When it comes to beliefs, can we always believe anything and everything? Yes! Well, then... should we always believe anything and everything? No! I think not. If we were to always believe anything and everything, we might eventually find ourselves believing in fiction, fantasy, deliberate lies, deceptions and propaganda, illusions, delusions and hallucinations of the mind, the warped perceptions of mental illness, and dangerously incompatible interactions that could kill us - Boom! So... I would say that, in most cases, it is advisable for us to pick and choose what to believe. This of course means that each of us has to acknowledge that we in fact have limits, and in doing so, deal with the idea of some day crossing a threshold of belief, beyond which we will choose to not believe.
Can we have it both ways; believe everything, but not believe everything? Yes and no! We can remain tolerant of all beliefs. We can remain open minded and promise to give everything a consideration of belief. But upon consideration of incompatible, or life threatening options, we will eventually have to not believe everything. Unless... of course... we choose to not value life. Most people though, do value life. So most people will face this choice of belief at some time in their life.
There is one other way we might be able to believe everything, but not believe everything, but it would lead to a condition of paradox that many might find objectionable. And, while I, personally, believe paradox to be a divinely inspired way of thinking, paradox is not really where we actually "live." So, within the confines of where we do live, trying to believe everything, but not believe everything, would probably lead to a dysfunctional degree of chaos that most people would find unacceptable. This would make for a very insane way of living. People tend to not believe in things that bring them insanity. They may deal with insanity, or even entertain notions of insanity for a while, like enjoying a ride at an amusement park that spins us topsy-turvy until we throw up, or watching a cat and mouse cartoon full of chaos, but most people don't base their beliefs on how those beliefs promise to make their life more insane on a permanent ongoing basis. Most people try to make sense of the world, not nonsense. So I'd say we are stuck with the idea of having to choose what to believe.
Everyone has a limit to their ability to believe. For some that limit may be way, way, way out there - able to believe many things, with little reason. For others, their limit of belief might be much closer - believing fewer things, and only for good reasons. For some, their reason to believe might be because something resonates with their intuitive sense of personal truth and reality. For others, their reason to believe might be because something resonates with their logical common sense when compared to publicly agreed truths and established realities. When things don't resonate, we consider them to be untrue, or in need of better reasons to believe. Some think that things only have to resonate from within to be thought of as true. Others think that things are more true when larger numbers of people agree that something resonates. In this way, truth emerges gradually between us. In the same way that people tend to congregate into clusters that grow from village to town to city, truth also emerges gradually to become a knowable entity we all recognize. People live together out of general agreement. Reality might ultimately be an illusion, but when people agree on what it is they think their senses are telling them about the world beyond their brain, a truth emerges. Truth emerges and grows in direct proportion to the number of brains expressing agreement (see the idea of Quorum Sensing in the essay The Totality of Reality elsewhere on this site). We will only believe in what resonates, and what resonates is what is true. Some, however, believe there simply is no such thing as any kind of truth... or reality.
Relative Truth vs. Absolute Truth
Some people attempt to avoid arguments about what to believe, by putting forth the theory that there is no such thing as truth, and therefore nothing in which to believe. Sometimes they specify that they mean no such thing as absolute truth - to which I would agree. Other times they argue that there is no such thing as any kind of truth - relative or absolute - to which I do not agree.
In a world where there is no such thing as any kind of truth or reality, I could tell someone that I am Superman, and that I can leap tall buildings in a single bound. If that person were to make the mistake of asking for reasons to believe me (within a world where there is no such thing as truth) by pointing to a building for me to jump, all I would have to do is say "Done." If they then made the additional mistake of saying, "I didn't see you jump any building" all I would have to do is say "that's probably because you used your eyes." With the absence of any notion of truth... a person being asked to belief something is not able, or not allowed, to not believe me. They have to believe me. Because... to not believe me, would be to acknowledge both a limit to belief, as well as a reason to not believe... a reason which would beg to be known.
Some will say that they don't have to decide whether to believe me or to not believe me, when I say that I am Superman, all they have to do is allow me to believe it. I would disagree. It is noble to be tolerant of other people's beliefs, but tolerance does not equal the absence of all notion of truth... that is... if the person being tolerant is being tolerant of something they themselves do not believe. In other words... if someone is not able - in their heart of hearts - to believe something... that is a limitation of belief - regardless of who else may or may not believe it. Allow me to believe what I want - yes. But if someone else, in their heart of hears, is not able to believe it too, that is a limitation of belief - whether acknowledged or not. Thus, in order for all notions of truth to be fully and completely extinguished, a person not believing in such a thing as truth would have to believe everything, or else, believe nothing. In order to have absolutely no truth, we would have to believe in absolutely everything, or absolutely nothing. It would not be possible for us to be anywhere in between, because, as soon as we believe in one thing (something that resonates) or not believe in something else (something that doesn't resonate) we would be expressing a belief in the relative truth of one thing over another - both within ourself, as well as among others, and the beliefs they offer for us to consider (see a similar notion in the essay Stop Being Human elsewhere on this site).
