This is really hugely long (20 pages?), and more than a little pedantic (and lacking in paragraph breaks), but there's quite a few interesting angles on the possible interpretations of the rich allegories that unfortunately became literal fodder for far too many grovelling simpletons. I'm generally inclined to despise the bible and any other dogma I encounter, but this actually reveals quite a lively way to use it. Take your time, you might find that it's way worth the bother.
(You might wanna just copy it into a text document and leave it by the throne for gradual absorption.)
THE ROOT OF ALL RELIGION
by ALVIN BOYD KUHN, Ph. D.
(a prolific author, do a web search sometime)
"According to body it is an animal, but according to intellect, a god."--Plato
"Suffer me to be food to the wild beasts; for I am the wheat of God; and I shall be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ."
--The Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans.
"His mind was made like the mind of an animal and his dwelling was with the beasts."
--Daniel V, 21.
No age since the third century of the Christian era stood in more imperative need of a clarification of the nature and meaning of that element in human life called religion than does the present epoch. It appears even now that nothing but such a clarification can save it as an institutionalized expression from hurrying disaster. From the intimations of events now occurring it would seem as if the radical economic parties would sweep the world into a socialized governmental enterprise, and everybody knows that the temper of this movement is bitterly, vengefully hostile to religion. Its spirit has been envenomed against religion because Marx, in a moment of "class-conscious" theorizing, taking sheer plausibility for a "scientific" deduction oflogic, put out a short, sharp sentence that stung the minds of his following into unrelenting enmity to religion. Said he, "Religion is the opiate of the masses." Religion, he asserted, has been utilized by the possessing class as a subtle psychological device to facilitate immensely the troublesome task of keeping the proletariat in docile mood, submissive and content under a hard economic lot. The preachment that heaven would compensate for the hardships of earth made police and militia considerably less necessary. Religion was a most useful adjunct to capitalistic control. And all too certainly religion has been exploited in a way to give substance to the specious figment of this charge. The sponsors of religion have themselves largely to blame if a crude embitterment has taken root in the mind of the masses. For this particularly vicious by-product of the economic struggle might have been avoided if all parties concerned had known the true place of religion in this mortal life of ours. It is likely a truism that humans seeking an end will turn to advantage any influence or instrumentality that comes to hand in exigency. But this is not for a moment to lend itself to one or another motive. As to ethical character, things are neutral; they become good or bad as employed by good or bad mortals, or for beneficent or injurious purposes. The populace is all-advised, on sheer logical grounds, to crucify religion because, forsooth, the rich have slyly turned it to the easing of their social mastery. It is legitimate to condemn the motive and the tactic; but it is not for a moment consistent with the boasted "scientific" rationale of the radical program to exterminate religion either in ignorance or contempt of its true functional value. Wherever the left-wing parties have won control, they have persecuted religion and taught atheism in the schools. This is fatuous; it is madness. Radical revolutions always go too far; they destroy valuable things to get rid of the dirt that may have collected upon them! Religion is established largely to conserve important values; and radicalism is against what is conservative. But a right conservatism is as necessary as a right radicalism, if only to conserve what radicalism wins! Stabilization is always necessary, yet one that is plastic to new adjustments. A golden mean must ever come out of the clash of arrant radicalism with decadent conservatism, both of which extremes are equally stubborn and equally wrong. Every settlement must be a compromise.Yet it seems to even a superficial view that nothing could be more absurd and more ominous than the radical presupposition that religion can be destroyed by a fiat of government. Had there been a clear understanding of what religion basically is, such an overweening presumption could never have taken form to betray otherwise well-meaning zealots. Trimmed of all abstruse verbiage the fundamental definition of religion is just man's psychological reaction to the universe of life,in which he finds himself. By psychological is meant intellectual and emotional, sensual and spiritual, the experiences of the psyche or conscious faculty in man. The whole reaction of man, the psychic being, to life is his religion. Intellectually, what a man thinks of life is his philosophy; but when the philosophic content of his thought works over into his emotional realm and becomes suffused with the emotions of loyalty, sacrifice, devotion and high allegiance, it is then his religion. Etymologically it is that influence which "binds" him "back" (Latin, re, back, and ligo, to bind.) to that which is most deeply fundamental in him, his deific self; a power or disposition which, amidst the events of a world that is ever changing, links him to an order of permanent and essential being that is the abiding heart of the universe. It is well that this etymological sense of the word be clarified, for there have been definitions that have widely missed the mark of true meaning. One current rendering has it, a "binding back" to the purely conservative, a tying to traditionalism. After all, religion is what its age-long theological interpretation has represented it to be--man's spiritual relation to God, that is, to the power that links him to the orders of life. But theology has rendered this true definition practically impotent, has falsified and distorted the reference, and eventually the meaning, by localizing the God in the case in the cosmic heavens instead of in man himself. This diversion of thought and aspiration from operable deity within to ineffable, incomprehensible and inaccessible deity without, has effected the sad miscarriage of all religion, which has been the direst catastrophe of all history. It has come close to causing the abortion of all cultural effort.
