Dostoevsky on Doubt

Still plowing through The Brothers... and came accross another in a long list of gems therein.

A woman confesses to the Elder Zossima that she is struggling with doubts regarding her faith, she is having trouble because she cannot prove her religion to herself and she begs the elder to teach her how to convince herself. The Elder responds:

...there's no proving it, though you can be convinced of it. By the experience of active love. Strive to love your neighbor actively and indefatigably. In as far as you advance in love you will grow surer of the reality of God and of the immortality of your soul. If you attain to perfect self-forgetfulness in the love of your neighbor, then you believe without doubt, and no doubt can possibly enter your soul. This has been tried. This is certain.

What really strikes me are the heavy words of the last two sentences You see I am in the business of science and much of what I do all day is run experiments trying to discern truth in the area of molecular virology. Often my experiments prove to be a profound waste of time, but how would I know this to be the case unless I tried...if only I had known of someone who had tried the same experiment before me, then I could have thus saved myself the fruitless effort.

Dostoevsky, via the honorable Elder Zossima, reminds us that such blind trial and error is not neccesary in our Christian journey. If we would so desire, we can stand upon the shoulders of up to 2000 year old giants and see the view from on high. In my last post I made mention of Confucius because much of what he taught revolved around the futility of disarding the traditions and practices of our ancestors, for in so doing he believed we isolated oursleves from the collective wisdom of humanity. It is like using bread to leave a trail in the forrest in order to find your way back home.

When I go to my priest in Confession, this is the sort of guidance I expect. His job, as a spiritual father in the OC tradition, is to know and be able to communicate the tried and certain path which has been established by the Church from the beginning and passed along through her Holy Tradition. There is a rich treasury to be tapped therein.

This has been tried. This is certain.

Who could not benefit from such advice?


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