Google defines faith two ways:
- Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
- Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.
I think the second definition misses the mark: it is talking about form, not faith.
When I’m discussing form in relation to faith, I’m talking about what we use in the physical world to bolster our faith – or, when it misses the mark, in place of our faith. This is religion, dogma, science, ritual, artifacts, stories, meditation, imagination, anything that we can use to create a tangible link between the indefinable and ourselves.
So, how do we define faith without form?
It’s not God. God (or the concept we have of God) is a form.
It’s not Spirit. Spirit is a form.
It’s not a book. It’s not a statue. It’s not a method. It’s not a theory.
In Spiritual terms it seems that everything we understand and relate to our faith is, in fact, form.
There’s something about the open road after 2:00am, plummeting along the freeway at 70 miles per hour, which dulls the senses enough to sink into a suspension of our generally agreed upon reality. My brother, and fellow late-night cruiser, identifies as a skeptic; he doesn’t believe anything unless it can be proven to him scientifically. He does hold the understanding though, that we, as a species, are not yet advanced enough to prove absolutely everything scientifically. He’s also ridiculously intelligent. I mean, stoopid smart.
He and I are on two very different ends of the same spectrum. My world is full of the unseen, the intangible, and as a result I operate from a place of feeling and intuition. His world is one at odds with our growing technology, so he operates from the place of intellect and linear logic. Philosophical conversations with him are lively, especially on the road in the wee hours of the morning, when defenses come down, and fears of our differences melt.
I tread carefully when I talk about my spiritual life and work with anyone not mired in a similar lifestyle. And I have always feared that some of the people I love see me as a lovable, but possibly, a bona-fide nut job. I can accept that, but I don’t really want to hear it.
But, a 2:00am cruise along highway 80 has a way of breaking down barriers between people, so my brother and me, we got to talking.
I told him, sparingly, some details about the work I do. He nodded, and listened entirely, and held my frailty in his hand. The thing about siblings – at least mine – is we have such power over each other. Our knowledge and depth of understanding of each other goes so deep, is so profound, that one word could destroy the other. But we’ve always been really respectful of that.
While I talked about the fantastical to my brother, he chimed in about his fascination with the observer effect in Quantum Physics. He found it incredible that something, when observed, behaved completely differently then when it was not observed. He said “things can happen when no one is watching that are impossible.”
And I responded with “and that’s faith.”
(I did not bring my brother to my end of the spectrum. Nor was that my desire. He is his own brilliant being, and I would not change him or try and convince him to be any other way).
Dr. Crimi described it like this to me years ago: sit down in a chair. Now try and stop your motion of sitting when someone pulls that chair away. You can’t. You are operating on complete faith when you sit down on that chair, and the momentum of that faith is so powerful, it is literally unstoppable.
So, faith is power. Faith is a hurricane of energy. Faith truly is the magic of Harry Potter, the fantasy of Lord of the Rings. And we can observe it, and scientifically prove it. And when we can harness it, the imagination fails to conceive of what we can accomplish.
Yet faith is so slippery, because we can’t hold it in our hands. So, in order to remind us about faith and bolster our faith, we create form around it.
Jesus on the cross.
The crystals in your meditation room.
The Buddha on your altar.
Kriya Yoga breathing and meditation techniques.
I’m not saying these things don’t work. They absolutely do! As three-dimensional beings, most of us need concrete, sustainable objects and ideas to remind us of our faith, and keep us going when we lose our power. But every form we wrap our faith in is only valuable because of the faith we put into that form. Form becomes problematic when we replace our faith with form entirely. This is where, I believe, where many religions and spiritual leaders have gone awry. The forms that once bolstered faith have remained, but are empty of faith’s true power. The focus becomes so entirely set on the hierarchy, the dogma, and the politics, that the pure, raw faith slips away.
Form and faith go hand in hand. But I hope we can look at it straight: form and faith are not one and the same. As long as we can remember the use for the form, which is to keep our faith, we’ll be fine. When we forget this, we confuse form and faith, and lose that power.
What structure does your spirituality hold? Are you exploring that?