Through the decay and loss of primal relevance religion in later centuries has been emasculated to the status and character of a mere aspect of psychology. It has degenerated from robust practique to piouss entimentalism. It is sheer disposition to devoutness, to sanctimoniousness. At times it is hardly even that, becoming just dilettante aesthetics. Indeed Santayana, the Harvard philosopher, concedes that this is all that it should presume to be. With many it becomes the expression of quite irrational, maudlin, eccentric and ignoble impulses of human nature. In this respect it has presented for centuries a most ungainly picture, an exhibition of our nature at its weakest. One needs only to point to its known ecclesiastical record to confirm this statement. It is religion that has bred the most bitter wars, the most arrant bigotry, the cruelest persecution, the foulest forms of man's inhumanity to man that history narrates. While at the same time it has given play to some of the most shining forms of loyalty to high things, devotion to noble causes and sublime sacrifice for lofty principles, its influence in history has been of debatable value. As a result a large segment of the intelligent portion of mankind, especially in the West, has definitely repudiated it as a beneficent cultural force. Theology, which ranked in ancient days as the Kingly Science, is now reduced to so sorry a state of neglect that even its own professors, the ministers, are no longer genuinely interested in it. An eminent metropolitan pastor recently declared in a sermon that theology would in fifteen years be as obsolete as Grecian mythology, and said that he had turned his religious effort in the direction of socialservice.
Yet in spite of its derelict predicament religion continues to exert upon the mind of the age a tremendous weight of influence out of all proportion to its slender appeal to rationalism. This power is drawn from the inherent force and sway of traditionalism in common nature.Tradition is not itself rational. Its habitudes are frequently in contravention of logic. It rests upon the deeper mystical susceptibilities of the human psyche in the social mass. Superstition grows upon the fertile soil of uncritical mysticism, abetted by priestcraft. So religion presides still at all social functions having vital reference to life. The Bible still casts its lugubrious shadow over christenings, weddings, funerals, stalks abroad in the courts, the schools, and on every solemn occasion. To an extent of which the individual is little aware, Bible phrases still dominate the daily mass consciousness. Children are still indoctrinated with the statements of a meaningless orthodoxy and the formulae of catechetical instruction.
Religion thus occupies a most ambiguous position; neglected and flouted, yet in the exercise of its traditional power; discredited as irrational, yet dominant over the collective mind; almost totally uncomprehend edeven by its purveyors, yet forced upon each succeeding generation ofchildren as the very bread of life; holding its place by the sheer force of custom, yet at last seriously menaced with extinction by economically-determined radicals. Into such an anomalous situation there is surely warrant for throwing the clear light of the nature and meaning of religion. To abolish it utterly may prove more catastrophic than to preserve it in its present degeneracy. From the clarified statement of its true relevance to the issues of human striving should flow the insight to utilize its influence to the ends of world upliftment in a most salutary and beneficent fashion.
