Yesterday night I found this powerful morsel of truth in C. G. Jung’s autobiography:
The arch sin of faith, it seemed to me, was that it forestalled experience. (Memories, Dreams, Reflections)
This is as true of religious and metaphysical faith as it is of more simple beliefs and expectations.
If you believe in some religious deity, you’ll see it manifesting everywhere and fail to experience what denies its being.
If you believe that the physical world is all that exists, you’ll fail to experience what denies objective measurement.
As a pantheistic physicalist, I’m guilty as charged, but let’s consider more practical examples.
If you believe that willpower decreases upon its exertion, you’ll fail to experience the much more complex dynamics of your will.
If you believe that you’re an introvert, you’ll fail to experience what the full potential of your personality would allow.
If you believe that confidence determines your social behavior, you’ll fail to experience the actual presence of the people around.
If you believe that masturbation robs you of energy, you’ll fail to experience the ten thousand subtle ways in which it affects your body.
The only way you can have raw and real experiences is by keeping the mind cool and open.
To have experiences that aren’t to a large extent self-fulfilling prophecies, you must keep your mind relatively free from expectations.
But there are two problems
1. With a boundlessly open mind, you cannot move forward in the real world.
An ever-broadening horizon breeds hesitation and dilutes the will. As is best seen in radical activists, firm convictions motivate action, and action generates experience. However, humans are built to post-hoc rationalize their actions, which blindly reinforces their unquestioned convictions.
For example, you’ll only revolt against racists if you think that they’re wrong and evil, and the more you revolt, the firmer you’ll stick to your moral perspective. Yet although your actions don’t give you unbiased experiences, an entirely open mind about racism won’t give you any experiences because you won’t be motivated to take action in either direction.
Wisdom comes from balancing open inertness with ignorant fortitude.
2. Pretending to not have faith, beliefs, and expectations forestalls correction through experience.
Unless you live in a truly Zen-enlightened state 24/7, your “unbiased mindfulness” is no more than gullible mindlessness that merely pushes implicit metaphysics and unrecognized prejudices out of consciousness.
This leaves your beliefs untested, unchallenged by reality, uncorrected by empirical fact; it leaves them stuck in a bull’s pile of shit.
Wisdom comes from balancing the non-entertainment of biasing beliefs with their purposeful approval for experimental examination.
Wisdom is a balancing act.
- How Our Beliefs Undermine Our Happiness
- Should You Have Strong Beliefs or an Open Mind?
- The Fundamental Problem of All Religious Teachings