Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of February 25, 2008

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Faith and Doubt

(Part 5 of 9 in the Inner Work Series: The Stages of Prayer)

We can expect neither certainty nor proof in matters of the spirit, because they involve worlds beyond the physical. Measurement and logic do not directly apply to the spirit. Because our ordinary life occurs entirely in this material, measurable world, which appears to be the whole of reality, doubts about the existence of God, about the reality of the higher realms arise naturally. Such doubts are inherent in and justified by our life on this material Earth. So if we demand certainty about the existence of God as a pre-condition for seeking God, we block our path before it begins.

In contrast to doubt, faith is a trans-rational intuition from beyond the realm of thought and emotion, an intuition that perceives the Sacred and receives Its blessing. Doubts occupy the mind, whereas faith engages our heart and transcends our mind.

Belief and prayer bridge the chasm between doubt and faith. The positive side of doubt, wherein we suspect that notions of the Sacred might be true, opens us to the possibility of belief. Through belief we create a mental-emotional map or representation of the Sacred realm. The more we open our mind to belief in the Sacred, the more it prods us toward the inner work of deep prayer. Prayer, in turn, opens our intuitive perceptions to the reality of the Sacred and carries us into the arena of faith. In approaching the Sacred, with doubt we suspect itís not true, with belief we think it is true, with prayer we see the Truth, and with faith we know and serve the Truth.

Even if we set aside our doubts and engage the spiritual path with vigor, doubts re-emerge from time to time. At such moments we need courage to continue in the face of doubts, the courage of our convictions, the courage to seek meaning where there is none. Courageously climbing the ladder of spiritual realms, we discover that the higher have even greater uncertainty and conversely more freedom than the physical world. Paradoxically though, our growing intuitive perception of the Sacred increases our certainty that the Divine is real, while our bodily home remains in this material world where unresolvable doubts persist.

Doubts come in all sizes and degrees, from wondering whether a particular spiritual practice or worship community is right for us, to whether God exists. The former kinds may carry some wisdom and we may need to consider them and adjust. The latter doubts, about God, we duly note and nevertheless continue with our prayer practice and other inner work. For just as we cannot have material certainty that God exists, we also cannot have material certainty that God does not exist. But as we make our way along the path, our spiritual certainty, our faith deepens.

Another realm of doubt concerns our personal inadequacies and whether they limit our spiritual potential. Such doubts may be based on real perceptions and may spur us to reform ourselves. But we cannot know the range of our potential. So this too becomes a matter of faith, of trusting that if we persist in prayer and inner work, our soul will indeed attain the station destined for us and our lives will be fulfilled thereby, as we give the full measure of spiritual service needed from us.

Faith is our perception of and response to the lifeline, or rather soul-line, cast our way by the Divine. Faith is our growing, albeit dim, awareness there is SomeOne to Whom we pray, SomeOne Who receives our prayers. Yet doubts arise unbidden. To move beyond this stage of tension between faith and doubt, we recognize that prayer is an act of service and we pray consciously. The deeper our prayer, the greater our faith becomes.

For this week, assess your own degree of faith and notice your doubts.


     

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