Archives for category: history of religion
credit: scienceblogs.com

credit: scienceblogs.com

Before we continue from my last post to witness the evolution of Upanishidic thought let us savour the speculative poetry on Creation of an earlier scripture the Rig – Veda, the earliest Indian treatise known which would give one an idea about the nature of speculative enquiry in that dawn of history of man. The Rig – Veda is estimated by Western scholars to have been composed between 1700 to 1100 B.C. and would therefore be man’s earliest efforts at coming to grips with the mysteries of the world in which he finds himself:

                                           C R E A T I O N

“Then was not non-existent: there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it.

What covered it, and where? and what gave shelter? Was water there,unfathomed depths of water?

Death was not then, nor was there ought immortal, no sign was there, the day’s and night’s divider.

That One Thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature: apart from it was nothing whatsoever.

Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness this All was undiscriminated chaos.

All that existed then was void and formless: by the great power of warmth was born that unit.

Thereafter rose desire in the beginning, desire, the primal seed and germ of spirit.

Sages who searched with their heart’s thought discovered the existent’s kinship in the non-existent.

Transversely was their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below it?

There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action here and energy up yonder.

Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation?

The gods are later than this world’s production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?

He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it,

Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.”

I have yet to come across a more moving poem ( when I read this, over three thousand-year old poem, believe me my hair stands on end) as earnest uncomplicated and uninhibited and with no presumptions whatsoever yearning for an answer ( He verily knows it, or perhaps He knows not! – can any latter day believer dare ask such a question??)  – that for me was the spirit of ancient India’s quest and enquiry, fearless in its scepticism,  which eventually produced first the intense speculations of the Upanishads and later the crystalized and focussed efforts of the Gita to reply that pristine query, which for me it did.

Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope

Credit: hinduism.iskcon.org

Credit: hinduism.iskcon.org

The Upanishads are among the world’s oldest metaphysical treatises representing the philosophical inspirations and conclusions of Indian sages deep in their forest hermitages regarding the nature of reality. Scholars universally hold that they could not have been composed later than the 7th century B.C. and predate the glorious 6th century when a sudden spate of thinkers and prophets like Confucius, Buddha, Zoroaster, Homer and Pythagoras propounded new philosophies and launched great religions.

Thus at the dawn of history these pioneering and extraordinary thinkers pondered answers to fundamental questions about the nature of existence, the cosmos, man and nature and their inter-relations. From their early insights they advanced to profound philosophical and spiritual revelations  which eventually crystalized into the Monism of Hindu beliefs, the concept of the unity of the created universe, integral with the metaphysical world of the spirit, the concepts of the Soul at the heart of physical reality and the immanence of the spiritual essence in all we behold – and finally the nature of the supreme Universal Essence, the supersoul and Godhead.

Further introspection produced the fundamental philosophical premises of reincarnation through transmigration of the soul, the doctrine of Karma, the concept of Illusion and their ethical and moralistic implications. The development and crystallization of the thought has determined indelibly for millennia the belief systems, spirituality and ethics of the Hindu mind right down to the present day.

All Indian philosophical and religious traditions, whether theistic, pantheistic, materialistic or atheistic derive their ultimate inspiration from this seminal body of introspection of the thinkers and sages of yore, ruminating without any inhibitions or constraints on questions about the origin, nature and destiny of man and the universe, seeking to find answers to grasp the essence of a universal truth.

The verses are presented in Socratic fashion through dialogues between seekers after knowledge and their mentors, eminent sages, who attempt to answer  questions with questions of their own, prying, so to speak, answers from the questioners themselves. The dialogues are between the sages and their wives, kin, or disciples who present theories and propositions of their own which are either inadequate or only partially true. Thus the arguments move back and forth as the intuitive knowledge enhances and evolves. Then finally the seers who have arrived at their conclusions through insight and intuition present their vision of the truth, which has continued to inspire Hindu thoughts and beliefs to this day.

What is remarkable and wonderful in all this is that there is no  predetermined assumption nor a preordained dogma but a rare and exhilarating freedom of thought which succeeded in  grasping the truth which later crystallized as established theory or dogma. It is like a clear slate suddenly filling up with extraordinary and seminal unheard of propositions dispelling confusion and untenable and naive assumptions of pre-history.

