Every religious denomination runs serious risks when it stresses or emphasises a given element it considers essential to the attainment of its objectives.
Simplifying grossly, for clarity, I maintain that narrow-minded Catholics run risks when they remove the centre of worship from God to the Church.
The Protestant, who still worries about the danger of the New Covenant message being polluted by dogmatic interferences and traditional rituals, runs analogous risks in letting every investigation and interpretation revolve solely around the Scriptures.
The Quaker, who is determined to avoid any programmed and guided form of worship, risks making silence a sine qua non, and to regard it as a value per se.
God, who is universally present in Creation, whose channels of communication are infinite, whose Spirit blows where and when it wills, does not allow himself to be confined within any Church, any tradition, any book, any method of spiritual investigation.
Of these three great instruments of communication between people and God, though each is certainly blessed as such, none can become sacred and substitute for the goal, which is sacred only because it coincides with God.
Silence, like other religious instruments, is a privileged channel, in that it is freed from the stumbling-blocks and the excesses of sacramental approaches but, like the others, its goal is to flow into the Ocean of the Spirit, the only One that can effectively bless its instrumentality: that is, humble service that simply makes easier the meeting between humanity and the Father of all, for the rebuilding of a relationship that for a hundred and one reasons has been broken off.
Everything else, however precious, should be kept within its natural limits to prevent it encroaching on God's own space.
The steps of a stairway leading to Heaven are not as sacred as Heaven, and are not to be kissed: they are rather to be kept clean, tidy and without embellishment; they are to be rebuilt if time has corrupted them; they are to be pointed out to those who do not know their use as a way by which may pass every Prodigal Son.
The opposite, that is the overemphasis on the means -- even though essential to developing knowledge and to listening -- leads to one or other form of idolatry -- an ever present pitfall for frail human kind, who are often ready to mistake the means for the end.
Rome, 12 VII 1987
Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divine within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship or psychic control, or philosophy - by one, or more or all of these - and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas; rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.
Raja Yoga, from Swami Vivekananda, The Practice of Yoga
Prisons are built with stones of law, brothels with bricks of religion.
William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.
Please send any suggestions for alternative translations of any of these meditations to Simon Grant.