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Attaining such transformative wisdom is itself equated with moksha, or liberation — liberation from ignorance, and also liberation from karma. True knowledge is the knowledge of the true self's unity and identity the atman with the cosmic One, the brahman. Both the real self which is not the individual ego but one's changeless true nature and the cosmic One are depicted as unborn, unchanging, and therefore not affected by karma: "Verily, he is the great, unborn Soul, who is this [person] consisting of knowledge among the senses.

In the space within the heart lies the ruler of all, the lord of all, the king of all. He does not become greater by good action nor inferior by bad action" Brhadaranyaka Upanisad, 4. Wisdom acts as a kind of fire that burns up the individual's accumulated past karma, and uproots desire, which is the very source of karma and the rebirths it provokes.

Another strand within the Hindu tradition also accepts the necessity for wisdom and self-discipline to attain the final goal but denies that action can simply be avoided or somehow arrested. The point is not to renounce society and duty but rather to attain a desireless state within the world of activity. Although upholding the doctrine of duty, or svadharma, The Bhagavad Gita also teaches that such actions should be performed without desire. Since desire is the root cause of karma, desireless action in accordance with one's dharma will have no karmic consequences.

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Such a person is said to be truly wise, like the world-renouncers, but unlike them does not abandon action but rather performs it in the right way. Also in The Bhagavad Gita are found the earliest expressions in the Sanskrit texts of what would become an enormously influential movement in Hinduism, that of devotion to a personalized deity.

The theistic strains within Hinduism emphasize a different method to liberation, that of bhakti, or devotion to and faith in God. In the Gita, desireless action is also represented as sacrificial action, with the karmic fruits of all acts being given up to God. It is, finally, devotion, or bhakti, to Krishna that the Gita teaches is the way to salvation:.

Whatever you do — what you take, what you offer, what you give, what penances you perform — do as an offering to me, Arjuna! You will be freed from the bonds of action, from the fruit of fortune and misfortune; armed with the discipline of renunciation, your self liberated, you will join me. Bhagavad Gita, 9. The devotionalistic wings of Hinduism, with their array of deities, each one regarded by devotees as supreme, all assume that it is by God's grace that suffering can be overcome and salvation made possible.

In some of its forms, the bhakti movement seems to have attracted many low caste followers and others who had been left out or diminished by caste-oriented Hinduism. The movement's emphasis on simple devotion, humility, and the power of God's grace to redeem even the sinner had obvious appeal, and the power attributed to bhakti to short-circuit the karmic process is often said to be enormous and unfathomable.

The bhakti movement also reinterpreted a long-standing Hindu belief that desire was the product of ignorance and the root of karma, rebirth, and suffering. For in devotionalistic traditions, longing for God — often portrayed in erotic terms — and the pain of separation from the object of desire become the emotional means for ratcheting up one's devotion to fever pitch. At the same time, most devotionalistic cults eschewed the goal of merging with or achieving identity with the object of their devotion, for that would preclude the bliss of remaining distinct while basking in God's love.

The set of traditions collectively termed Tantrism likewise reworked desire from its conceptualization as the ultimate source of human suffering into a religious tool. Esoteric tantric groups gained notoriety for their radical and transgressive methods, often arguing that the best way to attain liberation from suffering and its causes was not to renounce but rather to confront them and, under ritual conditions, engage in practices that for the uninitiated would result in the most disastrous karmic ends.

Through various meditative and ritual techniques, the tantric practitioner could practice what others prohibited and could eradicate desire by means of desire. For some tantric groups, methods to liberation included antisocial ascetic practices such as eschewing clothing and ordinary hygiene, meditating in cemeteries, carrying human skulls as begging bowls, practices involving human corpses, and the worship of deities in gruesome, terrifying forms. For others, it has meant engaging in ritualized sex and exchange of bodily fluids, or rituals that call for the ingestion of otherwise prohibited substances.

For most Hindus, however, final liberation seems to be out of reach in this life. The vast majority, past and present, simply try to live virtuously and obtain, as a result, a pleasant life here on earth and a better rebirth in the future. From Vedic times to the present, rituals such as sacrifice and the worship service known as puja performed either in the temple or at home , whereby one ritually honors the deity in the form of an image, had pleasing the gods as their goal in the hopes that the gods would protect and aid the worshipper. Festivals, pilgrimages, and lifecycle rituals are also popular among ordinary Hindus, as they are among religious practitioners the world over.

Although religious virtuosi may follow the various methods laid out to attain the highest ends of Hinduism, the vast majority of Hindus content themselves with more modest goals. Embree, Ainslie T. Sources of Indian Tradition. New York : Columbia University Press, Herman, A. Boulder, Colo. Kinsley, David R. Hinduism: A Cultural Perspective. Englewood Cliffs, N. Klostermaier, Klaus K. A Survey of Hinduism.

The Laws of Manu. Translated by Wendy Doniger, with Brian K. London, New York : Penguin Books, Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. July 4, Retrieved July 04, from Encyclopedia. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia. Hindus are found living in many parts of the world, but the vast majority of them approximately Of this population, approximately The doctrines of Hinduism, unlike those of Christianity and Islam, are not embodied in any one sacred book, nor does Hinduism have a single historical founder.

There are not one but innumerable gods, and it is not essential to believe in the existence of God in order to be a Hindu. Hinduism is rich in contradictions, there being no particular beliefs or institutions that are common to all Hindus. Every belief considered basic to Hinduism has been rejected by one Hindu group or another. A major problem in the study of Hinduism, as in that of any world religion, is to understand the interaction between the theological and popular levels. These texts contain elaborate and abstract philosophies and theologies, mythologies, manuals for the performance of sacrifices and other sacred rites in temples and homes, and codes of conduct for daily life.

Generally speaking, until recently Indian and foreign scholars concentrated on the literature, while the description of actual institutions, rites, and beliefs was left to missionaries, travelers, and administrators. It is only in the last twenty years that bibliocentricism has been replaced by a more rounded view of Hinduism and the relation between the texts and actual behavior.

Source materials are almost entirely lacking for the study of the history of popular Hinduism; even in the study of the history of literary Hinduism, data are not available for the reconstruction of the social context. For example, the date, provenance, and authorship of texts are not certain.

