Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Faith

"True spirituality is not a fixed faith or belief; it is the ennobling of the soul by rising above the barriers of material life.
Faith reaches what reason fails to touch."
Pir O Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan

I have been thinking much about faith recently. It is hard to tell sometimes whether what I think is real is actually real or is simply the result of habit of thought. For instance, I have met several people recently who have stated emphatically that they do not believe in God. They seem to feel obligated to say this to me when they discover what I write about. That is okay with me if they feel this way but it puzzles me just what they do have faith in. And then I look at what I think I have faith in and wonder at myself.
First of all I should make something clear. Sufi's make a distinction between faith and belief. Faith is a known thing, based on one's real experiences. Belief is something a person relies on to be true even though there is no sustaining experience. This is different from the normal uses of the words in that faith and belief are often put together but used in this way they support one another.
What apparently happens to people who give any thought to this subject at all is that they tend to rely on early experiences to inform them of what to accept. This can happen in all sorts of ways and each person will make decisions about their faith or belief based on their assessment of their early experiences. For instance my early experiences in the Christian Church were fairly benign. There was the normal teaching about the supremacy of Jesus Christ along with the other standard fare but there was none of the illogical demands and hypocrisy that so often accompanies dogma. People went to church and paid their weekly obligation to support the organization but I never felt pressured to be something that I was not. Religion touched very lightly on my life. Consequently I decided at some point that God was okay. Not some kind of looming, quasi human, judgmental being, but a fairly nice guy. And that is where I seem to be today except that my deeper ideas about God have gotten much more expansive. This leads me to believe that a person who needs to express their lack of belief in God might have had a very different experience as a child.
Faith on the other hand, as defined above, is quite different. I have faith in my experiences, which I define as spiritual. Maybe they are hallucinations of some sort but if so they are darned good ones. My belief in some sort of Universal Intelligence apparently requires me to accept these experiences in a particular manner. Another person, who professes another sort of God or not-God would define them quite differently. But there are more basic forms of faith. We have faith in our existence. By that I mean that we know what our hands look like and accept that when we grasp something we can pick it up, especially if we have done so many times before as in a pencil or a fork. Taken further, if we meditate in some way, we have faith that, by sitting still and doing a breathing practice, a certain calm will descend over us. We may have a very different faith, thinking that it is not possible to feel calm and nothing will ever change this. Again, this is a result of early decisions we make. If this sort of person decides that they want to understand calm and really works at it then it is quite possible to alter their faith in their ability to become calm.
But what if there is something deeper? If a person does make a definitive shift in their faith factor I wonder if it is possible to alter still more. Said differently, it might mean that there are aspects of a person's being that have been veiled and are just now becoming accessible. This is belief combined with faith. I have changed, therefore I can change.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

8 comments:

Majida said...

I’ve also been thinking about faith lately. I’ve always said that I have faith but now I discover that there are certain areas where my faith is completely lacking, especially if nothing changes over an extended period of time.
Those people who emphatically state that they do not believe in God, really mean that they don’t want to have a discussion on the topic. They may have been disappointed after their initial childhood believe in God. All religions have their “stories” which come to be recognized as fairy tales and decidedly untrue. And so, religion, the idea of a God, Spirituality, etc. are all thrown out together.
Your “nice guy” image reminds me of the Mel Brooks movie “Blazing Saddles” when Madeline Kahn as Lili Von Shtupp say “What a nice guy” about Bart played by Cleavon Little.
I was not raised in any religion at all. But there was no negation of God, either. I was given a choice. So, my faith in God had to come from something else. What? – desperation?, positive answers to prayers? In my adult years, the faith has come from a much deeper place – far beyond being calm. It has come from experiences of inner light, expansion and an a experience of my essential self where there is no felt deficiency.
But now you’ve got me thinking of the areas where I have no faith at all. How does one reverse that? Or does one simply accept it? Perhaps simply being aware and present to those specific areas with all the sensations, emotions, thoughts and history accompanying them would be the answer. The subconscious mind must play an enormous role. It is my belief, or rather experience, that whatever the subconscious mind has accepted to be true becomes your actual experience in life.
Inayat Khan has a saying, “Shatter your ideal upon the rock of truth.” This is something that we need to do from time to time.
Going back to the quote of Inayat Khan, “True Spirituality is not a fixed faith or belief; it is the ennobling of the soul by rising above the barriers of material life.
Faith reaches what reason fails to touch." -- it is encouraging to note that Spirituality is not fixed, that our life in this material world does present barriers but rising above our difficulties does ennoble the soul.
Can we simple state to ourselves “Keep the Faith” or “May our faith increase.” Faith is self-confidence and self-confidence is faith.
Love,
Majida

Anonymous said...