In order for there to be no such thing as truth, we would have to believe in absolutely everything, or absolutely nothing... or... be absolutely neutral. Because, to decide one way or another would be to admit the existence of relative truth. To remain undecided is to admit relative truth. The only thing we could do besides believing in absolutely everything or absolutely nothing would be to remain absolutely neutral... but only if we remain forever neutral about everything that crosses our path... never allowing any feeling of resonance or dissonance to move us, even a tiny bit, off of dead center, for the entire duration of our life - like a cold, indifferent, non-human robot. Because... as soon as we move from any of these three extremes, we will be admitting a belief in some kind of truth - private or public, relative or absolute (see the essay Be Gray Every Day elsewhere on this site).
Absolute neutrality of belief will eliminate all notions of truth. But... as mentioned above, absolute neutrality would also lead to a life of 100% endless dysfunctional paradox. Every notion to cross our mind would be an unresolveable, paralyzing paradox. And while this is indeed a Divine way of thinking... to a normal, living, breathing human it is an unsustainable state of existence. The severity of the neutrality required to maintain the absolute absence of any notion of truth would absolutely prohibit all normal functioning in life. Paradox is not where we live. As humans, we live everywhere but paradox. Thus paradox is no way to live. People function better when they allow resonance and dissonance to sway them one way or another. Thus, we establish the notion of relative truth - private or public (see the essay Good and Bad, Right and Wrong, Smile and Frown elsewhere on this site).
On an absolute level, we can believe absolutely everything, or... we can believe absolutely nothing, because... ultimately, we are all the same... all one. This is how we are, when we are stripped of our human aspects, and reduced to abstract notions of existence. But... as living, breathing humans, we are not so absolute. We are relative manifestations of absolute ideas. We are imperfect representations of perfect forms. We may strive to be absolute, but to succeed would mean annihilation of that which strives! Thus it is only for those who do not value life, that any absence of truth can be made absolute. For the rest of us... while striving for the unity of oneness, nothingness and Absentia that awaits us when we transcend our human form, we deal with things less than absolute.
So the question remains; what does each living breathing, imperfect, relative human believe, and for what reasons of resonance? Because of the idea of resonance, we are stuck with the idea of having to choose what to believe. How to we proceed?
The Branch of Reasons
So... we are stuck, having to choose what to believe? Based on what? I'd say, based on reasons. All beliefs have a reason to be believed. I don't think there is any such thing as "no reason." All belief has some reason - even if it is unexpressed intuition, a gut feeling, a hunch, or unrealized motivations hidden deep in the unconscious of the psyche... there is always a reason behind a belief. Even if it is simply the fear of not believing something - that is a reason. Even if it just a desire to not be someone who is ever accused lacking sufficient imagination with which to believe - that is a reason. People might say that they believe something for absolutely no reason whatsoever. But what they really mean is that they believe something for reasons that are unclear or unknown to them, or that they are not going to bother trying to understand, or that they are unable to express in ways that other people could understand. If they have no reason to believe something, they will not believe it. If they choose to believe it anyway, it means they found a reason, however weak or tentative or ephemeral, or however unrealized or unexpressed, even to themself.
All belief requires a certain amount of reason. The amount of reason required to believe something can be compared, by analogy, to a branch on a tree that may or may not hold a given weight of skepticism. Reason is the sap and fiber that gives that branch the strength it needs for us believe. Thus, people present reasons for their belief, so that a particular branch of reason doesn't get so thin it breaks, dropping us into incredulity. They do this when contemplating what they want to believe in the privacy of their own minds, or when presenting ideas to the public for peer review. Sometimes, like in the case of many religions, people only need one reason to believe: "Because God says so" and belief will obediently follow. Like the Fool walking off the end of that cliff, this type of person will walk right off the end of any branch of reason, with faith in hand. In other cases, like our own personal, unexpressed sense of "knowing" we don't need much in the way of reasons to believe what we believe, we just "know" it to be true, it resonates in ways that don't need to be explained to anyone - that is our reason. But... in cases where we have chosen to share an idea with other people, and we don't have the omnipotent authority to say "Believe it because I say so," we will typically need to employ reason, reasons and reasoning to keep any particular "branch of reason" from breaking.
Some people are gullible and will not break our branch of reason, even when our reasons are unclear, weak or not forthcoming - ideas will be accepted with the slightest reason. To someone presenting ideas to the public, that is almost as handy as being an omnipotent authority! However, when presenting ideas to people who are a bit more skeptical, the further out on that branch we go, the more reasoning we need to provide to keep the branch of reason from breaking under the weight of skepticism. Skepticism is like jumping up and down on a branch of reason to test its strength. People who are trusting and/or gullible don't do this, and in fact may tread lightly so as to not disturb delicate, fragile beliefs that would otherwise be broken. People who are cautious and/or skeptical will jump up and down, because they are looking for a firmer foundation on which to build beliefs. Other people do something between these two extremes, thus requiring varying amounts of reason to believe.
