Reading Born a Crime by Trevor Noah,** we can appreciate how the hope and strength of religious practice inspired and comforted his family members and their friends during the outrageous circumstances of Apartheid in South Africa. But many of us simply can no longer trust established religions.
Many religions around the world have adopted dogmatic and fundamentalist rules that are intolerant of others to varying degrees—some even propose that people who do not believe as they do are enemies who must be either converted or destroyed. It is disturbing to hear our neighbors, whether Christian or otherwise, speak about the evil of others; how they will “go to hell” for their behaviors and beliefs.
Some of us understand that it is wrong to lay religious and social intolerance at the feet of God or Christ or Mohammed or Buddha or Krishna or whoever, whether we believe in them or not. Some believe that it was not the gods but simply mortal human beings who added all the rules and interpretations that condemn others. Be that as it may, we must recognize that those who believe nothing lies beyond what we can discover through empirical natural science can also be dogmatic, can also feel completely justified in condemning those who don’t believe the truth as they themselves see it.
One question underlying all this is, with what do we replace the hope and strength which Trevor Noah’s family and others like them found to sustain their lives? What is that something larger than ourselves? If we rely only on the world we know through our physical senses to give us hope and strength, we have to ask ourselves, how is that working for us?
Professionals in every realm of psychology, philosophy, healthcare, and so forth report that many of us are not flourishing in the larger sense of the word. We have, in a way, lost hope. And, because we do not wish to be uncool, we freely accept the various methods of escape from this despair: we not only court addiction and vice, greed and triviality, we exult in them. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we had the capacity within ourselves to find the purpose of life—in general, for our complicated, conflicted world, and in particular for our complicated, conflicted selves?
Let’s see what Rudolf Steiner* has to say:
Now it is quite possible for man to deceive himself. He can give himself up to the belief that there is no hidden side to things; that that which meets his outer senses and his intellect is all-inclusive. This delusion, however, is only possible on the surface of consciousness, not in the depths. Our feeling-life, our aspirations and desires, do not partake in this illusory belief. In one way or another they will always crave for the hidden side; when it is taken from them, they drive the human being into doubt and bewilderment, even into despair, as we have seen. A way of knowledge which brings the hidden to revelation is apt to overcome all hopelessness, perplexity and despair—in short, all that weakens human life on Earth and incapacitates it from contributing its service to the cosmic whole.
One of the fairest fruits of the pursuit of Spiritual Science is that it lends strength and firmness to life, instead of merely satisfying a man’s craving for knowledge. Inexhaustible is the fountainhead from which it draws, giving man strength for work and confidence in life. No man who has once truly found his way to this source will ever go away unstrengthened, however often he may have recourse to it.
Excerpt from: Esoteric Science: An Outline, Preface to the 1925 edition 10/01/25 by Rudolf Steiner.
Maybe it feels reasonable and easy to say, “No way” to spiritual science, but is it sensible, is it practical? In short, does it work? We may well have difficulty accepting the tenets of organized religion because many of its followers embrace intolerances, hypocrisies, and spiritual superficialities that are impossible to ignore; however, can we really deny a whole world, a whole realm of consciousness, without knowing anything about it?
Have all the past civilizations on earth been just stupid or delusional about their relationship to something beyond themselves? Perhaps if we read Steiner with an open mind, we may find a path that leads way beyond anything offered by today’s organized religions, a path to real knowledge of ourselves and the world that enlivens and empowers us to see our life anew.
**Trevor Noah is a South African comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actor, and television host. He is best known since September 2015 as host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central.
Francis S. Collins, Former Director, National Human Genome Research Institute
“Stephen Colbert Opens Up About His Devout Christian Faith, Islam, Pope Francis, and More”
“How Stephen Colbert Is Bringing Religion to Late Night”
“Oprah’s new ‘Belief’ series shows how dramatically the nature of faith is shifting”
“The Question of God . Other Voices . Francis Collins | PBS”