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BELIEFS! The subject of beliefs, it seems to me, exists in an untamed territory that can be approached in any number of ways on many different levels. So where to start?
There's no shortage of beliefs about beliefs. Just look at the quotes I've included below from a number of revered thinkers, each expressing divergent and provocative opinions on this subject... a good way for us to begin this post.
Beginning with Huxley:
“Give us this day our daily Faith, but deliver us, dear God, from Belief.” Aldous Huxley
"I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong” Bertrand Russell
“Belief is not merely an idea that the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind.” Robert Bolt
"Practically the whole human race is hypnotized because it thinks what someone else told it to think." Ernest Holmes
“Being stuck is a position few of us like. We want something new but cannot let go of the old — old ideas, beliefs, habits, even thoughts. We are out of contact with our own genius. Sometimes we know we are stuck; sometimes we don’t. In both cases, we have to do something.” Inga Teekens
“The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.” Bertrand Russell
“I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.” Gerry Spence
“I regard belief as a form of brain damage, the death of intelligence, the fracture of creativity, the atrophy of imagination.” Robert Anton Wilson
“The constant assertion of belief is an indication of fear.” Jiddu Krishnamurti
“The refusal to choose is a form of choice; disbelief is a form of belief.” Frank Barron
"There is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't." Blaise Pascal
I could go on...
So where do we go from here? Let's first try to understand what a belief is. Is it not what we hold to be true... if not for everyone else, at least for ourselves?
It's interesting to speculate on how we come to accept and embrace our beliefs. Do we know how this happens… or even care? Regardless, I think it's fair to say we're constantly accumulating bundles of variegated beliefs from everywhere about everything, most of which are unexamined and contradictory. No one's belief-bundles are entirely the same, any more than we are the same. Everyone has their perspective... which I suppose is what gives us our unique character.
Might we go so far as to say that beliefs are what we are? The old proverb states, "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." I think it's fair to say that our beliefs determine how we perceive ourselves and likewise how others perceive us. The Russian Playwright, Anton Chekhov wrote that "man is what he believes.”
That's why it's really important to know what we believe and why we believe as we do. Are we aware of our beliefs or do we just believe our beliefs without question? It's important to ask that, since our beliefs, regardless of how we acquired them, will influence almost everything in our lives, for better or worse. If we think we are 'entitled' because we believe we are victims, or if we believe we have the ability to rise above whatever unfortunate circumstances come into our lives, then, either way, life will likely unfold to prove us right.
So what can we do about changing all the pernicious beliefs that inevitably make us miserable? Obviously, we first need to make the connection between our beliefs and our lives, as with cause and effect. That's where we probably have to back up and ask ourselves how we came to accept these beliefs. As the Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said: Life can only be lived forwards but it must be viewed backwards." When looking back, we need to ask where did our beliefs come from. Were we programmed to accept them? And if so, by whom? Maybe we need to deprogramme and unclutter our minds by carefully examining some of the more irrational beliefs we've clung to without understanding why.
As I look around, it seems more than evident that many of the beliefs we subscribe to are based on frivolous evidence or no evidence at all. Maybe we just believe because we've been told how it is, or possibly it's just something we wish to be the case. Then there are the big cosmological beliefs that religions and science talk about based on tradition or underlying presuppositions that we consciously, or unconsciously, assume to be true only because certain authorities and experts tell us it is so.
I think it's important for us to acknowledge how important it is to us that others accept our beliefs. After all, we take our beliefs very personally as if they define our very essence. They become our identity such that, if anyone rejects our beliefs, we assumed they reject us, be they a person, tribe or institution. In some cases, we feel so strongly about our beliefs that we're willing to kill or be killed to defend them. Such is the ego.
We see this with religious intolerance such as with ISIS in the Middle East, the Inquisition in Spain, or in political movements where tens of millions lost their lives in Communist Europe and China. In less extreme cases, we witness close relationships being sacrificed for the cause of ‘being right’. Unfortunately, it happens all the time among friends, families and university faculties.
