The contribution of religion
As a backdrop for what I have to say about religion in the New Age, I would like to begin with a few words about religion in the old Piscean Age. First, it is important to remember that religion in this past age has helped many individuals, and I am one of those who has been a recipient of the benefits of this individualistic religion. The Piscean Age religion has produced many truly outstanding religious leaders, from Jesus and His disciples to, in our own time, Albert Schweitzer and Martin Luther King.
Too often, though, religion in the past has not operated on this high level. All too frequently it has been crystallized, dogmatic, and even condemnatory. Recall that Jesus once asked, ''If your son asks for bread, would you give him a stone? And if he asks for fish, would you give him a scorpion?'' Yet, sadly enough, that is what has sometimes happened in religion in the past. People have come hungry for the bread of life and have been given the stone of argumentation and disputation. They have come asking for the fish of wisdom and sometimes received the scorpion of damnation and threats of hell.
So as we stand in the dawn of this New Age, some are saying: ''Religion ---- who needs it; away with it; let's have done with all that claptrap.'' And if religion really consisted of such claptrap, divisive and dogmatic authority, most of us here would undoubtedly join the chorus. But listen to the Master DK's definition of religion: ''Religion is the invocative appeal of humanity and the evocative response of the Greater Life to that cry.''
To me, this means that religion in the New Age will be ---- and to some extent is already becoming ---- a vital, inner, subjective approach to the hidden divinity within ---- our true nature, plus an answering response from that light, love and power which is the One Life and within which we live and move and have our being.
The Tibetan Master DK also says that the typical prayer and worship of the past is to be replaced by the science of invocation and evocation in the religion of the New Age. The fact is that worship services ---- as we have called them in the past ---- have involved, first of all, the idea that we are trying to contact a God who is external to us ---- out there some place ---- and that the way to make this contact is by doing homage before him: ''Let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before Jehovah our Maker.'' The idea behind that worship was that the way to in-duce the divine majesty to pay attention to us and save us was to placate His wrath and prostrate ourselves before him. If successful we might then prevail upon him to turn His face toward us, smile on us and set aside His stern laws to help us.
The psychological accompaniments and outer trappings supporting this idea included the typical formal church with its hard pews and kneeling places, with all the people facing in one direction toward the place of external authority ---- a high altar, a high pulpit. Thus the lowly worshipper had to look up to the berobed and decorated authority figure ---- priest, pastor, prelate or rabbi ---- expounding external authoritative teachings gleaned from the Bible, Pope or Torah, telling the poor sinners what they must believe and what they must not believe; what they must do and what they must not do; how they must dress and wear their hair and the like.
An extreme picture? Yes, in some cases it is a very extreme picture for, as I said earlier, religion at its best in the old age helped many people. But if you have heard stories like the one from my own part of the world, where a prelate in our enlightened Southern California denied communion to women who be-longed to certain organizations stressing women's rights, you might think that the picture I have painted is not so extreme after all.
It should be clear now why the Tibetan says our outmoded worship and our authoritative dogmas need to be superseded by a new kind of gathering. A gathering to invoke light, love and divine will (power), thus evoking or calling forth from the divinity within and beyond us all the enlightenment, love-wisdom, and power-for-good that this world desperately needs, and for which we all hunger.
Thankfully, the first buds of this new springtime of religion are already to be seen in some places ---- places where religious groups are no longer calling their gatherings 'worship' but rather festivals and celebrations. I am grateful for the wide-spread celebration of the three linked festivals of Easter, Wesak and Humanity. And I am thankful for the monthly festivals at or near full moon times celebrated all over the world. Also, many such groups are no longer sitting in fixed straight rows looking at the back of all the people ahead of them, looking up, striving to catch inspiration from an authority figure high above them imposing his ideas on the weary audience.
Now we develop group leadership and we sit in circles more conducive to the flow of the group energies. We search within for the liberating truth, finding the strength and joy which send us forth in service to the Spiritual Hierarchy through service to our sisters and brothers ---- our fellow seekers. People sometimes ask how you can arrange very large groups in circles. Well, they knew how to do that in ancient Rome and they even know how to do that today in our modern sports stadiums.
So religion in the New Age, as it shakes off the chains of external authority, divisive doctrines and outmoded worship; as it learns the science of invocation and evocation; as it tunes in to the full moon opportunities in festivals throughout the year; as it increasingly develops group leadership and Soul consciousness; as it helps prepare the way for the reappearance of the Universal Christ; as it does all this, religion in the New Age will be making a contribution far greater than we can envision here and now.
The big question is: how many religions of today are open-minded enough, or can become flexible enough, to make this great change? How many will be left behind with a fossilized and dead shell of an old religion which is fit only for burial? Are you and I ready? Are we fully enough ready to be actually moving out of the old dead forms into the new vitality? Are we sowing the seeds of the New World Religion wherever we can?
There is one who points out to us that when we sow good seed some will fall on the hard-beaten path where it has no chance at all, and some will fall on shallow soil or among thorns where weeds and thorns will grow up and choke off the new growth. But some seed will fall in good soil and bear fruit ---- thirty fold, some sixty fold and some even a hundred fold. So let us be at work sowing the seeds of the religion of the New Age.
Today a wonderful thought in this new dawn is being given if we can tune in to it, and the thought is this: that a secret Plan is hidden in our groups and in our group consciousness; that our groups are big in purpose, big in potential, big because of this Plan; and that God, who dwells within us and our groups, knows and progressively reveals this secret Plan of things He will do for the world using our group consciousness, our hands, our heads, and our hearts.
This article is a chapter from The Joy of Christ's Coming. This book by the late Rev. Howard Ray Carey was published by Share International Foundation in 1988. It is not currently available in hard copy form. Copyright © Share International Foundation. Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard version unless otherwise indicated.
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