The worst thing about belief? In one way or another, it's always unbelievable.
The best thing about belief? When the unbelievable is stripped away, you're likely to be pointed toward truth.
So strippers – no, not that kind (sadly) – are all-important on a spiritual journey. Without them, religious or other sorts of dogma are accepted uncritically, leaving us wandering in a maze where every path leads anywhere you believe it will.
The Indian guru I began to follow in 1971, Charan Singh, was fond of saying: "Critics are our best friends." His disciples would nod, seemingly taking the words to mean that criticism can help make us humble.
True. But it's possible to embrace spiritual criticism more deeply, in a fashion that has the potential to change the entire direction in which we're moving (as opposed to merely proceeding in the same direction less egotistically).
This requires a lot more openness. And yes, humility. It means accepting the possibility that cherished beliefs you've held for many years, perhaps for most of your life, are just that: beliefs.
Not the truth.
Recently I've been alternating between reading two books before my morning meditation. One I've written about before in several posts, "Consciousness is All" by Peter Dziuban.
The title, not surprisingly, says it all about the book. Dziuban is an enthusiastic advocate of the notion that consciousness is the sole reality. So enthusiastic, often his advaitish, non-dual outlook seems uncomfortably dogmatic to me.
When that happens I put down his book and pick up "The Dream Weaver" by Jack Bowen. He's a philosopher.
Philosophers often are put down by spiritual types because they think and reason a lot. As if that's a bad thing. What's forgotten is that beliefs also are thoughts. Unexamined thoughts. Uncritically accepted thoughts.
What philosophical examination can do, and often does very well, is strip away the seemingly solid foundation of a belief structure. Bowen does this skillfully in his book.
So far I've read chapters about "Knowledge," "Self, Mind, Soul," "Science," and "God." With each subject I'm left with questions rather than answers. Ideas that seem to make sense are shown to be nonsensical from a different perspective.
For example, I came across a critique that pertains to the consciousness is all belief – which, for Dziuban, assumes that awareness is separate and distinct both from what one is aware of and also the brain/body.
Look at the clouds. It would be wrong to say that clouds have water in them, separate from them. Clouds are water – condensed water. There's no water separate from clouds, or clouds separate from water. We'd be wrong to say, "I have a mind and a brain" just like we'd be wrong to say "Look at the cloud and the water" or, "Look at the water and the H-two-O."
Your "mind is indivisible" argument assumes that the mind exists to begin with. If the mind doesn't exist, then it can't be indivisible. Just like little invisible Martians under your bed can't be red if they don't exist.
Just because someone perceives two things differently, doesn't mean they are uniquely different things: that has more to do with the perceiver than the thing being perceived. How I perceive something is hardly a quality of that thing.
Now, this is just one side of the argument. But when it's seen that there are two sides, dogmatic belief can no longer rest on blind faith.
You've got to choose one side or the other based on what makes the most sense to you. And with spirituality, often neither side is going to be persuasive.
In large part, this is because the spiritual search usually is for Oneness, the Ultimate – which can't have two sides to it. It's a leap into mystery, not a journey along a path demarcated by neat and clean boundaries.
So when someone points out the illogic of a cherished belief that you or I have been clinging to, we should be grateful. We've just been given a pointer: Not this way.
The frustrating thing is, every belief can be shown to be illogical, indefensible, improvable. Which is a good thing, because eventually we're totally surrounded by signs that say Not this way.
At that point, there's nothing to do but stand still, utterly perplexed.
And there we are.