The contemporary religious tendency is to divide people into believers and non-believers instead of viewing them all as souls who are part of the One Divine, to regard sin as a deviance from morality subject to punishment rather than a transient condition which can be overcome with growth of consciousness, to assume that deliverance of the soul occurs due to strong belief in God rather than sublime contemplation. These are a couple of discourses by the Mother Mirra Alfassa on how religions are formed.
We live in times where spirituality is the new buzzword and religion is derided as outdated, but it is not clear what the differences between the two are. The religious approach can be summed up as a combination of nostalgia for the past, desire for structure in life, respect for authority and an inability to entertain ambiguity. The spiritual path is propelled by the desire to rediscover the Truth for oneself by using some psychological and occult practices. The rest of this article delineates these differences in detail.
Why do we live in fear or awe of God? Sri Aurobindo says it is our primitive mentality, which creates a deformed conception of God based on our egoistic human standards, that is to blame. We see God as a magnified Man and seek to influence him by bribing him with animal sacrifice, self-mortification and more generally, with a crafty trading mentality(e.g. “I will do this if you give me that”). Religion begins with an adoration of God but due to the crudity of human nature and lack of any practical method for abolishing the ego, ends up as the fear and awe of God. The path of Yoga by virtue of various spiritual practices aimed at abolishing the ego does not suffer from the same limitation and hence brings about Divine union. The following is an excerpt from the Synthesis of Yoga on the rationale behind man’s fear and awe of God.