The Religious Life

When you are faithful, to say what is fitting is not of greater value than to listen.  –  The Sentences of Sextus

This is to be a short treatise, a handbook for those who seek participation in the form of the Good.  It is but one of myriad offerings to those in this pursuit, and I seek that its brevity, scope, and syncretic aim might set it apart, though I find that even without such merit or appeal, I am nonetheless unavoidably inclined to its authorship. Perhaps it will remain only a small reminder for myself, but I could think of no reason to maintain it privately, for though small, a costless potential to benefit others is worth actualizing.

In this work, one shall find no final refutation, nor any ultimate argument, nor perhaps even any new assertion.  It is an attempt at brief synthesis, demarcating broadly and plainly that system of belief which has been developed in this one man’s pursuit of truth.  These are words and thoughts that have served me well, and I wish to put them forth in one concise volume that they may continue in their good service with others.

You shall not tell me by languages and titles a catalogue of the volumes you have read.  You shall make me feel what periods you have lived.  A man shall be the Temple of Fame.  He shall walk, as the poets have described that goddess, in a robe painted all over with wonderful events and experiences – his own form and features by their exalted intelligence shall be that variegated vest…He shall be the priest of Pan, and bring with him into humble cottages the blessing of the morning stars and all the recorded benefits of heaven and earth.  –  Emerson, History

Religious study must not become a desolate landscape of unheeded words and endless, meaningless reinvestigation of that which is already well understood.  This is a travesty, for the religious life is, if nothing else, a vital, vigorous pursuit of righteousness, far from such stifling nonsense.  One must not only listen and speak, but one must partake in the truth through the exercise of every available faculty.  To take up cloak and club, following in the steps of mighty Heracles, and mould this life into a radiant tower of virtue, this is the ultimate piety, and nothing less.

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.  –  James

One must live in the knowledge that God is watching and one must spend the precious moments of one’s life accordingly, for it is by these means that one is known to be religious.  To argue for the goodness of God and the necessity and sufficiency of virtue in word alone is to do a tremendous disservice to any audience unfortunate enough to be subjected to such hypocrisy.  Rather, one must practice more strongly than one ever shall preach. The ultimate argument for religion shall transcend propositions and reason as the valiant life lived in accordance therewith.

Laozi said:  The vital essence of mind can be influenced spiritually but cannot be guided by talk.  –  Wenzi

It is the radiance of the righteous life by which one may effect the greatest change in the world.  This focus on the primacy of life over any accompanying text arises from clear understanding, for religious virtue is not the product of any particular learned treatise or noble act, but rather it is the cause thereof.  It is this connection between mankind and the divine cause which must be cultivated, not the texts which naturally grow from it.

Insofar as religious writing has value, it attests to this fundamental truth.  The works of all cultures can be judged by their relationship to the universal divine Mind which brings about all their creation.  Every culture I have studied displays awareness of this fundamental reality.

Now when God fashioned human beings, he planted in them emotions and inclinations, but at the same time he enthroned the mind among the senses as a sacred governor over them all.  To the mind he gave the law; and one who lives subject to this will rule a kingdom that is temperate, just, good, and courageous.  –  4 Maccabees

And so the religious life demands of its constituents no particular text or event.  The awareness and power of God is offered to every creature possessed of Mind equally.  Though wise words and histories of heroic lives stand as inspiration and encouragement for those who come upon them, there is no need for any understanding or conviction beyond that primal, simple faith in the Mind which sends every creature on its Way.  Religion is a matter of faithful devotion to the natural life rightly lived, for by nature, man channels the virtuous movements of Mind.

At the end of argument, that which ought to be is derived from that which is not by reason, but by a necessary and rationally justified faith in the divinity of Mind.

Understand who God is, and understand who thinks within you; a good person is God’s good work.  – The Sentences of Sextus

From that faith sprouts a virtuous accord which earns for that Mind the peace of righteousness, and it is therein that God is revealed to mankind.  Just beyond the boundary of comprehension, religion is earned for those who seek, for the nature of creation is a connection with that soul in whose power mankind partakes, that Celestial Mind in whose movement all is found.  It is a relationship which every creature shares with that only force any of them shall ever know to be free.  The Prime Mover moves of its own accord; it is the source of the Law, action, and consequence, and it is intimate in the hearts of the righteous.

