Principles of Fire (2) belief-faith-knowing

Continued from Part 1.

Before me on the table is an electrical device. It needs a new battery and to do that I have to remove the cover. The small screw holding it is of the type that requires a screwdriver with a cross-head. My mind is intrigued that this illustration of ‘knowing’ has come into the ‘now’, but it has, and I’m grateful.

I open my domestic toolkit that lives beneath the shoe polish in the utility room. Inside is a group of small cross-headed screwdrivers. As long as the size of the head is correct, I know this will open the battery cover of the clock. How do I ‘know’ this for a fact? And how did I come to have such a certainty of success that I can lay aside everything else I’m doing to focus all my energies on this simple but important task?

In Part 1, we spoke of belief and faith – but not in terms of religion; rather in terms of psychology and a more general spirituality. In that post, I said that belief advanced to faith, but that there was something beyond faith. Now we come to what that something is, and it may come as a surprise that is knowledge – or, rather, the act of knowing; something we take for granted… but shouldn’t.

I ‘know’ because I’ve done it, before. But even that is not the start of the trail. I only know this because someone once showed me how to do it. Even then, we haven’t finished chasing this back. Someone showing me is not the same as doing it myself. When this happens, successfully, I get more than a mental tick in the box; I get the rush of entry into a new world. This may be a small victory, but think back to bigger examples, like the first time your parents removed their supporting hand and you rode your bike…wobbling off into your excited future.

Science might say you that your brain and muscles simply added a capability. This is certainly true, but is that how it felt? And doesn’t our motivation to try for other expansions of self get driven by how it feels?

For spirituality to have any real meaning – beyond the intellectual ‘purity’ of the zealot – it should take us into a newer world each time we make a breakthrough. Belief and faith are not exempt from this expectation. The belief in an ‘afterlife’, where we live in a state of bliss, free from our ‘lower’ natures, has caused more heartache than can be imagined. Life is now, life is here. We know that the biblical parables spoke in metaphor, yet we don’t always think to apply this to the meaning of life and death.

Death happens, there is nothing we can do to change that. Biologically, we are programmed to die. The forces that shaped us could have made it differently, but didn’t. So we can say that death is part of the cycle of life; or that the two are day and night in a revolution of the personal planet. The personality is produced by cumulative effect of our reactions to life, going right back to the fundamental experiences of being ‘one with mother’ and the inevitable separation and lack of satisfaction engendered. And so our individual lives began, never able to be reunited in that total oneness and belonging that brought us into the world.

Is this just a tragedy, or a longing that can take us, like the Prodigal ‘Son’, home? And what sort of maturity and home would that quest involve?

For what do we exchange this inevitable closeness with mother? Something wonderful, certainly: the ability to self-direct our lives – to go out there and ride that bicycle, change that battery–things which are mundane at that level, but very different if we see that there is a wholly new way of living associated with spiritual growth. That is the goal of real spirituality: personal transformation. What passes from this life at death is a different consideration, and not one within the scope of this post.

Let us continue the bicycle metaphor. We become competent riders. We can ride in a very straight line. We become qualified to ride, with thousands of others, along large, adult roads. The bicycle becomes more complex, heavy and sophisticated; and faster, ever faster. Riding along is filled with excitement, and we carry on letting the clever machine do more and more for us. One day, we don’t even notice that there is an us and a bicycle, we just see our lives as movement in a straight line, along the road followed by so many other bicycles.

Then, one day, we speed past a person of great interest who is cycling very slowly at the side of the road. We don’t know why she or he is of great interest, but we know they are… There is, perhaps, a calmness, or even a sense of adventure about them. They have an air of being slightly different, detached from the world of the straight line road we take for granted. The next day we see them again, but we have time to slow our bicycle down to stop next to them. They smile. They may even say they have been expecting us…

They invite us to ride with them, but, immediately, they race ahead and turn off onto a track that runs through a beautiful forest. We only know how to ride along the road, so, in a panic, we stop at the point where they left our road and stare at the wonderful strangeness of what’s happening. Were we not so bored with the straight line of the road, it might seem frightening. But it’s not frightening, it’s exciting, and it tastes of the same kind of newness as when we first got on our bike, knowing that the world of our self was about to get much bigger.

