This website is dedicated to the works of Manly P. Hall, a great occult scholar, philosopher and sage,

as a sign of deep respect and gratitude.

28 лютого 2013 р.

How to Choose a Religion or Philosophy Most Appropriate to Your Own Needs

    In these days when nearly everyone is looking for some type of spiritual guidance, the religious situation seems to suggest a certain amount of thoughtfulness. As you realize, religion is finely a very personal matter, and while religions as groups have vast followings, each member of such groups is an individual. And it is impossible to assume that the individual working from within himself and from his own patterns of experience is going to interpret a faith in exactly the same way as his neighbor.

    Actually, our religious need originates in our own personal integration. We are all subject to specializations of attitudes. We are subject to the modifications of race, and nation, and environment. Very many individuals are highly influenced by childhood religious allegiances, family faiths, racial faiths - all these have their part in creating the new religious pattern that we must each have for ourselves.

    Therefore, sitting down for the member of your own church does not mean that you will see eye-to-eye. Each member has his own experience patterns which have to be considered and accepted. Some individuals, as we know, have specific talents, abilities in business, art, music, literature, philosophy, science. These attitudes through training affect the point of view of religion. The individual's religion may be strongly influenced by his profession. It may be influenced through marriage. In many different ways the individual's internal spiritual resources present themselves in patterns which the average person does not understand. We know, for example, that those belonging to certain political groups have more or less renounced religion. But this does not mean that the person in the body has renounced religion. It does not mean that the consciousness in us turns from spiritual consolation. As Boehme, the great German mystic, pointed out, "The life is entirely guided from the consciousness of the Divine in the human heart".

    Now, many persons do not know that they even possess this dimension of consciousness. They do not realize that within themselves is the leadership of a power greater than their own. Actually, the person does not make up his mind about what he is going to believe. His beliefs are based upon need, upon inner insight and upon the pressures of circumstances. All of these condition the person in his believing.

    Now, we know there are many religions in the world, and each of them has a different perspective on certain matters. But in general, all religious teaching is approximately the same. All religions have the same moral codes, the same ethical convictions and demand the same integrities from their followers. These come from within the religion and from within the follower.

    On the other hand, the expression of religious conviction in daily life is conditioned by allegiances of one kind or another. And one of the most difficult of these allegiances to cope with is sectarianism. Sectarianism creates a sense of moral duty to protect the sect and the spiritual obligation to follow whatever beliefs that sect happens to teach. Therefore, religious devotion in these terms is obedience to a system of belief. To believe this and to follow this as a natural conviction is sometimes to come into serious conflict with the spirituality that abides in the normal human heart. Many people I have discussed religion with have admitted that they were doing things in the name of their particular belief, which were not harmonious to their own inner convictions. And one of the most common of these is the tendency to downgrade or depreciate the beliefs of other people. Loyalty becomes the defense of sect rather than the defense of Truth. It, of course, is always assumed that the sect is the custodian of the Truth. But as we observe the conflicts between these different systems, we realize that they cannot all be correct - nor can anyone of them necessarily be correct completely.

    It follows then that we have a considerable movable religious population. Millions of people drift or flow from one belief to another in the search of that which is peculiarly suitable to their own needs. What they are really doing is trying to find their own belief in an institution outside of themselves.

    Now, many people feel that, under these conditions, it is necessary to change beliefs, that they must retire from that which no longer satisfies and align themselves with something that is nearer to their own conviction. Actually, if we study the matter carefully, we realize that this motion is not necessarily justified. Most religions have themselves levels within themselves, and nearly every religion in the world contains elements of all the others. It means, for example, that a very orthodox denomination may have within itself several grades of orthodoxy, the highest of which may be a pure mysticism which would meet the need of many very conscientious and dedicated individuals.

    There is nothing in any religion of importance that prevents a person from being correct, being right, being fulfilled within himself. But he may have to move upward, from a literalism to a mysticism. But he may find it within the very sect he belongs to. And there is no major religion of the world that does not subdivide and have within it mystical, metaphysical and esoteric structures. They are all there, they all have followers, they represent levels in which the individual ascends when he is no longer able to accept literalism without question. So it may well be that each person can grow, unfold and ascend through interpretation, through the structure of his own belief – whatever it may be. He does not necessarily have to change; all he has to do is to grow upward within the structure. Now, he may find, under certain conditions, that this growing upward within the structure brings with it criddle[?] in harmonies. He may be criticized by those who have a more literal point of view; he may not yet be considered suitable for those who have highly mystical and abstract convictions. But he still, if he wishes to, can grow quietly and gradually to the level of consciousness natural to himself. His religion must be natural to his inner life; it must not cramp him, it must not pervert his various attitudes, it must not bring with it selfishness or self-sentedness[?] of being glory. He must gradually unfold in the terms of his own experience – that which he desires to believe. And if he does this from within himself, he is a follower of the Heart Doctrine, and the Heart Doctrine is present in every religion of the world.
   
