by Mark Abraham
To use another analogy, imagine an eruption blows off the summit of a high mountain and then rain and snow fill it the crater with a large body of water. Because of the elevated position of this body of water, the force of gravity pulls the liquid down to the lowest possible areas, however, the walls of the crater act as a dam that holds the water in place, motionless as this picture shows.
Suppose someone digs an outlet on the east side of this lake. As soon as this is done, the water will rush down the hill with superb speed and energy. It was holding this energy and potential and was always ready to run down and would do so as soon as the circumstances allowed it. If this outlet is dug on the west side, the water will still rush down in that direction; and if more than one outlet is created at the same time, the water will run down from all of them. The total sum of these energies would still be the same as if it was running from one channel.
Religions work exactly the same way. It seems as if the way the human brain is structured, it is wired for spirituality and religion as many scholars on the subject claim this to be the case. Although it will be illustrated in more details, for the time being, let us accept that that is the case. This creates a strong natural inclination for the greatest majority of people to strive for different faiths, rendering the potential for religion innate and preexisting. When a highly wise and charismatic man appears and provides a direction for this spiritual quest people eagerly follow their paths and make them their leaders and the following grows. People use the leader’s versions of the world view as their faiths, in realms such as religions, politics and so on, and adapt them as their own with great conviction and without qualification. In the realm of religion, it becomes an adopted brand of religion; and in the realm of politics, it becomes a political ideology. This was even truer millennium ago for those who lacked sophistication to contemplate and independently choose between the competing ideas.
The innate inclination toward spirituality is so strong that occasionally when certain circumstances disallow leaders to emerge, people will acquire such belief systems even without having any religious leader to lead them in any path. For example, as Franjo Terhart and Janina Schulze put it in their book, World religions, about 1,800 years B. C. the nomadic tribes migrated to India and brought with them their own diverse deities from the different lands and cultures. They had no place of worship of any sort for them to converge to worship. Despite that, however, they prayed their gods and practiced their religions in the open, each in their own way. These Arian tribes then absorbed the gods of aboriginal Indians with diverse belief systems. These belief systems were adapted to their own cultures and gods were incorporated to their unique belief system, and from there, Hinduism was born.
In this system, old traditions were not suppressed or eradicated but integrated into the existing system. Hence, there is no religious center that would encompass and embrace all aspects of the Hindu faith, this “collection of religions.” Different sects of Hinduism do not even share any deities as a unit, but rather, each sect has a different set of deities. All of these sects are practiced without being opposed by one another. This faith can be thought of as a mosaic of all religions, consisting of monotheists and polytheist faiths alike. This leaderless religion manifests to the spontaneous nature of religions. Despite that, however, not only have these different belief systems within Hinduism have sustained themselves, but they have grown stronger in time like all the rest. This shows that human’s natural spiritual tendencies create faiths, and not individual religious leaders. Thus, if Jesus, Moses, and Mohammed were never born, their followers compelled by the same force would invent other faiths and hold on to them hard and fast.
One can even illustrate through contemporary history how humans follow leaders in different but similar realm of politics that might show us how these religions have found following. The revolutions in India and China provide perfect examples to observe this. For example, both countries being subjected to abject foreign domination and exploitation for a long time, the people in both countries had grown exceedingly poor. They suffered egregious poverty to the extent that many would starve to death on the streets in large numbers.
The conditions progressively deteriorating ultimately compelled people to bring about change at all costs, and people were inclined to revolt. The need to fight for freedom required leaders to guide them; thus, revolutions were in order in both countries and the leaders emerged to lead them.
The importance of this rests in the fact that these two examples share striking similarities from certain aspects and, at the same time, profound differences from other perspectives. Comparing and contrasting these two movements and how the political leadership with huge following in each case emerged enables us to understand how great multitudes follow a man with tremendous devotion. Then acquiring this understanding, we might be able to depict a clear picture of how these religions were formulated and how humanity has become fragmented into hostile spiritual tribes because of the differences held by these individual leaders. Only then, do we see how this human conduct defies logic. Then the question arises—how does human reasoning faculty fails humans to allow this to happen?
Briefly, from a historical standpoint, in China, Dr. Sun Yat-sen started a movement that originated in Inner Manchuria. This led to the formation of a political party, which later became known as the Kuomintang Nationalist Party, led by Chiang Kai-shek. Later on, a wing separated from it and became the Communist Party. While both parties fought foreign domination to establish self-determination, but they fiercely fought one another. Gradually Mao Tse-Tung assumed the leadership of the Communist Party, and he increasingly grew popular with the peasants. Revered by his followers, he became unstoppable.