Of all the strange anomalies of the religious predicament today perhaps the weirdest is the astonishing fact that though religion has lost its place of acceptability just because its theological postulates have repelled intelligence by their very irrationality, still practically every doctrine of that same theology is entirely and vitally true! Atheists will howl their dissent in raucous derision, the emancipated intelligentsia will arch its eyebrows in scepticism, the priesthood will be itself wonderingly surprised. Yet it is the strange truth. For the theology that is now adjudged outworn and imbecile, is still the garmentof the mightiest truth that this world has ever known! Little does any Christian minister realize what a verdict of crassness the mere fact of the present obsoleteness of Greek mythology and orthodox theology pronounces against the vaunted intelligence of this age. That the sublime wisdom embodied in Greek myth and Bible allegory is still uninterpreted by the mind of the West to this day will prove to be the weightiest indictment of ignorance that history will present against the Christian civilization of this age. Hardly less than laughable will appear to later times the spectacle of an age morally and spiritually dominated by the precepts of a Book the meaning of which was all the while uninterpreted and unknown. The Bible and theology hold the truth of life, yet even their exponents do not themselves know what that truth is. Ecclesiasticism has the body of true wisdom, but can not even be persuaded that the body has a soul. It possesses the rich and mighty statements of truth, but surely has not the substance of it. In otherwords, the Bible and theology, as well as mythology, were formulated to preserve a covert meaning, which was once the essence of all religious and philosophical endeavor, but which slipped through the hands of ignorance at an early century and has been lost to common knowledge. The modern world is thus left in the ridiculous position of clasping to its heart a traditional treasure which it prizes for its outward appearance, but has not the slightest idea of its true worth. Having received the shell of truth without its living kernel, the present age is trying to feed itself on husks, in which no intrinsic nourishment is found. And the oddest feature of the whole situation is that the West has rejected that aspect of the ancient presentation which is true, and accepted the aspect which is not true! It has rejected the occult meaning of the allegories, which is the truth, and accepted only the allegories themselves, which are not true objectively. The theology that our age has repudiated was once the Kingly Science, revered by Plato and the sages, and was the highest wisdom ever vouchsafed the race. So involved has the tangle of myth, allegory and history now become that, even with corrective knowledge now available, it is questionable whether a generation of straightforward purpose will suffice to unravel the nearly hopeless knot of threads of interwoven truth and fiction. For the fiction that was deliberately employed by ancient subtlety to typify deep truth and spiritual experience otherwise incommunicable has trapped the mind of the West, which has taken it forobjective fact.
As the art of interpreting the lost language of glyph and symbol proceeds amain, an unwelcome realization will be forced home to intelligent studentship. It will become plain that the forces that caused the loss of the hidden Gnosis in the early Christian centuries were the same that plunged the world into sixteen centuries of medieval darkness. What we would call in these days a "smoke screen" of silence, subterfuge and chicanery has until now been thrown up to obscure the lineaments of this gross situation. But the truth of what happened is now rapidly coming to light, so that the recapture of ancient wisdom maybe in time to serve a tottering civilization in its time of need.
The predicament which culture faced in the third century is strikingly paralleled by conditions in this modern day. At that time spiritual philosophy, the universal basis of culture, exoteric in its nature and allegorical or symbolical in form, was menaced with destruction by the incrustation of ignorance and the trend to literalize dramatic typology. Knowledge was being swept away by the euhemeristic tendency, which turned significant mythology into inconsequential objective history. Neo-Platonic Theosophy was released in that exigency to countervail against this ruinous miscarriage of sacred meaning, but came too late.Sixteen centuries of spiritual blindness have been the consequence of the victory of the literal dogmatism of Christianity over the recondite wisdom of the pagan world. In our day we have to combat not only the lingering consequences of that early debacle, but in addition the heavy onslaught of the mechanistic and positivistic spirit of an age turned from seeking life's values subjectively to a crassly objective interest.C. G. Jung, the eminent psychologist, asserts that the present revivalof Oriental spiritual philosophy is the most significant movement in the thought-life of our time. The question now is: will this renaissance of knowledge be in time to save civilization other centuries of spiritual obscuration? The answer will almost certainly be in the negative, unless the modern mind can be led quickly back to a clear comprehension of the true bases of religion, its vital relation to all culture, and its central office in the life of the soul of man.
Tolstoy, in that remarkable prophetic vision, published about 1911, in which he foresaw the World War and events immediately antecedent and subsequent, all quite accurately fulfilled, glimpsed a world religion of the future founded once again, as of old, on mythology. And the world'sforemost authority on Orphism, Prof. Vittorio D. Macchioro, of the University of Naples, in his notable work From Orpheus to Paul, asserts with the same astute vision that Christianity, warring over creeds and dogmas, will face extinction unless it returns to mythology. One can and will fight over a creed, for one has no choice but to assent or dissent. But the meaning of a myth is left to one's own interpretation, according to experience and wisdom, and individuals may differ, but with amity. This is a point of immense pertinence to the religious problem of the day, and is earnestly commended to the attention of those who have weight in the councils of religious leadership.
