Main | Strolling Through the Garden of Consciousness »

Faith and Doubt

At a recent Tayu Sunday Meditation Communion, the subject of Faith and Doubt came up in our discussion. The Buddha is known to have advised his followers that the path requires Great Faith and Great Doubt. In Gurdjieff's masterwork, All and Everything: Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson, Beelzebub describes Faith as one of the sacred being impulses natural to a properly developed three brained being. Because of the distorted conditions of being existence on the planet Earth, however, the sacred impulse of Faith has degenerated in most of us into its mechanical shadow: belief.

To understand how Faith can function, it is useful to contrast it with Belief. When we believe in something, be it a thought, a whole framework, or a feeling, we take that something as true. We identify with the thought or feeling in the sense that our particular belief now becomes inextricably tied with our sense of identity. If someone challenges this belief, our instinctive reaction is to feel threatened at an emotional and body level. Belief is contractive in the sense that for us to identify with a particular belief requires that we reject or filter out alternative potential beliefs. When we identify with beliefs, we collapse the realm of possibilities - our Universe becomes smaller.

It is interesting to note that modern neurobiological and psychological research is turning tools such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on the brain to study the mechanics of belief (see for a recent article). A well known phenomenon called Confirmation Bias has been studied in this way. When Confirmation Bias operates, someone who identifies with a particular belief will routinely filter out any new information that contradicts this belief and amplify the significance of any new information that supports this belief. We see this behavior writ large in our modern political climate. Studies using fMRI and various other techniques are now demonstrating clearly that Confirmation Bias is a non-cognitive process. The study cited above shows that Confirmation Bias has much more to do with the emotional functioning of the brain than with the  cognitive functioning.

I recently ran across a description of another study in which confirmation bias could be seen to operate in individuals with injuries that limit the function of memory to a 30 second time window. These brain-injured subjects were asked to rank several pieces of art. Among the pieces these subjects ranked, a number of pieces were ranked equally - that is, the subjects showed no preference of one over the other. They were next asked to chose between two pieces that they had ranked equally - thereby forcing a preference. When asked later (much beyond their window of recollection) to rank all the original pieces of art again, the test subjects would consistently now rank the piece they had been forced to highlight in the previous round as more desirable than the other pieces which had previously been seen as having equal desirability. In other words, at a non-conceptual level, our choices condition our future evaluations. The lesson of these studies is that as biological organisms, we are hardwired to identify with our beliefs and to filter our experiences of the world in terms of these beliefs.

As a sacred being impulse, Faith operates much differently than Belief. Faith has much more the quality of an affirmative assertion of Being. It is the quality of our Being that engenders the sense that there is a point to existence. It is that innate quality of existence that affirms that no matter the external circumstances of life, our lives have meaning. In contrast to Belief, Faith is expansive and inclusive - the Universe gets larger because regardless of the details of personal experience, Faith gives us power to carry on and to find significance in our circumstances. Faith gives us the courage to try new things - to test our understanding of life with new practices and ways of looking at things. It does this because Faith engenders the intuition that no matter what happens, at an existential level we will be fine.

The challenge of Faith in light of our habit patterns around belief, and the neural programming of the organisms we inhabit, is that affirmations of Faith often can descend into the rigidity of Belief. Though the action of Faith may lead to a transcendental experience of freedom, the habitual tendency is to attribute this experience to the consequences of a particular set of beliefs and practices. Even well-meaning practitioners can mistake the forms of their beliefs as the causes of their most profound experiences. And once that identification is made, the nature of the organism reinforces the maintenance of the identification.

The role of Doubt is to act as an antidote to the descent of Faith into Belief. Doubt is a denying function that negates the identifications we create to sustain our beliefs. In the Hindu tradition there is the well known practice of neti neti (not this, not this). This is the practice of Doubt. No matter what the identification or what the belief, we constantly challenge ourselves not to settle for a particular formulation of truth. Doubt frees us from having to believe in anything in particular. Doubt requires us to test in our own direct experience any claims made by other people. Doubt serves to liberate Faith from Belief in that it constantly undermines our systems of belief.

The challenge of Doubt is that, unchecked, it can lead to a kind of nihilism. Doubt can descend into a sense that nothing matters and that nothing means anything. In a way, Doubt can also descend into Belief, but in this case it is the belief that there is no meaning in life. In such an extreme, Faith then acts as the antidote of the descent of Doubt into Belief. Faith and Doubt mutually sustain each other and keep each other free from the lure of identification.

