History of religion

Why still religions?

The value of religious thinking as an antipole to materialism

(Published in GralsWelt 60/2010)

In the GrailWorld we have reported on various occasions about modern endeavors that would like to abolish religions. From the scientist's point of view[i] Many scientists stand in the way of religions in their search for truth and - if they drift into violent fundamentalism - even endanger the survival of humanity.

In contrast, there is the very old conviction that the ability to be religious is one of the criteria that distinguish a person from an animal, however highly developed. Religiousness is inextricably linked with human development, and many feel that being human is synonymous with being religious.

So where is the misunderstanding between science and religion that makes it so difficult for these two striving for knowledge to go together in search of truth? And what is the value of religions?

What is a religion?

In a time when nothing is accepted without being asked, the question also arises: What is a religion anyway? New religions, for example, are sometimes denied the right to call themselves "religion".

For centuries only Christianity was considered a religion in the West; everything else was "pagan" (now more elegantly called "pagan") or even from the devil.

Perhaps one can agree that certain criteria belong to a religion:

transcendence: The doctrine of the existence of supernatural forces, powers, beings or belief in God. In this point, religions differ from (political) ideologies, which can take on forms similar to religions, but are not religiously transcendent.
Teach: A religion is hardly conceivable without ethics and beliefs (for example a doctrine of the “last things”).
Cult: The practice of religion includes religious rites and cultic acts.
In the triad of transcendence - teaching - cult one can recognize a commonality of all religions, however different they may be in other respects. The origin of this trinity goes back a long way, in times long before the invention of writing.

Since when have there been religions?

The earliest indications of religiosity can be found in primitive humans for around 120,000 years (15). In both Neanderthals and Homo sapiens finds - especially ritual burials - point to religious ideas and rites (9, p. 34 f.). This would mean the existence of doctrine and cult of the criteria mentioned for a religion, so that one can assume with some justification that there were Paleolithic religions.
One can only speculate about ideas about the hereafter, images of God, teachings and other religious ideas of our ancestors in times without writing.

The search for meaning

The search for meaning is one of the deepest human emotions. A person wants to understand his life, wants to know how and why the events around him are the way they happen. When a person lacks understanding for (surprising) events, he looks for supernatural explanations.

Many materialists also see the origin of religions in this search for meaning, which from their point of view would be pretty much identical to superstition.

Since the natural sciences have been able to explain the processes in the visible world better and better, illnesses, storms and natural disasters no longer have to be interpreted as punishments for human sins or as outbursts of anger by a god. But when individual or entire peoples are hit by blows of fate, the question of the meaning of life or the righteousness of God arises again.

A satisfactory answer is then often still sought on a transcendent level; because the innermost part of the human being does not want to accept the fact that everything is a game of chance.

Religion as a moral authority

Especially in the West, religions could sometimes - unfortunately by far not often enough - exercise a moderating influence on those in power and demand ethical behavior. Because the true power of religion begins beyond the limits of earthly power!

Even in antiquity, religion had its place as a moral authority. Christian priests could look back on a long tradition from "pagan times" in the implementation of their religious ethics. For example, was allowed to Nero (Roman emperor from 54-68) did not take part in the Eleusis mysteries because he was guilty of blood by murdering his mother (12).

Ambrose of Milan (339-397) said: "The emperor is in the church, not above the church" (12). And he urged “To repent and repent in public the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, because he ordered a massacre of insurgents in Thessaloniki and had 7000 people killed in the circus (11). In relation to the Jews, the church father left Ambrose - like many Christians after him - however, tolerance and humanity are missing (4, p. 104 f.).

Many believers are also proud of Christians who resisted to the point of martyrdom an unjust ruler; such as. John of Nepomuk (1350-1393) or Thomas More (1477-1535).

Unfortunately, the spiritual power that has fallen upon priests has often been misdirected to serve the church or the interests of clergy, but not the good of the people. So it was only logical that priests and churches should lose prestige. Almost all religions suffered and suffer from inadequate spiritual and human quality - if not from serious misconduct - of many of their servants. If there is a gap between claims and reality, the whole system is in danger!

A truly religious person has to translate his conviction into daily life, to advance on his spiritual path with this inner conviction. Otherwise, a frequently quoted pseudo-question hits the mark with depth: "What is a pastor?" Answer: "A pastor is a person who knows exactly the only right way, teaches this way to ALL, but does not walk it himself."

In spite of all the abuse of church power and all the failures of priests, Christian ethics have been able to do good. In the modern era, it finally provided the basis for an expanded understanding of human rights in the course of the Enlightenment.

