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Faith
Two Skeptics Wonder at The Concept: 7/16/2023
© 2023 James LaFond
JAN/15/24
Recently I spent two weeks with a childhood friend who is battling an aggressive cancer. His mother told me that I was the only visitor he wanted. So I knew that he wished to speak of deeper things. At 4 am, just before dawn one morning, we shared the kitchen, me leaning on crutches and him perched weekly in a padded chair, both of us back to the weight we were when we met at age 12 and 13 in the mid ‘70s.
He said, “I’m looking at death now, the oncologist was straight with me and said I’m basically fucked. I’ve been involved with a few denominations, enough to know that the preachers and the witnesses don’t have the complete faith they claim to, that a lot of religion is posing. At this point what kind of faith can I have—me being a follower and that impulse to pattern myself after better people being compromised by my natural skepticism?” That was spake to me on July 3rd, just before a new day.
Then, two days ago, Saturday the 15th, I received a text from a younger friend who was raised atheist and is looking down the barrel of a similar gun, who had asked me to write of faith. This was his text reminder:
“what is the final verdict on FAITH?”
I will begin this effort in sharpening my own muddled understanding with a brief history of faith and attempt to distill something useful, expecting to fail.
The word Faith comes into the Аrуаn sphere to the English via the French at about 1200 to 1250, and is the cornerstone of the Christian heroic ideal. This ideal was literally born during the Crusades. The root word is Latin ‘fides’ which also serves as the basis for the terms fidelity and bonifide. In pre-Christian times the idea at the root of faith was tied to religion and the belief that the higher powers, though often uncaring, and even cruel and malicious, possessed a sense of empathy for the humans under their power; and also that the suffering of a person who yet faces eternity or oblivion according to a sense of internal honor coupled with a trust for unseen forces and a commitment to do right, may, bring about divine intercession, or at the least a cessation of this suffering.
The pious ancient did not so much pray for good fortune and blessings, but bound himself by oath and rite to what he had been taught was right, in the trust, that if an aspect of Eternity might come to view his struggling plight, that some mercy might be dispensed.
The ideal of faith in High Christian Thought, was significantly feminine, and throughout the period of chivalry was likened to the suffering and loss of Mary, the Mother of God, that Her immaculate heart brought the grace of Creation upon her. There was sure knowledge among the Doctors of Theology, that Christian faith among the Аrуаn peoples was intertwined and rooted in the most ancient Аrуаn ideal of ‘The Fates,’ ‘The Spinners,’ The Apportioners’, ‘The Norns,’ or as Ovid styles them “Night’s three snake-haired sisters.”
At the end of the High Middle Ages and the degeneration of the external Crusades into internal sectarian strife, these ancient pagan strands concerning Fate were targeted by the new theologians as profane. Henceforth, Faith would be, according to Augustine vested in the firm belief that one’s church did abide by the most perfect doctrine. Thus faith became exclusionary, possessed only by those who held to the purest doctrine.
Below is an example of ancient pagan faith from about 470 B.C.:
A woman of a Greek nation that was no friend to Sparta, was held captive in the invading Persian camp when the Spartans defeated the Persians. She had herself brought forward as a supplicant to throw herself at the mercy of the Spartan King. This act brought that King’s protection, for she had praised him as the very Agent of The Fates, the restorer of balance. This suffering woman, rather than fussing and scheming, keened her eyes and ears for an agent of destiny.
Once the Reformation was underway and the ideal of Catholic Faith remained anchored in the fatalism of the feminine conscience, Protestant Christianity embraced the ideal of the perfect doctrine as a guarantee that Eternity would dispense mercy and grace at some point during or after the life of the pious sufferer. As the Doctors of Theology reached back to Augustine’s Neo-Platonic ideal that divinity was masculine and Christians represented a beloved and feminine collective, essentially making the Church, the wife of the Savior, secularism crept into the idea of faith and gave birth to ideology, the ethics once attached to salvation, now the very object of worship. [0]
Below is an example of Catholic and Protestant Faith during the very same incident from 1634.
