Religion is something so sublime that it can give meaning and context to our lives.
One of the toughest dilemmas of our times is how to reconcile the growing dichotomy between religion and spiritualism. Religion is something so sublime that it can give meaning and context to our lives. At the same time, it can be a cause of incessant strife and intolerance. There have been fierce warriors as well as great champions among devoted members of each religion. Both the patrons of war and peace, and tolerance and intolerance, belong to the same religions, and may remain true believers.
The problem has much to do with our common perception of spiritualism. We still tend to treat spiritualism as a separate exclusive space when, truly speaking, spiritualism should permeate our entire life — both mundane and otherworldly. However spiritual their aspirations may be, religious people have to seek God or the sacred in the world. It is futile to dream of a monastic life, adrift from the whirl of society. People may give lots of advice — that positive thinking and big dreams can help us accomplish great tasks. But one has to bow before the altar of destiny and realise that we have to navigate our ambitions within the realms of divine will. Each of us has a moral compass that shows us the limits of our talents and abilities. That is a more accurate and authentic guide than the barometer of public advice. We have already seen how ghastly the “think positive” mantra is. The financial crisis of 2008 is just one catastrophic example of the disastrous consequences of this over-fatigued philosophy.
Spiritual enlightenment and pursuit of truth alone can give man the freedom he is struggling for. A time must come in every man’s life when he has to accept reality and pursue truth. But this happens only when the individual is sufficiently evolved intellectually and spiritually. We need to have a philosophy of introspection, a faith, morality or religion, the practice of initiation or self-denial.
It is only after intellectual acceptance of reality and pursuit of truth, can there be real happiness, peace, fulfillment and freedom. As recently as in 1976, Toynbee vehemently advocated the need to restore the spiritual axis of our life to enable us to get rid of social afflictions: “I agree that the sickness of modern society can be cured only by a spiritual revolution in the hearts and minds of human beings. Social maladies cannot be reminded by cosmetic changes. The only effective cures are spiritual.”
We lack confidence: confidence in ourselves, confidence in God, confidence in man and confidence in the future. Fears, doubts, phobias and mistrust imperceptibly colonise our hearts and minds. We have to get back to some elementary truths in life. We have to set out on a new journey and ask ourselves the same essential questions we have been taught to ask in our nursery age and look for meanings. Our parents had already resolved our dilemmas, but we have messed up the whole simple issue by our arrogance and our so perceived superior intelligence. We have to now relearn and restate the truth.
Educating the heart, the mind and the imagination in order to train ourselves to see better, hear better, perceive better and understand better is one of the requirements of the autonomy and freedom that are yearning for. As Aristotle said: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”