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by David Truman

The magic disappearing act caused by negative faith illusions
 ow does faith work? We know THAT faith works, although we may never know PRECISELY or ENTIRELY how. We KNOW, in a general sense, that faith works by harnessing and directing the power of conviction; but HOW conviction influences us, the world around us, and the people in it, we cannot explain. Nonetheless, much about the workings of faith, and the factors that obstruct or empower it, is comprensible. Understanding those factors and using them intelligently can elevate faith in our lives to the status of a fine and useful art, if not a science.
Our inability to know exactly HOW something works is no great disaster; it simply puts us in the same position as our fellows in all fields of scientific investigation.
In physical science, the answer to the question of HOW something works is often restricted, to some degree, to the observation and measurement of processes at work. Science relies more on repeatability than on explanation to confirm the truth of its conclusions. Fortunately, the experimentalist doesn't need to know the exact mechanisms by which laws of nature operate in order to empirically verify that those mechanisms DO work -- and predictably so.
The operation of gravity offers a fine case in point. NO ONE can explain the inner workings of gravity, but EVERYONE accepts gravity as a fact. Moreover, we all USE gravity, and rely on it. We don't NEED to understand gravity completely to realize that gravity is reliable and predictable in its operation; our everyday experience is sufficient. We rely on gravity to keep our car on the road as we drive to work. And even the most dedicated student of gravity -- such as the physicist in the example to follow -- does much the same:
A physicist
relies on gravity
to keep his coffee in his cup
while he types a grant proposal
to get money for research
through which he hopes to become
the first person to find out HOW gravity WORKS!
In just the same way, we rely on faith. We depend on it to carry us along while we strive to comprehend HOW it works.
Of course, inevitably, the deeper you go, the less you understand. When water boils, a wondrous change of state occurs. The scientist knows a good deal about how water BEHAVES, and in this respect, he can say that he knows how it works: "I put liquid water on a burner, and when it reaches the boiling point, it becomes a gas." Very well. But comprehending the MECHANISMS involved in the change of state from liquid to steam -- the overcoming of the attractions between water molecules, in this case -- proves increasingly elusive the deeper you delve. While the existence of those inter-molecular bonds may be satisfactorily IDENTIFIED, HOW they work, exactly, is not well understood.
The force of faith is as real as the forces that hold physical matter together, and no less deep. No wonder we can't explain faith's operations with precision. The crucial thing is, our perennial inability to completely comprehend faith's operation does not prevent us from observing its principles of operation -- and USING them. It is in this limited sense that we dare to explain something about the HOW in "how faith works."
Limits of predictability
Although it can't explain everything, science moves forward using a principle that says, "A scientific experiment that produces a predicted effect may be taken as proof of the existence of natural laws." We judge faith by the same rule. Whether we find any particular faith belief credible or otherwise, we cannot deny that the EFFECTS of faith are REAL, and that the force of faith is as lawful as any force of nature.
But when it comes to the repeatability of faith results in operation, we cannot be absolutely sure, in a given instance, whether or not our faith will secure its desired results. Why NOT?
When an experiment fails to produce repeatable results, sometimes that condemns the hypothesis as false. But sometimes an experiment fails because its design has failed to control all the variables. This is a challenge human beings face in life AND in the laboratories of science.
Our physicist can't predict the outcome even of his own grant proposal, for this very reason. He knows that each year a certain amount of money is funded by the organization to which he is applying for support. But he does not know what kind of competition he faces. He knows the requirements for the grant -- but not whether he will be judged to have fulfilled those requirements. Most critically, he cannot be sure if his conviction that his research deserves support will be matched by the conviction of the people on the grant-approving committee.
But: does his present inability to perfectly control all the variables mean that he doesn't BELIEVE in grants and therefore, won't attempt to USE the mechanism? No, he WILL apply, bringing to bear everything he has learned so far about grants, because he knows this much for sure: Due diligence in fulfilling the requirements opens a real chance to succeed; not doing so guarantees failure: no cash, no research.
