It is peculiar: on the one hand, most thinkers who go out from the fact of evolution, call themselves critics of Christianity; on the other hand, however, one fails to even think of looking at Christianity from the aspect of evolution, from which one could consider it as a means of man's striving to master his existence. Since Christianity appears to be diametrically opposed to an explanation of the development of the world from an evolutionary viewpoint (buzzword: creationism), one is not even inclined to consider the possibility that one could subordinate the (development of) Christianity just as well to the exploration power of evolutionary theory; however, if all accellerating development as and in the world is explicable by the theory of evolution, then this must also apply to the development of Christianity.
This attempt at incorporating the development of Christianity into evolution is based on the thought that with man, the accellerating history of the development of life does not actually occur as a phenotypical assimilation, but rather that the evolutionary momentum has been transferred to the human brain as a form of accelleration of the transfer capability of the human brain by means of an ever more intricate development of the brain's neural network. The accelleration of the intellectual capabilities of the brain on the basis of an increasing evolutionary-epigenetic development of the brain's neuronal network will, therefore, also bring with it a change in man's religious concepts.
Therefore, in the first section, a general evolutionary theory as to the development of and changes to religions will be presented; the second section will apply this theory to the changes in man's sacrificial ceremonies. The third section will attempt to present an evolutionary interpretation of the religious founder Jesus; finally, the last section will concern itself with the correlation between the development of reason and the teachings of Christianity.
I The Evolutionary Development of Religion
At first some steps of the evolution of man:
– Early man learned upright gait approximately 5 - 7 million years ago;
– approximately 2.5 - 3 million years ago, homo habilis appeared who, in connection with a rapid growth of his brain, was characterized by the use of a few stone tools.
– Approximately 1.5 million years ago, homo erectus spread out over the world; for approximately 500,000 years, he has known how to use fire and how to use approximately ten different stone tools.
– Approximately 300,000 years ago, homo sapiens appeared in two different forms: in that of homo sapiens sapiens and in that of homo sapiens neanderthalensis; a discovery in Palestine suggests that these forms might even have lived righ next to each other, for, among Neanderthal bones was found the skull of a representative of modern homo sapiens sapiens. Here, research contradicts itself in, on the one hand, assuming that Neanderthal man and modern homo sapiens were preceeded by an archaic homo sapiens while, on the other hand, declaring that Neanderthal man is the successor of homo erectus, while homo sapiens sapiens is assumed to have emanated from Africa in a new migration 150,000 years ago.
– First cultural traces of homo sapiens sapiens go back 100,000 years (and are evident in carvings into rock walls, in cave paintings and in burial remains).
– The beginning of an actual cultural development has to be dated back to approximately 10,000 before Christ, with the beginning of human settlement at the end of the last ice-age.
It is completely unknown as to when man learned language; even of Neanderthal man, we do not know this with certainty, although the position of his tongue bone would allow such a conclusion. The first forms of religion can be traced back as far as 50,000 years into the past, with homo sapiens (in burial remains and cave paintings), but not with Neanderthal man.
It is remarkable that millions of years of tool use by man have not led to a quasi steady increase in the development of culture but that this development stagnated for the longest of time, until approximately 150,000 years ago, the evolution of the human brain resulted in the emergence of homo sapiens sapiens, modern man, which we still represent today. Certain scientists conclude that with this, evolution has come to an end; I personally, however, am of the opinion that the evolution of the brain is still in progress today. It is now reflected in the constantly icnreasing differentiated development of the brain itself, in form of an ongoing correlation between man's cultural activity and the increased development of the brain's neuronal network.
For the development of religion, we have to rely on assumptions; however, we can draw conclusions from the observation of still prevalent stone-age forms of religion; for this purpose, a brief look at the religion of the Aborigines(1), Australia's native people, is presented here, which is considered to be the oldest tribal religion:
&qoutIt is reported that the belief system of the aborigines is based on supernatural beings who are considered to be ancestors and creators in a simultaneous fashion. In the so-called "dream time" (the earliest time), they formed the world as the aborigines found it and let plants and animals appear. They also taught the aborigines how to hunt and how to gather food and are reported as having handed down to them their tribal laws. After that, it is assumed, they have ascended to the stars and have left traces of their magic force behind in rocks, trees and cult objects of man. The overview from which the information presented here was taken, also discusses the so-called "Tjuringa", a flat object made of stone and wood. It reportedly symbolizes the force of the creators. A high sacral significance is attached to it. Women are reported as those who keep it hidden. The brief description also mentions that each tribal member is considered to be the re-incarnation of an ancestor, and that the "spirit child", respectively the pre-existing soul, apparently has to be "dreamed up" by its (biological) father and passed on to its mother. In conclusion, the description mentions that, at the time of man's death, this soul returns to where it came from and that it can then be born by another mother.&qout; (2)
What are the factors that, obviously and necessarily led man to such mythical concepts, since we can find these concepts in all known cultures and in all of the developmental stages of their religions?
Every form of religion, as everything of which be believe to have knowledge of, is based on sensual experiences and on their interpretation. The qualification of such experiences as much as their interpretation, is dependent on the highest forms of brain transfer capabilities of understanding or reason in their receptive or reflective forms. Experiences are, therefore, by no means to be considered "inventions" but rather "perceptions" and as attempts of their interpretation.
What kind of experiences can be characterized as religious experiences? All those important observations and perceptions that cannot be recognized as being based on a chain of events that can be controlled or monitored by understanding will have to be characterized as such: the numinous is that kind of presence that cannot be controlled and that humans do, therfore, not feel comfortable with: it is mysterious to them. Each receptive phase reacts to what it perceives, yet cannot control in order to establish a relationship with it, and that in a very tentative manner; the reflective phase, beginning with the brain transfer capacity to understanding, atrributes its own existence and its own activity to that which it cannot control. By means of interpretation, through each respective highest ability, to the total of that which is not understood and which cannot be controlled will be attributed a metaphysical meaning in a widening of man's understanding of himself.
In this process, two diameterically opposed interpretations will be the result, since perception, man's understanding of himself that is based on it and with it the interpretation of the numinous emanate from, are built along different neuronal pathways.
