In my Spiritual Mentoring practice I am frequently asked questions that probe the deepest mysteries of life. Of course, my task is not to provide neatly-packaged answers to these questions, but to assist and encourage others to find their own interpretations.
The other day, a beautiful soul, who has been greatly damaged by the religion of her birth, spoke movingly of her desire to find faith, even though she did not truly understand the meaning of the concept. In essence, this was my response.
In order to find answers to the profound questions of existence we must firstly follow the via negativa: we must find what is not.
There are many misapprehensions about faith, many of which are expressed regularly in the media. The problem with the whole discussion of faith is the narrow definition imposed on it by many people, including the deeply religious and their antagonists, each group for its own purposes.
Faith and belief are commonly confused, especially within religious circles. Indeed, faith may be found within a belief system, but may equally be found outside it, for faith has little to do with a set of principles, but everything to do with the lived experience of being human.
At its core, I feel that faith is an expression of affirmation of the life force, of a deep acceptance of being – of saying yes to life with all its beauty and pain – an acknowledgement of the interconnectedness of all that is. It may be mediated through the mythology of one’s choice, but trouble starts when the myth is concretized and manifests as blind adherence to a set of mythic principles.
Some of my work entails helping others explore the power of myth and story, to comprehend its power in the individual and collective psyche. For, as human beings, we are myth-makers and that myth can take many forms, not all of them religious. Examples of non-religious myth include scientific materialism, the western medical model, economic rationalism, unsustainable economic growth, democracy, totalitarianism – these are some of the most powerful mythologies extant in the world today.
So the myth is not the same as faith. The secular myth offers a method of obtaining an illusory power over the unpredictability of life.
The spiritual or religious myth is a way of dealing with the innate human desire to answer the deepest questions of existence, to explain and contain the ineffable and, yes, to feel safe within the chaos of life and death.
Both strive to find ways of coping with the shock of existence, and of filling the emptiness that is the natural corollary of our self-reflective consciousness.
But faith accepts the mystery and rests within it.