In Fourth Way parlance, Faith acts as an affirming function and Doubt as a denying function. The reconciling function that allows Faith and Doubt to coexist and to mutually support each other is the very presence of Being. Presence of attention enables a balance between Faith and Doubt. This balance sustains an affirmative and positive perspective, without succumbing to the biological imperative of crystalizing identification with experience in the form of rigid beliefs. Presence of Being allows us to wield the twin forces of Great Faith and Great Doubt to create an ever expanding and open experience of life, and to retain fluidity in every context.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Hosting by Yahoo!


Thanks for the informative post. It helped me a lot. May the Force be with you.

You own a very interesting blog covering lots of topics I am interested as well.I just added your site to my favorites so I can read more in the future... Please continue your marvellous work

Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch because I found this for him smile. So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

Hypotheek informatie, hypotheek aanvragen of afsluiten? Hypotheekrentes bekijken. Hypotheek aanbieders vergelijken, hypotheek vormen, bijkomende kosten,

Considerably, the post is actually the sweetest on this deserving topic. I agree with your conclusions and will thirstily look forward to your next updates. Just saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the wonderful clarity in your writing. I will right away grab your rss feed to stay abreast of any updates. Fabulous work and much success in your business efforts Kenmore Water Filter is the best place to find Water Filter and news.

Man, talk about a great post! I've stumbled across your blog a few times inside the past, but I usually forgot to save it. But never again! Thanks for writing the way you do, I definitely appreciate seeing someone who in fact has a viewpoint and isn't really just regurgitating junk like the majority of other bloggers today. Keep it up!

Appreciate it! Truly psyched to see you touch on this subject, most individuals seem to blow right past it. Keep it up, I bookmarked your website and will keep checking on your updates as time goes on. Thank you!

This is the best article I’ve ever seen on this topic. I’ll be linking and sending out links to this one for a long time. I would recommend that everyone else does the same.

What a comment!! Very informative also easy to understand. Looking for more such posts!! Do you have a myspace or a facebook?
I recommended it on stumbleupon. The only thing that it's missing is a bit of speed, the pictures are appearing slowly. Nevertheless thank you for this information.

Online porno is free porn that is distributed by means of various sectors of the Internet, primarily via web sites, p2p file sharing, or Usenet newsgroups. While porn had been traded over the Internet since the 1980s, it was the invention of the WWW in 1991 as well as the opening of the Net to the general public at the same time that led to an explosion in online porn.

On the Web, there are both paid and free porn web pages. The bandwidth usage of a pornography site is relatively high, and the income a free site can earn through banners may not be sufficient to cover the costs of that bandwidth. One recent inovation in the free porn web site market are Thumbnail gallery post web sites.

Online pornography is free porno that is spread by means of various sectors of the Net, primarily via sites, peer-to-peer file sharing, or newsgroups. While pornography had been traded over the Internet since the 1980s, it was the invention of the World Wide Web in 1991 as well as the opening of the Net to the general public at the moment that led to an explosion in online porn.

Thanks for your visiting this online store.

Thanks for your visiting this online Free WebSite.

On the WWW, there are both commercial and completely free porn web sites. Amount of visits of a pornography site is relatively high, and the income a free web site can make through advertising may not be sufficient to cover the costs of that bandwidth. One recent entry into the free porno site business"industry are TGP sites.

One of the better articles I've seen written, great job! Looking forward to reading more from you.

One of the better articles I've seen written, great job! Looking forward to reading more from you.

Nice commentary on the topic. We all thank you the point of view that you to leave with us!

Should you be using the free iPad for your business Can the iPad give you a competitive edge in your business or IT department Does it really help you. This sleek new toy is a replacement for bulky office items such as paper books files folders etc. One can always download for a free kindle ebook and free iPad ebooks.

3M 7738NA SafetyWalk Medium Duty Tread Black 4Inchby60Foot Bulk Roll 3M Stair Parts Shop for Non Slip Stair Treads with everyday low prices.

3M 7738NA SafetyWalk Medium Duty Tread Black 4Inchby60Foot Bulk Roll 3M Stair Parts Shop for Non Slip Stair Treads with everyday low prices.

Hello... I'd like to be frank. I appreciate your help with backlinks to my example essays learning site and I hope you can approve my post here. My site is a totally free site which assists ESL students on the fundamentals of essay writing and I am without doubt that learners and students will learn from it. Once again, I appreciate you will agreed to my comments, and I thank you in earnest.

So the wait is over Halo Reach was finally released last month and Halo veterans have already got pretty efficient at playing the game but what if youre new to this Halo thingWeve been hearing how the Forge mode in Halo Reach.

Post a comment