A post on facebook yesterday suggested that if we did away with religion then all the worlds problems would be solved. Admittedly we are seeing a surge of extreme religious views right now and though that may be in the form of the right wing narrow perspectives, religion is not the cause! At the core of extremism is a particular mindset. It is a mindset that can only think in black or white, it has no capacity to have empathic understanding and it cannot see the world through the eyes of another. As an ex psychiatric nurse I am reminded of learning how certain mindsets are ‘resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact’ and how attempts to change such minds through these means will prove impossible.
But it is the mindset itself that is the problem. It is to be found in certain groups within all religions, as well as in atheism, in politics, in environmentalism, in science and in many other groups. Many years ago I was friends with an image consultant who trained to become a colour analyst. She would analyse a person’s skin and hair tones and match them with one of four categories named Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter, she would then be able to give a full palate of colours (tones and hues) that the person could wear and those that must be avoided at all costs. I was one of her Guinea Pigs when she was in training and was deemed to be Autumn. From that point on for me to wear anything other than the range on the Autumn swatch became a real problem for her. If we met up and I was not dressed according to the rules she would be upset and hurt, she would see such rebellion almost as a personal attack or a slight against her professional skill. My choice was either to comply with the rules and feel very oppressed or to rebel and suffer the consequences. In the end we went our separate ways. Many years later I learnt that this person had had a religious conversion and was now bringing that same mindset to a leadership role in a religious context.
Essentially it is an extreme form of dual consciousness, this or that, black or white, right or wrong and nothing in between. It happens when we see that the external world of form is the only world in which we exist and therefore perceive that the only way to survive is to exert our control over it. It is a way of thinking that fails to understand the deeper, inner consciousness where we are all one, all connected and that to destroy, oppress, or violate another is ultimately to do these things to ourselves.
The commandment to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and to love your neighbour as self, is not a rule bound diktat. It is a formula! To love God in this way is to discover that God is not an external force as religion traditionally teaches, but a consciousness of union to be found within our own soul. It brings into alignment our heart and mind and soul with the energy of a Love that permeates all things so that we cannot fail to understand our connectedness. As we grow towards union with this energy our dualistic way of thinking begins to dissolve and with it our egotistical vision of self survival at all costs. Mystics of all traditions understand that our human made religions, dualistic in nature, are merely inadequate, surface projections of a a deeper single truth that holds us all.
Many decisions and rulings made this last week, from The Whitehouse to the House of Bishops, all bear their own brand of oppression born of dualistic consciousness. They can have no credibility as reflecting the mind of God – we know that because the outcomes have been so divisive.
But, to ‘do away with religion’ will not necessarily solve our problems, rather getting religion to let go of its dualistic, and therefore egotistical, focus and to understand the deeper mystery that lies within all is a really good place for it to focus its teaching.
But why are we here? Why have we arrived at a place in our world when our very existence is threatened at our own hands? Well if we are so duped that the so called ‘reality’ of our external world is the only reality then the trajectory towards extreme dualism is the only possible direction of travel. Transformation will come when we discover the glorious truth that lies within each us and, if we did but know it, the longing of every soul.
Anthony Duncan points to a stark warning given by the Kalahari bushmen as follows:
‘Western man seems to have fallen collectively into that state most feared of all by his African brothers – he has lost his soul. And even if he has not quite lost it yet, then a great many individuals among the multitude are in extreme anxiety lest he shall finally and irrevocably do so’.
If religion cannot rise to the challenge of enabling us to rediscover our soul then perhaps it it is best to ‘do away with it’ after all – for in truth it is difficult to see what other purpose it is meant to serve.