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Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

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The inference to be drawn from all this is, that the made-up and dogmatic Christianity of the Constantinian period is simply an offspring of the numerous conflicting sects, half-castes themselves, born of Pagan parents. Each of these could claim representatives converted to the so-called orthodox body of Christians. And, as every newly-born dogma had to be carried out by the majority of votes, every sect colored the main substance with its own hue, till the moment when the emperor enforced this revealed olla-podrida, of which he evidently did not himself understand a word, upon an unwilling world as the religion of Christ. Wearied in the vain attempt to sound this fathomless bog of international speculations, unable to appreciate a religion based on the pure spirituality of an ideal conception, Christendom gave itself up to the adoration of brutal force as represented by a Church backed up by Constantine. Since then, among the thousand rites, dogmas, and ceremonies copied from Paganism, the Church can claim but one invention as thoroughly original with her namely, the doctrine of eternal damnation, and one custom, that of the anathema.
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Chapter VII

 
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

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In principle he (Constantine) treated religion as a matter of choice and conscience, an arena free of state meddling...Liberis mentibus "With Free minds" all are to worship their Gods. It is a remarkable policy, an unexpected one, since it would have been natural for a ruler after his conversion to Christianity to shift all the previous relations. Most of the apologists who defended the Church in the early centuries advocated freedom of religion...the latin rhetor Lactantius developed a theological arguement for religious freedom. Lactantius was close enough to Constantine later to serve as tutor to the emperor's sons, and his influence is evident in many ways in Constantine's own writings...He (Lactantius) asked those who believed in compulsion of religion: "What good can you do, then, if you defile the body but cannot break the will?" It is a surprisingly modern statement, arguing, that religious freedom is the "first freedom", rooted in the very nature of religious life as an exercise of free will...Under Constantine's policy of concord, the Church was flooded with new converts, not through coercion but by force of Imperial example...Eventually, Christian Emperors abandoned Constantinian religious policy...Constantine favoured the Church but gave serious attention to protecting the rights of non-Christians. One cannot help but muse how European history would have been different if Christians had had the patience to let Constantine's original settlement alone.

 
Constantine the Great
 

The Christianity of the first centuries recognized as productions of good art, only legends, lives of saints, sermons, prayers, and hymn-singing evoking love of Christ, emotion at his life, desire to follow his example, renunciation of worldly life, humility, and the love of others; all productions transmitting feelings of personal enjoyment they considered to be bad, and therefore rejected ... This was so among the Christians of the first centuries who accepted Christ teachings, if not quite in its true form, at least not yet in the perverted, paganized form in which it was accepted subsequently.
But besides this Christianity, from the time of the wholesale conversion of whole nations by order of the authorities, as in the days of Constantine, Charlemagne and Vladimir, there appeared another , a Church Christianity, which was nearer to paganism than to Christ's teaching. And this Church Christianity ... did not acknowledge the fundamental and essential positions of true Christianity the direct relationship of each individual to the Father, the consequent brotherhood and equality of all people, and the substitution of humility and love in place of every kind of violence but, on the contrary, having founded a heavenly hierarchy similar to the pagan mythology, and having introduced the worship of Christ, of the Virgin, of angels, of apostles, of saints, and of martyrs, but not only of these divinities themselves but of their images, it made blind faith in its ordinances an essential point of its teachings.
However foreign this teaching may have been to true Christianity, however degraded, not only in comparison with true Christianity, but even with the life-conception of the Romans such as Julian and others, it was for all that, to the barbarians who accepted it, a higher doctrine than their former adoration of gods, heroes, and good and bad spirits. And therefore this teaching was a religion to them, and on the basis of that religion the art of the time was assessed. And art transmitting pious adoration of the Virgin, Jesus, the saints, and the angels, a blind faith in and submission to the Church, fear of torments and hope of blessedness in a life beyond the grave, was considered good; all art opposed to this was considered bad.

 
Leo Tolstoy
 

How can there be a religion which has no rigid dogmas demanding belief on pain of eternal damnation, no theological postulates, even no fixed theology, no credo distinguishing it from antagonistic or rival religions? How can there be a religion which has no papal head, no governing ecclesiastic body, no church, chapel or congregational system, no binding religious form of any kind obligatory on all its adherents, no one administration and discipline? For the Hindu priests are mere ceremonial officiants without any ecclesiastical authority or disciplinary powers and the Pundits are mere interpreters of the Shastra, not the lawgivers of the religion or its rulers. How again can Hinduism be called a religion when it admits all beliefs, allowing even a kind of high-reaching atheism and agnosticism and permits all possible spiritual experiences, all kinds of religious adventures? The only thing fixed, rigid, positive, clear is the social law, and even that varies in different castes, regions, communities. The caste rules and not the Church; but even the caste cannot punish a man for his beliefs, ban heterodoxy or prevent his following a new revolutionary doctrine or a new spiritual leader.

 
Sri Aurobindo
 

What is the Church? She is the body of Christ. Join to it the Head, and you have one man: The Head and the body make up one man. Who is the head? He who was born of the Virgin Mary. ... And what is His body? It is His Spouse, that is, the Church.... The Father willed that these two, the God Christ and the Church, should be one man. All men are one man in Christ, and the unity of the Christians constitutes but one man. And this man is all men, all men are this man; for all are one, since Christ is one..

 
Augustine of Hippo
 

Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor morum over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth. Let us reflect that it is inhabited by a thousand millions of people. That these profess probably a thousand different systems of religion. That ours is but one of that thousand. That if there be but one right, and ours that one, we should wish to see the 999 wandering sects gathered into the fold of truth. But against such a majority we cannot effect this by force. Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments. To make way for these, free enquiry must be indulged; and how can we wish others to indulge it while we refuse it ourselves?

 
Thomas Jefferson
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