Religion- a philosophical Point of View

Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A. (Socio, Phil) B.Se. M. Ed, Ph.D

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

religionScience without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955), “Science, Philosophy and Religion: a Symposium”, 1941

In the achieved course of the evolution of the spiritual being, the two considerations must be perceived, firstly the consideration of the means, that means the lines of development utilized by Nature and secondly  a view of the actual results achieved by it in the human individual.  There are four main lines which Nature has followed in her attempt to open up the inner being, religion, occultism, spiritual thought and an inner spiritual realization and experiences the three first are approaches, the last is the decisive avenue of entry.  All these four powers have worked by a simultaneous action, more or less connected, sometimes in a variable collaboration, sometimes in dispute with each other, sometimes in a separate independence. But it is when knowledge reaches its highest aspects that it is possible to arrive at its greatest unity. The highest and widest seeing is the wisest, for then all knowledge is unified in its one comprehensive meaning. All religions are seen as approaches to a single Truth, all philosophies as divergent viewpoints looking at different sides of a single Reality, all sciences meet together in a supreme science. For that which all our mind-knowledge and sense knowledge and supra-sensuous vision is seeking, is found most integrally in the unity of God and man and Nature and all that is in Nature.

In the very nature of things all evolution must proceed at first by a slow unfolding, for each new principle that evolves its powers, has to make its way out of an involution in conscience and Ignorance.  Nature affirms at first a vague urge and tendency which is a sign of the push of the occult, subliminal, submerged reality towards the surface; there are then small half-suppressed hints of the thing that is to be, imperfect beginnings, crude elements, rudimentary appearances, small, insignificant, hardly recognizable quanta.  Afterwards there are small or large formations; a more characteristic and recognizable quality begins to show itself, first partially, here and there or in a low intensity, then more vivid, more formative, finally, there is the decisive emergence, a reversal of the consciousness, the beginning of the possibility of its radical change. Faith is indispensable to man, for without he could not proceed forward in his journey through the Unknown; but it ought not to be imposed, it should come as a free perception or an imperative direction from the inner spirit.

It is this process that has taken place in the evolution of religion in the human mind and consciousness; the work done by it for humanity cannot be understood or properly appreciated if we ignore the conditions of the process and their necessity.  It is evident that the first beginnings of religion must be crude and imperfect, its development hampered by mixtures, errors, and concessions to the human mind and vital part which may often be of a very unspiritual character.  Ignorant and injurious and even disastrous elements may creep in and lead to error and evil; the dogmatism of the human mind, its self-assertive narrowness, its intolerant and challenging egoism, its attachment to its limited truths and still greater attachment to its errors, or the violence, fanaticism, militant and oppressive self-affirmation of the vital its treacherous action on the mind in order to get a sanction for its own desires and propensities, may very easily invade the religious field and baulk religion of its higher spiritual aim and character; under the name of religion much ignorance may hid, many errors and an extensive wrong-building be permitted, many crimes even and offences against the spirit be committed.  But this chequered history belongs to all human effort and, if it were to count against the truth and necessity of religion, would count also against the truth and necessity of every other line of human endeavour, against all man’s action, his ideals, his thought, his art his science.

Religion has opened itself to denial by its claim to determine the truth by divine authority, by inspiration, by a sacrosanct and infallible sovereignty given to it from on high; it has sought to impose itself on human thought, feeling, conduct without discussion or question.

Truth and error live always together in the human evolution and the truth is not to be rejected because of its accompanying errors, though these have to be eliminated, often a difficult business and, if crudely done, resulting in surgical harm inflicted on the body of religion; for what we see as error is very frequently the symbol or a disguise or a corruption or malformation of a truth which is lost in the brutal radical of the operation, the truth is cut out along with the error.  Nature herself very commonly permits the good corn and the tares and weeds to grow together for a long time, because only so is her own growth, her free evolution possible.

