# 202: Belief in Faith
Story behind the Passage
When I took a walk with the horse today, there was so much peace — the blue sky, the forest, the wind and the two of us. But of course, we do not need all of this to be happy. We can be happy and calm if we decide to be happy and calm. Does that work? Sure! Every disciple in any denomination probably knows about this. You have to trust that there is faith in the first place before you can open up the door to be touched by it. Obviously, this immediately explains why I picked William James today.
I read a lot of James’ works when I wrote my last book which also represents my coming out as a pragmatist. James was one of the founders of pragmatism. I was a pragmatist before I knew I was a pragmatist. And it was very funny to learn several weeks ago how much that becomes part of your DNA. When people use the word pragmatist in an unconscious way, it usually has little to do with philosophical pragmatism. But the urge to solve problems and create “use value” is always the same, no matter how colloqual people use the concept. I just noticed this when a colleague asked me how I defined the word “utility” in a text. To me, it was so clear that I — which is not scientifically correct — had forgotten to define it properly. You will see how pragmatists define it below. So, how to define “faith”?
“The truth is that in the metaphysical and religious sphere, articulate reasons are cogent for us only when our inarticulate feelings of reality have already been impressed in favor of the same conclusion.” There are several keywords in here which are essential for philosophical thinking, not just for pragmatism or some understanding of religion. The first one is “truth,” obviously. Even among pragmatists, there are many definitions of truth. For James, it was mostly that what is true is also good and stands any test. This assumption is the foundatinal principle of everything else that derives about the “metaphysical and religious sphere.”
So, what follows is basically a differentiation between the conscious and unconscious perception, the “articulate” and “inarticulate reasons,” that might be cogent or not. And the difference is simply your individual decision to accept the truth as you imagine it to be. To make this simple: If you believe that such a thing as God exists, you will be able to be touched by that spirit. If you do not, then the chances are high that nothing touches you. In other words: You only see what you want to see, you only hear what you want to hear…
Is that not such a nice thing?
Because it all depends on your choice of what “reality” is.
The reason why I am thinking about this so much these days is because it sheds a different light on teaching. If you believe that teaching people only brings facts and figures to them that complement their existing truth in their minds, that certainly is something. But if you believe that you can change their notion of truth in a way that their lives fundamentally change — that their “inarticulate feelings of reality” get touched — that is something different; something even bigger. And if you believe in that, it will change your entire approach to being and acting as a teacher.
Whatever the word teacher means to you.
I have to be honest, I am only starting to understand what it really means. That is something transformative but it is also something affirmative. That affirmation basically takes me back to the beginning of a long circle around myself. I started with the practical, then I came to philosophy, then I came to reject philosophy, and now I am back to it. And I come back to it, not because I want to convince people of the “truth” that philosophy teaches you. I come back to it because I see that people are calling for it. I also see how it changes people’s perspectives. This change of perspective is what changes their lives and ultimately their feelings. So, this brings us back to the most fundamental question of philosophy — of humanity at large. Is it rationality that drives us? James took a clear stance and I am going to close with his words today:
“Instinct leads, intelligence does but follow.”
1) Does religion have any meaning to you?
2) Do you think that people can be touched by metaphysical phenomena without believing in them in the first place?
3) How would you define “rational thinking”? When does it not help?