True Religion and False Religion

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When I speak of the urge for the expression of your spiritual nature, organized religion is seldom the answer, especially not in your time. But even in former times, organized religion could accomplish but little. Like most human institutions, it was affected by the human tendency to generalize and standardize, to make rules and dogmas supposed to be valid for all beings. Although general rules do hold true for certain crass modes of conduct relating to crime and the upholding of social laws for the good of the community, one’s personal spirituality is an eminently private affair. The maximum growth of one human being may be based on entirely different spiritual factors and ways of life and expression than the maximum growth of another person. Organized religion does not take this into account. Nor do the various modern substitutes for religion. The only way a human being can learn to express this important side of his or her nature is by such work as we are doing, in the course of which you recognize what causes you to suppress your individuality with all its manifestations.

The expression of your own divine nature cannot be fitted into standard rules, regulations, and dogmas, no matter how ethical they may be. They can only show right outer conduct, and never right inner conduct. In former times, the human being’s spiritual nature was often hindered by the general rules of a creed. In modern times, this spiritual nature is hindered by new dogmas, such as the materialistic philosophy of life. Whenever the individual bends to the rules of society at the cost of suppressing his or her individual spiritual unfoldment, the soul begins to suffer and lose direction.


QUESTION: I have been studying a little about gnostic religion and I found that the teachings expounded here are very similar to those found in many gnostic speculations. If they are similar, maybe you could explain the reason for the decline and virtual disappearance of gnostic religion?

ANSWER: It has not disappeared. It has reappeared, and it is constantly reappearing in different forms. But the fact that it has to reappear proves that all truth always tends to be diluted and distorted by the masses who are not ready to understand it. So it thins out as the few who do understand it leave this earth and leave the heritage of such teachings in the hands of those who are often full of good will and intention, but cannot handle it in the right way. As time goes on, the truth becomes more and more rigid and therefore untrue. New channels have to be created, and the very same truth appears again in a new form, perhaps adapted to the civilization and characteristics of the particular period.

There was no time in history when truth did not come through among certain people. It was taught and it spread, but as I said, the majority of humanity was still too immature to use it inwardly. By making outer rules and regulations they imposed restrictions that distorted it. If you study the history of religion closely, you will see that all religions, including the traditional ones, contained the life-spark of truth. But as they spread, the truth faded out and they became religions of letters, instead of heart and soul.

Humanity does not understand the essence of truth or religion because it does not want to understand. It wants to lean on dogma and rule, so as not to have to think, to face, and to make self-responsible decisions. In that way, truth is perverted. This has happened since the beginning of time and will continue, I am afraid, for some time to come. But as time goes on, each new manifestation of truth penetrates a little deeper and among more people whose souls are evolved enough to yearn for it.

You will see that the truth is understood by many more people today than a few hundred years ago, or even only fifty years ago, even though not always in exactly the same terms. The spreading of certain sciences and of psychology has contributed greatly to this understanding. The essence and root of psychology, if you go deep enough, will always get to the psyche and reveal the essential spiritual truths, as proclaimed by the few sages at all times.

QUESTION: I should like to raise one point here. The Christian religion, or, specifically, the Catholic Church did manage to survive until the present day, while the gnostic religions which are more in accord with your teachings have not survived. It seems difficult to understand why the greater truth showed less vitality.

ANSWER: Outer power may often bring outer success. Maybe just because more truth was rooted in certain gnostic religions, there existed less of a power drive in those who practiced them. But this does not mean that the inner power of truth did not actually bring more success in the real sense, even though it was less noticeable. The outer manifestation may, once again, lead you to believe that this is unjust. It is the same with an individual. You may ask why certain people are outwardly so successful, while they are really selfish and very much lacking in maturity and love. Here we have to agree on what being successful really means. A businessman, outwardly “successful,” powerful, and financially secure, may be full of inner unrest and unhappiness, guilt, and anxiety that you never know about, because he may put up a very convincing front. Therefore, he is not successful in the sense of what really counts: his happiness, his inner security, his inner peace.

