Preliminary methods help one develop faith. And faith is essential for emergence of the incentive for making spiritual efforts.
But what is faith? This is a rather multi-level concept.
Some say about their faith: “Well, I know there is something out there…: cosmic intellect, UFO…”
Others will assert with confidence: “Yes, I believe in God!” And they will even make a “sign of the cross”. But they do not make even slightest spiritual efforts — even to find out what God wants from them, let alone to transform themselves in accordance with His Will! On the contrary, they will be drinking hard, stealing, hating, killing, and only occasionally thinking: “What if God might not like this? Oh, well — all this is not going to be soon!”. Just like I would not be interested to hear about methods of manufacturing golden jewelry or faceting diamonds — they are not interested to hear anything about God.
Once I was talking to a former head of a parish. He was telling me that he was working on his dissertation. I said to him: “But we are already in the age when it is time to think about using the time left to make as much as possible in the monastic pursuit and not in acquiring earthly titles… Will God need your degree?” He replied: “Well, God — it is not known if He exists or not, but the Ph.D. degree is almost mine!”
Faith acquires a real value only when it is characterized by love for God. Because only love can make us want to transform ourselves sincerely, willing to become what our Beloved wants us to be. And later it may even grow into a passion, which will make us give up everything that stands in the Way to the wide-open Embrace of the Creator… This is when one comes to a true monasticism: to being one-to-one with God…
So, helping people strengthen their faith is the sole purpose of such techniques as making standard ritual bodily movements, repeating prayers, performing ritual dances and worshiping images of God and “saints” on icons or in the form of idols.
But with all the seeming absurdity of playing rites, initiations, common and individual mantras, games, etc. — God “adjusts” to these games that people play and helps sincere seekers overcome the difficult first steps of the great Path against this background.
Although the true baptism in the Holy Spirit (which was described by Philip the Apostle, in particular, [6,11]) in no way resembles the corresponding rite of any Church that is known under the same name, God accepts this act from sincere neophytes if they perform it as a vow to Him that they have an unwavering resolution to seek and to find Him as their Goal.
But when companies of murderers accept baptism before setting off for their bloody crimes, like it was, for example, during the Chechen war, — does it not look like an abominable desecration of the Teachings and the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ for us?
The same can be said about christening of children: does not common everyday experience tell us that it is a completely useless act? One may have seen both christened and-non-christened children get sick, die, become drunkards or criminals when they grow up!
Christening is an oath of devotion to God, and not at all an act of “guard magic”. And only experienced and mature people can give such an oath, and they must do it themselves, but not “godparents” for them.
… And strings with crosses that people put on the children’s necks sometimes turn out to be slip-knots for little babies. Sometimes they get entangled in those strings that strangle their necks…
Crosses worn around the necks were used by executioners during the compulsory christening of Russians to mark those who had already been christened: so that it would be easier for them to catch and subject to tortures or to kill those people who tried to evade this . But why do people wear crosses now? Do they really think that God needs them to? But it is enough for God if there is a sign of christening in a sincere Christian’s soul.
… But on the other hand — prayers before meal, icons in one’s house, attendance of churches, participation in rituals, repetition of mantras and feeling a cross on the chest — all of this can strengthen the faith by reminding one about God. And God gives the worthy seekers confirmations of correctness of their initial efforts by affecting their emotional sphere: He grants them an experience of bliss by creating flows of grace.
… But there are no “saving” rituals, nonetheless. And upon acquiring loving faith, one has to start studying the Will of God, as opposed to canons of the organization, in which one started the Path. Also one has to make real efforts on self-transformation — transformation of oneself as a soul, as a consciousness.
As we can see, there is nothing wrong in getting involved in ritual forms of religious practice at a certain stage of one’s development. This has been typical of all times, countries and religion forms. And it does not make sense to try to figure out which ritual forms are better and which worse. The more peace, harmony, pure and tranquil joy, bliss and love they carry, the better. These are exactly the qualities that religious rites should help believers cultivate.
The main issue is not the form of ritual practices, but the ideology that is preached by the organizations that provide these practices.
* * *
All people differ by their psychogenetic age, i.e. by the age of the soul. The age of the body (the ontogenetic age) is a different thing. In the next incarnation everyone can quite quickly and easily realize what they developed in the previous incarnations. This relates to the intellectual potential, level of development of the chakras, amount of the mass of the consciousness, inclinations in the professional field, intensity of certain psychic traits.
This is why it is perfectly normal that there are adult people who possess dramatically different abilities to comprehend religious issues.
It is also normal that a huge number of believers along with their leaders remain on the preliminary stage of their spiritual advancement until the end of their current incarnations: in their next lives they will have a chance to continue the Path.
But they do need to be informed that this stage is just a preliminary one. This will help those of them, who can go, wake up and move further.
Medicine, Health, and Destiny
Work in the Material World