When I think of beliefs, I intuitively distinguish between the two types: intrinsic, personal and collective, originated externally. I’d like to wander within this distinction for a bit. First let's unfold the easier part. Collective beliefs are mediated through culture and form a moral structure responsible for our ability to coexist, cooperate and experience a feeling of belonging. I like to compare them to monuments, as they carry out similar functions. Beliefs are organised structures that gather people around to contemplate, unite and calibrate collective and individual values making sure we all move in the same direction. Internalizing a particular belief system gives us hope that following a certain path will bring us to certain possibilities. This powerful effect comes handy to those who want to benefit from human resources in various ways. They give us a feeling of belonging and grounding and in exchange we pay with commitment and hard work. There are no guarantees, though, that even if you diligently follow the prescriptions you will arrive to the promised land. And most of the time, the stronger the initial belief is, the stronger future disappointment.
Organised belief systems, no matter how big or small they are, think of culture, politics, family, community, are gravitational and magnetic. But in the same way as magnet works, opposite poles are attracted to each other, while the same poles repel each other. Beliefs have similar properties while connecting they also divide, especially in the times when we are out of touch with reality, unable to see the truth for ourselves. When belief feels weak it pushes back, reinforces the attachment, introduces fear and shaming as a form of punishment for the unfaithful. From a structure of support it becomes an aggregate of hatred. It shrinks, raises its walls, becomes defensive and radical. Many can escape but some stay behind blindly protecting the fortress sacrificing their lives for the benefit of nothing.
The second type of beliefs originate intrinsically and belong to us, at least that is what we think. But, as we are about to discover, it is not exactly the case. Let’s do a little experiment. Stop reading for a moment and think of what you believe in. Go inside and look for it. If I do it, every idea I encounter makes me doubt. The moment I am able to formulate it, it loses credibility and I feel like I am mediating something that doesn't truly belong to me. That is why I think that the space where you try to find what you believe in and can't find anything is so valuable, it is a space where we can have a grip on reality and experience the presence of external forces that shape our beliefs. I think there actually are no beliefs that originate from within and all of them are coming with a certain purpose and always formed by our environment. Tricky part about the machinery of intrinsic beliefs is that they are inescapable in our formation processes fueling intuition, reinforcing biases and determining our actions. Often we confuse them with our own desires allowing external forces to determine our agenda.
Once we realise that we don't need to sustain beliefs, we can allow them to be fluid and use them as tools for being. Recognise their super powers and use them to get a better grip of reality. I prefer to think of belief systems as providers of caring and coping mechanisms. To cultivate individual and collective welfare, we need to create conditions of care. That's where belief systems we were born into, once accepted with all their side effects, can provide the necessary support structures and facilitate our capacity for individual and collective transformation.