12 Four Pragmatic Steps for Finding Faith and Addressing Doubt

At a certain point along our spiritual path, we arrive at a juncture. Sooner or later, after we’ve invested a chunk of time and energy worming our way through the spirals of our inner being, we find it: the roadblock. It’s the sum total of our negativity and destructiveness, and our mind doesn’t want to look at this.

We have been busy concocting all kinds of screwy explanations for why we’re not happy. Some of our theories may even be valid, as far as they go, explaining such things as why we are sick or have neurotic tendencies. But our stories always skip one important thing: how and why we create our problems.

After humankind gave up the “punishing deity” concept, we started casting about in another direction for a doctrine that would free us from any culpability in our own dramas. Oh, here it is. And the woe-is-me victim was born.

But if we want to find the source of our frustration and unhappiness, we have to overcome our reluctance to look inside ourselves. When we finally stop justifying and rationalizing, we will see the way we hate instead of love, and where we separate ourselves through our defenses instead of openly trusting. We’ll realize our tendency to look away rather than face ourselves, to deny rather than affirm, and to distort truth rather than be in truth.

At some point in time, we won’t be able to see things any other way. Because, truth is, it isn’t any other way. And yet, we try. We turn things around and misuse even the knowledge of this truth—which mankind has been grappling with facing for centuries—making it into a proclamation of judgment. Religions, in particular, have been fond of doing this, copping a punitive, authoritarian attitude toward all us minions who are being judged.

So then off we went, attempting to right a wrong by charging into the opposite direction. In our counter-balancing measures, we tossed all concepts of sin and evil and personal responsibility out the window. Well, we’ve come a long way, and now it’s time to find the middle of the road where, like it or not, our own negativity is what has ultimately caused every lick of our own suffering. It’s time to see this for what it is: the truth.

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Every pain is in some way associated with denying truth—with denying love. In every case, we can find that, in the final analysis, we tromped on a spiritual law, there was somewhere a basic dishonesty, or there was some kind of ill will.

We come to realizing this by going through the doorway of our problems. These are really just the outer result of an inner nest of negativity that has given life to something unpleasant. This nest is filled with a cluster of negative attitudes that form one comprehensive whole. Our negativities get strung together and balled up like an old string of lights, now creating cause-and-effect chain reactions.

It’s not easy to find this nucleus of negativity, which is hidden behind protective walls, but it is embedded with all our Lower Self thoughts, feelings and intentions and it is connected to every struggle we experience. Our commitment to finding and unwinding it can be found in our dedication to being in truth; this requires no small amount of wholehearted work. We’ll need to overcome our inner resistance, question our hidden misconceptions, meditate and make commitments toward a new way of being. Then we can start taking responsibility for our negativity and stop projecting everything outward. It will be time to stop kidding ourselves. To fully understand this is to have arrived at a crossroads.

Oddly though, we may find at this juncture, that we are reluctant to give it up. At some point along our path to spiritual freedom, we will face this strange situation of not wanting to let go of that which causes our own destruction and suffering. And in our fear that we’ll find this negative nucleus and not want to let it go—or we won’t be able to—we continue to look away. We say to ourselves, ‘you know, if I’m not really going to want to change, why should I even want to see this?’ Hence, we go on deceiving ourselves that untruth is not in us. This is a common trap and we need to watch out for it, so it won’t barricade our way. In fact, we’re going to need some more powerful tools for getting over this hurdle.

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To understand this hurdle, we need to talk about the true concepts of faith and doubt as well as their false varieties that get twisted by duality. We often think of faith as a blind belief in something we have no way of knowing. We are just supposed to gullibly trust without thinking too much. Given today’s emphasis on intellectual pursuit, faith has not surprisingly gotten a bad reputation. And indeed, if that’s what faith’s about, it would be right to discard it. For who wants to be stupid and believe in something that has no grounding in reality and can never be experienced as truth?

This perspective keeps us perched on a platform from which the only things that are real are what we can see, touch, know and prove. From here, we will never have to leap into the unknown. But here’s the rub: the only way to expand and change is by leaping, gulp, into the unknown.

Growth and change, as we all know, involve that moment of anxiety. And we can never accept that anxiety if we believe it’s the end state rather than the temporary sensation of flying through the air—before we land again on terra firma. This firm ground will be a new reality that we haven’t known before. But we have to leap to get here.

According to popular notion, faith implies a perpetual state of blindness. It’s a way of being where we grope in the dark, floating on a groundless not-quite-in-reality state of not knowing or comprehending. But what then would be a real concept of faith?

True faith involves several steps, or stages, each highly grounded in intelligence and reality. First, we consider the possibility of a new way of functioning, as opposed to carrying on with the negative chain reactions that we’ve discovered originate inside us. Let’s say, perhaps, that we see that we have a perpetual way of being defensive and have discovered that, low and behold, this creates rather undesirable effects for ourselves and others.

