I have been a regular churchgoer four times in my life. Once when I was at school which was obviously not something I did as a matter of personal choice. But that gave me a good grounding in the Christian faith or the Church of England version of it, though it was fairly traditional at that time. I learnt the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, about matins and evensong, and I still have a fondness for hymns.
The second time was when I began living with Michael Lord. He was Catholic and we went to Mass on Sunday. He took communion, I didn't. I had Catholic friends with whom I stayed occasionally as a child so the Mass wasn't unfamiliar to me but the "smells and bells" aspect was rather different to what I had been used to. This was also the time when the Masters first began talking to me and I was becoming familiar with various esoteric teachings. As a consequence, the conventionalism of orthodox religion seemed spiritually restricting to me and, though I could appreciate the beauty of the ritual, I could not avoid thinking of it as limiting, for me at any rate. I spoke of this to the Masters and this is what they said. Let me remind the reader that they spoke to me through the mediumship of Michael who was in unconscious trance at the time.
I asked if it was wrong of me to try to ease Michael away from the Catholic Church and he replied that he had told me before to trust my instinct. He said that the Catholic Church, like any outward form of religion, was good for souls on a certain level but it was time to lead Michael away from it into a new and higher understanding of life.
I realise, as I think I have said before, that this would be quite enough to get the Masters condemned as demons in certain quarters. But wait a minute! What is being said here is that there is an inner religion and an outer one. By and large, the Church, meaning all churches, teaches the outer path. The Master is not condemning the Church. He says it is good. But he also says there is more and if we are to find the more we have to look for it. Some people can find the inner path through the Church but I think that is increasingly difficult as all outer institutions have become corrupt, losing touch with their animating spirit and calcifying into just the body, the organisation itself which is the thing that matters and must be preserved. The inner path is when we cease just to follow and start to make the truths of religion our own. It is the path in which intuition and personal insight must be developed, on which we must forge our own souls and not rely on anything external. Move from the external to the eternal. The dangers of inflation and egotism are obvious but just because we can fall does not mean we should not attempt to rise.
The third time was when I was living in India. The Church of South India is an Anglican church and Michael and I attended services in the local church of our village partly in order to join the local community and partly as a way of affirming our spiritual beliefs publicly. It was a Victorian church built for 19th century English coffee planters and I have to say I learnt a lot about the Christian life there. Somewhat strange you might think as I was practising meditation for a couple of hours a day at the time, investigating Hinduism and talking to the Masters on two or three occasions a month as I think it was then. But it was all grist to my spiritual mill and possibly took me away from the potentially delusionary idea that spirituality in the advanced sense is only mysticism, meaning a concern with higher consciousness.
The fourth time was when my children were young. Their mother is Catholic and I was happy for them to be baptised as Catholics since by then the Church of England had more or less become the benevolent society it now is, that is to say, a leftist political body only really concerned with good works. I wanted them to have some kind of spiritual education in our godless world and church attendance seemed the best way to go about that. I'm not sure how much they got out of it (it lasted for about 4 or 5 years) but at least they know something about Christianity which an alarming number of their contemporaries do not.
I am no longer a churchgoer and doubt I will be again except for the occasional festivals such as Christmas and Easter. I would say that I haven't left the church but the church has left me. When you find more spiritual sustenance in an empty church than the actual service, something has gone badly wrong. This is my case and I think it is the case of many other believing Christians. The light has gone out and the beauty and truth are in the past now.
This may seem a terrible thing but there is another way to look at it. The spiritual path is fundamentally an inner path as the Master implied. When the outer path has become overgrown with weeds as it now has and effectively leads into a swamp, you have to turn inwards and start to look for God within yourself, remembering, of course, that God is not in you so much as you are in him so it is not in your own self you should be looking so much as just within. Or within and beyond at the same time. Now it may be that a new age really is dawning when the path of Peter, the church of Peter, must be replaced by that of John. Or perhaps I should say be fulfilled in rather than replaced by. At any rate, it is John we should be looking to today as our principal spiritual guide.