THE DOGMAS OF SOCIAL MORALITY VERSUS THE ESOTERIC SPIRITUAL TEACHING THAT IS AT THE ORIGIN OF TRADITIONAL RELIGIONS
(sections 1 – 2) (pages 55 – 65)”
From THE ALETHEON
Adi Da Samraj
The principal Scripture (or holy book) of the tradition of the Western “world is the New Testament. The New Testament communicates principles and ideas and beliefs that, more than those communicated by any other book, are responsible for conventional Western ideas about religion and Spiritual life. Although Western culture includes religious traditions other than Christianity, the dominant religious text which, in the West, tends to inform all popular notions about religion and Spirituality is the New Testament.
If you grew up in the Western (and predominantly Christian) cultural sphere, you are perhaps influenced by the New Testament more than by any other religious book. Even if you are not very familiar with the New Testament, you have (nevertheless) been impressed, over the years, with certain conventions of religious presumption of which the New Testament is the source. The conceptions associated with the traditional interpretation of the New Testament are not only part of the religious teaching of Christian churches, but part of Western culture in general. Through your schooling, through your childhood religious training, and through the influence of those with whom you were associated as a child even though they might not have spoken of religion you have been greatly influenced by these conceptions, some of which are directly communicated in the New Testament itself and others of which are simply traditions that are, by extension, associated with New Testament religion.
Everyone is dominated, to one or another degree, by conceptions of life that have their origin in exoteric religious culture. Even though scientism (or scientific materialism) is tending to displace exoteric religion as a way of knowing, exoteric religion still tends to be the basis for present-day morality and social conceptions. In fact, exoteric religion has traditionally always been associated with moral and social conceptions. Thus, if you are, by birth, a Westerner, and even if you were not brought up as a Christian, you have, since your birth, been exposed to propaganda that is, at least in its origins, both conventionally religious and specifically Christian. And the basic intention of all such conventionally religious propaganda has been to convince you and, thus, the collective of everyone that certain kinds of behaviors are appropriate and other kinds of behaviors are not appropriate.
Every present-day legal system and even the entire body of social contracts by which people are related in their daily lives has its justification in the tradition of exoteric religion. Therefore, in a time when the legitimacy of exoteric religion as a way of knowing is being undermined by scientism, so (likewise) is the political and social order simultaneously being undermined by scientism. This is not only a time when individuals are moving from exoteric (and, thus, collectively enforced) religious ways of knowing toward materialistic and secular and even individualistic ways of knowing, but this is also a time when society as a whole is becoming corrupted and made chaotic by those same tendencies and, therefore, new political forces are arising in immediate coincidence with the new cultural forces.
Human beings are more and more impinged upon by the forces of political materialism while, at the same time, they are impinged upon culturally by the forces of scientific materialism. The way of knowing in a culture cannot be changed unless the way of keeping order is changed at the same time and Western society has kept order for many centuries through exoteric religious belief, exoteric religious presumptions, and exoteric religious conventions of behavior.
“Human-centeredness has become the acceptable convention of mind. Human knowing is now devoted to analytical reductionism, or the process of reducing everything to the individual human being, to human processes, to humankind in the lowest, most rudimentary or material sense.”
If, all of a sudden, exoteric religion is discovered to be untrue, and if, as a replacement for the point of view of exoteric religion, the point of view communicated through scientific materialism dominates the present culture, then the traditional justifications for so-called moral behavior have, as a consequence, been abandoned and not yet replaced with a viable public alternative. Therefore, how will the necessary public order be maintained? A new political force is, under the circumstances, required, to replace the moral programs of exoteric religion. Thus, all kinds of political idealisms arose in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries revolutionary ideas, communistic ideas, egalitarian ideas, socialistic ideas, capitalistic ideas, all kinds of political experimenting the basic purpose of which is to keep people in order, to keep material production going, to maintain public peace, to make life somehow acceptable to the people, so that the people will not rise in revolt, or go mad, or create chaos.
The rise of new political idealisms is coinciding with the new cultural circumstance, and not only is all of this dominant in the West but it is, likewise, dominant all over the Earth which is now everywhere Westernized, both East and West. This change in the orientation of the mind of humankind has gradually been developing since the Renaissance era in Western (European) culture. The conventions of human orientation began to change in the period of the Western Renaissance from a sacred orientation to an orientation to the human individual, from Deity-centeredness to ego-centeredness, from ecstasy and sainthood to Narcissism and ego-possession, from sacred culture to secular culture, from a dominantly right-brained culture to a now dominantly left-brained culture.
