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Belief vs. Faith

Discussion in 'Spiritual Articles' started by Astroboy, Oct 18, 2007.

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  1. Astroboy

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    Dark Night Of The Soul: Spiritual Crisis
    By Nicholas Schmidt


    You cannot find the Light unless you enter the darkness.

    Dark night of the soul, spiritual crisis, spiritual madness, spiritual emergency, divine madness, holy madness... these are various phrases that have been used to describe a unique experience - a profound test of faith and spiritual endurance - that seems to be a necessary part of walking the path home to God.

    Today, many people on this planet are searching for a deeper meaning and purpose to life. Struggling for survival and happiness in the material world just doesn't seem to satisfy the human potential anymore. More and more we're becoming bored and frustrated with the routines of everyday life, whether it's with our careers, our personal lives or our relationships with other people.

    Deep inside, we're beginning to realize that our hunger for the material comforts and pleasures of life eventually leaves us feeling empty and incomplete. We then begin to suspect that lasting peace and happiness is an "inner" thing. As a result, many of us are looking into the spiritual or mystical realms for a greater sense of purpose, direction and meaning. In the process we find ourselves asking "Who am I, what am I doing here, or what's my real purpose on this planet?" If we are ready, these kinds of questions will awaken a yearning deep within that inspires us to look for answers. Other times a serious life crisis can have the same effect. In the end, we find that we're really searching for God.

    Our search for the truth helps us to awaken spiritually and, more importantly, to remember who we really are. This new insight can be the most profound experience of one's lifetime, an ecstatic rush of joy and enlightenment that is difficult to describe to those who have yet to reach this point. After this awakening experience or shift in awareness occurs, we begin to look at the old ways and false beliefs of life with less interest, while our re-connection with the divine becomes clearer and feels more natural. The old way simply doesn't interest us anymore, while the new way is all that matters.

    Somewhere along the journey of remembering who we really are, we may find ourselves in a very uncomfortable space, a void in which we realize that we haven't totally let go of our old beliefs, and on the other hand we have yet to fully plug into the new truths we have discovered. This awkward "place of mind" can bring on an internal crisis of uncertainty, instability, confusion, frustration, and a most unspeakable despair as the "dark night" sets in and makes its presence felt.

    It is ironic that along with the rapture of remembering our divine connection, there can be intense feelings of depression, madness, detachment, hopelessness and an extraordinary loneliness that is not only relentless but may last for months or years on end. Then comes the waiting, and the wondering if and when the dark night will ever end. Ultimately, it feels as though we have lost control over our lives and, most importantly, that God has truly abandoned us.

    St. John of the Cross went through it, Edgar Cayce spoke of it, several recent books and tapes have described it, and throughout history various cultures provided special care and loving support for their tribal members in spiritual crisis.

    If this kind of intense and prolonged crisis has entered your life, please don't give up! When the madness is over, when one finally "lets go" in an act of surrender, acceptance and trust in what God is accomplishing with you - without resignation and with gratitude for the experience - the dark night will end. At that point, ego will no longer dictate the path of your life, and a Light will shine through bringing with it a new spiritual adventure and purpose in life. Your path will then be guided by a series of divinely influenced synchronous events, and your real mission for this lifetime will unfold and fall into place as if by magic.

    An example "dark night" sequence of events:

    Things in life seem to be going along quite smoothly. Then, unexpectedly, we have a serious life crisis such as career failure, divorce, a health problem, a serious addiction, financial collapse, a near death experience, etc. or any combination of such events.

    At some point the crisis/anguish becomes so intense that we drop to the floor and, in a climactic act of desperation, cry out "God, help me!" God begins to help immediately, most often in ways that are contrary to what we expect. (Put your seat belt on at this time!)

    The crisis usually jump-starts the search for spiritual truth. Each new "insight" we discover brings on the death of an old "false belief" we've been programmed to accept throughout our lives. This starts to seriously threaten our egos, and a severe test of faith begins that can last for months or years.

    The most important question you can ask yourself during a spiritual crisis is, "Can you believe in God when the night is the darkest?"



     
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  3. Astroboy

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    Very good topic that is often forgotten in the discourse on spiritual development.
     
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    Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith

    By David Van Biema Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007

    [​IMG]
    Mother Teresa in a Calcutta orphanage, 1979.



    Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.
    — Mother Teresa to the Rev. Michael Van Der Peet, September 1979

    On Dec. 11, 1979, Mother Teresa, the "Saint of the Gutters," went to Oslo. Dressed in her signature blue-bordered sari and shod in sandals despite below-zero temperatures, the former Agnes Bojaxhiu received that ultimate worldly accolade, the Nobel Peace Prize. In her acceptance lecture, Teresa, whose Missionaries of Charity had grown from a one-woman folly in Calcutta in 1948 into a global beacon of self-abnegating care, delivered the kind of message the world had come to expect from her. "It is not enough for us to say, 'I love God, but I do not love my neighbor,'" she said, since in dying on the Cross, God had "[made] himself the hungry one — the naked one — the homeless one." Jesus' hunger, she said, is what "you and I must find" and alleviate. She condemned abortion and bemoaned youthful drug addiction in the West. Finally, she suggested that the upcoming Christmas holiday should remind the world "that radiating joy is real" because Christ is everywhere — "Christ in our hearts, Christ in the poor we meet, Christ in the smile we give and in the smile that we receive."


