‘Faith’ is a word that is sometimes easily dismissed, but it carries a great importance for our progress on the spiritual path, as Hazrat Inayat Khan makes clear in this text.
Often people use the word ‘faith’ in the sense of the particular religion they follow, whether they belong to the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or another religion. And in this way they obscure the real meaning of faith, which is light itself. Faith is not necessarily a belief, but faith is the culmination of belief. Belief is a conception; a conception which one has formed oneself or a conception of a certain idea arrived at by reading something. A person will hold this belief as long as his reason is not strong enough to root it out, or as long as he does not meet someone who will dig it out, or as long as he has not had an experience which entirely destroys it. How many does one see in the world around, counting spiritual words on their rosary, sitting in churches with eyes closed, worshipping every Sunday; and yet when someone who is more intellectual and whose reasoning is more powerful meets them he is able to change them completely. From being orthodox such a person has become a practical man, from a dreamer he has become wide-awake!
No doubt one belief can be stronger than another. A sheep-like belief is a belief, which everyone holds without admitting it. People think that they have a reason for believing that which they believe, but this is not always so. Often a person thinks that he has a reason for something, but he may be wrong. Religious questions apart, when one comes to political matters, a man may be raised up by one person’s influence and the whole country follows him; he becomes the man of the day. Everyone follows him with his eyes shut. But then he may be despised by someone else and the crowd despises him too. That is crowd psychology. At the same time everyone says, ‘I am an intellectual. I always tell the truth for I know what I am speaking about.’ But is it so? It is not. When I went to Russia I saw pictures of the Czar and the Czarina in every little shop. Do you think the people did not have a feeling of adherence to the Czar? Was it all hypocrisy? It could not have been. And what happened the next day? They broke the crowns in the street with hammers and carried them in their processions. Where had that belief gone, which one day was so great that they thought that the portrait of their Czar was sacred? Next day the belief was changed; it took no time. You may think, ‘This happened in Russia’; but you will see it in every country just by studying the psychology of the crowd.
Therefore wise people have never depended upon the praise of the crowd. They have always known that it was worth nothing. Buddha, with all the worship and praise given to him did not even look at it. He kept his work before his eyes, his service to humanity, and so did all the sages and prophets and seers and thinkers; they never believed in the praise of mankind, in its love and affection. What is it? The man who has not reached the realm of faith is not living; he does not yet know his mind. One day he believes something, the next he does not. Therefore faith is not only adherence to a certain religion or belonging to a certain church; faith is much greater than that.
The next step on the path of belief is that one does not believe something because the crowd believes it, but because it comes from a certain authority. This is the child’s belief, but at the same time this is the way one has to go. The child progresses when the mother says, ‘This is called water,’ and it repeats, ‘Water.’ It does not argue and say, ‘It is not water, it is bread.’ It just listens and believes and that is the way it begins to learn.
Then there is the third step, when the belief has a reason, when one says, ‘Why do I believe? Because I have a reason for it. I can explain my belief; therefore I believe it is such and such.’ This belief is more dependable. Yet, is reason always dependable? Reason sometimes proves to be so tricky that one day a person may reason out a certain thing, and the next day he has every reason to root out his belief. For is it not reason that makes the evildoer commit evil? No one does anything without reason. One day a person reasons how to do something, and after only a couple of hours he may discover that it was not a good reason.
To be continued…