Religious Form: Internal & External Reality


“Let your heart be in such a state that the existence or nonexistence of anything is the same. Then sit alone in a quiet place, free of any preoccupation, even the reciting of the Koran or thinking about its meaning. Let nothing besides God enter you. Once you are seated in this manner, say, ‘Allah, Allah,’ keeping your thought on these words.” — al-Ghazzali

Traveler: Speak to me of the great religions, and why each states their Path is the only Way. In the past, religious difference has led to wars, killing and fighting. Why is this?

Master: On an inner level your religion is One Religion. Each religion is an aspect of the Divine. Just as clear light filters through a prism, changing, twisting to fit the demands of time and space, the colors of the prism are beautiful and varied, yet on the inner level the light is without color. The Inner Teaching is that the great religions are One, springing from the same Higher Source. Mankind has forgotten to sip of this ancient river and through the Light experience God’s Love and Mercy.

The original teachers, who brought the great religions, came here to instruct travelers about the ultimate nature of reality and offer a ladder to climb higher. At the time of each revelation, and for that specific culture, this was the intended Way, often with the injunction to spread the good news. In time, the followers who wished to offer these wonderful teachings to a wider audience created a structure or religion to do this.

Over time, and through the influence of specific travelers, some with personal motive, individual teachings were stressed, omitted or even changed; in some systems, what currently exists regarding specific teachings is only a manipulative form. At a specific time and place, teachings were offered to a community; hence, teachings take into account cultural difference and frame of reference. Not all teachings automatically fit all travelers. That is why teachings are updated. Teachings are kept vibrant by living teachers, and they are specific to their present audience.

For many travelers, the great religions provide a structure from which spiritual learning grows. Through a specific presentation, the traveler is taught about soul and spirit, and how to become a better person. This learning provides a basis for life and a starting point for deeper study. However, many travelers cannot see beyond their own individual learning structure, and they are slow to accept other structures that work for other travelers.

A point not stressed — or intentionally omitted — is that there is an internal and external reality to religious form. Externally, a teaching is subject to individuality with limitations of time, place and even decay; yet internally, the spiritual reality is vibrant and One with the Absolute. Across time and space, the great religions are transcendent.

Often the emphasis has been on external difference, and some religions have not stressed deep, inner worship. In our Western culture, that is the reason for the groundswell in exotic and experiential paths. Here in our culture, there is a hunger for inner experience.

Since the beginning, religious difference has been used as a way to exert one group’s will against another. Usually this is a manipulation, dressed in religious clothing to achieve power and property. All the great religions are Holy. Does not the Father love all his children and provide a way for each?

Religion & spiritual learning
Through inner spiritual learning, turn back to the religion of your youth; become a better Christian, Jew or Muslim. Through your renewed faith, seek the inner core of religious experience and do not be satisfied with external teachings. Find your own inner Truth. Become a spiritual traveler. Each of the great religions provides a structure or framework from which to begin the inner journey of exploration of self and higher knowledge.

If for some reason, your journey is restricted by the religion of your birth, seek Truth and higher consciousness through another spiritual path. Pray and ask for a way to open to you. Seek a guide or teacher who will show you your own inner potential and teach awareness of your growing spirituality. Find a teacher who is aligned with Truth and within a specific framework offers the tools to uncover personal excellence — helping you to proceed joyfully as a Child of the Universe.

In our culture, religion is a structure through which many begin spiritual learning. As the traveler advances, this learning takes place more and more on an inner level, which may or may not be within a traditional religious form. Personal, spiritual experience is the natural extension of religious inquiry. The great religions are grand highways for travelers to learn about self and their relationship with Truth. Often after extended training, spiritual learning goes beyond the simpler worldly form.

The followers of a great teacher or prophet, in order to help spread their teaching, created an organized system to do this. Many times, after the prophet’s death, individual teachings were added to help travelers proceed. At the time of revelation, the prophet presented the current system to perceive and align with Truth. Over time, all spiritual teachings on a worldly level have a tendency to lose their vibrancy; like other terrestrial forms, they are subject to decay.

Another tendency of the Earth phase is repetition, a helpful tool in early forms of learning. To reach large numbers, organized religious teaching makes good use of this technique; however, repetition has a tendency to result in hardening of ideas and concepts. Often this hardening or fossilization slowly replaces the living or vibrant element. In recent years, this lack of vibrancy in specific systems has caused some to turn away from organized religion and seek their spiritual learning elsewhere.

While it is possible to gain advanced spiritual training and experience within the context of organized religion, often this form of learning is not emphasized or generally understood to be available. Due to this lack of emphasis, travelers seek deep, inner experience in systems where this is offered; many Eastern systems provide this aspect.

Becoming a carpenter
To make clear how deep spiritual learning works, let us use the example of becoming a carpenter. When the apprentice carpenter is first learning the trade, often they are given the most basic of tasks. By repeating these simple tasks, the apprentice learns to recognize different types of wood and how to make them useful. After a period of working on a variety of wood projects and interacting with other trades people, this apprentice acquires skill necessary to become a journeyman carpenter and graduates, becoming independently free to apply these skills on a variety of projects.

As years pass, the carpenter seeks further learning about woods, studying how trees grow and the effect environmental conditions have on grade, elasticity and durability. In time, the carpenter becomes adept at knowing how wood weathers and if it will last, just by its feel and smell.

As he reaches his later years, the carpenter continues learning and works on projects both in the country and city. In his region, he has worked with wood in every conceivable fashion. Compared to the basic, repetitious education of the young apprentice, long ago our carpenter became a Master.

Thoughts to ponder

  • Consider the possibility that much of what you have been taught about religion is not accurate. Consider that, perhaps, travelers have been taught half truths by those in power so they can be easily manipulated. Further, consider the possibility that some of your most cherished religious beliefs may be misrepresentations, supporting a fear and reward indoctrination system designed to control very specific social behaviors. No. This couldn’t possibly be true? Or could it?
  • In our physical realm, religious form provides a basis and structure from which to continue the spiritual journey. Travelers must learn and understand that there is both an internal and external dimension to form. The external or worldly aspect is tied to factors like time, place and sociology. In contrast, the internal reality and aspect of personal experience is timeless and transcendent, providing a deeper understanding of the form and leading us on to the next level of learning.
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Dr. Stewart Bitkoff
Dr. Stewart Bitkoff, spiritual traveler and poet is a student of Sufi Mysticism and the perennial philosophy. For many years, he participated in 2 Sufi mystical schools. Professionally specializing in the healing applications of therapeutic recreation, psychiatric rehabilitation and mental health treatment; he holds a doctorate in education and served on the faculties of multiple colleges and universities. He is author of numerous articles and 9 books on Sufism and spiritual learning. For more information about the author, visit on Facebook and see numerous articles/poems, with links to books on his webpage:


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