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Generic Meditation Issues: Faith

Here are some definitions of faith, and some personal comments:

1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, and idea, or a thing.  Here I am saved by the word "or" which appears twice in the definition.  I beleve in the value of a person (though not necessarily his or her truth or trustworthiness; and I believe in the trustworthiness of a thing (or non-thing)--the thing or non-thing being the numenon or the "ground of being" which is called by so many names. none being the "true name."  My faith in ideas, once much stronger than my belief in persons or things, seems to be a thing of the past.  This is no doubt a consequence of a great deal of mystical reading over the past few years.  I had a chance today to pick up a clean copy of Mortimer J. Adler's Religion and Truth for two bucks.  I passed on it.  I probably would agree with everything he said, but so what?

2.  Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.  This is a tough one.  At one time I would have said that any belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence is not faith but superstition (a very Adlerian notion).  While I still tend to believe that nothing contrary to logic and empiricism is likely to have much truth, value. ot trustworthiness, I can no longer state the opposite side of that equation.  I cannot say that everything of value can be known logically and empirically.  The Tao may encompass all that is logical and illogical, all that is material and nonmaterial.

3.  Loyalty to a person or thing.  According to Taoism, loyalty is a tertiary virtue. and I tend to agree.  When the Way is lost; people may still be kind; and when kindness it lost they can still be loyal.  But asking for and giving loyalty is a sign that things have deteriorated.  Love is a much stronger basis for any of the things loyalty tries to achieve plus much much more.  Loyalty is used to browbeat believers into acts which are contrary to their humanity and their consciences.

4. The theological virtue defined as a secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will.   To me, this is a statement that states nothing because God and God's will cannot be known.  In my personal prejudiced opinion, mystics and universalists of all religious backgrounds come closest to "knowing" the numenon.

5.  The body of dogma of a religion.  A deal breaker for sure.  I am reminded of Dostoyevski's story of the Gramd Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov.  The dogmatist knows that his dogma is a lie but does not have faith that ordinary followers of the religion can deal with the truth.  And perhaps he is correct (see definition 1.).

6.  A set of principles and beliefs.  According to this definition almost everyone has faith, or at least a faith.

Paul, the epitimous man of faith, says that charity is greater than faith and Sufis in their more ecstatic moments agree.  Rumi says Lovers have their own religion and are called blasphemous (for their apparent lack of "faith") by blasphemers.  Taoism relegates faith to a tertiary virtue, just one step above violence.  Faith is not required by those who know what to do and what not to do.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 12th, 2010 03:52 pm (UTC)
Lately i've found that i am happy talking about what i experience and what i practice, but talking about "faith" and "belief" seems ever more pointless. I am aware of the power of framing language, that the framing language often carries with it a baggage car full of implicit "beliefs," so it is hard not to talk about experience or practice without implying that belief framework. Yet, the belief framework seems more of a scaffolding -- external, separate, not required -- for the underlying experience and practice.

I certainly hold moral beliefs and values, and those come without the material proof or evidence, do they not? I suppose i have faith that choosing to live every day is the right thing to do. Sometimes that is easier to believe that at other times. I have faith that focusing on compassion will help me navigate the choices of how to interact with the world....

Some crumbled reflections on your writing....
Feb. 12th, 2010 09:21 pm (UTC)
I loved your first paragraph and thank you for it. "Scaffolding" Yes. And it is usually removed when it has served its purpose.

Whether or not moral values are logically supported has been a question for me. Sorokin thought he had proof that love was essential in human relationships. Then there was Harlow's studies of baby monkeys in the 50s and Margaret Mead's observations of the Mundagamor in the 30s (where the presence of a few persons capable of giving love seemed to hold an otherwise totally dysfunctional society together.)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )



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