    This stratification of religion results in a series of sectarian divisions within faiths. In the case of Christianity we have an incredible number of separate organizations and organisms, all held together by the common thread of Christianity. These different groups have varied beliefs, they do not have recognition of mutual integrities, they are not sure which is the best or the better – but they do have the right to worship God according to the conviction of conscience. We all have that right, and it is not necessary in most instances to leave the faith that we belong to in order to exercise this right. It is natural to us, and we find within religions and groups that appear to be rather primitive some very highly developed moral instincts, high ethical standards and deep reverence for divine matters. 

    So we have all these different divisions to consider. We also realize that there are new faiths coming into the world almost every day. There are also old ones gradually dying out.

    Religion to have vital and contemporary significance has to be applicable to the problem of the living generation. It has to serve the needs of those of us who are here now, who have faced the problems of our time and who must develop within themselves resources against the pressures of unkindly providence. This recognition of the contemporary need has resulted in a large group of new interpretations. Some of these interpretations are supported by documentations of one kind or another, some by research projects, some by contemplations and detachments, some by the minglings of Eastern and Western beliefs – and still others, and perhaps the largest group of all, is the group that is dedicated to the personal experience of an adequate faith. The individual struggling for what he needs will find it, unless the pressures of other circumstances prevent him from exploring his own spiritual resources.

    We must assume, as the ancients did, that we are alive because Life is within us, we are beings because Being is within us, and we worship because God is within us. The Deity that is indwelling becomes the final guardian of our conduct and our destiny. It is true also that this Being in us is expressing itself through various levels of release. This Being is locked within the integration of our own personal attitudes at any given time. This Inner Light can shine through only to the degree that we give it the opportunity to shine through. If we block the quiet voice of spirit by intellectual activities and conflicts, if we attempt to rationalize intellectually that which can be known only mystically, we come into serious confusions.

    Also if we approach religion historically, we may be in confusion and uncertainty. The histories of religion, unfortunately, are not histories of peaceful cooperation in spiritual matters. Most religions have had stormy histories; most of them have passed through persecution and have persecuted in turn. Most of these faiths have descended to us through a series of defense mechanisms which they set up in order to survive. They had to protect themselves from others by the most basic of all forms of protection - and that is difference. There had to be difference in order to preserve each separate nucleus of man's spiritual heritage.

    So historically religion shows us the nobility of a few, the sincerity of many and conflict of most. It has been a very complicated and interstriveridden[?] situation. Coming into this present generation, those following in the ancient systems feel it necessary to take on these conflicts. They have to remember persecutions of the past, they have to remember the martyrdom of the saints, they have to remember the intolerance of the world against these various faiths as they were building up through time in history. And each in turn, like a disillusioned individual, has built its own defense mechanisms and has created ways to protect itself against others. These protections are barriers; they are also isolators, and they contribute constantly to religious misunderstandings. We inherit this - it is part of our birth ripe - just as we inherit the hereditary story of our race, our nation and our ancestors. We are the product of that which is gone before. And coming into this world looking for help and guidance, we fall back upon some type of educational culture. We try to find out what has happened to make us what we are now, and then we explore this problem a little further, we realize that much that has happened in the past is contributing to the deformity of our immediate actions. We are over-influenced, we are prejudiced, we are bound into patterns which we cannot actually demonstrate to be correct, but which we are forced to accept because of religious allegiances.

      Now, most religions today are in a state of change. It is becoming ever more certain, for example, that the doctrine of hellfire and damnation has lost popularity (laugh). We are no longer very much interested in it. We remember what the English mystic William Law observed on one occasion, "The soul in hell is nothing but the hell in the soul". And this is a very wise statement, for it tells us that almost all of these conflicts arise within ourselves, and that we become a battleground for previous beliefs upon which we must nourish our religious conviction and which in many instances we find to be interdestable[?].

    So in this matter the person is in a changing world. This change is not necessarily due to the sudden revelation of new spiritual values; it is the result of the inevitable realization that we must have more spiritual insight than the average person has today. We cannot live with what we have believed; yet we have to be careful not to do what the agnostic does: cast all aboard everything, because some parts of it are obviously fallible.

      We cannot turn from religion in total without turning from our own soul. We must, therefore, attempt to re-adapt the various principles of faith to the emergencies of the hour, finding in our religion the strength to face the immediate problems of daily action and reaction. To do this we must gradually come to the realization that religious allegiance is not a solution to our spiritual problem. We believe, for example - many people believe - that by becoming a nominal member of a congregation the individual assures his own salvation. Little by little, it is coming home to us that this is not true; that it is not what person belongs to, it is the way he conducts his own life that is the basis of his religion. The individual is not saved by being a member of something, he is saved by releasing the divine part of his own nature through his own conduct. He may do this in almost any level of belief. On the revenge of [...] pressure the individual may recover from alcoholism, he may get a new point of view on life, he may be impelled to search a little deeper or to build a little stronger type of faith - but the work he must do. The Evangelies cannot make him good, the Evangelies can only point out to him certain improvements which he can make in himself. And to make these is a decision which is not a decision of membership, but a decision of conduct.