By the same token, the powerful church you mention is successful outwardly, but is not remotely so successful inwardly. The neglected truth teachings of gnostic religions may outwardly appear weak because there are few proponents of them that you know of. But inwardly, there abides a strength which you may not see or know of at all. You may completely ignore the strong influence it has on the cosmic forces, an infinitely stronger influence of the few than of the many, notwithstanding the extent of the outer power a “successful religion” may have.


You are torn between two unsatisfactory and damaging attempts to negate death. These artificial, forceful, and cramped attempts bring you so much nearer to what you want to avoid, and you forfeit that which you wish to gain. So it is not in acceptance itself that you find strength and healing, but in how you choose to accept death. Acceptance mixed with fear and negativity — both of which lead to self-destructiveness — is altogether different from a healthy, strong acceptance of the inevitable. Squarely facing it, not cringing from it, you will come to terms with it, thereby freeing the life force in you, which remains bottled up as long as you do not learn to cope with death in a healthy way.

You sense that the solution lies in acceptance. But you also believe that in acceptance lies annihilation. As long as this confusion is not brought into consciousness, you cannot begin to find your way out of the maze.

Faced with this confusion, people often resort to religion in any of its varied forms. But they do it in the spirit of evasion and fear. Thus religion, no matter how true its teachings, will not really help, just as the wrong kind of acceptance does not help. This kind of religiousness will not help because it is accepted out of weakness, which pollutes people’s motives. Deeply sensing the untruth of their motivations, they despise themselves for it. Moreover, the superimposed faith has no real power to help them. They accept God, and everything that belief in God implies, not out of real conviction, nor out of a deep, genuine insight, but because they are afraid. Thus, the enemies of religion are often right when they say that religion is an opiate. By the same token, the enemies of materialism are right when they reject the materialistic point of view, not only because it is not true, but also because the motivation for accepting it is fear.

From lecture 88, RELIGION: TRUE AND FALSE:

Throughout the ages divine effort was focused on conveying true religion to humankind. That endeavor, however, was accompanied by an unavoidable reaction, not so much of anti-religion, as you may believe, but of false religion. This distortion is promoted by giving to falsehood the appearance of truth. If you follow the history of religion, you will be able to determine an obvious though gradual trend with many a relapse, leading from the false toward the true religion. Particularly in recent times, despite, or maybe because of all the upheaval and confusion, the trend is stronger than ever toward true religion.

What are the main differences between true and false religion? One of the main determinants is that in false religion obedience to authority is one of the great strongholds. In all religions — in some more, and in others less — the concept of obedience plays an important role. True religion does not obey. It is free. True religion is a willing process: a free, self-determined action, derived from understanding. It makes people act from their own conviction and never from fear, nor from the desire to please and appease a more powerful person, being, or authority.

Obedience to authority has been encouraged by exponents of religion under the half-true and only partly valid argument that humanity was too much enslaved by its passions to be let free. Therefore obedience had to be stressed in order to protect society.

Superficially this may seem right; in reality it is not. For although it is true that the overall development of humanity is not advanced enough to be free of destructive impulses, the laws to prevent such destruction need not be combined with religion. In other words, religion would not have to convey the idea of a stern God-authority in order to prevent crime. There are other means to effect that through civil law. Religion need not be distorted and truth obscured by encouraging humanity’s weakest, sickest, and most immature tendencies. It is those tendencies that are exploited in order to maintain false religion.

You know by now, because of your work on this path, that one of your great struggles is overcoming the unconscious desire to remain a clinging, protected child, to refuse the apparent hardship of adulthood, self-responsibility, and independence. To the child in you it seems much better to remain helpless, to force the powerful adult world, or God, or any substitute for these two, to take on the responsibility for your life that you yourself should carry.