The present lecture aims to lay down the primal foundations of true religion, to set it again upon its ancient bases. For it once rested upon a substructure that related it far more intimately with man and nature than is realized today. Its roots run deeper into the soil of human life than even its most devoted adherents are aware of. Religion has been wrenched loose from its original base, torn out of its primitive setting, and thus suffers from the incapacity to orient itself vitally to the issues of life. It has, so to speak, floated about in the airy domain of psychology, resting upon, or motivated from, a merely sentimental disposition, an inclination to piety, to sanctimoniousness.Be it said in the most positive language, that religion originally rested not thus on psychological temperament, or the bent to devoutness. Psychological affections were a legitimate, even inevitable, by-productof religion, but were not its central motif. It took its rise from far deeper and more elementary springs. It grew up and came to form out of the very elements of man's constitution. It was based, not on psychology, but upon a more generic science, anthropology, the science of man. Almost one could say it was based on biology. It drew its roots from the rudimentary constitution of human nature. It was the outcome of the fundamental relationship between the several elements and forces out of which man's nature and selfhood were fabricated, and of the more developed forms of which they are today compounded. Fabricated, compounded, did we say? Man's nature a compound of various elements? The psychology of the schools has just discarded the old classification of man's psyche into the various components of instinct, feeling, sensation, will, reason, and the like, and treats these manifestations now as merely modifications of a unitary consciousness. Behaviorist theory holds man to be a unit of consciousness, capable of a wide variety of responses. We can not at this time go into a debate as to the merits of the monistic, dualistic or pluralistic philosophies. The answer to all of them lies in the recognition that all life, with its capabilities of consciousness, is ultimately or primarily monistic, homogeneous, yet differentiates itself into a series of multi-various forms, modifications or types of manifestation. The One assuredly breaks up into the many, remaining, however, both the One and the One-in-many. And as concerns the constitution of man, ancient philosophy teaches that he is a compound, ultimately to consist of seven elements in a synthesis, but manifesting now four in actual expression (with three latent), and, for purposes of religious symbolism described as composed of two quite distinct natures, physical and spiritual. His humanity is a blending of these two, and stands midway between them, bridging the gulf of impassability between them and furnishing the possibility of a final amalgamation of the two. This consummative event is what religion has always described as the Atonement, or in the East yoga or union. Nature constructed her universes, and eventually man, on the pattern according to which she evolved the octave in music. Like the successive notes in a gamut of seven tones she sounds forth her creative energies, or "Word" (Logos) of seven vowels, each one of which organizes matter into a kingdom or plane, and the seventh of which effects a synthesis or unification of the whole. This synthetic sound forms in turn one note in a larger gamut, the eternal symphony of nature. Four tones of the cosmic harmony that man will express in his organic response have been sounded, and four organic formulations of being have come to manifestation in his nature. He has a physical self, an emotional self, a mental self and an inchoate spiritual self. But for the readier ends of general religious typology the sage of the past resorted to a further simplified classification, grouping the physical and the emotional together as the "lower" man, and the mental and spiritual as the "higher" man. The former constituted the personality, or outer mask through which the latter, the true individual, "sounded" forth his nature. (Person is from the Latin "per," through, and "sonare," to sound.) So we shall have to treat man as the operative compound of two distinct natures or beings, a physico-sensual self, and an intellectual-spiritual self, the first acting as the outer body or vehicle of the latter, giving it manifestation in the world of substance, a local habitation and a name.
