Most religions provide a means for people to interact with the spiritual world, however the religion envisions that world. For some religions, the spiritual world is very distant and separate from the physical world in which we live. In others, they are much more closely tied. In either case, however, religion serves a purpose in allowing people of this world to better understand and communicate with the spiritual one.
A primary tool in this communication is the use of intermediaries. Intermediaries are people or objects that help to bridge the gap between the average person and the spiritual world. Intermediaries are commonly seen as having qualities of both worlds, which is what allows them to work as a bridge.
Intermediaries are not always people. Before the modern period, European Christians believed that the earth was the center of universe. Above the physical world was the celestial world, above that the angels, and beyond that, God. God was seen as too distant, too non-material to directly interact with materiality. So he commanded the angels, the angels moved the planets, and the planets affected the physical world. Understanding the movement of the planets helped explain the will of God and how that will would affect the world. [blockquote][b]Read more:[/b] Renaissance Cosmology
Relics are also intermediary objects. Once belonging to a holy person, these items continue to bear the touch of the divine, able to work through means other than physical. Being in proximity with such an object brings a person into closer contact with the divine.
Prophets are probably the most obvious intermediary in religion. These are figures understood to be chosen by higher powers to communicate their will to the people, passing on judgments, warnings, instructions and expectations.
Such a higher power need not even be supernatural. The Raelian Movement, for example, in an atheist religion that believes our creators were aliens known as the Elohim. Their founder, Rael, is their prophet, contacted by the Elohim to spread their message to humanity. They even accept other religious prophets to actually be prophets of the Elohim.
Rejection of Intermediaries:
Not all religions accept the existence of intermediaries. Protestantism arose in part out of objection to the idea of intermediaries within Catholicism. Protestants emphasized a more personal and direct connection between believers and God, without the need for priests, relics or specific rituals.
Many modern religions also downplay or reject the value of intermediaries, emphasizing personal experience. Indeed, many people get suspicious of new movements that [b]do[/b] emphasize the spiritual power and authority of specific individuals.