It is my belief... that this dynamic exists. In the public display of belief, some will share a belief without caring if it makes sense to anyone but themself, and without caring if anyone else accepts it, or what anyone else thinks of it. Others, however, get a satisfaction out of finding like-minded people who, through their agreement in belief, lend credence to an expressed belief as being relevant to a larger socially constructed reality of collectively agreed truths being actively built by a group of people seeking to understand the world in which we live. This is a very important distinction that should not be overlooked. Some people like to share, without any communal discussion about the relative truth value of their belief within a context of broader beliefs held by a majority. Others want to share with the idea of contributing to, and shaping - by way of communal discussion and interpersonal conversation - or quorum sensing - the relative truth value of those broader beliefs being held by the majority. In this dynamic, those who eschew the challenging conversations that can take place between themself and others, are free to believe any fantastic notion they want unabated by critique. They therefore have little need for explanation by way of reasons to believe. They don't want to feel obliged to give any, and they typically don't ask for any. On the other hand, those who welcome challenging conversations, critical examination, and communal discussions, in an effort to shape our socially constructed reality, will typically ask people for reasons to believe. And likewise, they will, or should, also be prepared to give reasons as well.
Does this mean that those who do not welcome challenging conversations, critical examination, and communal discussions... and therefore believe without borders... are always believing anything and everything? No. It just means they choose to remain indistinct as to where their threshold of belief lies. By not revealing where their threshold of belief lies, they remain uncommitted, and are able to change their beliefs on a whim to suit any circumstance. In this way, their beliefs are crafted, sometimes moment to moment, to serve their personal, needs. From this perspective, it is thought that nothing matters outside the mind of the individual. There is no socially constructed reality of relative truths to which they might contribute or shape, there is only the needs of the Self. Whatever belief will satisfy the needs of the Self, is acceptable to believe, without explanation or reason... other than the successful satisfaction of the needs of the Self. By detaching themselves from any notion of truth - relative or otherwise, and detaching themselves from any notion of reality - socially constructed or otherwise, they detach themselves from the obligation to establish any kind of agreement with others, or to commit to revealing any threshold of belief, which means... they only need to satisfy their own personal needs. Thus... they don't always believe everything, but they are free to potentially believe anything. Does that mean people who openly discuss the relative truth value of ideas in an effort to avoid deception and insanity and contribute to a wider social reality are not free? No, they too remain forever free to think whatever they want in the same way as those who remain forever uncommitted to any notion of truth or reality... by sticking only to what goes on in their own minds... detached from truth, and detached from reality.
I reject your reality and substitute my own! - Adam Savage
The incompatible ways in which we share can often lead to difficulties when it is unclear which mode of sharing is being put forth, and the fact that so many argue from only one side or another, rather than making any attempt to merge the two together in any way. This becomes especially difficult when a person who is sharing a personal belief that they don't want challenged in any way by public critique allows themself to be drawn into a critique, rather than abstaining, and clearly declaring their shared belief to be a personal belief with no desire for any further discussion. Thus, a problem occurs when people with a personal belief mistakenly express or imply a desire for others to share their beliefs, while at the same time neglecting to offer adequate reasons for acceptance. When a person with a personal belief makes the mistake of trying to get an idea to be accepted as part of a greater socially constructed reality of agreed truths, some will attempt the "Because I say so" route and suggest that their sense of "knowing" tells them that there is no doubt. Others will advance a belief thinking that if they tell people to use their intuition, that those people will naturally arrive at the same intuitive conclusions. For people who are trusting and/or gullible these modes of sharing might be enough. But, unless they believe the person to be spiritually connected to The Divine, most of the people who are devoted to building a firm foundation of socially constructed reality will want to hear a bit more reasoning, before stepping out on a branch of reason being presented to them by those presenting personal beliefs. This, I believe, is why we bother to explain... anything... ever. Give me a reason to believe... and make it a good one. If you are a mouthpiece for The Divine, then "Because God says so" might be enough. If you are not a mouthpiece for The Divine, I might want something more than "Because you say so" or "Because you 'know' so."
No one is obligated to give reasons. Everyone is free to believe whatever they want about anything. If someone believes that the only thing that matters in life is what goes on in the mind of the individual, anything can be believed. But... I think we should always, and continuously ask ourselves WHY we believe what we believe, if for no other reason that to insure that we are not lying to ourselves. So, the rest of this essay is devoted mostly to those who encourage challenging conversations, critical examination, and communal discussions of belief - internally and/or externally.
