Did you ever wonder, why, despite the multitude of religions, cults and different schools of thought – which purportedly lead us in one way or another to the promised ‘salvation’ – many people are not living as happy and fulfilled lives as they would like to?
For the last two thousand years Europe was under the influence of Christianity in its various forms. Let us have a closer look at its legacy, which is still alive today. We are not judging the customs of old, we are merely bringing to light some well-known elements with a prospect to aid better understanding.
Right from the beginning of the Christian times, the horrifying practice of self-torturing and self-flagellation was widely propagated; it was also full of contradicting elements, as most prayers are dotted with self-deprecating words such as ‘unworthy’, ‘sinful’, ‘God’s fear’, ‘a slave of God’, which underlying purpose was to eradicate the concept of self-pride and one’s own value – claiming at the same time that ‘God is mercy’. Self-deprecating practices forbid the idea of self-love, yet allegedly did not contradict a canting directive to “love thy neighbour as thyself”.
There were voices rising against that school of thought, including some famous philosophers like Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire, who famously said, “You will notice that in all disputes between Christians since the birth of the Church, Rome has always favoured the doctrine which most completely subjugated the human mind and annihilated reason.”
Another thing which the Christian doctrine was based upon is the explicit and total contempt (at least on the surface) to all things physical, material and pleasurable.
The main points that interest us here are therefore as follows:
- Man is an unworthy slave of God
- Man must fear, as God can punish him anytime
- God will punish anytime soon in some unpredictable way, as all men are born sinful are therefore are subject to divine punishment
- Self-appreciation is a sin of pride and is unacceptable
- One has to sacrifice his happiness for the good of others, while never expect anything good for himself
- All ‘earthly delights’ are to be despised of. One must not look after his body nor strive to acquire material wealth to make his life happy and comfortable
- The more suffer one encounters in this life, the better for his soul
Let us come back to some simple truths we all know – things in our lives happen for a reason, as ‘thought is matter’. Therefore, if our underlying belief is ‘I am a sinful, unworthy person, who deserves suffer and punishment’ then those thought will become self-fulfilling prophecies unfolding in our lives, regardless of what our conscious mind is saying. This is something very important to understand. If we produce negative energy with our thought, then negative energy from the outer world will come to answer it. But let us now forget for a while about any metaphysical undertones and concentrate on the purely psychological aspects.
Imagine a situation when two people are being offered a gift, or a new position or a new possibility. One is a strong-minded individual who believes in himself and knows his own value. His immediate response to the new chance will be ‘yes’ on the grounds that he deeply believes that he deserves that chance or that gift. The other person is insecure and has a negative mindset which tells him that ‘if something bad may happen to him, it will’. He will turn away from the opportunity as he does not think he is worthy of it. How do you think who is going to have a happier life?
Let us now bring our narrative back to the modern times. Presently, as more and more people started to wake up to the destructive power of a negative mindset, which has resulted in a natural desire is to improve the state of things. To that end many people turned to other cultures and foreign beliefs in a hope that the teachings from far away will give an answer they seek.
Unbeknownst to many, there was a serious trap. Reckless following of foreign traditions may look beguiling for a while, as a new an exotic experience, but at the end of the day, after trying different cults, many people end up being lost and disappointed, feeling that they did not find what they really wanted.
Why does that happen?
If you look at the world from a wider perspective, you will see a multitude of customs, believes, thoughts and traditions across the globe. Have you ever wondered why is that, that Shinto did not originate in France, Islam did not come from Japan or Buddhism did not first develop in Africa? There is a reason why different peoples through the ages have created different schools and customs which suited them and worked for them, as they were organic to the people and the land. The myths, teachings and doctrines stemmed from the spirit of the nation itself, being inseparably linked to its tradition, history and the outlook on life. Those sacred, deeply intimate aspects of culture were never designed to be shared.
To truly understand a religion or philosophy of a different country, one has to immerge himself completely in its language and history, live and breathe its traditions and its values. Otherwise the only picture that an outsider will get is a blurry imagination of possible meanings which are bound to be erroneous, as he will inevitably try to look at a different culture through the prism of its own. That shaky position exposed to any sort of misconceptions is extremely dangerous, as a person is forced to rely on others for explanations, which may not necessarily be correct. In other words, such a person will be prone to mistakes and misconceptions, being completely unaware of his own vulnerability.
We all know what such misconceptions can lead to, as we have enough examples it history to illustrate the point.
But even if we manage overcome the serious obstacle of difficult terms and foreign words, and manage to grasp the real essence of imported teachings, how will we know that they are good for us? This is why many people feel discomfort that they usually try to supress. It is almost like wearing clothes which are not your size, as they were made for someone else. You may be able to squeeze into them, but how comfortable will you feel?
The teachings from other places have to some extent helped to ease the tension and frustration through the way of acceptance and meditation. They have also brought a concept of tranquillity, celebrated in the East and largely unknown to the West, so many people were grateful to those new avenues of thought.
But what they have also brought can be described as a dangerous mental virus, as we will soon understand.
Many adults are no different from children when we are talking about the new exciting things – many will welcome with alacrity any ‘shiny new toy’, whatever it may be – a new phone model, a new style of fashion or a new belief.
The excitement usually ‘turns off’ our abilities to critical or analytical thinking, so we ‘gulp’, the whole ‘package’ without realising that not all options are suitable for us.
A very similar thing happened with the eastern philosophies, which are spreading nowadays. They were undoubtedly ideal for the people who created them in the first place, but have you ever thought in what way they are really influencing us?
It will become clear when we remind ourselves the basic differences in thought between the East and the West.
In the East, the main value was the society, not an individual. An individual must be submissive and devote his efforts to become an ideal part of the society. “Do as everyone else does if you want to avoid trouble” says a famous proverb. The teachings in the East tell an individual that the world is nothing but illusion, therefore it is not worth paying attention to. The main accent was put on breaking the connection with the world as whole, become completely devoid of desires and passions and achieve nirvana. A private initiative or individual pursuits were not encouraged. Depriving your body of food and sleep, on the other hand, was a good thing to do. The main concept can be summarised as follows “Do not care about anything. Do not stand for anything. Surrender to whatever happens and hope for the end of your incarnations to arrive quickly.” This is obviously a generalisation, but it highlights the main ideas and vectors of thought.
We must not forget that the rigid hierarchical structure of eastern societies did not usually offer a possibility of an individual career and freedom of choice the way we know it. Therefore a submissive and passive state of mind was an ideal tool to preserve order in the society. It served a purpose and it served it well.
In the West, on the other hand, we are used to think that the individual freedom is above all. We are inspired by great men who achieved legendary things on their own. We want to fight for what is rightly ours; we praise the freedom of choice and strive to open equal opportunities for all. In our society we encourage people to be themselves, to think differently and be independent in their views and actions. We come from a tradition of majestic kings and queens, courageous knights and heroic leaders. Our main motto is “Be yourself. Never give up.”
Now you can see why the influence of a diametrically opposite school of thought can act as a harmful mental virus – because it goes against our very essence, against everything that our own culture is based upon. The elements that were good and adequate somewhere else, behave differently on the foreign soil, as they are causing a clash of the fundamental principles which is affecting unprepared minds.
Essentially, if someone starts following those teachings too eagerly, he gradually loses his inner fire, the ability to find for himself, and effectively loses the control over his life. You have probably met such people, with the mellow smiles and mellow voices, talking about acceptance and surrender – and with a completely dysfunctional social and emotional life.
Do not fall into a similar trap. A life-supporting belief must be a tree that grows on your own land; and more – it should be a tree you grow and water yourself.
It has now came time for us to plant a new seed and start a new chapter.