As we approach the conclusion of this series of lectures, Hazrat Inayat Khan here explains that, while the body of religion requires periodic renewal, the divine life which renews it is always the same. The previous post in the series may be found here.
Very often people divide the esoteric or inner part of life from the exoteric or outer form of religion. But although to divide them in a conception is possible, to divide them in reality is like separating the head from the body. As the head linked with the body makes the form complete, so religion together with inner life makes the spiritual ideal perfect.
Nevertheless, the thoughtful of all ages, with their philosophical minds, with their scientific tendencies, with their intellectual strife, often thought of separating religion from the inner life, but when they are separated, it is just like bread without butter, it is like milk without sugar, it is like food without salt. And the reason why this tendency often appears, especially among thoughtful people is a natural one. When life leaves the body, even those who loved the one who died begin to think that they should bury the body as soon as possible, for the one whom they loved is gone from it, and what is left is only a corpse. And so when the inner life, which is just like the breath in the body of religion, departs from it, then the religion becomes like a dead body; then even its most faithful adherents begin to feel that it is a corpse.
In all ages and in all periods of history we notice that there has been a limit to the number of years that a religion has lasted. During that time the religion prospered and was of benefit to humanity. Why? Because it had breath, it had spirituality. But when that inner life departed, it was left like a corpse. Still the faithful kept to it, but those with intelligence could not do so any longer.
As the rain falls year after year, and gives new life and new sustenance to the earth, so it became necessary that the new message of spiritual upliftment should come. But whenever it has come, people have fought against it, not knowing that it is the same truth, the same breath, the same soul of religion that had come again, not understanding the secret of religion. The rainfall of last year is not different from this year’s; it is the same water, the same sustenance, the same energy. As vapor it rises and as raindrops it falls. It has always been the same message, only brought in different bottles and with new labels.
The most important philosophical point in religion is that, besides all the moral principles and ethics that religion teaches, there is the central theme which can be traced as the nature of life, of spirit, and that is to make the perfect Being intelligible to the limited mind of man. To do this the ideal of God is preached. The central theme of every religion which the messengers have brought was the God-ideal, and every one of them has tried his best to make a picture of that ideal, in order that the people of that time could easily grasp it and benefit by it, to fulfil the purpose of spiritual perfection.
It is true that the different pictures that the great prophets of the world have drawn very often differ from one another. But one finds that in order to make one clear photograph there have to be many different processes; a plate has to be made and has to be developed, and then the picture is transferred to paper; then it is touched up, and all these different processes go to make a photograph complete. And so it has been with those who have tried to make a picture of the Deity, a picture which cannot be made fully, because it is beyond man’s power to do so. They have done their best; artists have painted that picture. When three artists paint the portrait of one person, the three pictures are different. They only differ because they are different artists; and so it is with the prophets, though all have one and the same motive: to make that picture intelligible to the limited mind of man, who only knows what he knows about himself and about his fellow-man. Thus the best picture he can make of God is that of a man.
In the ancient religions of the East, God was first pictured in the form of man; then in the pictures of later days man was pictured as God. After that came a reformation by which man and God were separated in order to break with the confusion caused by these two opposite ideas, that God was man and man was God.
But the present message, which comes from the need of humanity, is that God is in man and man in God, and yet God is God and man is man.
To be continued…