Fulfilling the requirements of faith
Almost any process, scientific or otherwise, depends for its reliable operation on certain CONDITIONS. Faith is no exception. To work as predicated or intended, specific conditions must be met. Fortunately, we are aware of the following complicating factors in the operation of faith -- and we know something about what they do:
1. Faith is not simply on or off: Faith comes in DEGREES. Heat boils water, yes, but it takes a certain AMOUNT of heat to do the trick. A lesser amount will warm the water, but not turn it to steam. Faith also comes in degrees. Faith CAN move mountains, but in any specific instance the question is, "How MUCH faith does it take to get this particular mountain moved?" Less than that may have no observable effect.
Example: Most people love it when the underdog wins. We are happy for the team that comes from far behind to claim a victory -- whether we favored them at first or not. And we are thrilled when, on occasion, an athlete overcomes disadvantages in physical endowment and preparation to become an Olympic champion. We admire such victors for "having a lot of heart" -- strong will backed by strong faith-conviction. These underdogs almost certainly prevailed because they had GREATER faith than their better-trained, physically superior, or more experienced rivals.
2. Faith is not instant: Force over time equals work accomplished. Again, heat boils water, but can heat bring cold water to a boil instantly? Not under normal circumstances! Likewise, faith doesn't normally achieve instant results. In each specific instance, the question is, "Over how long a time must faith-force operate to accomplish THIS purpose?" Faith that gives up too soon goes home empty-handed.
3. Faith is not alone: The successful operation of ONE faith is often offset by the successful operation of ANOTHER faith. Ironically, but understandably, apparent failures of faith's operation are often, in reality, its successes in disguise. For example, our physicist, in applying for his grant, surely knew that his faith in applying for a grant had power -- and that power would have some effect. But clearly, his faith-force was not the ONLY such force in town: the faith-force of the members of the grant panel, and of the competing applicants, all figured in mix. So, even if he didn't GET his grant, he could still declare, "FAITH WORKS!"
Likewise: Your positive faith-conviction never fails to exert an elevating influence upon others. But, some openness on their part is required. Otherwise, its degree may not suffice to overcome what must be overcome. However strong your faith may be, it will accomplish its uplifting purpose only to the extent that the strong faith-convictions of others do not offset its effects.
Happily, faith work is not simply a battle of convictions, a contest of brute forces in opposition, in the sense of, "May the strongest will WIN." At its best, faith work is a process of conversation, perhaps even of love, that may engender an amicable shift, or conversion. The beauty of strong faith is that it is capable of igniting similar faith in others.
Example: Today, two black sisters quite thoroughly dominate the traditionally all-white sport of tennis. From the time of their birth, their father believed his daughters COULD achieve that unlikely pinnacle, and WOULD. A more outrageous and implausible eventuality could scarcely be imagined. And yet, it HAPPENED -- because of one man's outrageous and unswerving faith, and the faith he kindled in his daughters. If their conviction didn't match his in the beginning, it sure does now.
So you see, apparent failures in the operation of faith suggest not that faith DOESN'T work, but perhaps that it ALWAYS works: to some degree, and in some location. BUT, three factors apply: Faith works BY DEGREES. It works OVER TIME. And, it works IN MANY PLACES.
Doubt in doubt
Here's an interesting addition to the consideration of various faiths working together, or at odds. Often, when positive faith fails to achieve its result, the failure is due to the presence of negative faith, in the form of doubt -- not OUTSIDE the faithful individual, but WITHIN them. When a person says, for example, "I can do it!!!!!!!?," the question mark imperils the success to which the exclamation points point. Doubt itself is an active agent of change, a potent self-fulfilling prophesy. For success to be insured, doubt must either be overcome by a stronger force of positive faith, or it must be erased by its own negating power: "I doubt EVERYTHING" a fellow complains to his friend. "Everything?," the friend replies. "Then I assume you doubt your doubt." The negating power of doubt is turned on itself when the doubter doubts his own doubt. TOP
Deviance: the power behind irrational and miraculous faith
There is another little-understood factor that powerfully affects the success of faith in producing results: the degree to which the faith-belief deviates from past accomplishments, general expectations, current appearances, and even from the conclusions of ordinary reason. TOP
The Old Testament story of David's surprise defeat of Goliath offers a good example of the potential of "deviant" faith to produce apparently miraculous results. None of the soldier's of King Saul's army dared confront Goliath themselves. Of course, they never dreamed that an untrained, teenage shepherd boy would stand a chance against the giant warrior. David's swift victory over Goliath is often counted as a miracle primarily because it was so unexpected. Perhaps it WAS a miracle of deviant faith. Or perhaps David's strong faith in God and in himself simply gave him the winning combination he needed: courage, confidence, and steady aim.