As insane as that may be, how likely are we to bother questioning our beliefs once we've identified ourselves with them, thereby accepting them as true? I think very little. Why would we, no one likes to be wrong? And so questioning the foundations of one tribe can prove to be very uncomfortable, especially when we come to see what ethnocentric prejudices might undergird them. My religion, my presuppositions, my race, my tribe, my family, my job, my, my, my.
But are my beliefs true because they happen to be my beliefs? Or should I say my ego's beliefs -- that would make most everyone in the world wrong since everyone seems to believe in something different than me. The only thing everyone has in common is the undergirding fear to most beliefs.
I would venture to say very few of us ask ourselves why we believe as we do... especially when we become comfortably ensconced in our soul-slumber. To awaken, we must be prepared to examine our beliefs if we wish to discover who we are. However, it requires considerable courage to crawl out of our skin and observe ourselves as though we are a fly on the wall.
But there can be a risk to this: what happens when we discover our beliefs are bogus, or at least more fanciful than substantial based on whatever nonsense was in vogue at the time. Think of your adolescence and shutter! Some say "I believe in Rock and Roll." But what does that mean?
On the other hand, a sober evaluation of our beliefs might provide a much greater basis for understanding why we believe as we do when we honestly examine what provides a foundation to our positive beliefs. This can result in providing us with greater clarity, meaning and purpose to live our lives. By doing this, some of our beliefs may be strengthened while other compromising beliefs may need to be jettisoned.
In the words of Socrates: THE UNEXAMINED LIFE IN NOT WORTH LIVING. Likewise, it may be said that if one’s beliefs are worth believing, then they are also worth examining.
But really, how many are willing to come to the table to examine our beliefs and where they came from? Perhaps we don't care how they came to us, they just did and now we own them. But if we're honest, we might be surprised how many of our beliefs were assimilated through friends, family, government, religion, media, or a million other influences that imposed them on us, consciously or unconsciously. How many of these beliefs did we think through before accepting them? Any?
The essence, the question is how badly do we want to become aware of what we've never bothered to ask ourselves about. Probably we don't care very much. And so we just go along in the same mindless flow as everyone else believes just because it's easier that way.
Now here's the big one, the question we all need to ask. Simply, it's this: what role does our ego play in our beliefs? That's a lot bigger question than what it seems because it's what determines which beliefs will bring us fear and harm or joy and goodness.
Unfortunately, based on what I see everywhere, I would have to say most of humanity's beliefs are based on the collective insanity of the ego. I wouldn't go as far as Robert Anton Wilson, who stated: "I regard belief as a form of brain damage, the death of intelligence, the fracture of creativity, the atrophy of imagination."
Rather, it comes down to something much bigger: the enlightenment of the heart or the confusion of the ego-mind. The separated ego-mind is all about fear which is the opposite of love, and so it is the basis for all the darkness in our lives and in our world. It is driven by insecurity and needs social acceptance for support.
And so if we allow our ego to live our lives for us, we'll default every time to wherever our fears take us. That's why it demands everyone believes as it does, otherwise it is threatened. Given the opportunity, the insane ego will become a ruthless tyrant. (More on this in my next post.)
The good news is that the ego is not who we are, it’s the illusion of what we think we are when our minds remain separate from the centre of what we are... that which we call the heart. The ego’s very existence depends on lies, judgement and pain, and every piece of self-deceit it can muster to keep the illusion alive.
To clarify what I mean when using the term ego, I'm using the word in a different context than the clinical term used for identity. Rather I use the term to mean the confused and often insane mind that is separated from the heart. Only the union of our heart and mind knows its divine being, the true Self. For more on that subject, refer to the posts on this blog site: THE EGO MASK AND YOU and WHO ARE YOU?
Before concluding this section, there’s one more important question I wish to ask. This one can be subtle: the difference between beliefs and faith… are these just different words for the same thing? To respond to this question, I will leave this to Allan Watts who so eloquently stated the essential difference.