These modes of interpretation do not, so-to-say, "fall from the sky", but rather, they are developed by human beings; since, however, at all times (and thus also today), most human beings are not capable of an independent use of their phylogenetic hightest brain transfer ability, they submit themselves, in worldly as well as in spiritual matters, to an adequate leadership: to the leaders and to the priests. The former excel by means of such leadership qualities (as physical strength, cleverness, awareness of their power) as are categorically or, depending on life circumstances, important; the latter are by no means tellers of "lies" who, out of egocentric motivations, spin up religious fairy tales, but rather, they are innovative interpreters who are capable of "combining" that which appears numinous at present and which can, therefore, not be controlled (by ordinary human beings); it is the strength and the ability of religious innovators of combining such perceptions that lends their interpretations the credibility of those who rely on them. This "combining capability" arises out of the fact that religious myths and evolutionary core function are brought into "agreement" at the respective level of receptive capacity: preservation and accelleration can be found in the religions of the receptive phase of understanding in its principles of utility, power and strict hierarchy, and, accordingly, in the religions of the receptive phase of reason as "the good", ideal concepts and in essential equality.
At all religious levels and in every historical era we will find such effective "saints" who appear to be standing in a special relationship with the numinous and whose task it is to establish and secure for the rest of mankind of their era a functional connection to it. As successors to such respective innovators, the cast of priests is created who take over, for their respective society, the service of the numinous and who are, due to this, at first, being taken care of by them quite willingly. Naturally, abuse lends itself to this, and that after the respective introduction of each innovative interpretation into tradition, also quite different types are capable of seizing spiritual leadership for their very own purposes is a matter of course among human beings and can also be observed in considering the types of successors to such leaders who established a system of a certain rule: what ruly great leader will actually find the successor he would want?
1. Forms of Religions of the Receptive Phase of Understanding
(a) Tribal Religions: Animism, Totem Cult, Shamanism
All of these early forms of religion emerge out of the receptive phase of understanding; understanding in this context refers to the under-standing of things as things: the existence of things is realized in the combining conditioning and naming of carriers of effects. This awakening understanding reacts to the perception of "carriers of effects" it is surrounded by and on which it depends in various ways and it tries to come to terms with those carriers of effects. Important factors in this will, naturally, be the basic conditions of one's own human existence, namely birth, death and dependence on food to which human beings find themselves constantly subjected to and which, analogously to the natural experience, have to be related back to carriers of effects. The primal experiences are the source of all fertility and burial rites. Very likely, the famous cave paintings of stone-age humans have their roots in those phenomena of the numinous, which are a means of expression of early man's dependence on animistic-natural forces and on their invocation: religion and art emerge at the same time and from the same source. Man and nature are still bound together in mythical-mystic unity; everything that exists and which awakening understanding perceives sensually is related to each other by the governing emotion: just like a child, man, at first, is experiencing himself as a subject among subjects, which his emotional way of experiencing transfers unquestionably to everyhting else that exists. All these forms of religion are, therefore, striving, as can be seen in the still existing religions of North-American Indians, to live in harmony with nature. Seen from this viewpoint, animism that believes that all of nature is filled with "soul", one would have to consider these as the earliest forms of religion, since man, at first, transfers, in an involuntary reflex, the manner of his lievely and emotional way of experiencing himself to other things.(3)
(b) National Religions
The first departure from this occurred due to man's development of his brain transfer capability from the "emotional" receptive level to that of "understanding": the interpretation of the numinous experiences a change due to this, the numinous realm is now being equipped with quite differrent attributes as this was the case in the "emotional" receptive phase: man who is experiencing himself as a being capable of understanding turns this new understanding of himself into the basis of a different view of the numinous by now attributing to it the maximum of the abilities of his understanding. At the same time, the appearance of the numinous changes which leads, according to the different predispositions towards reflection in different religion-forming nations to pantheons of different character; while in the Egyptian-Asian realm, this "appearance" remains closer to the pre-reflective forms, with Gods appearing in animal form or with animals being considered sacred, in Western national religions, those Gods appear in purely human form and are endowed with qualities that reflect man's characteristics and effectiveness at his receptive phase of understanding, as, for example, the Greek Olympus, the ancient Roman or Germanic pantheons. Simultaneously, with the humans, their Gods move from nature to man-made temples, as well: the sacred places in the woods mutate into pillar halls which are preferably built in the "Akropolis" style, since one had always believed to be "closer to the Gods" on hilltops or on mountain tops. The impact of the numinous on man at this point results in man's elevating his own leaders to a God-like status so that, for example, the Egyptian pharaos built their "everlasting pyramids" and the Roman emperors saw altars being erected in their honor.
2. Forms of Religions of the Receptive Phase of Understanding
(a) From national religions to world religions
Reason is the independent abstracting re-ception of understanding's investigation as to its essence. In the receptive phase of reason the old forms, thus, above all the pantheons, are filled with the new content of reason, in that the demands of reason are put to the God (or, as in Israel, which, traditionally only held to its one tribal God Jahwe, only to one God). Already in Homer's works, humans are surprised by the all-too human behavior of their gods; it is man who experiences the behavior of his Gods as unjust and who therefore subjects those to the "moira" (which means fate). This un-covering of reason in the reflection of the sensual data of understanding is the independent, own activity of the human mind on the basis of neuronal evolution: the realization of the essence of reason begins to overshadow – from its set of values as well as neuronally-functionally – the factual realization of understanding in the realization of the "true essence" which the ancient Greeks confused with "existence", "that which exists" receives a completely new value. Socrates, accused of blasphemy, must die since he is searching for the "true virtue" of reason and thereby disturbs the self-understanding or self-perception of his human environment that is based on the receptive level of understanding. Plato wants to forbid the spreading of "fairy tales" of the Gods as they are, for example, contained in the works of Homer, since, in the light of reason, to the one, true God, such despicable human character traits are not allowed to be attributed. The foil of the Divine is thus no longer man who is placed amidst a "factually" or "materially" perceived world, but rather the essence of man as reason shows it which, in its perfected identity, is being identified with the divine: the "idea of the good".