The Insanity of New Ideas - Going Out on a Limb!
An idea that did not fit the socially constructed reality of agreed truths 100 years ago, fits perfectly today. Truth and reality are relative, and grow and take shape as our collective wealth of knowledge grows and takes shape. Some people sit on the sidelines and watch... remaining eternally uncommitted. Some, however, participate in the shaping of what we think the truths of reality to be. In this process, some ideas fall by the wayside. Some are squashed by narrow-mindedness. Some are rejected, but persist. Others are discussed critically to a point where compromises are met and conflicting beliefs find common ground, resulting in a relative "truth" a group of people can all find reason to believe. When someone presents a new idea, it can, at first blush, appear to be quite insane, or at the very least an untenable fantasy. As stated above, people will exhibit a tendency to shy away from accepting ideas that promise to bring then insanity. They will want to convert the insane to the sane by looking for reasons to believe. If they are open minded, they will look for those reasons. If they are not, they may waste their energy trying to push away the insanity as nothing more than insanity. Thus, even the most articulate person will have a hard time moving someone across a branch of reason, if they are talking to a closed mind. A closed mind is a closed mind, and can be found equally among those prone to finding reasons to believe through intuition and instinct, as well as those prone to finding reasons to believe through logic and intellect.
When someone presents an idea that is foreign to the current social reality, they are attempting to extend a branch of reason into the unknown or the unfamiliar. The Trusting/Gullible will follow without question. The Cautious/Skeptical might follow... with numerous skeptical questions. Whether open minded people follow an idea is a matter of the quality and quantity of reason that is offered and the quality and quantity that is required. In this way, our metaphorical branch of reason does not belong to the person presenting an idea, and it does not belong to the person hearing an idea. The strength of the branch is determined by what is needed and provided by the person presenting an idea, AND, what is needed and accepted by the person hearing the idea. The Trusting/Gullible don't offer much, and, don't require much. The Cautious/Skeptical do. Thus, people who make wild leaps of imagination will only get other people to believe what they believe, if they build a branch of reason between the place they are (the insanity of their imaginative idea) and the place where others are (the sanity of an established socially constructed reality). It takes imagination to develop an idea. It takes imagination to skillfully present an idea. And in some cases, it takes imagination to understand some ideas. The fantasy and seeming insanity of new ideas becomes the reality and apparent sanity of belief, by way of reason and rationale - however faint and unexpressed those reasons may be to the self and others.
Imagination + Reason/Rationale = Belief
Reasons and rationale might be based upon intuition and instinct, or logic and intellect, or some mixture of both (see the essay Dreams and Dreaming, Stuck in the Mudaphor and The Vortex of Knowing elsewhere on this site). In either case, a person will not use the words "I believe" or "my belief" - to themself or others - without having first converted their imagination into belief by way of some reason or rationale. Thus, fantasies and seeming insanities that are NOT converted to belief by way of reasons are like leaves at the end of a branch of reason that are not getting any sap from the core tree of belief - they whither and die as people make their choices about what to believe and what to not believe. This process takes place inside the brain of each individual, as they build their own personal tree of belief and reality, and it happens in the brains of people who share ideas, as we build a collective tree of shared beliefs and reality. Here is a diagram that might help to understand what I mean:
A Belief Equation
|Imagination + Reasons and Rationale = Belief. Our willingness to believe is like a branch on a tree. Some will walk right out to the thinnest twigs, on faith, without a care. Others will only walk out as far as reason and rationale will hold their doubts. Some want to jump up and down with cautious skepticism to test the strength of the reasons and rationale given by others wanting belief to follow. Others will just believe with gullible trust whatever reasons and rationale are given by others wanting belief to follow. In our own minds, we can believe anything we want. Because... in our own mind, we can alter our form into that of a feather-lite bird capable of perching our imagination upon the thinnest branches around.
Failure of Imagination... or Faith?
Is the rejection of an idea, without even looking for reasons to believe, a failing of someone's imagination? Yes... well probably! Is the rejection of an idea, after spending some time looking for reasons to believe, a failing of someone's imagination? No! I think not. As stated above, our metaphorical branch of reason does not belong exclusively to the sender or the receiver of ideas, it belongs to both. So if one is inclined to attribute the rejection of an idea to lack of imagination they must accuse both the sender and receiver of lacking in imagination. In other words, it is the responsibility of the sender to offer substantial reasons to believe, and the responsibility of the receiver to look as deeply as possible into those reasons. If the sender provides little or no reason, and the receiver applies little or no effort, a branch of reason will not even appear between them. The trusting and/or gullible might reach across anyway with faith, especially if the sender is able to first convince them, with inexplicable, cryptic reasons shrouded in inscrutable mystery, that what they are offering comes from the mouth of The Divine, or from some other well respected spiritual source. The cautious and/or skeptical might be a bit less likely to reach across such reasons to believe.
