'Pleasant Cove - Woolwich, ME'
Whatever you have been told God is is untrue, or God would not be God. This applies to believers and unbelievers alike - really, both are believers, only in opposite directions.
In intimacy with Life, one no longer decides to believe in or not to believe in, to have faith in or doubt in. Intimacy arises free of personal decision, and its motions move freely. One can so be intimate with the Sacred, God is no more to be seen, while seeing happens, even as you cannot see love and, yet, love sees itself by loving. In Life, then, since God is God, one is free of faith and doubt, and faith and doubt can express freely. However, moments of faith and doubt, being temporary states, dissolve into Presence - indeed, the potential of both arise from Presence. This is so, for belief and unbelief are polarities of the mind-and-body, while what has been called pure faith, or dark faith, - knowing-in-intimacy - is of the heart, so both abide in a prior unity and as the potential of either. That is, belief and unbelief are diverse, but not separate, expressions of a singular oneness. One may, indeed, have more genuine faith in the Sacred in her disbelief in the Sacred than another in her belief in the Sacred - simply for the heart may know, and even love, what the mind cannot find a way to confess.
* * *
An agnostic visited the Sage. The agnostic had traveled far to ask two questions.
He said, "Sir, I have asked two questions to many regarded wise in their traditions. The answers have never aided me in certainty about faith. I remain agnostic, but I do want to have faith."
The Sage asked, "What are your questions?"
"What is God?"
"I don't know. I once thought I did. If you prefer the word 'God,' I could only say, 'God is God.' Now, your second question?"
"Do you know God?"
"Some would say I do, some would say I don't. Do you know God?"
The agnostic smiled, and after a pause for reflection, spoke joyfully, "Sir, thank you so much! May I tell you some good news?"
"For the first time in many years, I feel I do have faith?"
Knowledge of the Divine does not arise from theories, answers, or words, but from the heart. If you would help persons to faith in the Sacred, speak first to their heart, and trust the heart to confirm the Truth to them.
* * *
What persons usually mean by having faith in or believing in the Sacred is a mental matter. This would be knowing the Sacred from without, if such were possible. This is little more, if any, than talking about somewhere you have never visited, but you studied about it from sites on the internet or read a book. "Oh, yea! I can tell you about Paris. It's... ." "Well, when did you visit there?" "What do you mean? Why should I? I can know all about Paris without leaving my recliner."
What is called pure faith in the Christian contemplative path is different from belief or being a believer. Pure faith is faith from within, through intimacy. Here, the Sacred is no longer the object. This is like knowing Paris while walking through Paris, working in Paris, from living there daily. The arrow of faith is hitting the mark, yet the arrow is going nowhere. You know, yet you do not know how you know; there is no how. There is a how to prepare for this intimacy and its pure faith, but from within - no how.
* * *
Spirit becomes unknown with our becoming unknown, and we cannot know the unknown, either God or self, by the known. The apparent knowledge of the unknown by the known is taken from us. That which signified Spirit loses its power of attraction. For a time, we may stretch out for that connection, but it alludes us. Finally, we relax in knowing, in intimacy, and we enjoy the bliss and love.
* * *
Christian sages have, likewise, called this faith-within-intimacy dark faith. The fruition of faith about God is the absence of the prior being a believer. God is absolute Self-Knowing, not being an object to Itself, rather knowing Itself in, within, the same way we know ourselves.
Hence, one becomes unknown to oneself, in knowing oneself in the Self-Knowing. To say, "I don't know what I am, but I know myself" is the same as saying, "I don't know what God is, but I know God." Here, you are not choosing to know God; rather, you cannot not know God, for the knowing arises from the intimacy, even as it leads to deeper intimacy through self-surrender.
* * *
Does this mean the mental belief is wrong or to be discouraged? No. Mental faith, faith from without, is a developmental phase to knowing from within. Any relationship can undergo this development. I will share a simplified model.
1) Stranger - I know nothing about her. I've never met her, even though maybe I've seen her around somewhere. I might like to get to know her, however.
2) Acquaintance - We're getting to know some things about each another, especially about our pasts and our likes and dislikes.
3) Friendship - We're committed to each other. We have a bond of affection. We much enjoy time together and share things we wouldn't with others.
4) Communion - We have a deep connection, a sacred one. There is a sacred flow between us. Sometimes, we sense each other even when physically apart, but it is not an emotion - it is more a deep feeling. When I leave her, I feel renewed deep within; I feel a solace goes with me. Often when together, time seems to stop. While close to each other, I don't feel any sense of emotional attachment to her, or possessiveness. I guess you could say I just love her.
5) Union - We're one. What that means, I would not even try to tell. I liken it to being myself, but her, too, or like we are a single presence sharing. I prefer not to say more - when I've tried, I've come away feeling I failed to do justice to it and need to learn to let it speak for itself. So, I will remain silent about it. There are some things, like this, one needs to respect with silence.
* * *
When in communion, thought about what the connection means or even of its existence begins to melt; however, such thoughts return and leave again in communion and union, as the play of consciousness. This includes thoughts about who and what you are, and who and what the other or the Sacred is. However, the above model does not mean one is always in the same "state" with the same person or with the Divine. We are stabilized, however, in one state. For example, one may have moments of felt-communion with the Sacred, but be years from living in that consciousness. As well, one may be in union with the Presence, while that oneness is expressed often in communion and includes qualities of friendship.
I have said this to stress what we mean by faith and that this knowing is based on consciousness. And consciousness manifests developmentally. Hence, belief is a less evolved faith than faith-by-intimacy, for thought, and with it, emotion, is less developed than pure, or dark, faith. This direct knowing is beyond the physical, the emotional, and the mental; it arises from the heart into human experience.
* * *
When a child, I had an unquestioning belief in God. One night in the 1960s, I was riding in the back seat of our car, returning home from having visited my paternal grandparents. I looked out the window into the night sky and thought, "God is up there." I had no doubt. Was that faith? Yes. To enjoy conscious intimacy with the Sacred, there has to be a beginning. We could call this the first innocence. In that beginning in childhood, there may be more true faith than later, when we have been filled with ideas about what God is and God is not, and what is and is not to be believed about God. Admittedly, our journey to dark faith, to pure faith, is partly a return to the innocence of that child looking out into that sky, saying, "God is up there." We can call this the second innocence. The shape of faith changes, and may change many times over a lifetime; yet, the innocence remains, and we return to it.
* * *
Another child expressed faith differently, yet with the same innocent knowing. Mark Watts, son of the late Alan Watts, shares the following episode, when Mark was preparing his father's posthumous What is Tao? -
As I sat working on this manuscript my eight-year-old son came up to me and asked, "Papa, what are you working on?" I told him it was a book on the Tao, and began to explain a little bit about it, but without a moment's hesitation he said, "Oh, you mean what's behind everything" - and then he headed off.
Watts remarks, "Intuitively and experientially we know what it is, but for most of us the problem arises when we try to explain it." So, let us quietly enjoy the knowing, the intimacy so intimate we cannot see It, He, She.
* * *
Could it be we all know God, even as Watts' son knew God, only that we have forgotten we know? And, so, knowing God appears to us differently - Love, Tao, God, Mother, Higher Power, Great Spirit, ...? And the only thing that keeps us from intimacy with God is what we think about God? Is it possible an atheist may have faith in God, just not the God of words, beliefs, and religion? Possibly, we all have faith, even when we think we do not, for we cannot fit the something behind it all into a theory.
* * *
*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher FirstBooks. The book is a collection of poems based on mystical traditions, especially Christian and Sufi, with extensive notes on the teachings and imagery in the poetry.