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Religious Gathekas

(To be read at the Service of Universal Worship)

Religious Gatheka Number 42

Belief and Disbelief in God

Belief is natural, and disbelief is unnatural, for belief is born in man, and unbelief is acquired. If the child had been born with unbelief, he would not even have learnt the language of the mother. If she had said: 'This is water,' the child would have answered: 'No, this is bread.' Every child born on earth is born with a tendency to believe what is told him, but the experience of the individual in this world full of falsehood teaches man to disbelieve. That shows that every soul comes from the world of truth, and opens his eyes in the world of falsehood. Every child comes into the world with that purity of heart whose natural tendency is to believe and later he acquires the tendency to doubt. The Prophet has therefore said: 'Every child is born a believer, it is afterwards that he becomes an unbeliever.'

The right explanation of unbelief would be that everything that is strange to man he explains by his reason, by the knowledge he has already acquired, and when it does not tally with what he already knows, he disbelieves. For doubt is earth-born and belief is heaven-born. Light is caused by the sun, and shade is caused by the earth. The light of the soul, therefore, is belief; and the mind gives unbelief. At the same time, in belief a hidden power exists, and that power is called self-confidence. The person who trusts another does not always trust by the power and influence of another person, but by his own power and influence.

If it were in the power of the person to make another believe, then every great soul that came in the world would have made the world believe in him and his word. Belief is according to the power of one's self-confidence. You find the tendency to trust in a brave man, in a wise man, in a great man; but the tendency to doubt and disbelieve you will find in the weak and insignificant man, who does not know what he believes. This shows that he who trusts himself will trust all; and he who does not trust himself cannot trust anybody. The person who trusts another and does not trust himself, his trust is an illusion, his trust is not alive. It may appear as strength, but it is a weakness. He holds on to something he does not know, and it seems trust. A person who cannot believe in himself cannot believe in a friend, and he who does not believe in another, how can he believe in God, who is beyond the comprehension of man?

Now, coming to the idea of the belief in God: Everything in this world we each of us see according as our sight allows us to see it. Therefore one chooses for oneself a particular color. One chooses blue, another red, another violet. If one color had the same effect upon every person's eye and mind, everyone would choose the same color. And so with form. Then coming to feeling: Although we can understand by words such as love, gratefulness, sincerity, beauty yet the sense of love, sincerity, gratefulness, or beauty in the heart of one person cannot in any way be compared with the same feelings in the heart of another person. Therefore each person's belief is peculiar to himself. It is not only that there are so many different faiths in the world, but in one particular Church how many differences! When you come to think of this subject still further, if you think of the people attending one church, if you examine the feelings of each person, they are different.

Everything in the world that has a name is imaginable; the One and Only Being the imagination cannot reach is God. And yet as God is manifested in all things and in all beings, so in all things and in all beings there is always a part which is unimaginable. That itself is the proof that God is not only a separate God beyond comprehension, God is all and all is God. Man can reach God only as far as his imagination can take him. But the most sensible thing man can do in the pursuit of God is to humble himself and bend in all humility, and say: 'Thou art farther than I can ever reach, and all I can do is to accept Thee in all humility.' The one who, by understanding the idea 'God in man', claims: 'I am God', he, besides all errors, deprives himself of the great beauty of journeying from man to God.

Man in all ages has tried to imagine, and has passed his imagination on to his fellow men, saying 'God is such and such.' He has seen in the fire the purifying influence, he has worshipped it, and believed in it, and said to man: 'I see God in this.' He has looked at the sun as something which is standing before the world without protection, and giving light: He has said: 'I will worship it.' Man has imagined God in nature, he has given sacredness to trees to some birds and animals, and has called them sacred and has worshipped God in them. That shows that there is somewhere the ideal of the divine in man, his tendency is to reach it, but he does not know where to reach so as to admire and worship. There have been times of the world's rise and fall, times of evolution and times of degeneration, and with these have come times when man has worshipped God in nature, and times when he has worshipped God in animals. He has constantly striven to reach some Ideal, for the trying to reach brings him a happiness that nowhere else he can find in the world.

When the tendency of imagining God reaches still higher man found greater manifestations of God, not in animals or in nature, but in man. And as all things in this world of variety have superior and inferior degrees so the Divine is seen more at one particular stage of man's evolution. No doubt man is proud and has the spirit of rivalry and of jealousy. He never gives in to his fellow man, however spiritual and however greatly the Divine be expressed by him: Man has always fought for what he calls the equality of man. All the keys of a piano produce sound, but if they were all equal where would the music be? Some are higher and some are lower, and all together make the music.

