Personal Authenticity and Belief

Theme of the following quotations: What is the relation of being authentic to belief and believing? Is one’s belief self-chosen, based upon one’s own experience or assessment of evidence? Is believing mistaken for knowing from personal experience? For many, beliefs are safeguards against existential uncertainty, though those safeguards remain personally unsubstantiated. For most persons, beliefs are simply knowledge claims which others have given them.

More importantly is the belief (a mental construct) mistaken for the reality to which it may point? Might Truth instead be more majestic than words ever could explain?

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I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:

What is God?

If you think that the Truth can be known
From words,

If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
Can pass through that tiny opening Called the mouth,

O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly Laughing – Now!

~ Hafiz (circa 1310-1406),
Persian poet and Sufi master,
from “Someone Should Start Laughing” in I Heard God Laughing
translated by Daniel Ladinsky


If you comprehend it, it is not God.

~St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430),
a theological father of the Catholic Church


The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.

~ Erich Fromm (1900-1980),
German psychoanalyst and social philosopher,
in Man for Himself: An inquiry into the psychology of ethics


The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate.

~ Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
English philosopher, scientists, statesman, lawyer, jurist, author
in Novum Organum


If you wish to strive for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire.

~ Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900),
German philosopher
~ see also the post, “Taking Responsibility for What We Don’t Know”


If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.
~ Renee Descartes (1596-1650),
French philosopher,
quoted by David Darling,
in The Universal Book of Mathematics


True states of realization occur when you throw away all the teachings. All of the teachings, absolutely. Everything. Then you are investigation itself finding out what you are.
~ A. H. Almaas (1944- ),
Contemporary spiritual teacher,
in Inexhaustible Mystery: Diamond Heart Book Five


Mature psychological health cannot exist unless we are capable of doubting any form of conceptual certitude about ourselves or anything else.

~ Richard Moss, MD,
Contemporary American spiritual teacher
in The Mandala of Being


Every thing possible to be believ’d is an image of truth.

~ William Blake (1757-1827),
British poet,
in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell


Although all spiritual teachings originate from the same Source, once they become verbalized and written down they are obviously no more than a collection of words—and a word is nothing more than a signpost….

~ Eckhart Tolle (1948-present),
German-born spiritual teacher,
in The Power of Now


‘What is truth?’ a disciple asked Nasrudin.
‘Something which I have never, at any time, spoken – nor shall I.’

~ Idries Shah (1924-1996),
Sufi author and teacher,
in The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin


The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.

~ Lao Tsu (c.604 BC–c.521 BC),
Taoist philosopher,
in the Tao Te Ching


The God that can be named is not God.

~ Soren Kierkegaard (1813–1855),
Danish philosopher, theologian, religious writer
cited in What Matters Most
by James Hollis


Whatever can be understood or perceived can never be the eternal Truth. The Unknown is the Truth.

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897-1981)
Indian Advaita Vedanta (nondualism) spiritual teacher
in Prior to Consciousness


The man who has successfully solved the problem of his relations with the two worlds of data and symbols is a man who has no beliefs. With regard to the problems of practical life he entertains a series of working hypotheses, which serve his purposes, but are taken no more seriously than any other kind of tool or instrument.

In other words, symbols should never be raised to the rank of dogmas, nor should any system be regarded as more than a provisional convenience.

~ Aldous Huxley (1894-1963),
English writer


Furthermore, I shall explain the nature of dharmata:
Such a nature as this cannot be determined to be any one thing.
So however you label it, that is how it appears.

~ quoted by H. H. Dalai Lama (1935–present),
from “The Reverberation of Sound”,
in Dzogchen: The Heart Essence of the Great Perfection


He who knows, knows not. He who knows not, knows.

~ Lao Tsu (c.604 BC–c.521 BC),
Taoist philosopher ,
in the Tao Te Ching


I maintain that truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others.