Other bikes and riders are flashing past us. Some may disapprove of us standing there, feet on the floor. We look along the track into the forest. Far ahead, the stranger is standing next to his bike but has turned back to face us. He is smiling. How can this be? Bike and rider are one, surely? To get off would be like… dying.

There is a lightness of laughter as we flex our feet, secure on the ground. All the riders with whom we were cycling have gone. There’s just us, the empty straight road and the enigmatic stranger on the path in the forest, inviting us to join him or her on that mysterious path.

Since we got on the bike, so many years ago, we have never been off it. We look at the figure in the forest and see that rider and bike can be separate things; that we can live perfectly well off the bike. More importantly, we can see that the massive cycling highway, with its shared straight line that misses so much of the beautiful land, is not the only way to travel in this wonderful landscape.

In a moment that will change our lives, we examine the mysterious stranger’s stance, and get off our own bicycle. For a second, we mirror his pose, then, we begin to walk towards him, pushing the bicycle, whose direction we now control. After a few steps, an idea comes to us: we get back on the bike and cycle towards him, achieving the power of the machine plus our own choice of direction, freed from the habitual highway. The very air around us sings with the intensity of what we are doing. Even without a destination, we are somewhere new… and it feels so much like home.

Like any metaphor, this can only be taken so far, but it contains many truths about human life and its spiritual psychology. More importantly, it contains, by analogy, the elements of how belief grows. The child we were believed that it was possible to ride a bike. In the hands of a good teacher – our mum or dad – we extended that into faith that we could do it, too. When we finally wobbled away into the world of riding, we took a step beyond faith into the world of knowing… The theoretical belief evolved into the empowering faith, which, with a deep breath, became the spiritual world of knowing.

In the last stage of our metaphor, above, we jumped, deliberately, to a different level of meaning. The child-become-adult riding along the shared highway became a higher level model for how our lives as a personality exist in parallel to others – the other riders on the highway. In this we had forgotten that we and the bicycle (the personality) were actually separate. Meeting the mysterious stranger showed us that there were other roads and tracks we could travel; without losing the carefully cultured ability to ride within our evolutionary arena of time, space and body.

So, what will you do when you step off your bike and begin to push it along a different track and into that wonderful forest? The first thing you will discover is that it was your strength that gave the bike its power. Smiling with this knowledge, you might get back on the bike and cycle towards the stranger on the path; not only free of the common highway, but able to use everything you have learned, before, in the service of your newfound spiritual freedom, and its ability to choose in a very different way.

This second, this moment, this now contains all these things; and they are real. You only need act with enough resolve, and in the right way, to enter that magical path into the forest of personal potential and real individual freedom… and for that, you will need a very deep breath. But you need not fear you will be alone…

One final thought to consider is this: when we experience that rush of knowing, and enter that new world, are we really adding something to our lives and selves, or are we recognising the truth of a world we never left, but just forgot? Have we become ‘bigger’ because we are nearer to home?

©️Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics.


21 thoughts on “Principles of Fire (2) belief-faith-knowing

  1. We haven’t met but, that was truly amazing and easy to keep rhythm with not to mention the contemplating I will do for month’s on this piece alone. Beautiful Spiritual awakenings caught in prose. Thank you, Steven

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Do you think, Steve, that some people have the ability to veer of the man-made and well beaten road and take the forest path without any guidance. They just have an innate spirit of adventure and a creative personality.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. The very strange and wonderful thing that is happening is that as I go through my course, these posts are coming just at the right point when perhaps I have struggled with something, and then suddenly I can see it so clearly. I think it is not that I am slow in my thinking, but I tend to overthink everything perhaps, so for the last several posts, I have had a major opening in being able to clearly “see” something I was struggling with before.

    Normally I read the the posts, and then perhaps comment on them, and then file them on my computer. But this one and I am pulling out another one too by Sue, and I intend to reread them several times before putting them away, and I might not even put them away at all.

    I feel so light and fully of energy and light suddenly. Thank you all for these wonderful posts and the openings of my eyes and mind and perhaps spirit too that I am experiencing. I want to go jumping up and down and running out into the forest because of this opening.