He who devotes himself to God, is God. – Kabir

This is the foundation of religion.  It is but emphasis on the core of Cynic, Stoic, and Neoplatonic philosophy, that the very nature of mankind is holy.  It is emphasis on the core of Daoic thought, for one is to act without contrivance, joining with that flowing power of creative spontaneity within.  It is an emphasis on the core of Buddhist thought, which seeks to eliminate desire so as to leave only the unperturbed Buddha Nature, the One Mind of Huang Bo.  It is an emphasis on the core of Abrahamic thought which holds aloft righteousness, the imitation of God, as the greatest aim of man.

Everywhere a blameless life, pleasing to the Mind of God, is sought.  This alone is the aim of the religious, and it is an incontestable faith, and not reasoned argument, which is its essence.

Those divinely possessed and inspired have at least the knowledge that they hold some greater thing within them though they cannot tell what it is; from the movements that stir them and the utterances that come from them they perceive the power, not themselves, that moves them: in the same way, it must be, we stand towards the Supreme when we hold the Intellectual-Principle pure; we know the divine Mind within, that which gives Being and all else of that order: but we know, too, that other, know that it is none of these, but a nobler principle than anything we know as Being; fuller and greater; above reason, mind and feeling; conferring these powers, not to be confounded with them.  –  Plotinus, The Enneads

There shall be no explanation of this Prime Mover.  We know it cannot be understood, and yet its presence is made apparent by the conditions of experience and existence.  As the ultimate cause, it must transcend reason, for reason cannot beget reason.  It is on this account that religion, that faith in the divinity of Mind, is ultimately the foundation of all human enterprise.

Now all I do is put in motion the heavenly mechanism in me ‑ I’m not aware of how the thing works.  –  Zhuangzi, Autumn Floods

And that faith is far from ignorance, for it requires neither a foolish dismissal of fact nor a stubborn rejection of that which is plain and obvious.  Rather, it is an acknowledgment of that which is plain and obvious to each and every conscious being;  it is the loving embrace of that irrefutable and irresistible freedom of will on which rests knowledge itself.  Try as one might, it is a divinity which cannot be denied.  And once accepted, the faith of the religious is a conviction that the movement of God provides philosophers with the final answer they seek not by word or proposition, but with the peace of righteousness, itself.

We human beings take up our lives to offer in part that experience by which the character of God, the nature of Mind in which we partake, shall be judged.  We put ourselves on trial in place of the Lord of Being who cannot be so tried, that the justification of our Way is found by faithful engagement with that force through which all creation is joined in a Divine Unity.  We are myriad organs of God, that Over-Soul which extends its force of Mind into creation, shaping and moving it in inquiry thereby.

So set your face to the upright religion, the primordial nature which God has instilled in man.  –  The Holy Koran

Required of these lives is something like an intensity of focus, a drive hardly conveyed in language.  To those who partake thereof, transcending cause and effect, joining with that which is mysterious and obscure to human understanding, it is Allah, the Way, Holy Zeus, Buddha Nature, the One and Divine Mind of Plotinus, God, spread in repose, handing down Heaven’s Gifts.

It is not merely a possibility which is entertained, but a faithful hypothesis born of experience itself, that God is immanent and real, yet ineffable.  Those religious experiences which I would have been reluctant to share had it not been for the zeal which they inspired in me I shall finally admit to be without meaningful critique.  To let go of one’s fear that it is naught but foolish or willful ignorance on which turns this experience we share with those myriad heroes of history, and to instead see it to be a metaphysical intimation at the root of consciousness itself, here I am convinced one will find enlightenment.  Now, on the shoulders of giants, I see.  In line with the trajectory of Confucius, I find I am firmly established.

Say in your heart that whatever you do well, God does. – The Sentences of Sextus

And so if nothing else, let this short treatise be an exhortation to the holy life of virtue.  As God’s viceroys, it is we who have the power to create and control.  It is we who take the helm of the world and follow that injunction of autonomy which the righteous cannot neglect.  It is we who experience in this microcosm the justification of creation in the eyes of God, and it is us through whom the justification must be warranted.

We must expend of that which is provided, and come to be possessed of Mind as a result.  As a river’s bed is made soft and fertile by nature, so too shall a perfect character be honed by the holy waters of Mind.  The ultimate answer offered to the understanding is a peace, a happiness for which nothing less than virtue shall do, enjoyed by the righteous who stand for God through the power provided thereby.

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