And finally, the student of contemporary Hinduism is faced with the problem that the systematic reconstruction of Indian history, which began with the coming of the British, has brought to light material that has since become an active part of the Hindu religion. In the reinterpretation of Hinduism that has been occurring since the nineteenth century, the philosophical and literary levels have been emphasized, to the neglect of actual institutions, rites, and beliefs.

Hinduism, lacking a centralized church, is so inextricably entangled with Hindu society that it is very difficult to say where one ends and the other begins. This is particularly true of caste, which according to creation beliefs expressed in the Rg Veda has a divine origin. The four varnas, or caste orders, emerged from the limbs of primeval man, who is a victim in the divine sacrifice that produced the cosmos.

The untouchables are not mentioned in the hymn. Certain ideas regarding pollution and purity are cardinal in Hinduism, although there are differences among the various castes in the strictness with which rules deriving from these ideas are adhered to and the degree of elaboration found in behavior governed by them. Intercaste relations are generally defined by ideas of pollution. Normally, each caste is endogamous and complete commensality prevails only within it. Thus, there are many kinds of restrictions between castes— on the free acceptance of food and drink, on intermarriage and sex relations, on touching or going near a member of another caste, etc.

This means that failure to observe the rules makes the uppercaste person impure, and he has to perform a purificatory rite, simple or elaborate, according to the seriousness of the violation. While caste is central, it does not entirely determine Hindu religious behavior. There are other aspects of the social structure that embody, religious behavior.

The village community and the family also function as cult groups. There are deities—usually goddesses—in every village who, if suitably propitiated, keep out epidemics and drought and look after the villagers. There is an elaborate complex of rites de passage, including wedding rituals and funeral rites that may take several days to perform. Calendrical festivals and vratas, or ritual austerities carried out for specific periods to attain particular ends e. It is important to demarcate those aspects of religious behavior that are affected by caste from those that are not.

The relation between sect and caste, in particular, offers a fruitful area for research. Hinduism does not have a body of clearly defined dogma, but some theological ideas may be considered basic. And while the many sects and schools have taken different standpoints on theological issues, the issues themselves are common to most.

One Woman's Spiritual Journey With the Eastern Master Sri Chinmoy

Since the time of the Upanisads, which laid the foundations of Hindu philosophical thinking, certain concepts recur again and again. One view is concerned only with this dichotomy, does not posit the existence of God, and considers Brahman as absolute and attributeless. The character of any incarnation, human, animal, or superhuman, is influenced by karma, the net balance of good and bad deeds in previous births. Goodness or badness is defined by reference to dharma. The reward for a saintly life is moksa, which releases the individual from the chain of births and deaths and brings him into contact with God.

The ideas of karma, dharma, and moksa are intimately related to the caste system. The Dharmasutra states that if a man does good deeds, he will be reborn in a high caste and well endowed, while if he does sinful acts, he will be reborn in a low caste or even as an animal. The nature of moksa and how to achieve it are major issues in Hindu theology. The main ways of achieving moksa are through knowledge, deeds, and love and devotion toward God. Generally, the way of knowledge requires an individual to renounce the world, including caste and family, and lead the life of an ascetic.

This way has been followed by only a few. In the last hundred years the Bhagavad Gita has been reinterpreted by Indian political leaders, including Gandhi and B. Tilak, to provide the basis for a life devoted to altruistic action. Discussion of these issues by theologians has been in Sanskrit and in the context of ideas developed in logic, metaphysics, astronomy, grammar, literature, law, and other branches of traditional learning. The basic theological positions have, however, reached the common people through myths and stories narrated in local languages.

How influential these ideas were and the nature of their relation to strictly local or sectional ideas and beliefs are still subjects for research see, in this connection, Srinivas , p. Sanskritic deities. Those deities whose attributes and modes of worship are described in mythological, liturgical, and other texts may be called Sanskritic. The Vedic pantheon reflects the syncretism that resulted from the conquest by nomadic Indo-European Aryans of the ancient urbanized civilizations of the Indus Valley and a continuing contact with the aboriginal tribal peoples of the subcontinent.

Visnu, who later became a high god, began as only a minor figure, a mere aspect of the sun god. The Vedic god of thunder, Rudra, was at first associated with Siva, who eventually became the dominant partner. The chief Vedic gods were gradually transformed into the trinity of Brahma, the creator; Visnu, the protector; and Siva, the destroyer. His importance subsequently declined, and nowadays Visnu and Siva are the two most important gods.

Every major deity in Hinduism has many forms, and around each form there is a myth. The idea behind the many forms is that God periodically allows himself to be reborn on earth, to overcome evil and restore righteousness. In addition, each deity or each form of a deity has a wife, who is usually worshiped along with her husband.

The sun, moon, stars, fire, mountains, lakes, animals, snakes, trees, and plants continue to be objects of worship. Frequently river deities are anthropomorphized. The cobra cult in southern India is identified with Skanda. The henotheistic tendency is important in Hindu mythology and ritual: the deity who is being wor shiped is praised above all others. These ideas have enabled Hinduism to absorb local cults and deities and even accept all other religions as true.

A Hindu temple embodies the henotheistic idea. There is, accordingly, one principal deity, from whom a temple derives its name and whose image occupies a prominent place in the temple, and there are also a few minor deities, represented by smaller images in different parts of the temple. Not all Hindu deities are associated with temples, however. Some deities e. Like other religions, Hinduism has given birth to many sects in the course of its history, and it is not always easy to say whether a sect is within the Hindu fold or outside. Buddhism and Jainism had emerged as distinct sects by about the fifth century B.

But over the centuries their influence declined, and Buddhism had almost entirely disappeared from the country of its origin by about a. It is only in recent years that large numbers of Untouchables, in particular the Mahar of Maharashtra, became converted to Buddhism in protest against the indignities they were subjected to under the caste system. There is a sizable Jain population in India today, and Jains are very similar to Hindus.

Islam has presented a serious challenge to Hinduism. There are about While a small proportion of them came from the Middle East , the majority were converts from among the Hindus. They have a caste system in some ways similar to that of the Hindus, and the converts have retained many Hindu practices —so much so that in the case of some groups it is even now extremely difficult to say whether they are Hindu or Muslim.