     Assuming that we have this type of situation, we see that churches, in most parts of the world, are beginning to recognize the right of the congregation to have its say in the teaching and the beliefs of that organization. In other words, churches are moving more and more onto a democratic footing. They are realizing - sometimes by choice, sometimes by necessity - that it is necessary for them to meet the challenge of contemporary events. This does not mean a compromise of religious principles; it simply means a wiser direction of the spiritual potential in the solving of problems. We still have "The Sermon on the Mount", we still have the Pedituke[?], we still have the Buddhist canons and all the different sacred books of the world - all of which teach us clearly that the true salvation of the individual lies in himself. It can NOT be conferred; the only thing that can be conferred is encouragement. We can try to help people to see more clearly - but they must see for themselves. About the only thing that any religious organization can accomplish really is to serve as an All-Seeing Eye to help a blind person to be able to conduct his life in a reasonable way.

      Now, if we are going on with this situation, we also have to recognize - whether we like it or not and whether it appears to be demonstrable or not - that humanity is one entity. Humanity is made up of beings all of which are within a certain range of similarity. Some may be of different backgrounds and foregrounds, some may be more educated, others - less cultured, but humanity is a unit, and it is a unit because the principle of humanity abides in each human being, and that humanity principles [are] in his own soul. It is within himself that this humanity abides. It is within himself, finally, that his guidance must come.

      Now, we may conceal this fact, overlook it or ignore it - but through circumstances conditions are arised[?], problems are come up. There is a constant call upon internal resource. We really want to work from the best part of ourselves. We are seeking solution to our problem. Now, each person's problem is individual; there are many similarities, but no identities. Each individual has his own pattern of problem and purpose. This pattern can only be solved by the resources that he possesses. Now, if these resources are minimal and he has very little contact with his own inner nature, then he is protected by the sheepfold. He is under the guidance and leadership of a shepherd. This shepherd has, as his duty, to protect the sheep. The sheep in this case can be parallel to the immature members of a family; young people growing up have to have a shepherd. They have to have a guidance in those parts of life in which their own released internals are not strong enough to guide them. Furthermore, in very young are even adolescence peoples. The psychic, or soul, factor is not challenged sufficiently. Decisions are not clear because the individual's life is not yet purposed. He cannot be guided by his mistakes because, for the most part, he hasn't made them, and if he has, he doesn't know what they mean.

      So in the early part of all religious life there is a common ground which even extends into the animal kingdom. And this common ground is a certain security, as a result of the protection of adult members of a social group, or a tribe, or a clan, or even a kind of animal. As we grow up, however, our ways of life gradually spread out. We may all have had very similar training, we may all have had very similar schooling - up to a certain point - but out of the background there gradually emerges an individual. This individual is set to reach maturity, and when he does this, he is subject to the responsibilities of mature living. He is expected to go out and create his own career. It is assumed that in time he will build his own family. Having attained maturity or majority is perhaps a better worry, because maturity is still illusive. The majority age - 18 now - used to be 21. The individual then emerges as a self-responsible being.

      Now, what does he bring with him to help him to be self-responsible? In many cases he brings very little. He has not been well-instructed in his family, he hasn't seen the example of close emotional relationships, he has not observed the family responsibilities equally distributed. He has only an education which is fit for him for some kind of a job. If he wants to go further, he must have more schooling. But in all this period of time he is being worked on from the outside; he is being fitted into a group or a pattern - and, of course, in our generation this pattern is closing in with almost tragic intensity.

      So at 21 he suddenly stands on his own feet - but he does not know why, he does not know how to stand on his own feet, and he does not know what to do after he does get on his feet. All of these things are mysteries, and in these mysteries there very often comes an attitude of helplessness. So the young person goes to anyone he can find, who he thinks belongs to his peer group and tries to get the information he needs. Sometimes he is invited to become a narcotics addict, very often he receives from others only the same uncertainties that he himself possesses. Yet somehow he must gradually take his place in society. The blank look on his own face is the open door to his progress. Suddenly realizing that he does not know - and from his experiences and endeavors is not likely to find out - that he suddenly has to turn to himself for guidance. He hasn't too much to help him even in that, because in order to be help from the inside, all of the hindrances on the outside have to be overcome. He has to unlearn in order to experience. He has to shift from the foundation of what he is taught to the foundation of what he needs in order to survive.

      This type of thinking really begins the religious life of the individual. He may not recognize it as religion. He may consider that it is intellectual or psychological. But, actually, the moment he tries to solve his own problems, he releases from himself something that can never be conferred upon him from the outside. He falls into patterns of trial and error; these are natural. He must experiment, he must learn for himself. And the impulse to be an individual and learn for himself is a constructive one - unless his conditioning is so poor that everything that he does is going to continue to be dominated by external pressure.

