skeptic: (1) a person inclined to question or doubt accepted opinions
(2) a person who doubts the truth of Christianity and other religions – an atheist
Hmmm. I am absolutely definition #1. With #2 I don’t even get to the end of the definition without an objection: the use of the word “truth” with regard to Christianity or any other religion. For me, “truth” is a proven thing – not a belief, nor a feeling, nor an opinion.
I have beliefs, feelings and opinions – none of them are facts, nor truths. I have no “faith” – I have experiences.
Can I say those beliefs, feelings, and opinions are in some sense “true for me”? Maybe you could, but no, I could not. I exist in a state of permanent and painful doubt. My comfort zone, perforce, is the discomfort zone. The problem with that is translating beliefs and feelings into action when there is not some sort of implicit trust in the absolute trustworthiness of said belief or feeling.
I attempt to cope with being on the liminal edge of rationality by considering my experiences in mysticism a personal divergence perhaps devised by my brain/sub-conscious to teach me something or enable some new insight. This is semi-satisfactory. It is one small side-step away from calling deities and all other religious paraphernalia “metaphors”. That bit is not satisfactory to me. Metaphors are pretty weak beer compared to the mildest mystical experience, you see?
I have been teased, by pagans (and suggestively damned by Christians) for my “liminality” – about which the best thing I can say is that it demonstrates intellectual flexibility and the worst thing I can say is that I am glorifying fence sitting. Over time in almost 65 years of living, I have been poised on a particular edge time and time again. The edge of belief that changes my life and precipitates me into some action based upon that belief.
It feels, to me, like I imagine it would feel if the world really were flat, to be walking on that very edge on teetering high heels. Sooner or later, I must fall – but in which direction? Back to the hard surface of only what I see, hear, taste, physically touch, or smell? Or off the edge of the accepted world into an other/darkness that, to me, is alive with possibility? To my (6th?) sense – some finely tuned perception I don’t know what to call, that sightless place I could fall feels more warm, more alive, more real than the place I walk through (in occasional agony) daily.
How to willfully go into and come back from that perceived other reality is, for me, the central question of spirituality. Shamanistic tradition says that is the job of the shaman. It is good for me to know others have perceived that same other and that there is at least a practice of negotiating that journey. I have used shamanistic techniques and felt like there was success. Did it convince and reassure me? Only partially; I am hard-wired to doubt even my own experience. Why is this?
Perhaps because I have seen such spiritual/religious techniques/practices put to such abuses by those who call themselves priests/priestesses that I am repulsed and fearful. Such an other would seem to perhaps partake of some power, and we all know the saying about power corrupting in proportion to its absoluteness, don’t we? It is not that possible power I fear, it is my own sufficient resistance unto that power, then?
And yet, the fence I sit upon is ever more uncomfortable and un-satisfying. In a world ever more damaged and dangerous, to sit semi-serenely upon any fence seems more and more an existential act of bad faith. It could be described as a steroid-enhanced Pascal’s Wager of sorts: IF I could by believing and thus acting in a certain way, make my world healthier, better, happier – would I not be ethically wrong to NOT believe, and thus not act upon said belief?
That is where I am. That is not to say I have never acted upon those tremulous moments of utter belief – I have. The Labyrinth is one example and it is the enduring nexus of peace in my life, but also an enduring example of sensation of an otherness the five ordinary senses do not explain. If that action based on something I could not prove had such a result, why would I not simply not “fall” into that unbelievable/unprovable otherness – but dive, full-heartedly?
I am stuck. “Snarling logicality” IS a thing, not a labyrinth – but a maze, a trap, a frustration. I am stuck.
I don’t like being stuck. It reeks of failure. I don’t like failing unless I am learning something that allows success the next time. So, I must move forward mapless or not. I will begin with physical motion – enrolling in a formal yoga course, perhaps. I know one that insists upon engagement of the mind and spiritual with that physical. I will consider, perhaps, a meditative tattoo? Something to insist on the marriage of mind and body with room for that spiritual dimension I perceive and struggle to believe is possible?