Religious power outside of Christianity

In Islam there is no contrast between earthly and religious violence, between emperor and pope, which has shaped the history of Christian Central Europe for centuries. According to a very old ideal, which dates back to antiquity, the most spiritually mature in Islam, the most knowledgeable, should as the caliph - the successor of Muhammad - the spiritual leader and to be earthly ruler. The served as a model Prophet Mohammed; the only founder of a religion who was also a secular ruler and military leader[ii].

Like almost all ideals, this could not be realized in the long term. The caliphs were usually autocratic power politicians who often brutally disregarded the ethics of their religion without being able to be called to order by Islamic dignitaries. The caliphate has been extinguished since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. -

In large parts of Asia, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism rarely gained enough influence to influence the rulers of Asia in the same way that Christianity could influence the Christian princes. Long before Europe, for example, Asia had the rigorous ideas about the exercise of rule that we now brand as "Machiavellian". In Asia it was left to the individual prince to adhere to the ethics of his religion - or not. (Cf. “Brief, succinct, curious” page 92 “Politics without morality: Machiavelli and his prince”).

The human power of Christianity

Is the lack of moderating religious influences perhaps one of the reasons that wars and oppression in Asia or Africa were usually even more cruel and inhumane - and in some cases still are - than in Europe? After all, all approaches to humanization - even of war - came from the Christian West. Examples are: the abolition of witch trials, a ban on torture and corporal punishment, freedom of religion, an end to slavery and serfdom, human rights declarations, the Geneva Convention, the Hague Land Warfare Regulations, the Congo Act, and the Red Cross.

The humanity contained in the message of Jesus was not without effect for two millennia, as this comparison of Europe with other continents shows.

The fact that Europeans were also rigorous conquerors and colonialists, that there were cruel wars and horrific excesses of atheist ideologues in Europe too, cannot refute this statement of the moderating influence of Christian ethics. Because, especially in the West, warning voices from religious people arose again and again, calling on secular and spiritual rulers to a sense of spiritual responsibility. Most of the time these calls faded away without any result. But in the longer term, such admonitions had an impact and contributed to the development of a more humane consciousness. The crimes of the colonialists also did not go unchallenged, and awareness of injustice against slavery, colonial exploitation, religious or racist persecution and other human rights violations grew - at least in the western world. Other regions still have some catching up to do here.

Of course, non-Christian religions - for example Buddhism - also have corresponding ethical values like Christianity and can have a constructive effect in the same way. The ethics of all high religions contain similar requirements for human behavior and for their spiritual development. A fruitful cooperation between the many religions of our world should be possible on this basis. Problems are mainly caused by narrow-minded fundamentalist priests who are tied to their theologies.

If denominations insist on their dogmas irrevocably and do not want to cooperate with other spiritual endeavors, one can doubt that they are concerned with the religious truth, which no one on earth can claim for himself alone.

Answers to the basic questions in life

For answering the basic questions of being human - where do I come from? Where am I going? What's the meaning of my life? - the religions are responsible. Religious teachings start where the sciences end: thus at the border between the material, that which can be proven by physical means, and the spiritual or transcendent, which is only accessible to the innermost part of the human being, to his spirit. Religious experiences are holistic, cannot be grasped with scientific methods, at best they can be collected in documents as experience reports. That is why metaphysics, religiosity, spirituality or theology find it so difficult when they have to be measured against what is physically verifiable. -

Almost all religions have in common the doctrine of the continued existence of the spiritual personality of man after his earthly death. So man is not just his body. The earthly body is the tool, comparable to a diving bell, that the immortal human spirit needs in order to dwell and work in the for it alien environment - on earth.

The belief in survival after death is probably the oldest and certainly the most widespread of all religious teachings. Materialistic models of thought have questioned this belief since ancient times. At the time of Jesus For example, the Sadducees did not believe in survival after death. -

• Where do I come from? - For Asian religions it is a matter of course that the actual personality of the human already existed before the respective earth life. She lived in other (human) bodies on earth, or stayed in finer levels, the so-called hereafter. So a person is not born an innocent baby, a blank slate. When he was born, he already had a wide range of experiences, but also had a lot of burdens.
This “doctrine of reincarnation” was also widespread in the ancient world. It was known to Greek philosophers, the ancient Jews, and the early Christians. Then Judaism, the Christian denominations and Islam displaced this doctrine of repeated earth lives.
* Where am I going? The immortal soul, the spiritual personality of man, existed before it entered its earthly life in another, the beyond, the transcendent world. After leaving her earthly body, she plunges into this other world again for a longer or shorter period of time.
* What is the meaning of life? - For the biological machine, the body, the meaning of life is fulfilled when it has reproduced itself. The chain for survival is secured. Religions and religiosity say, however, that the real meaning of life for the spiritual personality extends beyond being briefly on earth. The spiritual goal of earthly life is the development of the human soul. This, too, must follow a general principle of nature, which demands movement, development and progress from every living being. Abd-ru-shin, the author of the work "In the Light of Truth", says in this regard, a human spirit should expand its insight into the weaving of creation in its current life and reduce possible burdens that are the consequences of failures in this or a previous life. Then his spiritual being will continue building up after his earthly death.

