Fear and Faith
Jun 16, 1998 06:58 AM
by K Paul Johnson
Jake and Annette said things yesterday that I'd like to try to
connect because both seem so true. Together they may shed some
light on Theosophical issues discussed on this list. Jake
commented that hate is based on fear (always?) and that feeling
threatened by something or someone is at the root of hostility.
I'd say that physiologically, this is certainly true. The Cayce
readings, while giving plenty of attention to the spiritual and
mental aspects of our being, emphasizes that emotions are
*physical* essentially. The "fight or flight response" is an
undifferentiated arousal that occurs when we are confronted with
perceived danger. Either way is fear based; depending on
circumstances we either flee the fear-inducing stimulus or attack
it. Cayce also emphasizes that emotions, being hard-wired in the
physical body, are extremely hard to work with directly.
However, there is a way to get at them, which is working with
attitudes. They are mental habits, ways that we consistently
interpret situations and orient ourselves to the environment.
Thus, if a man feels immediate hatred when (for example)
someone says something about his chosen spiritual teacher that
threatens his own view of that person, there's no way to reason
with these emotions. They're present in the adrenaline and the
racing pulse, etc. and not subject to any rational intervention.
If, however, we can get to the underlying *attitude* that causes
such a stimulus (i.e. critical views of his spiritual teacher) to
be perceived as threatening, and replace it with a different
attitude, the destructive emotions can be short-circuited.
(Destructive not just to the target, but to the person whose body
is flooded with stress hormones.) The different attitude would
be something like "It takes all kinds" or "Live and let live" or
"Why should I expect other people to feel the way I do about x?"
Tying this to Annette's remarks on faith vs. blind faith, and the
need for proof. I'll speak personally on this because my own
perspective has changed so much. The kind of faith that is
required in the Cayce approach is simply the faith to make a
solid effort to use the guidance available to you. For example,
you don't have to have faith that Cayce got his diet stuff from
infallible akashic records to benefit from the guidelines. You
simply have to have a mustard seed of faith that says "Maybe I'll
feel better if I cut out red meats and fats and highly processed
food, drink lots of water, limit alcohol to a glass or two of
red wine before dinner, etc.-- it's worth trying." The same goes
for Cayce's guidelines about working with dreams, or meditation,
or astrology, or attitudes and emotions. You start with just a
grain of provisional faith that maybe these principles will
change your life for the better, and start applying them. With
the application comes the "proof." In my new book I come across
as having a pretty high level of faith in the *usefulness* of the
material in the readings. But that doesn't imply that one has to
have faith in the literal accuracy of all the details, or the
claims about sources.
On the other hand, for the many years that Theosophy was at the
center of my spiritual life, my faith was much less practical.
There was faith that the overall spiritual philosophy was
life-enhancing, bringing out aspirations and intuitions that had
lain dormant before encountering it. And faith that HPB had
devoted years to a genuine search for truth, which she conveyed
to the best of her ability. Those are similar to the kinds of
faith that one can have in Cayce. But then there is another kind of
faith in specific unprovable claims or doctrinal elements, which
is often held as a litmus test for being a "real Theosophist."
Can't say that I ever had faith in the SD's anthropogenesis, for example.
And there is also faith in HPB's phenomena-- something of interest to
me but never crucial, and never an object of faith. And finally,
faith in the veracity of HPB's claims about her life and her
teachers. All of these things seem to me to have parallels in
Christian faith in the historical veracity of the gospels,
Christ's miracles, the doctrines in Paul's epistles, etc.--
because essentially unprovable and the source of endless
wrangling with no possible resolution in sight.
Thus I'd say that there is a kind of faith that goes hand in hand
with *practice* and that this is necessary and healthy; it leads
eventually to proof. But there's another kind of faith that is
in the unprovable; it leads eventually to conflict with others.
That's building one's house on sand instead of the rock of personally
testable propositions. And people who attach their faith to phenomena
or specific historical claims are the most susceptible to fear reactions,
leading to hate, when they feel the object of their faith to be under attack.
There are several religious groups whose toxic kind of faith is
quite evident in the arguments and hard feelings you can find on
the Internet between their followers and skeptics. On this list,
I think most of us, especially those under 45 or so (who
therefore came of age with the New Age Movement) have little
interest in the propositional kind of faith, and are more focused
on the practical kind. But the Theosophical movement as a whole
is still focused on believing in a set of unprovable propositions
about a specific person rather than a set of principles on how to
live your life. IMHO.
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