The basis of religion is no longer man of the receptive phase of understanding and his view of the world but rather the essence of man from the vantage point of reason. Since to reason, all men appear as equal, the religions of reason are no longer only addressing one particular tribe or nation, but rather do they understand themselves as world religions which claim to apply to all men. (4)
(b) The Beginning Leadership of Reason – or "the Turn of our Times"
At this point in the observation of the development of religions, we are confronting the emerging of all world religions that are still prevalent today, thus, above all, Buddhism and Christianity (with Islam as a cruder successor), in the emerging of which this changed relationship to the "divine" was existentially experienced.
The basis for this was again an active-lively, cultural-intellectual development of the human mind which led to a decisive change in the development of the neuronal transfer capability of the human brain: after the receptive phase in the development of the human brain transfer capability to reason, the existential center of man's personality was transferred over to this new level and was, from there, taking over the guidance of his existence and also the interpretation of his existence, so that the "summum bonum", the God of the world religions, took on his own life out of this source.
From the variety of Gods that man perceived to exist during the phase of the receptive level of understanding, with the development of the brain transfer capability to reason, these many gods had to necessarily change into only one; Aristotle expressed this in an exemplary way: "Everywhere, where there is something better, there must also exist something that is the most perfect. Since, among the things that exist, one is better than the other, there must also be something that is the most perfect, and that is the divine." (5) It was the dialectic and dihairese of reason which, in their examination of the "data banks" of understanding had necessarily to come upon the all-encompassing unity of the divine.
Considering this, it is not surprising that, of all religions, Judaism became the forerunner of Christianity, since Judaism already had, at the receptive level of understanding, identified itself with its one and only God, through which it retained its identity in spite of all adverse outer conditions. Reason's view of the divine could build easily upon this very real monotheism and declare it its forerunner: the "Old" and the "New" Covenant.
Likewise, the cult forms had to change in which man conversed with his God. In the rituals of understanding, man at first submitted himself to uncontrollable forces in bringing them very real sacrifices; at the receptive level of understanding and in its presenting Gods in human form, this cult took on the form of devotion and service to the Gods. At this level, it was necessary not to incur the wrath of the Gods and to keep oneself in their favor. With the change to the view of the divine as the "summum bonum", which embodied the good, all-knowing, all-powerful and eternity, all-too-human concepts of the Gods and of the divine had to be eradicated, which, necessarily, also led to a change of the cult, for how should the actions of humans in the here and now be able to influence such a supreme God? The religions of understanding that were built on the human "do, ut des" principle of works were now recognized as such and found inadequate for the new God. In the face of such an all-powerful God, man could do practically nothing by himself but was wholly dependent on his grace ("sola gratia"). The "summum bonum" of reason did not expect devotion and service, but rather faith and love ("sola fide": the inner and utter submission of the individual in the place of the former common task of religious devotion. (6) Here becomes evident the utter confusion of categories in all world religions in which devotional services are held, in which believers go on pilgrimages to so-called Saints (as if men were able to judge what is "holy"!), or even in the unspeakably pagan Marian devotion of the Catholic church, to which form the ancient mythical superstition of the belief in the "great primordial mother" has been stylized. If one, however, lets oneself be confused by the presence of such forms of superstition of the religions of understanding in the religions of reason, as most rational critics do, one will be bound to overlook the evolutionary development in religion.
Through the change of leadership from understanding to reason, man, as all world religions show, will no longer be able to seek salvation in the here and now; salvation becomes a matter of the hereafter (paradise, nirvana). The inner reason for this fact is that "salvation", contrary to the receptive level of understanding, is no longer experienced as utility, power or emotional happiness which was, as such, basically present and possible in the here and now, but rather that salvation now becomes identified with the ideal state of the view of the essential in reason. This ideal state is, however, as reason will only too soon experience, not attainable in reality and thus "true salvation" must be transferred to the hereafter, the here and now becomes a valley of sorrows and of tears that, according to the teachings of Buddha, should be left behind as soon as possible – reason experiences the here and now as an irrevocable state of despair and places, at the moment of its reception of leadership – this one-sided experience at the top of its view of the world.
II. The Sacrifice
The history of religions was and is, to this day, above all, a history of sacrifice: the attempt by means of the "do, ut des" principle, to influence the uncontrollable forces and powers, and thus, the history of sacrifice runs parallel to the history of the human mind.
In fetishism and animism man thinks of nature as being animated; in trees, stones, or in animals, mysterious forces dwell which one has to come to terms with. Wherever and whenever animals, towards which man of the receptive level of understanding, due to the animals' particular prowess and force, felt rather inferior than superior, are being revered as higher beings, or wherever and whenever these are even considered as tribal ancestors, one deals with the totem cult. In the cult of the dead, the souls of the departed are revered who do not die but rather, are seen by man of the receptive level of understanding as possibly present (as, for example, in dreams) and who, if burial and devotional services were to be neglected, could do harm to the living (demons, ghosts). Until to the present, for example, in some African tribal religions, certain areas are reserved for the spirits of the ancestors, the entering of which by strangers is considered as the breaking of a taboo which will have serious consequences. And even still in classical Greece, such a demon-oriented cult of the soul is the main reason for adoption in case of childlessness, so that the "devotional service" to one's soul can already be secured in the here and now. Compared to the ancient Greek tribal religions, the Homerian religion is a religion of the nobility of the courts which, as a mythical national religion, was covering up the tribal rituals of fetishism, of the totem cult and of the cult of the dead, but which could not replace them much in the same manner as Christian religion was not able to remove all pagan modes of thinking, but rather had to assimilate itself to it by incorporating such rituals. All these cults were connected with sacrifice, the forms of which during the course of time, due to the development of understanding, underwent considerable changes. What evokes changes in sacrificial rituals?
When man is bringing sacrifices to powers that are stronger than himself, such a behavior will, certainly, not have emerged immediately at the transition of the development from animal to man – no animal "brings sacrifices". Rather, form and subject of sacrificial rituals have very likely had a history that runs parallel to the development of understanding. This will force us to the suprising realization that such sacrifices will not have become "milder" in the light of increasing understanding, but, quite to the contrary, that the mannerism of a more developed understanding will bring forth such sacrificial rituals as can be found, for example, with the Aztecs. This development will, thus, at first, not be a weakening one, but rather an increasing one, as far as the "sophistication of violence" of such sacrificial rituals is concerned. The sacrifice of humans, which could still be found in ancient Greece of classical times, possibly even up to the second century past Christ (7), does, seen from this viewpoint, not stand at the beginning of this development, but rather, it has to be considered as its late consequence.
