Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Faith and the unintuitive

I've been mulling over the role of faith in spiritual life. "Faith" is an irksome term for pretty much everyone. Skeptics see it as the religious person's "get out of jail free" card, a blanket justification to believe whatever you please. The esoteric, mystical spiritual traditions tend to see faith as the consolation prize of religious life; you can take God on faith, but if you're really hard-core you'll seek out a direct, personal, unmediated experience of the divine. And even the contentedly religious have trouble with the concept, since it is never directly addressed in the scriptures, and used to cover a range of sentiments and intuitions.

Faith can, in fact, be used in almost entirely contradictory ways. Some people refer to faith as the core, inexpressible intuitions of their being, the a priori revelations of their consciousness: "I believe in God, I have faith in God, because it just seems right to me. I can't imagine a universe without a God." But, when the rubber hits the road and the shit hits the fan, exhortations to "have faith" are usually implying that the object of faith is unintuitive and not at all obvious: "I know it seems right now like life has no meaning and God is absent, but you have to have faith that things will work out." So . . . is faith the recognition of the intuitively obvious, or the conscious acknowledgement of truths that aren't obvious?

C.S Lewis was wise enough to point out that the answer was: both. We have occasions of beatific revelation, when God is obvious and real, when peace is tangible, and truth is easy. And yet, those moments don't last. Then we are struggling to remember what it was that we experienced, and to carry on with our lives as if that point of view were still present. Even if you decide to only trust your own experience, you will be struggling to remember and live by your insights from day to day. "Faith" is really "faithfulness" -- that is, being true to what you've already found to be true. "Faith" is when vague intuition and aspiration are put to work in the real world.



Post a Comment

<< Home