There is a saying in the Hindu language that the diamond does not require to tell its price; its nature, its light, proves it. Those who came with the Divine Spirit gave light, the Message from Above, and their work proved what they brought. Man has always shown his childish tendency. Man is not only a child when he is young, but often man is a child all his life. In every period of the world's history people have fought together, some for one Master or scripture and some for another. It is just like people from one country fighting people from another country, saying: 'Your country cannot produce diamonds;' or 'On your coast there are no pearls to be found, but on our coast there are plenty.' Man clings to the exterior form of scripture and teaching, and has lost hold of the spirit, whose light pervades all over the earth. People have given up their religion, but still churches exist and scriptures exist. What is lost? It is the Light which illuminates and gives man his belief.

Doubt acts as a cover over all things, right and wrong. Today doubt is a cover over multitudes, over nations, over races and communities. Can you remember one instance, in history when one race distrusted, not another nation, but a whole race. The friendship between men and races and nations and religions is all for interest. The central theme of the whole life is selfishness, not that confidence and belief that Christ has taught to man. Religion without confidence is a religion without foundation, but a religion based upon confidence, that is the true belief!

Belief can be explained as being in four different grades: One belief is that which comes by the strength of collectivity 'if my neighbor is of the same belief, of course that is the true thing, I must believe it also.' This is not different from sheep and goats, when one is walking, all the others go with it; if the leader goes East, all go East, because the belief of one strengthens the other. Of course it cannot be helped, it is the nature of man; but if this collectivity is wrongly directed, it must result in disaster. For such a belief there are two ways open, the right way and the wrong way; but one thing must be understood belief is the path not the goal. The one who stays on the path is at a loss, but the one who walks on the path will reach the goal. Belief which does not raise man but keeps him in the same place, is a dead belief, and the man who holds that belief is a dead believer. But the belief that opens a path for man, that belief leads to the goal.

The second kind of belief does not depend upon collectivity, but upon man's reason. He reasons out his belief, and he fortifies his belief by the strength of his reason. This belief with reason can become a secure foundation, but at the same time reason is a danger to belief and reason can destroy belief. The one who makes his belief lead and reason follow, finds his way illuminated; but he who makes his reason lead and his belief follow, finds that his belief has no existence. Belief is heavenly and reason is earthly; belief we have brought with us, but reason we have learnt here.

The belief of the third sort is conviction. In this stage one believes, not only from reasoning but by examples, not only by theories but by the experience gained by practice. One believes what one's soul apprehends, what one's own soul tells one. It is beyond the power of the generality to arrive at this belief. Thus, for instance, two people may say, 'We are one in spirit,' because, although they may not have the same joys and sorrows, they know that they are one in spirit. To take another example, one may believe in the same way that the source and the goal are the same.

The fourth kind of belief is: actual realization of what one believes. This belief cannot actually be spoken of in words; the ultimate belief is no more belief it is reality. If it is sufficient for our life to believe what others believe; if we are content with that; then that is sufficient for our purpose. But if there is the desire in our soul to arrive at such a belief where doubt does not exist, where all is seen as clearly as in the daylight, then we must seek for a way to advance in our belief.

Therefore what Sufism teaches and the Sufi strives after is to arrive, from the state of the belief of the collectivity, to the state where everything is as daylight and everything is clear. We all seek light, in an earthly form or in a heavenly form; the difference is which light we seek for. This proves that every heart is longing for the light. Wealth, power, and position will not suffice his purpose, and in the end man must attain the light of the soul if he wants to accomplish his purpose.

At this time there seems to be a period of great degeneration that has ruined the world, and the desire for light is in every heart. Man is groping in darkness to find something to satisfy his need just now. Some are going after wonderworking, clairvoyance, spiritism. In whatever form one seeks for God, one will arrive in the end. The difference is only that between a straight path, or a path with curves which is much longer. The idea of Sufism is to bring humanity, nations and religions, now so torn apart, into harmony and unity by awakening the thought of unity in the souls. It is a message not to one community or race only, but to the whole humanity, not a call to join any particular church or religion, but a call to join in the human brotherhood.

The Sufi movement does not consider it any profit that everyone should become a member, although it welcomes all who feel attracted to it. Its chief purpose is that of awakening the spirit of Brotherhood in man. Together with this aim there exists a school of esoteric teaching, and for those who take interest in inner cult, for them it is a source of blessing. The Sufi movement exists in America, France, England, Holland, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, it welcomes all who would wish to take interest in inner culture.