2009-05-12

Faith ... Belief

The words "faith" and "belief" seem to be used quite interchangeably. Let us look at the meaning/definition of these words outside of direct religious application.

For example Wikipedia defines faith as follows:
Faith is the confident belief or trust in the truth of or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
The Merriam-Webster OnLine dictionary defines belief as follows:
1 : a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing
It appears from the above definitions that the word "faith" can include "belief" and it adds the element of 'confidence' to "belief or trust". Also quite interesting is that belief from the above source is defined as "a state or habit of mind". I have looked at belief for many years now as just another way of "thinking", which might be considered as "a state or habit of mind". It is also interesting to me that the definition of "faith" given above comes somewhat close to the way it is put in the Christian New Testament (King James Version - Apostle Paul's Letter to the Hebrews) Hebrews 11:1 - "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Here "evidence" seems to imply "trust" as used in the above definition.

Now that we have a somewhat clarified view of the terms "faith" and "belief", we can begin to challenge ourselves on more appropriate usage. By misunderstanding what we are saying (misusing words) we often are disappointed when things turn out not as we expected, or else we limit our potential to achieve greater heights in every walk of life. For example, in the days when people believed the earth was "flat", that 'belief' limited the potential of the further evolution of knowledge and discovery in general. Recall that belief (as defined above), is "a state or habit of mind", and in the days of the 'flat earth' theory, the "belief" of the educated world (mainly the church and nobility) was a very limiting factor to progress. In fact, it was not until this was questioned seriously, that daring explorers such as Columbus, actually proceeded to cross the Atlantic Ocean westward, without fear of falling off the 'edge' of the world; and thus the discovery of the American continent. The "faith" in the possibility of something beyond the current limitations of habitual thought (belief) has provided the energy and daring for explorers, inventors, scientists, and visionaries in general, to manifest hidden potential available to any human that could surmount the limitations of habitual thought. (Perhaps in a future blog we will look at the nature of thought itself: habitual, fixed, limited, the movement of memory, always based on the past).

Thus when one says 'I believe that is correct', they are merely confirming that what they think (have as a habitual thought pattern) is in agreement with what someone else has said. Now religions have put a different 'spin' on this word 'belief' which tends to confuse one where clarity would be more appropriate. We communicate with one another through words, which are the written or vocal manifestation of mental concepts. All concepts are limited by nature so that the words we use carry an energy in them which more or less points to an 'image' of what we are trying to communicate to another person. If the conceptual imagery of the originator is not very clear then the person receiving the message may misunderstand what was intended by the originator of the communication.

Words are never the 'thing in itself'. A word only points to what one is trying to describe or communicate. For example, the word 'table' is not the table itself. The word table is only a concept which provides many, many possiblities as to what a table can be. That is the power of conceptual thought. The table in question could be a regular 4-legged dining room table, or it could be the top surface of the 'stump' of a tree. There are literally thousands of possibilities in between those two extremes. Therefore, it is always important to communicate with mental clarity and to use words carefully. This will tend to provide maximum impact in communication.

It may be of great service to us to understand that 'belief' is but a way of thinking, and that 'faith' is the confidence in our potential to achieve things that may be beyond our belief (beyond our limitations in thought).

Although I have focused on the limiting nature of belief in general, it does not discount entirely a place for belief. Wherein belief is a habitual way of thinking, it will always be accompanied by limitations. However, if one projects a vision of what one would like to achieve or make possible in their life experience, then that would be in a sense setting up a new habitual mental pattern in the mind (a new belief) that could be held onto in 'faith' (as defined above) so as to summon and access potential energies that previously may not have been available to us. As long as such 'belief' harnesses only 'positive' (non-inhibiting) energies, then it would be beneficial to our life experience.

In any case belief, since it is in essence a habitual mental activity, carries with it inherent limitations that are determined by the mental processes themselves. Faith, on the other hand, can enhance the effects of mental processes through its element of confidence in the matter being considered.

There is another dimension of understanding belief and faith which has not been considered in the above. This is in regards to the initial concept of "Energy Beings" introduced in the first blog of this series (Energy Beings). To look into the manifestations of belief and faith in that realm is more complex. (This is another topic I may consider in a future blog).