by William Meacham
Copyright © 1998, William Meacham. Permission to reproduce is granted provided the work is reproduced in its entirety, including this notice.
Faith, it has been said somewhat disparagingly, is "that quality by which we believe what we should otherwise have thought false." Faith in the sense of belief in something without evidence -- or at its worst, contrary to evidence -- is unworthy of a True Human Being. Faith in this sense is mere opinion. We have the power to think clearly and accurately about anything we choose to find out about; it's one of our great gifts as human beings. Not to use this faculty is to live in a diminished state of being.
There is another sense of the word "faith" that is much more positive and productive. That is the determination to cleave to what we know is true despite painful feelings that would lead us to abandon it. In this sense, faith is like remembrance. Once we know something to be true -- because, for instance, we have experienced something that gives us evidence for it, or because we have carefully thought it out for ourselves -- it is a manifestation of our power, not our vulnerability to distress, to continue to believe it despite painful emotion, or despite a temporary lack of evidence.
If faith is taken in the first sense, nothing in our path is to be taken on faith. We ask everyone to think for themselves and to consider the evidence and draw their own conclusions. If faith is taken in the second sense, it is not at all surprising that people's faith in our method and in themselves grows through time.
There is a third state, in between these two meanings of "faith." We ask people just starting our training initially to at least suspend their disbelief. We ask people to act as if they were completely loving, cooperative, powerful, decisive, zestful geniuses, and to take and give these directions in sessions. We are confident that doing so will elicit emotional discharge and a re-evaluation of beliefs to the contrary. This is like priming the pump. We don't ask people to believe blindly, without evidence. We expect that they have not yet had the experience to fully incorporate these ideas into their daily living, although we assume that everyone has had at least some glimpse of reality, somewhere in their past. We ask people to take some actions that will lead to their finding the truth without first being fully convinced of that truth. We don't ask for their faith in a set of beliefs, but we do ask for trust that the process will have some benefit. Or, if not trust, then at least a willingness to give it a try.
And finally there is another sense of faith, which is confidence. One might say to someone unsure of themselves, "I have faith in you," meaning that one has confidence that the person is capable of achieving their goal. Faith in this sense is very useful, because often another's confidence in us gives us the confidence in ourselves that we need. And, most often, this kind of faith is not without evidence.
Faith as belief without proof has been the instrument of oppressive society. Faith as confidence and determination are instruments of liberation.
About the Author: William Meacham lives in Austin, Texas, USA and is an independent scholar in philosophy. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.