Man entered the world as animal, and for the longest time of the known history of his development, he remained an animal (homo habilis, homo erectus); it was a slow and long process until man attained the first forms of and had what we term as understanding. (8) The historically longest period of the development of man is that in which that level was developed (neocortex) and, in phylogeny, built into neuronal networks, which constitutes the basic form of understanding. In all this time, there could not have been sacrifices, since man did not possess himself as Ego. The bringing of sacrifices presupposes the existence of an awareness, that something is "given" from somewhere, thus, the separation of subject and object and with it language as a foundation of the thinking of such a separation capability. The first form of sacrifice will always have been an exchange: out of experience and in anticipation of the experience, that man is subjected to circumstances which he has to come to terms with. Also sacrifice is communication, as all modes of behavior and actions of existence, and this communication is based here on active and passive relatedness. Thus, according to the crude causality of the awakening understanding, every act of giving, every given has to be complemented by giving. Sacrifice will emerge as a communicating action at that point at which the first separation of relatedness is experienced consciously in such a way that relationships exist that cannot be controlled and formed by understanding directly and such relationships which are notally removed from any chance of being influenced. The latter will become the object of sacrifice, in order to put oneself into touch with such causalities to which one is subjected passively to and to directly influence them. The further the actual control of understanding reaches, the more this functionally correct causality will increase and the more the uncontrollable relationships will concentrate and be increased. Thus, sacrifice emerges at that point, at which understanding, within immanence, will separate itself into two areas, into two worlds – two worlds already in the factual world of understanding, which will then be separated by reason into immanence and transcendence. The increasing elevation of those forces that are only indirectly to be influenced and their concentration arises out of the increase of controllability; the more understanding comes to know and to evaluate its own controlling power, the more man must necessarily deal with those forces that he can not control.
Inasmuch as the quality of the numinous is changed by the reception of reason, inasmuch will this fact also lead to a new quality of the sacrifice: the divine sacrifice in Christ. The self-active reason, in its "taking over" of leadership, sacrifices God unto himself due to the resulting change from salvation in the here and now (at the level of understanding) to a state of non-salvation in the here and now (at the level of reason). Christology can also be interpreted in this manner: no longer does man bring sacrifices to his God, but rather, reason sacrifices God on its own altar as an offering to man. While at the receptive level of understanding, man himself is the most "valuable" sacrificial offering, as, for example, when first-borns are being sacrificed, salvation at the receptive level of reason can only be found in sacrificing God. And it is not God who decides as to whether this sacrifice is acceptable and pleasing to God, but rather, it is man who has to accept the offering. The blood of God spilled for condemned mankind… What anthropocentrism of reason, even in this high form of religion, if mankind nails God to its cross.
III Jesus, the "Missing Link" of Christianity
The subordination of Christianity to the concept of evolution makes it unnecessary to constantly criticize it antithetically and allows us to consider it from all> of its aspects. Every innovation has its good and its bad aspects, particularly where humans are making use of these innovations; this applies to the use of a hammer as a construction tool and as a destructive weapon as much as it applies to the application of the teachings of Christianity.
Therefore, all those terrible things that rationalistic critics accuse Christianity of, – thus the abusive control and exploitation of one's fellow human beings, particularly by means of applying very unchristian measures – do speak a clear language: that power is the issue here, namely that "potestas" how men, according to their categoriality can master life as well as elevate it.
Thus, Christianity represents a spiritual means of reason to elevate the fitness of individual man in his "struggle of life", which can be observed quite easily in that it has been applied for 2,000 years and is still being applied by many even today as a means of survival respectively as a means to exercise power (as by the Catholic church). "That which endows one with superiority will survive" may thus be a way of adapting the Hegelian statement "that which is becoming is reasonable" in an evolutionary sense. Who would want to contend that Christianity has not proven its survival capability or its success in its own sphere of influence?
Christianity is not "divine revelation" but rather an innovation that was introduced by several men, above all, by Jesus and by (St.) Paul. With it, the used-up intellectual and spiritual concepts of antiquity that were based on understanding (polytheism, belief in demons, mysterious cults and so on) were transcended through reason:
– the new thoughts of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy – Plato/Aristotle, Stoa and Neo-Platonism were thus bundled or concentrated into a new existential view;
– at the same time, these teachings were so adaptable (!) that they opened themselves to all categories of men. ("The house of my father has many dwellings").
While it is the characteristic of evolution to achieve qualitative superiority by means of an elevation of material function, the emergence of Christianity also shares another aspect with evolution, for also in Christianity the problem of the missing link can be demonstrated. As is known, we are missing in the development of many species, the actual innovative representatives in the respective chain. As evolutionary thinking humans we are, therefore, glad that we can refer back to Archaeopteryx, at which example can be proven the transition from saurian to bird. Before we apply this thought to Christianity let us also look at technological innovation: who would, when considering the possibilities of today's telephone, think of the fact that this innovation, with (the German inventor) Philip Reis, began with a knitting needle? Or who would consider it possible that the devices for the capturing of sound of an Edison were the forerunners of today's CD recorders?
This means: in most cases, the "missing links", be they in natural or in technical development, do, at first sight, not give us any indication that they are the actual innovative products! For this reason, and also due to the fact that they appear so seldom, they are hardly traceable in biological evolution. Moreover, the decisive "mutation" with which new developments appear will, of course, not appear to any degree of perfection, but rather will they only reach their zenith in the further differentiating development of the innovation.
Were we to apply this thought to the spiritual innovation of "Christianity", we would discover the same phenomenon here. It entered the world, based on its prophetic predecessor, namely (St.) John Baptist, as a transcending innovation with Jesus who, as well as he was capable of, tried to give expression to this innovation and who was, necessarily, in doing so, misunderstood in many aspects and, therefore, his teachings were also handed down wrongly.(9) ("evangelists") As "New Covenant", in consciously being opposed to the "Old Covenant", Christianity thus at least represented a new existential outlook of reason and was effective in a small circle (the "first Christians"). What was needed, however, was the genius of a (St.) Paul who was, in the truest sense of the word, struck down by the realization of what potent tool was given to humanity with this. Above all he, but also the later "church fathers", of whom (St.) Augustine should be particularly mentioned, blended the rational brightness of Greek philosophy with the existential teachings of Jesus into one system, in which knowledge and faith seemed to be reconciled for millennia.