False religion has encouraged and capitalized on this very sick tendency. It has set up rules and dogmas, and has distorted the law into such a rigid concept that humans fell easily into this submissive and dependent attitude. False religion encouraged fear, dependency, helplessness, and a humiliating, though often very subtle, tendency to appease. This has the additional crippling effect of causing self-contempt and shame, which in turn often has to find outlets that become destructive toward others, as well as the self. Rebellion must follow this set of emotions. Whenever fear, timidity, nonassertion, appeasement, and obedience predominate in a personality, rebellion must exist also.

It will be a part of your task in self-search to ascertain where false religion exists deep in your soul; where you borrow, as it were, religious precepts behind which you hide and excuse your childish tendencies to refuse to grow up.

Your conscious right opinions are worth very little when they are undermined by your unconscious beliefs. If you do not live, experience, and feel these right ideas, they become powerless. They are empty. Only when beliefs are incorporated at the emotional level, integrated in the whole character structure, will they have power. Whenever you wonder why things happen to you that run counter to your beliefs and the spiritual laws you know so well, you can be sure that, at least in some respect, you deviate inwardly. It will be your task to find how and how much you unconsciously deviate from your correct conscious opinions. While you may know perfectly well that God is neither a benign nor a hostile authority, that God has freed us and it is up to us to develop, you may often find that your emotions completely deviate from such knowledge.

Problems you carry through many incarnations and through your childhood are instrumental in bringing these unconscious conflicts to the surface. But so does the tendency of religion to encourage blind obedience. Both causes produce personalities distorted by helplessness, false goodness, and appeasement; or overindependence, rebellion, and false toughness; or a combination of both. In both instances you hide something and ardently try to prove to yourself and others that the hidden does not exist. In one case you hide the rebellion and hostility; in the other, you hide the helplessness and desire for protection, the tendency to appease and be falsely “good.”

By finding, tracing, understanding, and resolving these distortions, you not only grow up and become a stronger and happier human being, you also contribute much more than you can possibly perceive at the moment toward the elimination of false religion and its substitution by real religion in the world at large.

Obedience, as false religion encourages and teaches it, is completely incompatible with the idea that a free human being can attain divinity. Once blind obedience is eliminated from religion and from the soul of the individual, rebellion against what is truly good, wise, and loving in religion will cease because religion will lose that tinge of hypocrisy and sanctimoniousness that it so often has for a number of individuals. True religion, genuine spirituality, aims primarily to make you free, to make you strong, to make you responsible so that you do not wait for justice to be dished out to you, but discover your own justice. With the wrong attitude, you not only fail to eliminate your self-imposed helplessness, you encourage it, as well as encouraging false religion, even if the weakness and clinging to authority happens to take a consciously secular form. Thus you must see that such immaturity and soul deviations play hand in hand with false authoritarian religion. Anything false always brings an equally false countermeasure.

So, find in what subtle, deeply hidden recesses of your soul you expect God to live for you; to make decisions for you; to bring desired results for you; to give you what you could get for yourself if only you decided to become free and mature. Find in yourself this element that is more harmful than you now can realize. You cripple yourself with this hidden attitude. And you make a false crutch out of the truth.

False religion does more harm to true religion than complete atheism and materialism because it makes a farce of truth, of the dignity of the freedom and divine strength in humanity. It puts a powerful argument into the mouths of the antireligionists. So it becomes very important that you find where you continue to cling because you are afraid of standing on your own two feet. You may at first wonder how to go about finding this element in yourself. I say it does not matter where you begin if you focus on this goal. Take any negative emotion: envy, bitterness, fear, helplessness — and most indicative of all, self-pity. Once you ascertain these feelings, it will not be so difficult to find where you cling to spiritual and emotional infancy. Search in this direction even if you believe this doesn’t apply to you. If you really want to find the truth you will. You always have. Once you have found this unconscious insistence on remaining a helpless child, you will soon come to see that it is responsible for your weakness, your helplessness, your enduring fear of life. But you combat this discovery by making yourself even more helpless, more fearful, and weaker. Once you truly see and understand this, you will begin to change — and your strength will grow. You will no longer hope for God to give you what you should and could be strong enough to obtain for yourself. And this will give you self-respect and security. While you cling to a stronger authority than yourself in order to avoid effort and responsibility, you cannot help feeling self-hate and self-contempt, and you become weaker and more helpless.