OK, so our Method of Operation has a tendency to cut off life, yet we don’t know another way to function. Giving up our modus operandi with nothing more to go on than a lofty theory is going to be impossible. We’re going to need to clearly understand what to expect of each coming stage if we’re going to acquire a new way of being in the world and expand beyond our current narrowly-defined fences.

So step one in acquiring faith is to consider that new possibilities exist of which we currently know nothing—something new may exist beyond our present vision. But we can’t take on any new ideas unless we make a little space for them; if our minds are closed, nothing new can come in.

But Mary, Mary, this isn’t about being gullible or unintelligent—oh, quite contrary. We would all likely agree, in fact, that only accepting what we can see as being real is not so genius. Such limited smarts belies that more is lacking than just imagination.

Perhaps we haven’t thought of faith in such terms before, but it is part and parcel of growing into real faith. And note, our faith itself will undergo development as we go along. This first stage is the springboard that launches us. From here we can meditate on opening to the divine within to show us how to find better ways of functioning. There is nothing unrealistic about this approach. There is no blind belief called for. This is an honest, open approach that makes room for alternatives we hadn’t yet known.

This is actually the exact same indispensable attitude pursued by every serious scientist. Ironically, the scientifically minded are often the very ones who hold faith in ill repute because they have so often run into the false version of faith. True faith, though, in which previously unknown options are considered, takes an objective and humble frame of mind. Unfortunately, that doesn’t nix all associated anxiety, but this can be quickly and easily overcome.

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Let’s say we come to see that we only feel secure when we make negative judgments, hating on others and putting them down. So we can pause and ask ‘might there be another way?’ Then we open up to insights. Aha, we see that perhaps it’s possible to feel secure without being so destructive. Perhaps we need to shore up some flagging self-respect. But just by taking this new approach, we’ll begin to attain it. And we’ll soon discover that no matter how much work this takes, it’s worth it. Because we’ve literally been paying with our lives for the negative kind of “security” we were settling for.

Finding this new conflict-free ground to live on requires we take that first leap into the unknown. The second step in faith requires more of a leap. Here we must open ourselves up to the divine ground within so it can bring us the knowledge our intellect is hunting for. So first we made some space, and now we find some solutions.

If we are sincere in taking this step, we are likely to catch an occasional glimpse of the divine inside ourselves. We’ll get a sense of how it feels—how it operates. Of course, we’ll forget it about as quickly as we grasp it, but if we grope our way back, it will still be there. Eventually, it will become our permanent home ground. But that’s going to take an even bigger leap of honesty and courage. First things first.

Which brings us to the third step, which is that basically we have experienced something new but we can’t yet hold onto it. To make it our permanent ground, we have to keep surrendering to the greater reality. We have to let go of safety valves and comfortable ego habits of finding security and self-fulfillment through means that are at least partially negative. We have to let the divine guide us, dedicating ourselves to love and truth for their own sake. Yep, that’s a big leap.

But we don’t take this leap in one big hop. We repeat the littler leaps over and over so many times that this big leap becomes no leap at all. The only one then who thinks there’s this huge leap to make is the little ego—the one who enjoys hanging out in imaginary separation and who was never a fan of letting go. At this point, we’re not leaping into total unknown, because we’ve had glimpses along the way.

Our own minds have to question our own faulty logic to see that we’re not really taking so much of a risk. Say we don’t believe in divine reality—what’s the harm in trusting it? We won’t be any worse off. What do we have to lose? We’ll only find what we already know.

But what if we find that it exists? What if it’s not an illusion and surrendering to it is the only wise and reasonable thing to do? Then surrendering will seem like we are temporarily giving up our selfhood, only to discover that what we perceived as our selfhood—our self-centered ego—is the most weak and dependent way of being. We are then constantly leaning on other human beings who are as ignorant and floundering as we are.

But surrendering to the divine life will make us aware that this is our real identity. In this, we can find real security, new joys and creativity that we know nothing of so far. Only then do we find true selfhood—after we make that leap in self-surrender to a larger self that is who we truly are, in the very best sense.

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Divine reality has its own motto: surrender to truth and love. Well that makes things simple. In fact, our not surrendering to the divine attributes of truth and love—to divine will—can only mean one thing: our vanity and self-seeking is more important to us than truth and love. We’re more worried about what others think of us, and won’t abandon any little short-term advantages for the sake of truth and love. If this is the case, we have no interest in taking any leaps of faith. We have no desire to discover if more profound advantages might exist.

We become so used to living in conflict that we take conflict for granted. We don’t know anything else. Yet all our conflicts cascade from not abiding by truth and love. These conflicts pull out our life force and put a stranglehold on it. But it doesn’t have to be that way if we are willing to make the leap to truth and love and the ultimate reason for living.

