Is religion just a state of mind

reading room

About the life-awakening power of religious wisdom
(Sermon at the opening of the summer semester 2011)

Author:Niewiadomski Jozef
Published in:



There was once a guru. A large group of willing students followed him. One day the disciples began, at first because they wanted to make a joke, to urge the guru to entrust them with the sacred mantra, the mantra that can bring the dead to life. "What the hell do you want with such a dangerous secret?" Parried the guru. "Nothing at all! We just want to deepen our knowledge and strengthen our faith." "The knowledge that you acquire too early can lead to a state of dangerous precociousness!" "What is it: precociousness?" "Exactly: a state of mind that gives people something of power without the person having the wisdom that would be necessary for the extent of his power so that he can also use the knowledge properly: in the service of promoting the culture of life." The students did not give up; over and over again they urged their master to entrust the mantra to them. At some point the man gave in and trusted each of them the precious mantra, admonished each not to use the instrument lightly; if so, then with all humility, accompanied by prayer and in the awareness of the great life contexts in which one remains involved. One day the group of students went hiking in the desert. Suddenly they saw a lot of bleached bones. "Man, if this is not a chance to verify the knowledge we have acquired ... If it works, then the world is ours; if not, we know what to make of the whole mantra secret. " Inspired by the spirit of frivolity, they recited the mysterious words. Lo and behold: the bones moved, covered each other with sinews and flesh, and turned into a pack of starved, rabid wolves. The wolves fell upon the group and tore the high-spirited disciples, who were rich in knowledge but poor in wisdom.


Dear students, dear colleagues, dear employees of our faculty! The old story puts its finger precisely on a wound, on the wound that is being torn open both by modern research policy and the currently practiced study culture, as well as by today's dealings with religious traditions in general, with ecclesiastical religiosity in particular. The wound of precocious people, who are rich in knowledge when it comes to religion, but poor in wisdom. The production and consumption of theological, religious-scientific and religious-philosophical knowledge nowadays seems to go hand in hand with the decline in the form of life: religion. A form of life that, like the wisdom in our Guru story, must also be acquired, practiced and practiced, i.e., must be lived. The media-structured public sometimes resembles the greedy students who want to get to know the last mysterious mantra by force, manipulate and instrumentalize it without any problems, but thereby use this knowledge in a way that is not only relevant to the matter: religion not is useful, but turns against people. The religion-critical mantras on the one hand and those recipes that religion and the church want to pray "healthy" on the other hand mostly only awaken the superficial wolves.


Knowledge is not to be pilloried, but our attitude, which idolizes knowledge, an attitude that ascribes a life-awakening quality to knowledge. Also the theological and religious studies knowledge. It is not knowledge that is to be pilloried, but the attitude that trivializes wisdom and whose deeper meaning - in the frenzy of a naive belief in science - can no longer recognize.


It may seem strange when the dean of a faculty at a university gives an apparently science-critical sermon at the beginning of the semester. It should not lead to anti-science obscurantism in matters of religion. Then what should she do? We're starting the summer semester. And we do it on a day on which the serenity of Rose Monday goes hand in hand with the liturgically visualized, believing serenity of the martyrs Perpetua and Felizitas: Martyrs who shaped the believing consciousness of the Church for almost 2000 years and this far more than all carnivals and all possible events ever. They went to their death calmly, not because they knew something about Jesus, but because they were fascinated by Christ and his life. Because they have so immersed themselves with Christ in the gaze of the Father (as the prior of the Trappist monastery Notre Dame d'Atlas P. Christian de Chergé, who was martyred in 1996, put it in his will with regard to his martyrdom) that If they could see children of the one father in their persecutors themselves, they gave us that wisdom which the Guru's disciples have just lacked. This immersion alone is stronger than death. The guru from our story would have gladly taught his students the art of immersing themselves in the gaze of God - but not just the mechanically functioning or even non-functioning mantra - if they had shown the necessary patience. I wish all of us that through our research and teaching and also through our celebrations we learn to sink our gaze ever deeper into the gaze of the Father.


also read
Additional functions