The wide and supple method of evolutionary Nature providing the amplest scope and preserving the true intention of the religious seeking of the human being can be recognized in the development of religion in India, where any number of religious formulations, cults and disciplines have been allowed, even encouraged to subsist side by side and each man was free to accept and follow that which was congenial to his thought, feeling, temperament, build of the nature.  It is right and reasonable that there should be this plasticity, proper to experimental evolution, for religion’s real business is to prepare man’s mind, life and bodily existence for the spiritual consciousness to take it up; it has to lead him to that point where the inner spiritual light begins fully to emerge.  It is in this attempt that the errors of religion come in, for they are caused by the very nature of the matter with which it is dealing that inferior stuff invades the very forms that are meant to serve as intermediaries between the spiritual and the mental, vital or physical consciousness,  and often it diminishes, degrades and corrupts them: but it is in this attempt that lies religion’s greatest utility as an intercessor between spirit and nature.

Evolutionary Nature in her first awakening of man to a rudimentary spiritual consciousness must begin with a vague sense of the Infinite and the Invisible surrounding the physical being, a sense of the limitation and impotence of human mind and will and of something greater than himself concealed in the world of Potencies beneficent or maleficent which determine the results of his action, a Power that is behind the physical world he lives in and has perhaps created it and him, or Powers that inform and rule her movements while they themselves perhaps are ruled by the greater Unknown that is beyond them.  He had to determine what they are and find means of communication so that he might propitiate them or call them to his aid; he sought also for means by which he could find out and control the springs of the hidden movements of Nature.  This he could not do at once by his reason because his reason could at first deal only with physical facts, but this was the domain of the Invisible and needed a supra-physical vision and knowledge; he had to do it by an extension of the faculty of intuition and instinct which was already there in the animal.  This faculty, prolonged in the thinking being and mentalised, must have been more sensitive and active in early man, though still mostly on a lower scale, for he had to rely also on the aid of subliminal experience; for the subliminal too must have been more active, more ready to upsurge in him, more capable of formulating its phenomena on the surface, before he learned to depend completely on his intellect and senses.

The intuitions that he thus received by contact with Nature, his mind systematized and so created the early forms of religion.  This active and ready power of intuition also gave him the sense of supra-physical forces behind the physical, and his instinct and a certain subliminal or supernormal experience of supra-physical beings with whom he could somehow communicate turned him towards the discovery of effective and canalizing means for a dynamic utilization of this knowledge; so were created magic and the other early forms of occultism.  At some time it must have dawned on him that he had something in him who was not physical, a soul that survived the body; certain supernormal experiences which became active because of the pressure to know the invisible, must have helped to formulate his first crude ideas of this entity within him.  It would only be later that he began to realize that what he perceived in the action of the universe was also there in some form within him and that in him also were elements that responded to invisible powers and forces for good or for evil; so would begin his religio-ethical formations and his possibilities of spiritual experience.  An amalgam of primitive intuitions, occult ritual, religious-social ethics, mystical knowledge or experiences symbolized in myth but with their sense preserved by a secret initiation and discipline is the early, at first very superficial and external stage of human religion.  In the beginning these elements were, no doubt, crude and poor and defective, but they acquired depth and range and increased in some cultures to a great amplitude and significance.

A complete denial of religion, occultism and all that is supra-physical is the last outcome of this stage, a hard dry paroxysm of the superficial intellect hacking away the sheltering structures that are refuges for the deeper parts of our nature.  But still evolutionary Nature keeps alive her ulterior intentions in the minds of a few and uses man’s greater mental evolution to raise them to a higher plane and deeper issues.  In the present time itself, after an age of triumphant intellectuality and materialism, we can see evidences of this natural process,  a return towards inner self-discovery, an inner seeking and thinking, a new attempt at mystic experience, a groping after the inner self, a reawakening to some sense of the truth and power of the spirit begins to manifest itself; man’s search after his self and soul and a deeper truth of things tends to revive and resume its lost force and to give a fresh life to the old creeds, erect new faiths or develop independently of sectarian religions.  The intellect itself, having reached near to the natural limits of the capacity of physical discovery, having touched its bedrock and found that it explains nothing more than the outer process of Nature, has begun will tentatively and hesitatingly,  to direct an eye of research on the domain of the occult which it had rejected a priori, in order to know what there may be in it that is true.  Religion itself has shown its power of survival and is undergoing an evolution the final sense of which is still obscure.  In this new phase of the mind that we see beginning, however crudely and hesitatingly, there can be detected the possibility of a pressure towards some decisive turn and advance of the spiritual evolution in Nature.  Religion, rich but with a certain obscurity in her first infer rational stage, had tended under the overweight of the intellect to pass into a clear but bare rational interspaced; but it must in the end follow the upward curve of the human mind and rise more fully at its summits towards its true or greatest field in the sphere of a supra-rational consciousness and knowledge.

