THEOSOPHY, Vol. 42, No. 10, August, 1954
(Pages 444-446; Size: 10K)


[Part 13 of a 29-part series]

THE word faith, as noted in "Word Puzzles" for January [Number 6 in this series.--Compiler.], has acquired an almost exclusively theological or institutional connotation. It is, clearly, because of this fact, and in this sense, that H.P.B. in her Key to Theosophy insists that "faith is a word not to be found in theosophical dictionaries." Faith, however, when used to represent a psychological force, or as a reference to powers focussed during the disciplines of Yoga, is quite a different matter. For instance, in her basic article on hypnotism, first printed in Lucifer, H.P.B. answers a question on faith-healing in the following manner:

Imagination is a potent help in every event of our lives. Imagination acts on Faith, and both are the draughtsmen who prepare the sketches for Will to engrave, more or less deeply, on the rocks of obstacles and opposition with which the path of life is strewn. Says Paracelsus: "Faith must confirm the imagination, for faith establishes the will. ... Determined will is the beginning of all magical operations. ... It is because men do not perfectly imagine and believe the result, that the arts (of magic) are uncertain, while they might be perfectly certain." This is all the secret. Half, if not two-thirds of our ailings and diseases are the fruit of our imagination and fears. Destroy the latter and give another bent to the former, and nature will do the rest. There is nothing sinful or injurious in the methods per se. They turn to harm only when belief in his power becomes too arrogant and marked in the faith-healer, and when he thinks he can will away such diseases as need, if they are not to be fatal, the immediate help of expert surgeons and physicians.
A scholarly discussion of faith, both theological and psychological, is found in Hasting's Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics:
Every art of religious faith shows two sides or aspects -- a cognitive and a volitional. It is at once an affirmation of truth and a surrender to the truth affirmed. Apart from the first, it would be blind; apart from the second, without practical significance. The fact that the emphasis is sometimes placed on the one and sometimes on the other leads to two relatively distinct notions of faith. When the volitional aspect is emphasized, we have the notion commonly denoted by the word "trust."
From the standpoint of Madame Blavatsky's evaluation, typical Christian faith has slighted both the "cognitive" and the "volitional" aspects. Furthermore, "blind" faith does not compel "full devotion to the truth affirmed." Unless one makes determined efforts to cognize a truth, he cannot be thoroughly convinced of it. Dogma is subsequently buttressed with more dogma, attention is not focussed on testing applications of the original affirmation. Thus secondhand affirmations, made into theological truths, evoke little of the volitional potential to which Paracelsus refers when he remarks that "faith must confirm the imagination, for faith establishes the will."

The student of Theosophy learns from The Secret Doctrine that there are many psychological forces involved in the volitional application of faith. The section dealing with the six Saktis (I, 292-3) indicates that the occultist distinguishes between each of these forces, and comes to know the laws of each, so that his acts will not be "blind." The most direct application to faith and will is suggested by the description of Kriyasakti:

The mysterious power of thought which enables it to produce external, perceptible, phenomenal results by its own inherent energy. The ancients held that any idea will manifest itself externally if one's attention is deeply concentrated upon it. Similarly an intense volition will be followed by the desired result.
On the same page, H.P.B. refers to another of the "primary forces in nature," designated Mantrika Sakti. This term, she states, refers to a definite force or power emanating from "letters, speech or music"; thus we find an occult basis for the hold of ritual and music upon religious followers. So a dogmatic faith may be supported by the entirely irrelevant intrusion of another "force of nature" -- without the believer bringing his own volitional powers into play. This, we might imagine, incidentally, is the secret of the origin of the word "fanatic." Shipley's Dictionary of Word Origins remarks that "around a temple (fane) one is likely to find persons whose religious impulses make them seem over-wrought. (Attend any revival meeting.)" In other words, without the knowledge that full faith must be a self-directed psychological force, concentrated by one's own independent affirmation of truth and one's own efforts to test it in action, religions must appeal chiefly to the psychic aspect of man's nature. Again, the distinction between the theosophical tradition and that of Christianity is in the belief of the latter that men can be "faithful" in groups. The Theosophist, seeking for an inspiration of his own to solve universal problems, can never link group-faith to the concept of "salvation."

Turning back to H.P.B.'s hypnotism article, we find an excellent point of departure for evaluation of the history of psychiatry. The influence of psychoanalytic theory has tended to make most clinical practitioners aware of the fact that each man must eventually effect his own cure of a disturbed psyche. The first task, of course, is to uproot the "imaginations and fears" that cause "ailings and diseases." But it is the faith and will of the patient, redirected, which makes possible the construction of an improved personality. The essential faith awakened is in the individual's capacity to bring another construction of thought into being, and the attitude of the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst is certainly such as to encourage this faith. The whole approach focusses upon a confidence that what is wrong with a man is not his essential nature, but only the distorted impediments that hamper his vision -- a basic theosophical teaching. Concentration is not upon the "evil" resident in the personality, as was the case with theology, but upon the nature of beneficial changes in personality which can be worked. This is a vast improvement over the perversions of "faith healing" described in the last sentence of the passage from Lucifer. For the faith-healer was not only scornful of medical knowledge -- thus incapable of diagnosing organic ailments -- but also believed that he could effect the cure of a patient by his own miraculous power.

The missing element in psychiatry, clearly, is not in the basic method nor in the attitude of the best practitioners in the field, but solely in a lack of sufficient knowledge regarding the "higher self." If the day finally arrives when psychiatrists and psychoanalysts not only destroy "imaginations and fears," but also are able to "give another bent to the imagination," the staggering incidence of mental illness will certainly abate. For men need to know not only that their psychic disturbances may be alleviated; they also need to acquire a sense of direction which is positive, and which brings increasing glimpses of the destiny of soul in the long pilgrimage of evolution. In the meantime we can be thankful that the word faith, like the word soul, is used cautiously and sparingly by our new practitioners of the mental healing art. Better these words not be used at all except when they find sufficient philosophical focus.

Next article:
[Freedom. Political Autonomy.
Self-Discipline. Free Will. Free.
Frank. Not Enslaved. Not Afraid. Beloved.
Love. Courage. Devotion. Science.
Determinacy. Economic Determinism.
Karma. Power to Choose.]
[Part 14 of a 29-part series]

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