Thus in a sense the Upanishads expose the genesis and creation of Hindu beliefs and dogma. One becomes as it were, a witness to the very process whereby a body of beliefs developed and matured. Such a vision of evolving thought is rarely available generally. It is as if in studying the evolution of man one encountered the fossils of dinosaurs, apes and our immediate ancestors the Neanderthals and Homo-erectus.

This evolution of Hindu thought witnessed in the Upanishads ( ending ignorance through knowledge in Sanskrit) is replete with numerous aphorisms and superb Sanskrit poetry and mystical insights.

The Upanishads themselves form part of the Vedas, considered by Hindus in general as the repository and fountainhead of all knowledge and religious and spiritual inspiration. Emerging from the inspirational womb of the Upanishads was the primary Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita.

Thus an examination of the evolution of Upanishadic thought would prove invaluable for the scholar of metaphysics in general and Hinduism in particular in witnessing the progression of man’s quest to unravel the mysteries of the universe of which he is a part.

I shall limit this post merely to introducing the Upanishads in the interests of brevity, taking up the review of the evolution of its thought in the next post. However in closing I wish to underline that what informs the dialogues are infectous and refreshing arguments and counter arguments between curious scholar – sages and students seeking to fathom the mysteries of temporal and spiritual existence transcending limiting frontiers of understanding through an unrelenting quest for truth, which is finally presented in their verses.  The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad hails that extraordinary journey from ignorance to enlightenment:

” From the unreal lead me to the real

From darkness lead me to light

From death lead me to immortality” 

( Asato ma sat gamaya

Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya

Mrityor ma amritam gamaya )

credit: ancientindianwisdom.com

credit: ancientindianwisdom.com

kundalinispirit.blogspot.com

kundalinispirit.blogspot.com

Emerging New Age concepts of the soul, ‘after-life’ and rebirth, and reports of Out of Body Experience and Near Death Experience begin to affect our conventional mind-sets slowly but surely, transforming the structure of our thoughts and beliefs.

The mind begins tentatively to accept the new concepts and inevitably they get embedded  at conscious and sub-conscious levels, shaping behaviour, attitudes, priorities, outlook and even our world-view.

Reincarnation was always reassuring for those brought up in cultures that had belief in it for millenia. For those who began to share this belief, it also had a transforming effect. The understanding that we are not here just once and that our essence would continue in time, made life more meaningful and less desperate. The aphorism ‘ eat, drink and make merry for tomorrow we die’  no longer applied. There was a sense of relief and the fatality of death was less alarming, there being no finality about it. An ‘after-life’ where we had a chance to make corrections and try again, made the end less traumatic. The thought  that our essence was in fact eternal was comforting. If we additionally accepted divinity in our essence, it became ennobling. On the other hand, if we did not, even then the evolution of a less than divine but empowered ethereal entity in our essence  was no less comforting.

The premise that there was no judgemental hell waiting for us was also less alarming, though we as entities that judged ourselves, did not do away with the need to guard against excesses and hedonistic and self-centred approaches to life. We were after all our  own hardest task-masters, for when you in clarity, sat in judgement on yourself, there was nowhere to escape.

Even in the course of the evolution of Christian theology, the acknowledgement of reincarnation was considered and upheld by many. The Gnostics, Clement of Alexandria, Origen and St. Jerome are cases in point. It was only in AD 325 that the Roman Emperor Constantine with the enthusiasm of a new convert, together with his mother Helena, erased all  references to reincarnation from the New Testament. Later at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 AD reincarnation was declared a heresy. This was an attempt, according to some analysts to strengthen the church which felt threatened by the possibility that through the concept of reincarnation individuals would rely on self salvation, ignoring the church. Yet several esoteric Judaic orders like the Kabbalah and the Rosicrucians continued to believe in reincarnation. 