The dilemma of religions

In terms of their origins, religions should form the bridge between "two" worlds: the one on this side, the world of matter, and the other, the "spiritual" world. In other words, between two areas of life that only appear separate due to limited physical awareness.

Avatars acted and act as mediators between these two realms[iii], Hermits, gurus, clairvoyants, messengers of light, monks, mystics, priests, rishis[iv], Shamans, visionaries, wise men, magicians. They all claim to have a deeper insight into the weaving of creation or about contacts with the hereafter. So there is a call to the priesthood about experience of creation knowledge, that eludes theological subtleties - beyond animism (everything is animated or the residence of spirits), pantheism (belief in all gods), polytheism (belief in many gods) or monotheism (belief in one god).

The division of religions into animistic, pantheistic, polytheistic, monotheistic, etc. forms of belief arises only from scientific classifications that have little to do with the true weaving of creation.

Natural beings, counted among the angels in the Christian tradition, look after and cherish animals, plants and rocks. Some clairvoyants may derive an animistic worldview from this.

The laws of creation or natural laws proceeding from God work in nature all over unrestricted - which at first glance can seem like pantheism.

High natural beings may appear to a seer like gods - which establishes a polytheistic understanding of religion.

Finally, monotheism results from the (revealed) knowledge of the almighty, unsubstantial God, from whose will the creations, including natural laws and natural beings, arose.

In any case, the deep problem of all religions lies in the fact that the priesthood is supposed to impart experienced knowledge of creation: A mediator between the spiritual and the earthly must be a spiritual person; preferably a gifted one, chosen by higher powers. Earthly training may be useful and helpful, but it is not sufficient for a spiritual leader. There is also no spiritual training path on earth that only the spiritually called can follow - at least not at present. Whether the high priests of antiquity were able to recognize those chosen for priesthood by higher spiritual beings in the afterlife is a moot point, as is whether it is true that a shaman is called to shamanism by invisible beings or forces[v].

Far higher spiritual qualities are required of a priest than of the average person. If priests cannot meet these requirements, they must fail in the fulfillment of their actual task; their religion is degenerating and losing credibility.

The necessary religious dynamic

Religions tend to be conservative. Their leaders want to receive doctrine and ritual, to pass it on in an unadulterated manner. Approaches to changes, additions and further developments usually meet with resistance. And if an open exchange of ideas or an honest commitment to one's own convictions is hindered, hypocrisy soon blossoms.

A religion does not become more convincing by the continuous repetition of misunderstood ancient wisdom and the quoting of the time-bound statements of authorities. Every generation, every individual, has to discover the basic religious truths for themselves anew, to experience them anew within the framework of their time-related insight. This means that every person is personally responsible for their religiosity.

Religious truths are timeless and universal. Understood correctly, they are consistent with all new, including scientific, knowledge. But each individual, each generation, can only partially grasp the religious truths and can only implement what has been internalized. Religious traditions can offer valuable help in this regard. But they have to be modeled, borne by one's own insight. The respective historical situation, the time the teachings were created, must be taken into account.

No religion is allowed to avoid this constant confrontation with the constantly changing world. Otherwise it becomes alien to life, loses its relation to lived reality and must rightly be asked whether it is still of spiritual use in the present.

As a rule, religious leaders fear spiritual discussions that are unpredictable in their liveliness. Beliefs could be challenged, debates could spiral out of control, and divisions threatened. Then only an outstanding, spiritual leader personality can have an integrating effect and prevent drifting apart.

The further development of a religious doctrine is often blocked out of concern for cohesion. The once living religion then becomes an immovable, bureaucratically administered organization. This exhausts itself in superficial actionism because it has lost its spirituality and cannot fulfill its actual task as a mediator between two worlds.

Spirituality knows no dogmas

The history of religion is a history of successes and especially also of failures. The religious teachers were usually unable to live up to their own claims. The representatives of the religions disappointed, played power politics, held and still hold tenaciously to errors.

But spirituality knows no dogmas. It lives, despite all obstacles. Religious experiences have an effect over centuries - regardless of denominations. The uncertainly handed down words of a Jewish itinerant preacher sent by God in the first century have had a lasting influence on world history for two millennia. This fact alone speaks to the indomitable power of religious feeling and spiritual experience. Because the mind broods and talks, but the spirit of man knows!

In the religious field there is no security, no scientifically proven facts, no objectively demonstrable teachings. What remains, what survives the times, is man's deep longing for truth, for knowledge of God. The real search for truth is a way of spiritual freedom, and thus the opposite of denominational commitment to a dogmatic doctrine with a prohibition of thinking. Truth is extensive and alive. It cannot be captured or defined in councils, and it also has no expiration date.

