Do you think religion is outdated, harmful information? On the surface it may seem that way, but beneath the surface there is something incredibly valuable, the rediscovery of which could be a vital step for our civilisation.
Many people feel betrayed by religions. I was definitely myself in that camp for years. I found it embarrassing that people believed in supernatural fairytales to the point that they were ready to go to war in the name of their preferred story. I especially had a problem with the suppression of original scientific thinkers just because their findings didn’t fit in the dogma.
I still feel that way, but I’ve realised that even though religion has been involved in the injustices, under the surface the religions hide something vital for humanity to understand. I will do my best to explain this.
To see the religions clearly, we have to identify the layers in the religion. What comes to religion we want to be precise in what we are talking about.
This is a sphere of religion.
It is made up of three layers that are nested inside each other.
For most, the outermost layer is the only one they know. It’s the one they love to criticise often not knowing that the other two layers are hidden beneath it.
I like to call the outer layer, the dogma layer though there is even a better name for it. This layer has been responsible for incredible horrors in human history.
Not a single religion has avoided this.
For a long time I thought that dogma was just a feature of religion, but it’s not even though every religions seems to have it. This may sound illogical, so let me explain. Instead of this being a feature of religions, as a matter of fact this is a feature of human institutions, and in broader context it is more accurate to call it a totalitarian tendency. All human institutions are susceptible to it and we have to deal with it constantly throughout our lives.
This is because, with the certainty of natural law, a mainstream view emerges in every human institution. Whenever a mainstream view emerges, within any group, some of its adherents begin to impose it on others. Often it gets so serious that the price of deviating from the herd can be death, or at least violence – in the 21st century we don’t kill you. We just cancel you.
When the dominant view of society is religious, it is precisely the religion that is prone to the totalitarian tendencies.
On the other hand we also know that politics without any religion is just as susceptible to toalitarian tendencies.
It is also the same for purely ideological movements.
In recent years we learned that even in the mids of a medical crisis, people will force their favourite solutions on others.
Imposing their view on others. That’s what people unfortunately do. And in the future, we must develop better and better solutions to keep our totalitarian tendencies in check. But that’s another video.
Now we should be able to nuance our thinking and not blame religious institutions for a phenomenon that is a problem for all human institutions. For thousands of years the mainstream view around humanity was religious. Accordingly our totalitarian tendencies surfaced through religion. Now the mainstream is not religious but the totalitarian tendency is still there.
Altight. I hope the dogma layer will not confuse us anymore because the remaining two layers are actually the layers that matter. So let’s get to the heart of the matter – literally. Did you know that the religions have a heart or core or kernel.
Huston Smith, an influential scholar of religious studies described tiede two layers well:
Walnuts have a shell, and they have a kernel. Religions are the same. They have an essence, but then they have a protective coating. This is not the only way to put it. But it’s my way. So the kernels are the same. However, the shells are different.
The kernels are the same, but the shells are different.
The differences between the shell and the kernel of religion are so huge, that I see them as two different traditions.
I call the shell the external tradition and the core the inner tradition.
Unfortunately, in recent centuries, the inner tradition has sunk into oblivion, to the point that most people – even many religious scholars – don’t even know it exists. When people think about religion, they think about the dogma and the external tradition beneath it.
The external tradition can be thought of as the clothing of a tradition. The clothes of the tradion are made of mythology, rituals and customs.
By mythology I mean a body of myths. Merriam-Webster defines myth as:
“a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenonbody of myths.”
A myth is usually a story about a hero or an exceptional individual. I prefer to call the most important hero of the myth an icon. The icon defines the tradition. Often the icon gives the religion its name like in the case of Buddha and Buddhism or Christ and Christianity or Zoroaster and Zoroastrianism.
Customs are another type of clothing a tradition wears. Because of this the external tradition can also be called a custom tradition.
External tradition has plenty of answers to the question: how? How do you name your child? How do you celebrate holidays? How is the wedding ceremony structured? How do you conduct a funeral ritual. And so on.
Basically external tradition is what most people call religion. We repeat the stuff our parents and their parents did.
So what about the inner tradition?
If the external tradition is about how, the inner tradition has more to do with why? Remember, someone has originally designed the rituals and ceremonies and written the holy books. And some traditions still remember the answers to these why-questions. And sure, many don’t.
While the external tradition considers the myth of the tradition to be literally true, even historically accurate, for the internal tradition the myth is information in a compressed form. It would not even occur to them that the myth is about real historical people and events.
Perhaps one could compare them to the engineers in today’s world. I have no idea how to build a computer from scratch. I just benefit from the engineers’ work and knowledge. The engineers know the science and how to apply it.
Similarly the external tradition has no idea how to build a myth, a ritual or a ceremony. They just enjoy the benefits of the tools the experts of the inner tradition have provided.
You don’t need to know how computers work to benefit from them.
You don’t have to know how a myth works to get some benefits.
The problem with most religions is that most have lost their inner tradition during the ages. By lost, I don’t mean completely lost. The inner tradition has rather been forced to the margins. There’s always a monastery or guru here and there educated in the inner tradition but they are often looked down upon by the mainstream.
We live in strange times.
Think what would happen if all the computer engineers in the world suddenly disappeared. How long would the computers and internet continue to exist? Maybe for a few years, but very soon the computer tradition would fail and most of the world’s computers would work poorly. There may be the odd maverick nerd here and there who can bring your laptop to life, but that’s about it.
This is the situation with the world religions today. The inner tradition of the experts has almost vanished and religions have lost their a big part of their reputation. This is a pity.
The access to the inner tradition was protected by most of the traditions. It was only available to select individuals and required initiation. Compare it to our times. Not everyone is accepted for University. Another name for initiation is education.
When you can recognize these layers, religions appear in a completely different light.
It is simple.
Scrape away the totalitarian tendencies found in institutional forms of religion.
Identify the two traditions. The inner tradition that understands the science behind the mythological surface. And the external tradition that makes use of them.
And when we are able to identify the core of the religion, we can do a proper analysis of it. To distinguish it from other layers of religion, I simply call it the ancient science. For years people took these myths literally and blindly repeated the rituals. I think it is time for the experts to return.
Originally myths and religions were responsible for the integrity of humanity’s worldview. As discussed in my previous video, an individual is able to to influence how he experiences the reality. The inner tradition maintained these methods for millennia and it is time for us to start benefiting from them again.
In my next videos I’ll go more into the details. Please subscribe not to miss any of those. Love you all, bye