Sunday 21 October 2018

I Am What I Believe

I used to think that what people believed about life was a more or less intellectual thing and did not reflect the sort of person they were. Whether you were a religious person or an agnostic did not necessarily indicate the state of your inner being. And if your instincts leaned towards right or left that did not say much more about you than your background or principal points of concern. In other words, that belief was not a moral matter. 

Perhaps that was true at one time but it isn't now. Today, as the lines of good and evil, truth and lies, right and wrong, are being increasingly clearly drawn, it is proper to acknowledge that what you believe is an outward sign of what you are. I must qualify that statement by saying that there are always other factors involved, your age, your cultural background, your education, how you have been brought up and so on, but these are to the argument as nurture is to the nature/nurture argument which is to say, they are largely secondary.

Of course, many people now don't believe anything very passionately. Their beliefs, such as they are, are held lightly and do not determine the course of their life or involve strong feeling. But even such people as these are responsible for their beliefs, and, to that extent, their beliefs do reflect what I am going to call their spiritual worth. Some people were enthusiastic Nazis or Soviet Communists, others, presumably the majority, just went with the flow. But even these latter cannot be said to be innocent of the crimes of those two regimes. Similarly today, no one who goes along with the spiritual desecration of the world is an innocent bystander, even if those who do simply go along with it are much less culpable than those who actively pursue this path and work to bring about the ends that will increasingly separate Man from God. 

We are all adults and we are all responsible. We all have the voice of truth within us and we have the choice as to whether we will listen to that or not. If we do not, that is an active choice and it means that we are rejecting truth. To reject truth comes from self-will and it is hardly exaggerating to call this an act of evil. The true and the good, the real good, are one and the same, and to deny one is to deny the other. If you deny good, what else can you call that except evil? 

The world today is being brought to the point when everyone must make the decision as whether to acknowledge the reality of God or deny that. This is a serious test of the human heart and it will not be made easy. We might want a sign to help us along but, as has been said, it is a wicked generation that looks for a sign. As a matter of fact, it will be easier to deny God, or the true nature of the living God, than to accept him. It might even be made to appear wicked to bear witness to the true God. Why? Because this is the test, to believe when belief is regarded by the world as a sin, a sin against humanity as it will be painted. That way the real state of the heart is brought out.

The most important decision anyone can make in life is a spiritual one because that determines the path you take and the sort of person you will become. It shows where you wish to invest your being. And this spiritual decision is not simply about spirituality. It is about what sort of spirituality and, when all is said and done, it is about the acceptance of Christ for Christ is the highest manifestation in this world of spiritual truth and your ability to see this, to resonate with it, if you'll forgive the slightly New Agey expression, marks out what sort of person you are. But I must add that, just as people make God in their own image, so they do Christ. He is often cut down to fit our own prejudices. Go back to the Gospels, especially that of St John, to see what Christ is and what he isn't. Don't reinterpret him in the light of modern political ideologies for if you do you will be one of those people to whom he says, "I never knew you: depart from me".

What we believe reflects what we are. What we reject also reflects what we are. There is an argument that different people might simply be focusing on different aspects of the whole and that the truth lies in a reconciliation or integration of various beliefs. No one is completely right and no one is completely wrong. I'm afraid this won't do. Like all false arguments, it has elements of truth but there is a fundamental reality that must be acknowledged first before these lesser subsidiary truths come into play. If that is ignored then the lesser truths don't have much significance. For instance, pagans might be open to aspects of reality that Christians do not acknowledge. Indeed, they are. However the reality that the spiritual Christians uphold is of a higher order and more profound nature than that of the pagans. It is more comprehensive, deeper and, quite simply, truer. Likewise with right and left. The right, when true to itself, sees everything in the light of God, the left sees everything in the light of humanity or that nebulous concept 'the people'. Both may be valid. One is considerably more so. They are not equivalent.

I am what I believe does not mean that I fully am that here and now, but that what I believe reflects my real values and the direction I wish to travel. It shows what I want to be and what I think I should be. I venture to predict that the coming years will bring matters into even greater focus, and prevarication or fence sitting will become harder. We will have to choose and that choice will determine our future path. This is what awakening is all about.