      Assuming, however, that he is now beginning to think a little for himself, he may remember or realize that he belongs to some religion. And, much more important, some religion belongs to him. He has to find out how to explain or interpret these matters. If he is a member of church, he may go to a church counselor to get help and advice in the selection of what he ought to do. From a church counselor he will probably receive a more idealistic interpretation than he would if he takes an attitude [aftertude?] test. The counselor may try to advise him into what might be termed "the sectarian virtues" by which life must be regulated. Now, these basic virtues are not bad; they are pretty good. And if he follows them all or most of them with care, he is going to gradually reconstruct his own inner life. He is going to shift his center of consciousness from the outside to the inside of his own nature. He is going to begin to think and to plan, and also to develop certain moral and ethical foundations. These he can secure from almost any denomination of any faith in the world. They become the basis of a disciplined pattern. If he accepts this pattern, it will increase and unfold within his own nature. If he cannot accept that, because too much mental and emotional pressure is against it, then he will have to fall into the dilemmas of those who are not able to control their own lives. They get into one difficulty after another.

      Now, [...] complete pattern of things lies the principle of Divine Wisdom. The Deity is concerned with only one problem: the perfection of its creation. It has no intentions of fame, and fame [...] is inconceivable to a being that possesses all power, all knowledge, all wisdom, all strength and all love. To be perfect in these principles which we attribute to Deity leaves very little space in our concept of God for doubts, jealousies or for the belief that Deity is [...] and therefore is subject to all kinds of earthly intemperances and intolerances. The fact that the complete plan of things is to move everything to the fulfillment of itself, and in so doing to the release of the God in the self. If this is the plan, it doesn't require a great deal of theology, but it does for a time require a certain amount of diligence and faith. The individual has to believe that there is a meaning for his own life. He has to believe also that he is not living for himself alone; nor is he living for his world alone, or his neighbors, or his family responsibilities - he is living to fulfill Deity; he is living [so] that God may be made flesh and dwelt among us.

      Each person, therefore, is responsible for his share in the release of Universal Law - first through his own nature and then through the natures of those around him to whatever degree he can. There can be success working with self. Working with others may or may not prove to be essentially beneficial. But we can always stimulate in others a desire to improve themselves.

      To witness religious concept there comes an answer to the great problem of materialism. Materialism is simply the justification of a meaningless world. Materialism places all reward in terms of material things in a material lifetime. Life beyond the grave is disputed and denied by the true materialist. All rewards must be here, all success must be here, because after years to the materialist there is nothing.

      Now, it becomes immediately obvious that if this be true, then all efforts on the part of individuals to be anything are pure fantasy. But man from the human beginning of himself has had within him this "hard core" that refuses to accept materialism. It can be thrust upon his mind, it can be taught to him from the cradle to the grave, its ambitions may dominate his life for years - but the actual materialist is only [the] one in his mind, never in his heart or his soul. It is only the fact that the heart and soul are being blocked by attitudes which are not true. Having come to a point where we begin to realize these things, we can improve our state.

      Now, the infinite plan of things working through cause and effect presents us with a crisis like we are in at this moment, a crisis that is creating more religious thinking than anything that has happened to us in the last thousand years. Man reaches out toward God in emergency only. While things go along well, the individual is proud of himself and self-sufficient. But when his own life falls apart, then he realizes that he is inadequate. The world today is very close to falling apart. Nearly every excess, mistake, failure and crime that we have committed in the name of progress is coming back to us with terrific punishment factors. We are being warned every day that the policy we have lived by is not right. We have been assured that no matter how we boast the street up, how we try to put patches on it, we must either change the basic concept behind the structure - or we cannot succeed.

      Now, this applies directly to the person. As long as we live by a structure that must fail, we will fail with it. The only way we can escape our own laws is by changing within ourselves and keeping faith with a structural concept that can survive and can fulfill the purpose for which it was intended.

      Private disaster is very much like international problem today. Disaster is complex, compound, interrelated, it captures the individual and he knows not which way to turn to to get out of it. Every remedy seems to make it worse. But the whole structure of remedy, the whole concept of modern living is on sound. It has been perpetuated from generation to generation simply because individuals did not wish to go against their own personal ambitions.

      So now we have a time when religion is becoming increasingly important to us, and we have to take the faiths of our fathers and put them to work here and now.

      One thing that is true of most people is that they need a certain amount of associational support. The individual who finds himself completely alone in his beliefs or in his attitudes and discovers this too soon is in trouble. The individual has no outside associations that support his convictions, and has not developed sufficient internal resource to protect his convictions; this individual is truly on the horns of the dilemma. He cannot stay this way, however, he must either give up as some do - or he must strengthen the source of solution in himself to a better understanding of life.