But the failure of the cautious and/or skeptical to reach across with faith is not necessarily a failing of imagination. For either the cautious/skeptical or trusting/gullible type, imagination may or may not be capable of reaching across the given reasons to believe. People who are themselves locked into their rational mind think that it takes superior imagination to let go of the rational mind and believe something fantastic on faith. But.. in fact, it could also be argued that faith is actually nothing more than a way of reaching across anyway, where imagination has failed. In other words, it could be said that people who believe for reasons they don't understand are lacking sufficient imagination with which to visualize or grasp an idea, or are lacking a willingness to put forth the effort to look deeper for understanding. Likewise a skeptic might be fully capable of reaching across with imagination, but not always willing. In fact, often, a skeptical person will prove to be the one with the more extensible imagination, allowing them to imagine beyond what is being suggested to imagine possible consequences of belief... which might then foster the doubt... that would cause them to then ask for more or better reasons to believe. While the gullible ones will often prove to be the ones lacking in such extensive imagination... causing them to follow poorly presented fantasies and insanities blindly off a cliff... or off a branch of weak and unconvincing reasons, to their doom.
Faith is very prevalent among the ignorant masses obediently attending their religious services every week like so many zombies hypnotized by a mysterious man behind a curtain. This is why some of the more famous authors of tarot "mysteries" have published under fictitious names... in order to pretended to have acquired their ideas from Divine sources. Because... if they can first convince their reader that everything they are presenting comes from the mouth of The Divine, or some ancient document of wisdom from a more enlightened culture of long ago and far away, or a mysterious man behind a curtain, the subsequent reasons to believe do not have to be as substantial as they would if they admitted that their ideas are coming from their own imagination, fantasies or potential insanities. Thus... asking for more or better reasons to believe is not necessarily a failing of imagination. If anything, it is probably more commonly a failure of trust - trust that has not yet been earned... as is so often the case with trust, but whose lack of substantiation is willing to be overlooked by the gullible, wanting to believe in whatever tickles their imagination. Because... to those who are normally locked into their rational mind, anything that tickles or captures their imagination is seen as miraculous, and therefore worthy of belief. These people then look back on those not following them out on these thin branches of belief as pathetically locked into the rational mind they are leaving behind, and thus conclude that those who do not follow must be lacking in imagination that can't be tickled or captured.
As stated earlier, always believing in anything and everything, especially ideas that are offered with weak or questionable reasons, carries with it the potential for us to end up believing in fiction, fantasies, lies and insanity that could kill. So, if anything, it is the one who has the foresight to imagine consequences, and the energy to investigate deeply into given reasons to believe, who should be commended for removing danger from our path. Does this mean that anyone who does not immediately accept a spiritually inspired idea for all the potential consequences of goodness, and/or healing magic and miracles that they hold, is a narrow minded skeptic, locked into logical thinking of the intellect that will only believe ideas that can be explained in terms that are not mysterious, cryptic and inscrutable? No! Because... in some cases, it is actually possible for mysterious, cryptic, inscrutable reasons to be less than satisfactory, even to someone who is willing to embrace mysterious, cryptic, and inscrutable reasons! In this way, asking for more or better reasons to believe is not just a war between the left brained reckoning and right brained imagining people of the world. If we look deeper, we will observe that it is in fact entirely possible for two people of right brained dominant, faith-based, imagination-captured perspectives to require more or better right brained, faith-based, imagination reasons to believe each others right brained, faith-based, imagination-captured ideas! Thus... we see, that there are in fact varying degrees of willingness to believe on both sides of the "Belief Equation" diagram noted above. Requests for reasons to believe do not come exclusively from the logical minds of people with no imagination or faith. This is an important point that should not be ignored. Please do not ignore this most important point!
Having reasons to believe might protect us from lies and insanity, but the greatest objection many have to the idea of asking for more and better reasons to believe, and not trusting in our imagination... or the imagination of others pretending to "know" what is Divine and True... is how doing so increases the potential for us to miss out on believing in unexplainable miracles of life. Those who don't want to be burdened with any obligation of explanation will argue that a population that has no predators flourishes, meaning... that imaginative ideas, presented on faith, without rational explanation, would likewise flourish without critics asking for reasons to believe. This is true. Ideas without predators will flourish... good ideas, bad ideas, truths and lies, contradictions, hypocrisies, propaganda and insanities... they will all flourish. To some this is preferable; to allow an unmanageable clutter of lies, hypocrisies and insanities to flourish, if the only other option is opening themselves up to critical opposition that might cause us to miss one miracle or bit of magic. But... if we look carefully, there really isn't anything in this essay that demands the extermination of belief in things irrational, unexplainable, miraculous or magical. No matter what this essay says, everyone remains free to believe whatever they want, for whatever reasons, known or unknown, expressed or unexpressed.