Unknown said...

There is also a third option, not having any beliefs but having faith - having an open, receptive attitude and trusting the universe.

Beliefs can betray a lack of faith from one point of view, although from another point of view it of course makes perfect sense.

Of course, this too is a position one can take, so its not neutral ground.

I used to be something of a Perrenialist, but I increasingly think the various traditions really ate different and one must choose.

The Christian mystics and many striking sayings of Jesus may be almost identical with Eastern wisdom, but the mystics were never taken seriously in the West and Christianity just is a very different religion.

One must choose the best fit for oneself.

However, even though they aren't quite the same, I do think each tradition can be a legitimate vehicle for salvation for different people, and would not wish to see only one religion prevail.

William Wildblood said...

I am not saying that one religion should prevail. It never has and I don't suppose ever will or even should. When I say that we should see Christ as the highest manifestation of spiritual truth I am speaking in the context of the Albion Awakening blog, so to Western people who come from a Christian culture. There are certainly other valid approaches to God and legitimate vehicles for salvation, as you put it. I don't dispute that at all. But I do think the more you coordinate your being to spiritual reality, the more you see the truth of the spiritual fact of Christ which is qualitatively different to any other.

I do not belong to any official church and my Christianity would not be regarded as orthodox by any church. But for me it is clear that Christ is the highest embodiment of God. When he said "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" he was stating a simple fact. Of course, what he was is far more than any human being can conceive but we should be able to intuit something of that.

I am not saying everyone should become Christians. That will never happen anyway. But we should all be able to see the supreme truth of Christ. However that was not the main thrust of this piece. That was the need to come down on one side of the God/no God choice and to see the world in its true spiritual light. But there is spirituality and there is spirituality and not all approaches are equally valid.

Of course there are many similarities between the teachings of Christ and that of other religions. It would be very strange if that were not the case. But there is no figure equivalent to Christ who embodies truth as he does. That's all I meant. We need to develop true spiritual vision so we can see spiritual truth in its depth as well as its breadth.

Unknown said...

I agree, Jesus is a very important figure.

I find the way of life he recommended and the experience he pointed to more fascinating than any specific beliefs associated with him.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that one can lead a very religious life based on experience without belief, and that a belief structure can be from a certain point of view confining and act as a screen between us and the divine.

Christ said we should be poor in spirit, which I take to mean we shouldn't have too many beliefs or ideas because we will mistake ideas for the reality.

Of course, beliefs may be OK for some people as well, and the best way to reach the divine.

But while within the belief structure it is important, as you say, to choose wisely, there is an approach outside the belief structure which is suitable for some perhaps.

Chiu ChunLing said...

Part of the problem is that "belief" can mean different things.

In the dictionary, the first definition of "belief" is simply synonymous with opinion or conviction. Now of course opinions and convictions are quite different things, and opinion is a poor synonym for belief since it is possible to opine what nobody believes or eve could. But conviction at least has a good overlap.

However, a fuller and more useful definition can also usually be found, something like "confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof." This brings out the point that, while our convictions may not always be matters about which we have a lot of choice, if they are the result of rigorous proof or undeniable evidence, belief always falls into the realm of things we could simply hold in abeyance for lack of certain proof one way or the other.

So beliefs are choices. And while not all these choices say a lot about us (rather than, as you mention, our cultural context), certain beliefs are critical.

Such as belief in God, especially a morally perfect God who justly judges our sins and yet provides a means for us to be redeemed by them. For most people, whether or not to believe in such a God is a pure expression of whether they wish for such a God to exist.

And the desire for God, particularly on these points, is the essential trait that makes Heaven (all God, all the time, for Eternity) a possibility that is preferable to Hell (to not enjoy the companionship of God). Of special note...not enjoying the presence of God would be perfectly possible if God were so obnoxious as to impose on people who really didn't want God.

Of course, I myself lack the capacity for belief in this sense, particularly with regard to God, since I know with rigorous proof and undeniable evidence that God does exist. I can only say that I believe in God in the sense of having a conviction, I cannot claim that I ever chose to have such a conviction rather than having it imposed on me by evidence and reason. The most I can say is that, had I overtly wished that God should not exist, then those evidences and reasons would not have been imposed on me.

