Most holy men are men of integrity, thoroughly committed to their task of guiding people to God: throughout history, though, a minority has been overtaken by Self, leading them to use their position for their own benefits, not for God. These have made their mark on history – generally in blood. This will keep happening as long as self-centeredness persists. A moment of distraction and the collective Ego/Us/Tribe drags us into a place of self-centeredness, distorting a great many divine concepts, and affecting religion’s status as a path to God.
Religion has been distorted and muddied under self-centeredness; why reduce God to religion, and reduce religion to clerics? The cleric, once established as a representative of God on earth, becomes the one who gives and takes away, and holds the keys to Paradise. Under self-centeredness, as time went by, people found that it was a good thing to have a cleric holding the reins of power: anyone, therefore, who sought power over the common people dressed in holy garb and used his influence – or employed the type of holy men who place themselves above God. Under self-centeredness, people’s consciousness is primed for confusion and distortion. Self and Us are established in everyone’s minds in a construct where it is well-nigh impossible for God to penetrate.
Followers and Leaders
This takes more than one form, but always has two parties: leader and follower. In some cases, the leader is aware while the follower is not; in others, rarely, both parties are. An example where both are unaware can be found in some types of mass hysteria: a few years ago, a comet passed by Earth, and some followers were convinced by their leader that the comet had been sent to harvest their souls if they killed themselves, whereupon they did. In this example, neither party had any awareness of reality: both chose destruction, which they perceived as a happy ending.
In the scenario of the aware leader and unaware followers, a holy man seeks his own interests, and uses his knowledge and position to achieve this end, directly or indirectly – indirectly via taking some position of political of military power where he does all he can to subjugate the members of his community, and is paid in money, power and/or position; directly by presenting himself as the seat of religious knowledge, in which case he does all he possibly can to make the community members submit to his influence. In either case, these are the unhealthy symptoms of primitive tribalism.
The Tribal Leader
A prerequisite for being clan leader is power, whether in the form of people posing a physical threat, or media (later in history) threatening unseen dangers.
Members of the Tribe
A given society becomes a tribe(s) – an Us – revolving around a leader who is feared and flattered. The leader’s ego is the fulcrum of that society. In the presence of a sufficiently tyrannical “I”, an appropriately submissive corresponding “we” is formed. A “Them” to reinforce the “us” and its need for the controlling “I” of the leader is indispensable: if one is present, its threat to “Us” must be emphasized, the “Them” demonized. If there is none, it must be created, and the populace convinced that it poses a clear and present threat.
The Witch Doctor
This part is played by the hypocritical cleric, who works to justify the actions of the controlling “I” and brainwash the submissive “we,” to demonize the “Them” and establish it as a threat, and entrench the unity of Leader/Religion/God in the popular consciousness. If the Tribal Leader and the Witch Doctor are separate entities – for instance, in princedoms, kingdoms, states, businesses, etc. – the religious influence of the Witch Doctor/Cleric is used in the service of the Tribal Leader, i.e. the holder of political, economic and/or military power. The Tribal Leader and the Witch Doctor can also be one and the same: history is full of examples of this in sects, cults and religious groups.
When people become confused enough to confuse clerics with God, they start to believe Myths that “just ain’t so”:
-God is religion.
-Religion is represented by the cleric.
-You cannot find God on your own, but need supervision from those closer to Him than yourself. Of course, such a guide must be a cleric.
-Clerics are infallible.
-The only path to God’s approval is the cleric’s approval.
This, in turn, distorts the concept of religion under self-centeredness. Religion becomes an end in itself, not a path to God.
Such a misconception poses its own set of challenges. Religion in itself can be a source of many useful things, which can seduce the Self with these benefits: instead of offering a path to God, religion becomes a source of other things that may well distance us from Him. This confusion also confers a false aura of holiness upon clerics that makes them infallible in the eyes of their followers, who race to confer attributes upon him that vie with those of the prophets, and make him virtually godlike.
This is how sects, splinter groups, cults, and sundry religious groups form: a closer look will reveal that each of these creates its own god and graven image, which it worships alongside God without knowledge or awareness. Religious wars throughout history are not really wars of ideas or schools of thought: they are conflicts between gods and their followers, all of whom are willing to give their lives for their leader.
The above is Stage One of eliminating consciousness and awareness. Stage Two, the ultimate catastrophe in my view, is taking God out of the equation altogether and worshiping religion instead of God.
Worshiping religion instead of God? Yes, unfortunately, this is largely the case. This is, in my view, the worst use possible of the concept of religion: instead of a path to God, it is treated as a collective Ego—a controlling Us—a tribe.