No Reason to Believe

She obviously was not Fox Mulder, but she did have two posters that read, “I Want to Believe.” The two were scrolled, tubed in cling wrap and tucked side-by-side into her large linen shopping tote. I could not see if they pictured hovering alien spacecraft but I doubt if they did. The background to the declaration of her desire was done in soft, sylvan, ethereal colors. There was nothing glaring, nothing to flaunt membership in a fringy sub-culture or devotion to a passe TV potboiler. There was another line in a language I did not recognize printed in soft gold ink above the English “I Want to Believe.” I figured is was a repetition of the phrase and assumed there were others in a list. Somewhere within the scroll would be the statement in Spanish “Yo Quiero Creer.” That would be the one that best expressed this woman’s wish that, if I had to guess, had nothing to do with chasing UFOs and aliens from far afar. She hardly looked the type—middle-aged, well-off, traveling with her husband in first-class. She joined us in the holding paddock that fronts Gate D40, Miami International, we were bound for Caracas Simon Bolivar. With carry-on items as she possessed, she might have just shown up from the Integral Mall.

I Want to Believe and I Want to Believe. One expression of need for her wall, the other for a friend’s or perhaps the wall of a daughter, or maybe both were gifts. Where the posters would eventually hang was incidental…the point was the woman identified with the desire and I wondered why. Is Belief the place Jeremiah called Gilead? Does its possession promise to heal or soothe? Is it the source of peace or the mint that coins the mantras that out-wear the mind? Or is it the admonition from the slightly mean spirited elder to remind us that in the end there has to be an end to the fun—believe for the sake of your doomed soul, or at least for the comfort of those who worry about it…take your place in the community of believers who are responsible for those who might not. Join the team, believe. “I want to Believe”…does it mean “I haven’t gotten there yet”? Are such posters unconscious (conscious?) pleas for some help in believing? Surely there are coaches in the Mall here who can help; spiritual coaches and therapists and philosophers who can advise one on how to devise a structural template, a conceptual kaleidescope of sorts, through which they can view the world and rest easier knowing they’ve bought tools from stores of their superiors.

Across the frontier from Integral Province, I understand that Daniel Dennet would have said the phrase should read, “I want to attribute agency.” I think that’s a little narrow, there are more needs out there than just that one, and it says more about the structure of his faith and his own necessity to tell the more fascinating story than it does about a sylvan colored, multi-lingual poster, listing phrases for…

The need to believe…

Marianthi posted this comment on one of the blog posts below.

“Steven,
Quoting here one of your ´contexts:

‘I have found in a few rather rare instances people whose autonomy of mind is as well developed as their level of self-awareness. They seem not to have any need for belief. They seem whole in both heart and mind.’

Would you tell me more about this WHOLENESS of heart and mind? Is that the instance when one is not divided against oneself but knows, feels, un hesitantly- but something else as well? Is it total conviction or fullness of instinct or all of the above?”

She has been urging me, with more insistence of late, toward an answer. She deserves the best…

No, it isn’t the instance when one is “not divided against oneself” or not divided against The Other for that matter if we want to take Wholeness into the illusive dominion of Nondualism. Unless one is seriously schizophrenic some internal division is advisable to provide the effective dynamism of consciousness that distinguishes the human psyche from that of a slug. By this I am not suggesting that the behavior of nondual practice should be equated with the behavior of a slug unless in a given situation such an equation is unavoidable. I suspect that possessing a nondual consciousness is not necessarily apart from a psyche possessed of a little internal division—how would one know if they were possessed of nondual awareness unless aware of another kind. I suspect that much because I suspect that nondual consciousness is a psyche-op and if one has the ability, for example, to visualize all sides of a Henry Moore sculpture or one of their own in the making without closing their eyes, one should be able to phase in and out of the nondual op at will whenever it suits the purpose at hand. Nondual is just one aspect of true, multi-faceted Wholeness and one that could illegitimately rub-out all other, often more mutually supportive facets, if it is promoted as a superior therapeutic or spiritualizing operation. Unfortunately nondualism is too often coupled with spirituality, which like the sciences, is reductionistic and ultimately anti-wholeness; thus it contains no reason to believe.

“Is it total conviction…?”

No. Conviction is belief. Somewhere I read a piece by Allan Watts in which he wrote that the original and still reigning significance of “belief” is more like a “fervent preference or hope” and less a profession of faith. I once spent almost an hour trying to follow-up on Watts’s entomology and got as far as learning that he might have been right given enough room for substantial equivocation. However if one pursues the history of “conviction” they will find a word that is actually stronger and more direct in its meaning…so a paraphrase: “They seem not to have any need for conviction.” (I considered at this point making a bad pun with the word “acquittal” but thought slightly better of it.)

