Intro to Pathways to the Sacred
Fortunately, even though the psychobiological configurations of aspirants differ, the available sacred templates are sufficiently broad to cover most everyone. In the next few Insight Sermons, we will introduce and discuss the theoretical and pragmatic aspects of the major templates established by various societies over the past five thousand years of documented history. Of necessity, we forego discussion of spirituality and religiosity practiced during the Neolithic Period (dawn of agricultural innovation beginning 10,500 BCE) until the innovation of written language in Sumer, Egypt, and the Indus Valley (3200 to 2500 BCE). It is impossible to be accurate as to the beliefs and rituals of any society in the absence of anthropological observation, written records, sophisticated sacred art, memorized narrative myths, and well-established population centers.
Subsequently, we shall restrict our discussion to the written historical documents produced in Sumer, Egypt, the Indus Valley, and the Vedas of the Aryan peoples. I am of the opinion, based upon the documented sources, that the philosophical and pragmatic doctrines developed by these four cultures are responsible for the later development and evolution of spirituality and religiosity via cross-cultural diffusion and adoption.
Possibly, I will offer anthropological opinion as to what I believe to have been the major religious belief of the preliterate Neolithic Period, based upon a cogent and open-minded analysis of available drawings and figurines. In truth, it is most interesting and most contrary to the standard view.
The most extensive literature, as to the wealth of sacred and pseudosacred templates produced over the historical period, is found in India. Moreover, the written historical record commences with the recording of the Aryan people’s religious system in the Ŗg Veda around 1500 BCE and continues uninterrupted into modern consideration. Therefore, this sermon will draw primarily from the Indian corpus as the sādhus, sages, and seers were explicit in presenting their views, commentators commonly defend and argue each philosophical view, each school respected the intellectual work produced by others, and they did NOT burn or destroy books (as is so typical of the hypocrites of the revealed religions of the west).
Historically, three sacred templates were developed by the sages of India for liberation (mokşa) from one’s ongoing cycles of rebirth and redeath so to attain the end state for human beings. The two poles being described as  absolute identification with the single Great Self (Ātman) underlying the Totality or  complete annihilation of one’s personal self so to disappear into the Selfless, Eternal, Unfathomable Source out of which all creation arises.
For the present, the psychobiological basis for either point of view is not relevant to pathways. However, I will provide a brief summary, as to the source of each of the two poles. I find that the human psyche oscillates between two opposed cognitive-affective states, which are mental exaptations of biological evolution. By exaptation, I am referring to the birth of our mental assuredness that we are personally present in this time and this space and associated with our own physical bodies.
Subsequently, we believe that our individual selves are unique aphysical beings who reside for the moment in a human body. For the moment, we shall call this feeling of being present and separate from other creatures, ‘ego.’
While, physical bodies do not personally care whether they live or die, egos care very much. Just ask yourself, “Does my body care about my future or does my ego care about my future?”
The ego cares very much about its continued existence. The reason being that each and every creature, beginning with a single cell, possesses a compelling, universal, biological drive for physical survival and reproductive success. Naturally, such drive does not require a conscious mind or awareness of its existence for efficaciousness.
However, as neurological systems grew in complexity over billions of years, they eventually lead to the potential for an advanced creature to become aware that it exists in its body and is separate from other things and entities. In other words, the ego was born as an exaptation of the nonconscious biological drive for somatic survival.
As society advanced, the reality of the human ego slowly concretized via enculturation and soon experienced the arising of an existential fear that one day it must die and be no more (which explains our various attempts to create an acceptable afterlife scenario). Such existential fear being the driver for our egotic desire to uncover a method so to attain to permanence and immortality in some type of advanced post-life state, surely influenced by our normal nocturnal dreams.
Over many thousands of years, people recognized that each diurnal period could be divided into distinct periods of wakefulness, dreaming sleep, and non-dreaming sleep. Moreover, while daily life was invariably filled with survival difficulties, doubts as to the future, gross unfairness, and much suffering; every night they entered into a state of utter peacefulness, free of ego awareness and its desires, and found psychic relief from daily life and its problems.
Subsequently, it is not difficult to posit the appearance of a ‘metaphysical solution’ to the trials and tribulation of the ego by annihilation of such ego and entrance into a selfless, consciousless, and blissful state of permanence without awareness, or total annihilation of self forever.