RELIGION OF TRANSCENDENCE
By Uriah J. Fields, M.Ed., M.Div., Ph.D.
By nature, man is a religious being. When we refer to religion in its broadest sense, i.e., as a system of orientation and an object of devotion, then ideally, every human being is religious. There has never been any people yet disclosed in history; whether they were primitive or modern, loutish or sophisticated, who did not have some form of religion. An understanding of what life is all about, however, personal or limited, it may be, is our religion. Everyone has a "weltanschauung" - a world view. This in and of itself is sufficient evidence that man is a religious being. To that we may add worship and adoration.
Not to have religion would mean disorientation for man, hopelessness, a lack of any sense of direction and the inability to distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil. For man to be non-religious would be much like having the innocence of a child embodied in the cruelty of a tyrant, utter chaos, and total victimization. For man to be without religion is a guarantee that he will take his place with the dinosaurs. Man will not perish from the earth because he is religious. He will prevail.
A significant function of religion is to help man find meaning in the universe which all too often is hostile toward him and his interests. Meaning is inherent but it must be discovered for it to be in consciousness and reality. Effective functioning involves the quest for the values of the ideal life, practices for attaining those ideals, and the formulation of a world view which relates the quest to the environing universe.
Forms of Religion
There exists different forms of religion, just as there exists different socio-economic- political systems, such as Capitalism (sometimes called Democracy), Socialism and Communism. Like these systems, religious forms, except for one, are by design, destructive and/or sub-potential-oriented. They do not permit people to live creatively and victoriously. Religion, depending on it's form enslaves or liberates, opiates or expands consciousness, leads to stagnation and death or to salvation and eternal gloriousness. It is singularly the most powerful force possessed by man. Spiritual power is greater than the only other kind of real power that exists, political power.
As a result of our study, research, observation and divine revelation four forms of religion have been isolated. Three of these religious forms found in traditional or conventional religion are attempts man devised to provide him with a way (also an escape, including and escape from freedom,) to make some sense out of the topsy-turvy world in which he lives and to maintain some measure of sanity that enables him to function - although not to live gloriously - and to continue to hope rather than seize the opportunity to embrace and enjoy reality that affords him with myriad possibilities. His hope often amounts to nothing more than hope against hope. Because he is religious, no less than he is physical, he cannot choose to be non-religious any more than he can choose to be non-physical. But just as he can succeed in being physically stunted or obese, he can choose to be a religious "dwarf"- the victim of spiritual inertia - or to be spiritually connected with himself and the Cosmos. Spiritual power cannot be achieved by embracing destructive forms of religion. Destructive forms of religion may have the appearance and give the illusion of spirituality. But it is just that, nothing more... an illusion.
The three forms of religion which breed spiritual dwarfs will only be briefly mentioned. Our primary focus in this discourse is on the fourth form of religion which is more than or beyond a form of religion, as will become evidence in the discussion ahead. It is, indeed, "religion par excellence." As we proceed it is worth bearing in mind a translation of the following scripture found in the Book of Romans which says:
For I bear them record that they have
a form of religion but not according to knowledge... .
Being ignorant of God's righteousness, they have
established their own righteousness.
1. A Religion of Acceptance
A religion of acceptance is a "second-handed," "hand-me-down" and "pass-it-on" religion. Often it is the religion embraced by one's parents, leaders, operators of the educational system, notwithstanding the "separation of State and Church" rhetoric, and the police. These "socializers" usually embrace a religion of acceptance. It could also be called a religion of adjustment.
2. A Religion of Conformity
In a religion of conformity a person follows "good" religious people or the religious majority, some of whom are so heavenly good until they are hardly any earthly good, as far as living the good and righteous life are concerned. A religion of conformity is an attraction for people who seek the path of least resistance, who are without personal conviction or courage, who need papas and mamas (not just to be like them, but who want to be taken care of by them), people who seek to avoid pain even when to do so is to surrender their souls, and people who crave benefits or positive enhancing contingencies that have been arranged for them by the religious agency.
3. A Religion of Rejection
Adherents of a religion of rejection affirm that they are not religious. But that is a lie. They declare themselves to be agnostics or atheists. Their major gospel may be correctly called "the gospel of blasting religion." However, there can be a positive value of a religion of rejection providing, in search for truth, those embracing it are encouraged to embrace the higher form of religion that will be presented next and discussed in some detail. We shall now introduce an alternative form of religion to the three forms that have already been mentioned.
Religion of Transcendence
Having presented three forms of religion that take a person out of the process where the discovery and practice of vital religious experience can be found, let us now turn to a fourth form of religion, one that is in fact, more than a form, and more than an alternative. Unlike other forms of religion, this latter form of religion conforms to both the nature of man and the nature of God.
