Rainer Maria Rilke from Letters to a Young Poet
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day
into the answer.”
Time and again I have become aware of how profoundly connected my psychological self is to my spiritual self. One day as I worked at my desk I began musing about my childhood and realized how keenly ashamed I was of the limitations of the little girl I had been. I felt surrounded by spirit and as if pushed in the direction, I began walking downstairs to the little chapel in our convent. I lay down on the floor before the altar in a fetal position and held “Margaret” like I had never held her before. I promised to love and cherish her. I thanked her for all the good things she brought to me. I forgave her imperfection. I offered her gifts to God. At seventy-three years old I am finally living into those gifts.
I think that faith development is both spiritual practice and psychological practice. My experience with Margaret was both a psychological practice of becoming conscious of my vulnerabilities and a spiritual practice of letting them go and resting in the divine. When we have doubts about faith we sometimes go into “The Dark Night of the Soul,” described by the mystics.
“It is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness….the meaning that you had given your life, your activities, your achievements, where you are going, what is considered important, and the meaning that you had given your life for some reason collapses.”
Elkhart Tolle See the full description here: https://www.eckharttolle.com/newsletter/october-2011
So we begin to ask questions, often feeling guilty about it. Some give up all faith in the end; for others doubt brings them closer to God. Why this paradox? To paraphrase Jesus, whoever finds faith will lose it, and whoever loses their faith for my sake will find it. After living in our faith for a while we take the risk of separating what is authentic about it from that which encloses us in a spiritual safety deposit box. If we come to a faith in which we have no need to be controlled, we come to an experience of the holy that is real and which has no need to control us.
Why do we sometimes feel closer to God when we doubt God? Because we dare to seek the real God who lives outside the sometimes immature and unhealthy images we conjure. Faith is not something that can be pinned down with very specific and concrete language. Those who express faith are often mocked in our “enlightened” western society. When we have begun to develop the right side of our brain we can see into the spaces between words and know that those spaces contain real truth. Some of my heroes are scientists who dare to make the connections between science and spirituality: Brian Swimme, mathematical cosmologist, Albert Einstein, and to some extent, David Bohm. They have risked being laughed out of the sacred halls of academia.
Many of you are by now sick of the Meyers-Briggs Personality Inventory; however, it can be a profound spiritual awakening. A person who scores as a high thinker and sensate can use spiritual practices to develop his/her intuitive gifts. As a traveler I could stop photographing a myriad of details for a few minutes and just sit and drink in what the scene means and how it affects me. Practices like this bring us into the spaces between words where the experience of the holy happens. Churches celebrate the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle annually by telling the story of how he doubted the resurrection of Jesus. Poor man. He never had access to the Meyers–Briggs.
At the end of his life the great scholastic theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas said about his many treatises, “The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.” His fine mind and the questions he asked of it led him to rest in divine presence. They served him so well that in the end he didn’t need them anymore.