    Yet less than three months earlier, in a letter to a spiritual confidant, the Rev. Michael van der Peet, that is only now being made public, she wrote with weary familiarity of a different Christ, an absent one. "Jesus has a very special love for you," she assured Van der Peet. "[But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, — Listen and do not hear — the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak ... I want you to pray for me — that I let Him have [a] free hand."
    The two statements, 11 weeks apart, are extravagantly dissonant. The first is typical of the woman the world thought it knew. The second sounds as though it had wandered in from some 1950s existentialist drama. Together they suggest a startling portrait in self-contradiction — that one of the great human icons of the past 100 years, whose remarkable deeds seemed inextricably connected to her closeness to God and who was routinely observed in silent and seemingly peaceful prayer by her associates as well as the television camera, was living out a very different spiritual reality privately, an arid landscape from which the deity had disappeared.
    And in fact, that appears to be the case. A new, innocuously titled book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday), consisting primarily of correspondence between Teresa and her confessors and superiors over a period of 66 years, provides the spiritual counterpoint to a life known mostly through its works. The letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by her church), reveal that for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever — or, as the book's compiler and editor, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, writes, "neither in her heart or in the eucharist."

    That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and — except for a five-week break in 1959 — never abated. Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the "dryness," "darkness," "loneliness" and "torture" she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God. She is acutely aware of the discrepancy between her inner state and her public demeanor. "The smile," she writes, is "a mask" or "a cloak that covers everything." Similarly, she wonders whether she is engaged in verbal deception. "I spoke as if my very heart was in love with God — tender, personal love," she remarks to an adviser. "If you were [there], you would have said, 'What hypocrisy.'" Says the Rev. James Martin, an editor at the Jesuit magazine America and the author of My Life with the Saints, a book that dealt with far briefer reports in 2003 of Teresa's doubts: "I've never read a saint's life where the saint has such an intense spiritual darkness. No one knew she was that tormented." Recalls Kolodiejchuk, Come Be My Light's editor: "I read one letter to the Sisters [of Teresa's Missionaries of Charity], and their mouths just dropped open. It will give a whole new dimension to the way people understand her."

    The book is hardly the work of some antireligious investigative reporter who Dumpster-dived for Teresa's correspondence. Kolodiejchuk, a senior Missionaries of Charity member, is her postulator, responsible for petitioning for her sainthood and collecting the supporting materials. (Thus far she has been beatified; the next step is canonization.) The letters in the book were gathered as part of that process.

    The church anticipates spiritually fallow periods. Indeed, the Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross in the 16th century coined the term the "dark night" of the soul to describe a characteristic stage in the growth of some spiritual masters. Teresa's may be the most extensive such case on record. (The "dark night" of the 18th century mystic St. Paul of the Cross lasted 45 years; he ultimately recovered.) Yet Kolodiejchuk sees it in St. John's context, as darkness within faith. Teresa found ways, starting in the early 1960s, to live with it and abandoned neither her belief nor her work. Kolodiejchuk produced the book as proof of the faith-filled perseverance that he sees as her most spiritually heroic act.

    Two very different Catholics predict that the book will be a landmark. The Rev. Matthew Lamb, chairman of the theology department at the conservative Ave Maria University in Florida, thinks Come Be My Light will eventually rank with St. Augustine's Confessions and Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain as an autobiography of spiritual ascent. Martin of America, a much more liberal institution, calls the book "a new ministry for Mother Teresa, a written ministry of her interior life," and says, "It may be remembered as just as important as her ministry to the poor. It would be a ministry to people who had experienced some doubt, some absence of God in their lives. And you know who that is? Everybody. Atheists, doubters, seekers, believers, everyone."

    Not all atheists and doubters will agree. Both Kolodiejchuk and Martin assume that Teresa's inability to perceive Christ in her life did not mean he wasn't there. In fact, they see his absence as part of the divine gift that enabled her to do great work. But to the U.S.'s increasingly assertive cadre of atheists, that argument will seem absurd. They will see the book's Teresa more like the woman in the archetypal country-and-western song who holds a torch for her husband 30 years after he left to buy a pack of cigarettes and never returned. Says Christopher Hitchens, author of The Missionary Position, a scathing polemic on Teresa, and more recently of the atheist manifesto God Is Not Great: "She was no more exempt from the realization that religion is a human fabrication than any other person, and that her attempted cure was more and more professions of faith could only have deepened the pit that she had dug for herself." Meanwhile, some familiar with the smiling mother's extraordinary drive may diagnose her condition less as a gift of God than as a subconscious attempt at the most radical kind of humility: she punished herself with a crippling failure to counterbalance her great successes.

    Come Be My Light is that rare thing, a posthumous autobiography that could cause a wholesale reconsideration of a major public figure — one way or another. It raises questions about God and faith, the engine behind great achievement, and the persistence of love, divine and human. That it does so not in any organized, intentional form but as a hodgepodge of desperate notes not intended for daylight should leave readers only more convinced that it is authentic — and that they are, somewhat shockingly, touching the true inner life of a modern saint.


    Source Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith - TIME
     
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  7. Astroboy

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