      In these various religions of the world we have also other qualification levels, as Emerson pointed out and [...] also, I think, wrote a little something on the subject - and that is that while we have names for religions, we do not have adequate identification of the sources and interminglings of religious teachings. It is a mistake to assume, for example, that any religion stands completely alone. There are no religions in the world which are not themselves mixtures. Every religion we have had a dependency on something that preceded it. Every religion has borrowed and baid[?], and in some cases stolen, the ideas of other faiths. Now, this is probably due to the fact that the believers in these different religions came from different backgrounds. And if these believers reached a point or a place of authority within a religion, they have begun to modify it by the wisdom that they brought to it in the first place. Little by little, all religions come in the end to contain within themselves the essential principles of all other religions.


    This foreground, and these ancestors, and these potential descendants is part of a compound religious picture. In simple words, we can say that there are in every church individuals whose consciousness belongs to almost all the religions of the world. The gentleman in a front row pew is very orthodox church of England, but his thinking is Hindu; he doesn't know it (laugh). Instinctively he responds and, whether he knows it or not, through him his own teachings take on this coloring. A quiet-faced elderly lady in the back of the congregation has been very faithful, has gone to church every Sunday in her lifetime and has a perfect record - and she is without knowing it a devout Buddhist (laugh). She doesn't know it! It is the inside coming out and giving her that which she needs. If you named it and analyzed it, you would have to classify it with the Buddhist faith. But when you don't do that, she doesn't have to classify it; to her it is perfectly good church of England (laugh), because that's what she believes.

    Many years ago I had just a ministerial conference here in Los Angeles and I was asked to discuss a subject. I took two verses from the "Bhagavad-Gita" and I discussed the subject, quoted the verses but did not give the source. After the meeting was over, a retired methodist was so glad that I was a methodist (big laugh). A Baptist was sure I was a Baptist (laugh), and an Anglican knew I had to belong to church of England! And these men of different groups all agreed that what I had said was uniquely theirs (laugh)
! And this is what it is all over the world. Thus let us face these things. The barriers of sectarianism are artificial. But when something strikes the heart or the soul, the acceptance arises, but it is interpreted in terms of the familiar. We take it on in terms of what we already accept as correct and proper.

    Now, in the last 25 years particularly many of these ideas that people have, which are not really local or not really orthodox to the average person's thinking of orthodoxy - these ideas have caused members of many foreign faiths to come to this country. We now have all kinds of oriental teachings here. We have teachings that have been restored from the remote past. We have disciplines and ideas that go directly to Egypt, or go to China, or Persia. We have all kinds of ancient beliefs that have been restored. Somebody somewhere along the line read a book on it or read one of the recently discovered gnostic library manuscripts and suddenly realized that what was in there was true. So he started a little group to study the problem and soon he had his own little following.

    All of these different groups, with their Zen, and their Tibetan, and their Romanic, and their classical interests and activities are all people flowing into the recognition of what they already believe. This isn't something new coming to them; it is simply the fact that in all their lives this has been their point of view, but they never knew what to call it, they never knew why they believed that way - and then suddenly a group starts here with the same teaching, and they discover that they have come home.

    Now, this does not mean that these types of allegiances represent the breaking-up of religions; nor are they constantly endangering orthodox structures. They are simply a little symbol of the fact that inside of us each of us belongs to all religions. We are all of one faith, and that faith is humanity. It is the religion which we have put into 150 languages or more; we have distributed it throughout the world; we are now reprinting and re-editing the religious creeds of practically every nation. And they are all part of the simple fact that the God in man is the father of all faiths. We have to feel this and realize it.

    So these faiths may have division within them, but the Truth is never divided. It is emphasized, it is experienced, it is discovered. The individual who has for many years longed to go to some quiet and peaceful place and rest for a while, suddenly discovers the ashram - something he didn't know there was before. Also others feeling the same type of impulse make a retreat. [...] But whether they are meditating on the heights of the Himalayas or in the retreat somewhere in Southern California, they are fulfilling the same spiritual need, a need that has grown within themselves.

    Consequently, there will be people, probably, who will never know exactly where their faiths come from. They will never know why the heart in them wants a certain thing, why it tips naturally and suddenly says, "I have found what I am looking for". If this happens, then it is a very good sign, as long as the mind has the power to sensor the quality of the belief. Man believes on different levels. Some people believe only in that which will fulfill their personal desires. Some want to believe a faith that promises wealth. Others want a faith that promises freedom from responsibility. Still others, perhaps, want a faith that will heal their illnesses.

    Each individual has some interest in a certain form of belief, because it will cater to himself. He has to be watchful of this, however. A faith that caters to him and isn't suitable to him may not cater to someone else and will be suitable for them. It depends entirely upon the emerging need of the person, and it is to meet this emerging need that he has to consider his religious allegiances.

    Now, if you are looking for a religion, the first thing you really have to do is to decide in yourself what kind of a person you are, what are your dominant interests in life. If your dominant interest in life is to be happy, this is not a good foundation for a profound mystical experience. If you wish most of all to get over some kind of an ailment, then you will naturally be interested in groups that perform healing activities. [...] then your religion is a seeking after the restoration of health, and this in turn may be noble impel, it may be that you want to be better, so that you can fulfill your responsibilities more adequately. If your reason for health is that you want to live to learn more and be a better person, it is perfectly justifiable. But you have to study out what is the motive behind your desire to find the religion.