There are also sects Kablrpanthi, Sikhism and cults that combine both Hindu and Muslim traits. One of them, Sikhism, has claimed to be a distinct religion, but this does not mean that Sikhs do not have anything in common with Hindus. The Sikhs are divided into castes, with even an Untouchable division, and have veneration for Hindu holy places. Until recently, in many families in rural Punjab one son would become a Sikh while the others remained Hindu.

Many Hindu castes became Sikhs in an effort to improve their status. In its later phase the Bhakti movement was influenced by Sufism. At the present time there are a very large number of sects, a few major and many minor. Each sect has a founder, a cult, a body of doctrine, and a social organization of its own. In most sects one deity is considered to be supreme and is identified with the supreme Brah man. It is wrong to speak of a single, homogeneous sect associated with any of these deities.

The many Vaisnavite sects, for example, are distinguished from each other, first, by the particular form of Visnu and his consort that they worship; and second, where the same form and consort are worshiped, by differences in the mode of worship and body of theological doctrine; and finally, by their internal organization. There are elaborate rules regarding the making of idols, and there is a systematized iconography.

In each sect the founder and the things associated with him are objects of special veneration. Each sect has an elaborate complex of rituals for temple and domestic worship and for life-cycle ceremonies. It has its own specially emphasized festivals and sacrifices and its own identifying word or sentence of great religious potency.

A sect mark put on the forehead easily distinguishes a member of one sect from that of another. The major sects are known for their distinctive philosophical standpoints, as for example, the pure monism of the Smartas, the qualified monism of the Sri-Vaisnavas, and the dualism of the Madhvas. Minor sects do not have elaborate philosophies, although they do have their own special ideas and beliefs. While the philosophical and ethical position of a sect is important in understanding its religious practices, other elements are influential.

Each sect has not only its own sacred literature, written by its founder and other leaders, but also a selective attitude toward the great texts of Hinduism. Another major problem in the study of sects is understanding the nature of their relation to ascet icism. Sects composed entirely of ascetics repre sent a bizarre element in Hinduism. The members of these sects go about scantily clothed, smear their bodies with funeral ashes, wear long, matted hair, and perform a number of physical feats. Sects composed entirely of householders and those consisting of both ascetics and householders are the most numerous and popular.

The ascetics in the latter sects are grouped into different mon asteries, each having its own core of hereditary adherents and its corporate property in temples, land, etc. Many ascetics are found to be involved in intersectarian rivalry and politics. When a sect is composed only of householders, the patrilineal descendants of the founder preside over the sect. There are many small sects, whose membership is confined to a single linguistic region or to a small area within a linguistic region, but the membership of the major sects cuts across language barriers.

In the case of a major sect, it is necessary to distinguish between areas with a high concen tration of its members and areas with relatively few members. Another noteworthy feature is that, while the majority of the members, temples, and monasteries of a sect may be found in one part of the country, it may have a temple or a monastery in each of the major pilgrim centers in the country. The founder of every major sect traveled about the country, first in search of knowledge, then to win dialectical battles, and finally, to give discourses and recruit followers. Frequently the founder and his followers came from different regions.

There were centers of religious learning in different areas, and there was a convergence of schools of learning at each center; finally the centers were woven into networks. Normally, membership in a sect, unlike that in a caste, is not hereditary but comes through initiation. And even when a whole caste is included in a single sect, membership in the sect is not automatic but by initiation. Sometimes the members of a caste will be distributed among more than one sect, and some may not belong to any sect at all.

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Sometimes the members of a single family have different sectarian affiliations. The rise and fall of various sects over the centuries indicates that religious positions were not always determined by birth. No sect recruits members from all castes. Generally speaking, Un touchables have produced their own sects. Even though a sect includes members from more than one caste, caste distinctions are not entirely obliterated.

Nonsectarian Hinduism is found both in towns and villages; it is largely Sanskritic in towns and non-Sanskritic in villages. Non-Sanskritic Hinduism is, however, an ideal type and has the following characteristics: the deities have non-Sanskritic names and oral myths attached to them; they are represented by unhewn stones or crude images; the modes of worship are local and do not follow any liturgy; offerings in clude meat and liquor, and the priests, or shamans, as well as the devotees, are generally drawn from the lower castes.

All these conditions rarely occur simultaneously, and it is more common for the Sanskritic and non-Sanskritic elements to be mixed in varying proportions. Such identification makes possible the acquisition of Sanskritic characteristics by non-Sanskritic deities, and it is not unknown for a deity with a single name to be worshiped according to non-Sanskritic modes in one village and Sanskritic modes in another.

Fre quently, there are institutionalized links between a village deity and the pilgrim center of the San skritic deity with which he is identified. The brahman priest re-enters the temple only after purifying it.


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In exceptional situations a brahman might even make an offering of a fowl to a non-Sanskritic deity through a non-brahman friend. A learned brahman may have to oblige his powerful non-brahman patrons by manufacturing a myth in Sanskrit for one of their deities. A temple is sectarian only when it is part of a sectarian organization. In this sense a large ma jority of Hindu temples, including some of the biggest, are nonsectarian. Many of these are extremely wealthy, having vast land estates, large amounts of jewelry and precious metals, and also a considerable income from offerings by devotees.

Although nonsectarian, these temples are subject to regional sectarian influ ences. However, although Sanskritization has had a widespread effect, some temples continue to sacrifice animals and make liquor offerings on certain occasions. Nonsectarian Hindus generally worship many deities, although there are some who are devotees of a single deity, sometimes a deity in a particular temple. It is common to see a devout Hindu going on a daily round of the principal temples in a village or in a ward of a city.

Devout Hindus regarded their king as a repre sentative of God on earth. The social order , as repre sented by the caste system, was also believed to be divinely created. The rules of the social and moral order were subsumed under the ethicoreligious concept of dharma. In his role as the guardian of dharma, the king had to maintain the caste system. Different castes had different rights, duties, and privileges, and punishment had to take into account the caste of the offender and that of the victim.

His powers included the right to promote or demote individual castes, and he was the final court of appeal in any matter pertaining to caste. This power was so integral to kingship that it was exercised by the Mughal rulers and also by the British in their very early days in India. As recently as , in the princely state of Mysore, the government passed an order that all nominations to the headship of monasteries must have the prior approval of the maharaja, and failure to obtain this approval would involve the retraction of grants of land and money made by the state Smith , pp.

