Work of Consciousness

Is religion good?

Three things we might mean by religion:

1) The spiritual practice of the founder of the religion (say, Christ)

2) A community for people as they individually practice what Christ practised

3) A group identity of a we which is experienced as the most advanced and best mode of life because it has the right answers.

(1) is great. Contrary to deflationary views, which claim that someone like Christ was just a good person, (1) invovles the personal journey of each person to develop their cosmic awareness. This is not simply being nice. It is to expand and evolve one’s consciousness.

(2) is good. Humans are social beings and sharing the ups and downs of one’s life practices and goals is healthy and healing. This is church at its best.

(3) is bad. Nothing worthy about it. And is in fact just the kind of group awareness (1) is meant to grow beyond.

Most arguments about religion, between atheists and theists, focus on (3). Nothing is gained from participating in such debates. It only keeps one’s consciousness rooted at the level of group identity.

Focus entirely on (1). At times, if you feel the need, engage in (2) as an aid to (1). Forget about (3), and forget about getting into debates re (3).

Transcend the mode of a we set against another we. Starve that impulse within oneself. Dedicate your self entirely to (1).

Be with christ. That is more important than debating the value of this or that religion, or religion and atheism.

Abstract debate doesn’t mean one has transcended to a higher conscisousness. Usually it is a more refined form of a lower consciousness.

Move beyond debate. Do the personal work of consciousness.

2 thoughts on “Work of Consciousness”

  1. Your general point is compelling, but the term “religion” seems more elusive.

    > 1) The spiritual practice of the founder of the religion (say, Christ)

    Religious practice today has often little to do with the spiritual practice of the founder, or rather, there has always been active debate about how to make the practices relevant to the times.
    For example: Buddha & Buddhism. The practice and beliefs of Mahayana Buddhism are different from what the Buddha originally taught, and are in fact the main contention between Theravada and Mahayana communities. Even with Taoism — the practices in contemporary Taoist temples are as far removed from Tao Te Ching as the Kumbh Mela is removed from the monastic contemplativeness of the Upanishads.

    I think the distinction you are drawing is between (a) following the rituals of a religion, and (b) orienting oneself inwardly, like a compass trying to always point north. Both of these are compatible and can complement each other, but my reading of various traditions is that the founders often urged their followers to not get blinded by (a) at the expense of (b). cf. “The Sabbath was made for Man, not man for the sabbath”; Shankara’s Bhaja Govindam (first verse). There seems to something in human nature that is always attracted to the comfort of rules, structure, social order, belongingness which in turn can become rigid and brittle. The challenge for a spiritual practitioner is to find for themselves, and hold on to, the freshness and expansiveness of the founder’s vision.


    1. Definitely. It’s like trying to read War and Peace for a class without substituting reading just the cliff notes of the book. There is the experience of reading War and Peace and the ups and downs that involves as a literary, philosophical experience. And then there are the practical benefits of doing well in the class. In the classroom these two modes are experienced together, and so it can become hard to know how to balance them. There is no one answer, or one clear path. Just like orienting oneself inwardly and following a religion. When one is at a temple, and feels the communal bond with others temple-goers, that can feel very similar to a sense of transcending the ego – and yet it is not the same as feeling connected to the universe. There are different modes of feeling connected to others, and it takes some self examination and caution to not feel like “I have got it, and can help others! And faith looks like this, not like that!”


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