When studying in India I bought a small book by a well-known guru called “The Mind Levels.” The guru’s name was Sri Aurobindo but you can find all sorts of similar publications, old and new, in most Indian bookstores.
Aurobindo devised his own unique system about how some levels of consciousness differ from others. He also claimed, of course, that the mind level he achieved was higher than that of other yogis.
A bit of spiritual pride and all-too-human competition in the supposed land of the spirit?
The spiritual idea of levels of knowledge suggests two things.
First, it implies we can go through a journey of discovery and compare different spiritual ‘lights’ (see numinosity) encountered along the way.
Second, it often assumes that an individual or group ‘A’ may understand the essential dynamics – without specific details – of another individual or group ‘B’ better than ‘B’ understands themselves.
By way of analogy, parents usually have a good idea of how their child will behave in a given circumstance. Kids – especially young kids – may get grumpy at a certain hour. Or they may cry out in the supermarket for items they do not need or which would be bad for their health. We’ve all seen parents awkwardly saying “no” to their kids in public.
Good parents use their general knowledge to guide and also to protect their child from harm. (Nasty ones never buy their kids a treat at all).
Some writers suggest this alleged higher authority could be applied to not only religious but also social and political development. In ancient Greece, for instance, Plato advocated the rather undemocratic ideal of the Philosopher King.
Similarly, the Catholic attitude toward non-Catholic beliefs implies that Catholicism is the purest and highest form of worship. This outlook was especially transparent with Pope Benedict XVI but remains, albeit better camouflaged, with Pope Francis.
For many believing Catholics, non-Catholic faith groups at best experience preparatory aspects or, worse, mere shadows of God’s true light. This isn’t just me speaking. This belief in religious supremacy is clearly articulated in the Catholic Catechism:
This paternalistic picture suggests group ‘A’ (Catholics) knows about group ‘B’ (non-Catholics) better than ‘B’ knows itself.
But before we single out Catholics, let us remember that many different faith groups do this. Secular people do it too.
What are they doing?
They are essentially saying that their way is the “right way” or the “best way.” By extension, they are also saying they have a privileged perspective that others do not.
Sadly, our human differences often spill into religions which are then used to rationalize all sorts of suffering and injustice.
However, we should not forget that human attitudes, opinions and related actions are the culprits, not religion per se.
Not to say these folks will not go to heaven. Only God knows about that. But to me, they are usually far better musicians than thinkers!
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