The Hindu king had the same beliefs and values and took part in the same ceremonies as his peo ple, although the manner of his celebrating a festival or his devotion to a particular deity or temple often set the religious style of the kingdom. Temples favored by royalty e. They were generously endowed with land and jewelry; famous sculptors were invited to lavish their skill on them; and great musicians sang there on certain occasions. The conversion of a prince to a sect was an important event in its history, and a large number of people followed their king into the new faith.

And while there is a tradition of tolerance in Hinduism, discrimination against the members of a rival sect was not unknown. It is clear that no conceptual separation between the state and the church was possible in the Hindu system of ideas. Nor was the need for such a distinction very necessary. First, Hinduism did not possess a powerful, centralized church, with a sin gle pontiff and a hierarchy of officials, which would constitute a potential threat to kingly su premacy. That a separation between the two did not always obtain should not surprise us. Hinduism has a tradition of tolerance, and Hindu rulers in general seem to have been hos pitable to different sects and religions.

Hindu tolerance is, however, related to the caste system in several ways. First, each caste has its own style of life, and from childhood onward people accept diversity as a basis for relationship. Second, caste, along with village and extended kin groups, ensured conformity in practice, and a stable society could afford to give its members intellectual free dom.

The other source of such freedom was the institution of the holy man, who ritually renounced the world—his relatives even performed funeral rites for him at his initiation into the order—and who could then preach as he wished. Hindu tolerance of other religions and its hospitality to new ideas provided a favorable soil for the eventual declaration of India as a secular state. There were, however, other tendencies, and certain nineteenth-century attempts e.

Moreover, Indian nationalism also expressed itself occasionally in the Hindu idiom, and this had the effect of alienating the Muslims. But during British rule there emerged a highly westernized Hindu elite, which, while rooted in the country and its traditions, was committed to independence, democracy, egalitarianism, and secularism. It is this elite that not only declared India a secular state but also attempted wholeheartedly to establish the principle of the equality of man. Hinduism and economic development. Weber thought that the Hindu belief in the trans migration of the soul and the related doctrines of karma and dharma, seen in the context of caste, produced an irrational, otherworldly social ethic that prevented the development of industrial capi talism.

This belief, however, rests on a partial view of Hinduism. There are elements in Hinduism favorable to economic development Singer et al. The very ascetics whom Weber considered disseminators of irrational and otherworldly ideas among the masses are often the heads of large and wealthy monasteries and temples, the management of which calls for considerable administrative ability. Hindu reform and modernization.

Defining Hinduism

Hinduism has, in the course of its long history, undergone many and radical changes, and several diverse forces have contributed to making Hinduism what it is today. The establishment of the Pax Britannica released many new forces, affecting Hinduism at every point. European missionaries who came to India for evangelical pur poses sharply criticized Hinduism, and Hindus were made to realize poignantly that some influential outsiders thought that everything was wrong with their religion.

Reformist Hindus—many of whom had attended mission schools—could not help remembering missionary criticisms of their religion, and in creating institutions to bring about changes in their society, they naturally emulated the organizations and work of their critics. From a long-term point of view the most important element in the reinterpretation and reformulation of Hinduism was the emergence of a westernized Indian elite, which eventually took over power from the British and which used that power to introduce fundamental changes, such as the abolition of untouchability, the legalization of inter-caste marriage, widow marriage, and divorce, and the enforcement of monogamy.

It is this elite that after a century and a half of Western influence declared India to be a secular state. Secularism does not mean that evil social institutions will be allowed to flourish, just as the principle of equality has not prevented the state from giving a variety of special privileges to Scheduled Castes and Tribes for a specific period of time, in order to enable them to catch up with the others.

He was an able and courageous controversialist and fought the or thodox pandits with arguments they could appreciate. Ram Mohan Roy was aware that an appeal to the authority of the Vedas would carry weight with the orthodox pandits, and he set the style for a debate that went on for nearly a hundred years between reformists and diehards, both of whom quoted the scriptures in support of their views.

Ram Mohan Roy also discovered that a principle of reason lay at the basis of the classical Indian philosophy of Vedanta, as set forth in the Upanisads. Hinduism could be justified in its essentials on the ground that it provided a reasoned explanation of reality. Everything from the West could be considered in the same light. He thus laid the foundation for a reinterpretation of Hinduism freeing it not only from social institutions such as caste and untouchability but also from a welter of beliefs, ideas, myths, and ritual.

The essence was selected portions of the Vedanta, the Bhagavad Gita, and bhakti or devotional literature. Over the years the reformers, the greatest of whom was Gandhi, built up a body of public opinion in favor of introducing drastic changes in Hinduism. It was this opinion which later enabled the state to take legislative action against certain Hindu practices that were repugnant to the modern outlook.

The second half of the nineteenth century saw the beginnings of the growth of nationalist sentiment among Hindus, and nascent patriotism drew upon Hindu sentiment and traditions. A concern for the people and the country inevitably meant activism, and the Bhagavad Gita provided a religious source for political activism and altruism.

Two contrary processes have been gaining strength in modern India. But while the lower groups in creasingly Sanskritize their style of life, the higher strata become increasingly westernized. Westernization, like Sanskritization, is a multilayered process, including the acceptance of Western technology, Western political, legal, and social institutions, and Western literature, philosophy, and science.

The spread of Sanskritization and west ernization across the country and to different structural levels is beginning to produce nationwide uniformities in religion and culture. Everywhere village deities traditionally associated with epidemics of diseases such as plague, smallpox, and cholera seem to be losing ground, while the prestigious Sanskritic deities are becoming more popular. Blood sacrifices and offerings of liquor to deities are also becoming less popular. The horizon of the peasant is widening, and the richer peasants now visit pilgrimage centers several hundred miles away from their villages.

Life-cycle rituals are becoming abbreviated, while the purely social aspects of such rituals get elaborated; this seems to be particularly true of educated Hindus in towns. In fact, the forms Hinduism is taking among the educated urban Hindus is only beginning to be explored by social scientists see, for example, Singer The search for a satisfying philosophy leads many members of this class to become devotees of one or another spiritual leader.

