Three Kinds of Faith
From a Talk by Robert Crosbie
Theosophy, November, 1921
Every human being has faith—faith in something, some ideal, some conception, some religion, some formula—but while the faiths of different people have one or another object, the faith itself proceeds from the Highest, and is inherent in the heart of every being. Faith is the very basis of our nature. Whatever way we follow is because of the faith we have—the conviction that it is the best way. That the world is full of false faiths is because of the differing ideas, beliefs and philosophies which limit faith itself to the means thought necessary for obtaining a particular object of faith.
In the seventeenth chapter of the Bhagavad-Gita faith is said to be of three kinds: faith of the quality called sattwa, the good and the true; faith of the quality called rajas, of action, and of passion; and faith of the quality called tames, of indifference and ignorance. These three qualities given to faith are, in fact, the three limitations placed on faith by every human being; for the power of faith in itself is limitless. We continually limit that power to its operation within the range of some minor object or ideal based on externalities. “The embodied soul being gifted with faith, each man is of the same nature as that ideal on which his faith is fixed.” Man has that quality of faith in accordance with his disposition; and he also continually becomes of the nature of the ideal on which his faith is fixed. It is evident, then, that we ought to be sure of the nature of the faith upon which our ideal is placed.
If one places his faith on any externality, whatever it may be—gods or men, religions or systems of thought—he has placed it upon a broken reed; he has limited the very power of his own spirit to expand itself beyond the limitations of his ideal. When, for instance, we accept the idea that nothing is real but that which we can see or hear or taste or smell or touch, we have placed our faith on a very low basis. There is some reason for our falsity of thought and action, when we have assumed the present moment to be the only moment, the outward terrestrial world and this one existence to be the only life, from which we go, we know not where, nor to what purpose it all has been. To look on all beings according to one’s own limitation of mind and range of perception, and to see only their externalities of speech or action in accordance, is not seeing them as they really are. An outside God, or an outside devil, an outside Law, an outside atonement for sins, the idea of sin being other than a denial of our own spiritual nature (the unpardonable sin), are All external faiths of the nature of tamas, or ignorance. Ignorance always leads to superstition. Superstition leads to false belief, and false belief to false faith.
We are all in constant conflict with each other because of false bases of faith, for the very reason that faith fixed on any thing will bring results, and men are blinded to real and true faith by the results of even false faith. Yet so long as we have a false faith shall we continue to create for ourselves lives of misery. The results flowing from a false faith in a selfish ideal must bring us bad effects in wrong conditions. They are the very limitations we have imposed upon ourselves by external faiths in other lives, and we must come again and again into bodies until we have rid ourselves of the defects in our nature which those external faiths have engendered. We have to get a better basis for thought and action than the false faith of the likes and dislikes we have obtained by heredity. We have produced the effects we see, but we need not go on repeating the same mistakes life after life, if we will but change our ideals. We have to find a true basis of faith. We have to place our faith upon that which is not external, but internal.
The Internal is the very source of the powers that we possess of every kind, and that Internal is the same in every living one. At the very root of our being is that changeless Self which we can know only within ourselves. To reach in and in to It, we must first divest ourselves of all our ideas—of everything which changes. First of all, let man divest himself of the idea that he is his body. He occupies it; he uses it; but he knows that it is ever changing, that never for one single instant is it the same as it was the moment before. Let him divest himself further of the idea that he is his mind; for he himself can change the ideas that compose it—throw them out bodily and take their very opposite, if he chooses—yet he is still acting with other ideas. We are not bodies; we are not minds; nor are we both together; but we are That which uses and sustains them both. Through all the changes of the past and present, and those that are to come, we shall always be ourselves. Even when death comes we shall still be operating in another way than in the physical body. The basis of the Changeless Self places the whole universe within the reach of any being’s mind—a stable basis for thought and action and realization within himself.