What, precisely, turned Saul into Paul? It was the inner experience of a transformation: being moved by "spirit" in the existential takeover of leadership to reason, thus, above all, also a neuronal change, in which he experienced himself in a new, lively concentration and essentiality. This transfer of the existential leadership to reason allowed a new freedom and independence towards exterior forces, including the steadfastness of the martyrs who sacrificed themselves for their faith. This new force of the interior above the exterior was not understood by the contemporary cultural hellenistic environment and, therefore, Christians were already then declared insane by Celsus – which was, in a certain sense, surely justified: for the existential center of Christian thinking was "moved" from understanding to reason (translator's note: the German word for "insane" is "verrueckt"; "ver-rueckt" can, however, also take on the "literal" meaning of an object being "moved" from one point to another) – and this existential movement coincided precisely with the rational main result of Greek philosophy: that the essentiality of existence should take precedence over the coincidentally existing.
As the one with whom this new existential possibility effectively emerged for western tradition, this much despised and highly revered Jesus can be seen as sort of a missing link in the evolutionary history of the human mind, for we hardly know anything verifiable about him. If we, however, draw conclusions from the findings of jaw bone fragments or even of footprints of hominids as to their humanity and as to the size of their brains, all the more should it be allowed to trace the human being Jesus and his teachings from the fragments that are contained about him in the gospels and in other traditional writings.
Moreover, every religious founder finds himself in a position that is quite similar to that of a great scientist: he introduced an innovation that overthrows the existing views and provides new insights to humanity. As to whether and as to how humanity adopts those innovations, does not lie within the power of the innovator, and also not what humans turn it into; therefore, Russell's statement that "all known religions are untrue as well as harmful" can actually also be applied to science: these are "untrue" inasmuch as they do not offer "natural laws", as they claim, but rather exclusively theoretical interpretations of repetitive process under similar circumstances to certain conditions. Such natural laws are also untrue since they – as also religions – are only effective temporarily until they are overthrown by new insights and interpretations. And more harm than science with its inventions that can be applied to the construction of arms including the nuclear bomb for the destruction of the world has certainly not been produced by religion. In both cases it depends on what man who is using this innovation is turning it into.
IV The Co-Relationship Between the Development of Reason and the Teachings of Christianity
In this respect, it is instructive to at first look at the various world religions as to their similarities and as to their differences and to relate this back to the development of philosophy:
The point of departure or starting point is the same for all world religions: its basis is, in each case, the completely reflected religion of works of the receptive level of understanding; here it is the detailed regulations of Judaism, there the East-Indian-Brahman religion of the cast of the pundits. Reason is opposed to this formal and stagnating style of religious practice; what can be seen in ancient India and Israel with respect to their spiritual development, can be brought into connection with the intellectual development of reason in ancient Greece, where the same basic ideas changed the world view, functionally as well as time-wise. (10)
The core basis for this movement is the fact that, at approximately the same time, yet in different parts of the world and based on different traditions, reception of reason in man was developed through the evolutionary development of the intricate build-up of the brain's neural network in the neocortex.
Next to the conventional and completely reflected interpretation by understanding, a new and different world view became possible that, compared to the perspective of understanding, appears elevated. With this, we find ourselves at the actual point of departure: appearance and existence. Reason comes to the conclusion that, obviously, everything that appears to the senses through understanding, is merely appearance; "true existence" can only be arrived at by the interpretation of reason. The problem of the prophets, Buddhas and of Parmenides is the following: they want to break through the unlively and deceptive formality of reflected understanding, they are all on their way "inward" in their search for a new center of reason. From their different bases, they necessarily draw different conclusions.
The Jahwe of the Old Testament is, at first, a completely demonic God in whose realm of capabilities and attributes also lie satanic, unruly, spontaneous and cruel traits. This God is, above all, a sinister God. However, from the 8th to the 7th century BC, the prophets appeared (11) and accused the people of Israel of having gone astray from their God Jahwe. In this they, however, go out from a completely different image of God than that of the traditional national Jewish religion which fulfilled itself in the "do, ut des" of its cult. Sincere faith and moral conduct were demanded instead of ritual worship: "I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies." (Amos 5:21). Jahwe's wrath and revenge is replaced by: "Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet" (Isaiah 28:17). The change in the quality of the image of God is shown in Hosea 14:4, "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely."
For the Jewish people, shaken by fate, with its "Babylonian Captivity" having come to an end only in 539 BC with their return to Palestine, naturally, the preservation of their national identity was a priority; their sufferings were interpreted as God's punishment for their erroneous relationship to him, which could only be reconciled by a Messiah. In defiance of the prophetic spirit which would ultimately culminate in Jesus and in his refuting of all piousness of the ritual cult of understanding, Judaism turned into a pure "book religion" (Thora), the teachings of which were canonized in 75 BC. I think that we see here an Israeli variation of a Semitic "world religion", forming itself quite parallel to Islam with its Koran as book-based religion of letters with to this day amazing similarities in their fundamentalist forms.
With respect to the traditional and unfortunate theory of reincarnation, Buddha (560 – 480 BC) rejects everything that exists in the here and now as mere illusion; to him, "true existence" is only possible in the nirvana, after one has left the cycle of existence. With this, a negative and resigned accent is put on the existence in the here and now, the only purpose of which is to be dissolved into nothing – a typical overdrawing of receiving reason that takes the essence of things more important than things themselves – negative idealism. It is interesting, however, that, from approximately the turn of our times on, the concept of salvation also appears in Buddhism.