Some of these leaders are traditional heads of monasteries, while others are modern figures. Hinduism has in the past depended upon caste, village, joint family, Hindu kings, monasteries, and centers of pilgrimage for its perpetuation. Radical changes have occurred in all of them. Moreover, there has been a growth in secularization, egalitarianism, and rationalism. But new organizations such as the Ramakrishna Mission, the various hermitages of religious leaders, the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, and finally, departments of the central government such as the All-India Radio, and in some states departments supervising temple administration, are reinterpreting Hinduism in a modern direction.

Basham, Arthur L. New ed. New York : Hawthorn. Contributions to Indian Sociology Paris. Farquhar, John N. Oxford Univ. Ghurye, Govind S. Bombay: Popular Book Depot. Kane, P. Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. Lambert, Richard D. Morgan, Kenneth W. New York : Ronald Press. Philadelphia: American Folklore Society. Singer, Milton et al. Economic Development and Cultural Change — Ann Arbor : Univ. Srinivas, M. Oxford: Clarendon. Translated and edited by Hans H. Gerth and Don Martindale. Glencoe, III. Approximately 90 percent of Hindus live in India, and almost 70 percent of Indians live in its villages.

The earliest stages of religious life in India date as far back as between and b. The Aryans, a people who spoke an Indo-European language, invaded India around b. Subsequently, the Vedic religion of the Aryans gained prominence as they settled and spread throughout India. Since then, orthodox Hinduism has evolved for almost years and has undergone numerous changes in the face of challenges from within Buddhism and Jainism and without Islam and Christianity.

These extensive evolutionary developments have kept Hinduism from becoming a homogeneous religious system. Hinduism is complex, and the beliefs and practices of the various traditions within Hinduism are diverse to the extent that they may seem contradictory. However, there are some beliefs that are commonly held by almost all Hindus. Hindus hold to a cyclical view of human life. All sentient beings human beings and members of the animal world have an atman the true self, or loosely translated as soul , which reincarnates by undergoing a number of births and rebirths.

This notion of reincarnation is called samsara. An atman can reincarnate as an animal or human being, and rebirth as a human being is considered superior to an animal form of life. The bodily form an atman assumes in the next life is determined by the totality of one's karma deeds or actions of the present life.

If, as a human being, a person lives a life in which good deeds outnumber bad deeds, then the atman reincarnates into a human being with a purer spiritual nature, which enables the possibility of further superior rebirths. The opposite is true if one's bad deeds outnumber one's good deeds. The goal of all human beings is to attain moksha —liberation from the endless cycle of births and rebirths. When a person attains moksha, he or she is believed to enter into a state where one's atman becomes one with Brahman.

Brahman is the impersonal term referring to the eternal, universal, infinite, spiritual reality, and essence that humanity personally refers to as God Brahman is often confused with the priestly group in Hinduism called Brahmans. However, to distinguish between the two, the latter is spelled either as Brahmin or without a capital "b". In Hinduism, there are three margas paths through which a person can attain moksha.

The first path is jnana-marga. Jnana can be translated as awareness or insight. When a person becomes aware that he or she is simply a drop in the ocean of Brahman and begins to detach him or herself from worldly statuses and possessions, he or she can begin to move towards moksha through jnana-marga. The second path is karma-marga, which entails faithful participation in ritual sacrifices that are often dictated and presided over by a Brahmin priest.

The third path is bhakti-marga. Bhakti refers to a selfless devotion and commitment to a personal deity. The two most commonly worshipped deities in Hinduism are Vishnu and Shiva. Vishnu is the deity who preserves life, and is also worshipped as Krishna or Rama, who are believed to be two of Vishnu's nine earthly incarnations avataras. Vishnu will incarnate for the tenth time when our present age morally deteriorates into injustice and chaos. Unlike Vishnu, Shiva does not incarnate into human form. Shiva is worshipped based on the variety of attributes he manifests.

Shiva shows benevolence towards devotees who appeal to him for assistance. Shiva is also feared as the deity who takes away human life and destroys the cosmos, and yet, he is also believed to be the one who recreates a new cosmos after destroying the previous one. As the god of death, Shiva is believed to frequent cremation grounds. Shiva is also the model of an ascetic since he is believed to be sitting in calm meditation in the Himalayan Mountains.

Reverence and worship of the female counterparts of Vishnu and Shiva are equally significant. Lakshmi is the divine consort of Vishnu. Parvati is that of Shiva when she is imaged as a benevolent mother; in her fierce forms, Parvati is manifested as the goddesses Kali and Durga. Devotion to Durga and Kali is referred to as the Shakti tradition. Shakti often translated as energy is the active dimension of the passive ascetic Shiva.

Apart from these main deities, almost each village in India has its own local grama-devatas village deities. Nevertheless, when a Hindu is questioned about the complexity of multiple deities, the common response is, "there are many names, but God is One. The oldest scriptures in Hinduism are the Vedas, but the three most popular Hindu scriptures are the two great epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, and the Bhagavad-Gita, which is a philosophical section in the Mahabharata.

The Puranas are a collection of stories of the Hindu gods and goddesses, and the lives of the great heroes and heroines of the Hindu faith. The traditional caste system consists of a hierarchy of four castes varnas : Brahmins priests and teachers , Kshatriyas rulers and warriors , Vaishyas merchants and cultivators , and Shudras servants. The non-Aryans who were incorporated into the Aryan society belonged to the Shudra caste. Those who were rejected on the grounds of ritual impurity were treated as and called Untouchables because members of the four castes did not associate with them.

With the expansion and spread of the Hindu worldview throughout India, the division, hierarchy, and names of the traditional castes were not maintained, with the exception of the Brahmins, who claimed and were acknowledged as possessing a degree of ritual purity that retained their superiority above the other castes. The word dharma is central to Hindu belief. Hindus often refer to their religion as Hindu Dharma, basically stating that Hinduism is a way of life rather than a religion. The key constructors and defenders of the caste system, the Brahmins, claimed that the presence of an organized caste system, with its elaborate rules and required caste duty dharma , prevented society from degenerating into chaos.

The Brahmins thus devised rules for each caste varna in accordance with the four stages ashramas in the life of a man the Vedic society was patriarchal : celibate student, married householder, retired forest dweller, and the ascetic stage. This whole system was called varnashrama dharma — the duties of each caste in the four stages of a man's life.