A religion of transcendence provides a person with an opportunity to discover himself, choose God who has already chosen him and obey God. He chooses God not only because God has more power than he or because of his respect for God, or because of any rational decision or emotional drive, but rather because of the true nature of himself is manifested when his living is a natural expression of God-centered living. In other words, he lives religiously just as the sun shines radiantly on a bright sunny day. In both cases, with man and the sun, it is a matter of being, and the action is automatic or natural. "Personlogical" evidence indicates that it is man's nature to press toward fuller spirituality. He yearns to embrace a religion of transcendence, but to do so he must deliberately and effectively oppose many dehumanizing forces designed to prevent him from achieving spiritual growth. Those who extol political power, numbered among the enemies of freedom, realize that spiritual power is the greatest threat they face. A spiritual person continues working for the liberation of those who are captives. Among the captives are the vast majority of the human population.
A religion of transcendence is what James, the brother, i.e., half-brother, of Jesus called "pure religion," and, in a sense, it is beyond human experience and knowledge. Yet, it involves supra-knowledge and is personal and experiential. It rises beyond, but does not ignore, the notions and meanings of life. Never is meaning more clearly revealed than when a person embraces religion of transcendence. Being the form of religion rooted in love, truth and spirituality, it transcends customs, traditions, ideologies, dogmas and beliefs. It is directed always and in all things by an inner essence that is in every person and has a universal dimension which enables a person to be at one with himself and creation. A religion of transcendence embraces no religious faith in particular in the traditional sense. Yet, a person of this universal faith may subscribe to one of the traditional faiths such as Christianity or Hinduism on a membership or connection level but not in terms of any faith-identification. Commitment to "life in its fullness" cannot be "commitment to a particular religious faith or denomination. "Commitment jitters" prevalent among religionists is the unpleasant consequences experienced by people who made commitments to "forms of religion" or religious systems. The only religious form which cannot be classified as a system is a religion of transcendence. It is a cosmic process which unlike a system is open. Systems are by definition closed and homeostatic. They are geared primarily to keeping themselves functional rather than to responding to spiritual needs of people.
A person may be a Protestant, Catholic, Jew, Hindu, Muslim or an Atheist, in the customary sense of these terms, and still have a religion of transcendence. As inferred earlier, we are now prepared to say that the atheist may be saved by faith. His atheism may arise from commitment to know the truth. His dedication to truth constitutes a relationship with God who is the ultimate and at the same time the whole truth. The atheist is a liar, not in the classic or nominal sense, but in what may be called the semantic sense. Jesus said "it is the truth we know that sets us free."
Traditional faiths, can and often do, make it difficult for a person to experience, i.e., experientially as opposed to belief-directed, a religion of transcendence. Beliefs and dogmas, motivate, if not drive, a person to focus on external support systems which are sometimes erroneously referred to as "faith systems." While this must not be misconstrued to be true faith, it is a felt need or craving found in people who have a "dependency syndrome." In a religious of transcendence a person may acknowledge Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Moses and other Messengers from the past and the present as spiritual guides and bearers of truth. Or, from nature a person may ascertain truth. The recognition that people who embrace eternal truth are not bound by time, location, or circumstance is a cardinal principle of vital religion practiced by religious transcendentalists. They gladly accept the Bible, Bhagavad Gita, Koran, Torah, and other sacred writings with their prophets and spiritual guides esteemed in their writings. They do not consider these writings individually or collectively as the ultimate or final revelation anymore than the Bible is the sum total of the "Word of God." As a matter of fact the Bible only constitutes a portion of the "Word of God." God speaks in many ways and through many things, both seen and unseen.
Progressive revelation, vital in a religion of transcendence, rules out final revelation. God is still at work and at any moment he may choose to reveal what eyes have not seen, ears have not heard about and hearts have not imagined to mortal man. To think otherwise would be comparable to a man leaving his destination, which can only mean he is not going any place. God's purposes are continuing to unfold and nothing prevents a person from seeing God in the now like being fixated on the past.
In a religion of transcendence, the emphasis is not on the faith, i.e., denomination or sect, institution or leader but faith-centered personal commitment and involvement that leads or moves one towards humanness and soul-completion as he participates in the full life process. Faith-centeredness, so much a part of a religion of transcendence, has no relationship or attachment to a religious body such as Catholicism or Judaism" per se." Persons who practice a religion of transcendence are themselves both minister and parishioner; even more important, they are children of God. Or, as Jesus put it "...I call you not servants...but I have called you friends" - friends of God.
