It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at or used CuriousCat (remember all those posts and tweets from back in the day?), but that doesn’t mean I stopped replying to questions generally. Whether it’s on Discord or over email or on Facebook or whatever, I still try to keep myself open to discussion, explanation, and sharing ideas or notions when people ask. And, recently, two people pinged me on two different platforms separately with basically the same question: how do I deal with doubt and disbelief in my spiritual life?
Phrased one way (on Discord):
A question about faith: a lot of what I have read is about awakening to the understanding of the Truth, but do you ever struggle with faith itself? Like, do you ever have days where you wake up and doubt everything you’ve read, and wonder if it isn’t all just a comfort to soothe the human condition? And what helps you in those moments?
Phrased another way (over email):
How do you deal with doubt and belief? I’ve been an on-and-off practitioner of the Hermetic path, but I have always had doubt and lack of belief that any of this is real, whether I’m wasting my time studying this or whether I’m a fool for believing in magic. How do I deal with these doubts?
When multiple people ask me separately the same question all at once, I think that’s a good thing to discuss publicly, because chances are they’re not the only ones with such questions.
As I read it, the questions I were asked above got the same answer, which I’ll share below:
The easy and short answer is that I don’t do anything to deal with these issues, and that nothing really helps with concerns about doubt or lack of faith—nothing, at least, beyond just carrying on. For me, these moments of doubt or struggles I might have with faith (and I do absolutely have them from time to time) are little more than passing moods; nothing renders me unshakably confident in these things beyond just going back to the texts and reminding myself of why I’m doing this at all, and what got me here to begin with.
Like, the whole point of me doing all of this <waves vaguely> is because, ultimately, I’m not convinced. I’m here to find out and experience all this stuff for myself, to show to myself that this stuff is experientially real. Hermēs Trismegistos doesn’t preach “believe or perish”, after all; he teaches “believe and find out” (a similar notion to the saying “trust but verify”). And so far, so much of what I’ve seen, read, and done in a Hermetic context has worked and shown itself to be basically as Hermēs discusses it that I have good reason to believe the rest (for the most part) is good, too. I just need to keep going to see for myself.
When it comes to magic specifically, sure, I occasionally doubt the efficacy and meaning of what it is I’m doing. And then I go back to the stories I’ve heard from others about their successful workings, and I go back to my own experiences that have shown me incontrovertibly that this stuff works and that I’m not just making it up. (I mean, everything is made up to one degree or another. What matters isn’t whether something is made up and real, but rather whether something is made up and works.)
While it’d be great to have an unshakeable faith in this stuff with a level of confidence that flatly doesn’t permit doubt, I don’t think I’m at that level yet (though I am working towards it). Much like my own sensitivity to what other people think of me, over time, concerns of that nature just diminish and eventually go away. I don’t have to do anything about it, so long as it doesn’t keep me from actively doing what I need to do along my own spiritual path and journey; doubts and fears like this only become a problem if they actively get in my way from practicing. And, really, “practice” is what all this is really about: we don’t call it the Great Work for nothing! We’re constantly working at it, and we’re constantly practicing it to get better at it. So long as we keep that up, we’re doing just what we need to do.