In the first stage, a boy receives his education by studying under a guru, and in the second stage he marries and has children. In the third stage, he retires with his wife to the forest after handing over the responsibility of the household to his oldest son. In the final stage he sends his wife home to their son and renounces all contact with the society by becoming an ascetic, and attempting to pursue moksha with greater intention.

Among the four stages of the ashramas, most people only completed the first three. Retired couples usually stayed with their oldest son, and very rarely did a man become an ascetic in his old age. Basically, the concept of the four ashramas sought to synthesize the necessity of order in society and the spiritual liberation moksha of the individual.

With the advent and expansion of modern industries and Western education in the postindependent after cities of India, the significance and demands of the caste system has weakened. In the major cities, a person's professional and economic status often determines his or her social standing. The secular constitution of India also outlaws untouchability and recognizes all Indian citizens as equal. Almost all urban Hindus intermingle professionally and socially, and many marry outside their caste.

However, in rural areas and smaller towns, the stringent nature of the caste system and its requirements continue to define society and the lives of its members. The Hindu view of caste, ashramas, and family are inseparable—every person is born into a family belonging to a particular caste, and passes through the four stages of life by practicing dharma appropriate to each stage of life. Among the four ashramas, the second stage of the married householder is central because it births and sustains the three other ashramas. When a man marries, he pays the three debts he owes to the ancestors, the gods, and his teacher guru.

To the ancestors, a married man pays his debt by having children, especially a male child, to continue the family lineage. Since the surname of the average Hindu is usually the family name, when a son is born the family name continues. This is not the case with daughters, who marry into another family and take up the surname of their husbands. Continuing the family lineage and its name is crucial because the memories and integrity of the ancestors are kept alive through these. The name specifically surname of a family is often synonymous with integrity and respect. Maintaining family integrity is necessary because it reflects the extent to which family members are faithful to their dharma.

When a son marries a woman from a reputable family, earns a living through a just and honest vocation, and provides for his family, he honors the ancestors. Furthermore, because dharma is inclusive of religious traditions and practices relating to moksha, when a man imparts family dharma to his children, he enables their salvation and that of generations to come.

As a householder, a man pays back debts owed to the gods, the providers of prosperity and comfort, by offering appropriate sacrifices and prayers to them. Giving alms to the poor and religious mendicants, and occasionally feeding Brahmins and financially remunerating them for their services, are also deemed as acts symbolizing gratitude to the gods for material benefits enjoyed by a family. A man pays back debts owed to his guru by transmitting knowledge and wisdom received from the guru to his children.

However, in the cities and towns of India, and in some villages, the average child rarely studies under a guru. In these contexts, a Western school system is the common mode of education. Furthermore, girls are equal recipients of education in cities and major towns. Urban Indian women who receive a Western form of education hold professional jobs just like their Western counterparts. Many of these women also contribute substantially to household income and have an equal voice in family decisions. For Hindus, a family is larger than the nuclear family; family includes the extended family— maternal and paternal grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins.

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In India, especially in towns and villages still untouched by a free-market economic structure and modern culture that dominates the cities, many people are born into a joint family system. A joint family basically comprises paternal parents, their sons, daughters-in-law, unmarried daughters, and grandchildren. Here, the oldest male is the head of the entire household. Respect for a family member is based on age because the older a person, the wiser he or she is about family dharma. The older men make the financial decisions, and the older women are often informally consulted.

In instances where a joint family does not exist, older members as still consulted before important decisions are made, especially in relation to marriage. Among Hindus, the family is the ideal environment through which Hindu dharma is passed from one generation to another—a child begins learning about religious traditions, epic stories, ethics, norms, and values, especially by the example set by family members. When a person marries in the context of a Hindu family, he or she may literally wed an individual, but on a broader level a person marries into a family.

Because a family is the embodiment of dharma, a prospective bride is considered a candidate only when the traditions, practices, and economic status of her family match that of the prospective bridegroom's family. Most Hindu marriages are arranged—relatives and friends suggest the name and family of prospective brides or bridegrooms. Before a family considers a person as a candidate for their son or daughter, the family Brahmin is consulted to examine the horoscopes of the two individuals concerned, and to suggest whether there is a possible match. Are there other worlds and other more complex forms of existence?

What awaits us after death? Are there nonphysical forces which can help us to overcome the laws of physics and attain lasting happiness? And so people living in ignorance or simply ignoring Christian teachings turn to the esoteric. These esoteric cults claim that they know the answers to the fundamental questions of existence and can open the paths to nonphysical forces. But their answers are false and the methods disastrous.

The most frightening thing is the fact that they smother the fear of God in man and the sense of responsibility for his acts. The fallen spirits joyously tell the novice occultist that there is no judgment by God or everlasting torment, but on the contrary, that everything in the afterlife is easy and pleasant. So enrich yourself with knowledge and absorb the power given you. Truly, sometimes as a result of occult practices a person may develop unusual capabilities: telepathy, clairvoyance, the ability to heal by "biofeedback," the ability to move objects without touching them telekinesis , etc.

However, as we shall see, these capabilities are not self-developed in man, but come to him through the assistance of the unclean spirits , and that is the reason they are so menacing and harmful. True, in order not to scare off a naive novice, demons cleverly conceal their presence and present themselves as harmless roving spirits or as impersonal nonphysical energy, spread out in the cosmos or hidden within man himself. Now we shall examine and answer these claims of the occultists. Communication with the spirits is realized either through spiritualism or through mediums. The history of invoking spirits spiritualism goes back to antiquity.

It is mentioned in the Bible as being a sinful practice forbidden by God: " Regard not those who have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God" Lev. They shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them" Lev. During a spiritualistic seance, the spirit emanates either in the form of a ghost or through its reaction on various objects, such as by moving a plate, rapping on a table, or moving a pointer Ouija board. In mediumistic seances, the medium in a state of trance gives up his body to the control of the spirit, which in turn enters the individual, takes possession of his organs and performs through him various actions and makes various predictions or revelations.

The New Age in particular is popularizing this second form of communication with the spirits or "forces" , referring to it as channeling from "channel," to conduct or guide. In some instances, as the medium channeler goes into a trance, his facial muscles and lips begin to twitch unwillingly. When the spirit totally possesses the medium, the rhythm of his respiration changes, as does his facial expression, to the extent that the medium sometimes becomes totally unrecognizable.

