“To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for,
to be certain of the things we cannot see.
It was by their faith that people of ancient times won God’s approval.”
--Hebrews 11.1-2 (Today’s English Translation)
“I do not seek to understand that I may believe,
but I believe in order to understand.
For this also I believe—
that unless I believe, I should not understand.”
--Anselm of Canterbury
I have come to believe that when people talk about faith they are talking about the spiritual world, the world that the Christian Nicene creed says when Christians say “I believe … of all that is visible and invisible (the current translation).”
Is it possible to know that the spiritual world is real and that God/The Divine Mother is alive and well and cares about us without believing in the existence of that world? Is it possible, in our culture’s super-scientific/materialistic view of reality, for us to really know that the spiritual exists without first believing mentally that it does?
According to Christianity, belief must come first. According to the yoga tradition, a person does not have to believe intellectually in a spiritual world or ascent to the existence of a divine force in life. That belief will come automatically if we begin to “trust” our experiences. All we need to do is “have faith” in our own experiences. When we hear an inner voice that tells us to turn at the next street crossing and that voice speaks firmly in our heads, we must trust that divine message, that humanity has called our intuition, even if it seems to take us out of our way.
When we see a sunrise or sunset that is so awesome or a beautiful dancing of the aurora borealis, we can quickly go to the rational reasons for the sunset (pollution in the air refracted by the sun) and the color display of the sun’s energies, or we can recognize that we have been undeservedly blessed by this beauty, a gift from the universe through the divine movements of our solar system.
When we were born we automatically trusted our mother. We automatically knew that a breast or a bottle of milk would be there to nurture us. If it wasn’t there we began to lose trust. We began to not have faith in life and began to “think/believe” that life might not take care of us. So we cried, calling on the divine through our parent to take care of us. We had to be assured by loving voices and given the nourishment in order to regain our trust in our life-giving Source. However, if the loving voices or food weren’t there, our lack of trust grew. We began to develop a pattern of not believing in the nurturing, loving experiences of our new life.
Our belief in this unseen force (God, Yahweh, Allah, Ishwara) diminished further when the physical sources of our joy and life promised certain things and didn’t follow through on those promises. Faith again was challenged. We began to believe that our prayers would not be answered. We began to have “faith” only in what we ourselves could do and not anything beyond our efforts or our manipulations or our beggings.
We grew this way—trusting and then being disappointed, then trying to trust again and to find loving care and concern. Eventually, when our brain entered the rational stage (about age 7-9), unless we had experienced the spiritual world directly and often and found those experiences helpful and nurturing, we began to set aside the spiritual world’s reality.
The only way we could regain it was to “believe” those we trusted or “trusted” our sense and rationalizations that there must be a spiritual source of all this reality and all this the material world. Rationally, things there were too many contradictions between the spiritual realities and our daily sensory experiences.
Faith that is based on one’s experience or the spiritual world then dies.
But yoga, says that we can regain our awareness of the spiritual world and our deep, intimate relationship with the divine, by trusting the experiences that seem like coincidences, or that come out of the clear blue and seem to make no sense but that stir us deeply, or our own intuitions, or our experiences in meditation.
We can experience the divine without believing in the existence of a spiritual being or of a spiritual “invisible” reality. We just need to trust the experiences that we can’t explain or can’t understand. When we experience this unexplainable, ineffable presence, then we know that The Divine is real. It may not be the “Divinity” that was described to us when we were little, but it is an unexplainable presence that shines deeply in our lives.
All we need do is “trust” those experiences of life that are beyond the physical/material, and not discard them as imaginations or fantasies. We don’t have to hope for those experiences. They will be there. We just need to be open to them when they come, because the Divine, our spiritual Self, is communicating with us all the time.
I pray to that Divinity within all of us!