QA247 QUESTION: I believe that many religious laws are devised to meet the needs of a specific people living in a specific place and time. Each new generation must find the truth within themselves, and laws must grow and change along with the spiritual evolution of a people. But the wisdom of our ancestors is great, and you have said that there is much truth to be learned from the Bible. The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are examples of universal spiritual laws, which transcend the religious creed of a particular group of people.
I am wondering if there are other religious laws in the Old and New Testaments, which are also spiritual laws that we should still be following. I am thinking of such customs as observance of the Sabbath, dietary codes and circumcision. I would appreciate guidance on these particular examples or a discussion of the question in general.
ANSWER: The three particular examples you mentioned will serve well to illustrate the point I was trying to make in all the recent messages, answers and lectures on the subject. It is not too difficult to differentiate between eternal laws that are relayed from generation to generation through tradition, and laws that were meaningful at one time during specific circumstances but become totally obsolete at another period of history, or have to be altered according to the changing of circumstances in the evolution of mankind.
Let us now take these three examples and consider them in the light of using your own deep thinking, your inner knowledge and all the wisdom that is contained within all human beings, and apply it to the questions. This is indeed the process of autonomy, as opposed to blind adherence to tradition.
The observance of the Sabbath very simply means that human beings should put some time and energy aside for their communication with God, for their inner development, for their spiritual nourishment, and also for physical rest. If this law had not been given, many individuals would have neglected the needs of their spirits and of their bodies. This still holds true in very many cases.
However, today humanity as a whole has sufficiently grown to determine when such times of spiritual nourishment and physical rest should exist. It does not have to be on a prescribed day. In previous eras there was so much childish dependency that life had to be structured in order to create a somewhat harmonious balance.
As humanity is slowly maturing, self-responsibility has to grow along, even on such questions as when to take a rest, to what extent to work, and to what extent to concentrate on inner development and communion with God. In every life these balances may vary. Even with the same person it may vary in different phases and life circumstances.
As you are now, all of you, you can be expected to make room in your mind for not only earning your livelihood, but also for giving the soul, spirit and body what they need. This may or may not be the generally assigned seventh day of the week. With some, another day of the week may be more appropriate. With others, it is perhaps right to give some time every day to the inner life, while using the general day of rest for physical relaxation and refueling. You all have to develop contact with your inner voices and needs.
Dietary codes are completely useless, for what made sense then no longer makes sense now. There were just totally different circumstances. To take over these laws today is nothing more than superstition. But new dietary laws should certainly be established, according to today’s circumstances. And many of you are really attempting to do this.
The spirit behind following dietary laws, or dietary common sense, is very different. In the former case, following a dietary law is done in an attitude of blindness, as if it were a magical means of attaining the grace of God. In the latter case, it is recognized that the personality carries the responsibility to maintain the body in the best possible condition. The desire for this springs from valuing life.
Circumcision was introduced at a time when mankind was still in a very atavistic state. Blood sacrifice played a tremendous role, all over the earth. Blood sacrifice assuaged the inner guilt for betraying God and the truth, and for giving in to lower-self temptations. When the ancient Jews, who worshipped God as the one Creator, were instructed by the Lord to no longer sacrifice human life, some modified blood sacrifice had to remain in order to cope with the overwhelming inner guilt of humanity.
It is not true that this law had anything to do with health or hygiene. This was a very superficial rationale, for the true meaning could not have been understood. As humanity is maturing, this kind of guilt atonement no longer makes any sense. Today man is sufficiently adult to face his guilts directly and deal with them realistically.
Justified guilts must be restituted and the attitudes that created them purified and transformed. Unjustified and displaced guilts need to be recognized for what they are and obliterated. Displaced suffering, in which the effect of the guilt – suffering – is not connected with the cause of it – justified guilt – is no longer necessary, appropriate or desirable.
In this connection I would like to point out that circumcision induces suffering to the male human being. Now what about the female human being? It could not escape your attention, if you really thought about it, that there is a meaning why women bore children in very great suffering until fairly recently in history.
This displaced “blood sacrifice” was the female version of atoning for guilt in the soul. At the time when humanity became ready to deal with guilts in a much more direct and effective way, suffering during childbirth became almost obsolete – first through chemical aids and more recently also through natural means.
As I pointed out in the lecture about tradition [Lecture #246 Tradition: It’s Divine and Distorted Aspects], when people perpetuate customs that are no longer appropriate and that should be replaced by more meaningful procedures, it has a very undesirable effect on the psyches, the soul life and the physical life of those who are involved. It truly stops the evolutionary harmonious flow.