By George A. Boyd ©2008
Many people hold metaphysical and spiritual beliefs without rational examination. These unquestionable, core beliefs appear to arise from seven major sources:
Parental or pastoral admonition – They are told by parents or clergy that a statement is absolutely true and it is not to be questioned.
Attributed to an infallible authority – Their belief cannot be challenged because it is stated in scripture and/or is a statement of a revered spiritual leader.
Oral transmission from trusted and credible friends – In this scenario, friends or relatives or members of their religious or political groups state the belief, and all members of this group believe that it is true
Oral presentation by an authoritative speaker – By using oral argument and disputation, a speaker convinces the listener that the argument is true.
Written presentation in a book – Here, the statements in a book are held to be authoritative and true
Miraculous revelation – In this case, the belief arises from a numinous source, For example, it may come from a vision or revelation received in prayer or meditation
Unexplained personal experience – In this type, the belief arises out of an experience that cannot be explained by their worldview or by science, e.g., encounter with aliens, flying saucers, or crop circles
Individuals who hold these unquestionable beliefs appear to demonstrate the following characteristics:
- These beliefs appear to act as filters, effectively blocking any alternate opinion or belief from consideration.
- Continued association with those who hold similar beliefs tends to reinforce the perceived veracity of the belief.
- They may base behavior on these beliefs that leads to ritual or sacrificial actions, e.g., going on pilgrimage to the shrine of a saint or sacrificing their life for a terrorist cause.
- They may develop justifications and rationalizations as to why they hold the beliefs, when they are unaware of the real sources of these beliefs.
- They may cite as evidence books that espouse fallacious information. For example, anti-Semitic beliefs are based on The Protocols of The Elders of Zion, whose historical allegations have been shown to be fabrications.
- When challenged or criticized, adherents may more tenaciously cling to these beliefs. These beliefs are commonly linked to these individuals’ sense of core identity, so an attack on these beliefs is felt to be an attack on their essential person.
- Unexplained experiences may lead to intense curiosity and research into the phenomena. Those who have these experiences may become authorities in these phenomena by the sheer volume of research and study they undertake in this area. In some individuals this fascination and absorption into the quest for understanding may become a central pursuit of their lives.
Superstitious beliefs often take on a talismanic quality in that sometimes they are held as a means to attract “good luck” or ward off “bad circumstances” or “bad luck.” The ritual behavior of baseball players is a well-known example of this: after hitting a home run, a baseball player may sit in the same place in the dugout, wear the same color socks, and eat the same things for breakfast.
Superstitious beliefs resemble unquestioned beliefs in that they are not examined. But unlike unquestioned beliefs, they are not core aspects of identity, nor are they the wide-ranging reality filtering and reason suppressing effects. Superstitious beliefs appear to be localized and specific; core unquestioned beliefs are generalized more globally in the personality, so their impact is greater.
It is important for the serious aspirants seeking to awaken the Light of Wisdom to examine these nested layers of belief, and to question the validity of “unquestionable” and superstitious beliefs. When this process has been successfully completed, aspirants will discover their core of intuitive knowing that reveals their inner sense of truth, or Dharma. They will also clear their perceptual filters so that they will see and hear what is there, instead of what they want to be there.