Many of the current debates about God are noisy and ill-humoured; and sometimes they are spiteful and cruel. In the West aggressive materialists appear determined to stamp out all expressions of religious faith from public life. From their perspective, belief in God is an outdated superstition, delusional, and incompatible with a modern civilised world. Some of them openly argue that religious faith is the root of all evil.
If some of the attacks against religion by materialists are hypocritical, malicious and ominous, the religious communities themselves can hardly claim the higher moral ground. Child abuse, the treatment of women, sectarian hatred and violence are too common and widespread for that. The detractors have been able to make steady progress towards achieving their mission partly because of the apparent decay of mainstream religious institutions and practices. The main religions, in the West at least, seem unable to strike a chord in the hearts and minds of potential new congregations. However the inner urge to know the divine is not itself dead. The mushrooming growth in popularity of the confused and confusing new age teachings proves that this is the case.
Elsewhere intolerant religious fundamentalists are making every effort to turn back history by eradicating all manifestations of modernity, particularly the modernising and materialistic influences they associate with the West. While it may be wise to be wary of too much innovation in such matters, their cruel fanaticism knows no bounds.
However we are free to adopt our own perspective. We can leave the quasi-political institutions, the degraded followers of a dark, wrathful god, the nihilistic atheists and all the rest to their own profitless hostilities. We can choose to connect instead with the ancient traditions of those who have drawn on fine and elevated ideas in expressing their devotion to their God. We can choose to explore a more inspiring conception of God as the eternal source of all truth, all love, and of all life itself.
But if we are to profit from such a choice then it must be done sincerely; it must matter; it must be more than a mere intellectual exercise; and its fruits must have consequences for our own individual lives. Otherwise, we may just as well leave it alone.
The modern seeker of the true religion must be a good miner indeed to bring to light that which the priests of early civilisations, now long gone, passed down within their inner circle from generation to generation. Each passing of the torch of truth reduced the purity of its flame as through cycle after cycle the priests tragically allowed the glories and treasures of their great religions to be lost. So much so that some observers now pray for the renewal of the modern religions which in their present state have done so much to misrepresent the original true and simple faith.
We need to be careful here though. There is still enormous value in the best of all the great world faiths. To reject our religions out of hand would be foolish indeed. Better that we learn to detect in them what remains of the original wisdom.
It would also be wrong to idealise the so-called wisdom of the ancients. There has never been a time when more than a few great souls have been in possession of that which man can know about the Divine. True wisdom has always been in short supply on Earth. Whether we look close to hand or to the ancient past, or in the centuries in between, we will find that the vast majority of us are and always have been lacking in true knowledge of the true God. At any time in the past our beliefs about God would have been justly categorised by one or other of Bacon’s definitions of the declinations from religion:
“…heresies, when we serve the true God with a false worship; idolatry, when we worship false gods, supposing them to be true; and witchcraft, when we adore false gods, knowing them to be wicked and false.”
It’s hard to imagine a time when most men did not stray from the true worship of the true God. Given the limitations of human nature, such worship must always have been beyond all but the wisest and strongest of minds. But having said that, it’s equally as difficult to imagine a time when so many of us can have managed to have strayed so far.
The founders of our great religions were great men, possessed of true spiritual power and vision. So too were many of the reformers who came to rejuvenate one or other of the great faiths during periods of decline. For many centuries however, the direction of travel has been steadily downwards. Increasingly, the influence of our faiths has been to further limit and curtail rather than to elevate and liberate.
Each periodic renewal of the truth provided new opportunities for men and women to free themselves from their limitations if they really wanted to. However, it’s likely that then, as now, most did not, for they were, as most are now, too much in the grip of their lower selves. The primacy afforded to material riches and the gratification of every desire to the exclusion of spiritual ideals makes it difficult for a person to break free. Who knows, perhaps it is more difficult today than it has ever been.