A religion of transcendence has no dogmas or creed, except for one and it is not really a creed but a personal affirmation which requires no external validation. The affirmation is: "I have faith in God." A religion of transcendence has no idols or graven images such as a cross or statue. It has no sacred places, inferring that other places are not sacred, such as a church, temple or holy city, because every place is especially sacred and especially good. God made it so. Therefore, one does not have to go to church or to a special place to worship God or to have a religious experience. This is not to say that a person should not go to church. One's life may be greatly enriched by attending church. Different places may not only serve different functions, but be more conducive to a given type or quality of experience. However, what happens to a person often depends on his level of consciousness and his karma, and what he wills, a personal response force at any given time rather than the place. This is another way of saying time is more important than place or if the time is right any place will do. Many people go to church or temple weekly and have graveyard-like experiences. Other people go to neither and experience spiritual health. Some people who attend church are trapped by fear, guilt or something equally controlling. We might call this the religious trap. Jesus spoke of the church only a few times but he spoke frequently about the Kingdom of God. The church should not be misconstrued to be the Kingdom of God. The church is just one sphere of authority under the Kingdom of God. The objective of the church should be to help establish the Kingdom of God.
A religion of transcendence has no gods below the true and only God whom man must contact in order to reach God, not even Jesus, Buddha, or Mohammed. These men and others with Jesus, more than any other person, have revealed to us truth about God that can enable people, like these men, to know God better. Yet, they are not God except that, like all men, they possess divinity. Only God can be God. Those who teach the Trinity or triuneness with reference to God have made a substantial departure from what the Bible teaches. A person, while not being God, can be one with God. And to the degree that he is, in consciousness, he is, in fact, God, in the sense Jesus expressed when he said. "I and the Father are one."
Name above every Name
Speaking of the superior place of Jesus has over other prophets and angels we read:
In the past God spoke to us through
the prophets at many times and in various
ways, but in these last days he has spoken
to us by his Son whom he appointed heir
of all things, and through whom he made
the universe. (Heb. 1:1)
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted
him and given him a name which is above
every name (Phil. 2:10)
Objective of Religion of Transcendence
The supreme objective of a religion of transcendence is to bring man back to God in consciousness. We might say God-man oneness through consciousness, on the part of man, is the purpose of man's sojourn and journey on planet earth.
Although transcendentalists have a deep understanding of a religion of transcendence, their endeavor to communicate that knowledge to others is not sufficient to equal what they know. Perhaps, what accounts most for this difficulty is that a religion of transcendence has to be experienced on a depth level to be known. That depth level is cosmic connection - man and God connected in consciousness. When a person knows that a religion of transcendence means spiritual depth, he knows much about this form of religion. But it is more than experience. When being and what is being experienced are so inseparable, so indistinguishable and the flow and process are one and the same, no less than water and the flow, we can say that experience is a supra-experience. Despite the difficulty in communicating a supra-experience to others and the recognition that words and acts are unnecessary when dealing with a religion of transcendence, presumably because the interaction and relatedness are on a deeper level of consciousness and authenticity than words or symbols can convey or acts describe, there is a need for the faithful to share, rather than just "keep", the faith.
A religion of transcendence is not independent of one's environment; not merely the ability to stand against the environment, to fight it, to neglect it, to turn one's back on it, or refuse it, to adapt to it, or change it for that matter. It has to do with making the one choice which is derived from and in harmony with the naturalness of man - a choice based on unconditional trust in ultimate meaning and unconditional faith in ultimate being which fulfills the individual in the now, but has meaning for all eternity - the eternal now. The expression of heightened consciousness of this magnitude is a gigantic exercise in personal responsibility and faith. It is a meaning-engendered act which affirms existence of unity between the Creator and creation. This is the ultimate achievement and the ultimate good.
