Paramhansa Yogananda published A New Awakening in the Churches in 1933. This version was edited by Swami Kriyananda.
Science is progressive. Religion is stationary. Science is constantly producing new inventions because it is based on the laws of reason. Religion remains stagnant because it is based on untested beliefs. The scientist uses impartial reason to explore the universal laws of Nature. Religion uses reason to defend, but not to question, its basic assumptions. Reason, as used by the churches, is not a means of discovering truth, but of obscuring it.
Instead of peddling untested dogmas and urging people to “Believe believe!” the churches should convert their premises into Universities of Living, where experiments are conducted in how to find the true fulfillment.
Ancient India built the biggest, most gorgeous temples in the world. In time, most of these became marts for worldly priests to shear the pilgrims of their money. But India is now undergoing a new phase in its evolution. It is pruning away the dead growth. In little, secluded hermitages unmarked by any religious trademark, real spiritual teachers, who live the life, are testing the worthwhileness of spiritual teachings in the lives of sincere seekers. These teachers spurn self‑promotion as something that appeals merely to floating crowds of curiosity seekers.
It is time religionists everywhere — Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, Shintoists, Muslims, Jains, Zoroastrians, Hindus — ceased vaunting the superior merits of their own creeds and holy writ. Science has conditioned people to resist having their minds stuffed with dogmas. It is time that religious leaders nourished people — the young, especially — with inwardly stimulating discoveries of universal wisdom. Religionists should pool their discoveries, just as scientists do.
Churches should adopt universal names such as, “Temple of Truth,” “Church of Wisdom,” “Church of New Awakening,” “Church of Scientific Religion,” or “Church of God.” If their outlook were more universal, they would cease wasting time competing against one another, and would concentrate instead on winning people from spiritual ignorance to universally beneficial ways of living.
There has been too much concentration on church names as a means of distinguishing different bodies of dogma. Even universal‑sounding names, when given too much emphasis, have done enormous mischief, for they have kept people divided. The church members, as a result, have become superstitious and narrow‑minded.
How much better it would be if everyone concentrated simply on the Fatherhood or Motherhood of God, and on universal principles of truth, practically applied by demonstrating, for example, the benefits of true morality.
If the churches were transformed into Universities of Living, they would be attended everywhere equally by Christians, Hindus, Jews, and the followers of all other religions. Places of worship would then stand for those universal truths which underlie the great religions.
The different religions in the world today do good, of course, in reminding people of their need to live more in the consciousness of God, and of goodness and Truth. If the churches would be of real service to humanity, however, they must offer people practical spiritual training for achieving those ends.
Ministers need above all to improve themselves by daily, deep, scientific meditation practices. They need to view spiritual self‑development as their paramount duty. From this firm basis in Truth they should proceed to reform their churches and to inspire their members to seek the direct, inner experience of God. Ministers should encourage the development of spiritual habits in their congregations, and not cater to people’s worldly tendencies for fear of losing them. As the members find bubbling up ever‑increasingly within them the joy of Self-realization, they will become steadfast of their own free inclination without prompting from their ministers.
Religious congregations that limit themselves to outward activities such as reading good books, listening to lectures, and attending musical entertainments are little more than theological social clubs. A purely theoretical approach to truth can never attract the presence of the Master of Ceremonies of All Life, our beloved Lord.
Instead of gathering in God’s name theoretically, people need to come together with the firm purpose of invoking His living presence in the Temple of Meditation. Those who do so will find themselves actually experiencing the blessing of the Divine Presence.
There is a great need for meditation groups, organized with the express and only purpose of knowing God. Group meditation is like a castle which protects spiritual novices as well as veteran meditators against the besieging armies of delusion. Meditating together increases the degree of Self‑realization of each member of the group, by the law of invisible vibratory exchange of spiritual magnetism.
Group meditation, with emphasis on the shared practice of scientific techniques of meditation, should be the principle activity of every church, temple, synagogue, and mosque in the world. Group meditation helps to establish more firmly in Self‑realization the gains made during the individual’s meditations at home.
The news of God‑realization spreads of itself. If congregations everywhere take up this practice, it will create a new awakening in religion. People then will of their own initiative seek out the churches. It will no longer be necessary to attract them by the efforts of professional religious entertainers.
Group meditation creates a deep spiritual bond among all members of the group. The bonding agent is their own Self‑realization. Once they feel uplifted together in the Divine Presence, they will want to come together frequently of their own accord, to worship God on the altar of their united devotion.
Religious teachers should cease concentrating on the outward forms of religion, which forces them to devote too much energy to fund‑raising, and too little to helping people towards the inner experience of God. They should cease being sect‑makers and dogma‑builders. Instead, they should become soul‑awakeners: way‑showers on the path to Self‑realization. They should seek to become open conduits for universal Truth. Instead of holding people by insisting on the superiority of their own teachings and systems of belief, they should inspire in each member the desire to strive toward his own Self‑realization in God.