What is the definition of the word technology? The word has its origins in Greek in the word tekhnologia meaning ‘systematic treatment’. In the modern, industrial, capitalistic context this would mean a systematic treatment and application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes (purposes that produce measurable economic output). Now, what if the same analogy can be applied to the industrial complex of our body, i.e., the soul, spirit, or in neurological/scientific terms consciousness.
One can argue that psychology and psychiatry have done an excellent job at proving the tools to analyze the brain and the mind (the mind is a set of the consciousness and behaviour produced by the physical organ-brain-and a host of other abstract factors like past experiences). We have a scientific model and a theory to explain most of our behaviour, like anger, jealousy, resentment, pride and desires. Freud and Carl Jung, the earliest prominent psychologists, have given elaborate theories to explain society and individual life. Freud, the proponent of the subconscious and the suppressed desires hiding there, relegated most of our actions to the desire for sex expression. As the famous Oscar Wilde quote: “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” Freud had a great disdain for religion, he saw it as a big lie, a big wish-fulfilment of our subconscious mind to absolve itself from guilt. Think the next time you make a mistake and pray to God to forgive you, and afterwards feel lighter. Freud saw religion and God as a need for a protective father figure.
Carl Jung on the other hand was more sympathetic toward religion and the strength provided to society. He saw society as a collection of ideas running on archetypes. Archetypes that served an important sociological role, and were not just arbitrary signifiers. The current famous and controversial psychologist Jordon Peterson derives many of his ideas like a grand narrative for life, a hero’s journey, and the shadow self (the need for assertive, dominating behaviour) from Carl Jung. Jung saw the subconscious as a source of strength and not suppression. He saw religion and its practices (he is believed to have read Upanishads) as tools to excavate the mind-impressions till the real self, or self-realization of an individual took place.
What is self-realization? That is a heavy topic that needs a careful examination and an article of its own. But this article will focus on seeing religious practices as a technology. An idea or an act of churning away the metaphorical and allegorical tales of ontological conceptions of the world from religion (morality and ethical philosophies of a religious system can be kept, but their sociological and temporal context understood, and content updated). The removal of the grand tales and narratives of how the world started and how it might end. Science has for a large part answers for it, they might be vague but they are searchable and partially verifiable in a laboratory. It could involve a great psychological dissonance or conflict for a modern-day student, on one hand, study about Darwinism and the Big Bang Theory, and on the other hand, go home and read how the world was conceived by an all caring father figure with a long-beard. Or that it balances on the tip of a snake’s head.
Looking at it now, from a secular perspective, away from hagiography, it can be easily understood that these religious beliefs and tales are part of a philosophy that tries to explain the world. And looking at it objectively, as an academic, these philosophies are ancient. New philosophies have been developed by thinkers and schools of thinkers, and different perspectives given to old takes. To hold onto these old beliefs with tenacity can be compared to putting filters around the eyes, not allowing the world with its multitude of perspectives and contradictions and paradoxical beauty to be soaked in. If there is one life, then everything life has to offer has to be examined or at least considered. One can choose a philosophy to live by, but to expound one as the ultimate and final philosophy is like extreme censorship of google search results. A deliberate self-deception.
The same can be said of an Atheist, a person who vehemently opposes and denies any good religion has to offer. Even if Nietzche said that God is dead, and post-modern French philosophers like Sartre worship the ultimate freedom of the self, there is no denying that God is not dead for millions around the world. In Asian countries specifically, the evidence is to the contrary, and it can be argued that a harsh approach towards religion by the intellectuals, scientists, and thinkers has caused a vehement holding on to the dogmas and archaic, oppressive values of a philosophical system (religion) along with its good and moral values.
Instead, a new outlook toward religion is needed both by its followers and the scientific community. An outlook to look at religion as philosophy + technology. Technology is the practice part developed by a religion that directly attacks/influences the mind and body to improve its utility and well-being.
Along with it a hybrid infusion of science and modern philosophy (18,19, & 20th centuries) to replace the ontological and ethical systems of the old.
In this way, religion will not be discarded but can be updated, and science and religion can co-exist without conflict.
In Buddhism and Yoga (to name a few religious/spiritual systems), the practice part: meditation, yoga-pose, breath control, and fasting are essential tools to gain mastery over the mind and body. These are well-planned, and sufficiently documented practices with stages of development.
The current requirement is to make them more accessible to the general public. Also, to conduct scientific research on them. The blanket of vagueness should be removed from these practices. Rather than meditation being a shot in the dark, a methodological approach with clear do’s and don’t need to be formulated.
There are countless meditation techniques: shamatha, open-awareness, trataka to name a few. They need to be studied under control conditions and results should be verifiable. In this way, the subjective experiences can be brought under the objective realm and hyperbole around a practice be eliminated. For example, can years of a particular form of Yoga truly cause levitation? Can trataka cause telekinetic powers? Do siddhis exist?
Monastery hold records thousand years old about the practices of meditation. They should be carefully studied and made available to a curious person.
A little bit of serious research on these fascinating questions can save the public money from tricksters and scamsters that claim to have secret knowledge.
Vagueness is the mother of confusion and hope, and hope can generate huge wealth. Vague hope can generate even more wealth, with only a few claiming to know the answers to all that is mystical.
Therefore, to end this article, it is time that religion be divided into a philosophy plus practice. And practical claims be studied so that honest answers are provided to deep questions and tall promises. It is time to update religion and not discard it or allow it to blind us.It is time to extract it as a technology and infuse within it a modern philosophy to update it, and fully utilize it.