The word Religion, by Latin derivation, means something which binds. And Religion
is essentially that something which binds together the hearts of all men, without distinction of race, creed, caste, colour,
or sex; binds them all to each other with the golden thread of Universal Brotherhood; binds them to the heart of that Universal
God who is the very Principle of Life, of Consciousness, of Being, in every thing and all things. It is that which binds the
hearts of men to all ideals; which makes them believe in the now non-existent future; which compels them to work for the good
of distant generations yet unborn, for the helping of the inhabitants of far countries never visited, for the realization
of aims in a far-off age and place not at all visible to the fleshly eye of the present worker.
It is that
which makes the unbeliever by profession an unconscious believer by action, despite himself and despite all logic and consistency.
All effort, all aspiration, for the distant, the future, the unknown — be the striving political or industrial, social
or scientific, artistic or philanthropic, or even personal and selfish — is essentially religious. In all such striving,
the element of the hope of success, of the faith in one's possibilities, of the belief in the continuance of the present into
the future — be that future an hour distant or a million years — is the element of true Religion. It is the conscious
or unconscious recognition of the fact that the spirit of man extends beyond the present moment, extends from the past through
the present into the future, and that if it extends even a moment before and a moment after, then and therefore, for the same
reason, whatever it be, it necessarily extends immortally throughout the eternity of time and the infinity of space, and embraces
all things and beings, however much the bodies of men conflict and perish.
love, the sensing of common Self of all in all — which is the one bond that binds and holds together individuals, families,
tribes, nations, races, even as hate is the one sharp-edged instrument that sunders and scatters them apart — this love
of all living things is of the very essence of Religion. Such Universal Love is the first and the last manifestation of God,
the Universal and Immortal Self. It is this which triumphs eternally over Death and Hate and Evil. All association, all co-operation
of any kind, within whatsoever limits, is the product of this Fellow-feeling, this Common-feeling, this One-feeling.
Therefore are these sentiments
far more necessary to attend to than the so-called substantial things of life, even as the invisible air is more necessary
to the living organism than solid food. They reign at the birth of life and at its decay and death also. They all, in their
growing gradation of familism, parochialism, tribalism, provincialism, patriotism, nationalism, are but the manifestations
of the feeling of the Common Self in larger and larger circles. And they are thus powerful in their operation, because they
are all in growing degree embodiments of the Unity of the Omnipotent Spirit. And in the conflicts of religions, that religion
will thrive most which best helps forward inclusiveness, and that religion must decay most which most fosters mutual separation
and narrow-minded sectarianism and exclusiveness.
Whatsoever that Self identifies itself with, one interest or
a thousand, one body or a thousand, whatsoever it makes mine by act of imagination, that becomes near and dear; whatever it
dissociates itself from, whatever it regards as other, as foreign, as strange, that becomes distant and disagreeable. Brothers
born of the same father and mother will slay each other for a trifle which may happen to come between and separate them. Utter
strangers, from the ends of the world, will meet and marry as man and woman and become all in all to each other. Are not both
phases the veriest tricks of the imagination, mine and thine, mine and not mine' ? Verily, as the scriptures declare, nothing
is dear except for the sake of the Self. And as the circumference of the individual self expands with growth of intellect
and imagination, so more and more things and beings are enclosed within it. The man begins with identification of himself
with (that is to say, love of) his own body, and goes on step by step to love of family, of townsfolk, of countrymen, of race,
of fellow-religionists. Each one of these indicates one step in the growth and evolution of the soul.
Psychologists are agreed
that the individualized consciousness has three aspects. Some call them intellect, feeling and volition. Some prefer the names
thought, emotion and conation. Others call them cognition, desire and action. Others, imagination, will and self-assertion.
Others, wisdom, will and activity. Others, wisdom, love and will, reversing the use of the words will and love, but meaning
the same facts. Still others use other words. And as these are the aspects of Consciousness in its individualized form,
so in its Universal form it shows forth the same as Omniscience, Omnipotence and Omnipresence.
Men, as they show forth more of the one or the other of these aspects fall into one of
three classes, men of thought, men of art, and men of action. And every Religion, being an embodiment of the feeling of that
Common Consciousness, shows forth these three aspects also. It is true that, commonly, the word religion brings up the idea
of a spiritual aspiration, a Godward emotion, a divine desire, a superphysical art; whereas metaphysics or philosophy may
be said to represent the knowledge-side of the same, and concrete science the active industrial application; yet in its wider
and fuller sense Religion comprehends all these. In this sense, we may say that every religion tells its followers: (a) What
to think (or believe); (5) What to desire (or feel); (c) What to do.
(a) Every religion includes within itself a body of doctrine more or less definitely formulated,
a mass of knowledge more or less precisely expounded, relating to the whence, the whither, the how and the why of the visible
and invisible worlds, and of the human and other life inhabiting these; and this part is its answer to the question: "
What to think of all this world-process". (b] Every religion again has, as an integral part, a system of ethics or morality,
which is its answer to the question: " What to feel or wish for or towards our fellow-creatures". (c) And finally
every religion has a more or less elaborate code of sacraments and a general social polity, which is its answer to the question:
"What to do to purify and elevate and make ever richer and more beautiful the individual as well as the aggregate physical
and spiritual life of human beings".
synthesis of the Self is not yet perfect. The member of any one race, the follower of any one creed, sees and feels himself
in the members of that race only, in the followers of that creed only. But a higher integration of these differentiated units
is possible. It is possible to see and feel the Self in all men, whatsoever their creed or colour. And if a common country,
a common language, a common script, a common colour of skin, a common idea, make such strong bonds, how much stronger the
bond that a Common Self, a Common Life, should make between man and man! When that is done, when the Uiversal Spirit of all
men is recognized and realized by all men, then will we have reached the stage of Humanism, the federation of all the nations.