Religion ‘To Come’
By Jeet Bhattacharya
10 December, 2015
Then Yama told Nachiketa “Don’t ask for Self-Knowledge; ask for some other boon.”
Man seeks knowledge about self to traverse the corporeality of everything worldly. Only God is outside the realm of such corporeality. But can human get a firsthand knowledge of God? He who made everything from ‘word’ to ‘will’! Man’s seeking of self knowledge is the urge for charting out his position in this world.He does so to become more than himself. And he, who is made in the image of ‘God’, also wants to be a part of him, the ‘God’ himself. This desire of mankind, to search for self-knowledge is the desire to be at proximity with God. Thus is the foundation of religious belief.
The nature of religion is to claim for itself a status of permanence, which amidst the temporality of human world, will endure. It is grounded on our basic nostalgia for a return to the archaic. This sense of return, a projection of past in future, a trans-historicality, sustains religion through the corrosive path that time thrusts upon it. Histories’ processes are of derision and man looks for a respite. He thinks only God can salvage and an Apostle shows the way to him. Thus human imagination in conjunction with time is congealed as religion. It gives him an identity to face the fragmentation of the present time. The religious man, now armed with a doctrine, which is congealed through the structures of present, wishes to overcome his humanly finitude. He seeks not to get chained, whether by his body or the place where he exists. He struggles to become what he is not. But the gradual unfolding of historical laws overcomes his desire to transcend himself. In this stalemate situation religion provides the ammunition to fight the ascendency of historical laws. Thus religion retorts.
The main basis of religion is rested on the idea of sacred. But in present, this primary accord between religion and sacred is broken. On the other hand the link between sacred and its relation with Mother Nature is totally obliterated. Mother Nature is no more the guiding principle of the populace. It was in past when everything seemed pristine. So the idea of sacred, which is based on Mother Nature, is itself based on separation from nature. In this situation, man’s quest for self knowledge through religion becomes utopic. His urge for religious experience leads him towards paradoxical and impossible goal.
In a sense religion is the lost reminiscence of the sacred and also the oppressor in the name of permanence, which is being outmoded by exterior laws. The process of modernity detaches man from nature and also from his contextual situation which we call alienation. But these contextual situations are also natural if not directly emanating from nature. This historical and cultural detaching founds modernity and its ‘natural’ environs. These sort of alienation is the root of man’s depression and a feeling of possible risk, of extinction,fore-grounds his belief in apocalypse. The free-falling of grace is the foundation of religious belief and apocalyptic reason arms him. Violently he seeks justice; whether from oppressive modern paraphernalia or immoral debauchery. Religion thus becomes a sort of ‘protective’ system against the perils of history and culture.
In our post-industrial society we constantly struggle to transcend the technological valorisation of the world. We strive to get respite from ‘instrumental reason’.The risk of losing oneself is permanent here. But there is a difference how a modern man and person afflicted in pre-modern beliefs responds to it. But to state is philosophically, this ‘pre’ of pre-modern is also the ‘pre’ of pre-history or ‘pre-fall’ of mankind described in Bible’s first chapter Genesis. It was the time of Mother Nature, before the subjective development of man. At this moment ; mankind is emotionally not independent from Nature. It signifies a past when Adam was not conscious about his nakedness. But what about us? We are the conscious lot, and unconscious are they, the so-called fanatics fighting the debauchery of reason. Can’t there be a reconciliation between these two factions at war with the other? The ‘Us’ and ‘Them’? Perhaps when we find a common point to believe in and fight for. When the guiding principle will not be ‘God’ or anthropogical ‘Man’, or technological ‘communication’ of post-industrial world, but a shout from the morgue of humanity…
There is truth, there is faith, there is god
They differ in something
And are united in the rest
Some people are ruined by flesh
Others are saved by it
Unbelief is blindness
But more often swinishness
Jeet Bhattacharya (an ex-MPhil scholar from JNU)