Sometimes we simply can’t believe, can’t accept something on faith alone; though spiritually driven we may need more than faith alone.
Jan has shared with me that the nuns of her grammar school called such spiritual candidates “doubters”, confused souls held tightly in Satan’s grasp of doubt. From their dogma, faith alone is the necessary bridge to spiritual ascent.
From my own earliest childhood inner experience, I qualified as a major-league doubter. In deep shame and horror, my truth was that I did not believe in God. I needed absolute proof, through experience, before I could believe. I challenged God to prove His existence to me.
That challenge was met with an experience that left no further room for doubt, for now I knew. Belief now rested upon the solid foundation of knowing, which has guided my life ever since. I thank doubt for setting the stage for the experiment and resulting numinous experience that has inspired my entire life.
Nonetheless, those Sisters at St. Mary’s knew of the perilous quicksand that doubt becomes when it dominates one’s attitude toward life. Doubt can indeed cast a heavy shadow over the brightness of life. Excessive doubt breeds cynicism, where the interpretation of life events derives from an acute tunnel vision that sees only the negative side of everything. Doubt readily identifies the hidden, self-serving motive behind everything and everyone.
So convincing is the cynic’s perspective, as it casts its shadow of doubt upon the supposed altruism of others, that its resulting negativity is quite infectious. In fact, one can easily lose faith that anyone is truly trustable, and firmly believe that any supposed loving action is really nothing other than a Trojan horse of self-serving narcissism.
Faith then, could be defined as remaining open to the hypothesis that anything is possible, at least until proven otherwise. Life, from this perspective, is sprinkled with optimism and positive thinking. Rather than dismiss a possibility outright, based upon a dogmatic or fixed perspective, we actually allow ourselves to remain open and see what happens.
In a relationship, a doubting attitude might easily judge the behavior of the other to be fraught with self-serving intent, despite their loving persona. This may then lead one to harbor resentment and distrust that precludes any possibility of a deepening intimacy.
If, on the other hand, one were able to suspend their doubting judgment and allow their faith to remain open and see what happens, they might be rewarded with the discovery that indeed, this flawed human being is actually reaching out to truly connect.
On the other hand, one might be led to the discovery that their doubt was actually well informed. They might be led to the fact that their companion is not ready to love another, as their gaze is solidly fixed upon love that is limited to their own reflection. Despite one’s disappointment at this, the outcome of this experimental relationship has proven its untenability, and so, it’s simply time to move on.
Faith allows us to suspend judgment and remain open to possibility. Doubt forces us to refine our relationship with the truth. Faith and doubt are thus a pair of opposites, which, when properly integrated, serve the deepening of our relationship with life, truth, and love.
If we are too one-sided in doubt, our relationships are sterile, calculated and fear based. If we have too much faith, we are easy targets for the con-artists, the prana suckers, and the devious.
The truth is that at different levels of our being we are all both devils and angels. We have good reason to doubt our own authenticity, at all times. We also have good reason to have faith in everyone’s capacity for deep altruistic love, including our own!
The fact that we are both devils and angels makes us human—beings who reflect a composition of both the left and right hands of God. Our challenge in this life is to weave both sides of ourselves into a functional unit that takes us deeper into the truth and love of this amazing journey: Life!
With Faith and Doubt,