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Learn to live with questions

As a Hermetic, I’m often in touch with sources of information that many people do not have ready access to. Still, a lot of information is withheld. It seems like humans aren’t given a lot of answers on purpose.

Many people of faith (of every faith) have a hard time with this. The very fact that we aren’t capable of knowing everything is, in part, what produces fundamentalism.* Some people are utterly tortured by that lack of knowledge; their worldview relies upon constants, and when the ideas thought to be constant are frequently moving, shifting, and outright changing, we humans can come to crises. It is important, therefore, to carry several tools in your faith kit along your spiritual path.

First of all, be skeptical. This does not mean that you shouldn’t believe anything; frankly, that’s impossible in any case. Instead, be careful about the ideas and answers that you do accept. Always ask questions; the Socratic method is nothing to be ashamed of.

Second, love the questions. Learn to accept uncertainty as a gift from the Divine, ever leading you to explore His mysteries and His creation. Questioning the assumptions of your faith is not a sin, but instead a great compliment to God as it displays your willingness to use your divinely-gifted talents and intellect. We are here, in part, to learn, so learning is never wrong of itself.

Third, Occam’s razor! This one gets thrown around a lot, but it really can be helpful. In essence, any answer you come to should make the fewest number of assumptions possible to the situation. That will tend to keep you on a reasonable track. Of course, in matters of spirituality, we often have to run full-bore held aloft by unproven hypotheses, but we need to be fully conscious of the fact when we do and understand the limitations of our situation. As Galileo Galilee said, “Religion teaches us how to go to heaven; science teaches us how the heavens go.” Faith has its place.

While it sometimes makes me feel uneasy, I really enjoy the search. I get to exercise my intellect, along with my intuition, gut instinct, and my heart. Body, soul, and spirit get involved in equal parts and the whole process is exhilarating.

*For a fascinating historical and idealogical analysis and account of the rise of fundamentalism in the Abrahamic faiths, see, The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong (2001, Ballantine Books)

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