“The discovery of this reality is hindered rather than helped by belief, whether one believes in God or believes in atheism. We must make here a clear distinction between belief and faith, because, in general practice, belief has come to mean a state of mind which is almost the opposite of faith. Belief, as I use the word here, is the insistence that the truth is what one would ‘lief’ or wish it to be. The believer will open his mind to the truth on the condition that it fits in with his preconceived ideas and wishes.
"Faith, on the other hand, is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown. Belief clings, but faith lets go. In this sense of the word, faith is the essential virtue of science, and likewise of any religion that is not self-deception.”
In this post, I have not attempted to provide a lot of answers, but question the legitimacy of unquestioned beliefs. I will return to this subject again later with another post that emphasizes the importance of acquiring the type of beliefs that create exciting and fulfilling lives for ourselves.
Jesus said, "if you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." Mark 9:23. That's the kind of belief we will be discussing: becoming oriented to what might be possible, rather than fixating on the fear-based belief that causes our souls to atrophy in judgment.
This is also the reason I chose Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's quote for the cover of this post: "Blow the dust off the clock. Your watches are behind the times. Throw open the heavy curtains which are so dear to you - you do not even suspect that the day has already dawned outside."
DIALOGUES ON BELIEFS FROM ELYSIUM'S PASSAGE
To help round out this discussion on beliefs, which I've hardly touched on, let me include with a few excerpts from the ELYSIUM'S PASSAGE: SURREAL ADVENTURES.
From Chapter Three Here we find a brief exchange on the topic of beliefs that takes place between the philosopher-protagonist James and his mountain companion provocateurs.
‘But you be open and desirous to know where these experiences came from,’ Eli said, ‘otherwise you might never bother to find out, even if certain impressions seep back into your awareness.’
‘But why wouldn’t I be curious to know more about where these images and flashbacks came from?’
‘If the experiences don’t conform to the expectations of your old beliefs,’ Mo said, ‘they’ll likely override whatever contradicts those beliefs, even when memories from the field bleed through to your brain.’
‘Well then,’ I said, ‘maybe I should write a note to myself in advance.’
‘Of course, you should,’ he said, ‘but not just a note. Do you now see why we’ve been so adamant about you journaling all your thoughts and experiences? Most likely you will once again revert to being the same sceptic you were when you arrived on the Summit. I predict that all your former materialist prejudices will be back to dismiss everything your heart tries to tell happened on this side. That’s just what the ego-mind does, shuts down the inner knowingness of the heart because it doesn’t like to be wrong.
‘I can’t say this enough,’ he continued as he placed the lasagne in the woodstove’s oven, ‘but most beliefs are based on the ego’s need to be being right about its delusions rather than discerning what’s true. You have often heard me say, “the greater the ignorance, the greater the smugness.”
'The dark side of human nature will avoid, deny and even attack whatever opposes the ego’s cherished beliefs. It will even forgo what’s in its best interests since the ego has no abiding investment in love, union or happiness. In fact, its illusory world depends on sustaining fear and conflict in any way it can.’
‘I have to agree with you on this,' I said, 'having witnessed this all too often, even among esteemed philosophers and scientists who can’t bear to admit they might be wrong about their apocalyptical rantings.'
‘Unfortunately,' Mo said, 'creative statistical analysis and computer parameterizing make it easy to configure data to conform to whatever interpretation is desired. The more ideologically committed don’t realize how much of their evidence is based on whatever prior beliefs they can’t bear to let go, rather than consider what evidence that's contrary to their prejudices. To often their conclusions are based on nothing more than elaborately packaged belief presuppositions used to provide a ruse of intellectual respectability.
'In the end, it all too often comes back to what one wishes to believe. Government and industry will often contrive agendas of fear beliefs to solve perceived problems that will make the masses beholden to them. It's really no different than what religion has done throughout the centuries.