As this transformation has occurred in the world, the ancient cultural supports have lost their legitimacy. This does not mean that the ancient exoteric religious cultural supports did not have anything to do with what is right. Those exoteric religious supports were, in a rudimentary (and Reality- objectifying) sense, based upon the general (and, in principle, right and positive) intention to make life sacred. It is simply that the ancient exoteric modes of the objectification of Reality have (themselves) now and rightly lost their legitimacy in peoples minds. However, as a result of that change of mind, the principle of the sacred (or of the understanding and managing of life based upon the intrinsic Truth of universal prior unity) has also and not at all rightly been lost.
A way of thinking that had only secondary importance in the ancient world has now become dominant. Human-centeredness has become the acceptable convention of mind. Human knowing is now devoted to analytical reductionism, or the process of reducing everything to the individual human being, to human processes, to humankind in the lowest, most rudimentary or material sense. Many social and cultural enterprises remain valuable, with the potential to improve the condition of humanity, yet a profoundly destructive (materialistic, analytical, disunitary, and anti-sacral) philosophical enterprise is also operative at the same time. It is this latter development that I Criticize.
Science as a conditional method of enquiry, as an effective practical method of investigation for the sake of acquiring natural knowledge (and subsequent power to control natural conditions of existence), is, obviously, legitimate. Yet, science, from the beginning, has also (and otherwise) been associated with the ego-centered orientation (and, thus, with the fixed point of view perspective) and, altogether, with the ancient (conventional and naive) philosophy of materialism and it has, on that basis, also been associated with the arising of co-emerging political movements. Present-day humankind is being both culturally and politically controlled not only by science itself (which has an inherent, but also inherently limited, legitimacy), but also by the philosophy of materialism (which is inherently ignorant, gross, merely analytical, de-constructive, reductionistic, exclusivistic, and naively oppressive). And, as science and the philosophy of materialism progressively exclude all other forms of knowing, human beings are becoming more and more dominated by political materialism or the forces that are keeping order independent of sacred (or unitive) consciousness and authority.
This is not to say that the cultural means whereby order was kept in the past were entirely benign. Exoteric religious authority is not necessarily (or even characteristically) associated with anything that has remotely to do with the Truth, or with Reality Itself, or with Divine Self-Realization, or even with the transcending of egoity.
In the Western world particularly, the institutional (or corporate) authority of the exoteric Christian Church has been the principal means whereby the State creates political and social order. Now that the State is associated with scientific materialism and not with religious doctrine, the State must find other means for creating order. Thus, the State is, generally speaking, no longer basing its own (corporate) authority on the (corporate) authority of the official Church. And, for the most part (even though some still cling, nostalgically, to the old days, of obedience to corporate exoteric religious authority), people are no longer politically and socially controlled (or, otherwise, willing to be controlled) by exoteric religious authority at least, not sufficiently to keep order.
In its origins, what later became institutionalized (or corporate, and official) Christianity was a small cult (or sect) of cultural outsiders, with its inner circle associated with an esoteric Spiritual teaching. Outwardly, however, in its public preaching, even that essentially esoteric sect was associated with more general religious and social principles and, through the process of that public preaching, people were gradually brought into the inner core of the esoteric life of the sect. In the early centuries of the Common Era, there were, everywhere, many sects which were (fundamentally) esoteric sects to one degree or another revolutionary (or of a critical, or outsiders, disposition) in relation to the religious exotericism of the official religion of the public institutions and the then-current political conventions of the State.
After about three centuries (by which time much of the esoteric Spiritual basis of the original pre- Christian sect had been lost), the Emperor (Constantine) engineered the cultural-historical shift that formally established the dogmatic basis for the institutionalizing of an official version of (exclusively exoteric) Christianity, and that eventually (within a few decades) resulted in that exoteric institution of (thus dogmatically defined) Christianity becoming the official religion of the Roman State. Since that time, either official (exoteric) Christianity has functioned as an arm of the State, or (otherwise) the State has, in some sense, functioned as an arm of the official (exoteric) Christian Church. As centuries passed, the relationship between Church and State changed such that the exoteric Christian Church now plays a remarkably different role, and is gradually being excluded, having lost its previous presumed legitimacy and public authority.
However, the exoteric Christian Church’s loss of power in the political and social realms is a relatively recent development. With the original union between official Christianity and the State of Rome, Christianity became the force whereby political and social order was developed and maintained in the Western world. To maintain order (and not Truth) was its function as an institution. Obviously, such an institution is not intended to be communicating esoteric teachings to the masses since esoteric communications are intended to serve the higher, and greater, and (characteristically) Spiritual or (otherwise) Transcendental purposes of Truth-Realization (in the case of, necessarily, more mature people, who have already out-grown the boundaries of merely exoteric, or public, schooling). Because esoteric teachings take off where exoteric teachings have come to a developmental end, esoteric communications do not tend to enforce political and social order. On the contrary, esoteric (and, generally, ecstatic) teachings tend not to bring about a conventional political and social order because esoteric teachings presume a prior (or already achieved) state of order, at least within the heart and mind and life of the individual esoteric practitioner.