To those who would attain this oneness through enlightenment and experience a personal transformation - who embrace destructive forms of religion, and all forms of religion except a religion of transcendence are destructive, including people who deny that they are religious, but without provocation admit that they need God's help; to everyone, who by nature, yearns for spiritual power - health, peace and happiness, ponder, understand and accept this message from Monolimus:
Cease to seek after God (as without thee)
and the universe, and things similar to
these: seek Him from out of thyself and
learn who it is, who once and for all
appropriateth all in thee unto Himself, and
sayeth: "My God, my mind, my reason, my
soul, my body." And learn whence is sorrow"
and joy and love and hate, and walking
though one would not, and sleeping though
one would not, and getting angry though
one woud not, and falling in love though one
would not. And thou shoudest closely inves-
tigate these things, thou wilt find Him in
thyself, one and many, just as the atom,
thus finding from thyself a way out of thy-
Practice Religion of Transcendence
Nearly two thousand years ago there was a man named James who was a brother (half brother) of Jesus, author of the New Testament "Epistle of James" and head of the Church of Jerusalem. He had a definitive cost-to-pay, "par excellence" message on faith and religion. Speaking about faith he said, "Faith without works is dead," and commenting on religion he said, "Pure religion...is this: To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." One day this saint saw a man walking around the central Church of Jerusalem, "Look," he said, "It is quite a good thing that you walk around a church building. But it would be better to practice religion"
"Well, I have better read a holy book then" the man said to himself, and so he started laboriously reading from a book till one day James happened to see him again.
"Reading from a holy book is no doubt very good," James said "But it would be better still if you would practice religion."
And the man thought: Even recitation is no good, how about prayer?"
Before long, James saw him in prayer and said, "It is no doubt very good to pray. But it would really be better if you would practice religion."
"Please, what then do you mean by practicing religion?" the bewildered man replied.
"Turn your mind away from the worldly forms of religion," James told him. Continuing he said, "Turn your renewing mind toward pure religion."
When you understand the meaning of the massage James presented in this story, you have a grasp of what a religion of transcendence is and you know intuitively why it is a form of religion - pure religion - but at the same time, transcends both form and religion. And you demonstrate, in practice, your acceptance of the mandate, especially intended for those who aspire to become, and those who are, religious transcendentalists. The mandate is "Be you transformed by the renewing of your mind," which is the supreme act of faith, and which along when expressed is fully sufficient and victorious in every situation. In a word, faith is man acting in harmony with God in the eternal now.
We end this summary, as we began this discussion, with religion. Religion is the connector and/or conduit by which man discovers and maintains centeredness. It is the God-consciousness process which engenders meaning in man's life and provides a moral or ethical basis for human existence. Both meaning and morality are necessary for man because he has a soul. He is, in fact, the only soul-being in the universe. Although the soul is eternal, it is sustained through nurturing. Without nurturing it dies a spiritual death. For the living death of the soul is more like being comatose than being physically dead. It is existence in contrast to living. A prime function of religion is to nurture the soul and, of course, in that that process, contribute to soul-completion.
A religion of transcendence is not geared to heredity and environment or cause and effect, as is the case with other forms of religion. It transcends form and religion, as well as those factors and forces which we hold to be supernatural by redefining them and disregarding illusions about them. In a religion of transcendence doing is manifested becoming and simultaneously in being becoming ceases, at least for the moment. Examples of religion of transcendence transcending cause and effect are: the Hebrew children thrown in the fiery furnace and not being burned, Daniel put in the lion's den and not being attacked by lions and Jesus having been put to death and buried, but rising alive from death and the grave.
Embracing a religion of transcendence enables the person to live all he can now, abide in the full life process, be unattached, and be free of goals and abide in the cosmic flow. Pursuing, striving, believing and working at are not necessary or of value in the acquisition or maintenance of a religion of transcendence. Working at a religion of transcendence simply does not work. Rather it is achieved through the exercise of personal faith. Nothing is more idiosyncratic and strictly personal than a person's faith. The Apostle Paul was speaking in this vain when he said, "The just shall live by faith." Faith, unlike believing, assent, and knowing, is a transcendent quality which, without ignoring or disregarding the environment and the psychic state supersedes these factors and operating from the spiritual dimension responds to the ultimate need to be one with God. Faith is manifested in a religion of transcendence in truth and love and because a religion of transcendence is a matter of faith which by nature claims utimacy, it is the only practical and ultimate solution to the problem of existence, hence of fulfillment and the cosmic union of man and God.
The Lord Bless You and Keep You.
I came to the keeper of the gate and
I said to him, Give me a light that I
may venture out into the darkness.
And he said to me, "Put your hand
into the hand of God and it shall be
for you better than light and safer
than a known way." And I put my
hand into the hand of God and he
is a lamp to my feet and a light for
my path." May the Lord bless you
and keep you in your lying down
and in your rising up; in your
going out and in your coming in.
May he make his face to shine
upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the Lord lift up his
countenance upon you and
give you peace now and forever.
The article above, "Religion of Transcendence,"
in part, is taken from the 259 page book:
"Religion Par Excellence," by Uriah J. Fields.
To order your copy of "Religion Par Excellence"
send $9.95 plus $3.50 for shipping per copy,
check or money order, payable to: Uriah J. Fields.
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Copyright 2014 by Uriah J. Fields