‘That’s why science is so easily politicized today,' Mo continued, 'too few cares to acknowledge whatever evidence doesn’t suit their ideological preferences or financial best interests. Even your highly acclaimed physicist, Richard Feynman, once said: “Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts.” Never has this been more true than in your world than now, which is why I will continue to declare your world to be upside down, inside out and backwards.'
'When you go back, James, you really have your work cut out for you to set things right. Not that you can, but you can get things going in the right direction by questioning all the really stupid beliefs the world insists on clinging to. At least you will know the truth... provided you don't allow your old beliefs to stand in the way.'
From Chapter 9 James engages in some introspection
'As an aside, it now seems to me that ignorance is primarily based on the smug satisfaction of what one believes without examining the merits of those beliefs. And what are beliefs but what someone keeps thinking over and over because of what’s been taught by whatever culture or religion they have been subjected to. I now realized that before arriving on the Summit, many of my views were only rationalizations of certain pseudo assumptions and smug beliefs I bought into.
I was finally prepared to admit that many of these simplistic beliefs were self-serving, but then, most simplistic views are self-serving. I suppose that’s why we hold on to them. But a time must come when it’s necessary to broaden our perspectives to escape the narrow ruts we create for ourselves over time. As for me, I was reluctant to question what I believed about relationships. Had it not been for Julianne, and what she inspired in me, I may have continued to remain willfully obtuse.
From Chapter 11 Regarding the price of surrendering
Everyone who wishes to become enlightened has to come to the point of willfully surrendering their cherished ego beliefs. This first requires deep reflection within the heart since there’s nothing more undisciplined than the separated ego-mind.’
‘This, James, is the real price of admission: your ego beliefs, Mo said. ‘But it’s not really much sacrifice once you realize what you’re giving up was never what you wanted; all those things that held you back from becoming free and happy. There is nothing about fear that is desirable, even if it is the basis to the ego’s belief system that keeps you in bondage on the earth plane. For you, this is mainly about letting go of what you thought you knew.'
From Chapter 17 Regarding mandated beliefs
But as you should know, the Flatlanders don’t allow soapboxes in any form, since the authorities have already mandated what beliefs are correct. That’s why they don’t tolerate dissent or debate, but repeatedly parrot: it’s settled, it’s settled. Of course, if they truly believed what they said, they wouldn’t have to shout so loudly to convince themselves.'
OVERVIEW OF THE ELYSIUM'S PASSAGE SERIES
The series involves seven Elysium narrations regarding a young British philosopher named James Phillips who finds himself living in an altered state of reality while still remaining on earth.
After experiencing a near-fatal fall while climbing to the summit of a remote mountain in the Andes, James awakens in a new dimension. He soon encounters two mysterious beings who provide him with a very different perspective on the nature of his existence. Over the next year, before his body recovers from the coma, he is challenged to re-examine his understanding about life’s meaning and purpose far beyond anything he previously believed or could believe.
An engaging and sometime surreal adventure with intimations of impending romance, the narrative explores the most important questions about life, death, reality and our ultimate destiny.
The Plains of Elysium (Champs-Élysées) was described by Homer, Hesiod, Virgil and many other poets as the paradisiac afterlife realm reserved for heroes. As the title suggests, this is about a journey through a passage that leads towards Elysium’s exciting realm of existence.
To read a sample press review, go to:
VIDEO INTRODUCTION TO SERIES
PENDING PUBLICATIONS IN THE SERIES
The following titles in the ELYSIUM’S PASSAGE series are projected to be released as follows:
THE SUMMIT is now available
THE ASCENT fall 2020
QUANTUM LEAPS fall 2020
SURREAL ADVENTURES spring 2021
MYSTICAL ROMANCE summer 2021
HE ELIXIR fall 2021
THE RETURN sometime in 2022/23
ELYSIUM’S PASSAGE: THE SUMMIT, is now available for purchase on www.Amazon.com and www.Amazon.ca
With the exception of the last novel in the series, the last three have been written but still require more editing before publication.