The question of whether the historical individual known as Jesus Christ is in fact the means of salvation provided by God is more specific. I think that people can reasonably differ on that point based on their lack of decisive evidence one way or the other. Jews famously look forward to a promised messiah while denying that it could have been Christ. In a sense they are right to do so, since the prophecies of the messiah include many descriptions of Christ's Second Coming, which has not yet occurred and is not clearly differentiated from His mortal ministry in the prophecies recorded prior. Especially the part about it taking a couple thousand years between Christ's Ascension and His return in glory. In a more clearly evident sense they are inconsistent in doing so, the delay makes a lot of sense if salvation is to be extended to all the people of the Earth, it only makes sense to insist on the messiah's mortal term to immediately transition to a glorified reign if you don't care about extending God's grace to anyone but some fraction of the Israel.

Jews have overtly abandoned the premise that God only cares about Jews, but adhere to the conclusion that the messiah would only be known to Jews before going forth and destroying all who reject Him.

Various other peoples do not renounce the premise that God will only save those of their own race or nation. For such it is perfectly sensible to conclude that the way of salvation should only be revealed to their own community.

We might think that terribly unchristian, but it's not illogical.

William Wildblood said...

I would like to clarify my comment above that "I am not saying everyone should become Christians" (written just before going to bed with the brain winding down from the day). This was meant to refer to outer Christians, members of an official church. I do believe that everybody should become Christians in the inner sense which means follow the light of which Jesus Christ was the embodiment. There is spirituality apart from Christ but the truest and best spirituality is to be found only in Christ.

Adil said...

I think St Paul effectively states the primacy of the inner path in the letter to the Romans:

"For there is no partiality with God. For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law; and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; 13 for not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus,”. (Rom. 2:11-16)

"For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God". (Romans 2:25-29)

William Wildblood said...

And in Romans 1 St Paul says "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools

And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen."

And the book of Psalms says "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God'" with the word fool being a translation of the Hebrew word nabal which apparently means a deliberate rebel against God.

Which is more or less what I am saying here.

Petrus said...

I think it was Augustine who said “to believe that you may understand.” I take the term understanding not only to indicate a cognitive event (as is usually done, as in “yes, I get it”) — but unpacking the word directly, we can see that it probably has a more original meaning of “standing under.” In this way, understanding involves a kind of obedience to that which is greater or above, to circumstance or condition, an acquiescence, and a surrender of attention to something which is (initially at least) beyond us in some sense… but, as we move closer towards it, we acquire greater degrees of understanding.

And so understanding may encompass a great deal. If one maintains a continual degree of belief, as a kind of humble preparation, then upon our efforts God rewards us with faith. Therefore belief is something we can (and probably should) generate out of ourselves, but I think faith cannot be generated, only given, as a result of our cultivating belief. It is part of what might be called “making ourselves relevant to God.”

I think it is somewhat sound to assert that one should choose the path or tradition which most accords with the understanding that one eventually develops over time, perhaps after experiencing different traditions (say, in a perennialist manner of approach). However, it also seems possible that some might be called to celebrate several traditions throughout one’s life, perhaps in the manner of a Huston Smith. In this case one is drawn experientially by more than one vehicle, leading one into a greater depth of religious life, rather than if one merely were to follow one tradition, and thereby only to know God in one way.

Having said that, perhaps the attainment of some knowledge of Christ is something that is yet hidden in all traditions, without the explicit sense a Christian might have. Interesting light can be shed upon things from within as well as without traditions (as we know from Steiner’s work). Jung saw Christ as the “anthropos” (the Cosmic Man who appears in all religions), and then someone like Bernadette Roberts, the Carmelite contemplative, who said that Christ was nothing other than the “human nature” that God had created for Himself… and so on.

We face daily the reminder that we are living in God’s created realm, and with all manner of his other creatures — who are still, like ourselves, living out of many limitations. And so, I think many of us are perpetually trying, in our own way, to see how we might be able to honestly encounter everything we meet with, while also somehow meaningfully integrating everything as well. That is the work of being. It also seems to me to be part of our burden to enable us to enter the kingdom. For if we cannot do it here with some success, will we be easily admitted “there”?

