by Franz Bardon
There are two basic philosophies of religion: the first is the relative and the second is the absolute or universal. From the beginning of humankind to the present day, all those religions which belong to the relative philosophy of religion have gone through their initial stages, have reached their peaks and, during the course of the ages, have come to their end. Each relative religion has its own founder. I refrain from citing all the systems of relative religion; anyone who has studied religious philosophy will have become acquainted with a number of religious systems of the relative type. They are all subject to the same law of transitoriness, regardless of whether they have lasted for hundreds or thousands of years. The length of time a religion may exist always depends upon its founders and teachers. The more universal laws a religion contains, the more universal truth it represents and preaches, the longer it lasts.
Its existence will be shorter the more one-sided, fanatical, dictatorial, and authoritarian its doctrines are. However, each religious system has thus far had its good purposes and its special mission. Each has always contained certain partial aspects, however concealed, of a portion of universal truth and lawfulness, whether symbolically or as an abstract idea.
A true adept will see in each relative religion, regardless of the historical era in which it may have existed, fragments of some basic ideas that had their origin in the universal religion and which point to universal law. Therefore, the adept appreciates each religion equally, without paying any attention to whether it is a religion of the past or whether it still exists today or whether it will exist in the future, because he is aware of the fact that each religious system has followers whose maturity suits that of the religion.
From the Hermetic point of view, even materialism is a kind of religious system, one who representatives may believe in God but not in anything supernatural, and who adhere only to that of which they are able to convince themselves – in other words, to them it is matter which prevails. Since the initiate knows that matter is the symbolic representation of the divine appearance reflected in the laws of nature, he will not judge anyone who believes merely in matter. The more mature a man has become during the course of his incarnations and evolution, the closer will he come to the universal laws, and the more deeply will he be able to penetrate into them, until finally no relative religious concept will satisfy him. A person like this has become mature for the universal religion and is capable of approaching the universal laws in the microcosm and the macrocosm.
This is to say that any religion that does not represent the universal laws completely is relative and transitory. The universal laws have been unchangeable from the beginning of the world and will continue thus until the end.
The mature Hermetic may officially belong to any religion, depending on whether he really wants to do so and whether he considers it preferable in his dealings with people – perhaps to avoid drawing the attention of immature individuals to himself. However, in the innermost of his spirit and his entire being he will profess the universal religion, by which the universal lawfulness is to be understood. An initiate does not believe anything unless he can convince himself of its validity; neither does he believe in any personified divinity nor any kind of idol. Rather, he worships the universal law and harmony in all forms of existence. These few words should suffice to demonstrate the difference between relative and absolute philosophies of religion.