Such a relation to authority can take the form of a vague sense that the world at large must be appeased. This can be felt also toward certain people, or it can actually be your concept of God, which then leads to the God-image I have discussed before.* False religion and your unconscious insistence on remaining an infant combine to produce this God-image.

In the transitional state between giving up false religion and embracing true religion, there comes a phase of nothingness. It is a difficult phase indeed. It is a phase in which you feel alone because the false god is dissolving and the true God can not yet take hold of your being. In this phase all your faith may begin to crumble. You may be full of doubts about the very existence of God. This is the consequence of eliminating the false security, the escape, the crutch that are part of spiritual infancy. Since the god of your childish concept indeed does not exist, God Himself appears temporarily not to exist at all.

But as the false religion and its God-image vanish, even while you feel temporarily alone, an inner force begins to grow in you, long before you become aware of it — provided, of course, you are not thrown by this temporary state, but continue to work. You need to be willing to take it upon yourself to become whole, strong, and self-reliant. You have to determine not to allow this temporary state to crush you into abdicating life and struggle. If you fall into such a state, you cannot come out a free, strong individual. You may again fall back into the misleading, shallow comfort of false religion. If you develop your own strength for the very reason that you feel alone, then you will be victorious, and the road to true religion will be paved by your own attitude and effort. This is the only way you can let go of the phantom-god and develop the real God — freedom within. The way to Him is through accepting aloneness. Such acceptance will strengthen the independence and self-responsibility essential to the God-creature you wish to become.

If you understand these words, not only intellectually and superficially, but after working for a while and coming across corresponding emotions, trends, and reactions within yourself, you will understand two things a lot better than before. One is the lecture on duality.** Accepting death and the unknown is the only prerequisite for accepting life and happiness — not accepting death with a wishful-thinking spirituality, by avoiding your fears and doubts; not by using religion as a crutch to support you in the face of fear and aloneness, but recognizing and bravely encountering them. Only then can true religion and knowledge replace the false religion of escape and the vague beliefs that serve only to cover up your fear.

There is a mutuality here. Accepting death and the unknown is connected with acceptance of independence and self-responsibility. Both indicate spiritual and emotional adulthood, freedom, growth, creativity, strength, trust in the self, and real security. The emotional climate of false religion can be expressed in these words: “I am a weak, helpless sinner. I can do nothing without God, without an authority who permits me to be happy. This God has the right to be good or bad to me. But if I obey and appease, chances are that he will be well disposed toward me, or so I hope.”

The second point is the reason why I have often emphasized for quite some time the psychological rather than the spiritual point of view. For none of you are free of the distortion of spirituality; namely, its use as escape, as a substitute for your weaknesses, as a consolation for your fears, as an attempt to appease God to get what you could easily obtain by your own efforts. When religion is a substitute, it may help for a while. It may assuage unreasonable fear. But in the long run, it cripples you and your growth. I sometimes have to refrain from stating a spiritual truth directly because your subconscious would misunderstand and misuse it. But the more problems you resolve, the safer it becomes to tell you the truth without the danger of reinforcing in you the tendency to succumb to false religion. Then true religion will come out of your own strength, not out of dogma. It will come from within and not, as you now unconsciously expect it, from without.

Developing your own resources and strengths instead of obtaining them from a being outside of yourself is no less divine. Quite the contrary. With this understanding, you will not mind my returning occasionally to a more spiritual approach to see where the psychological deviations — the images, the distortions, the wrong conclusions, the false solutions — directly contradict the spirituality that you all aim for. Then, and only then, will you fully understand that these are not two unrelated subjects: one is an integral part of the other.

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To my teacher Marieke Mars who taught me self-honesty. To my courageous and loving pathwork helper Dottie Titus.

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