The challenges to which religion is exposed

How to favour a natural process of evolution from the pre-rational to the rational? That is to say, from the archaic-instinctive (0.1% of the population) to the magical-animist (10% of the population) to the mythical; from the mythical (60% of the population) to the rational; how to favour natural evolution from the rational (30% of the population) to the trans-rational; from the trans-rational (12% of the population) to the state of Fundamental Unity and full realization of human potential?

And this, based on an exquisite respect for all forms of religious and cultural life. In other words, how to manage the different needs and relationships between the many humanities that make up Humanity? We encounter two great challenges: Inter-religious confrontation and the confrontation between religion and modernity.

A) Inter-religious confrontation

History is plagued by wars of religion. Even today, the daily news does not shake with interreligious wars or confrontations between followers of different religions that leave an impressive number of dead, wounded and a trail of hatred and violence.

This conflict takes place, in fact, between horizontal religiosities, based on beliefs, and not between vertical religiosities, based on the experience of transcendent Unity. Those who have different beliefs are confronted with the conviction that the belief of each of them is true, and the other is false. In addition, it is important to realize that most confrontations between supporters of different religions do not occur strictly for religious reasons but for economic, political, and territorial reasons – that is, for the pursuit of power – for which “the religious” is only an excuse and a cover used by Machiavellian leaders who manipulate the masses of believers.

Conflict between people who have experienced the Oneness underlying diversity is impossible by definition and by nature. Whatever the path by which it has been reached, the experience of Oneness is the experience of Oneness. There are no two experiences of two different Units. There is a single experience of a single unit. People who practice a vertical religiosity open their hearts to the whole. And the totality includes the followers of other spiritual paths.

The struggle between religions is therefore only at the level of religiosity based on pre-rational beliefs, a spiritual state in which, as we have seen, 70% of the world’s population is found.

B) The confrontation between religion and modernity

The conflict between the religious and the rational is still far from resolved. Although it is very important to realize that this conflict actually occurs between a horizontal religiosity based on belief and reason, not between vertical religiosity and reason. The experience of transcendent Oneness is trans-rational, not pre-rational, that is, it includes rational vision.

The rational vision first emerged in human history around the 5th century BC, both in classical Greece with the early Greek philosophers and in India with Sakiamuni Buddha. However, both rationalities took different paths: the Greek philosophers focused on the nature of the objective physical world, while the Buddha applied rational analysis to the subjective mental world.

Greek rationalist philosophy would give rise to scientific thought and technology, while Buddhist rationalism would give rise to a profound knowledge of human consciousness and a highly developed spiritual technology.

Even after its emergence in an elite of humans, rationalism continued to be surrounded by a population largely anchored in beliefs and superstitions, whether magical-animistic or mythical.

The destruction of the library of Alexandria marked an enormous halt in the evolution of rational-scientific thought. It would be followed by a thousand years of obscurantism – low and high Middle Ages – during which a religiosity based on mythical beliefs ruled the Christian West.

The Renaissance represented a new emergence of the rational -an evolutionary unstoppable emergency. The physical sciences and mathematics gained momentum. The emergence of positivism and rationalism as philosophies drove the development of scientific thought and its technical applications. With the ideals of the French Revolution, the individual manages for the first time to free himself politically from the yoke of the dictatorship of myth and to place individuality at the centre of social, political and religious life. With the Industrial Revolution, scientific thought and its technological applications burst onto the scene and became the guiding values of Western societies from then on and up to the present day,

According to data from Don Beck and Christopher Cowan, although only 30% of the world’s population has settled at the scientific-rational level, their share of power is 50%. And it is to be expected, and hoped, that both rates will only increase in the present century.

Despite this, post-modernity has brought about a crisis of the “rational” and many observers have the impression that the irrational – the magical and the mythical – is breaking through our societies once again. In my view, this crisis of the rational is healthy because it marks the end of the rationalist dictatorship’. This dictatorship was supported by the following budget: Everything that is not rational is irrational, that is to say, pre-rational, therefore, regressive’.

As I have already pointed out, this attitude restricts and represses any possibility for human beings to access levels of transcendent consciousness, limiting a yearning and an impulse inherent in human nature. Rationalism, still a form of first-degree knowledge, is incapable of achieving a global vision of the complexity of human consciousness. Rationalism can only see from the point of view of reason, but not beyond. And this is precisely the Gordian knot because pure and hard rationalists do not even conceive or accept the possibility that there is anything beyond reason.

The conflict between mythical religiosity and reason is a conflict between two forms of thought of the first degree, each of which is incapable of recognizing and valuing the importance of the other: the exclusive mythical religiosity – which for centuries has dominated the landscape in the West and continues to dominate it in many other non-western societies – comes into conflict with the exclusive rationality. It is this intolerant rationality that has entered into crisis with post-modernity.

However, post-modernity has also brought us good and great news: the emergence of a new level of thought, which we might call relativistic-multicentric (see the beginning of this paper). With this new level, already in the second grade, there is a great opportunity to reconcile hitherto conflicting visions.