Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Faith is the pressure of the Spirit on humanity, the force that urges humanity towards what is better, not only in the order of knowledge but in the whole order of spiritual life. Faith, as the inward sense of truth, points to the object over which fuller light is shed later.
Faith can only grow from within, it cannot be acquired vicariously. Nothing great in this world was ever accomplished without a living faith.
Imagination is a potent help in every event of our lives. Imagination acts on Faith, and both are the draughtsmen who prepare the sketches for Will to engrave. This is all the secret.
Even today when the intellectual temper of the intelligentsia is too often that of materialistic scepticism, we come across remarkable incidents which modern science cannot account for. The unbelievers scoff and ridicule or try to explain it all by using big technical terms which fail to explain and only explain away. The credulous in awe whisper, "a miracle!" and yet feel somewhat ashamed and sometimes rather fearful.
The fact is that our modern knowledge, while it may tell us about the external side of nature and the outward man, is still ignorant of the inner forces which exist in both. "Spiritual and divine powers lie dormant in every human being," says H. P. Blavatsky, "and the wider the sweep of his spiritual vision the mightier will be the God within."
Most people today deny the very existence of the inner God and are thereby blinded to its manifestations. Face to face with expressions of the Divine, they prefer to deny or ignore. The many "providential" escapes; the varied strange and remarkable "interventions"; the so-called coincidences—all can be traced to their real source, the Spirit in Man.
Many of these unexplained occurrences are made possible through the power of faith. But what is faith? What does the modern man know of faith and its workings? What are the ingredients of faith? What did the ancients mean when they affirmed that "with faith all things are possible"? The educated intellectual is likely to laugh and say it is all ignorant superstition: how can faith cause anything to happen? And yet that same man will accept the fact that if you give a pellet of bread to a patient suffering from constipation and he believes you have given him a laxative, the effect on his body will be that of a laxative! "Oh, yes, but that is easy to explain," says the sceptic. "That is a clear case of auto-suggestion and demonstrates the action of the mind upon the body." Very well. But was not that action of the mind the result of the belief held by the patient? Or—to change the illustration—when a man is incapable of walking, though there is no actual physiological incapacity, because he thinks he has suffered an injury to his legs, what paralyses his legs? Is it not his belief (or faith) that he has received an injury that incapacitates him for walking? Such examples could be multiplied. And the same principle explains the common experience that we do better when we have faith in our own skill of knowledge, that self-confidence brings success and lack of it failure. The question really is: Can anything be done without a measure of faith? Could we live at all without faith? Rightly did the Initiate Paul write to the Corinthians: "For we walk by faith, not by sight."
And did not his Master, Jesus, extol the power of faith above all others when he said to his disciples:
For verily I say unto you, if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, "Remove hence to yonder place," and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you. (Matthew, XVII, 20)
The occasion on which Jesus is reported to have thus spoken is significant and deserves to be recalled. His disciples had failed to cure a youth suffering from epilepsy, and his father went to Jesus and complained. Jesus exclaimed: "What an unbelieving and perverse generation!" and asked that the boy be brought to him. And forthwith he cured him. Later his disciples asked their Master privately: "Why could we not cast it (the evil spirit) out?" And Jesus answered: "Your faith is too weak." And then he uttered the promise quoted above.
In this instance the cure was the result of Jesus' own spiritual faith, which made his command an act of will, and he is indeed said to have spoken sternly to the boy. Such healing is possible through an effort of the healer's will which enables him to transmit a positive life-current to the patient and thereby restore his health.
There are other possibilities. Take the case of the woman who touched Jesus' garment. The cure in that instance was the result of the woman's own faith. The incident is revealing. It is narrated in the Gospel of St. Luke, Chapter VIII. Jesus was on his way to the house of a man whose little daughter was dying. The father had begged him to save his child and Jesus had consented. Crowds surrounded him on all sides, when a woman came from behind and touched his cloak. Jesus felt the touch but had not seen the woman, did not even know who had touched him, and yet the woman was cured. For twelve years she had suffered from haemorrhages and, certain that Jesus could cure her, she had followed him and touched his cloak. And lo! at once the flow of blood had stopped. And to her Jesus said: "My daughter, your faith has cured you! Go in peace!
