First I want to point out that the first print of this book was 1954, my copy was printed 1964. I emphasise this to show that I am not stealing a current critique to present as my own.
So first to the historical and explanatory commentary that opens this translation of the Gita. This comes from the Mahabharata historical legend of the Pandavas and King Dhritarashtra. The story is fairly similar to the "Riddle of the Sphinx" so I will skip to the final question / answer sequence in the interest of brevity...
Last of all came Yudhisthira, the youngest. He found the corpses of his brothers and began to lament. The the voice told him:"Child, first answer my questions, and then I will cure your grief and your thirst." He turned, and saw Dharama, the personification of duty and virtue, standing beside him in the form of a crane.
"What is the road to heaven?" the crane asked.
"How does a man find happiness?"
"Through right conduct"
"When is a man loved?"
"When he is without vanity"
"Of all the world's wonders, which is the most wonderful?"
"That no man, when he sees others dying all around him, believes the he himself will die."
"How does one reach true religion?"
"Not by argument. Not by scriptures and doctrine; they can not help. The path to religion is trodden by the saints."
This second piece is the Huxley.
...Contemplation of truth is the end, action is the means. In India, in China, in ancient Greece, in Christian Europe, this was regarded as the most obvious and axiomatic piece of orthodoxy. The invention of the steam engine produced a revolution, not merely in industrial techniques, but also and more significantly in philosophy. Because machines could be made progressively more and more efficient, western man came to believe that men and societies would automatically register a corresponding moral and spiritual improvement. Attention and allegiance came to be paid, not to Eternity, but to the Utopian future. External circumstances came to be regarded as more important than states of mind about external circumstance, and the end of human life was held to be action, with contemplation as a means to that end. These false and, historically, aberrant and heretical doctrines are now systematically taught in our schools and repeated day in and day out, by those anonymous writers of advertising copy who, more than any other teachers, provide European and American adults with their current philosophy of life. And so effective has been the propaganda that even professing Christians accept the heresy unquestioningly and are quite unconscious of its complete incompatibility with their own, or anybody else's, religion.
It is possible that Huxley had teachings such as that I have quoted from the Mahabharata, along with the sayings of Christ, and the Analects, and a far wider range of teachings in his mind when he wrote that paragraph. I can not match his learning. I can not match his insight. But I want to try and apply this to the previous comment that I have made on the role of religion in politics.
I want to pick on the charismatic churches, especially those that consider themselves "fundamental" or "conservative", and in the interests of fairness I am going to use the New Zealand "Destiny Church" as my example. It is doubly pertinent as an example because of its illegitimate (in my view) offspring; the Destiny Party. Now I must say here that the Church takes great pains to emphasise that there is no direct connection with the Destiny Party. I will merely point out that the founder of the political Destiny Party made it very clear that it was his intention to bring Christianity into the political arena in the form espoused by the Destiny Church.
And at that I can point straight to the heart of my argument, that religion does not, must not, form an integral part of government.
First because religion is not a matter of government, it is a matter for each person to reach with his personal god.
Second because religion is not the process of worship, not the process of ministry, not the truth or otherwise of scripture; it is the personal quest for truth and enlightenment. The "church" can provide access to learning, teachers and a meditative environment. But it should be no more than that.
Third and the most important of all, is the "thread" that I have picked up on here and in other posts and debates with Al, that "right conduct", "virtue", the "rules of society" are the way to happiness. It is not possessions, it is not law, it is not lack of law or government.
I can see the dichotomy here, that between individuals and their beliefs on the one hand and the process of governing on the other. What I hear from the Pavanda legend equates for me with the Ten Commandments at this level; both are intended as guides to individual action and the individual's quest for his god.
Where the Destiny Church, and others of its ilk, fail in my estimation is their emphasis on the interpretation of scripture, their focus on the process of worship, and their doctrine of financial contribution determining the distribution of spiritual merit. None of this would, according to Dharma, lead to individual happiness, being loved, or righteousness. What is being promoted is the worship of process; the self deception of vanity. If you are a Christian who attends church regularly, think on these; what are your thoughts as you prepare for church? What is your desired outcome from your attendance? What are your thoughts as you leave the church? Are those thoughts on how you might change your self or are they now on the activities of the rest of the day? What is the Church promoting? In most instances that "the only salvation, the only path to 'eternal life', is through our ministry, our church". The price is our 10% (in the case of Destiny) tithe.
The point in my mind here is not the answers; they are for you and you alone. The idea I want to plant is the difficulty in legislating control of what you are thinking. It matters not how strong a church may be, the only really effective way that the action and thought of the individual can be controlled is by creating that compliance in the individual from birth. That in essence is the power of Islam in states such as Iran. But when I listen to the ideas propounded by the Conservative Right Religious they are trying to persuade me that theyknow best what is good for me;they are the learned who will tell me what is right thought and what is wrong;they will determine how I shape my life and my quest for happiness and enlightenment; the Church determines my fate in the hereafter.
There was, some centuries back, an attempt by the Christian Church to impose that level of control on the thought and action of the individual. We have our current civilisation because those attempts failed. The Church failed because the Inquisition failed. The Church failed because they could not totally suppress science at the time of Galileo. The Church failed because deistic rights of royal succession were lost to revolution and religious evolution.
As Huxley put it, the purpose of Christian religion has changed from religious eternity to utopian future. As a consequence, the Church is no longer the fount of personal enlightenment. It has transmogrified into the capitalism of self deception and false happiness.