Belief or Experience by example

When you explore spiritual subjects, it’s useful to be alert to where the person is coming from. Do they seem to be speaking from belief or experience? If from experience, what stage do they seem to be speaking from or to? Often, this is a general estimation, just to put the reference in context.

This is not to say belief is faulty. It can be very well informed from close observation. But it can also be held rigid against evidence to the contrary. Our history is full of such examples. Too many spiritual discussions are nothing more than opinions, without the benefit of close observation or experience.

I’ve spoken here before about the subject of reincarnation. In this context, lets take a few quotes on the subject and classify them a bit. You may well sort them differently.

Sounds like Belief?
“I cannot think of permanent enmity between man and man, and believing as I do in the theory of reincarnation, I live in the hope that if not in this birth, in some other birth I shall be able to hug all of humanity in friendly embrace.”
— Mahatma Ghandi

“I adopted the theory of reincarnation when I was 26. Genius is experience. Some think to seem that it is a gift or talent, but it is the fruit of long experience in many lives”
— Henry Ford

“As long as you are not aware of the continual law of Die and Be Again, you are merely a vague guest on a dark Earth.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“There is no death. How can there be death if everything is part of the Godhead? The soul never dies and the body is never really alive.”
— Isaac Bashevis Singer

An experiential sense of it?
“My life often seemed to me like a story that has no beginning and no end. I had the feeling that I was an historical fragment, an excerpt for which the preceding and succeeding text was missing. I could well imagine that I might have lived in former centuries and there encountered questions I was not yet able to answer; that I had been born again because I had not fulfilled the task given to me.”
— Carl Jung

“Finding myself to exist in the world, I believe I shall, in some shape or other always exist.”
— Benjamin Franklin

“I know I am deathless. No doubt I have died myself ten thousand times before. I laugh at what you call dissolution, and I know the amplitude of time.”
— Walt Whitman

Sounds more like Experience?
“So as through a glass and darkly, the age long strife I see, Where I fought in many guises, many names, but always me.”
— US General George S. Patton

“All my previous selves have their voices, echoes, promptings in me. Oh, incalculable times again shall I be born.”
— Jack London

“As we live through thousands of dreams in our present life, so is our present life only one of many thousands of such lives which we enter from the other more real life and then return after death. Our life is but one of the dreams of that more real life, and so it is endlessly, until the very last one, the very real, the life of God.”
— Leo Tolstoy

“It is the secret of the world that all things subsist and do not die, but only retire a little from sight and afterwards return again. Nothing is dead; men feign themselves dead, and endure mock funerals… and there they stand looking out of the window, sound and well, in some strange new disguise.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I died as a mineral and became a plant, I died as a plant and rose to animal, I died as animal and I was man. Why should I fear ? When was I less by dying?”
— Rumi

“Souls are poured from one into another of different kinds of bodies of the world.”
— Jesus in Pistis Sophia

“God generates beings, and sends them back over and over again, till they return to Him.”
— Koran

Seems a common theme too, yes? Of course, some authors I know – like Patton knew his past lives. Others here are quotes that may have a larger context that would place them differently. But I thought it a useful exercise.
Davidya

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2 Responses to Belief or Experience by example

  1. Just magnificent, Davidya! That way of sorting things out is very important, seems to me.

    Reminds me of why I maintain an “Enlightenment Life List,” when many people would (and probably do) react with, “Who the heck is Rose to have an opinion about who experiences Enlightenment, versus merely talking about it.”

    Well, this discernment matters. Especially if we wish to experience and not just become authorities on religion.

    Yet again, thank you.

  2. Davidya says:

    It is interesting to explore examples of the differences. But you do have to be careful. Distinguishing is useful but we all too easily fall into judgement (belief).

    Good point. Same is true of the Rose List. Otherwise that judgement is more about opinion than informed discernment, belief vs experience.

    Your blog is living example of experientially approaching so many subjects that are more typically opinions and beliefs. A living example of the very point of this article. Thanks for that.

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