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History of Spiritual Quest

In every nation, in myriads of aeons, under every sky, so far as we can trace from the beginning, men have paid homage to a god or gods in some form or other, and this instinct has been passed on through innumerable generations, swaying the feelings of mankind, and especially of individuals.

But it is uncertain when religious conceptions were first framed. The Rig Veda is considered to be the oldest literary document in existence, and contains the original conception of God. … At the time of its production, the worship represented in the great number of hymns, is that of natural objects — Indra, the cloudless firmament; the Maruts, the winds; Ushas, the dawn; Vishnu, Surya, Agni, and a host of lesser deities. …

The uniform testimony of history proves the religious instinct of mankind to develop itself in many directions, and farther examination shows that while one nation sought its gods in the powers of nature, others developed animal, ghost, fetish, ancestor, and hero-worship, followed later on by symbolism, oracles, secret doctrines or mysteries. Animal sacrifice, and the belief in immortality were more or less common at all times.

Some thought of cultivating elevated and devout feelings by the aid of the fine arts. No doubt beauty has an element of infinity which we catch through the medium of form, colour, rhythm, or harmony, but it is nebulous and vague, and though religion may spring from art, it finally emancipates itself from it. …



Ages rolled on before the old gods were out-grown and superseded by spiritual ideas and ethical influences, in the slow march of the centuries, the idea regarding religion as purely a matter of revelation crept in, and the religious impulse was marked by ever-varying superstitions. …

The assumption that there can be only one true religion, rests on the belief of the unity of God. If there is but one God, He must stand in the same relation towards all nations of men, and all existence.
An inspired book is only to us what we see it to mean: for no words can convey exactly similar ideas to all classes of minds, and so cannot carry the same message to everyone. Has the fecundity of thought been exhausted? Can the world become bankrupt of spiritual experience? We answer, ‘No, it is always one and the same God that gives the light in every age.’ …

We find that one of the profoundest influences of humanity is religious inspiration: a divine afflatus controlling the soul. It is essentially intermittent, but hallowed whispers and foregleams come to the man who is spiritually adjusted. The resulting echo will be determined, not altogether by the illuminating potency, but by the capacity for expression of the instrument that is striving to attune itself to the Infinite. …

It seems that man in the lowest stage of his spiritual development, identifies himself with the gross body; in the following stage, with the vital powers; next, with the seat of sensations; subsequently with the intellect, and ultimately, with the unchangeable Essence, God Himself. We see that this inherent consciousness is an attitude of the soul; an effort of the mind, heart, and spirit of the race to get into right relations with the Omniscient. … Blessed are they who find the entrance into the Presence chamber of the Infinite, the Holy of Holies, and participate in the beatitude of the One absolute.

Prabuddha Bharata July 1906