomes almost an excuse for not living according to the ideal; the existence of its institutions is sufficient to abrogate the need of insisting on the spirit that made the institutions. But spirituality is in its very nature a thing subjective and not mechanical; it is nothing if it is not lived inwardly and if the outward life does not flow out of this inward living. Symbols, types, conventions, ideas are not sufficient. A spiritual symbol is only a meaningless ticket, unless the thing symbolised is realised in the spirit. A spiritual convention may lose or expel its spirit and become a falsehood. A spiritual type may be a temporary mould into which spiritual living may flow, but it is also a limitation and may become a prison in which it fossilises and perishes. A spiritual idea is a power, but only when it is both inwardly and outwardly creative. Here we have to enlarge and to deepen the pragmatic principle that truth is what we create, and in this sense first, that it is what we create within us, in other words, what we become. Undoubtedly, spiritual truth exists eternally beyond independent of us in the heavens of the spirit; but it is of no avail for humanity here, it does not become truth of earth, truth of life until it is lived. The divine perfection is always there above us; but for man to become divine in consciousness and act and to live inwardly and outwardly the divine life is what is meant by spirituality; all lesser meanings given to the word are inadequate fumblings or impostures. [CWSA 25: 262]

The Mother pointed this out in reference to some of the great religious movements:

All religions have each the same story to tell. The occasion for its birth is the coming of a great Teacher of the world. He comes and reveals and is the incarnation of a Divine Truth. But men seize upon it, trade upon it, make an almost political organisation out of it. The religion is equipped by them with a government and policy and laws, with its creeds and dogmas, its rules and regulations, its rites and ceremonies, all binding upon its adherents, all absolute and inviolable. Like the State, it too administers rewards to the loyal and assigns punishments for those that revolt or go astray, for the heretic and the renegade.

The first and principal article of these established and formal religions runs always, “Mine is the supreme, the only truth, all others are in falsehood or inferior.” For without this fundamental dogma, established credal religions could not have existed. If you do not believe and proclaim that you alone possess the one or the highest truth, you will not be able to impress people and make them flock to you.

This attitude is natural to the religious mind; but it is just that which makes religion stand in the way of the spiritual life. The articles and dogmas of a religion are mind-made things and, if you cling to them and shut yourself up in a code of life made out for you, you do not know and cannot know the truth of the Spirit that lies beyond all codes and dogmas, wide and large and free. When you stop at a religious creed and tie yourself in it, taking it for the only truth in the world, you stop the advance and widening of your inner soul. But if you look at religion from another angle, it need not always be an obstacle to all men. If you regard it as one of the higher activities of humanity and if you can see in it the aspirations of man without ignoring the imperfection of all man-made things, it may well be a kind of help for you to approach the spiritual life. Taking it up in a serious and earnest spirit, you can try to find out what truth is there, what aspiration lies hidden in it, what divine inspiration has undergone transformation and deformation here by the human mind and a human organisation, and with an appropriate mental stand you can get religion even as it is to throw some light on your way and to lend some support to your spiritual endeavour. [CWM 3: 77 – 78]

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