    Probably the most common motive that we have is the realization of personal inadequacy. There must be always so much unfinished business in our living. We must find answers to things that are not pleasant or particularly fortunate to our present condition. But we are all looking for release from something, we are looking for attainment of something, we are looking for fulfillment of something. We are all looking for answers - but only for answers to the questions that we ask! So the questions you ask have much to do in clearing the mystery of the level of your own existence.

    Also, I think, it is a mistake to think that great virtues are more worthy than little virtues. Actually, a person of very limited intelligence or limited knowledge can by personal conduct excel a person who was much better informed and has a much higher standard of living, but does not have the internal insight.

    So fulfillment of the soul need is largely in hope, faith and service to others. The primary motive of the individual is to release into manifestation the divinity within him, and then become the faithful servant of that divinity. It is the right of the individual to follow the soul and not to try to lead it. The soul is the one thing in man that is dependable if he does not pollute its adegies[?].

    Now, when we are studying this problem, we must realize that the heart as the seat of the soul, according to the mystics, has no actual appetites of the body. The heart is not concerned with social graces primarily, it is not [...] to affluence, it is not competitive, it is not aspiring in career or in fortune-hunting - the heart is seeking to release the Divine Will into action. It is not our will, but the will of the Father that must be done. And in the presence of the soul the mind, the emotions and the body must humble themselves, because they are standing before the altar of their own God. This being the inevitable truth of the matter; the person must try to understand the degree of release of which his soul is capable because of the confusion of his material and personal life. If he wishes to make one step and make it a serious step, it is better than all the affirmations that the human mind can think of. The individual starts the release of soul by releasing his life of something that impairs soul. He gains it by freeing the mind from its own conscience qualms, feeding the ideals of character and doing a little better in the job, whatever it may be.

    Instead of thinking that baptism is [...], or something of this kind, let us say that the man who is a carpenter then suddenly feels the impulse of religion. He is pleased, particularly, perhaps because he realizes that Joseph was a carpenter and that Jesus lived with him in his carpentry shop. The carpentry, therefore, is something to be very proud of, in the sense, in a gentle way - not competitive; he knows perfectly well of [...] unions in those days (laugh). But this, in order to accomplish what might be termed "a new life", "a reborn life" - as the churches may refer to it - this carpenter with this realization must resolve within his own consciousness that from that moment on he will do the best work that he can. He will never deceive a customer. He will never use poorer materials. He will never lounge on the job. He will never do that which is not fair and square to the client and to himself. So he becomes an honest carpenter. Now, he can join any religion in the world to be a carpenter, but only his own inner life can make him an honest one. And the only one that has a [...] of the Lord is the one who is honest.

    So we take each of the departments of life, and we say that the development of our religion is through a series of personal experiences, by which we consecrate what we are to that which forever is - and beyond our comprehension. We can say that the individual who has a fuge[?] in his family, who neglects his children or who allows pleasures to interfere with the proper responsibilities of life - this individual gets religion. He gets it only if it changes him, if it makes him deal with things which are his natural responsibilities - no matter of affirmation, or tendence[?] confession, or contrition can solve his problem unless he improves his own conduct.

    So religion is a gradually ascending ladder of conduct, lifting the individual from the common place of the thoughtless and the selfish to the fulfillment of the highest resources with which he has been endowed. It does not follow that a carpenter can in a few months or a few years attain to some high philosophical or spiritual level. He doesn't have to, because everything is the release from within himself; and as he releases, he ascends whether anyone knows it or not. And he is in favor with all powers of life which finally decide all things.

    So if you're looking for a religion that's going to help you at the moment, you might look at some defect in character that needs attention. You can say to yourself, "I am a bit of a gossip, and I know I shouldn't be - but I still do it!" Well, the soul is not a gossip. The man is not created to be a gossip. [...] No, we don't have to gossip, this is our first sacrifice. If we recover from this habit, we have a new birth of virtue in ourselves. And that is a good start!

    Another individual says, "I am vain, I am loaded with vanity, I think too much of my own outside appearance and nothing about my inner life". Another one will say, "I am selfish. I want too many things. I waste money, I go in debt, I do all kinds of things".

    Take one of these and start to work on it, and find out what conscience, character and the inner life within you would like you to do about it. [...] Nor is the individual who makes a million dollars suddenly religious because he builds into the church a new stain-glass window. That's supposed to wipe away a lot of things. But there's something strange about a window that is put in by a person who, in one way or another, was dishonest in his business transactions or at least failed to live up to the religious standard of the sect to which he belongs.

    Start in then with some simple thing that needs cleaning, needs brushing up, needs changing. And begin by finding the natural religious pattern that is practical and useful.