Dearest Musawwir,
With myself, I went to church every sunday, well I was made to, sung in the choir too. I really had no idea what my Priest was talking about, after all he was a bad drunk and a child molester I found out years to come. One of the victims was my brother. Speaking on God, I truly do believe if you allow yourself to open up and do some homework then one can decide what they want to. I for one, has had many I mean many downs, very few ups and for me, I am a strong believer that MY GOD is everything I see, feel, experience and everything beyond that I do not see in this life. God is great, make him/she as you wish and enjoy the love that embraces everything that comes with it. I do and I am. And many thanks to you for many of my findings, you have opened me up to a new world, I'm not crazy.
Beloved Blessings
Shakti

Sarala said...

I always wonder at people who say "there is no God." What do they mean by that? That they don't see the presence of God in the world? That they have been disappointed in life and the idea that God had failed them was somehow unacceptable, therefore there isn't One? That they can't reconcile the world as it is with the idea of God? I don't understand how anyone could truly believe that there is no God.
I was raised with legends and myths of God, the patriarchs and Jesus. This was the foundation of understanding how to be in the world. One of my favorite books was a comic book version of the bible. I think the drawings were what inspired me to believe and also to be an artist. I don't know that, as a child, I had faith by your definition. Songs like "Jesus Loves Me This I Know" and "This Little Light of Mine" leant a sweetness to the beliefs of childhood.This Little LIght of Mine continues to inspire me.
Today I feel the realness of God in every thing, every one and every event. And God becomes more and more awesome with the passage of time and the culmination of the practices you guide me to. (thank you)
I wonder what I will believe and have faith in next decade?
Love,
Sarala

molly said...

Musawwir,
Thank you for writing about the difference between faith and belief. i will have to look at that some more. Also where hope falls into that. Probably closer to belief...and that's what probably changes based upon the outcomes of our experiences.

Anonymous said...

And trust also; the unconditional trust of which HIK has written. Faith, belief, hope and trust -- not interchangeable but in support of the journey towards the One, whatever the One may be. Hugs and Smiles....Sabura

Jules said...

Greetings
In our western society i believe to some extent that Christianity itself has a lot to do with our lack of spiritual faith. As children a majority of us are taught religion at home, church, or in school. Some of the religious doctrines can be very "full on", and the Bible stories taught as a truth. Then as we grow older we come to question the stories "fairytales"; a boat that can fit 2 of all living animals in it?, people turning into salt pillars?, all life began from two people?, and so on. When we search for answers they are never seem to have much substanceto them.
Then some of the more rigid religions with restrictions on activities such as dancing, eating of various foods. How can something so joyful as dancing be criminal? So we begin to wonder, our faith stumbles.
Some of us make our way we look else where find more information which we disseminate for ourselves. Processing we find what we perceive to be truth for ourselves, and we have faith in what we perceive.
That is also the point of no faith, cultural and societal practices, all that we perceive is processed by the mind who and what we are influenced by. Our EGO. For some incumbent to their EGO, spiritual faith is hard to find.
Blessings Jules

koninskihbk61 said...

koninskihbk61 : i do believe in god and i do have faith i rad your one that was on nov 1 and i know for a fact there are people who do say they believe in god and then there are some who tell me they don't believe in god but i tell them that it is how and what and why they feel like that nobody can make somebody believe in god it is up to them believe me there were times i use to say i didn't beleive in god and then there were times that i said i did beleive in god i guess it is up to the person themself nobody can make anybody beleive in god
josephine koninsky

Leah said...

I feel close to God everywhere...I love the churches. I think I bring God in them (as God is me, he is in man.) I greet God in church. I feel his presence strongly. Anyhow, God is equally in the field I visit, in the daisy I pick, in a man's hand in mind. It's just how is it.. ;) Leah