Today Spence Tepper, a frequent commenter on this blog who, pleasingly, uses his real name when commenting, left a marvelous comment on a recent post of mine.
You can read it below.
What Tepper said reminds me a lot of what Alan Watts wrote about faith in one of my favorite books, The Wisdom of Insecurity.
Here's part of the Watts quotation from that book that I included in a 2008 post, "Real and false faith."
We must here make a clear distinction between belief and faith, because, in general practice, belief has come to mean a state of mind which is almost the opposite of faith. Belief, as I use it here, is the insistence that the truth is what one would "lief" or wish it to be.
The believer will open his mind to the truth on condition that it fits with his preconceived ideas and wishes. Faith, on the other hand, is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be.
Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown. Belief clings, but faith lets go. In this sense of the word, faith is the essential virtue of science, and likewise of any religion that is not self-deception.
Tepper isn't Watts, obviously. But his attitude toward faith is very much in line with what Watts said above.
Enjoy. I corrected one apparent typo and broke up some paragraphs for easier reading.
Belief and faith rest on qualities of personality. They do not depend upon proof. If you prove anything, there is no need of faith. Your proof ends the necessity, and possibly the romance of faith.
But it also ends the grounds for opinion.
Both faith and opinion thrive in the absence of information. They are the ways in which the human brain tries to bridge the gaps to create a clear picture.
Just as the brain fills in the blind spots in your visual field as best it can, just as it turns the image on your retina upside down, and takes curved lines and makes them straight before you see them, so too the brain fills in gaps of knowledge with its best guess and presents them to you as ideas that pop into your head.
It's a healthy process if you are going to test those ideas, and a harmful process if you are not.
The kinds of things your brain comes up with as explanations for what it doesn't know are opinion. And faith is largely in your own opinion.
But there is another kind of faith. Faith in the mystery of what we don't know.
Not faith in your version of God, science, or politics, or your certainty of a leader's strength or corruption on the basis of limited information, or their own claims, or even faith in your opinions about what is going on, or even your faith in someone else's opinion.
Because that isn't actually faith. It's just opinion.
And opinion is not only a poor substitute for Truth, it gets in the way of seeing Truth. And then we can confuse opinion for Truth. And that makes letting go of a favored opinion difficult when facts prove otherwise. Then we just reject the facts as someone else's opinion.
Real Faith is not knowing. It's loving confidently in that place where we know we don't know everything.
And what we experience, we understand is just from our point in space. Faith that new information is actually there but we don't see it yet. Living that way, because it is the truth. Faith that the invisible truth yet to be discovered is greater than any opinion.
Faith enough in what is there that you don't know, to give up opinion and say, confidently, honestly, "I don't know, and I don't think having an opinion about something I haven't experienced, something I have no actual knowledge of, is of any help in learning about that, in finding what I don't yet know."
Real Faith is no faith if it is faith in a preconceived opinion.
Faith is valuing the unknown Truth higher than any opinion, with the maturity to know from experience the dangers of holding onto opinion.
If there is a God, they would like you to put aside your opinions as a first step to seeing them. Even about God. And when you see them, you won't say "I see God", because that is just your label, your opinion, for what you are seeing.
You will just enjoy seeing what you are seeing. That's a higher value than trying to fill in the gaps of what can never be known, but fully experienced. The cost? Faith in your opinion.
-- Spence Tepper