    For the majority of human beings churches are more or less standard structures. Of churches the most valuable that I have ever contacted and have ever experienced are the churches in small towns. There is no great pretense in them, there is no great pretense in the followers, they have not a vast building program that's gonna cost a hundred million dollars, they are not constantly raising funds for their own salaries. These little town preachers, and their families, and the congregations that go to them are going for consolation, they are going for a moment of quietude to refresh the spirit. And they are simple people with simple needs. There is no reason to try to teach them some abstract philosophy or some great oriental truth. The thing they need is the courage to live day by day and keep the principles of a good life. They need the strength to take care of the older people, the strength to discipline the young, the strength to work without hope of reward, and most of all - the strength to give everything they have because of love, devotion and integrity. Here we have the beginning of religion. And religion of this kind, in one way or another, is found in practically all parts of the world, even among the most primitive people. There is this dedication to common need, there is this recognition of responsibility and also [...] subtle gratitude from the realization that there is a Divine Plan which is carrying on regardless of us.

    So the problem is to find something simple. Do not find things that stir up a tremendous amount of pervert. [...] Find the thing in which your own heart finds satisfaction, that you can sit quietly for a few hours a week somewhere, in a sanctuary, where you can be at peace with yourself, peace with God and peace with the world. This is the principal leverage of religious organizations. The moment they go from this, there is danger. And today religion
, sad to say, is big business. It is now something which is fulfilling the ambitions of people whose ambitions are not religious. They might say, of course, that it's wonderful to be able to build a magnificent palace for God, but it is still better to build deeply humble, gentle people for God. And as the Messiah had no place to lay his head, it is doubtful whether his religion will be fulfilled in monumental structures. It is always that religion is internal, and it is because it is internal that it is eternal. Every generation is born with the seed of religion, just as sure as each generation is born with the seed of propagation. Just as each generation can give birth, so each individual is born with a faith, a spiritual conviction that can give birth to a better life. We all have it, and we should find ways where we can express it. And we should avoid temptations of a religious nature. We should be very aware that true religion does not promise us something unless it is the privilege of hard work. Religion is not an escape from life, it is not a substitute for character, it is not, in any sense of the word, a material [...] - it is simply the eternal truths of life, living on generation through generation in the human heart, and it is this heart that is the matchless altar of the human soul.

    So whatever belief you are harrying, whatever church you belong to - stay with it if you want to, but GROW, grow in it, outgrow one level of interpretation to another. I know cases in which persons belonging to very orthodox religions have attained great mystical insights. And when they gained these mystical insights, they simply accepted them as part of their own religion! It didn't occur to them that they had transcended anything. It only occurred to them that they had fulfilled something, and in most cases the fulfillment was based upon character. The individual had lived the life, and therefore his internal development raised him to a new level of symbolism. He then took the same prayer book, he took the same minister sermons that he had heard before - but suddenly they had new meaning because something had happened inside himself. And he was perhaps able to take a meaning out of simple words, that the preacher who spoke them had no understanding of it all.

    It isn't what you hear; it's what it means to you, and it means to you what you are.

    So there is really no need of any spiritual conflict on the theological level. There is need for a certain amount of discrimination in a time when we are confronted with religious temptations, more seriously than perhaps in the last 500 years. We have to use discrimination, but it is based upon a simple statement of the truth of things. Practically any decision we want to make can be guided by "The Sermon on the Mount". The decision can be guided by our inner concept of what truth and faith really are. We are looking always for a way to be more useful, and in various fields of religious activity we have many groups who devote themselves to missionary work, to field work, who become religious missionaries, medical missionaries, social missionaries; their lives [are] devoted to service, and it is the life of service - not the organization to which they belong - that determines their place in the development of religion. The free thinker, we might say (and I have already experienced these free thinkers when I first started out about 60 years ago). Free thinkers are individuals who just jumped the traces. They do not want to be bound by any belief, they like to dig, and [...], and search. They are always in quest of the right to think as they please. But one little difficulty it does arise in this group: they have many points in their favor, they do not believe in intolerant religions - but what they haven't realized is that there is no such thing as an intolerant religion. When it's intolerant, it's not religion. There is no [...] way in which a religious persecution can be justified. But there are many people who believe that it is a virtue.

    So the free thinkers are the ones who want to gather their spiritual nourishment wherever they want to. They are like individuals on a diet; they have decided that the end of health for them is to eat what they please, whether it's good for them or not. So as having the power of free will, they go heavy to starches - and the result is: in their thinking they simply fulfill the attitudes of their own minds.

    Now, a free thinker can also be an emancipated person - the one who is no longer bound to various beliefs. But as long as he remains a free thinker, he has certain dangers, because in this world no-one is free. The only freedom there is is complete obedience to Universal Law. There is no unfree, we're all servants. We're all servants of a Plan, we were created to serve, we were fashioned to release [...] free, because freedom would mean that we can separate ourselves from God and do as we please - and this is not possible.

    But there is a certain freedom that we can have - and that is the freedom to do the best that we know, the freedom to live according to the convictions that we believe are necessary for the common good.

