RELIGION: Faith should grow into knowledge

Earlier, we discovered faith (“pistis” in Greek, “fides” in Latin and “emunah” in Hebrew) “provides the entry point or gate in discovering what is vital beyond the surface of appearances. In faith, there is no attempt to think, comprehend or reason. It is the first step towards the possibility of attaining knowledge.”

From this perspective, faith is “the expectant attitude of the individual mind, which renders it receptive” to the deeper insights if the person is eager and open-minded. Knowledge is not a hindrance or the opposite of faith but a natural progression from faith.

Open-mindedness is the effortful willingness to see things afresh and a constant examination of assumptions.

Knowledge (“jnana/jina” in Sanskrit, “gnosis” in Greek, and “daath” in Hebrew) involves having a close acquaintance or intimacy with something or someone. “To know” is “gno” in Greek.

“Truth without facts and evidence” is a relationship with the outer aspect (husk, shell, phenomenon) and, therefore, exoteric. “Phenomenon — the appearance which anything makes to our (physical senses) as distinguished from what it is in itself.” (Chambers’ Twentieth Century Dictionary).

It “has no systematic process and no empirical method to employ to determine the authenticity of its claims and beliefs, much less right and wrong.”

Materialistic or physical sense experience is for the majority, ordinary-minded or ‘‘ho polloi’’ (a Greek expression meaning “the many” and is used in English to denote “the masses/commoners” or “the people”) because they are of the “unquestioning devotion, conviction or certainty and exactitudes.”

The outer surface or shell is a reality observed using the five physical senses and a life of unquestioning compliance with and submission to human-made “letter”, i.e. authority, laws, injunctions, ceremonies, rituals and procedures.

The “letter” is the “pattern of life . . . standardised, routinised, and mechanised like canned food.” — Emma Goldman.

People may easily become dehumanised victims or hostages of crude “desires, beliefs and expectations” of three poisons of life — hate, craving and delusion.

“The average brain is naturally lazy and tends to take the line of least resistance. The mental world of the ordinary man consists of beliefs which he has accepted without questioning and to which he is firmly attached, he is instinctively hostile to anything which would upset the established order of this familiar world. A new idea, inconsistent with some of the beliefs which he holds, means the necessity of rearranging his mind, and this process is laborious, requiring a painful expenditure of brain-energy. To him and his fellows, who form the vast majority, new ideas, and opinions which cast doubt on established beliefs and institutions, seem evil because they are disagreeable.” John Bury, “A History of Freedom of Thought” (1913).

Perceiving truth by faith alone is not only immature but also dangerous because it makes people “hide behind a facade of appearances, concealing true intentions, indulging in pretensions and defensive behaviour, rarely revealing true thoughts and seldom being honest with ourselves and others.”

“Truth with knowledge” is the balanced adherence to the “letter” and the “spirit” (an inward understanding and awareness of the powers or faculties of human agency i.e. reasoning, discernment and causation and virtuous conduct).

“Truth with knowledge” is perceptive focuses on the core or inner aspect (kernel of truth or esoteric), whose core or internal quality is called essence. This ‘‘noumenon’’ (Greek) and ‘‘sulaalah’’ (Arabic) means ‘‘something extracted, the best part of a thing’’.

“Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible laws and connections, there remains something subtle, intangible, and inexplicable.” — Albert Einstein (1929).

Knowledge based on essence or kernel of reality is the consciousness that comes with conquering three walls – mind (ego); socially conditioned interests, fears and circumstances; and the afflictions of time and space. This is the adherence to the “spirit” basing all “convictions upon evidence . . . for what is noble, beautiful and gentle” (Bertrand Russell, 1957).

Therefore, the truth about the reality of life, nature and humanity are generally made up of a triad nature, an internal quality (subtle, conceptual, causative, innovative and creative) and an external quantity (gross, physical, effect, consumptive) and the balanced or unbalanced relationship between the two.

“To encourage men to trust Reason throughout, and to trust nothing that Reason does not establish — to examine all things hopeful, respect all things probable, but rely upon nothing without precaution which does not come within the range of science and experience; and To teach (humanity) that the universal fair and open discussion of opinion is the highest guarantee of public truth — that only that theory which is submitted to that ordeal is to be regarded, since only that which endures it can be trusted.” G. J. Holyoake (1852).

Rabbi Maimonides, a pre-eminent medieval Hebrew theologian, advised that all theological questions should be investigated without fear or reservations and evidence followed whenever it might lead. Those who abandon their reasoning when interpreting the Scriptures, like fundamentalism or verbalistic fideism, are actually distorting Scriptures’authentic meaning by refusing to use their faculties of mind to reason, discern and cause. The correct way of reading Scripture includes scientific reasoning, which is also a tool of spiritual discernment. A Guide for the Perplexed (1885).

 

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