William Wildblood said...

We have to believe in order to understand because belief opens the mind up to proper understanding whereas lack of belief closes the mind. But it is not blind belief because the right direction for the mind to take is indicated by a correctly orientated heart.

You say "the attainment of some knowledge of Christ is something that is yet hidden in all traditions, without the explicit sense a Christian might have." and I think that's a good point. However if Christ is hidden in other traditions, in Christianity he is revealed and so it makes sense to seek him where he is most truly is.

Petrus said...

What you say is sensible. However, does anyone who is not a Christian have any real need to seek out Christ?

If Buddha should serve as the “anthropos” for Buddhists, then what need have they to look any further? What should they even make of a doctrine such as the Trinity? The zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has said that it is often very difficult for people to “enter through the door” of the Father or the Son — yet many, if not most, may find it easy to enter through the door of the Holy Spirit, as whatever is truly good comes by way of the Holy Spirit. The term “spirit” itself is one that is universal, while the Trinitarian sense has its roots in the Judeo-Christian background. What is bound by cultures and their traditions does not easily enter other cultures, which already have what they require. It is why Jung (and Steiner in his own way) more or less insisted on a Christological path for Westerners, rather than embracing the Eastern paths that became attractive decades ago, to those hungry for the spiritual depth that seemed missing in the West.

Since the idea of Christian paths have tended to be ones centered around salvation, there is interestingly a similar Buddhist way called Jodo Shinshu (or Shin Buddhism), which is salvation based and not merely seeking after “enlightenment.” It is based on having complete, unwavering faith in the Buddha Amitabha, and reciting his name in a short mantra, in order to be reborn in his heaven. With the increase of meditation upon his name, one’s faith becomes stronger. It’s also worth noting that the ideogram (the written character in both Chinese and Japanese) for mind and heart is the same. So the practitioner cultivates a greater heart opening as well as gaining a certainty of mind that salvation is sure.

Of course, some might question whether the heaven in one tradition is the same as that mentioned in another. However, I take heart in words of Christ when he said that “in my Father’s house there are many mansions.”

Goodlife to you!

William Wildblood said...

Petrus, you ask "does anyone who is not a Christian have any real need to seek out Christ?" That's an interesting question to which I would once have answered in the negative, though with some qualifying words.

Now, however, I would say that yes, they do have such a need though again with qualifying words. I believe that sooner or later everyone must encounter Christ inwardly and at that encounter we will see him as the summation of all true spiritual journeys. Also, that we all have to coordinate our soul to the reality of Christ which we can start to do though other paths but not fully do except through him. I am not saying those exploring spirituality through non-Christian paths must become Christians but they must follow those aspects of their path that most fully correspond to the truth of which Christ is the embodiment.

The key point here is not a theological one or a religious one but the fact of Christ himself as a person for he is the Way, the Truth and the Life in a way no other teacher is. They can point to the reality of which he is the embodiment, and the best of them do, but he sums up that reality in a way they do not except through him.

So from the perspective of outer paths I would say the answer to your question is no. But from an inner perspective it is yes. By the way, I see Mahayana Buddhism including Shin as responding to the spiritual power released by Christ in his lifetime and from above after his Ascension so is, in a sense, Christianised Buddhism. That will not be accepted by Buddhists and doesn't need to be but it puts things in a different perspective to the more obvious exoteric interpretation.

Petrus said...

Yes William, I can completely agree with you that we will all encounter Christ inwardly. But I think that this “real Christ” is beyond all words, labels and images we entertain, as Christians or otherwise — although perhaps at the same time making use of them all, since in the end it is love that is what is most desired and most given in Christ… I think the words at the beginning of John’s gospel say it clearly: that nothing was created except through Him (the Word). Thus, everyone will recognize Him at that time, yet in the way that accords with their own soul’s perspective and capacity.

Chiu ChunLing said...

What is "need"?

Those who desire Christ will seek Him.

Those who do not...will not.

To not desire Christ is to not want what differentiates Heaven from Hell, meaning that they must be, for practical purposes, the same.

William Wildblood said...

Good point, CCL.