As a case in point, Jesus of Galilee proclaimed an ecstatic, esoteric Spiritual message. His message was not a program for bringing order to politics and general society nor was such order the purpose of the earliest institutionalized Christians, who were purposed to religious devotion (and even to mystical life), and who were, in any case, in no position to command the State of Rome.
Because their guiding purpose was not of this world (and, therefore, of no political use as a tool of social order), Rome regarded the early Christians as enemies and the early Christians were persecuted by the State, as various other (similarly unusable) religious sects were. But when the Christians eventually came into power as the official authority, those features of Christianity that are oriented to the conventions of public (and altogether exoteric) religion the purpose of which is to maintain political and social order became the dominant communication of official Christianity. When that officialdom took hold of Christianity, its otherwise more esoteric dimensions which were the real ( inner-circle) force at its origin were systematically eliminated, primarily because esoteric teachings have nothing to do with managing either a great State or any kind of larger common social entity (of ordinary, and, generally, immature, or only exoteric-ready, and not at all esoteric-ready, people). A religion that is to be the official religion of a great State (or even any larger common social entity) must be essentially exoteric, and, thus, fundamentally oriented to maintaining social principles, social morality, conventions of behavior that maintain political and social order, and productive participation in work life, and positive participation in the larger collective of community life, and, altogether, universal subordination to the parent-like State (and to the parent-like official State- religion) and, thus, universal conformity to the will of the hierarchical political (and “religious) authority (or authority-structure) of the time.
Therefore, the New Testament (and the tradition of Christianity as a whole) must be seen in relation to both the esoteric sect from which it arose and the exoteric institution that largely replaced it (and even all esotericism) with the systematic exotericism of ordinary political and social purposes that has, traditionally, been served by public corporate religion in the Western world.
The New Testament has a long history of interpretation. This scripture is interpreted anew by every generation, in every time and place. Consequently, the interpretations tend to reflect the mood, the state of mind, or the leading (and generally characteristic) presumptions of the time.
However, as a general rule, all the traditional interpretations of the New Testament tend to be oriented toward the development of a politically defined social consciousness. Thus, it could be said that, in terms of its most common traditional interpretation, the New Testament is a social (rather than an esoteric Spiritual) gospel. The text of the New Testament was originally compiled from (and, altogether, invented by) a wide variety of sources, and it was constantly propagandistically transformed over the centuries, always to represent a point of view (and a message) that is predominantly social and political in nature.
The process of reducing the New Testament to a social gospel began before institutional Christianity became the official religion of Rome. The process was certainly intensified when exoteric Christianity became the official religion (and authoritative religious corporation) of the State, but even the process of gathering (and inventing) the early materials and making a New Testament out of them began early on, as the Christian cult became more and more conscious of its conventional social role which is to keep order, to inspire people to be civil in relation to one another, to function positively and productively with one another, to live a conventionally moral life, and, on that basis, to look forward to the cults official conception of rewards after death.
Thus, even before it became an official Church corporation, the cult (or newly emerging sect) of Christianity was becoming more and more the servant of the ordinary social (or worldly) life of its members. As the Christian sect acquired more members, assumed more responsibility, and had more social order to create, it began to play the role of social enforcer more and more exclusively. Thus, the newly emerging Christian culture more and more embraced the very same limitations (of exoteric official religiosity) that Jesus of Galilee had himself criticized.
Exoteric religion is primarily a communication that intends to bring political and social order to the public world. Exoteric religion is primarily a social gospel. Esoteric ecstatics, on the other hand, are very difficult to control in the usual (conventional) sense. It is virtually impossible, for example, to interest ecstatics in being socially productive for its own sake. Ecstatics generally value the practice of being civil in relation to other people but it is very difficult to get them to labor in factories and bureaucratic business organizations merely for the sake of worldly success, or, otherwise, to get them excited about the mundane purposes of a great State! Therefore, exoteric religion tends to eliminate all aspects of “religious communication that suggest anything but how to be a productive and positive social personality. To reinforce these qualities and even to suppress ecstatic qualities is the guiding purpose of exoteric religion.
Even though Christianity is, in its origins, an esoteric movement, it was reduced to an exclusively exoteric religion as it became more expansive and eventually achieved the status of the official (or politically enforced) State- religion of the West. Christianity thus became an exoteric (or conventionally social) institution, and it reduced the teaching of Jesus of Galilee to a social gospel. The result is that now everybody commonly assumes that, since the New Testament is, historically, the primary religious influence in the Western world, religion is supposed to be a social gospel, and Jesus must (therefore) have taught a merely social gospel.
