One Ideal, Many ArtistsMay 31, 2019
Very often people divide the esoteric or inner part of life from the exoteric or outer form of religion. But if to divide them in conception is possible, to divide them in reality is like separating the head from the body. As head linked with body makes the form complete, so religion with inner life makes the spiritual ideal perfect.
Nevertheless the thoughtful and wise of all ages, with their philosophical minds, their scientific tendencies, and their intellectual strife, often thought of separating religion from the inner life. But if they are separated, it is just like bread without butter, milk without sugar, and food without salt. But there is a reason why this tendency has very often come, especially among thoughtful people. The reason is that it is natural that, when the body becomes a corpse and life leaves the body, even the dear ones who loved the person begin to think, “As soon as possible we should clear away this body.”
For when the one they loved is gone from it, the body is left as a corpse. So when the inner life, which is just like a breath in the body of religion, departs from it, then the religion becomes like a corpse. The most faithful adherents begin to feel that it is a corpse.
In all ages and in all periods of history, we can trace a limit of years for a religion. Why? Because it had breath and the spiritual aspect in it. But when that inner life departed, it was left like a corpse. Still the faithful kept it, but those with intelligence could not keep it any longer.
As the rain falls year after year and gives the earth new life and new sustenance, so it has been necessary that the new message of spiritual upliftment should come. Whenever it came, people have fought against it, not knowing that it is the same truth, breath, and soul of religion that has come again. The secret of religion is that the rainfall of last year is not different from this year’s; it is the same water, the same sustenance, and the same energy. As vapors it rises and as raindrops it falls. As Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” It has always been the same message, only brought in different bottles with new labels.
What is the most important necessity of religion? Besides all the moral principles that religion teaches and besides all the ethics that religion gives, there is a central theme which can be traced as the nature of life and spirit. And what is it? It is to make that perfect being intelligible to the limited mind of man. What is done for it? The ideal of God is preached. The prophets who brought religion from time to time made their central theme the ideal of God. Every one of them tried his best to make a picture of that ideal such that the people of that period when they lived could grasp it easily and benefit by it in order to fulfill the purpose of spiritual perfection.
But the different pictures that the great prophets of the world made very often differ from one another. One finds that in order to make one photograph clear, there have to be many different developments of it. A plate has to be made and from that plate a development has to be made, then brought onto paper and then retouched. Different processes make a photograph complete. So has it been with those who made the picture of the deity, a picture which cannot be made fully since it is beyond man’s power to make. The artists who painted that picture have done their best.
When three artists paint the portrait of one person, the three are different. They only differ because the artists differ. So the prophets did for one and the same motive, in order to make that picture intelligible to the limited mind of man, who knows nothing better than what he knows of himself and of his brother man. Therefore the best picture man can make of God is that of man. In the ancient religions of the East, it is said that God was pictured in man; then the picture of later days was man pictured as God. After that a reform followed in order to separate them and in order to break with the confusion caused by these two opposite ideas, that God was God and man was man.
But the present message, which comes of necessity, is that God is in man and man in God, and yet God is God and man is man. If it had been possible, a thousand years ago this Church of All with scriptures and with candles in the name of all the great ones would have existed. It was the longing of the awakened souls; it was the ideal of the wise ones in all ages. What prevented them? The multitude, the childlike followers of a certain religion who would stick to their own and would not wish to listen to another, who did not know what was their own and what was another. When there is one Father, and all human beings, His children, come from Him and go to Him, where lies the difference, where is the “other”? The “other” comes by the faults man makes before his own intelligence.
The evolution of man today has allowed it, and we must be thankful that we can gather together even some few souls who can tolerate such an idea and be patient and try to understand that behind all religion there can only be one truth and that there is only one truth. We are willing to listen to the words of all the great souls who have come perhaps thousands of years before us. What is left of them is in their words; we can see the glimpses of their feelings in their words. Why should we not be benefitted by them?
The Universal Worship, therefore, is the religion of the future, which brings to humanity the ideal of the unification of religion and the ideal of getting above sectarianism and the limitedness of communities and groups. We must remember that any political or social efforts will not be complete unless the uniting in God, the only source in which humanity must unite, is held fast in truth.
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