    All religions have a tendency to run upward gradually like the runs of a ladder. And the upper end of the ladder is always in the clouds. It is always with its lower part upon the earth and its top among the stars. We are all climbing these different ladders, but these ladders are not physical institutions; these ladders are levels of ourselves. We are moving upward from one level of our own insight to another. The important thing is to keep moving and not become stranded on one of the levels. We must not sit back complacently and say, "I now have the religion that makes me completely comfortable". Anything that is completely comfortable is a little dangerous. What we should do [...] insight has given us a deeper understanding. We must realize that it is now our privilege to labor with deeper problems, that there are many things that we do not understand, no matter how complacent we may become. So we have to keep on growing, outgrowing today always, determined with our consciousness to be better tomorrow than we are now.

    This is really the whole structure of religion. And from every part of the world we have the same stories. Every religion has produced its saints and condemned its sinners. Every religion has built temples to God [...]. All these things are part of religions because religions are fashioned by human beings. They are structures built up from below, in honor of the Power that comes down from above.

    Now, in the course of building it up from below, what comes down from above sort of gets lost in the good many cases. It is proper to honor our faiths, proper to have them well-established in our lives - but we must realize that salvation is not through architecture, unless we wish to consider the truthian[?] canon that each individual is the architect of his own destiny. We want in our religious life to have the privilege of seeking whatever is necessary to fulfill our need today. But we must be very careful to realize that tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow we should need something more. Tomorrow there must be another question to answer. And if we try to answer all the questions of life from one day's religious attitude, we're going to miss most of the growth that we all need. What we have to do is to recognize that the moment we discover a new fact or a new reality, or a new truth, it becomes a step upon which we can rise to a higher level. Always we are seeking, and always we will seek - on, and on, and on - until ultimately in some inconceivable time that which we have sought will come in its [...]. What we are seeking is restoration into the Divine Mystery. We are seeking to be one again with the God Power for which we were passioned. And until we achieve that end, we must keep on striving, keep on growing and, most of all, keep on with the deepest affection and compassion for all living things and all human beliefs. If we can do this, at least in substance or in principle, I think we will find that we do not have to change any particular place of worship. We do not have to look down upon some other church - but rather to be very quiet and realize that what is not necessary for us at the moment is very vital to someone else. I've known people belonging to various groups that would be considered pretty disrespectable - and they were wonderful people. They had not discovered that there was anything wrong with their belief. So I've set down with them and talked about it. And I find that most of these people have interpreted into their present belief the best part of themselves. They believe that they are orthodox. But in the presence of them the clergy would appear to be rather unenlightened. These people are good because they are good, and they are good because in their hearts they have a belief to transcend the doctrine with which they are associated. They cannot be spoilt - you cannot spoil a good person. But you can spoil anyone who has ulterior motives of any kind.

    So it's not too much to worry about. It may be that you have relations, or friends, or whatever that you regard as members of a less desirable faith than your own. Remember also that somewhere there's someone who is thinking the same thing about you (laugh)! They only wish you'd wake up (laugh), while you were trying to wake somebody else up. These wishes are not necessary at all, because the final faith, the final proof of the fact that we are in the right place - religiously - is that in the place where we are we are impelled to use our resources as wonderfully, as beautifully and as graciously as we can; that we find, when in doubt, that the best answer to our problem is in the name of Deity to serve those whose need is greater than our own. To serve there where necessary is to be "servants in the house". And in this we are all servants.

    Now, a man I knew very well was quite a celebrated doctor. He told me one day, he said, "You know, I started out with a very good knowledge of medicine. I did very well in it, when after a number of years something happened. The sickness of other people came into me. I no longer had patients, as you commonly call them. [...] I had children. Little suffering children. I could no longer think of them in the form of customage. They were human beings in trouble". So he said, "I closed my office, I went to another town, I opened a little clinic - and the joy of my life has been nearly 30 years in which I have served the sick without pay. Since they are not strangers - I wouldn't charge my own brother, I wouldn't charge my mother. Yet these are all children of God together". And he said, "In serving them I've found what I call 'the doctor's creed'".

    And this is good thinking, very beautiful and basic thinking. We can't all perhaps immediately go out and do unusual things like this - but each person can gradually use his spiritual convictions to correct the mistakes of his mind, emotions and body. And as he corrects these mistakes one by one, the light of the soul within him will shine through [...] lantern, and he will be led step by step gently, wisely and lovingly to the fulfillment of the destiny for which he was intended. And all these different paths lead to the same end - but no-one can reach that end except by his own effort; and if he has that effort, if he dedicates his life to the pursuit of service and integrities, he will grow and the abilities within him will unfold, and he will discover some time in the future that the abilities within himself can unfold to such a degree that he totally becomes God. In this realization we have it ultimate, but along the way we can take on the labors of Deity, we can take on the convictions of Deity, the infinite patience of Deity, the eternal compassion, the final wisdom which [...] the fulfillment of the Divine Plan by which we were fashioned and by which we shall be perfected. With these thoughts in our minds, we can really make some steps forward in religion. Thank you very much.

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