But this primitive stage, if it is indeed such and not, in what we still see of it, a fall or a vestige, a relapse from a higher knowledge belonging to a previous cycle of civilization or the debased remnants of a dead or obsolete culture, can have been only a beginning.  It was followed, after whatever stages, by the more advanced type of religion of which we have a record in the literature or surviving documents of the early civilized peoples.  This type, composed of a polytheistic belief and worship, a cosmology, a mythology, a complexus of ceremonies, practices, ritual and ethical obligations interwoven sometimes deeply into the social system, was ordinarily a national or tribal religion intimately expressive of the stage of evolution of thought and life reached by the community.  In the outer structure we still miss the support of a deeper spiritual significance, but this gap was filled in  the greater more developed cultures by a strong background of occult knowledge and practices or else by carefully guarded mysteries with a first element of spiritual wisdom and discipline.  Occultism occurs more often as an addition or superstructure, but is not always present; the worship of divine powers, sacrifice, a surface piety and social ethics are the main factors.  A spiritual philosophy or idea of the meaning of life seems at first to be absent, but its beginnings are often contained in the myths and mysteries and in one or two instances fully emerge out of them so that it assumes a strong separate existence.

For religion in India limited itself by no one creed or dogma; it not only admitted a vast number of different formulations, bit contained successfully within itself all the elements that have grown up in the course of the evolution of the elements that have grown up in the course of the evolution of religion and refused to ban or excise any: it developed occultism to its utmost limits, accepted spiritual experience, spiritual self-discipline Its method has been the method of evolutionary nature, herself, to allow all developments all means of communication and action of the spirit upon the members, all ways of communion between man and Supreme or Divine, to follow every possible way of advance to the goal and test it even to its extreme.  All stages of spiritual evolution are there in man and each has to be allowed or provided with its means of approach to the spirit, an approach suited to its capacity adhikara. Even the primitive forms that survived were not banned but were lifted to a deeper significance, whole still there was the pressure to the highest spiritual pinnacles in the rarest supreme ether. Even the exclusive creedal type of religion was not itself excluded, provided its affinity to the general aim and principle was clear, it was admitted into the infinite variety of the general order. But this plasticity sought to support itself on a fixed religion social system, which it permeated with the principle of a graded working out of the human nature turned at its height towards a supreme spiritual endeavour; this social fixity, which was perhaps necessary at one time for unity of life if not also as a settled and secure basis for the spiritual freedom, has been on one side a power of preservation but also the one obstacle to the native spirit of entire catholicity, an element of excessive crystallization and restriction. A fixed basis may be indispensable, but if settled in essence, his also must be in its forms capable of plasticity, evolutionary change, it must be an order but a growing order, Nevertheless, the principle of this great and many sided religious and spiritual evolution was sound, and by taking up in itself the whole of life and of human nature by encouraging the growth of intellect and never opposing it or putting bounds to its freedom, but rather calling it in to the aid of the spiritually seeking, it prevented the conflict or the undue predominance religious instinct and the plunge into pure materialism and seeks but exceeding all creeds and forms and universal king, admitting but exceeding all creeds and forms and allowing  every kind of element, may have numerous consequences which might be objected to by the purist, nit its great justifying result has been unexampled multitudinous richness and a more than millennial persistence and impregnable durability, generality, universality, height, subtlety and many-sided wideness of spiritual attainment and seeking and endeavour.