New Age concepts of self-regulation by souls in ‘after-life’  through mutual reviews of conduct during past lives and through reviews with Councils of Elders, Masters and Guides and their reincarnation in groups as spouses, parents, progeny, relatives, friends and even as adversaries through considered choices to work out residual negative attributes, provided a novel and fresh perspective of the challenges we face in life through relationship issues. Good, bad and indifferent parents, as also good, bad and indifferent progeny, tests of friendship, sacrifices made and privations endured, sibling rivalries and jealousies and a whole range of relationship issues and challenging situations in life like being born with handicaps, were seen in the backdrop of clusters of soul comrades enacting dramas to work out and challenge their imperfections which had  carried forward from acts of omission and commission in precious lives.

The closest and warmest relationships were confronted by painful turn of events to test their metal and moral fibre. The course of life was never intended to be an uncomplicated, smooth sailing journey.The perspective that the emotionally charged atmosphere of family life and the constant confrontation between individuals was an exercise in evolution ordained by souls prior to incarnation, had a transforming effect on those who cared to believe.

Inspired by such revolutionary thought, I composed a poem on the birth of a grandson, which I wish to share with you. It shows how new ideas can begin to fundamentally transform ones belief systems:

 

    WAITING   TO   BECOME

 

From where have you come

Suddenly new face,

Smiling so fully with your gums,

First chalk on a new black board

Grandson?

 

Crawling about us with trust,

Recognizing us so instantly,

Being recognized at once,

As if you have existed always

Behind a secret door

Which has just opened.

 

Like our children

Who arrived before you in their turn

From the recesses of our minds,

Familiar from the first moment,

 

Or the wife who joined me

From the time we first met,

One by one we have become

Permanent,

 

And even if I rewind

To when there was no one else but me,

Yet they

remain in the shadows

Latent and familiar,

Waiting to become;

 

As if long ago we stood

Joining our hands together,

With the conviction

That we would come

As father, mother,

Daughter, son,

Grandson.

soul-service.tumbir.com

soul-service.tumbir.com

 

Credit: goldenageofgaia.com

Credit: goldenageofgaia.com

I had mentioned in an earlier post that Peter Russel a Cambridge scholar, in his book ‘The Awakening Earth’  had postulated in the eighties that before long we would be moving from an Information Age to a Consciousness Age. Literature on the subject has been growing exponentially since then, including scientists, psychologists, sociologists, journalists, scholars and writers of fiction and Science Fiction. The fact that these books have become best sellers is an indication of the growing interest in the subject.

If  Gary Zukav presented a view of the New Age concept of the soul, James Redfield in his book ‘The Celestine Vision’ went further in making a complete survey of developments on the emergence of the Consciousness Age of spiritual awareness, predicted by Russell three decades ago. Redfield had earlier written two book in fiction on the subject. I managed to read them when they had already sold over a million copies. Redfield became not only another pioneer in the field but in my view a New Age Guru with his extensive insight and research.

james redfieldRedfield, a sociologist who spent many years as a therapist with emotionally disturbed youth, believes that human society is on its way to taking a quantum leap into a whole new way of life and that a critical mass is developing. He ascribes the runaway success of his books to an indication of this phenomenon.

With the discarding of the Newtonian view of the universe seen as a Secular Machine and the ushering in of the wonders and uncertainties of Quantum physics the universe is now perceived as  an  interconnected, responsive, intelligent and compassionate entity, rather than being a machine. It also appears to have intention and ‘wishes’ to encourage evolution. According to Redfield the interconnected universe moves intentionally through synchronicity or meaningful coincidences. Redfield’s vision revolves around this concept and also provides an  ‘effective practice’ to guide those interested. One coincidence leads to another; chance meetings,information arriving at the right moment, dreams. It appears as a force leading us towards our destiny. It needs to be taken seriously as a first step to spiritual awareness.

He also speaks of the power of the will and intention to influence events, the force of prayer, how intention can effect even the growth of a plant ( more seed  faster growth), effecting miraculous cures and dwells on the studies and experiments which seek to establish this. He says a person is an energy field that radiates outwards and influences the world. Being a psychologist he deals with a whole range of ‘control dramas’  which we enact to manipulate one another, which leads to a false and negative empowerment which we need to overcome. He speaks of transcendence in sports, dance, the arts, with amazing outcomes which sports persons and artists vouch. He underlines the importance of sacred sites which open the doors to enlightened states.

