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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. November's Theme: "Faith"
Volume 3 Issue 1 ISSN# 1708-3265

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Faith: How I Know What I Know
by Susan Lynn Reynolds

"Faith certainly tells us what the senses do not, but not the contrary of what they see; it is above, not against them."
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), French scientist, philosopher.

This issue's topic "faith" took me by surprise. The questions posed were "Would you write on why you have faith? Why do you trust it? What is it about your beliefs that makes you believe?" What do I have faith in? I wondered. What is faith anyway? The Oxford English Dictionary defines faith interchangeably with "belief", and specifically with religious belief: "The spiritual apprehension of divine truths, or of realities beyond the reach of sensible experience or logical proof. By Christian writers often identified with the preceding; but not exclusively confined to Christian use."

But I think of "belief" as a more cognitive event than faith. I have worked my way through this conundrum mentally, and this is what I have determined I believe. But I guess I have defined faith as "an unshakeable trust in something". In other words, faith goes much deeper than belief. It has a serene quality to it. No matter what you say, I know what I know.

Since Decartes, there has been a greater and greater reliance on science as the only reliable way of knowing something is true, but many things are impossible to know through science. For instance, how do you know when you love someone - your child, your husband or wife, your father or mother? How do you know when you are angry? How do you know when you have heard a story and been moved? How do you know when something is true? (For me, I recognize truth in my body and then the down on my arms and my neck stands up and I get goose bumps.)

Science can't help us with these things - you feel what you feel, and your body knows what it knows. And in that knowledge of the body is great wisdom.

Years ago I attended a workshop on remembering your life's purpose. The facilitator was author Nick Boothman. Nick drew a careful distinction between belief and faith. He said that "believing in something" is accomplished by an act of will, but "having faith" is an act of surrender.

So, by that definition, what have I surrendered to in my lifetime? I surrendered to motherhood. First I surrendered to the miracle of the intelligence of the body - my son's body grew perfectly inside me without any act of will on my part (at least no act of will beyond the decision to become pregnant). I surrendered to childbirth, to labour, to that event which, once my body triggered it, picked me up in it's teeth and shook me like a Rottweiler. I surrendered to being a mother, putting my ego second, and putting my child's needs first.

Were any of those surrenders acts of faith? All of them.

So the next question is, how do you know what you know? It's taken me a lifetime so far to get there. Someone once said you spend the first ten years of your life learning how the world works, and the rest of your life trying to unlearn it. Southern U.S. writer Flannery O'Connor put it a different way, "Anyone who has survived childhood has enough material to write about for the rest of their lives." When you are small, religious belief is a matter of what you have been taught. As an adult, I think that faith lives in your body. There is much talk of "the still small voice within you". For me this voice is experienced as a kind of bodily intelligence. The Oxford English Dictionary has a further definition of faith: "the exercise of a special faculty in the soul of man." I think the recognition of the exercise of that special faculty happens in the movement of energy in the body.

As an example of a kind of energetic bodily recognition: when I hear of a physical injury someone has endured, I feel a vortex of energy draining out through my first chakra. It's a brief, almost painful sensation. (The closest physical analogy is when I am really hungry and I smell food and my salivary glands react immediately and uncomfortably.)

In matters of faith, I feel it in a radiant energy in my upper chest. I have faith that I am here for a reason - there's an inner compass in my upper chest that tells me when I have moved in the direction of "True North" for my life, or when I have turned away from it. This same inner compass tells me when I have made a choice which is spiritually healthy for me or when I am ignoring what will support my growth. This instrument is also like a Geiger counter - it recognizes spoken truth. If I say something aloud which is not quite true, or which omits an important piece of information thus obscuring the truth, this instrument reacts as a Geiger counter reacts to toxic levels of radiation.

I have faith that there's a great Net of energy, a Creative Intelligence, and that I am one incandescent point of light in that Net, and that my light mingles with the light of everyone else, that a movement in my spot on the net vibrates through the entire web. I have faith that I am connected, part of all.

I know what I know. I can't defend it scientifically, any more than I could defend my love for my son. I could point to behaviours which would indicate this love. I could point to coincidences in my life which might indicate I'm here for a purpose and that when I move toward the fulfillment of my role here, the Universe aligns other energies to make the role easier to carry out. But I can't prove any of this scientifically.

You'll have to take it on faith.

Susan Lynn Reynolds is a novelist, freelance writer and teacher of creative writing in Durham Region, just east of Toronto. She is taking a hiatus from her "regular" life right now to complete her degree in Psychology.

She leads writing practice retreats and facilitates regular writing workshops, including teaching writing to women incarcerated in the Correctional system in Ontario. Sue can be contacted through her website or via email.

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