They were talking about Faith, and I listened to what they had to say. I listened because I wanted to learn more about Faith, to understand this "something" that almost everyone thinks about, searches for, or depends upon for the attainment of inner peace.
Probably all of us have carried around a concept of Faith, however dim; but it is a concept that is constantly modified by time and experience. As a mental idea it is subject to growth, just as is everything that has being, whether it be material or non-material. There is something in the larger Law that urges all things to move into newness, to become more completely that which destiny decreed for them in the timeless beginning.
So, I took my faith-idea and turned it loose to mingle with the other ideas in the room. It could not very well return to me the same as it was; it would be touched by newness, and thus would grow.
First someone said that Faith is belief or trust in God. What did that person mean by God, and what was it he trusted? For me, and I was putting my own idea to test, God meant the divine essence at the core of all things. To trust this divine essence is to have confidence in the uncompromising aid it gives to the pure call for guidance through the moments that cloud the mind and burden the heart. It is to know that the god-element that turns the great wheels of the Universe turns also these within our very selves. It is to believe that within our own hearts stands the shelter for every possible storm that could rage within or without our persons — because that God is sitting there.
Then someone else said that faith is "fidelity to one's promises, to one's duty, or to some person." This was a different slant to consider, so I called my concept forth and looked again. . . .
Fidelity to one's promises would mean a resolute will that would not sway or cower or break in the face of adversity. It would mean a hearty conviction that one's promises are worthy of being sustained because they will ultimately effect good for others. Fidelity to one's duty would be based upon the proven fact that life meets halfway every steadfast effort to carry out the purpose for which we are alive. Life does not really veil our duty. It is only our lack of vision that confounds us.
To meet one's duty faithfully is to respect the reasons for being gifted with life and is a way of saying 'thank-you' for the privilege. Fidelity to some person means being aware of our personal responsibility to fellow humans. There is never a time when the assumption of loyalty to another is without purpose or mutual reward. There is little that has more goodness at its foundation than an unselfish pledge of support in a genuine cause.
I then heard another say that Faith also means a wholehearted confidence in someone or something that is darkened by suspicion. This, too, was a worthy angle to think about, and it carried me back to the original definition that had been offered. Faith or confidence in someone meeting with disapproval or injustice would mean to trust, again, the primal essence at the heart of the maligned; to believe in the basic goodness of the person and his cause, and to remember the evil or danger in our judgment of another. To have faith in the suspected is to have an active sympathy for all the misunderstood purposes that face the gallows of criticism — at least the kind that results from ignorance or shallow-mindedness. Whether or not the person or the cause is eventually freed or condemned, it is better to have had trust that the laws of natural Tightness will always, sooner or later, test the value of everything, and either use it or cast it aside. Never has it been useful to doubt the wisdom of Nature, or her care.
When I eventually withdrew from the company, I felt refreshed and indeed richer for having been there. Something that Tennyson had written in his "In Memoriam" seemed to summarize the feeling of the evening —
Whose faith has center everywhere, nor cares to fix itself to form.
Perhaps this is the real meaning of faith carried out to its natural conclusion. It really can't be excluded from any phase of life, for it is inherent in the act of life itself. Was it not Faith in the first place that caused the great God to place us all on the living journey? What greater obligation is there than to match, with a useful faith, that one which gave us our "start"?
(From Sunrise magazine, April 1954; copyright © 1954 Theosophical University Press)