Each one of us plays an important role in the universal scheme as instruments of evolution. Redfield echoes the same ideas of New Age reincarnation that we find in Zukav – that we have chosen precisely our present incarnation and its circumstances to heal. The universe produces miracles to guide us through synchronicity, an idea which the great psychologist Jung first proponded.

Judgement at death is not by an unforgiving God but by ourselves through our soul – again the idea of the soul deciding its own fate and the process of its healing. We are here on an assignment which will help the evolution of the universe.

 These are new ideas, new concepts for a New Age, take it or leave it.

Credit: networkedblogs.com

Credit: networkedblogs.com

We saw in the previous post that New Age thinkers had introduced a paradigm shift in the concept of the soul. Eastern metaphysical thought now mingled in their minds with the experiences of renowned psychics, mediums, healers, channelers, creative visualizers  and mystics who believed in Ascended  Masters, Angels, Guides, and Teachers mainly in the western world. Frequent reports of rebirths recalled, near death experiences, glimpses of after-life in a coma or through a medium, recollection of past life through regressive hypnotism, Auric phenomena and photography, poltergeist phenomena, telepathy, tele-kinetic feats, out-of-body vision, distance vision, morphic resonance, ESP, and other supernatural and para normal phenomena also worked to develop a new mind-set.

What helped evolve their thinking further were the amazing findings of Quantum Physics and the examination of the para normal by the scientific establishment, though tentatively, as also eminent academic institutions. There was also a growing tribe of courageous and eminent scientists who revealed their thinking about the metaphysical and mystical implications of the new discoveries and findings of science.

They were also influenced by the thought of certain mystical groups in the West which did not find favour with orthodox religion and the church and  had become  esoteric and secretive. Thus the ideology of the Kabbala. the Rosicrucians, Free Masons, the Hermetic order, Theosophists, Church of Scientology etc all came to have influence on New Age thinkers in formulating their concepts on the soul. The Christian and Jewish concepts of the soul equally played an important role in determining the emerging New Age concept of the soul.

In the Judaic and Christian traditions the concept of the soul is quite different from that of the Eastern traditions, though changing in inflection from faith to faith and order to order. While the Hindu tradition imparts divinity to it and goes so far as to assert that it is a fragment of the Divine Essence, even God in miniature within, the Judaic traditions distinguish it from ‘Spirit’. Though occasionally it is called immortal, the sense of immortality is different from the Hindu tradition. In Hinduism the immortality is an attribute of divinity, whereas in the Jewish and Christian traditions it is immortal in the sense that it outlives the demise of the body,  and after the Day of Judgement dwells in Heaven or Hell for all times. Dante’s Divine Comedy shows souls in Heaven, Purgatory and Hell.

Furthermore the soul is not considered eternal in the sense of existing before ‘birth’, as it comes into existence only by God’s will at the time of conception or birth, though remaining in existence thereafter. The soul rules the action of the personality and becomes identified with it and a man’s actions. However as the person does not survive death it is his soul then that becomes him in after-life and is held responsible for the deeds of the person and subject to rewards and punishment. We see therefore that the soul and the person it inhabits are indeed identical. There is here no principle of the eternal purity and divinity of the soul as in Hinduism. Western mystical traditions differed in degrees ( Meister Eckhart) from the orthodox formulation but eventually appear to have gone along with it.

The foregoing Jewish and Christian views of the soul therefore also had their impact, in addition to the other influences discussed, in shaping New Age thinking about the soul.

New Age thinking therefore combined all these elements, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, mystical, scientific, esoteric, psychic, and paranormal in constructing  a new and unique concept of the soul which differed both from that postulated by the Eastern faiths and Christian and Jewish traditions of yore.

As I began my blog with a consideration of the Hindu concept of the soul, I propose to compare and contrast the New Age concept with that and in the process we would also see how the concept differs substantially from the Jewish and Christian concepts.

We saw in the previous post that New Age thought adopted several features of the Hindu concept: (1) The soul is eternal, immortal and ethereal ( as distinct from being created at birth by the will of God) (2) The soul is subject to incarnation on the earthly plane (3) The soul is subject to reincarnation through numerous life-times.