What is this invisible, intangible imponderable that can achieve such startling results and produce what the ignorant call "miracles"? "Faith," says H. P. Blavatsky, "is a quality endowed with a most potent creative power." This inner quality is in all of us, however dormant, and can act even unconsciously to the believer, and independently of the merit or otherwise of the object to which it is directed. How much greater its power when it is consciously exercised by one who knows and therefore understands fully its modus operandi!
That power, then, lies "inside human credulity" and explains the rationale of many things otherwise unexplainable. For the aspirant the cultivation of true faith is a necessary part of his spiritual discipline. In fact, without it no spiritual discipline can begin. He must recognize the Divine Presence in his own heart and have unshakable faith that he can seek and receive Its guidance. This is true prayer and acts as a veritable invocation which brings down into the personal consciousness a divine afflatus. Says Paracelsus:
The human spirit is so great a thing that no man can express it; as God Himself is eternal and unchangeable, so also is the spirit of man. If we rightly understand its powers, nothing would be impossible to us on earth. The imagination is strengthened and developed through faith in our will. Faith must confirm the imagination, for faith establishes the will.
The purely worldly intellect in which scepticism is entrenched finds it difficult indeed to awaken the spiritual will. And so the acquiring of faith is the first step in the spiritual life. In Buddhist philosophy faith is called the "seed" without which no spiritual effort can begin. This faith includes not only conviction, but also imagination or the image-making faculty and the volitional aspect, the will to achieve.
In Sanskrit, the word for faith is shraddha, akin to cor, "the heart," in Latin. Indeed, that inner faith is more a quality of the heart than of the mind. It is in truth the perception of the heart and transcends that of the intellect. At first only an intuitional feeling, it grows into intuition itself and flowers into self-realization. This faith or shraddha is described by Dr. Radhakrishnan thus: "...it is not acceptance of a belief. It is striving after self-realization by concentrating the powers of the mind on a given ideal."
In the Bhagavad-Gita Krishna deals with the subject of faith in great detail. In the Seventeenth Discourse he tells Arjuna that the faith of every man is in accordance with his svabhava, his own nature or character, his own temperament and disposition. "Man is of the nature of his faith: what his faith is, that, verily is he" (XVII, 3). He then goes on to explain the faith of mortals on the basis of the three gunas or qualities, sattva, rajas, and tamas: truth, desire and inertia.
The ramifications of the principle that each one is of the nature of his faith are wide and most significant. How necessary it is to make our faith sattvic! This can be achieved only if we know our true Self, if we sense the presence of God within our own hearts. To think of ourselves as mere bodies will cause us to lead superficial and sensuous lives and will shut us out altogether from the finer things of life. To believe we are nothing but the personality or mask we wear in our present life will make us selfish and enhance our sense of separateness. Only when we know the Real in us do we touch the deeper levels of our consciousness.
Let us follow the wise injunction of W. Q. Judge, who tells us: "...formulate to yourself certain things as true that you feel to be true, and then increase your faith in them."
May we endeavour to cultivate an ardent and unshakable faith in the reality of the Divine Spirit and feel ourselves its channels! This will enable the God within to manifest in us, and make us transmitters of its blessings for the benefit of our fellow men.
But that Infinite we would enter is living. it is the ultimate being of us. Meditation is a fiery brooding on that majestical Self. We imagine ourselves into Its vastness. We conceive ourselves as mirroring Its infinitudes, as moving in all things, as living in all beings, in earh, water, air, fire, aether. We try to know as It knows, to live as It lives, to be compassionate as It is compassionate....As our aspiration, so is our inspiration. We imagine It as Love and what a love unfolds us. We conceive of it as Might and we take power from that Majesty.