~ Krishnamurti (1895–1986),
Indian philosopher,
text from August 3, 1929 speech, dissolving the Order of the Star, at the Ommen Theosophical Camp
~ see also the post, “The Authenticity of J. Krishnamurti


All that I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me.
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274),
Catholic Theologian,
when on December 6, 1273 he was asked why he had stopped writing Summa Theologiae


Believe those who are seeking truth. Doubt those who find it.

~ Andre Gide (1869-1951),
French critic, essayist & novelist


If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather lead you to the threshold of your own mind.

~ Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931),
Lebanese poet, author and artist,
in The Prophet


I studiously avoided all so-called “holy men.” I did so because I had to make do with my own truth, not accept from others what I could not attain on my own. I would have felt it as a theft had I attempted to learn from the holy men and to accept their truth for myself. Neither in Europe can I make any borrowings from the East, but must shape my life out of myself–out of what my inner being tells me, or what nature brings to me.

~ Carl Jung (1875-1961),
Swiss depth psychologist,
in Memories, Dreams, Reflections


The sacred books of the East are nothing but words.
I looked through their covers one day sideways.
What Kabir talks of is only what he has lived through.
If you have not lived through something, it is not true.

~ Kabir (1440-1518),
Indian mystic


“What of your training, Hercules, my son? …”

“… One thing, O Teacher, I must tell to you and thus deceive you not. The fact is not so long ago I slew all those who taught me in the past. I killed my teachers, and in my search for liberty, I now stand free. I seek to know myself, within myself and through myself.”

“My son, that was a deed of wisdom, and now you can stand free. Proceed to labour now …”

~ The characters of Hercules and his Teacher,
in The Labours of Hercules
by Alice A. Bailey (1880-1949),
American esotericist


If we are to reach certainty and true autonomy of realization, we need to be willing to be heretics. What’s more, we need to become universal heretics, not believing anything that we do not know from direct experience, beyond stories, beyond hearsay, and even beyond the mind.

~ A. H. Almaas,
contemporary spiritual teacher,
in Diamond Heart Five: Inexhaustible Mystery


None attains to the Degree of Truth until a thousand honest people have testified that he is a heretic.

~ Junaid of Baghdad (d. 910),
Sufi Master,
quoted in The Way of The Sufi by Idries Shah


Until college and minaret have crumbled
This holy work of ours will not be done
Until faith becomes rejection
And rejection belief
There will be no True Believer.

~ Abu Said (967–1049),
Persian poet & Sufi,
quoted in The Way of The Sufi by Idries Shah


Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

~ Gautama Buddha (circa 563 BCE-483 BCE),


Ye say, ye believe in Zarathustra? But of what account is Zarathustra! Ye are my believers: but of what account are all believers!

Ye had not yet sought yourselves: then did ye find me. So do all believers; therefore all belief is of so little account.

Now do I bid you lose me and find yourselves…

~ The character of Zarathustra in Thus Spake Zarathustra,
by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900),
German philosopher
~ see also the post, “Being a Knower Rather than a Believer”


Ah, more than any priest O soul we too believe in God. /But with the mystery of God we dare not dally.
~ Walt Whitman (1819-1892),
American poet,
in Leaves of Grass


So as we sort through the rubble of historically charged images, by what standard do we gather them to our heart? It cannot be their institutional authority alone. It cannot be because our family or ethnic tradition embraced them. It can only be if they move us, that is set off a resonance within us. If such resonance occurs, the activation of like to like in some hidden harmony, then we know that that image has some meaning for us. We feel it. No amount of willpower or faith can, as such, arouse such resonance for us. When the spirit has departed, we cannot will it back. Through we may not understand why, when the spirit is present, we will be moved.

James Hollis Ph.D.
Contemporary writer and Jungian analyst
in Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life


~ Note: If you have found these quotes to be supportive, you may be interested in my book How to Be Yourself: A Guide to Living an Authentic Life which contains more than 300 quotations such as these which are organized into different topics related to authenticity. The book is available on Amazon in print and ebook format. (See top right cover image for a link to more info). ~

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