Early religions were like muddy ponds with lots of foliage. Concealed there the fish of the soul could splash and feed. Eventually, however, religions became aquariums. Then hatcheries. Farm fingerling to frozen fish stick is a short swim.
[Do] not glide in numb circles inside a box of religion.
Dogma and tradition overrule any natural instinct for brotherhood.
…religion is a paramount contributor to human misery. It is not merely the opiate of the masses it is the cyanide.
Of course religions omnipresent defenders are swift to point out the comfort it provides for the sick, the weary and the disappointed. Yes, true enough. But the Deity does not dawdle in the comfort zone! If one yearns to see the face of the Divine, one must break out of the aquarium, escape the fish farm, to go swim up wild cataracts, dive in deep fjords. One must explore the labyrinth of the reef, the shadows of lily pads. How limiting, how insulting to think of God as a benevolent warden, an absentee hatchery manager who imprisons us in the “comfort” of artificial pools, where intermediaries sprinkle our restricted waters with sanitized flakes of processed nutriment.
A longing for the divine is intrinsic in Homo sapiens…We approach the Divine by enlarging our souls and lighting up our brains. To expedite those two things might be the mission of our existence.
Well and good. But such activity runs counter to the aspirations of commerce and politics. Politics is the science of domination, and persons in the process of enlargement and illumination are notoriously difficult to control. Therefore, to protect its vested interests, politics usurped religion a very long time ago. Kings bought off priests with land and adornments. [“Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”- Denis Diderot] Together, they drained the shady ponds and replaced them with fish tanks. The walls of the tanks were constructed of ignorance and superstition, held together with fear. They called the tanks “synagogues” or “churches” or “mosques.”
After the tanks were in place, nobody talked much about soul anymore. Instead they talked about spirit. Soul is hot and heavy. Spirit is cool, abstract, detached. Soul is connected to the earth and its waters. Spirit is connected to the sky and its gases. Out of the gases springs fire. Firepower. It has been observed that the logical extension of all politics is war. Once religion became political, the exercise of it, too, could be said to sooner or later lead to war. “War is Hell.” Thus religious belief propels us straight to hell. History unwaveringly supports this view. (Each modern religion has boasted that it and it alone is on speaking terms with the Deity, and its adherents have been quite willing to die -or kill- to support its presumptuous claims.)
Not every silty bayou could be drained, of course. The soulfish that bubbled and snapped in the few remaining ponds were tagged “mystics.” They were regarded as mavericks, exotic and inferior. If they splashed too high, they were thought to be threatening and in need of extermination. The fearful flounders in the tanks, now psychologically dependent on addictive spirit flakes, had forgotten that once upon a time, they, too, had been mystical.
Religion is nothing but institutionalized mysticism. The catch is, mysticism does not lend itself to institutionalization. The moment we attempt to organize mysticism, we destroy its essence. Religion, then, is mysticism in which the mystical has been killed. Or, at least diminished….Not only is religion divisive and oppressive, it is also a denial of all that is divine in people; it is a suffocation of the soul.
*The above are excerpts from the Tom Robbins novel, Skinny Legs and All. I left bits of it out and included only the pertinent parts to get the whole fish tank/aquarium/pond thing. I recommend to anyone who finds the analogy intriguing, to read the whole book, or for that matter, any of his books.
Also, the Denis Diderot quote is not in Tom Robbins manuscript, I added it for flare.