Breakfast at the Victory
The ego is the dualist in us. It is the habit we have of seeing ourselves over and against someone else. As ego, my inwardness remains inward because it is completely closed off to you by my outwardness…
In fact, belief and unbelief are strictly issues for the ego; you can’t be an unbeliever unless there are some believers against whom you are an unbeliever. All such oppositions are creations of the ego.
From the perspective of soul, however, we see each opposing either/or as a conjoined both/and… I can be separate from you only because at a deeper level we are joined in something inseparable. I cannot be alone alone…
As soul, we do not act; we are…. When we become aware of the still-point in a person, of a deed that has no doer, we are aware of soul; we are in the presence of presence. (11-12)
—James P. Carse,
Breakfast at the Victory: The Mysticism of Ordinary Experience
(Review By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat)
In What is ‘belief’?, we began to explore the connotations of this deceptively simple term and the ways in which conceptions of belief might inform the practice of universalism.
In the conventional world, answering “What do you believe?” is often understood to mean answering “What belief system do you confess?” The John Carse passage above addresses this usage of the concept in terms of the opposition of believer to unbeliever.
However, readers of our January 23rd post tended to use the concept differently in their responses to the queries:
Alex – Belief is that which does not succumb to reason. In this sense, belief is unreasonable. However, not all beliefs are equal…. [One’s] belief may not affect her/his life while the other’s may change it profoundly. Religious belief, I believe, is the latter.
Joanne – Belief is an evolving life force. It is born in the form of nascent concepts revealed to us, and as we develop and experience life, so too do our beliefs change and morph into our growing awareness of the meaning of life, itself.
Rolf – I found [an amazing] revelation in [Barclay’s] An Apology for the True ChristianDivinity…. Namely, the universalism of John 1:9 that the Lord/Light/Spirit is He “who enlighteneth EVERY man that cometh into the world.”
Libbie – My belief comes from prayers being answered. My belief comes from life’s hardships that help me grow in my maturity and well-being, especially in forgiving those who may have caused these hardships. My belief grows out of the caring of others and the caring for others. Following the words of Jesus Christ in how I deal with others makes me grow in my belief. This is my proof of the Lord’s existence.
Larry – Belief: Tentative assertions of truth in light of recognition of continuing revelation…. Faith: Recognition of trust in the tentative assertions of truth (belief).
What resonates for you in the various comments excerpted above? How might your own use of the concept of belief be informed by their offerings?
In his writings, James Carse emphasizes the contrasts between “belief systems,” which he describes as conceptual efforts to define boundaries, and “religions,” faith communities which transcend time and space and focus on a shared sacred mystery. How well does this distinction work for you?
How about Carse’s contrasting of ego and soul?
What do you understand by his phrase, “in the presence of presence”?