The voice changes as well; for example, a feminine voice may become deep and masculine. Coming out of the trance, the medium cannot remember what took place or what he said in his mediumistic state. At first the spirit cannot enter the medium without his consent, and it is necessary that the medium himself invite the spirit. However, after repeated mediumistic seances, possession by the spirit can happen involuntarily, in a spontaneous manner, with the medium becoming subject to the spirit. It is obvious that among spiritualists and mediums there exist charlatans, although there also exist a great number who are quite accomplished and who truly communicate with beings of the nether world and receive from them information and abilities unavailable to others.

A large number of ordinary channelers and spiritualists are unaware how crafty and dangerous those beings are in whom they place their confidence. These are far from harmless, roving spirits or impersonal forces of nature. On the contrary, there is consistent evidence from many accomplished mediums and shamans that the spirits with whom they deal consciously attempt to deceive them. They pretended to be benevolent in order to more easily possess and harm them. Robert Monroe vividly described an event in which, during one of his "astral" travels, he was viciously attacked by two evil spirits.

At one point in the fray, he panicked and desperately attempted to remove himself from the torment. As he looked at them, they instantaneously turned into the images of his two daughters, attempting to throw him off balance emotionally in his fight against them. The noted medium Emanuel Swedenborg, who had dedicated himself to communication with spirits and who was acclaimed by many as an expert in questions regarding the occult, attests to the fact that spirits with whom spiritualists and mediums deal are so cunning and lying that it is impossible for anyone appealing to them to establish their true personality and intentions.

These spirits are excellent actors masquerading under the guise of dead souls. Swedenborg warns novice occultists with the following words: "When the spirits begin to speak with a man, he ought to be aware that he believes nothing whatever from them; for they say almost anything. Things are fabricated by them, and they lie … They would tell so many lies and indeed with solemn affirmation … if a man listens and believes they press on, and deceive, and seduce in many ways.. We hear the same affirmation from Uri Geller, known for his ability to twist spoons and knives by means of telepathy.

He and his mentor, parapsychologist Andrija Puharich, MD, often experienced uneasy feelings in their dealings with spirits, noting a somewhat odd and suspicious behavior in themselves. Both occultists were convinced repeatedly that the spirits conducted themselves ambiguously, as though toying with them Andrija Puharich, Uri , NY, Bantam, Similar uneasy feelings have been experienced by other accomplished spiritualists and mediums. Consequently, if the spirits in touch with an occultist lie , is it not clear they are not good angels and servants of God?

Neither could they be souls of the dead, since, according to Sacred Scripture, souls are not allowed to roam the world freely? On the contrary, after a person's death, God assigns his soul to a specific place, heaven or hell, in which the soul must reside until the Great Judgment Day: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment " Heb.

Therefore, if the spirits of the occultists are not angels nor are they the souls of the departed, then, as the last alternative, they are spirits subject to the one about whom the Savior said that " he is a liar and the father of lies " John — that is, of the Satan. It follows, therefore, that spiritualists and channelers who rely on the spirits of the nether world place themselves and others in great danger as will be explained later. It is difficult to understand how people who would never trust a stranger so naively place themselves under the control of nether world beings, about whom they know nothing, and who are proffesional liars.

This opinion is especially enticing to the contemporary skeptic, who acknowledges neither God nor the spiritual world. He gets excited that through his wish alone he can put in motion a powerful nonmaterial energy and force it to work for him. In anticipation of the existence of impersonal nonphysical forces, there has arisen a series of contemporary occult theories saturated with quasi-scientific terminology which are offered to the reader in the form of practical recipes for all occasions in life.

The great success of these occult ideas is due to the fact that the people who are seeking are spiritually uneducated and yet seem somehow to discover a new world: where everything that until then was mysterious and impossible suddenly becomes understandable and attainable. There is nothing to be afraid of and no one before whom to tremble — everything is simple and able to be realized by him who has learned to manipulate nonphysical forces.

Footnote: A special danger to spiritual health is represented by that school of the occult which advises a method for opening the fountain of energy within man himself. According to this teaching, every person, having adapted to himself a specific technique, can develop in himself great receptivity to the outer and inner world, to save and reestablish health in himself and others, to learn how to be connected up to any information, to open the third eye, to perform astral travels, to learn to unveil his chakras a Sanskrit word relating to the energy centers of the human auric atmospheric field corresponding to the human endocrine system.

Having opened the chakra with the help of special methods in order to free psychic energies that offer boundless possibilities, the claim is that a person can be placed on a par with the gods — possessing clairvoyance, telepathy, telekinesis, and so forth. Nevertheless, the masters themselves in this field warn that the opening of the bio-forces in oneself bears serious consequences. A detailed examination of this topic goes beyond the scope of this article.

We shall indicate only that people who are occupied in opening the chakras within themselves sometimes irreparably damage their psyche. Curiously enough, the very spirits which operate "in the wings" of contemporary quasi-scientific, occult experiments, are never insulted by the fact that channelers ignore their labors and silence their merits. On the contrary, the spirits willingly hide behind faceless nonphysical forces, since in this manner they can attain their primary goal: enslavement.

And they are very successful in this, since their own prince, the Devil, is a many faced and deceptive demagogue. To a person with intellectual inquiries he says: "I shall give you supernatural knowledge," and to a person with mystical tendencies: "I shall open up to you the mysteries of existence. I am a fiction! Therefore, having enticed a person with what he treasures most, the Devil takes him further and further from God, until he is dropped into the bottomless pit.

Thanks to his ability to adapt himself to the thoughts of a person, the Devil has been able to deceive modern man with ancient, occult, fairy tales set in quasi-scientific terminology. Thus, even in our time there has arisen a branch of science, parapsychology, which studies and tries to scientifically explain the ancient practices of shamans and mediums.

However, there remains the main question: does there exist a nonphysical, morally impersonal energy, and if so, what is its nature? In order to answer these question, one must take into consideration that any energy or force, either material or spiritual, is intimately related to its source which generates it.

Thus for instance, no physical energy or field electromagnetic or gravitational, for example exists "by itself" but emanates from definite atomic or subatomic particles. And since these physical particles are impersonal, the forces which emanate from them are also impersonal and therefore are morally neutral. Similarly, spiritual energy and spiritual forces do not exist "on their own" but emanate from spiritual beings.