Faith that deviates greatly from accepted views of reality is often credited with producing miracles. But inevitably, significant deviance is also exactly what causes a faith-belief to be criticized as "irrational." Yet...
The deviance of faith (from present convictions, appearances, and even facts) IS the source of its power. Faith owes its seemingly miracle-making power to the contradiction of either reality or assumptions about reality.
Clearly, if faith suppositions did not transcend and contradict experience, faith could not possibly be effective in the transformation of experience. Without difference, there is only sameness! A hotter object imparts heat to a cooler one. Faith heats by bringing a hot idea into collision with a cold or chilling presumption. That's how observable events may be created, allowed, modified, influenced, or averted by virtue of faith. Viva la difference!
While the skeptics debate, believers create
If the integrity of science is to remain faithful to what IS, the integrity of faith is to assert its awareness of what COULD BE -- or perhaps, it dares to say, SHOULD BE. And it does this in creative contradiction to what IS. TOP
Example: The boxer Mohammed Ali certainly sparked enthusiasm with his constant refrain, "I AM the greatest!" Well, WAS Mohammed Ali the greatest? When he first declared it, no one but him believed so. Today, many people would wholeheartedly agree -- and almost no one could conclusively prove he wasn't. But whatever Ali's exact position on the peaks of greatness, his outrageous conviction played a large part in getting him there.
Telling himself, "I am a very good boxer" might have been more accurate in Ali's early days, but it would not have been even HALF as potent in creating his success. In fact, the ultimate potential of an idea to create change seems to literally be proportionate not to its reasonableness, but to its DEVIANCE -- to the difference between the heat of that idea and the temperature of the context upon which it is brought to bear.
Thus, faith is not merely a shot in the dark, a last ditch gesture, a Hail Mary pass in the football game of life. Even when living faith deviates sharply from the rational and from the known, it does not necessarily do so IRRATIONALLY: it can do so gnowingly, knowingly -- even scientifically. A veritable science of deviance may well engender this deviance-by-design.
The magic disappearing act caused by negative faith illusions
Life cannot be what it IS until and unless we stop thinking it is something ELSE.
One of the ways faith uses deviance to good effect is to contradict failure-producing negative faith with success-kindling positive faith.
It is a universal fact of human life, that "When I believe I can't do something, I can't do it." As a wise man said, "You can get past anything but your beliefs." In that sense, perhaps negative faith -- or doubt -- is the greatest miracle-power on earth. Every single day, negative faith does a grand disappearing act: It makes real and otherwise realizable everyday potentials seem to vanish in thin air. For example:
A very intelligent person will become unable to grasp a simple process as soon as they start to think, "I can't understand this."
A very attractive and likable person condemns themselves to a life alone once they decide they are incapable of finding a mate.
A person with great talent lets it go entirely to waste when they absolutely deny its very existence -- because they have negative faith in themselves.
Negative faith is so common, and so habitually practiced, that many of us have lost touch with many of our actual-but-latent abilities. Happily, positive faith can help to restore reality-appreciation of existing conditions: "I CAN understand this." Also, faith calls attention to the need to ACKNOWLEDGE and USE existing but hidden abilities, powers, and potentials -- powers that were either denied or unknown. Either way, the "magic" reappearing act of positive faith is nothing more or LESS than the restoration of the existing ordinary facts and potentials of life BEFORE it is crippled by doubt, denied by doubt, or doubted almost to death. As a result of faith, what was (subjectively) UNrealized, is restored to reality-awareness. What has gone unrecognized is re-cognized.
The religious might refer to this as "being what God created you to be" -- or, less radically, but with exactly the same meaning, "using your God-given talents." Atheists might prefer simply to say "using your personal talents" -- and leave out the God part. Whether we consider our gifts as coming from Divine or biological inheritance, faith is the key that unlocks life's potential.
