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Perhaps it is a truth that every religion CAN become in essence the "way of the cult", which some have related to the "way of magic".....i.e. you must needs follow the instructions on the bottle to get the infallible effect.

 

The Catholic monk Thomas Merton has spoken in greater detail of such an approach....

 

The reification of faith. Real meaning of the phrase we are saved by faith = we are saved by Christ, whom we encounter in faith. But constant disputation about faith has made Christians become obsessed with faith almost as an object, at least as an experience, a "thing" and in concentrating upon it they lose sight of Christ. Whereas faith without the encounter with Christ and without His presence is less than nothing. It is the deadest of dead works, an act elicited in a moral and existential void. To seek to believe that one believes, and arbitrarily to decree that one believes, and then to conclude that this gymnastic has been blessed by Christ - this is pathological Christianity. And a Christianity of works. One has this mental gymnastic in which to trust. One is safe, one possesses the psychic key to salvation......

 

The trouble is, as I see it, we think WE have the key, and moving on from this, we insist that all others must have a key cut to match our own. The significance is that, however we might cover our tracks by speaking of being saved by God, in fact we act, speak and think as if we are saved by ourselves, by "works". The inevitable consequence is that we then judge others by how they match our own lives, our own thoughts, our own efforts, our own sacrifices. That is, by judgement of others.

 

So instead of becoming Christlike - that is, by accepting others first as the catalyst of true change - we become in effect the Pharisee, who ends up praising God that he is "not like other men"!

 

The beauty of all this, and the hope, is that "salvation" can be found even in the hearts and minds of those who subscribe to, and seek to follow, the ways and teachings of all the various cults or whatever. As I see it, and as I have experienced it myself, we are often led to safety in spite of our beliefs rather than because of them..........along the road to joy that is mysteriously revealed to us without our exactly realising it.

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