A caterpillar has no need of religion. It is born feeling its ties to nature and does not leave the whole, even in its little caterpillar dreams.
A human, by way of consciousness, has “fallen” out of such intimacy with its primordial ground. While we are as much children of nature as the caterpillar, we imagine ourselves to be independent, separate beings living meaningless lives. We are like a scientific and objective caterpillar that cannot imagine that it has wings written invisibly within, and that it must make a journey to compete its role in the web of life.
When human beings feel the fire of time burning in our limbs, we become curious about that which we have been born out of and into which we will return. For some, religion is an imaginary escape from time into a static world of unchanging being. For others, religion is the attempt to remember our primordial ties and to reconcile our quivering ephemeral consciousness with its common roots into every other being.
Philosophy and science are attempts to understand our universe objectively from the outside in. Religion is the attempt to feel our place in the world and to make peace with it subjectively. To objectively know our relationship to the earth, it is enough to think and experiment, but to subjectively feel those same ties we must sing and dance them within our community of meaning.
The true purpose of religion is to free the subjective butterfly within the objective caterpillar.
When religion tries to make itself “real” by imagining its heroes are actual persons from history, when religion reduces God to an actual being within the universe, when religion becomes a scientific explanation or moral imperative, it has lost its most essential purpose which is to reawaken our intuitive ties to the whole and to one another.
Religion should baptize us into life, not into itself. Baptism into the cold stark waters of Jordan was a very different affair than sprinkling a baby from a gilded font in a heated sanctuary. The rite of Communion where a savior recognizes humanity’s blessed place in the food chain may be completely lost when served in a silver goblet.
In his “I am” sayings, Jesus spoke as Life itself, not as the CEO of Christianity, Inc. So the church which teaches in his name must continually go through radical reformations just to keep from placing the church at the center of the message and worshipping ourselves.
The mysteries of Christ do not belong to the church. They are ancient and universal symbols intended to help human beings remember our primordial ties into the common life. If we, the church, are unwilling to make ourselves sacrifical vessels to that purpose we become an obstacle to those seeking the roots of their own being.
Unlike scientific facts, religious truths must organically grow out of real living. If we make people memorize our creeds or obey our rules, we are not freeing butterflies, but merely pasting wings on the caterpillars.