Doing this consistently will bring us to the fourth step, where faith becomes a fact that is so securely anchored within, no one can take it away. In the second step, we tipped our toe into the water of grace, but then we came back out of it and lost it. We returned to doubting, thinking maybe it was an illusion or our imagination or just coincidence. We think we dreamed the whole thing and any tangible results would have happened anyway. Enter the false doubt, which we’ll discuss in a moment.

But in the fourth step, we don’t wrangle with doubt at all. What we have gained remains our reality. It’s more real than anything else we have experienced and known. At this stage, we might still lose the good state temporarily, reverting to the spiral motion of our negative residues. But we will now know which state is real. There won’t be any more confusion. At this stage of the game, we know the glory of the truth of God.

This new reality exists beyond the narrow confines of our little egoic minds. It stands on way firmer ground than that. We have arrived here through continuous conscious surrender and made this our home ground, and we can never doubt this reality. The proofs and the experiences are just too real. They tie up every loose end in a way our imaginations could never do.

Getting here requires us to overcome that momentary anxiety when we must leap into the unknown. We must do this for the sake of truth and love. Or really, for the sake of God—our own inner Godself.

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There’s another side to faith, which raises the question about doubt. Doubt exists in a real and constructive sense, for if we never had any doubt, we would be gullible indeed. This peppershaker matches the saltshaker of blind faith; they are a pair. Such gullibility contains wishful thinking and a lack of acceptance of the unpleasant aspects of life. It comes from being lazy. If we don’t doubt in the right way, we are avoiding the responsibility of making good choices and standing on our own two feet.

So while doubting in the right way moves us toward faith, doubting in the wrong way creates a great big split. The question is: What should we doubt? And how should we doubt? And why should we doubt? For example, when we doubt the existence of God—of supreme intelligence or a creative universal spirit—we claim that we doubt, but really we’re saying we “know” it doesn’t exist. And of course that’s impossible; we can’t know that.

There’s a dishonesty here, because we’re taking our limited perception and saying it’s the final reality. We’re also a bit committed to this idea of there being no Great Divine, because then we won’t have face it one day. We like our wishful thinking that there’s no rhyme or reason to anything that happens and when life ends, it doesn’t matter. Our faith in a non-God comes from our hope that there won’t be any consequences. We want to get off scot-free.

Some people are willing to believe in the existence of God but deny the value of a spiritual path of self-confrontation. They are again hoping that accountability can be avoided. We seldom doubt this kind of doubt. It is justified with ‘this happens to be what I believe, and my belief is as good as yours,’ and is presented as if this position were arrived at through honest and deep consideration.

Any time we doubt something that, in truth, we simply don’t want to know—whatever our reasons—our doubt is not honest. We become proud of our doubt because we don’t want to appear gullible to others. We have to start questioning our doubts, seeing if we have a stake in doubting. On what do we base our doubts? This line of questioning will help us arrive at truth, putting us back on the road to faith.

Sometimes we doubt others because we want to deny the truth of the distortions inside ourselves. But only when we are in real truth inside ourselves can we lose our self-doubt, which is what is gnawing away at us. That’s what’s behind the suspicions and doubts we harbor towards others. So we project our self-doubt onto others and then confuse this with intuition and perception, which feel completely different.

If we make up excuses to substantiate our doubt, casting out distrust to avoid the discomfort of confronting ourselves, we create a split between ourselves and reality—between ourselves and the truth. And that is the basis for creating suffering and discontent and vague unease we can’t quite put our finger on.

This is duality in all its splendor, with two apparent opposites: faith and doubt. Some religions may paint one as right—faith—and the other as wrong—doubt. Intellectuals will thumb their noses at this, saying equally glibly that faith is wrong and doubt is right. Both sides think they are in truth.

But both a real and false version of faith and doubt exist. In the real version, they complement each other; you wouldn’t want one without the other. In real doubt, we select and weigh and differentiate and grope for the truth; we don’t shy away from the mental labor of being in reality. And that leads us through the steps to faith.

Along the way, having the right kind of doubt is necessary. When we hesitate to leap, for example, we must question our fear. When we veer toward a lazy faith that believes anything, doubt must wake up. When we doubt in a destructive way, our faith must protect us from getting swamped by it and blotting out the very real moments of truth we have genuinely experienced.

There’s a key to always finding the right kind of faith and doubt, where the two come together in unity. It’s our dedication to truth and to love. Long before we land on the home ground of the divine within, we can safely use truth and love as our guideposts for when and how to surrender.

As we make truth and love the center of everything we do, the living God within will become our reality. We’ll find the strength and health and know-how to solve all our problems and free ourselves from the negativities we seem locked into and unable to give up. That’s the movement that combines faith and doubt as one complementing whole: being in service to truth and love. For real.

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