5. The Origins of Religion

What is ‘personality’? Sex? Mind? Feelings? In the conventional view, it’s the mind. The struggle with the mind is understood as a struggle with oneself. But it would be more correct to say that the personality is not sex, not feeling, not mind, but an inner order for which all the faculties are only servants, tools, building material. All of the above it uses at its own discretion; owns, but is not obsessed by. This order is dearer to man than everything else in him; it is what he preserves and defends against attempts. One of the pillars of this inner order is religion, but not in the ordinary sense of the word.

Religion is usually understood as a voluntary submission of a person to something external (‘My yoke is good and My burden is easy’). The European does not know how to separate religion from the idea of a personal God, from the Church. Religion, however, has no direct connection with belief in a personal God and the miraculous; if one wishes to understand it, one must begin not with ecclesiastical Christianity.

What is religion in the most general sense? — The experience of one’s own value, of being rooted in the world. Its opposite is a sense of detachment and solitude, of one’s own accidentality.

At the origins of religion, there are two experiences that are not intrinsically connected. One is personal, and the other is, so to speak, by confidence, but it is more accessible. The first religious feeling is the feeling of one’s own eternity; a feeling of inner completeness, bordering on the certainty of one’s immortality. [1] The second is a sense of belonging to something greater than the individual; to a truth external to the individual; an experience of a primary Value from which all others borrow light.

This primary truth does not have to be ‘otherworldly’. It is also found on ‘this’ side. The mind believes that it can partake of this truth, must keep it and carry it ‘to the ends of the earth’; it believes that this truth provides salvation. The forms of this salvation may vary from eternal life to intellectual self-respect or excellent health for the rest of life.

In fact, the range of religious experiences is wide: from the fullness of inner being — to the desire to join this being; to the fear of remaining unnecessary and secluded… Here is the connection between religion and culture. Culture is always rootedness, possession of soil; religion is the deepest root. Deprivation of the fullness of life, fear of being accidental rather than necessary — can lead to both fierce atheism and belief in ritual, depending on what prevails. Ritualists and atheists are baked from the same dough.  At any outcome, the feeling of falling out of the general conception of the world, of being left behind, and at the same time the unquenchable desire to join and serve the truth — make a person rebuild any building into a temple.

(By the way, I would like to note: religion, independence of personality, and the ways of achieving it are internal needs of a person, but this does not make them the property of pure psychology. Love, for example, is also a deep human need, but it is quenched in communication with a living, independent personality).

Even materialism does not exclude religious experiences of a kind (related not to inner fullness, but to the engagement with some external truth). ‘Both in science and in revolution there is some ‘surrogate of religion’’, Rozanov says. — ‘There is proselytising, there is fanaticism.  There is already an abundance of martyrs and heroes… It can be seen that each of these fields, or rather, each of these methods (for both religion and science are more methods than fields) can completely satiate and satisfy a man, take his whole life, his whole soul.  And in equal measure to animate and move him’.

Rozanov is right. To belong to the truth or at least to the multitude possessing the truth is an acute and strong human need, especially if this multitude is persecuted or considers itself persecuted. Those persecuted for the truth are blessed, even if no one persecutes them. Such is the psychology of the Russian intelligentsia, right down to its present last remnant. The holier the multitude to which a personality has joined, the less is its need for reasoning.

Absolute values need absolute trust. Here is the root of scientific and political dogmatism (outwardly extra-religious, especially since the most ardent dogmatists in science or politics are usually enemies of religion in all its forms). Furious, seething hatred is directed at ‘wrong thinkers’ because they threaten the foundations of personal self-esteem. Thus the apostles of ‘tolerance’ attack dissenters — in spite of their faith, but in harmony with their hearts.

However, both kinds of religious feeling are capable of giving the individual a basis, an inner order. Where there is neither, there is weakness, groundlessness, unrootedness in existence, despair and a sense of one’s own accidentality.  However, their fruits are different. What is received ‘by confidence’ is lost along with confidence. The internal order that is based on non-borrowed values found in the person himself is richer, more stable, more fruitful.

[1] Vladimir Nabokov says about this feeling: ‘It is certainly not then — not in dreams — but when one is wide awake, at moments of robust joy and achievement, on the highest terrace of consciousness, that mortality has a chance to peer beyond its own limits, from the mast, from the past and its castle tower. And although nothing much can be seen through the mist, there is somehow the blissful feeling that one is looking in the right direction’.

Timofey Sherudilo.
From the book Twilight Time.

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