Three Kinds of Faith|
Faith is an emotive belief. Belief does not always lead to faith, but a belief has to be supported by faith in order to be meaningful. Faith acts through belief. When a belief crumbles, the emotion that underpins faith has no means of expressing itself, and the person is left in limbo. This is the problem experienced by traditional Christians who are confronted with, and try to embrace, liberal theology.
Once, during my 40s, I was plunged into a state of catatonia for a few minutes. This experience haunted me for a year and generated a great amount of hopelessness and self-pity. I scrambled out of it by affirming faith in myself. This experience taught me that faith is the sublimation of self-pity. [¹]
There are three forms of self-pity, so there are also three forms of faith. Jealousy is a social emotion, and its mode of self-pity can generate blind faith in a teacher or in any person acting as a role model. Guilt in self-pity mode can lead to faith in god. Self-pity by itself can lead to a person having faith in himself / herself.
The two factors of consciousness that have the greatest impact on spiritual ideals are faith and love. There are three forms of love, these being narcissistic, jealous, and pure love. Pure love is non-sensual, without any component of jealousy or of narcissism: hence there is no aspect of sexuality or of egoism. Pure love is divine love, though mystics often fail to distinguish between it and sexual love.
Love and faith can inter-act in order to offset the three forms of hatred. I interpret their inter-action as follows. In the disciple of a teacher, the disciple responds to the teacher"s jealous love as a way of side-stepping his / her"s subconscious hatred of their parents. The follower of god responds to divine love as a way of neutralising his / her"s own subconscious hatred of themself. The person who finds faith in themself uses narcissistic love to counter-balance their subconscious hatred of society.
Faith in a Teacher
First I look at the kind of faith that one person can have in another person, usually a teacher.
The love within either narcissism or jealousy is sensual love. The most problematic form is that of jealousy. Jealousy produces the phenomenon of blind faith in a teacher (see article The Conversion Experience). The child’s identification with a parent centres on jealousy in love mode. If love from the parent is absent or in short supply, the child-become-adult then seeks a new role model. He develops blind faith in a teacher ; however, now his jealousy is in the self-pity mode. Hence blind faith is different from identification. Blind faith is an attempt by the introvert to return to the state of unquestioned obedience and happiness of his childhood prior to dissatisfaction with the parent. Religious conversion ends the feelings of rebellion. Blind faith represents the child within the man.
Why does the convert adhere to the teacher through jealousy? Because the teacher himself has dominant jealousy! The teacher projects and transmits his states of mind, as well as projecting a suitable image of character (that is, he brings out any similar qualities in the disciple). This means that the teacher transmits his jealousy, and the receptive listener absorbs it as blind faith. So the bond between teacher and convert is established through jealousy: the jealousy (love mode) within the teacher stimulates the jealousy (self-pity mode) within the convert. This is the way that jealous love flows, from love mode in one person to the self-pity mode in the recipient.
The values of the religious convert reflect the same values of the teacher, since the convert does not question his faith. Therefore the convert has a surrogate morality and a surrogate desire for power : this gives him a vicarious moral authority. This point is important to understand. Blind faith is a mechanism that can enable a powerless person to acquire power. In fact, all three forms of faith can be means of acquiring power ; the power within blind faith is simply more obvious than the other two forms.
This desire for power explains why militant cult members hate their heretics and apostates worse than non-cult members. Heretics divide the power of the cult ; and apostates discount that power, thereby weakening the validity of the other members’ desire for power. The perennial bane of religious sects is the inability to handle the problem of jealousy.
Faith in God
Faith in god reflects an underlying dominance of guilt. The unconscious ideas that generate guilt are : ‘life is punishment ’ (self-pity mode), and ‘I deserve punishment ’ (self-hate mode).
Such a faith built on these ideas therefore inculcates obedience to authority as freedom expires. The person who follows his idea of god aims for a life focused on goodness ; truth is always only of a secondary consideration, and is distorted (that is, ‘rationalised’ ) or abandoned if it conflicts with the traditional ideas of goodness.
The way of harmonising this faith is to try and cultivate joy, as a means of offsetting the limiting influences of the underlying guilt.
Faith in Oneself
This is the third form of faith, and the one that I prefer.
This form came to prominence in me during the time of my self-analysis. The unconscious idea that produces self-pity is : ‘I need help’.
I obtained the help that I needed by going deep within myself. My attitude to life rested on the sole criterion that anything that I needed to solve my problems had to come from within myself alone . Faith acts through my attitude to life. I live my ideas, and my ideas come from within my own reality. I live my ideas, and simultaneously examine them whilst I live them – this is the real meaning of empiricism. Or perhaps it should be called ‘existential empiricism’.
By living my ideas I find out which ones are true for me and which ones are false. This is my perspective. This is my being. I did not live my ideas to find out which ones were good or bad. In my reality, truth over-rode goodness – though now that I have reached my ceiling of truth I am focusing on goodness. This perspective on truth and on life only becomes a realistic option when the individual has an intense idealism.