And since the spiritual beings angels, people, demons are individuals , the energy emanating from them is, it follows, colored by their moral state — good or bad. Experienced psychics understand this very well and therefore try to guard themselves against moral infection. In the world we live there is black and white, and there are shades of gray, as well; there is light and darkness, and there is twilight, as well.

However, in empty space there is no twilight, only total light or total darkness. Similarly, in the world of spirits there is no morally undefined state. Spirits in contrast to people are simple beings: they can be either totally good angels , or totally evil demons. Accordingly, in the spirit world there exist only two states: paradise or hell. There is no intermediate, neutral state.

An Unconventional Pursuit

Having understood this, we must agree that the force energy emanating from God and the angels is always benevolent and draws toward good, but the force energy emanating from the demons is always evil and pushes toward evil. Having two thousand years of spiritual experience the Orthodox Church has established this fact quite unambiguously. The force emanating from God, or rather "non-created Godly energy" in the words of St. Gregory Palamas enlightens and enlivens the soul. However, people are much more complicated than simple spirits angels and demons.

That is why people can pass some of the time in a morally undefined state and are capable of wavering between good and evil. Due to the fact that in man there is a moral uncertainty and an inconsistency, the good and evil in him most of the time neutralize each other, leaving his spiritual energy weak and ineffective in comparison to the energy of simple spirits. This is similar, for instance, to the charge balance of a chemical compound that comes about from the sharing of electrons between positively and negatively charged molecules. In the spiritual world, there do not exist any morally neutral, nonphysical forces, because they always emanate from morally definite beings, angels or demons.

Therefore, every time a person comes in contact with energy that is being exuded by these beings, he will experience a pull either toward good or evil. Footnote: Of course, the fountainhead of all types of energy is God who is good. However, the fallen angels have polluted the energy they have received, as well as all other gifts given to them by the Creator. Consequently, the occultists are mistaken regarding the neutrality and safety of the nonphysical force. Since neither God nor His angels allow themselves to be manipulated, the demons are the ones who come willingly to the service of the occultists.

Therefore, they dispense to the occultists the needed energy. But they do not do this unselfishly. On the contrary, they loan their energy with the purpose of receiving it back with a good return. Sorcerers, witches, Satanists and many accomplished occultists are well aware of this but keep it in secret. Let us examine some remarks from a few specialists. His research in the field of occultism brought him to the conviction that the basic fountain of shaman energy emanates from the world of spirits.

Hindu and Buddhist gurus teachers acknowledge that their energy comes from the world of spirits. Indries Shah remarks, for example, that "Gurus on their own do not possess extraordinary spiritual power. They receive it from the spirits. Dutton, In the book The Adventures into the Psychic , Jess Stearn, a long time investigator of parapsychological manifestations, makes the following observation: "Almost without exception all of the great mediums … felt that they were instruments of a higher power which flowed through them.

They did not presume to have the power themselves" NY, Signet, However much the occultists may want to be praised for their overwhelming capabilities, they are nevertheless obliged to acknowledge that in reality spirits from the other side work through them. For instance, referring to the parapsychological investigation by Lawrence LeShah, who studied a series of Western and Eastern psychic healers, Charles Panati writes the following: "But if the healers he studies had one thing in common, it was that they all felt that they did not perform the healing themselves; a 'spirit' did it working through them.

They felt they were merely passive agents One of the most concise reports regarding the question of psychic healing can be found in the collection called Healers and the Healing Process. In a ten-year investigation in which many specialists participated, it was found that "Any study of healers immediately brings the investigator face to face with the concept that spirit intelligences variously referred to as guides, controls, or protectors are working through the minds of healers to supply information of which the healer himself has no conscious knowledge" Wheaton, IL, Theosophical Quest, This investigation also concluded that abnormal healing is more widespread in countries where spiritualism and belief in spirits is popular.

Consequently it has been established that regardless of the terminology used, occultists enter into contact with real fallen spirits who supply them with knowledge and nonphysical energy. We have already discussed the proposition that these spirits are neither angels nor the souls of the dead, but are rather demons.

The consequences brought about through association with these spirits will convincingly show them to be demons. This is the most fail-safe method of investigating spirit apparitions, to which the Savior Himself pointed in saying: " Ye shall know them by their fruits.


  1. The Musings of a Girl With Poor Manners.
  2. god is selected writings of sri chinmoy Manual.
  3. Books on the modern cultic experience, gurus gone wild, etc. - Page 2?
  4. Clinical Cancer Prevention: 188 (Recent Results in Cancer Research).
  5. Inspiration-Letters 8.
  6. Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit" Mat. Here, then, the many cited facts from those who occupied themselves with the occult convinces us of the following: a that the spirits prod people who deal with them into all possible kinds of sins and crimes and b that they damage their health and cripple their lives. It is established that those involved in occult activities sooner or later begin to manifest psychic or psychological abnormalities; many fall into depression or are driven to alcohol and narcotic abuse.

    Lamar Keene spent thirteen years among professional mediums. In his public confession he wrote that all the mediums he knew, either personally or through others, ended their lives tragically. The Fox sisters, for example, ended their lives as hopeless drunkards. William Slade, who was famous for reading minds, became mad and died in a Michigan insane asylum.

    The medium Margery died as a hopeless drunkard. Wherever he looked, the same picture presented itself: mediums invariably ended their pitiful existence with an even more pitiful death. He was totally crushed by the whole mediumistic syndrome — by the deceit, commonplace depravity, thoughtless drunkenness, and narcotic dependency The Psychic Mafia.

    Besides all else, by disclosing their evil and sadistic nature, the spirits torture in various ways those whom they help. They do this slyly, in order not to frighten their prey ahead of time — slowly and shrewdly they increase the suffering. A person practicing occult begins to experience a higher state of nervousness and physical indisposition, becomes subject to incomprehensible damage and various unpleasantries, at times experiencing unfounded terror, and begins to consider suicide. When he finally realizes that it is the spirits who are directing all these misfortunes against him, he attempts to rid himself of them and stop his occult activity.

    It is then that the spirits double their rage and smother him in a sea of greater misfortunes in order to frighten him and force him to return to them. By tightening and loosening the reins, they gradually enslave the occultist completely and in the end destroy him.