Apparently, it is not always enough that God, or genetics, or evolution, gave us wonderful abilities and traits. Apparently, life cannot realize its own potential until that potential is acknowledged and supported, rather than denied. That is the function of positive faith. In the fields of human experience, faithful action alone summons forth the higher potentialities of existence -- potentialities which, though God-given, might not manifest without the faith seed of conviction.
At any given time, many things are POSSIBLE. FAITH is often the determining factor in what becomes ACTUAL.
Faith changes the instrument of change
Faith changes you, rearranges you. Or rather, you change yourself with it, and thereby change the world around you. A man who doubts the value of his marriage surely reduces its value by doubting it. TOP
The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in physics can help us understand how this works with faith. It says: The instrument of measurement invariably impacts the measured object -- which changes the measurement. In matters of faith, YOU are the instrument of measurement. Your faith changes YOU, and YOU change what you measure: everything you touch. With faith, YOU are able to become sufficiently DIFFERENT to MAKE a difference -- and more precisely, to make the particular KIND of difference you want to make.
The conclusion? Life's reality is plastic, and its formation is continuously subject to faith.
Finally: the beagle and his wings
Perhaps all of manifestation, in the end, depends on faith far more than we ever suspected. Should the beagle sprout wings and fly, what would have caused it? -- evolution, or creation? But before you answer, wait! Perhaps these two opposite explanations aren't so opposite after all. TOP
Perhaps the creative process of spirit plays a role in Darwinian evolution. Who said creation was finished on Day Six? And furthermore, who said the process of mutation, adaptation, and natural selection is entirely mechanical and utterly independent of the spiritual will of bodily inhabitants? Heck, if other animals wanted YOU for lunch, your little spirit might very well crave a new advantage! A hard shell? A venomous bite? Some wings, perhaps?
The paleontologist has his work cut out for him, particularly when forced to follow animal development along tortuous routes. The whale's ancient ancestors left the sea in order to evolve from fish to land-dwelling mammals. Later, the whale returned to the oceanic lifestyle -- this time AS a sea mammal. You never know how or where a given animal might turn up next! You have to wonder, why can't the whale make up its mind? Then another question dawns: Why does it HAVE TO make up its mind? Why not just, shall we say, wing it?
Of course, a thinking man might say animals cannot think, much less plan. Well, animals may not think, exactly, but they are certainly full of INTENTION. Fairly bristling with it, sometimes. Avoid being eaten! Bitch in heat! Dog after meat! Bite the postman! Now THERE'S a buffet of choice natural selections!
And here's something every dog owner knows: Dogs DREAM. WHAT, exactly, dogs dream, who can say? Who knows the full scope of Rover's dream life, what it may include? Flying dreams, perhaps? Or are flying dreams only for people? Who knows? But DARE to dream, doggie of desire, visionary companion! Dream on and on! Eagle high, whale big, cheetah swift! Penguin deep, elephant tine! Bat and caterpillar on the wing! For without dreams, how can one progress?
Why not? If, in the ongoing process known scientifically as natural selection, intentional choice works hand-in-hand with random mutation towards goals of survival advantage, then metamorphic intention -- metamorphic inspiration, even -- may emerge from spirit in MANY locations. The Great Spirit loses the chance for ONGOING creative expression when somehow, inexplicably, having created heaven and earth in six days, "omnipresent Divinity" is retired to a distant heaven. With that, all creatures may as well be dead meat. American Indians, however, in seeing the Spirit-power expressing in and through animal bodies, avoid that tragic loss, and all the ideological dilemmas such banishment causes. For them, every living creature gets to be a chip off -- or perhaps not OFF, but OF -- the old creator block. Like Father, like son.
Anyhow, if we dare credit animal kind with either spirit, or intention, or dreams, maybe beagles will WANT -- yes, and perhaps NEED -- to fly. Why not? Bats managed to become little mammals on the wing. If those little rats could sprout wings and fly, couldn't beagles do the same?
Granted, in order to grow wings, a beagle must first believe -- dare to dream -- that flying, for him, might be POSSIBLE. That becomes a faith-conviction issue, or a matter of dream daring -- things we must leave to the beagle.
May the beagle take to wing and fly!

by David Truman

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