There are three great mistakes made by humanity over the centuries and their outplay can be felt across time and generations. Much like a three-legged stool, it is not until we rectify all three that we will have any kind of stability.
The first mistake is the way we have taken the simple concept that there is more to human life than our physical form and turned it into a range of dogmas, codified it into rituals and created exclusive ‘clubs’ that we have called religions. While these clubs profess to carry the love of god, what they actually carry is the unenviable responsibility for many wars, atrocities, intolerances and abuse of wealth.
These institutions profess tolerance and brotherhood for all, yet there are overt and covert battles to proselytise and prove whose religion is the right religion. There are long histories of people who have been discriminated against, threatened or cajoled into joining (or not leaving) the flock. In some instances, people are simply murdered for refusing to play ball.
Through the abuse of power, these religious institutions got richer and more powerful, yet those who followed seem to become poorer, either in material or spiritual terms, as followers are asked to relinquish their own power (and responsibility) to the clergy, the institution, to something outside themselves.
Unfortunately, it has been this way for so long that the prevailing belief is that this is religion and this is what it means to be religious. People either buy into this idea, get turned off by it or choose to be indifferent, as long as they get their place in heaven and their daily life doesn’t have to change too much. At times even the mere word ‘religion’ can trigger all manner of reactions.
Yet the word religion derives from the Latin word religio and it is connected to the notion of sacred. Cicero (106BC-43BC) attributed its origins to the verb ‘re-legere’, meaning to re-bind, re-trace, re-connect.
The fact is we all have things that we are all religious about in some way, in that we have things we do consistently, that we connect to. Some connect to sporting teams, music, community, vocations and friendships.
Yet there is a deeper form of connection that is possible – an inner connection to divinity. It is a connection that does not come from what we say but from our relationship with our innermost essence that we can feel in our bodies. That relationship or connection starts with our breath and is then expanded by how we move throughout the day. It is the combination and consistency of these movements that become our rituals.
This concept of ‘connection first’ is a critical difference: while many religions suggest that divinity is everywhere, our expression of that connection can only come from how we are with ourselves. This connection is not an on and off switch, nor is it a fixed point. It is in fact an ever-deepening relationship with our true source.
Our fundamental error is this misplaced understanding that connection to this ‘something more than physical form’ is an intellectual rather than an energetic and somatic process. Everything that follows flows from that connection.
People try and find this connection up a mountain, in a coffee cup, on a sporting field or within a good cause – but the reality is that we don’t even need to leave the house or get off our chair to find it. Like many of the world’s great teachers have shared, it is something that lies within.
Everything starts and finishes with this connection. Much like a car needs a source of fuel before the engine will even turn over, so to do humans need some form of animating energy. Indeed, it is the difference between life and death. To think that we can just go about our days, thinking and doing whatever we like, without considering not just that we have an animating source, but what source animates us, lies at the heart of all that continues to fail us.
This is the first mistake: the obfuscation of the very simplicity that a religious way is about building the daily practices that first locate and then sustain our connection to the one source that is both within and the All – our soul/divinity/love.
The second mistake is thinking that being philosophical, like being religious, is purely an intellectual pursuit. Philosophy is so much more than the ability to memorise a quote, ruminate on a parable or elucidate each other on hidden and overt meanings of modern or ancient text.
The mind is an amazing tool, but this is all it is, a tool. We have forgotten that tools require a craftsman to be able to wield them to any real benefit. If we have shunned our connection to divinity (mistake number one), then the real philosophical question is, who is in charge of your mind?
If we are always being sourced by something, what is that other something that is sourcing us if it is not soul/divinity/love. Yet it is not a question we can even begin to honesty ponder unless we deal with mistake #1.
If you have worked on a project for a year, 5 years, 20 years, 50 years, how likely are you to be convinced that this project is an important and worthwhile endeavour? How easily will you tear down those years of scaffolding that have kept you busy all these years?
The reality is no amount of deep thinking will expose the part of us that is refusing to acknowledge mistake number one. The essence of denial is two-fold. First it is the seeming inability to see that which we deny and second it is the tension that comes from the fact that we have already felt that what we are doing is not true.
Yet the mind does not feel. So the second mistake is thinking that our thinking will change the way we think! The mind does not feel, so we can convince ourselves of anything. Yet, rectify mistake #1 – connection to divinity through our body – and you now have a very fleshy litmus paper of truth.
Our philosophical responsibility is to ponder, feel, reflect on all that we see and hear, through the connection we have established with our essence. There is no amount of clever justification, silky prose or impassioned debate that can fool a body that is connected – deeply connected to its essence. What you hear, see or say will either be in line with that same beauty or not.
The final mistake is to think that science is nothing more than the collection of deeper levels of understanding and that it can be done in the absence of the other two. The scientific principle is that the sum of the parts will lead us to an understanding of the whole.
Yet we seem to have reduced life into so many parts that we have lost the ability to re-integrate all of what we know. On one level, the desire to understand more about life is good, but the more specialised our knowledge appears to be becoming, the less satisfied we are by what we know.
We cannot understand a living being by pulling it apart and expecting it to work when you sew it back together. Life is not the mechanical puzzle that the mind would have us think it is.
It is intriguing to observe the seemingly unquenchable quest for knowledge. Yet any quest that is devoid of an acceptance of our real origins (mistake #1) and an ability to discern the real from the clever (mistake #2) will ensure that the knowledge we accumulate only delivers a sense of gratification, without any real evolution.
Thus, we return to the three mistakes of humanity and the way we have ensured Religion, Philosophy and Science will not deliver what they promise.
Which leads us to the fourth and final mistake… thinking that Religion, Philosophy and Science are somehow separate and not anything but three legs of the one stool. That stool is called evolution.