The object of faith

Faith opts for an object in most Western traditions. Even if objects are accretions from culture and tradition as in the Old Testament or projections of ideal forms as in Plato, they function as external and “other.” Nevertheless, these are objects hard to have faith in if faith is understood as belief. That very difficulty throws the individual back into the culture as the sustenance of faith. Faith becames dependent on culture. This is a stumbling-block for the solitary.

On the fringes of Western mysticism and in most Eastern traditions, however, the process of objectifying is not so presumptuous. The experience of oneness makes the subject/object relationship less rigid. The discovery of that oneness opens up a whole new direction for reflection and faith. For one thing, the self no longer depends so literally on his or her culture.

At this point, faith becomes confidence in the fruitful outcome of the process, not adherence to an object that is separate and distinct from self. Perhaps this notion of faith is closer to the virtue of hope in classical Western thought. But even in this tradition, faith and hope must culminate in charity or love in order to be efficacious. And love is the non-duality to which Eastern traditions refer, not an object but a relationship. The “object” of faith is the discipline to proceed on the path.