Aside from these features, where there is concurrence with Hinduism, new elements are introduced which are a departure. Though the New Age soul is ethereal, immortal, and eternal, it is not a fragment of God residing within the body. This position substantially changes the concept of the soul from Hinduism because the entire history of Hindu worship, spirituality, mysticism, music, dance, literature i.e. culture hinges on the divinity within. If the soul is not divine then the poetic yearnings of Indian mystics, their songs and prayers are all irrelevant and in vain.

The New Age thought is close to the Christian and Jewish traditions when it holds that the soul rules the personality unlike the Hindu position that it neither dictates to the ego-personality-body nor participates in its activities, thus in Hinduism the soul does not assume responsibility for the personality’s actions and remains untainted, as God himself remains untainted by the activities of man.

New age thought then postulates that the soul incarnates to heal negatavities that develop within it. The soul is likened to an enormous body of light and energy in ethereal realms corresponding to  Sol in the solar system. On this ethereal sun, sun-spots develop for some reason requiring healing. It then engages in a massive reduction of its enormous energy to create a personality through which it incarnates. The entire soul does not incarnate as it is too powerful and grand. Only the portion of the soul that has corrupted becomes the personality and arrives on the physical plane in birth. This appears to have echoes of ‘original sin’. The personality is therefore that part of the soul which needs to heal. The rest of the glorious radiant soul remains in the ethereal realms. The personality which is the souls negative part now becomes the vehicle for the souls healing and eventual evolution to higher levels of ‘vibration’.

At the end of a life-time the incarnated part returns to the mother ship either improved, healed or become worse and if necessary is then returned through another personality for further improvements to Earth School. This of course is at variance with the Hindu concept where the personality alone acts and accumulates Karmic effects till they are eliminated after many life-times. The only similarity is that in both cases the personality is at full liberty to act and can neither be dictated to nor forced to do the right thing.

The other major difference is that of   ‘choice’. In the Hindu concept there is no question of choice of incarnation as the Law of Karma determines the pros and cons of a lifetime and arranges a new body which would help in resolving negatavities. The soul in that case assumes the new body arranged by the Law of Karma without protest. In the New Age version while there is a law of Karma it has no role in determining the next incarnation which the soul is to inhabit. The massive mother ship soul force uses its own volition to create a personality of its choosing from the parts of itself it wishes to heal, as Gary Zukav calls it –  ‘a unique and perfectly suited instrument’ for the particular incarnation.

However in both the Hindu and New Age versions the soul as Indweller (Hindu) and the Mother Ship (New Age) remain the source of good inspiration and wisdom for the personality which in both cases is free to ignore it.

In addition to the Mother soul the New age thinking also introduces Guides, Teachers, Angels and Masters who assist in aligning the personality with the soul to heal it. These entities are also souls but ones without blemishes and at a higher level of vibration. The splintered Mother soul seeks their help not only to align the personality but also in conceiving a new personality for further healing. The entire purpose of life on the physical plane is to enable souls to heal and evolve.

Whatever the argument or cosmology, both versions emphasize the need for human evolution but each takes a different cultural approach for the identical goal. While the New Age version is attractive as it firmly places the initiative in the hands of the soul as the agent of action rather than leaving it to a Karmic fatalism, it in the final analysis goes against the grain of both Eastern and Christian/Jewish belief systems. For instance how would the long history of belief and emotion tied to the concept of divinity within be able to reconcile to the new paradigm? It cannot afford to lose the anchor of its cultural moorings. On the other hand for Christianity the problem would be the concept of rebirth and a soul not answerable before God on the day of judgement but its own master to deal with its need to heal. The new concepts would only be palatable to those who are not tied to their traditional moorings, but have taken their ship to the high seas for dropping anchor at another shore.

 

 

In the previous posts we saw that science and spiritualism were identical concepts right till the Middle Ages when religious dogma and growing orthodoxy sought to limit and confine freedom of thought. This led to a parting of ways and henceforth science sought to distance itself from spiritual inspiration and religion.

