All human endeavors and attempts to understand and evolve, must follow the basic process of Nature outlined in preceding posts. Religious development provides an example of this process and the issues attendant upon it. It must be recognised however that in highlighting this process with respect to religion, it is not meant to imply that it is only religious activity that is subject, rather, it is used purely as an illustration.
“It is evident that the first beginnings of religion must be crude and imperfect, its development hampered by mixtures, errors, concessions to the human mind and vital part which may often be of a very unspiritual character. Ignorant and injurious and even disastrous elements may creep in and lead to error and evil; the dogmatism of the human mind, its self-assertive narrowness, its intolerant and challenging egoism, its attachment to its limited truths and still greater attachment to its errors, or the violence, fanaticism, militant and oppresive self-affirmation of the vital, its treacherous action on the mind in order to get a sanction for its own desires and propensities, may very easily invade the religious field and baulk religion of its higher spiritual aim and character; under the name of religion much ignorance may hide, many errors and an extensive wrong-building be permitted, many crimes even and offences against the spirit be committed. But this chequered history belongs to all human effort and, if it were to count against the truth and necessity of religion, would count also against the truth and necessity of every other line of human endeavor, against all man’s action, his ideals, his thought, his art, his science.”
The historical facts of “religious warfare”, “heresy”, “Holy Inquisition”, “holocaust”, “excommunication”, “witch hunts”, human sacrifice, abuse and suppression, persecution of various types all speak to the struggles that religion has had to overcome the darkness, obstruction and obscure beginnings from which it arose.
As religion begins to address these narrow and dark motives and actions, we see the light for which religion strives begin to assert itself with a move toward universal acceptance, compassion, goodwill, harmony and understanding.
Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 24, “The Evolution of the Spiritual Man”