Separating the Eternal from the Temporal Aspects of Religion

We may view any major aspect of human life by its principle and primary significance for humanity, which we may call its “eternal” aspect, or we may view the specific manifestations in the life of humanity, with all its limitations, weaknesses and errors caused by the state of human evolution or local factors, therefore the “temporal” aspects of religion.  We can observe numerous horrendous acts and tragic events through history that have been blamed on religion, including discrimination, crusades, the “holy inquisition”, witch-burnings, and even genocidal warfare, not to mention the restrictions and suppression of the intellect and the truths of existence under the pretext of religious dogma asserted as the ultimate truth.  These errors of religion however can be understood as temporal manifestations that are distortions of the true eternal role of religion.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “…But we must observe the root of this evil, which is not in true religion itself, but in its infrarational parts, not in spiritual faith and aspiration, but in our ignorant human confusion of religion with a particular creed, sect, cult, religious society or Church.  So strong is the human tendency to this error that even the old tolerant Paganism slew Socrates in the name of religion and morality, feebly persecuted non-national faiths like the cult of Isis or the cult of Mithra and more vigorously what it conceived to be the subversive and anti-social religion of the early Christians; and even in still more fundamentally tolerant Hinduism with all its spiritual broadness and enlightenment it led at one time to the milder mutual hatred and occasional although brief-lived persecution of Buddhist, Jain, Shaiva, Vaishnava.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 17,  Religion as the Law of Life, pp. 175-176