Out of the involvements and necessities of the interrelation of these two selves in man religion took its rise. At bottom it is the reciprocal relation subsisting between his animal-human nature, on the one side,and his indwelling divine nature, on the other. In the body of flesh resides a god, a fragment of immortal deity. In full truth religion is the outgrowth of the relation between man and God. But the whole disfigurement of history for sixteen hundred years has arisen out of them iscarriage of the proper original sense of this phrase. For instead of referring to the relation between man, a creature on earth, and God (capitalized) as the supreme life force in the cosmic spheres, a Being external to man, it had reference only to the relation between the two distinct elements in man's own constitution, the lower "man" and the higher "god." The "god" in man is not the Supreme God of theology, but, as understood of old, a fragment of His selfhood. The wise Greeks preserved the true signification by writing the word "god" with the small letter, and also kept intact the limitation of meaning by prefixing to it always the definite article "the." Religion was the relation between man and "the god" within him. "Christ in you, the hope of glory," it was described by St. Paul. And Paul emphasizes this locale of the god when he fairly shouts at our ignorance. "Know ye not your ownselves, how that Jesus Christ is within you?" And no less succinctly does he state the case when he says, "The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second is the Lord from heaven." Jesus himself enunciates the truth in his remarkable declaration to his disciples--as types of the human counterpart--"Ye are from below, I am from above." "The spiritof God that dwelleth in you" and worketh the transfiguration and redemption of the carnal animal nature, is the only connotation of the term God concerned in the ultimate definition of religion. God's in his heaven, true enough: but with Him there, on His own high plane, man can have no relation. This may appear the veriest blasphemy to the religionist. Yet it is not only the bald truth, but the essence of the sanity that would have characterized religion, had not an outrageous over-reaching of meaning stultified man's entire effort to grasp the basal truth. Not God, in His wholeness, but that fragment of His nature which was energic in man's constitution, properly named "the god," is the only redeemer and savior, Christ or Messiah, contemplated in ancient scripture. In order that humanity might not, indeed could not, miss contact with deity, God incorporated a portion of his own fiery spirit in the innermost being of every person, and that is the Emanuel, or "god with us," of the Bible. "I shall make a tabernacle with them," declares the Eternal, "and I shall dwell with them; I shall be their God (god)and they shall be my people." Says Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, enunciating the Orphic Theosophy, "Man is a portion of cosmic fire, imprisoned in a body of earth and water." A measure of God's own spirit, symbolled always among the ancients by "fire," was "cribbed, cabined and confined" in a vehicle of earthly elements and sensory capacity. The body is itself seven-eighths water and one-eighth earthy material! Nature and positive fact thus support Greek philosophy and mythologicalsymbolism.
Sir Alfred Russell Wallace, co-originator with Darwin of the theory of evolution, has clearly evidenced that there is not to be found in the life history of the highest animal races on earth a body of experience which can account for the development of the mind in man. This fact is infinitely more significant for religion than has been observed. More glaringly obvious even than the absence of intermediate forms between animal and man is the "missing link" in the sequence of conscious mental development. The animal had no historical experience that evolved in him the mental faculty. Whence then came the Promethean fire, the gift of mind, to the races of animate beings on earth?
Not only is this query the real crux of the whole evolutionary problem, but it is equally the basic factor in the meaning of all religion. In its solution "science" has disdained the proffer of the anthropological knowledge of past ages, recorded for it during all the centuries in the recondite bibles of antiquity. The ancient illuminati knew by what law or methodology of nature the principle of mind appeared upon the world scene, to crown animal evolution with the genius of manhood. Because scripture, rendered ridiculous by its own mis-interpreters, was scorned, science was deprived of the chance to profit by the registered wisdom of those who once knew the origin of mind. For every sacred volume of the past declared repeatedly that the gift of mind "came down from above." The germ of thought power was not evolved out of the experience on earth of the highest mindless creatures, there being no evidence of such experience. It was introduced in what would appear to science an arbitrary and anomalous fashion, "from above." We have seen that Jesus announced his own origin as "from above." Paul describes the second or spiritual man as "the Lord from heaven." Again Jesus declared, "I came forth from the Father and am come into the earth." The Christian creed itself describes the Son of God as he "who for us men and for oursalvation, came down from heaven . . . and was made man"! (And still the Christian Church does not realize that this is a declaration as to the anthropological origin of the spiritual element in all humanity, but thinks it a reference to the advent of an individual man!) Jesus again emphasizes that "except a man be born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God." And Paul adds that "the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, . . ." Scriptural support for the advent of a new principle introduced from above could be elaborated at great length. In Greek philosophy it was set forth under the term, "the descent of the soul." Says Plotinus, the great Neo-Platonist: "Thus the soul, although she has a divine origin (or being), yet she enters into a body. Being the lower divine, she descends here below by a voluntary inclination, for the purpose of developing her powers and to adorn what is below her," i.e., to spiritualize and beautify the animal nature.
