By George A. Boyd © 2017
Religion influences people at multiple levels. It conditions:
- Identity – who they believe themselves to be
- Volition – what choices they are allowed to make, and which choices are labeled as wrong or evil
- Cognition – what they think and believe about selected topics, which shape their political and social opinions
- Morality – how they decide what is right and wrong behavior
- Affect – how they react emotionally to ideas or objects
- Behavior – what they allow themselves to do, as their beliefs and values direct them
- Motivation – what desires are acceptable to fulfill and which are not
- Perception – what mindsets they adopt and which they abandon
- Cosmology – what mythological world they perceive their spiritual essence dwells, which contains the narrative of how Creation occurred, the spiritual beings that inhabit this inner world, and what is the form of the Supreme Being
This multi-faceted, multi-modal influence that religion has over human beings can completely take over their autonomy, and turn them into instruments for the agenda of the leaders of the faith. People no longer discover who they are; know their genuine thoughts, feelings, and motivations; or make independent choices—they are shaped and molded into who they should be, according to the doctrinal vision of the religion.
When we examine the eight stages of alternate perceptions of the world that can be generated through prayer, hypnosis, and meditation, we find that religion emphasizes two parts of this internalization process. Understanding these stages sheds light upon what is happening to people who come under the sway of religion and how this occurs.
Stage One – You believe in or remember a form of God. You may do some type of activity to praise or worship this Being. You typically make requests to this Being through prayer or supplication. As you practice prayer for some time, you may begin to receive guidance or teaching from this being through intuition. This is called invocation.
Stage Two – You collect your attention and become present. You may be able to focus your attention on feelings that arise in the present time in your body and work them out. This is called mindfulness.
Stage Three – You move your attention along the thread of consciousness you access selected centers of the Conscious mind to relieve stress, lower your anxiety, and gain clarity on what you need to do. This is called practical meditation.
Stage Four – You move your attention along the thread of consciousness into the Subconscious mind, which allows you to travel through the temporal-mnemonic strata of your mind, and to access the system of chakras and your astral body, using hypnosis and meditation. This is called liminal meditation.
Stage Five – You move your attention along the thread of consciousness into the Metaconscious mind to unite with the Self. Through this means you empower you will and activate the executive faculties of your personality to take charge of your life and personal destiny. This is called centering meditation.
Stage Six – You focus your attention upon your three immortal essences of consciousness—your attentional principle, your spirit, and your Soul—to awaken your ability to do conscious, inner spiritual work. This is called awakening meditation.
Stage Seven – You focus your attention upon a center in the Superconscious mind that is in proximity to the form of God to whom you pray and whom you worship. In many religions, this is an integration center in the Superconscious mind, which we call a nucleus of identity—though in some groups, they will have you focus on the spirit or an ensouling entity at another level of the Continuum, other than where your Soul dwells.
After keeping your attention merged in this essence for prolonged periods of time, you come to identify with it. As you contemplate this band of the Continuum and receive teachings from those who are established in this cosmology, it begins to shape your perception, thinking, and beliefs; influence your emotional reactions, attitudes, and moral beliefs; and ultimately, how you act.
Since this is an altered state of consciousness in which your reality testing mechanisms of the mind are temporarily suspended—like being in a hypnotic trance—you can be programmed to believe almost anything, accept it as true, and act on it.
This state of mind is called unitive meditation. In different traditions, it has been called being reborn, gaining Realization, awakening of true faith, recognition of original mind, experiencing Gnosis or Divine Knowledge.
Stage Eight – You use the attentional principle, spirit, and Soul to work on the issues of your personality from a detached perspective, activate the full operation of the faculties of your Superconscious mind, free your spirit to return to its Source, travel in full consciousness as the attentional principle through every band of the mind, and unfold the spiritual evolutionary potentials of the Soul using transformational meditation. This is called transcendence meditation.
Religions typically emphasize stage one and stage seven—invocation and unitive meditation. They have you believe in or remember God to establish a relationship. Then they use some modality to alter your awareness so you can enter into mystic union with the spiritual essence that dwells in proximity to that Divine Being. This might take the form of singing or chanting, sacred movement or dancing, using a mantra to focus your attention on this essence, or doing special breathing methods.
There certainly is not a problem with visiting this nucleus of identity or other spiritual essence in meditation. Where it becomes a problem when you begin to operate from this higher center and you become fully identified with it: in this scenario, your religion begins to program you and gradually takes over your life.
Many religions and spiritual groups focus your attention on a nucleus of identity, or the spirit or an ensouling entity outside of where your Soul dwells, and then lock your attention in this state. [We refer to this to doing spiritual work outside the cutting edge of spirituality.]
They use role authority, e.g., the sacred leader, the Guru or Master; sacred text authority, citing scriptures and other holy books; and instill fear, guilt, and shame to indoctrinate you—these methods eventually start to control you. They condition your lifestyle; inculcate their approved doctrine to shape your beliefs, values, and behavior; and have you engage in regular religious rituals to continually remind you of your identification with this religion.
The other forms of meditation of stages two through six and eight—mindfulness, practical meditation, liminal meditation, centering meditation, awakening meditation, and transcendence meditation—operate under your control. You may be initially guided in doing these meditations to learn them, but after you are able to practice them proficiently, you direct where you focus your attention and decide what inner work you do.
We teach you mindfulness and practical meditation in our Foundations of Practical Meditation Program. We show you liminal and centering meditation in our Introduction to Meditation Program. We train you in awakening meditation and transcendence meditation in our intermediate courses, the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation and the by-mail and online Accelerated Meditation Program.
To do this conscious inner work, you must shift from belief and faith to knowledge and direct verification; you must move from being a believer at stage one to being a mystic knower, who is capable of independent inquiry, contemplation, and actively transforming your spiritual potentials.
Moreover, you must break out of the bubble of programmed hypnotic belief at stage seven to do this. This commonly requires you to deconstruct the perceptual filters and scaffolds of belief that lock you into a remaining in continual union with a spiritual essence. This allows you to settle into your own nature—untrammeled by the hypnotic influence of religions that attempt to mold you into an ideal pattern of their design—and actualize your genuine personal and spiritual potentials.
We discuss in greater depth how you shift from faith to knowledge and how you deconstruct the mindsets and beliefs that lock you into an altered state of consciousness in our book, Religions, Cults, and Terrorism: What the Heck Are We Doing? We encourage you to read this book if this is a topic that interests you and you would like to learn more.