It is indeed only by such a catholicity and plasticity that the wider aim of the evolution from religion a door of opening onto spiritual experience on a means of turning towards it, a communion with God or at definite light of guidance on the way a promise of the hereafter or a means of a happier supra-terrestrial future, these needs can be met on the narrower basis of creedal belief and sectarian cult. But there is also the wider purpose of nature to prepare and further the spiritual evolution in man and turn him into a spiritual being. Religion serves her as a means for pointing his effort and his ideal in that direction and providing each one who is ready with the possibility of taking a step upon the way towards it. This end she serves by the immense variety of the cults she has created some final, standardized and definitive, others more plastic, various and many sided. A religion which is itself a congeries of religions and which at the same time provides each man with his own turn of inner experience, would be the most in consonance with this purpose of nature: it would be a rich nursery of spiritual growth and flowering, a cast multiform school of the soul’s discipline, endeavour, self – realization .Whatever errors religion has committed, this is her function and her great and indispensable utility and service the holding up of his growing light of guidance on our way through the mind’s ignorance towards the Spirit’s complete consciousness and self knowledge.

The means by which this need can be satisfied and with which our nature of mind has provided us is philosophy, and in this field it must be a spiritual philosophy. Such systems have arisen in numbers in the East, for almost always, wherever there has been a considerable spiritual development, there has arisen from it a philosophy justifying it to the intellect. The method was at first an intuitive seeing and an intuitive expression, as in the fathomless thought and profound language of the Upanishads, but afterwards there was developed a critical method, a firm system of dialectics, a logical organization, The later philosophies were an intellectual account or a logical justification of what had been found by inner realization, or they provided, themselves, a mental ground or a systematized method for realization and experience, In the West where the syncretic tendency of the consciousness was replaced by the analytic and separative, the spiritual urge and the intellectual reason parted company almost at the outset, philosophy took from the first a turn towards a purely intellectual and ratiocinative explanation of things. Nevertheless, there were systems like the Pythagorean, Stoic, and Epicurean, which were dynamic not only for thought but for conduct of life and developed a discipline , an effort at inner knowledge in later Christian or New pagan thought structures where East and West met together. But later on the intellectualization became complete and the connection of philosophy with life and its energies or spirit and its dynamism was either cot of confined to the little that the metaphysical idea can impress on le life and action by an abstract and secondary influence. Religion has supported itself in the West not by philosophy but by a creedal theology, sometimes a spiritual philosophy emerge by sheer force of individual genius, but it has not been as in the East a necessary adjunct to every considerable line of spiritual.


The university professor challenged his students with this question.

“Did God create everything that exists?” A student bravely replied, “Yes, He did!”
“God created everything?” The professor asked.
“Yes sir”, the student replied.
The professor answered, “If God created everything, then God created evil since evil exists, and according to the principal that our works define who we are then God is evil”.
The student became quiet before such an answer. The professor was quite pleased with him self and boasted to the students that he had proven once more that the Christian faith was a myth.

Another student raised his hand and said, “Can I ask you a question professor?”
“Of course”, replied the professor.
The student stood up and asked, “Professor does cold exist?”
“What kind of question is this? Of course it exists. Have you never been cold?”
The students snickered at the young man’s question.
The young man replied, “In fact sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold is in reality the absence of heat. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-460 degrees F) is the total absence of heat; all matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this word to describe how we feel if we have no heat.”

The student continued, “Professor, does darkness exist?”
The professor responded, “Of course it does.”
The student replied, “Once again you are wrong sir, darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can study, but not darkness. In fact, we can use Newton’s prism to break white light into colors to study the various wavelengths of each color. You can not measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Isn’t this correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present.”

Finally the young man asked the professor, “Sir, does evil exist?”
Now uncertain, the professor responded, “Of course as I have already said. We see it every day. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.”

To this the student replied, “Evil does not exist sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is not like faith, or love that exist just as does light and heat. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart. It’s like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light.” The professor sat down.

The young man’s name: Albert Einstein

- Unknown

Reference-Sri Aurobindo-The Life Divine





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