Readings for 16/10/2011

An excerpt from Laurence Freeman OSB, “Understanding Faith,” in FIRST SIGHT: The Experience of Faith (London: Continuum, 2011), pp. 12-14.

A new understanding of faith demolishes the prison of belief. It liberates religious people into a world of compassionate action expressed in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

 No one is excluded from this extension of the experience of unity arising from the depths of the soul into which beliefs cannot penetrate because “we know God not by thought but by love.” In the horizon revealed by the light of contemplative experience we no longer identify faith with belief or condemn other people’s belief as deficient. The contemplative should have a more Christ-like courtesy than that. And in the risk—yes there is a risk involved—of encountering the other, meeting other believers in the strange realms of difference, we discover the nature of faith itself. We are also reassured that our own identity that we feared was threatened is in fact affirmed. [. . . .]

Merely asserting and defending our beliefs cannot lead to a true community of faith. They make us become sect-members, a fundamentalist cabal. They shut down the mind as an organ of perception and truth. If, by confusing faith and belief in this way, we think of faith as bestowing a sense of being different or superior to others we end up like the Pharisee who thanked God for making him different from others and found satisfaction in being superiorly different. The religious mind in this state can even persuade itself that this is humility. Identifying entirely with belief—the left hand hemisphere of the brain—while denying faith—the right hand hemisphere—we occupy a private world of our own rather than the kingdom of God or the Christ-realm in which “there is neither Jew nor Greek, male or female, slave or free.” Religious people often fear the power of faith precisely because it tends towards this undifferentiated realm of the Spirit where religious, social and even gender differences, that our enshrined beliefs can control minutely, are all dismantled.

Faith is the highway of the spirit. Every act of faith we make is an uncovering of the labyrinth of spirit. Belief, sundered from faith, leads to a maze of mirrors, a series of infinite regressions, the egotistical maze. Mazes lead to dead-ends and the more we get lost the more we panic. Labyrinths only ask us to follow faithfully their strange but ultimately symmetrical loops and bends in order to lead us home to the center.

After Meditation, “One Song,” in THE SOUL OF RUMI: A New Collection of Ecstatic Poems (New York: HarperCollins, 2002) p. 47.

What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
many jugs being poured

into a huge basin.,, All religions, all this singing,
one song.

The differences are just illusion and vanity. Sunlight
looks slightly different

on this wall than it does on that wall and a lot different
on this other one, but

it is still one light. We have borrowed these clothes, these
time-and-space personalities,

from a light, and when we praise, we pour them back in.