Science without the inhibiting and restraining weight of religious dogma,  began to experience meteoric advance at a pace which surpassed the entire progress achieved by mankind in history and continues to move forward by leaps and bounds. In the centuries following the schism between science and spiritualism,  the scientific mind crossed new frontiers of knowledge with bold and fearless discoveries and inventions. The scientific temper has now virtually stretched to the limits of man’s ingenuity, going down to split the atom and going outwards to put his footsteps on the moon and preparing to reach beyond. Dogmas no longer inhibit man. He is ready to discard established hypothesis no sooner new evidence proves the contrary. There is freedom of thought, individual liberty, encouragement to experiment and postulate as never before. Inventive and creative minds are at a premium. They no longer need to fear the consequences. Every known frontier is under challenge.

In this atmosphere of freedom, religion has suffered a setback, particularly in the advanced societies of the West. In Europe the pews of the churches are empty, except for some elderly stragglers and art enthusiasts who treat them as museums. The Pope is now from a third world country where religion still thrives.

Despite this, there has been the remarkable growth of a new spiritual awareness which seeks to express itself through humanism, egalitarianism, vegetarianism, ecological concerns, animal rights, environmentalism and last but not the least the emergence of neo-mystical trends imbibing influences from a range of spiritual insights from established religions to  lesser known mystical, esoteric beliefs and practices. These are varied combinations and cocktails for our changing times, that have popularly acquired the nomenclature ‘New Age’. Basically the cocktails, to mix a metaphor, are old wine in colourful new bottles.

Credit: onthemovewithus.com

Credit: onthemovewithus.com

Science on the other hand, may well be reaching the zenith of secular advance and may soon find itself compelled less than a century from now to merely crawl forward by varying and duplicating existing knowledge rather than evolving, unless it takes the next logical step forward. It would need to rejoin the spiritualism it left by the wayside even if the parting was only a historical accident. It will need for instance to correlate metaphysical insight with Quantum discoveries, probe the paranormal, the supernatural, telepathy, morphogenetic fields, morphic resonance, Kirlian photography and Auric phenomena, psychokinesis, the healing powers of the mind, feats of Yoga, Reiki cures, Chakra therapies and you name it, before it can make a quantum leap of galactic proportions, taking humans from manhood to supermanhood.

partings

In preceding posts we saw that Science and Spiritualism were inextricably conjoined from earliest times right till the Middle Ages. The suffocating atmosphere created by the rise of religious dogma and orthodoxy and intolerance of any thought that went contrary to it, finally led to a growing desire among  free thinkers to be rid of the shackles of religion and charter an independent course.

The European Renaissance helped in affecting that escape, even if this was only through harking back to a glorification of ancient Greece and Rome, the great thinkers of antiquity. On the other hand the Protestant Reformation carried forward the revolution in thinking to rid itself of the shackles of an unwelcome period of human non-development. The human scientific temper extricated itself from the shell and moved out. The scientific bent split from its natural other half spiritualism which had become increasingly, if mistakenly associated with religious dogmatism, and now stood apart. By the time we reach the Age of Enlightenment in the eighteenth century the enthusiasm and fervour to prevent a recurrence of the suffocating experience of the Middle Ages had already produced a profound schism between science and spiritualism. Henceforth, science shunned spiritual insight and inspiration and devised methodologies and stratagems to make the division permanent and irreversible.

Science now became  secular, employing empirical research, evidence and proof as the sole processes for its progress. By the time we reach the Age of Enlightenment in the eighteenth century the two had moved apart and begun to charter their separate and divergent courses over succeeding centuries. Religious dogma loosing little of its intolerance and scientific knowledge distancing itself from its other half, developing only the results of secular research through the evidence of calculable proofs. In the process, science inevitably began to ignore and shun areas of  metaphysics, parapsychology and paranormal phenomena, relegating them to the realms of conjecture and fancy. Thus science once part of religion turned its back on spiritual inspiration.

Religion though suffering a grievous loss at the surgical amputation of the scientific temper and plagued by its own dogma carried on its activities in splendid isolation. Spiritualism, on the other hand, being a basic element of human nature and the mental process, continued as a force in its own rights within the psyche, urging, probing and seeking realisation, sometimes through religious inspiration and within the mould of religion, at others outside any definite framework through mystical and metaphysical inspiration of individuals and esoteric groups. Spiritualism like science, one may say, had also more or less broken free from the confines of religious doctrine and dogma.