“…or the fullness of instinct…”

I like that phrase and the fact that it is present in the question tells me that Marianthi knows a lot more about this Wholeness apprehension than she might be letting on and it makes me wonder if I am not a student in her class. Instincts are not high on the praise list for most folks from a culture with a background in the desert religions. Alternative journalists often make good use of the word if they are not the kind to take themselves too seriously. Human Behavioral Ecologists like it too and they seem to be such delightful subversives that I will gladly give them a plug whether or not they know of what they speak. More respectable civilians, those with spiritual inclinations or at least transcendental leanings prefer however a marginally near miss in the word “intuitive.” Butter would not melt in their mouths…but it appears that I digress.

Fullness of Instinct.

Instinct is informed by experience. This seems fairly obvious on watching the hunting strategy of an old cat…it appears to have what it needs to achieve its ends wu wei; seasoned but unconscious calculations of odds against exertion and factors of distance, terrain and cover, when to stalk, when to pounce, when to just sit back bemused and wash the face. Old cats have no need for beliefs for they have all it takes to live well without them. There is an age when they pass being needy. Marianthi and I have talked of the informing of instinct to make it full.

So how does one know there is no need to believe. “How do you know when,” she asked me last week and hinted she already knew.

It is without doubt when one catches themselves preening a little like an old cat, looking that way at the world, catching the taste of a sense that no matter how long the delicious free falls through the abyss that come the bottom, if it comes, one will land on their feet. Will it hurt? Who knows. But its safe until then.

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About Steven Nickeson

I've been a cowboy and a hobo and a truck driver and a newspaper reporter and magazine editor. I've written two text books on Native American property rights and been awarded national prizes for investigative journalism. I've ridden horses, all named Alpo, damned hard in the Westerns. I was once a range detective for Santo Domingo Pueblo and a private investigator for 18 years. I've also been a manuscript physician and writing tutor and journalism teacher and consultant to a literary agent. I've been a fencing contractor, and a welder in one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world and read Nordic Runes as a contract oracle on several psychic hot lines. My occupation for the last 19+ years is "Artist/Blacksmith" and I've done better at being an artist than any other calling. For nearly half of my life I have had an address along The Pan American Highway (Carretera Panamericana) in five cities/towns/villages, five counties, four states, two nations, two continents. I am in some way wedded to that road. View all posts by Steven Nickeson

3 responses to “No Reason to Believe

  • Integral and Types « Marmalade

    […] the implications of ”No Reason to Believe” add nuances, […]

  • Marianthi

    I´ve been swimming round images of ´fullness of instinct´ for a whole year now, dear wise one, before I could add my comments to the richness of yours. Thank you for them. In those waters came bobbing up two of my favorite characters: Diogenes and Hari.
    The first one, the real man who lived and became the most famous of cynics of Ancient Greece, rejected all proper norms and requirements of his society, lived as an ascetic, made fun of Plato (to his face and to his students), masturbated in public with the comment that he wished his stomach could be as easily satisfied as his penis and insisted that what was good enough for a dog´s comfort was good enough for a human. Kynion, old Greek word for dog made him and those who espoused his thought into kyniki : dog-like, from which English somehow derived the word cynics, the dog-like ones, who needed little beyond satisfying the bare cravings of instinct and could laugh at those who needed more.
    The second one is called Hari. She´s the protagonist of a book yet to be written, a wise old lady, lover of Diogenes, who pulls the ground from under his feet as passionately and often as she can. She´s groundless and invites him there. She visits him draped in silk garments and tries to anoint him with perfumed oils. Stuck in his rejection of comfort he rejects them. She laughs, he frowns. Next visit she wears rags, eats dirty raw onions with him (his favorite diet) and spits the tough stems out. She stinks, he stinks. She rejects him. He pines, but stays stuck to his show-off onion diet. Then she comes to him as the temple scholar, in simple linen, embracing scrolls full of quotes. She reads them to him for hours. He yawns, she demands mental alertness from one who says he´s better than those who need comforts. He falls asleep. Sternly she asks him why on earth he sat like an old dog, listening till he slept. He can´t figure her out. Loves and hates her. Her shifts, her freedom to contradict herself and catch him out at his rigidity are ultimately so entertaining. She´s more like an aeluros, a cat, in ancient Greek. Flexible, not set in her ways, responding to the moment, to the instinct of what seems right for the time even if it completely contradicts yesterday. She awakens and bends Diogenes out of his posturing. The aeluroics begin with her.

    I know you know her.

  • Kerry

    Steven,
    Even from my ‘mid-life’ vantage I can notice that instinct and longevity, or is that qualitative longevity, go together or not at all. I recall, earlier, a belief that instinct was all only inherited and that it never evolved with any input of my own. So, to read that you too, you two, notice an education of instinct, that it gets informed, that its a tool that keeps making itself, is most welcomed.
    In youth anyone could be dining with loud fascinating friends and injest a piece of ham, maybe hidden in salad, that a dog (maybe an old dog?) would sniff once and turn away from. Why? Instinct is asleep in the din of preoccupation, muffled by the pillows of self conscious intrigue.

    May we all loose count of our lives,

    K

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