The passengers aboard Lord Baltimore’s ship, The Ark were Catholic, the sailors Protestant. In the grips of a weeks long storm that all thought would be the doom of them, Father Andrew White and his fellow Catholics prayed to God, The Christ, Mother Mary and whatever Saints or Angels might sustain them in life, or carry them to heaven in death.
The sailors were wont to take action based on an assignment of blame and a purging of sin from their midst. A servant woman was suggested by a crew member to be in actual fact a witch, who had brought down this storm upon them. So, in true ancient fashion, the sailors’ belief that the Catholics through their imperfect and flawed doctrine had brought this doom upon them, made a sacrifice of this woman and threw her overboard to appease God.
The pursuit of the perfect Christian doctrine not only fueled the witch burning craze of the Early Modern Period, but formed the basis for the rejection of Christian faith in favor of faith in the ideology of perfected social control. Thus we have, in America, from the 1770s down through today, increasingly expressed faith as a trust in “Democracy,” “The Constitution,” “republican form of government” and even “Science,” as the deconstruction of pagan elements via Christian doctrine gradually became the deconstruction of Christianity itself into social science.
To the modern person faith is belief that binds us to something that either cannot or need not be proven. The modern person is often blind to the world and even himself, because we are shackled to the idea that belief can only be cultivated by the demonstration of evidence. This evidence based view of truth ultimately enslaves us to increasingly complex lies as our seeking becomes synonymous with “argument,” or debate. This view of the truth is more crude than the medieval notion of trial by combat, as the least honest party at the debate of ideals possesses the advantage.
I am in favor of fate-based faith, a recognition that the passive feminine thread in we humans can provide relief here, In Time, and Hereafter.
The Homeric heroes who suffered the most, Achilles and Ajax, fought their fate and contested with powers beyond their understanding. While Odysseus, the one hero to find peace again, danced along the weaving threads of fate. Indeed, his wife’s weaving upon her loom for 20 years is metaphor for his journey being one of faith, that his commitment to decent behavior would eventually beckon grace from beyond.
Aspects of redemption in ancient lore include, Dawn, the hopeful daughter of sinister Night, and Nike, winged victory attending the righteous hero. By the time that Christian faith had combined fully with the elder Аrуаn ideal of the sufferer as a sailor on a stormy sea of fate, the loom was now in the hands of God. The God of Beowulf was now fully interwoven with the feminine elements of creation present in Genesis.
This disjointed amble into the wellsprings of Faith has helped me recently with the trails associated with not being able to walk for now six weeks. My faith is in change, that powers beyond my understanding will alter or end my suffering, and that so long as I trust in imperfection and abide by a commitment to do good for whoever I can and refrain from forcing my will upon this world that holds us in its grip, mercy may yet come.
By feminine and passive as aspects of faith, I mean to say that rather than trying to rig the game of life [through voting politically, making money, or promoting an ideology, for instance] that we should make our self smooth and small, and rather than be a barb upon which the threads of the weaver catch and bind, that we find the thread that we are best meant to tread. The person of faith, I suppose, is more like a surfer trying to coexist with the Ocean than a child stubbornly constructing a sand castle at low tide. The chief engineer of the Panama Canal, a certain Stevens, I think, once described he and his colleagues as “children playing with pebbles on the shore of a boundless ocean.”
That Ocean, to this child, is Fate and my faith is that its currents and tides will alter this plight and some day release this soul beyond this world’s stifling might.
I hope this has been of some use, My Friend.
References
-0. See the Lincoln Memorial.
-1. Gibbon, The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter 15, On the Constitution of the Primitive Christian Church
-2. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
-3. Saint Augustine, on Christian Doctrine
-4. Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey
-5. Ovid, Metamorphoses
-6. Beowulf
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