While Thervada-Buddhism that was founded by Buddha (the "Little Boat") was intended to be a universal religion, is was only realizable by ascetics. Moreover, in this form of Buddhism, nuns had to be re-born as monks in order to reach nirvana. At this point, however, in Hinduism, there appeared in India, all of a sudden, an all-powerful world ruler, Ishvara (Lord), and for the first time, love (bhakti) as a position towards this God, including salvation by grace. This concept of a loving Lord and of salvation influenced Buddhism in the "Little Boat" of which the salvation of all humans was not (yet) conceptualized. And thus, in Mahayana ("Big Boat"), the figure of a numinous saviour in form of the Bodhisvatta was adapted, to which, of course, Buddha himself advanced: "der die Wiedergeburt in seinem Paradies des Reinen Landes im Westen denen schenkt, die an ihn glauben. "(12) (This sentence discusses one basic issue: That one will receive the grace of re-incarnation in Buddha's paradise of a "pure country" if one believes in him). Only through this opening was Buddhism in a position to become a real world religion, and thus, here can also be found the "sola fide" of (St.) Paul and of Luther: "Dass man aber in dieses Land geboren wird, … das ist nur dies, ob einer Glauben hat an diese Verheissung Buddhas oder aber solchen Glaubens ermangelt" (this sentence discusses the fact that as to whether or not one will be re-born into that promised land depends on whether or not one believes in Buddha's promise), as well as the "sola gratia": "Was uns unsere Geschoepfe, so bar alles eigenen Vermoegens, uns, deren Wissen so armselig, und deren Tun so unzulaenglich, was uns gleichwohl instand setzt auf das Schnellste von dieser Welt loszukommen, und unsere Seelen zu der reinen Wohnstadt zu foerdern, das ist einzig und allein die Gnade…" (this sentence reiterates that it is grace alone which will enable man in all his iniquities to pass quickly from this world to his promised abode).
3. Greek Philosophy
The "regular" way to the reception of reason was only found by the ancient Greeks, aided by their particular situation. They were moving about in a colonizing manner in all cultural centers of the known world of their times and came, therefore, into contact with various views, concepts and realms of knowledge – and out of this "blending", their dialectic abilities arose which led from nature philosophy, which searches for the essence of external things, to sophism which cannot yet decide as to whether understanding or reason should take precedence. This is then accomplished by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle in the "dihairese" who, in positive idealism, overthrow the world view of understanding and thereby also lay the rational foundations for the development of Christianity. (13) This positive and worldly idealism becomes the basis of the western world view as opposed to the "other-worldly" view of Buddhism which influences Asia. We can see here how the forming of certain basic thoughts can influence the mentality of entire nations in different ways. Where Buddha identifies existence with the nothing, Parmenides warns precisely of this consequence: ("Man soll es aussagen und erkennen, dass es Seiendes ist; denn es ist [der Fall], dass es ist, nicht aber, dass Nichts [ist]…die nichtwissenden Menschen … treiben dahin, gleichermassen taub wie blind, verbluefft, Voelkerschaften, die nicht zu urteilen verstehen, denen das Sein und Nichtsein als dasselbe und auch wieder nicht als dasselbe gilt…" (14) (no English description is rendered her due to the vagueness of both the Greek original text and its German translation).
The same thoughts were prevailing in all cultural centers of the known world of antiquity due to the fact that reception of reason was developing and thus the essential equality of man became the basis of thinking.
4. The Essence of Christian Teachings
a) On TrinityThe various heresies in early Christian times show that transitional "natural" thinking found and took offence in the development of God's image very soon and that the "only true" teaching had yet to be found.
If one then moves to the metaphysical perspective of reason, the viewpont of "trinity", in a sense, complies with reason's own logic which, with this, puts the experience of its own vitality above all else. The function of ratio as it is available to us must, in order to put itself in relationship to something, dissolve its unity and separate into components which will comprise an image that ratio can understand; however, in faith, in spite of this dissolution of unity at the rational level, it remains conscious of this unity in the higher medium of a spiritual and existential relatedness. The mystery of the unification with the Godhead is interpreted entirely new in "man's role as God's child" as an existential reliance on the world view of reason, that all human beings are of equally divine nature. Every man can, in that he gives birth to God whithin himself and thus becomes a "Son of God" (Master Eckehart), cast away "old Adam" of understanding; the similarity to Platonic thinking can be grasped with one's hands: "Denn es muss der Mensch um das Allgemeine wissen und aus den vielen Wahrnehmungen vernuenftig das Eine zu sammeln verstehen: das ist seine Erinnerung an jene hohen Dinge, welche die Seele schaute, da sie mit dem Gotte zog und den Blick zum wahren Sein gehoben hatte… Er [der Philosoph] tritt heraus aus allem Wirrsal und Bemuehen der Menschen und gehoert ganz seinem eigenen goettlichen Leben. Die Menge aber zeigt auf ihn mit dem Finger und schreit: 'Er ist ein Narr, seht, ein Narr', denn die Menge weiss nicht, dass der Gott ihn entzueckt." (15) (Description of content: Plato explains here that man must have a general knowledge out of the many impressions of which he will know how to select, on the basis of reason, the one important concept, and that this concept is his memory of those higher things that his soul looked at when he was communing with God and had concentrated his attention on true existence – and that this man, the philosopher, leaves human cares and worries behind and belongs entirely to his divine existence, and that the crowd will point with their fingers at him and shout that he is a fool, since the crowd does not know that his God delights him).
Since Christian Teachings build on faith, thus, on an existential view and not on human ratio as inconsequential knowledge, human beings in various stages of intellectual and spiritual development will "find a home" in this "system". With this, this religion fulfills the requirement, the "conditio sine qua non" for every world religion, that in it, each individual of the (human) species will potentially be able to "find a home". Seen from this viewpoint, Christianity will still have a long existence ahead of itself: as long as the human mind and the majority of its individual representatives still remains far below the possibilities contained in Christianity for their existential search for meaning, it represents a vessel which can further the maturation of the understanding of man's "inner self" — and in comparison to which our modern rationality considers itself only superior due to its belief that it (modern rationality) exists on its own, which has, however, in doing so, forsaken the vitality of its own "inner self" and is thus falling prey to outer considerations.
To clear up any misunderstanding: This is not intended as an attempt of speaking for Christianity or even for its negative side effects to date: I only think that these teachings — as much as Buddhism and Islam — will still prevail for a long time, for the majority of human beings will not outgrow them intellectually.
b) The Core of the Teachings
The "resurrection of the dead" and the "final judgment", as remnants that were brought over from the religions of the receptive level of understanding, will not be considered here, as well as the eschatology of the Apocalypse, which emerged out of the fantasy of (St.) John: Even to this day, founders of sects, from "Jehova's Witnesses" to Scientologists, cannot refrain from kindling expectations of end times and from recommending themselves as the only conveyancers of salvation. All this belongs to the human will for exercise of power over the field of "inner matters" which is applied by certain people who want to adapt traditional concepts to their use in order to impress the masses.