These three things we have to know: Each one is the Self in his innermost nature; every power that he has arises in that Self; every being of every kind is conscious, with the power of the extension of its range of perception and action, while every instrument is due to the limitation of the conception of the individual’s real nature. Never by looking at other beings, nor by any kind of faith whatever can man realize his oneness with the One Great Life; he can realize it only by looking into his own nature. His own nature is realized by seeing that which is not the nature of the Self. For anything seen, heard, or felt, or tasted or perceived is not the Self, but merely a perception of the Self. The Self perceives what may be perceived according to its own ideas, according to its own faith, but that which is perceived is never the Self. Within every being from whom we obtain any action or from whom we perceive anything, there is the Self, but we do not perceive That. It is only by realizing It within our selves that we realize its existence in every other being. Then honor the spiritual nature of every being and strive to aid that being to see for himself the true path by which he can realize his true nature! We all have to think and act with that true nature as our guide. We find ourselves prevented on every hand from taking the position of the true nature—it seems impossible. But this is only a delusion born from the false faith we have held. We have established ideas, likes and dislikes, and feelings which under the law of the return of impressions recur again and again. The moment we attempt to take an opposite stand we meet the result of the combined action of all these forces within ourselves. This is what we may call “the war in heaven”—the war in the man’s own nature. But if he remains true to his own spiritual nature, he is bound to be the conqueror. If he has faith in the law of his own nature, he will go forward and gradually the obstacles will disappear. But we must hold on grimly and have confidence and faith in That which is the only Real anywhere—Life itself Consciousness. Then the fetters we have made for ourselves will fall away. Every force in nature begins to act for us and with us because we have no desire of our own, but only for the good, for the salvation of all. Every soul and every thing seems to work for our advantage, but not because we want it. We begin to see the spiritual meaning of the saying that the man who desires to save his life must lose it. He gives up everything as an acquisition for himself, devoting every power he has or gains to the service of others, and the whole universe is before him. He can take all—but let him take nothing save to give it out again, accept nothing save to lay it at the feet of others!
There is no question of sin, or sinner. There is no question of good or evil. There is only the question: Are you working for yourself as you understand yourself, or are you working for the Self as you ought to understand you are, and not for anything else? If you want nothing for yourself, require nothing for this body, but think only to do for others, what is needed comes under the law of the very force for which you make attraction. Support comes in every direction. The whole nature—spiritual, intellectual, psychical, astral and physical—is strengthened; even the surroundings are improved. It is our lack of faith—our Unfaith in That, which puts us where we would not be. Denying the Christ within, the Krishna within, the Spirit within, is “the unpardonable sin,” and so long as we crucify that Christ within, just so long will we suffer on the cross of human passions and desires. Service for ourselves is a creation which ties us fast to wrong conditions. We may strive for better bodies, better positions, for possessions of all kinds, better qualities, better understanding on one condition only, that the motive be to make ourselves the better able to help and teach others.
The only true faith is that in the Highest—in the Changeless, in That which each in his innermost nature is. The only true path is the trusting to the law of our own spiritual nature. Men may go from faith to faith, from faith in one thing to faith in some other thing, moving along from life to life and obtaining some results according to the nature of the ideal upon which their faith is fixed, but the only way out is through the faith in the spiritual, essential nature of all beings. And no greater gift could be given to any human being than the inalienable fact that he—and each one—has the power to realize it. This is a part of the ancient knowledge known by a few, followed by a few, which They have ever brought into a world of false faiths and tried to teach the people in general.
Those who follow the Path of true faith are not drawn away from their fellow-men. One’s fellow-men are more to him than they ever were before. He sees more in them. He sees more clearly the difficulties under which they labor, and desires to help them in every way. So he is more of a living man. He acts more knowingly than do the rest. He gets more from nature than they do, because he sees the whole and the aspects of the individuals that compose the whole. He gets as much out of this life and more, far more, than the man who lives for enjoyment, for happiness, whose ambition is for himself. But he lives not for himself. The whole aim of his life is that men may know these truths; for he knows that knowledge means the destruction of false faiths, and hence of all the suffering and horrors of physical existence. Then, evolution will go on by leaps and bounds. Men will be extricated from the places to which they have consigned themselves, and move on without limit in a universe of infinite possibilities.
When all our false beliefs, our desires and passions, our likes and dislikes have fallen away from us like cast-off garments, and we have resumed that nature of us which is divine, then we shall be able to build a civilization as much higher than this as we can possibly imagine. For we cannot get away from the Karma of the race to which we belong, and those effects which have been produced by us together, we must work out together. The best way, the highest way, and the surest way, is to proceed along the line of our own inner nature, and, so doing, give the suggestion to others by which they may realize their inner nature. Then, dwelling on That which is immortal, changeless, limitless, which is our very self and the Self of all creatures, the realization will come—little by little, but it will surely come.