His followers were largely illiterate peasants incapable of understanding complex ideology such as Communism as Mao had accepted, but his followers, too, accepted it. Somehow this leader managed to earn the trust of his people, and as soon as this trust was established, they obediently followed their leader.
At the time, Japan had invaded China, and they fought the Japanese occupiers that ruthlessly violated the starving, defenseless Chinese citizens in their own country. On at least one occasion, Mao asked his hungry peasant followers to burn their hard-earned and much-needed crops, for the Japanese military was seizing them for their own consumption. Mao wanted to deprive them of this convenience, and the poor peasants complied and proved to be effective against the Japanese forces. As each decision proved to be pragmatic, Mao would enhance his followers’ trust in his savvy and his integrity.
Two factors seem to be the most crucial in all momentous movements among the masses, religious or political. First, the existence of a strong grass root drive for the movement is essential and second, a trustworthy leadership. Stating the obvious, many politicians often sell out the very people they lead for personal gains. In all revolutions, killing and being killed is commonplace. These followers would lose their lives to violent death, as many did. Hence, a leader’s unwavering integrity and proven wisdom is of the utmost importance for the people to follow.
The task at hand, by nature, would require the leader to frequently make hard and good decisions to make incremental and steady progress. Their miserable conditions compelled them to fight, and the trust that Mao Tse-Tung earned in practice in both realms provided the second. Indeed, this revolution is imbued with fascinating stories such as Long March, but cannot be included here. Finally they imposed a decisive defeat on the Kuomintang in 1949 and the People’s Republic of China; a Communist government emerged under Mao’s leadership.
Almost at the same time, another movement started in the neighboring country, India, for the same reason—to rid themselves from foreign domination, England in particular. As Mao led the movement in China, Gandhi led the movement in India. However, unlike Mao, who believed in armed struggle and violence, Gandhi believed in passive resistance. They endured any and all abuse and violence from the enemy without ever reciprocating it following Gandhi’s teachings. Just as Mao’s followers trusted and obeyed him unconditionally, Gandhi’s followers, too, trusted and obeyed him the same.
Both men had huge following, and both scored victory on their enemies and achieved their objectives. As Mao led his followers through a long march, so did Gandhi and both got world attention. Gandhi in trying to attack England’s economic interests also encouraged the people to weave their own thread and produce their own textile. He formulated a slogan that was sophisticated, meaningful, very simple, but utterly effective. He said the problem in India was not mass production but the production of the masses, exemplified in producing commodities such as salt, fabric, and others supplied by England for profit.
Just as the greatest majority of Mao’s followers were illiterate peasants, so was the case with Gandhi’s followers. Neither group enjoyed the sophistication required for them to compare and contrast complex ideologies; to analyze, understand and select intelligently; and to follow one leader or another. Hence, their following was strictly based on the trust in their leaders’ integrity and intelligence. Whatever these leaders believed, right or wrong, their followers adopted as their own without any qualification.
The vast differences between the perceptions of the world between Mao and Gandhi could not be any more drastic. As such, if you presented either one of these plans of action devised by either man to be critiqued by the other before implementing them, most probably, each would dismiss the other as being wrong, impractical, and doomed to failure from the start. Each of these two leaders would have found 1,000 things wrong in the plan of the other. However, both plans produced the results in practice proving that no one has monopoly on the right way of achieving the same results.
This shows how people in mass numbers become followers, in this case in the realm of politics and, in another case, in the realm of religion. Now imagine what would have happened if we replaced Mao with Gandhi in these two simultaneous movements in India and China. That is to say, to have the Marxist Mao lead the movement in India from the start and with Gandhi’s followers coming to trust Mao just as they trusted Gandhi and vice a versa. One can be sure that the Chinese people who became Communists would have taken the path of passive resistance as the Indians did under Gandhi’s leadership, and the people in India would have turned out to become Communists.
Thus, this illustrates that the personal belief of a single man, right or wrong, in the right circumstances, finds huge following; and his view, with all its wisdom and flaws, becomes that of the great multitudes who follow him. This behavior holds true today as it did millennia ago in the case of the religious leaders. Human conduct being mostly instinctive does not change in time.
From this example one can deduce that if the spiritual views of these profound religious leaders were switched, the faiths of their followers would have changed accordingly. To put it differently, if this had happened, all Christians could have become Buddhists; and the Buddhist, Jews, and Moslems could become Hindus and so on. Thus, the religious differences that have fragmented the world population into hostile tribes against one another for so long have all resulted from the fact that four or five persons thousands of years ago observed the world differently that is natural and also holds true for any and all humans.
Yet as we shall see, there is no difference in logical substance of spiritually …
© Copyrights 2012-13 Mark Abraham