Creeds, Religions, Philosophies, Dogmas and Ideologies

Human history, including modern history, is filled with the ongoing, and sometimes extremely violent, clash of beliefs. For most of our history, the battles were actually about physical control of resources or issues of protection or domination. Very little of belief or ideology entered into these battles, other than perhaps as a “window dressing” to make them appear to be something other than a play of the vital forces of greed, fear, power, domination and survival instincts.

As the mental principle has gained strength through the evolutionary process, however, we have seen an increasing tendency to battle over ideas, religious beliefs and ideologies, supported of course, or even secretly driven by the vital impulses of control and domination and extension. Sri Aurobindo addresses this issue: “The world abounds with Scriptures sacred and profane, with revelations and half-revelations, with religions and philosophies, sects and schools and systems. To these the many minds of a half-ripe knowledge or no knowledge at all attach themselves with exclusiveness and passion and will have it that this or the other book is alone the eternal Word of God and all others are either impostures or at best imperfectly inspired, that this or that philosophy is the last word of the reasoning intellect and other systems are either errors or saved only by such partial truth in them as links them to the one true philosophical cult. Even the discoveries of physical Science have been elevated into a creed and in its name religion and spirituality banned as ignorance and superstition, philosophy as frippery and moonshine.”

On this basis, whichever teaching or position we accept, we tend to treat the scriptures or teachings of that belief system as being the exclusive repository of Truth, and quoting from that source takes on the veneer of establishing a “fact” from which there can be no debate.

As the mind of man matures, we do find evidence of a more ecumenical acceptance, an ability to recognise that others have their own viewpoint, and a basis of valid understanding, and we can, on this basis, begin to bridge the differences through widening our viewpoint rather than through defeating the others in a conflict. The proverb that “the paths are many, but the goal is one” stands us in good stead as we proceed to sort out some way forward together, appreciating the differences that stem from our varying backgrounds and viewpoints, while finding the common thread that binds all of us together as one.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 1, Our Demand and Need from the Gita, pp. 1-2,