In my early spiritual studies, the teacher I was studying with maintained that there was no place for “faith”. That we don’t believe, but rather KNOW based on experience. I remember the conversation distinctly – we were sitting in circle with the rest of my circle brothers and sisters and one of them was expressing some anxiety over interviewing for a job, hoping that she would get this job, which would then alleviate some financial problems she was having. Trying to encourage her, I said: “The Goddess will provide – you just have to believe.” It was then that my teacher leapt in with a lecture about knowing versus faith.
That conversation has stuck in my mind for a very long time – as a recovering Catholic, my early days with the Catholic church was all about having faith, having faith that if we stayed on the path of the true, that God would reward us in the end. So to be told that faith – that we don’t believe, we KNOW – had no place in this earth-based religion that I was studying was a shock to my system and confused me for quite some time.
Until I read “The Art of Power” by Thich Nhat Hahn. In this magical book, the author talks about the five Buddhist spiritual powers – the first of which is faith. Now I respect for Buddhism … every Buddhist I have ever known has always had a connected, balanced and empathetic outlook on the world … so I was surprised to discover that Buddhists employ a concept called FAITH! But what really excited me was to learn their definition of faith: “…the word faith is better translated as ‘confidence’ and ‘trust,’ because it is about something inside you and not directed toward something external.” Thich Nhat Hahn goes on to say: “If you have some experience that [a] path leads in a good direction, you will have faith in your path. … When you have faith, your eyes are bright and your steps are confident. This is power.”
So in their words, FAITH is the confidence in yourself, that you have the capacity of transformation and healing, which is grounded in knowing, which is grounded in experience.
I love that definition. I have often thought that ruling faith out completely made no sense. Blind faith, yes, that I can understand – it’s never a good idea to blindly put trust in anything. But I think you can tap into a great deal of power by having faith and confidence not only in ideas but in the tangible results – faith is not gotten from something other people tell you or based on superstition. Faith is not relying on someone outside yourself to tell you what to do, or to guide you. This definition of faith directly relates to the concepts of responsibility and ownership of your path, which we’ll explore in another post.
How have you experienced faith? Have there been times when your faith has been “blind”? Have you experienced faith when it was based on KNOWING?