Doubt is a topic that should be relevant to any fervent seekers. I am of the opinion that one should not doubt one’s doubt (wow, redundant). Our doubt is the thing that makes it hard to find any sure footing when it comes to understanding our personal realities. So, it should be no surprise that individuals and whole groups may choose to cast doubt aside. Though it should be noted that some individuals are raised up with such sheltered attitudes of certainty that doubt in their perceptions of reality is never allowed to enter their thought paradigms (oh how I envy these people on my worst days!). In such cases, it is hard to judge these individuals for their lack of doubt, no matter the harm they bring to others with their particular brand of righteousness. In fact, we should let those egos that seem overly certain of what they deem reality to be, serve as an example that we ourselves may in fact have an overly narrow view of reality given that we can observe these others to be so convinced with what they know is right. Which of our biases do we refuse to shed light on? Where do we refuse to let our doubt show us some truth?
Still, as the title of this post suggests, our doubts can be overwhelming sometimes(or most of the time for that matter). The feeling of doubt is a feeling that represents itself as a lack of control. Doubts can leave us listless, wondering where to take our experience next. Should I or shouldn’t I do this or that based on the information at hand? But what do I really know of the information at hand?! The truth (as it seems to me) would suggest that as a biological organism governed by the pleasure principle, I should always have a certain measure of doubt regarding my choices and my view of reality. If I don’t, I’m simply ignoring a fact I feel we must accept a priori, our perception of what the whole of reality is, impressive though it may seem when compared to our animal brethren, is nil in the grand scheme of things. We don’t know what the hell to make of our experience. For more on this point from an individual far smarter than myself, check out this talk.
As far as pragmatism is concerned, we should most certainly be aware of those doubts that try to warn us of a trap. A meandering mind such as mine is always looking for a positively oriented perspective to get behind. And, to a degree, why shouldn’t it? The problem arises when we’re too quick to get behind any charlatan with promises of paradise in their pockets. I’ve certainly found myself guilty of this in the past, and have been crushed when my doubts are affirmed by that one out of place comment or the discovery of a person’s ability to make money by offering up a grandiose interpretation of our existence. Call this a judgement on my part, and I know that spirituality is not the lone cause of ascetics, but when someone makes a buttload of money off generating false hope in others I find it distasteful.
But what if we doubt wrongly when we should have faith? Well…so be it. All we can try to do in the end is be honest with ourselves. For instance, many of us are quite willing to adopt promising beliefs of our sense of self existing infinitely in one form or another. Whether it be a belief in heaven or a sojourn along the karmic wheel, it removes anxiety from our day to day lives to think so. Though, I don’t feel it’s the anxiety of death that bothers us so much, as it is our anxiety about living that leaves us hoping for a greater reality to fall back on. Certainly, we should be respectful of those who have lost much, or never had much to begin with and their desire and hope for a grander scheme. How could they not? The weight of doubt about the meaning some individuals feel about their lives is too much for some to take on as a burden. But for those so inclined, we must be honest and accept the possibility that we’re making it all up! And if not, perhaps we’ll be pleasantly surprised at our time of passing.
What positive angle(I always prefer the positive ones) can we glean from these ideas? If there is one, it should be that doubt is a compass. It is one of the tools we can use to guide ourselves to a greater view of reality. Where a point of view is absolute, there is no room for expansion. Where there is doubt, there is room to explore the never ending myriad of possibility regarding our experience. Only through doubt in our perceptions can we hope to illuminate the blind spots in our reality. It is for each of us our personal task to gauge whether the information available to us can be deemed to have any sliver of validity. As the Buddha said, “be ye a lamp unto yourselves.” Though at times I doubt the Buddha even existed 😉