    It is strange, but I was remembering when I began to skate on ice (and with wheels too). As I sat putting on my skates, I suddenly could see in my mind something it is hard to explain, but it was like how a skater could move forward on one leg and not fall, and even do the turns while still on one leg. I just sort of envisioned it, and when I got up and started skating, I could do it. I was in a beginning class, but I never started where everyone else did. I just started skating as if I had been doing it for a long time, and I never once fell. I still think about it sometimes because it was something I had never done before, and I did not really pay attention to the teacher once I had that idea in my mind. I had seen skaters on TV, but they would skate fast and so I didn’t really get to see HOW they did certain things. I have always thought that was the strangest experience. A year or so ago, I decided I was going to skate again, and I was given some free skates. But when I tried to get back on the skates, I did not have that same mental or spiritual feeling anymore. I could no longer do it for I was shaking and somewhat scared. I will never forget that because I could do all sorts of tricks on those earlier skates that no one taught me. I would just sort of envision it and what would make it work, and it did. The bicycle story brings this back to mind. Thank you one and all.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Hi Anne. That’s a great comment. The skating example shows the power of what lies beneath our normal ‘analytical’ consciousness. To ‘cement’ such experiences, we have to return to them, so that they become embedded and useful in our everyday lives – the DaySelf of the course. Your example illustrates, perfectly, how the world gets ‘bigger’ at those moments.
    The forest track beckons…. off you go! Steve

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you kindly, Steve. Yes, when I look back at that time it seems so magical. I did feel a sense of loss recently, not just because I could not skate well, but because I had lost something that came from a place I have not been but perhaps twice or so in my lifetime. So yes, this study is so wonderful because some things, like my ability to write things (besides the posts) is coming back to me. I have written several very short pieces just seamlessly recently – the spirit just flowed out of me. I so want to get this back again because it DOES change everything. Life becomes connected with our earth in ways we cannot imagine, and we must in some ways be connecting with the ancients once again as well, at least in the sense of thinking differently. What a great blessing to discover at this perfect time in my lifetime. I am so happy about it, even at the times I struggle, because I am learning that all my struggles begin within, not on the outside. Thank you all for the great gift of this study you bring to us. It really IS life-enhancing and changing. I am so much more comfortable with who I am even when I screw up big time these days. Most of that is within and not so much on the outside, or perhaps a little, but perhaps I am the only one who realizes it at the time, when I am believing the whole world is seeing it.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. The most powerful thought, Anne, is to know you are loved from the very centre of your Being, not from the personality. When that is seen in its fullness, the we are empowered in a way we could never be otherwise. This force is gentle, forgiving and recognises that even those we dislike are part of our necessary journey. Gentle, but, ultimately, the most powerful thing in the universe… x

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you once again, Steve, Sue, and Stuart. You know, this is the best possible way to spend these, my likely final years on this earth. I say that knowing the reality of a lifespan, but it is like a celebration of life in all the many colors I have painted it.

    I would like to share this little piece I have written called “The Landscape of Life.”

    Life is like a landscape, and it would be a boring life if it were all flat. We can appreciate the flat because we know the hills and the valleys, just as we appreciate hot because we know cold, light because we know dark and happiness because we know depression.

    Every day we can choose the colors we will paint the landscape of our lives, and we can also choose how much of the landscape we will paint. Some may choose dull colors and stop the painting with a minimum of strokes laid down, and others may cover their landscapes with colors and texture and depth. But in the end result, each of us paints a life landscape that is unlike anyone else’s.

    Some will look at their palettes and canvases and feel they have been short-changed. Still others look at the canvases and palettes and feel unsure what to paint. And some use their palettes and canvases up very quickly, as if the paint might dry before they get done. And still others take their time, contemplate every stroke, and make sure the design of life’s canvas is well established before even attempting to paint. And finally, some put their brushes down and roll all over the canvas, embracing it, smearing the paint on the palette everywhere, even well off the canvases and onto the canvases of others.

    And at the end of our lives, our friends and loved ones and perhaps others as well will come and we will get to have a one-woman or one-man show. Everyone will come to examine the landscapes we have created. Some of us will scarcely be remembered, for our landscapes might have lacked luster, while others will be remembered not only by this generation, but by the many generations to come because our paintings contained not only color and texture and depth, but something that touches our souls and leaves a permanent mark. What kind of painter will you choose to be?
    – Anne Copeland

    Liked by 3 people

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