Just Being Mean
Everyone remains free to believe whatever they want, for whatever reasons, known or unknown, expressed or unexpressed. In fact, as just mentioned, a person who believes in irrational imaginings of miracles and magic might even find themselves, one day, asking another highly imaginative "believer" in miracles and magic for more or better reasons to believe in their particular miracle or magic! Or... they might go through life as a completely gullible person, believing in anything and everything. Either way, a request for reasons to believe should not be taken as a demand for reasons to believe. A contrary opinion should not always be taken as a quest for narrow mined censorship or malicious trampling of delicate sensibilities. Not everyone who asks for more or better reasons to believe is just being mean.
Like the extent of the branch between us, belief is relative - a gradient spectrum between reckoning and imagining minds, with variable levels of belief along the way. Thus those who take anyone further toward the reckoning end of that spectrum than themselves as an enemy, locked into their rational mind and destroying belief, are viewing belief in unhealthy ways. A person who is questing, with questions about belief, is not necessarily an enemy, just because they are not quite as far out on that branch of reason as another person who feels as though their delicate grasp on their thin branches of belief is likely to be trampled by any request for reasons to believe. If we look closely, rather than taking offense, we might see that those requests are indeed coming from someone on very thin branches of imaginative belief themselves... looking... or questing... for more or better reasons to step out further. That relative positioning on a gradient spectrum of belief should not immediately and whole heartedly make them narrow mined enemies of the even thinner beliefs that someone fears will break if questioned in any way.
Everyone should be allowed to question any and all publicly presented beliefs, without being accused of lacking imagination, lacking trust, lacking faith, or being a narrow minded person locked into their rational mind, or... just being mean. Rather than throwing such wild accusation against those who threaten fragile beliefs, we should examine our own emotional fragility regarding our ability to weather storms of critical review of any kind. If we do not have the emotional fortitude to withstand the questions of questers, whether they too be sitting on thin branches of belief, or are completely rational and logical, we should re-consider our choice to share our beliefs in public. We can seek out groups of like-minded people we think will enable us, and never question a fragile belief. Or we can welcome critical review. In the end... everyone is forever free to retreat from critical review of their ideas into their shell of personal beliefs, where they can continue to believe whatever they want. This too is a very important point that should not be ignored. Please do not ignore this most important point!
Head in the Clouds, Feet on the Ground
Some people seek out groups of like-minded people who they think will not trample what they themselves may have admitted to to be fragile beliefs. When a quester with a critical eye enters such a group, that critical eye is often met with hostility, as those with fragile beliefs are all too often of fragile emotions as well, and unable to weather such critical abuse. Thus, when the enabling stops, the tears begin. By hammering down such nails of discontent with open hostility, a group can continue its enabling ways of fragile belief in miracles and magic. But what happens when that nail of discontent doesn't go down? And... more importantly... is hammering down nails of discontent really the best medicine a group of believers could hope for?
I think that the liberal mind that wants all ideas, lies, hypocrisies, propaganda and insanities to continue unabated by public opinion should apply that same liberal thinking to the acceptance of those who don't want lies, hypocrisies, propaganda and insanities to continue unabated by public opinion. The Belief Equation mentioned above promotes this idea of tolerating all points of view, rather than turning differences of opinion into a "left brain vs. right brain" war, or a "share without examination vs. share with examination" war, or a "no truth or reality vs. relative truth and reality" war. The tarot card of Temperance teaches us to moderate our behavior. The Belief Equation teaches the same thing. Head in the Clouds, Feet on the Ground says that balance between extremes promotes a balanced perspective that is capable of tolerating either extremes equally and blending them into a hybrid that expresses the best of both worlds. I believe this should be our goal (see Stuck in the Mudaphor and The Vortex of Knowing elsewhere on this site).
I think the idea of "Head in Clouds and Feet on Ground" says it all. It says yes to living within the context of our own minds, detached from any and all notions of ultimate truth and reality, to believe anything we want and let our imagination soar unabated by critical examination of any kind. But then it also suggests that we look outside our own personal space to acknowledge the relative truths and relative realities of life among others of our kind... and perhaps even beyond... and in what ways our beliefs would shape that relative truth and relative reality if we were ever to make such a public contribution with that which we think we "know." The Belief Equation does not suggest that we believe whatever fragile belief we want, surround ourselves with like-minded people who will protect and enable us, and hammer down with hostility any nail of discontent that sticks up.
Head in the Clouds - Feet on the Ground
Don't believe in something JUST because you want to. Believe because of how it MIGHT help explain or confirm some other idea. Head in Clouds says: Use all the tools available. Try everything. Believe in that which works. Feet on Ground says: Keep looking for something better. Don't stop at what you believe. Keep asking questions. Keep listening to answers.
The Belief Equation says, merge the two.
