Q: In light of the inner mystic experience I can’t really deal with such issues (doctrines) as papal infallibility or some Marian doctrines. It seems to me that instead of grasping and expressing the mentioned experience these secondary formulations (dogmas) fall far away from the original revelation of oneness, moreover, they generate unnecessary tension. So, I would like to know your thoughts regarding my concerns.
~S. Balázs (from Hungary)

A: Your concerns are certainly justified. Your question points to the distinction between religious experience and organized religion. What you call your inner mystic experience is an aspect of basic human religiosity. The psyche of human beings is geared towards that great mystery in which we are embedded. In the Christian tradition, St. Paul (in Acts 17:28) expresses this basic experiential fact by saying that in God “we live and move and have our being”. Psychology shows that this awareness springs from our so-called Peak Experiences and suggests that it is a typical human phenomenon. This experience of limitless belonging leads to a positive attitude towards all other beings and necessarily finds ways to express itself in society – one of which is the formation of formal religions, characterized by a doctrine, a moral code, and rituals. The original goal of all religions is to cultivate the basic human religiosity that gave rise to them and unites them. However, all institutions tend to forget their original purpose and to become self-serving. Religious institutions are not exempt from this deviation. Therefore, they become competitive – even to the point of violence; thus, as you put it so well, they “fall far away from the original revelation of oneness”. Our task as members of a religious community is to re-interpret its doctrine, morals, and rituals in light of the all-embracing unity and community, which they were meant to express. Quite practically, it will be our task to stress – and live – those aspects of our own particular religion that express and promote unity. By devoting ourselves wholeheartedly to this great task, we won’t even have time to get entangled in doctrinal controversies, but will help make religion a powerful force to bring peace and unity to our world.

Wishing you courage for this task and joy in your spiritual life,
Your brother David


Br. David Steindl-RastTrust
Q&A
Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

Br. David Steindl-Rast, OSB

About the author

Brother David Steindl-Rast — author, scholar, and Benedictine monk — is beloved the world over for his enduring message about gratefulness as the true source of lasting happiness. Known to many as the “grandfather of gratitude,” Br. David has been a source of inspiration and spiritual friendship to countless leaders and luminaries around the world including Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Thomas Merton, and more. He has been one of the most important figures in the modern interfaith dialogue movement, and has taught with thought-leaders such as Eckhart Tolle, Jack Kornfield, and Roshi Joan Halifax. His wisdom has been featured in recent interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Krista Tippett, and Tami Simon and his TED talk has been viewed almost 10,000,000 times. Learn more about Br. David here.