It’s a commonly held “belief” in most spiritual practices that to successfully attract whatever it is the devout is seeking, the pilgrim must “believe and not doubt.” Doubt, among the devout, is the enemy of faith. Many spiritual leaders will tell their followers that the reason they don’t have what it is they’ve been praying so sincerely for, is that they just don’t have the faith. So the faithful try to build their belief.
While beliefs are powerful, and they certainly do come between us and what we so diligently seek, the power of doubt has been underrated in the arena of faith.
From childhood on, everything in our lives must have meaning. The more painful an event is to us, the more important it is for us to find an explanation. However, the Universe is rarely willing to offer “reasons.” Another challenge we face as humans is the size of the Universe in which we live. We are finite within the presence of a seemingly infinite cosmos.
Since there’s no way we can know everything, to cope with this uncertainty, we create beliefs about it. These beliefs are built to orient us in this giant cacophony and localize the infinite so that there’s something we can call “real.” We build our beliefs through a process of generalization, deletion, and distortion. We take the millions of bits of information coming at us every second, and generalize what it can, delete what we can’t, which creates distortion. A song on the radio is a perfect example of this effect. The song is comprised of instruments such as drums, guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals and background vocals… it’s then arranged, recorded, and mixed before it makes its way to our music device. However, all we hear is the song; a generalized sound.
So from the onset our beliefs pose a problem. They’re not built on reality. They’re built upon our own perception of reality. Ironically, once a belief is built, it then begins to control our reality, filtering everything out that disagrees with it, and only letting in what supports it, even if this is a painful or destructive belief.
As beliefs grow, they take up more space in our psyche. If they go unchecked, they become “truth,” which is dogma. Dogma then sees all challenges as a personal threat. This is especially clear in religion and politics.
Despite what we believe, we are still only finite beings in the presence of the infinite. The Universe is happening despite our belief about it. Occasionally, something will happen that is beyond our belief. Something challenges us or shakes us up, and what we held as “true” can no longer stand. We then become afraid that somehow we’re backsliding, or that God has abandoned us, or that we had it wrong.
What we don’t see in the midst of this trauma is that we’re being forced to expand and grow. This thing we call doubt attacks our dogma and forces us to look beyond our belief and into the greater system itself. When doubt is introduced, it creates a crack in the concrete of our dogma opens up just enough room for a shoot of uncertainty to bloom.
It’s in this place that a small piece of truth can bloom. We open up to what might be true. When we seek out what might be true, we place ourselves in alignment with the Universe. When we place ourselves in alignment with the Universe, we are able function at an even greater capacity.
So our goal is not to abolish doubt, as that only deepens our dogma. When we embrace our lack of understanding, we realize that there’s more that we’re not seeing. So doubt is a gift, to call us to look deeper.