Faith in an external teacher or in god is an external faith. Faith in oneself is an internal faith. The difference between these modes produces the paradox of faith: faith is that which can rescue a person from despair and suffering, yet that same faith can perpetuate the chains of bondage and subservience in that person. The paradox arises when the person finds faiths in the wrong order. If a person puts faith in god without first finding faith in himself, his view of god will be conditioned by his psychological problems – he will be trapped into a denigration of his role in creation. However, if he first finds faith in himself and so comes to terms with his assets and liabilities he can later move on to a faith in god which will place him harmoniously within creation.
Dynamics of Faith
Many people cannot distinguish belief from faith. To help distinguish between them I look at the function of faith and the unconscious ideas that underlie it. I also mention the limitations to faith.
What is the function of faith ?
Faith functions so as to re-orientate the person to the world of spirituality, by changing the relative importance of his system of values. His value system changes because his beliefs change. Faith can be considered to act through a ‘valuation’ belief. From this way of looking at it, finding faith is a process of having oneself valued. The person either tries to find a perspective from which he can value himself, or else he seeks a teacher or a god to do the valuation for him.
What are the unconscious ideas that underlie faith ?
Faith is clearly separated from belief only when the person comes under immense psychological pressure. Only under such pressure is faith revealed for what it is. When conflict arises in me due to external pressures, I will sacrifice everything, no matter how alluring and entrancing, in order to follow my own path. I reject even the prize of enlightenment if there are unpleasant (to me) strings attached. I will sacrifice everything to follow my own path to freedom. This view of sacrifice can be extended to one’s relations to teachers and to god.
The unconscious ideas that create faith are :
Faith in myself :
I will sacrifice everything to follow my own path.
Faith in a teacher :
I will sacrifice everything to follow the guidance of my teacher.
Faith in god :
I will sacrifice everything to follow the guidance of my god.
Faith is the sublimation of self-pity. The unconscious idea of faith gives a person the determination to rise above self-pity. When a person is not prepared to sacrifice everything then any faith that he has is weak and will not survive much adversity during times of change.
The unconscious ideas of faith are formless, that is, they do not have a specific content. This is why faith needs to be channelled through concrete beliefs. The view of my own path sums up my beliefs ; hence faith acts through these beliefs. When a person has faith in god his concrete beliefs are usually principles of morality or ethics. These principles can be viewed as coming from a personal god but not from an impersonal god. An impersonal god has little attraction as a source of faith ; an impersonal relationship to an impersonal god is no relationship at all.
Faith is not a cure-all for every human problem. Faith is only the beginning of the spiritual life, and not the end of it. The re-orientation of beliefs and values is not very deep at first and takes a great deal of time in order to work its way through the structure of the person’s mind.
There are three main limitations to faith :
a) Character traits rarely change with the acquisition of faith.
Unpleasant traits are simply masked by the new enthusiasm, but come back into prominence when the new beliefs are challenged (perhaps by former believers who have now become dis-illusioned, or by believers who prefer a different interpretation of tradition). Faith does not generate self-awareness, so the person sees only that his surface beliefs have changed ; he does not realise that his subconscious traits have remained more or less the same. Faith does not remove character weaknesses.
b) Fundamental attitudes are nearly as difficult to change as character traits.
The new beliefs only slightly modify them. Like traits, the old attitudes are masked by the new enthusiasm. Only secondary attitudes change when beliefs change, and this helps create the impression that the new life has begun.
c) The believer is often side-tracked into the issue of power.
He may arouse a crusading spirit, on the assumption that it is a component of his faith, whereas in fact the person has only jumped onto the chariot of power.
A traditional and popular method of instilling new attitudes and traits into the person is through the practice of service and devotion. Change of fundamental attitudes and traits is a very slow and difficult process, so it takes many, many years of service to instil better ones (even though the old ones may remain in the subconscious mind).
Now I can complete the subject of bonding. There are three main types.
d) Bonding is through the hate - love relation when it involves identification and self-absorption.
In the self-hate mode of guilt the person identifies with a parent or other significant adult as a way of switching hate to love. Similarly, in the hate mode of pride the person turns to self-absorption as a means of switching hatred (of other people) to love.
e) If a person bonds to an object which gives value to his life, then this is faith.
Bonding is through the three modes of self-pity. The person who has faith in himself bonds to some aspect of his character : for me, it is my intellect – during the period of my psycho-analysis I believed that my intellect would generate the answers to my problems, given enough time.
The difference between the faiths of jealousy and guilt is not always self-evident. I give an example. Suppose that I visit the pope, or the equivalent person in other religions. If my mood is guilt in self-pity mode then I may bond to him because he is the office-holder, he is the incumbent of the charismatic office of pope. In other words, I really bond to the office, it is the office that is sanctified and holy ; what the pope is like as a person is usually irrelevant.
By contrast, if my mood is jealousy in self-pity mode then I bond to him as a personal teacher. What he is like as a person determines everything ; the fact that he is the pope is just a bonus.
f) If a person bonds to a concept, then this is what I call Utopian idealism.
My idealist goals, my dominating concepts, are the pursuit of truth, the quest for equity and fairness, and the achievement of a utopia of friends and heroes. For such ethical or spiritual concepts, bonding is through vanity and love. Vanity is the carrier of the ideals, and love produces the spiritual feelings.
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Copyright © 2002 Ian Heath, owner of a map of psychological spirituality suitable for modern times.
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