I notice how encumbered I am by my beliefs. I believe certain things and I don’t believe others and both seem to be permanently fixed. I cannot believe in an unseen world. Can this rigidity be shifted so I can believe?
What you are describing is the sickness of our time. What you are describing is a lack of faith which is not the same as belief.
To inquire into this matter we must be careful to make distinctions. I wish first to explore the differences between knowing and believing.
I know that the sun will rise tomorrow. This is based on personal experience, the experience of many others, and verification over thousands of years. It is explained by a theory of celestial mechanics which is also based on verifiable observation…we understand why the sun will appear to rise tomorrow.
The resurrection of the dead is in another category. I can believe in this but I cannot know it. I have no experience of it, neither do others, there is no historical record of it and there is no verifiable theory to support it. My belief is likely based on religious authority or some sort of intuition.
Inquiring into belief, I find that it is a marriage of thought and emotional preference. My belief consists of thinking what I want to think about something or someone. It is supported by an emotional need.
Not believing something requires an equal amount of careful consideration. Is my non-belief a refusal to believe something because there is no evidence, or because I want to reject it?
The issue here is emotion in its dual forms of clinging and averting. If I do not know that something is true, I can test it to see if there is evidence for it. Or I can decide to believe it or disbelieve it. My motive for doing so is observable in myself. Most likely, I believe because I cling to something I like and I disbelieve because I reject something I do not like. These emotions are facts which can be determined by observation. They are not immutable because they are based in emotion.
One of the primary functions of believing or disbelieving is to reduce uncertainty, which is unsettling and anxiety-producing.
Observing these mechanisms is fundamentally important because I continually adopt beliefs and disbeliefs that then block my capacity to know. We commonly use the expression that ‘seeing is believing’ but the converse is far more true…believing is seeing. I precondition perception by what I want to see and then delight in confirmation, which provides a false sense of certainty. To open my experience to the unknown, I must first unwind the beliefs that block perception. “The undesirable must be relinquished before the desirable can be attained.”
One of the strongest beliefs is what constitutes evidence. Thinking based on sensation is believed and has become completely dominant despite its home in the transitory world. Feeling is not considered evidence. Aesthetic experience, the perception of beauty, the feeling of truth…these are not taken as evidence of perception. They are thought to be subjective and ephemeral and therefore they are disbelieved. But in the world of feeling, there can be just as much certainty based on evidence as there is in the physical world where I know the sun will rise tomorrow. The evidence is the feeling.
Humans have three capacities for the play of perception—thinking, sensing and feeling—but we habitually rely on only the first two. Feeling is the perceptive capacity that opens the second dimension of time, the dimension that is all-certainty, unchanging by its very nature.
If you rely on belief, you cannot have faith. Faith is perception of the heart, perception by feeling. It has no emotional needs, no subjective preferences motivated by clinging or averting, no history, no development, only uncovering.
Faith is not blind. Faith is knowing, but not the knowing of the mind. It cannot be overturned by reason because it is not rooted in the mind. Faith comprehends the shape and texture of truth before it reaches the mind. What does faith apprehend? It knows relatedness, it knows with certainty that all things communicate and cohere. It knows that life has meaning. Faith is the feeling of being held and sustained. It is the cognition of being embedded in something immeasurably large and compassionate.
Faith serves the unseen world, the world of the Absolute. He who is lost is found by way of faith.
Rumi writes that each of us must dig out the foundations of the self and discover underneath two veins, one of ruby and one of gold. Faith is one of these veins. All beings have faith but it must be freed from the beliefs that cover it. We do not need to produce faith from our own efforts, rather we need to expose its counterfeit, the beliefs which stand in its place.