Belief should be passionate, but in front of truth we should also be very humble. If knowing were a matter of pride we would have to despair and give up. We don’t know a lot. The things we assume about our world are often partial or wrong, and our experience is limited to a few small fragments of reality. We’ve personally seen little of the physical world, let alone the universe, and even knowing all humanity’s stories and experiments would leave realms beyond our reach. But even if we can’t be experts and our knowledge is fragmented, it still helps us to live wisely and responsibly. We find out about desirable and dangerous things so often that pursuit of understanding rewards us. And many of us feel that we also owe something to truth and goodness, and for existence. Besides all the tangible rewards, one of the reasons for being responsive to what we perceive, with the very best of our resources, is so we can be responsible.
When it comes to the knowledge of ‘spiritual reality’, many who understand the scientific method are quick to give up. There are no experiments to verify ideas about that layer of ideas, and while intuition can be very useful for some things, it can fail us a lot in other areas. A number of ideas in physics seem ridiculous and yet, with the help of maths, are seen to be realistic. They’re simply not things that we experience in day-to-day life. How much more is this the case with invisible things; even realms that compare with nothing in our own experiences?
How could we speak of something ‘before time’, or a ‘source’ of cause and effect? Our metaphors and comparisons, language itself, weaken. And there are also realms in which we all have feelings and ideas, but we can’t test any of them or prove that we aren’t influenced by something else to feel that way. Alternate theories abound, none of which can be disproven. The existence and nature of morality, and the ‘real existence’ (beyond just our ideas) of things like kindness, fall into that category.
But remember, this doesn’t mean that there is nothing supernatural or metaphysical for us to respond to. It just means that none of us can raise ourselves as experts, or feel that our knowledge is a solid rock for us to lean on. Just as we need to avoid the arrogant belief that our knowledge is absolute, we also need to avoid the passive excuse of saying all things are subjective and that spiritual truth is for all purposes non-existent. To hold ourselves back from both seeing and refining our sight is foolishly non-responsive. It might even be irresponsibly unjust. Avoiding superstition is good, but what if the opposite extreme is far too narrow? Because of that mere possibility, apathy is not worth the risk; deep truth might well be reaching out to us on our terms and it’s worth listening carefully.
I think that when we say “I believe this,” what that really should mean in modern language is “I sense this as the firmest thing I know, and I choose to respond to it.”
Even if we can’t have certainty of our metaphysical intuitions, if we think responsibly about them and still see something there then it seems better to respond to it than to assume that all is subjective and act oblivious. I can’t prove this, and there is nothing that challenges me to justify my desire to respond to what I see. I’m just describing how it is purely innate for me to interact with it, rather than deciding to ignore it, and it seems very possibly to be the wise approach. Someone could say that all these intuitions and urges come to me through a natural process that doesn’t involve a knowing and caring ultimate-creator, and I can’t prove that I am seeing rather than hallucinating. But taking the logic of those thoughts into account, the best work of my mind and heart still finds elements of faith to be important. It’s better to respond wholeheartedly to the best of our understanding, keeping track of risks, than to ignore something because it isn’t yet fully proven.
Many people have a deep and immediate experience of relationship when we respond to Ultimate Reality in a personal way, but don’t think it’s all feelings and no thought. There is human logic to it too. It will always be imperfect, untestable logic, but these are still strong intuitions rather than weak ones and they hit us as appropriate to devote ourselves to… humbly but truly.
We can mathematically infer that cause and effect don’t go back infinitely. Because of that, I believe that it’s not a weak idea to think that the finite is dependent on the infinite and that the infinite is not less than the finite. If there is any truth in that at all, then it hits the core of our very being and holds the fabric of all things together in one world. Although every metaphor fails and this is a realm that must be totally foreign to any of our experience, we can still try to look at the entry gate of ‘being’ to see what our foundations are like. And then, as humans, we naturally get emotions of known-ness and of it being appropriate to be thankful for something given, since the infinite never ‘takes’. Having little understanding, the best thing I can think of to do is respond in that pattern rather than against it.
It’s better than assuming we are only dreaming when it comes to the spiritual realm. We should work with what we have and act on it. And when I do, the sense of responsibility to truth is renamed as loyalty to my Creator and a very deep experience springs out of it; personal, but important to me. So this is my world and I join with its landscapes, reaching as far and long as I can with pure hope in the Rock that is more solid than any finite thing; more sure than any foundation I could capture in small knowledge.