Heretofore science has ignored these theological statements as the weird extravaganza of the religious mind reveling in mystical whimsy. Never has it dreamed that they were the facts of a true anthropology, treasured in secret in olden times, but translated into absurdity by ecclesiastical mishandling. Science could not know that they were the description of the working of one of nature's fundamental archaic laws, one indeed which sustains the whole order of organic being in its linked interrelationship. It is the law that binds the whole register of manifest life to the throne of God, and each link in the chain to the ones below and above it. It is a law of nature that has remained entirely esoteric in religion and utterly unknown in science. It is the key to the entire evolutionary enigma, the answer to the great unsolved "mind and body" problem in psychology and biology, the kernel of all religion. And what is this crucial law?
It is the modus by which the living energies on one plane of life arerelated to those on the planes above and below it. As Greek philosophy expressed it, the energic essence of any one plane or kingdom served as body to that of the plane above it, but as soul to that of the plane below. Higher energies, by which is meant those of more rapid vibratory pitch or shorter wave length, use lower forces to give them body and instrumental form. On the other hand, lower forces look to higher ones for their ensouling principle. This involves the necessity of a natural linkage of the energies of two neighboring planes in one organism, the lower supplying the matter for vehicle, the upper furnishing the dynamic animation. The lower served as body for the upper, which functioned ascentral consciousness.
It was necessary, therefore, that two of nature's vocal tones, two ofher rays of energy, her expression on two levels, should be linked together functionally. Indeed the very continuity of living process in nature, the advancement of evolution itself, was achieved by the utilization of this linkage. For, in order that the life on any plane might enter upon its next succeeding round or cycle of its own growth,the law obliged it to project its vibratory power into the matter or soil of the kingdom below it. There it hibernated until the springtime of the next cyclical energy caused it to germinate anew and begin its next period of life and growth. This was equivalent to a planting of its seed in the soil of the kingdom below it in the scale, and this is the natural base of the religious significance of the parable of the sower ,which is immensely more fruitful for theological interpretation than has been realized hitherto. Orthodox blindness has never sensed that John was stating this biological law when he declared: "Unless a grain of corn fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." And Paul iterates the idea when he says: "Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die." It stands in Platonic Theosophy as the great law of incubation, which for spirit or soul involves incorporation in the flesh of a creature whose body pertains to the life of the elementary kingdom immediately beneath it in the gamut. It is thus the great central religious doctrine of the incarnation! Spirit mustincubate or incarnate in flesh and matter, else it will remain static or stagnant in the evolutionary ongoing.
How far theology has drifted away from ancient basic moorings can bevividly seen when we contemplate this doctrine of the incarnation. Inorthodox exegesis it is rated merely as one among many doctrines. It has been sadly reduced in scope and importance because it has been taken to refer only to the birth of the man Jesus into the body of a human infant. Had ancient philosophy not been extinguished, theology would have preserved the knowledge that the incarnation is the one sole and inclusive fact in all religion. It--and its implications--is the one single fact with which all religion deals. Religion is concerned with nothing beside the incarnation. The linking of soul to body, which gives man his life on earth, is the one entire theme of theology. Scriptural meaning, which has been bandied about between heaven and earth, earth and hell, is not truly anchored until it is tied definitely to the life of man here in the body. All bibles are talking about man's life, the result of soul's tenancy of body. What miscarriage of primal wisdom, both ludicrous and grievous, has ensued in consequence of the loss of this datum, there is not time to detail here. But with the restoration of this knowledge, as by a flash of light there will come again to darkened minds the true significance of every other doctrine. The birth, the baptism, the temptation, the crucifixion, the trial, the bloody sweat, the transfiguration, the resurrection, the ascension, the purgation, the judgment, the death on the cross of matter, the divine sacrifice,--every phase of spiritual symbolism will once again take on vivid meaning when seen as ancient poetic typology of the incarnation of divine principle in the flesh.
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