I’ve written before about the distinction between Belief and Experience. As I’ve noted, much of the debate in the modern world is about what we believe. Do you believe in God or not, for example. Many who describe themselves as Atheists or “non-believers” don’t actually recognize that this is a belief too, a belief in not believing what those other people believe. If it was not a belief, they would not feel compelled to defend it.
This subject came up again in a discussion and I framed it a bit differently. I thought it useful to share that.
Really the only 2 valid positions are agnostic and gnostic. In the first, you don’t know because it’s not yet been experienced or discovered. In the second, you know because it has been.
You can certainly hold a conceptual position as an agnostic that you’re dubious. It’s healthy to have a bit of skepticism. In fact, it’s fundamental to the scientific method. (although many so-called skeptics hold a firm position) There are good reasons to question what the experts, preachers, and gurus tell you. Knowledge comes from experience not belief.
This, though, is not to say we should not have beliefs. Some beliefs, like things are going to be fine, are quite healthy. But it’s also healthy to be conscious of our active beliefs and see if they still serve.
The bigger issue is when those concepts and beliefs become fixed and are held as barriers to what is arising. The mind tends to screen out what it does not believe. This can get in the way of discovery, experience and of growth. The deeper hazard of fixed beliefs is that they become part of our self-concept. We identify those pesky “I am” statements as part of who we are. I am this sex, this party, this citizen, this religion, this role, this job, and so forth. And then we feel it’s personal and must be defended. This is the foundation of much conflict, suffering, and war.
Eventually, experience will always win out. No matter how staunch an atheist, one day they’ll have an unmistakable experience of the divine. Perhaps not until their death bed, but it will come. Same with the theists – no matter what your expectations of the divine, they’re likely to be confronted. Divinity is much grander than any religion. Whatever your strongly held beliefs, you will be forced to reconcile that with reality. This is also true of the awakening process.
Always much easier to not know and leave the options open. To keep an open mind. Of course that’s easier said than done. Everyone seems to have an opinion. Don’t you agree? (and there’s one right there)