Head: Stretch your imagination
Feet: Keep it real
Head: Fly that Kite
Feet: Hold that String
Head: Be Silly
Feet: Be Serious
Head: What goes up...
Feet: Must come down...
Head: Answer Questions
Feet: Question Answers
Head: Trust everyone (be a believer)
Feet: Tie up your camel (be a skeptic)
Head: Share experiences - (be emotional)
Feet: Provide evidence - (be rational)
Head: Religion says: 'Believe and you will understand.'
Feet: Science says: 'Understand and you will believe.'
Is balance an inherently evil destructive force? I think not. So... I try to argue in favor of blending opposing worlds (see Stuck in the Mudaphor , The Vortex of Knowing, The Pentacle Person and may other such essays elsewhere on this site). I advocate mixing the warm fuzzy fantasy with the cold hard reality. I have more than one mandala that speaks implicitly with symbolism, as well as literally with words, about the notion of merging opposing perspectives. But, as mentioned several times already, many seem to prefer arguing mostly from only one extreme. It is always a surprise to me when a suggestion to adopt a balanced perspective is met with resistance, hostility and ridicule - but it often is. At the same time, however, I can definitely understand the seductive attraction to the complete, one sided abandonment of all sense, reason, truth, reality and consequence. The flexibility to believe anything is whatever we want it to be, whenever we want it to be that, is tremendously liberating.
The Intoxication of Imagination
Merging left brain and right brain, or fantasy and reality is a way of keeping us from going to dangerous extremes. Temperance is a virtue. Some, however, do not want to be so tempered. To some, the abandonment of sense, reason, truth, reality and consequence is so liberating they don't ever want to go back. They become addicted to the freedom of thought and unbridled imaginings... and eventually begin to look for ways to sustain their rejection of sense, reason, truth, reality and consequence so that their life can become a permanently sustained "high" of imaginative bliss. As suggested above, from a perspective like that, anyone who tries to bring them down with a "reality check" is viewed as a big dumb, unimaginative, left brained, literal thinking looser who just doesn't get it. But is the rejection of sense, reason, truth, reality and consequence really sustainable? For reasons outlined above... I think not... except... of course... to those who do not value life. Thus it is the point of this essay to put forth the opinion that some people indulge in the liberation of "no truth, reality or consequence" to unhealthy degrees, and take their imaginative "highs" to strained, and sometimes even dangerous extremes, while subsequently locking out all critical review that might bring them down from their high. If someone is engaging in such activity to brainstorm imaginative ideas for the purposes of entertainment, I'd say go, go, go. Or... if the goal is to free associate for private needs of psychoanalysis, I'd say go, go, go. But... if the purpose is to convey substantive knowledge about some aspect of an alleged reality in which we all live, people should not fault others who might feel compelled at some point to suggest that a "reality check" take place.
Thus... the point of this essay is to suggest that, in fact, there are actually great benefits to the idea of giving ourselves a "reality check," every once in a while... in other words... to sober up from the intoxicating indulgence of imagination and fantasy that tarot so often fosters within us, as we necessarily indulge in subjective imagination as a requirement of interpretation of meaning in readings. But those who don't believe in any kind of truth or reality, and don't want to be sobered up, are not very likely to agree with this. They will prefer to remain as far into that other realm as they can, for as long as they can. Thus, it is under just such conditions that these "liberated" people begin to believe things that sober people find difficult to adopt without more or better reasons to believe... sometimes leaving them to believe someone to have gone too far. But often, expressing that kind of opinion to someone so far out on such thin branches of belief is like trying to suggest to someone the possibility that they might have a drug or drinking problem. In other words... to suggest sobriety of imagination in a world of tarot enthusiasts is, in many ways, akin to preaching sobriety from alcohol in a bar! People are very likely to say "Get the hell outta here, that's why we come to tarot, to escape reality, by getting drunk out of our minds on our imagination and never going back. That's how we expand our consciousness and become spiritually enlightened, you ninny!" Don't take that away! What's the matter with you? Get with the program!"
While some might contend that maintaining a permanent "high" of "liberated" thought is hard to argue against, it would be the opinion of this essay that to start with no limits is good. To push all limits is good. And... that fantastic conscious expanding things can result from the chaotic, random, irrational thinking of an unbridled imagination. But... flying to the Sun on wings of wax, or... tipping at windmills... is maybe not quite as good. Thus, this essay suggest the occasional asking of where the line is, between going far and going too far? Who decides... anyone... ever... no one... never? If there's no such thing as sense, reason, truth, reality and consequence then there is no such thing as insanity... so empty the asylums. If there is no such thing as consequences, release all the murderers, rapists and pedophiles from prison. If there is no such thing as consequences or insanity, then there's no such thing as addiction, so have another drink... and another... and another... and another, don't stop there... have another... and another... until the affected imagination in question becomes deadly to the self and others!