The Inquisition - Madrid Credit: Wikipedia

The Inquisition – Madrid
Credit: Wikipedia

Right up to the Middle Ages, around the eleventh century A.D. we have seen that religion was science, both mystical and spiritual and pragmatic and exploratory, combining empiricism with intuition and inspiration. Then something untoward began to happen.

A phase came in history when the creative flexibility, open-minded elasticity and inspirational dynamics of Religion appeared to become afflicted by unreasoning and obsolete dogma, incapable of adjusting to  changing times, or of  interpreting the new avenues of enquiry, like the arteries of an aging man, hardened by cholesterol and clotting. The forward movement of  thought and freedom of ideas was held in check by vested interests within the ecclesiastical establishment abetted by a self-serving nobility. The freedom to evolve and experiment with the latest versions of the truth were severely restricted by limited minds who wished to monopolize interpretations of the truth without the intellectual faculties needed to sustain such a monopoly. Inevitably a fortress of sacrosanct and unquestionable dogma was built around the Church hoping to preserve its pre-eminence despite the stagnation of knowledge. In the Middle Ages this stagnation became an article of faith, particularly in Europe where the Spanish Inquisition became the supreme expression of such intolerance. Elsewhere the caste system lost its utilitarian and flexible origins and hardened into an instrument of exploitation and subjugation of the unprivileged classes.

Inevitably, the evolutionary intellectual force of the human spirit had to escape these grandiose confines or be reduced to the proverbial golden canary singing its artificial song in a gilded cage.

Credit: pxleyes.com

The captive human spirit
Credit: pxleyes.com

Vedic Sage: the scientist of yesteryear

Vedic Sage: the scientist of yesteryear

In the previous posts we dwelt on the idea that science and spiritualism were inseparable and complimentary and saw that in pre – history they were indistinguishable. Wonderment and curiosity about nature and the desire to harness it reflected a mystical urge combined with a pragmatic, scientific inclination being expressed together.

With the advent of civilization these urges took concrete form and shape in established religion. The magical practices evolved into religious rituals. Religion became the vehicle for fundamental enquiry into the world and our relationship with it. Sages, seers and the ecclesiastical order engaged in examination and surmise of  natural,  supernatural and astronomical phenomena. Likewise religion became the foundation for development of ethical concepts and codes of civilized behaviour. Spiritual inspiration engendered glorious movements in the fine arts, music, architecture, astronomy, mathematics, alchemy, medicine and scientific enquiry in support of  scriptural pronouncements. Religious institutions like Church, Temple or monastic orders became the repositories of knowledge of the unknown in every avenue of human advancement. Religion developed theories of creation, of the natural order and the cosmos. It also examined the cosmology of the spirit.

Every new advance was related to religion and brought to serve it. Religious thought was both mystical and pragmatic, metaphysical and physical, magical yet progressive, spiritual and scientific in inspiration. The best minds were at the service of religion. Sages and Yogis dwelling in the forests, the deserts and the mountains, meditated on the ultimate, much as scientists do today in their labs. They became the repositories of wisdom attracting disciples and students who gravitated towards them to learn the arts and crafts, jurisprudence, astrology. mathematics, medicine and Yoga  and share their findings on the mysteries of the manifest and unmanifest worlds.

Technology then was the ritual of prayer and propitiation and science was another term for religion. Chapter seven of the Gita for instance is titled ‘The Yoga of Knowledge and Science’ (Gyan – Vigyan Yoga) and explains the nature of the material world and its relationship to the spiritual world. In that dawn of history therefore the priest, hermit, sage, dervish and Brahmin was considered by common folk as a scientist is viewed today. They were the Newtons, Einsteins and Planks of  yesteryear and the ‘Church’ a laboratory where knowledge, discoveries and inventions were churned out by the finest minds of the epoch. Science and Spiritualism were synonymous.

statue of Patanjali - ancient author of Yoga treatises

statue of Patanjali – ancient author of Yoga treatises

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Teacher as Transformer

Education, Leadership, Life, and Transformation

symbolreader

Sharing My Love of Symbols

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