The Spirit of Theocracy

At its heart, the crisis of the Church is a crisis of vision. It must now choose between providing spiritual guidance to a troubled world and secular expansion. As a theocratic institution, throughout its history, the Church has invariably sought secular expansion at the cost of spiritual guidance. Even more, spiritual guidance has been a ruse - no more than the currency to be used for secular expansion. This gets to the heart of theocracy - as corruption of the spirit - which the ancient sage Veda Vyasa saw as the greatest evil of all.88

Of corruptions moral, mental, physical There's none so deep as corruption spiritual.

So did Vyasa write thousands of years ago - long before there was Christianity or any other theocracy. He must have seen the signs, for he warned of the approaching Age of Kali - our own age according to his cosmology - when the spirit itself would be corrupted for material gain. He saw Kali as the genius of the Age of Theocracy. Kali's unique gift - as Vyasa saw it - was the capacity to present the pursuit of economic and political goals as a religious quest. This he saw as the ultimate evil. He also told us what to look for in the Age of Kali:

Doctrines false of greed and power, As Sacred Truth to be proclaimed anon; With knave and fanatic posing as seer, To preach his privileged path to heaven.

When he wrote these terrible lines, Vyasa had just witnessed the destruction of many ancient dynasties and ruling houses in a holocaust known as the Mahabharata War. This had left a deep scar on his psyche. One need not fully share his gloomy view of the world. One can however learn from his insight and see how a supposedly religious institution is corrupted when the spirit is subordinated to material gain, or, in another of Vyasa's magnificent lines: Spirit and soul yoked to ambition's drive.

This gives us the clue to the possible future course of the Church by studying its recent past while learning from the key insight of Vyasa: the genius of Kali, as he tells us, is to present material pursuit as a spiritual quest. We may therefore expect some changes in language, strategy and tactics - some new and high-sounding doctrines like 'Liberation theology' - but still having "Spirit and soul yoked to ambition's drive." And its theology will remain "Doctrines false of greed and power, as Sacred Truths to be proclaimed anon."

This is what history also tells us: the more things change, the more they remain the same. To see the future course of the Church, we must study its past, at a time when it was faced with a similar crisis. Essentially, the Church has always jumped on

88 The legendary author of the great historical epic known as The Mahabharata. Translation from the Sanskrit is my own. It is not literal, which is impossible, but close to the original in sense. The passages cited are taken from the Vanaparva of the epic (111.193). Tradition places the Mahabharata War in 3102 BC. Initially rejected by modern scholars, the date is now receiving support from archeology and other sources.

the bandwagon of an expanding secular power - first the Roman Empire, then European colonialism. Recognizing this can help us get an idea of what might be in store in its search for new pastures. It needs a new bandwagon - a secular one, but one that allows it to expand.

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