The "mystery" of the sacrifical death of Christ has already, on the occasion of the description of the history of sacrifice, been classified as a myth of reason, in which man sacrifices God unto himself, and this again and again, when he, as in the Catholic rite of the so-called "trans-substantiation" imbibes through the "secret of faith", his God in flesh and blood ... That blood is supposed to be "quite a special liquid", man has already believed since the times of religions of nature, as for example, in the practice of the "voodoo" cult, in which the contact with the Gods can only be established by imbibing "sacrificial offerings" of blood (human and animal blood sacrifices).
These rituals that can be easily traced back to the religions of the receptive level of understanding will not be discussed here as they are meant for those masses that are supposed to be led to the actual content of religion by means of sensual perception. Here only the actual core that is based in ratio will be discussed, which Luther, with his "Reformation", wanted to re-establish, as he found it in the gospels and in (St.) Paul. In protest, his reason turned against 1,500 years of accumulation of superstition within Christianity, while he could not fee himself entirely from obscure views in every respect.
At least, he cleared up the misconception that even still prevails today, namely, that Christianity is a religion of works, in which man can gain a reputation before God by his own actions or that he would even be able to buy himself free from punishment for his sins. He puts – as he found it in (St.) Paul and his interpretation of Jesus – man in this relationship to God only on faith, love and grace ("sola fide", "sola gratia") and retains only two sacraments (baptism and communion, the latter in a more symbolic form than in Catholicism). The devotion to saints, to Mary, and everything outwardly ritual he banned from religion; most importantly, however, he restored the direct relationship between the individual and his God, with which he eliminated the priest's role as mediator as the Catholic Church claimed it and still claims it today. Herein lies also the root of his attack on Papism since every pope insists on being the representative of Christ on earth and thus intervenes between man and God.
With this, Luther returned to the roots of reason, to the realization that human beings are essentially equal — and with this, all human beings are equal before God, including priesthood and pope. The vital introspectiveness of reason in the individual does not tolerate any interference from outside, as far as the point of relation of this introspectiveness is concerned; within its concepts is written "the law" in form of that consciousness which, for the first time, with Demokrit, appeared as "syneidesis" (joint knowledge) and, in recognizing the essential equality of human beings, brings forth ethics.
And thus the central truth of the metaphysic of Christianity, from which its 2,000-year-influence on the "hearts" of humans is derived, the "double commandment" (Matthew 22) (16), in which the existential development and formation of reason is expressed. Here, man initially is, similar to Plato, seen correctly in this three-fold categoriality: his heart, thus "emotio", his thoughts, thus understanding and reason, and his soul, which is the vital center of the individual, should be directed towards one goal. Moreover: If the relationship to his "neighbor" is as important as his relationship to God, then man's essence is expressed as communicating interaction. Both demands of reason are, quite obviously, so difficult to fulfill that even today, hardly anyone can live up to it.
However, this double commandment was so powerful and effective because it is in agreement with the basic idea of evolution, the consequence of which is drawn by reason. What else does the commandment that we shall love God want to tell us than that we should keep sacred the transcendence of Being as goal of our existence beyond ourselves in order to allow the ongoing process of vital development continue? And what else is the commandment that we shall love our neighbors as we love ourselves but the consequent adherence to the realization of reason that all men are essentially equal? The double commandment of the New Testament can thus be interpreted as the reasonable development of the functional principle of evolution as a "Yes" to the continuing acceleration that can be observed in all that is alive, thus a qualitative acceleration of existence by means of mutation and selection on the basis of the balance of the forces of nature (in its self-preservation).
This inclusion of the essential equality of all human beings is diametrically opposed to the religions of the receptive level of understanding in which human beings are accorded and allotted different ranks, from the Hindu casts to the keeping of slaves in Greece and in the United States until into the 19th century. It was the strength of Christianity as a world religion that it, based on reason, was supposed to have effect for all human beings, on the basis of their essential equality; and thus every type of human at whatever level of development could be found in it, from the poorest in spirit to the genius, where heretofore, the categorical differences have led to sects and to a splitting up of cults. Only on this basis was Christianity also effective as a state religion, and paid for sucking up like a sponge all mental capabilities with the consequence that it had to also incorporate all sub-categorical remnants of superstition and regressive behavior patterns — it went to the people and that not to the advantage of its own basic teachings ...
When Nietzsche attacks Christianity and (St.) Paul, that "dysangelist", as a representative of the "priest per se", he construes, with this, also a discrepancy between life and religion. (17) The "priest" is presented as that weakling who lifts himself into power in that he transforms all "high" values into sin and in that he put his "herd virtues" at the top of the scale of his values, who is supposedly taking the "value" and "meaning" of life out of life and is thus taking away from life its immanence as its real weight. However, what concept of life lies behind such a supposition? How weak is life conceptualized here, if several priests, who are not exactly presented as the strongest members of the species (but rather only as their most "cunning" ones) are supposed to be able to reverse the "natural" course of life fundamentally? It does not pay off to discuss such absurdity and subjectivity, rather, one should discuss the questions as to how is the situation of life and religion which, basically, mans the relationship of transcendence and immanence. However, Nietzsche also errs here, if he thinks that he should attribute to the transcendence of the religious a movement that is directed against "actual life"; quite to the contrary, religion, too, serves life — life that, in the human species, has connected with consciousness. To this should still be noted that behind Nietzsche's main idea of the super-human is hiding nothing but transcendence. He only creates the impression as if this was concerned with "transcendence within immancence": the illusory product of the "super-human" is not any more or less removed than any Godheads with the one difference that transcendence is not put at the end of the spectrum but rather at the beginning. This moment of transcendence becomes even clearer with Nietzsche himself in his statement, "to reach the super-human for one second" — seen by light, this statement contains nothing but the "unio mystica" of religion.
