Of all the mistaken theories that have masqueraded under the name of religion probably none has been more philosophically unsound than the idea that morality can be enforced upon men by external methods and mere physical observances. It has always failed for the obvious reason that it deals only with externals and the shell of things; the physical aspect of human nature. It does not reach the soul and spiritual nature of man from whence spring his nobler aspirations and the desire for better things which must necessarily precede all spiritual growth. Evil is born in the heart and mind of man, not in the chemical elements of the physical body, which is but the passive and temporary instrument of the vital forces of varying degree of spirituality that compose the real man. The hackneyed phrase "sins of the flesh" is a meaningless term designed to conceal men's ignorance of the true nature of the constitution of man and the spiritual process of universal nature working within his inner being.
The purpose of religion should be to instruct men in wisdom and the deeper laws of being, thereby arousing a spiritual desire for nobler living, instead of trying to "railroad" human souls to perfection by controlling their external actions on the physical plane. Man's spiritual evolution is a matter of inner growth and the un-foldment of inherent qualities, and attributes, not a "cramming" from without. It is the work of ages, and human beings will evolve no faster than their intellectual and spiritual faculties are unfolded and brought into play. When this occurs, the actions and events of man's external life will naturally fall into line and shape themselves accordingly, and the desires of his selfish, animal nature will no longer control him.
Orthodox religion, for the most part, has been working on the theory that man is inherently bad and that divinity could be high-pressured into his rusty spiritual bearings by an external process much in the fashion that an automobile is lubricated. He has been told that the mechanism of his spiritual and moral betterment was a complicated machine outside of himself and beyond his understanding, rather than a state of consciousness within himself. In every age sincere but misguided men have not only attempted to force their interpretations of what they called "the laws of God" on others, but have inflicted inhuman suffering upon those who dared to follow the dictates of their own conscience which is the only royal road to perfection and spiritual enlightenment. No man, whatever his spiritual status may be, has the right to enforce his religious and moral concepts on another any more than he has the right to force physical servitude and slavery upon a fellow human being, and in fact, much less. The same law of nature that insists that man digest his own food likewise insists that he may learn to walk on his own spiritual feet. He may frequently stumble and fall, but such is the law of nature for it is the only way by which he can learn and grow. No man is a whit more moral, nor has his spiritual stature been increased an iota if he follows physical observances merely because some law prevents him from doing otherwise. He may completely master his physical body and its natural functions by the force of sheer will, but still have a mind and soul that is twisted and warped.
There is no better illustration than the case of the Hindu yogi. He may live the life of celibacy and lie on a bed of spikes all his life completely immune to physical pain, but still have a heart that is filled with evil and utterly lacking in love and compassion for his fellow human beings.
The untouchable of the lowest caste who goes about his daily life in a normal way, fulfilling his humble duties and who sees divinity in his humble, ragged neighbor, is his spiritual superior in every way, and neither the world nor mankind is better for the yogi's fanaticism
1. Reprinted from The Norwalk Hour, and New Canaan Advertiser, April 15, 1941. (return to text)
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