Whatever the truth of this, to establish the proper balance between the material and the spiritual aspects of life requires a sustained and sincere effort – an effort most individuals are incapable of making. But who among us cannot at least make a start? Who is so imprisoned that they cannot take the first faltering step towards true freedom?
It is up to each one of us to begin the journey. We cannot just sit on our hands blaming others for our predicament. We cannot absolve ourselves from responsibility and instead heap all the guilt on our public institutions of faith. Whatever their faults, we cannot hold them liable for our own failings too. At bottom it is individual men and women who allow anger, greed and hatred to take hold within their communities. However, by trying as best we can to establish a more balanced way of life for ourselves, we contribute our part. By quietly changing ourselves we help to change the world.
And this quiet change cannot take place without the help of God, whatever our conception of the Divine Being might be, and however conscious or unconscious we are of our need for divine assistance. A sincerely felt and simple faith in God as the divine source of all Goodness takes us a step further towards our inner guide who even now patiently awaits to lead us further on. It provides an inexhaustible reservoir of good thoughts, words and actions; and by turning our heart towards God we open ourselves to his Light which is all Peace and Love and Wisdom.
We cannot know God with or through our physical senses, no matter how much we extend them with technology. The purpose of these senses is to experience material life. However, many of the ancient teachers, sages and messengers confirm that a wondrous jewel from God’s Treasure lies hidden within the heart of man, and that this can be known intuitively by the sincere and pious mind who seeks it out.
The great trailblazers and renewers of the Light down through recorded history have ever urged the seeker to commit his heart and soul to God. For only thus can the dreadful cycles of rebirth be broken; only thus can we rise above the world to life in the heavenly realms when this life is over; and only thus can we win the fullness of the peace we all seek.
If we search within the silence of our innermost being, we can discover the Truth that our God is a God of Light and not of darkness; and that He is not an angry God, but one of Compassion and Mercy. If we learn how to meditate peacefully we can discover for ourselves that God is the ultimate and most Holy Source of all that is best in human nature: of gentleness, patience, kindness, sincerity, and a myriad other powers that shine from the centre of our true spiritual Self.
If we sit as students at the feet of those great men who have shed light upon the true path, and if the best part of ourselves is able to sincerely seek the truth within our hearts we will come to know God as the basis of all true virtue and the greatest possible good. Thus we can come to know that we are ever accountable to His eternal laws; and that when we try to calm and tame the worst of our lower selves, we do His will, and we contribute our part in fulfilling His purpose.
But we will also learn to recognise that there can be no solving of God’s mystery, for the Supreme Being must forever remain incomprehensible in its essence. Unlike the ever-changing worlds of man, God is unalterable and changeless. As the divine cause it embraces all, yet is not itself circumscribed. It is at once the all-creating Spiritual Father, the pregnant Womb of Universal Nature, and the ever-coming Saviour and Good Shepherd. It is these and all other manifestations of its own divine nature. There could never have been a time when it was not; and there never can be a time when it shall cease to be. God’s essential nature may be ineffable, but neither is there a place in which the divine is not present. It is pure goodness beyond conception. It is all grace and love and mercy. It is the protector of the good and virtuous, redeemer of the lost and wayward, teacher of the seeker of Truth, and the healer of all ills. It is infinite power and justice and majesty; it is above all possible beauty and joy and kindliness.
So lofty was the conception of God in parts of the ancient world that many of the priests refused to even speak of the Deity, which they deemed so far transcended any possible notion of man that it was blasphemous for us to worship the Divine Being in any other way than in silent adoration.
So let us in the spirit of the wise ancients leave aside disputation and contention. Let us above all cease from our vain and conceited imaginings that belief in God is no more than an infirmity in the human mind. Let us also shun the fierce followers of an angry god. Let us turn our back to such profanity and instead let us gather into the most silent and peaceful part of our nature the simple and sincere thought of utter gratitude for the Blessings and the Mercies bestowed on us by the Divine Lord and God of All.