The attraction of escaping reality is completely understandable... and while things like insanity might be entertaining... from a distance... or even useful... to a point... some may hope to be excused if they don't jump at the opportunity to follow the ideas of someone they think might be drunk, delusional, or insane, without first taking the time to ask for more or better reasons to believe. Which many will do because... during moments of being human... they value life.
The Opiate of the Masses
Unfettered belief is intoxicating because it is liberating. In being liberating, it is relaxing. In being relaxing, it removes us from the stress and strain of everyday life. It takes energy and effort to apply a critical eye of examination to things and assess their strengths and weaknesses relative to our socially constructed sense of reality. Unfettered belief takes us away from that. Unfettered belief abandons all obligation to make sense... relative to our socially constructed reality. Unfettered belief releases us from the need to apply effort and energy toward critical examination. In this way, unfettered belief is like a sleeping pill that puts us to rest, and shuts out the real world.
By believing in whatever we want, without any obligation to make any of it fit in any way within our socially constructed reality, we get what we want - 100% of the time. That doesn't happen when we publicly offer our beliefs up for critical examination for how well they fit in, or how well they enhance or advance our understanding of reality. When that happens, some of our beliefs might survive, and others may not. Or... all of our beliefs may not survive. But if we avoid all that, by just believing what we want to believe, in spite of all the collected evidence against us, 100% of our beliefs survive. Therein lies the intoxication of belief... in the guaranteed 100% getting of what we want.
Believing in something, in spite of evidence against believing it, is honorable. Escaping into a fantasy world, so that we don't have to ever give up what we want to believe is not honorable - it's cowardly. Inarticulate people with no hope of ever convincing anyone of the relative truth value of a belief are the most prone to the cowardly escape from critical examination of ideas. Ignorant people with no hope of ever understanding the critical examination of ideas are the most prone to the gullible acceptance of belief. It takes ENERGY and EFFORT to critically examine the ideas that bombard our minds every day. It takes little to no energy or effort to just believe. That is why more than one person in history has referred to organized religion as the opiate of the masses.
Living life in a cocoon of personal beliefs that are forever protected against all critical examination is cowardly. Putting those beliefs to work at the task of understanding the nature of our existence is honorable. That doesn't mean that everyone should have the same ambition of wanting to prove every belief to the point of being accepted by the socially constructed reality. It only suggests that we should all remain open to having our beliefs taken away when we encounter convincing evidence provided by those who do choose to prove things. Like giving up the Earth centric idea of our solar system for the Sun centered model, we should not just believe, just because we want to... just because we are afraid to let go of the 100% guarantee of having what we want. The healthiest minds are the ones that are continually questioning everything they believe. Not all minds need to be that vigilant, but all minds that want to consider themselves healthy should at least be open to questioning beliefs, if or when any opportunity to do so should ever cross their path.
Pruning the Tree of Knowledge
Asking for more or better reasons to believe is a good and helpful practice, no matter which side of the Belief Equation we are on, no matter how much faith or doubt we have, no matter which way we share ideas. It is important to not stagnate in our perceptions, but to continually challenge our perceptions. An idea, presented by an author, might be genius or it might be stupid, we will never know if everyone who looks at it is so liberally minded as to blindly accept any and all ideas on faith, and allow them to stand unopposed. And... if anyone who speaks out with criticism against an idea is accused of lacking imagination or of being hopelessly narrow minded and locked into logical thinking of the intellect, blind acceptance of the stupid is precisely what will happen - and does. Intimidating accusations of a pathetically failing character are convenient weapons for the inarticulate to wield against critics. It is a weapon that many use in the avoidance of examination by others. But it is my belief that avoidance of critical examination does more harm than good, both to individuals building their own reality, as well as the building of the greater socially constructed reality of truths we believe to exist between us all.
Thus it is, that I believe the critic - both external and internal - to be as necessary to the advancement of our beliefs as the free thinking person who invents ideas for us to consider. When a population has no predators, it explodes and diminishes the quality of life for all. Likewise to our current analogy involving a branch of reason, the pruning of a tree can also be beneficial. It is often sad to see branches pruned from a tree, but if we acknowledge that it is done for the good of the tree as a whole we can see it as necessary to improved growth. Thus, to put this in terms given to us from sources devoted to the mysterious, cryptic, and inscrutable, we should take a page from the alchemists and separate the subtle from the gross... individually, collectively and continuously. Separate the subtle from the gross, the wheat from the chaff, the cream from the milk. Prune the tree, thin the herd, purge the poisons, weed the lawn, take out the garbage.
In short: write... then edit.
If the ideas on this site sound insane to you, please help me define that line by giving me feedback. If you are finding something anywhere on this site hard to believe, ask for more or better reasons to believe! For more on this idea of belief and how and why we choose to believe this or that, consult the essay The Tether.