CONTACT AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Neil Meyers: firstname.lastname@example.org
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ELYSIUM'S PASSAGE: THE SUMMIT
The following comments are among the first Amazon reviews of Elysium’s Passage: The Summit. All are Five Stars! Others reader reviews are included below, along with excerpts from two professional reviews. To read full reviews, go to READER REVIEWS on www.elysiumspassage.com
"A delightful mix of fantasy, reality, conjecture and humour; Mr Meyers draws the reader into the story with a gentle narrative that captures the imagination, leaving one anxious to get to the next page drawing you into his exceptional world.”
"Quietly, gently, and without imposition, the Author unfolds the pages, creating an intricate, interlocking bridge spanning the chasm between mind and heart. Renewing, refreshing, restoring. In my bereavement, it was vigil and light…"
“Excellently written with an exceedingly deep understanding of this world and the next. The characters are very well written and engaging that takes the reader on both a philosophical and spiritual journey, a journey that at times is both disquieting and tranquil. James, a British Philosopher can be irreverent and caustic, traits that should have left me cringing, but instead made me laugh out loud. Elysium’s Passage is a fun, enlightening and remarkable book.”
“This is a masterful fantasy, becoming a real possibility, as the reader is drawn into the story. The Summit leaves you anxious for the next book in the series, yet also leaves you totally satisfied with the world you have just visited. Genius! An exciting, yet calming, experience that is not to be missed."
"There was hardly a page on which I did not find at least one sentence worthy of hi-lighting for future reference. In addition, I thoroughly enjoyed the main character, James, whose personality and passionate verbal exchanges with the other characters, kept me coming back for more. I am reading the book for a second time while I wait for the next one in this series to be made available."
“N.G. Meyers has clearly put a great deal of research and thought into what the afterlife may look like and I like his perspective. It’s an altogether welcoming and exciting vision. The book gives one a great deal to think about and a reassuring confidence that the end of our lives is truly the beginning of life in the next. I highly recommend it."
"I am really enjoying your book, it’s fantastic! It is so incredible and diversified that I can’t really explain it to other people, so what I say is just read this book. Thank you so much for the blessings that you’ve given the world!"
“The humour interjected into a serious discussion makes me laugh out loud. Totally unexpected....l may be in the presence of at least a master, if not a genius. A fair ride into reality... seeking that which is unseen, yet absolutely real.”
“An engaging story of adventure embracing man's deepest desire to search for meaning and purpose, N.G. Meyers takes the reader on an adventurous thought-provoking journey. This book has substance. It is a perfect blend of adventure and fantasy combined with spiritual philosophy. It ignited my imagination. The author magically weaves a good story laced with wit and humour together with deep philosophical wisdom. This book has it all!”
“An evolution in thought is triggered by many fresh philosophical themes which could inspire readers to re-think their reality and former ideologies that have dictated their lives… the author fires readers’ imaginations to view what could be possible when spirit vacates the body.”
“This is the book spiritual seekers have been waiting for. For me, it granted a great read as well as increased inspiration to live every day with a heightened sense of purpose. I highly recommend it.
“The Summit is capable of hooking readers and luring them to search for Book 2 to discover more about Dr. Philip’s surreal trek into the mysterious unknown universe. This thick book is well worth the read and to share…”
“The Elysium’s Passage series challenges and excites the reader while taking him into parallel quests for truth with the hero, James. It can be a fast fantasy read or a longer deliberation about what is reality or illusion; veracity or platitude. Take the journey!”
“Mind-blowing statements and speculation (‘…everyone is a non-physical thought form conceived in the Mind of God, preserved for all eternity because God’s thoughts never die…’). Many will find Meyers’ journey up the Mountain intriguing—and possibly even life-changing.” (BLUEINK REVIEW)
“In its effort to grapple with fundamental questions about the meaning of life, it raises questions that have echoed throughout the ages, including about where we come from, where we are going, who we are.” (CLARION REVIEW)