In this late-time (or dark epoch) when even all cultures are being moved toward the way-of- knowing represented by scientific materialism, and all cultures are losing their sacred basis for order, and are tending to be dominated (more and more) by the forces of political materialism the interpreters of the religious texts of cultures other than the culture of the West are, likewise, moving more and more toward an exoteric interpretation of esoteric teachings. India, for example, has, since the later nineteenth century, been undergoing a kind of renaissance of Hinduism. The Bhagavad Gita is a principal text in this movement in India and one of the dominant tendencies of current interpretation conceives the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita as a kind of social gospel. In other words, the Bhagavad Gita is, now, publicly interpreted as a source of exoteric instruction about how to live the way of good works, rather than the mystically interiorized esoteric way of life that is characteristic of traditional Indian Spirituality.
Thus, the Bhagavad Gita which, in its origins, is an esoteric teaching about Spiritual and Transcendental Realization is being used, more and more, to support a cultural, political, and social movement of an exoteric kind. In this manner of religious interpretation within the Indian cultural sphere, the Bhagavad Gita is being interpreted (and, thus, used) in a manner that is very similar to the traditional exoteric interpretation (and even the earliest exoteric inventing) of the New Testament in the West.
To the degree that they are religious at all, people all over the Earth now commonly conceive of religion as a kind of social message. It is commonly presumed that religion is reducible to a kind of humanism even a kind of atheistic humanism (or a humanity-centered, rather than Deity-centered, positive social life) or, at least, that religion is totally compatible with the world-oriented, humanity-oriented, socially-oriented propaganda of the time.
You are constantly TV’d into the presumption that you are born for the sake of being born, that you are born into this world for the sake of this world. The presumption conveyed by TV (or the pervasive conventional mentality) is that life is an end-in-itself, and one is supposed to be enthusiastically involved with things of this world. Luckily (so the usual person presumes), there is science, technology, and a certain amount of freedom and, therefore, it is possible to be rightly enthusiastic about conditional existence. People have a great deal of hope that, during their lifetime, they will achieve more and more pleasure, leisure, and fulfillment of their human functions. All over the Earth now, everyone is being propagandized into social consciousness, the positive social gospel that is now coming from the realms of scientific materialism and its political arms around the world. If current secularizing trends continue, sacred texts such as the New Testament and the Bhagavad Gita are in danger of becoming obsolete. If that occurs, then positive and enthusiastic social principles or ideals will, more and more, be communicated all over the Earth completely independent of any kind of religious authority and, of course, entirely removed from any kind of esoteric teachings.
However, it is important to understand that the teachers and the teachings that are at the origins of the true scriptures of humankind (and of the various cultural movements associated with those scriptures) are not of an exoteric nature. Those teachers and teachings were not about the social gospel which the State has traditionally looked to religion to generate. If you understand the real fundamental (and esoteric) teaching underlying the New Testament and other traditional scriptures, you will see that those scriptures are not exoteric social gospels at all. Rather, those scriptures are esoteric communications about transcending the egoic self and the world and Realizing True Communion (and, ultimately, egoless Self-Identification) with the Divine Self-Condition.
The social gospel and the socially positive point of view that the State wants to generate and to support by various means is not at all about transcending the world by Realizing the Divine Self-Nature, Self-Condition, and Self-State of Reality Itself. Likewise, that social gospel is not about transcending the apparently individual self by self-sacrifice in the Divine Self-Nature, Self-Condition, and Self-State of Reality Itself. The State is purposed to have people transcend their otherwise egoic (or even Godward and ecstatic) inclinations by means of productive work. In other words, the State likes the ideal of individuals who are transcending themselves by being devoted to the purposes of the State. The State generally tolerates the large-scale communication of religion only if the message is exoteric (or socially oriented). The ideal must lead the common individual to be a good social personality doing his or her job, being honest, not making trouble, not creating disorder, not being lazy.
The State is not interested in any kind of teaching about transcending the egoic self and the world in Communion with the Divine Self-Nature, Self-Condition, and Self-State of Reality Itself. The State is not at all in that business, nor does the State like such teachings. The State and its official cult of the time did not like Jesus of Galilee. One could say that present-day official Christianity also does not like Jesus of Galilee and for the same reason. The official Church has never liked the ecstatic Jesus, who taught everyone to be an ecstatic, like himself, and so to transcend the selfish self and the world (or the flesh) in the Spiritual Divine. Nobody has ever really liked Jesus of Galilee, except those people who are able to respond to the Truth in Spiritual terms. Such people have always been relatively rare.