Each individual is thrown back on himself in his search for truth, has to search inside himself, has to decide - for or against his personal religiosity, for or against the universal claim of materialism, for or against the dogmatics of established doctrines.

The religious realm touches the innermost part of the human being deeply. The disappointments experienced here by unskilled priests or even by charlatans hurt the feeling very painfully. Such profound disappointments, which truth-seeking people often experience, can lead to the rejection of anything religious. The responsibility of all priests, all religious people who stand up for their faith is correspondingly great!

Religion as an antipole to materialism

Where religions are absent, cannot work, or - as in Bolshevik Russia - have been abolished, there is a lack of important, civilizing regulations for our lives:

A vital part of human nature
“Just as a knowledge of the biological function of sexuality cannot destroy a lover's feelings, just as little does a systematic scientific investigation of religious experience in an empirical natural theology have to destroy what one experiences in connection with what he feels as God . The joy that speaks from reports of such experiences is completely different from anything that is called superstition; rather, it is to be brought into connection with love. We must beware of the danger, in our rational zeal to eradicate superstition - and who would deny that it played its part in religious practice of the past? - to stifle the spark of divine feeling, which, rightly understood, could reveal itself as a vital part of human nature: a part which, I am convinced, is as biologically real as sexuality ”.
Hardy Alister Clavering (from the book "Man - the praying animal")

The question of the meaning does not find an answer. From a scientific point of view, the world, nature and life are a meaningless, purposeless and aimless game of chance. Science cannot offer an individual, higher development goal for the spiritual personality of a person. Because the task of living beings, in the Darwinian sense, is limited to producing a sufficient number of viable offspring.

"Man is by nature a religious living being."
Edmund Burke (1729–1797) in "Reflections on the French Revolution"

“The church is not mandated to change the world. But when it does its job, it changes the world. "
Carl Friedrich v. Weizsäcker (1912-2007)

Without a religious basis there is no awareness of responsibility towards the Creator. Genuine religiosity gives rise to indispensable moral maxims that cannot be replaced by state laws or philosophical imperatives. Alexander Solzhenitsyn said: "People have forgotten God, that's where all of this comes from." And further “We are witnessing a forced destruction, be it a voluntary self-destruction of the world. The whole of the 20th century is being dragged into the maelstrom of atheism and self-annihilation " (1).

Materialistic models of thought have largely replaced religious ethics in the 20th century. Did this lack of ethical conviction contribute to the crimes of the Bolsheviks, National Socialists, Maoists, etc.? After all, the great criminals of humanity of the 20th century were all atheists!

Does the lack of a fundamental ethical attitude make itself felt in a destructive way in the 21st century as well? 

Respect for the life of others, of plants, animals, people is a deeply religious concern that has received too little attention in Western cultures, for example. Ecological knowledge cannot adequately replace this spiritual insight, which can already be found in the teaching of Christ.

If religions fail to fulfill their tasks, priests fail, the importance of all living things is not recognized enough, there is no sense of responsibility towards the Creator, the decline of a society is inevitable.

Religions committed to the truth, seriously lived, open to all sides, internalized religions are decisive for the survival of mankind!

The value of a religion or a creed, and the quality of its confessors, can be measured today, as it was two millennia ago, by a Jesus word: "You shall recognize them by their fruit." (Matth. 7, 16).

You can also read "The first steps in the Otherworld" under "History of Religion.

(1) Die Welt, No. 128, Saturday, July 4, 1983.
(2) Fagan Brian M., Aufbruch aus dem Paradies, Beck, Munich 1991.
(3) Hagl Siegfried, In Search of a New Worldview, publisher of the Grail Message Foundation, Stuttgart 2002.
(4) Hagl Siegfried, Der occult Chancellor, self-published, Graefelfing 2000.
(5) Hagl Siegfried, Chaff and Wheat, Gralsverlag, Eggersdorf 2003.
(6) Hardy Alister Clavering, Man - the praying animal, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1979.
(7) Mahlstedt Ina, The Religious World of the Neolithic Age, Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2004.
(8) Müller-Karpe Hermann, History of Worship, Lembeck, Frankfurt 2005.
(9) Ohlig Karl-Heinz, Religion in the History of Mankind, Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2002.
(10) Schaller Fritz P., The Evolution of the Divine, Patmos, Düsseldorf 2006.
(14) .
(15) .
[i] Scientism = the view that all meaningful questions can be answered with scientific methods.
[ii] Except perhaps for Moses, who is not regarded as a historical figure in today's historical research.
[iii] Avatar = the incarnation of a higher being.
[iv] In Hinduism, Rishis are seers or mythical sages.
[v] See. "Shamans in Korea" under "book reviews"