If Nietzsche, thus, considers the demand for equality a whim of weaklings who want to appoint themselves as ruling priests, he completely misunderstands the spiritual and intellectual development of man, as he also, consequently, condemns Socrates and Plato since he correctly realizes that here lies the decisive inner connection between philosophy and Christianity: in the demand for equality on the basis of the realization of essential equality. Here, however, Nietzsche wants to move back beyond the viewpoint of reason towards the allegedly "noble hierarchy" of understanding which is supposed to emanate from the unbroken instincts of the "blonde beast" — what an anachronism!
Without becoming aware of it, in reality, he does not reject Christianity with this, but rather, reason itself and its world view, and by means of this very reason: reason has grown tired of itself.
The original Christian teachings as Jesus represented them and the worldly development of Christianity are thrown into one pot, although already one of the greatest thinkers of enlightenment, Voltaire, strictly separates (these issues) here: his condemnation "Ecrasez l'infame" is not directed at the founder of Christianity, and at his moral teachings, but at the deceitful freeloader system and at the crimes of the priest cast. Such a separation was also supported here in order to be able to work out and make visible the actual and effective element of Christianity which coincides with the cultural evolution of man. Criticism of the church, as it has been rendered, beginning with Celsus and Porphyrios, to enlightenment, until today, is necessary and of merit, but often also one-sided and short-sighted.
1. One overlooks the "good aspects" of Christianity: that within it, there also always existed movements which were based on the true content of the love of God and of one's neighbor and which put this into action. Monasteries and Orders were, thus, not only instruments of power, but also places where active charity was practiced — and for many centuries, they were also the carriers of western cultural tradition.
2. One attributes to "the church" what one should attribute to basic human traits: that man strives for power and utility, and be it at the cost of others. One attacks Christianity in its worldly activities and does not consider what any other alternative would have created. Would humans not have been precisely acting in the same manner, would they not have sought to exercise power over each other, with the same consequences? The hunger for power of the present generations is thus not a consequence of Christianity, but of humanity. Let us, for once, imagine that Christianity would not have developed; who would be so naive as to assume that any less acts of suppression and any less crimes against humanity would have been committed?
Nowadays, at least, the worldly arm of the Churches has been cut off, their "power" is limited to their role over superstition; the still quite lively and raging criticism of their crimes seem fruitless to me and distracts from the fact that, in the meantime, another cast has replaced the priest cast — to this cast should be addressed the criticism that was once directed at the priest cast: the "politicians".
They abuse and free-load, betray and reign in the name of some ideology — in reality for the sake of power and egotistic abuse –, they emphasize the importance and difficulty of their office, they prattle on about the welfare of society, not unlike priests prattle on about salvation. What was once the "church", is replaced by the "party" today, the "Simonism" of the Vatican can be found everywhere in the world in the corruption of the politicians. There are more important tasks than to accuse old Grandma "church" of its sins if we want to change our own reality and form it in an ethical sense.
Man's problem of today in and with his world do not go back to the fact that there are religions and churches — but rather to the fact that the traditional religions are no longer valid and binding. Not some God or other is "the wolf of Man", but it still holds true: homo hominis lupus — and the utilitarianism and liberalism of our times strengthen this "wolf mentality" instead of weakening it.
In conclusion: What is said by: "God is dead"? What does it mean, what does it point to? While it also points towards the fact that world relgion's "game" is over, it points, above all, to this: that the essential determination of man, as it has emerged as the governing one, with Greek philosophy and the turn of our times, has been reflected through and is no longer supportable. The 2,500 years of the reign of essence over existence has come to an end. The view of reason at the world has lost its inner strength, existentiality has freed itself from its ties to reason. In the One God, man had maximized and idealized his own essence; the "entelechia" of reason, valid from Aristotle to Kant, is destroyed, man is stranded at nihilism.
However, this freedom from any connectedness which is, at present, showing such negative effects, only a prologue, a prologue which points towards "freedom for", towards the emergence of a new view of man and the world: the transcendence of evolution is at work as ever, for many is now free beyond reason.
(1) Recently, stone paintings have been discovered in Australia, which are considered to be the oldest presently known.
(2) German original text in: Enzyklopaedie der Religionen, Weltbild Verlag GmbH, Augsburg, 1990, p. 5
(3) One could be tempted to speculate that the totem cult, thus the belief in the descent from and relatedness to objects and animals, should be more attributed to the Egyptian and Asian religions, if one thinks of the reverence of Gods in animal form up to the explicit totem cult of the North-American Indians and of the sacred cows in India. This relationship should also be the basis of the theory of re-incarnation in a cycle of life as it was also adopted in India and in Buddhism. Shamanism which influences the soul by means of magic and which puts itself into a state of ecstasy in order to quasi self-actively gain knowledge, can be considered more as a fore-runner of the European religions up to the Greek Dionysian cult.
(4) In this lies the deeper reason for the incessant conflicts between religions of understanding and their splinter groups.
(5) Aristotle, Fragmentum 16
(6) This points towards the fact how mythically-superstitious even modern state thinking can be when special privileges are granted to Christian churches.
(7) in Arcadia, to the Zeus Lykaios
(8) see also the long period of epigenesis and ontogenesis of the child.
(9) All intellectual innovation can only emerge via tradition but it has to rely on the pre-existence and emergence of those who, at first, selected and tested innovation and then passed it on.
(10) Some philosophers, such as Jaspers, call this period, in a methaphysical manner, the "axis period", since one can not explain this evolutionary break-through.
(11) from Latin: pro testari – to testity for something.
(12) to this complex, see Gustav Mensching, Die Weltreligionen, Drei Lilien Verlag GmbH, Wiesbaden, 1981
(13) to this, see my articles in "Aufklaerung und Kritik":
(14) Diels/Kranz 28 B 6
(15) Plato, Phaidros, 249 c
(16) "Du sollst lieben, den Herrn, deinen Gott, mit deinem ganzen Herzen, mit deiner ganzen Seele und mit allen deinen Gedanken. Das ist das wichigste und erste Gebot. Ein zweites von gleicher Bedeutung ist dieses: Du sollst deinen Naechsten lieben wie dich selbst." Thou shalt love the lord thy god with all thy heart , and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment, and the second unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
(17) to this, see Nietzsche, Genealogie der Moral and Antichrist
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