Belief is a funny thing. On a spiritual level, we all have particular beliefs regarding Higher Power, the meaning of life, the universe, and our place and purpose in it.
On a moral level, we also have personal beliefs about what is right and wrong.
On a personal level, most of us know that our beliefs about our potential and ourselves more clearly dictate our future success than even our talent or our circumstances.
As I see it, all of that is well and good. Part of our purpose as thinking individuals is to decide exactly what we believe, and live according to those beliefs.
The problem comes when beliefs replace facts. I know many smart, spiritual, well-intentioned people who cannot seem to tell the difference between the subjective and the objective.
What’s the difference? Well, here’s an example. I may hold the subjective belief that the Grateful Dead was one of the best rock bands of all time. You may not believe the same thing.
You must, however, believe the objective fact that the Grateful Dead was an American rock band who performed during the last three decades of the 1900’s. There’s the clear difference between fact and belief.
Another, more disturbing example comes from the community in Loxahatchee, Florida, where I lived for the past three years. This community advertises itself as environmentally friendly and health-conscious. Part of its vision statement includes its dedication to a healthy planet, and healthy living.
One of the examples it gives of this commitment is that its internal roads are unpaved. Unpaved roads are not uncommon in this part of Florida. The powerful equestrian community prefers it that way. Certainly, the dirt roads give the area a down-home country feel that is appealing on many levels.
Those who live in this community do not have lawn buffers between the dirt roads and their homes, as do the residents in the greater community.. A level of fine dust exists on and in everything in every home in this community. Two weeks after moving into a condo in the city, I still feel like I am washing that dust out of my hair, my clothes, my vehicle and all my belongings.
Within the community, we are told this dust is harmless, and the dirt roads are a benefit to our health and welfare, and the health and welfare of the planet. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.
Asphalt, or other paving material, serves to protect the earth from the inevitable discharge of petrochemicals from cars, trucks and trailers. Without this layer of protection, hazardous discharge seeps into the earth, and into the water supply.
Even worse, the dust from the unpaved roads is in the air that ever guest and resident breathes, every day. The dust contains silica, a known and naturally occurring carcinogen, like asbestos. Prolonged exposure is a certain health risk.
But, because the management of this community believes the unpaved roads to be beneficial, the roads remain unpaved, regardless of the facts, and regardless of the risk to the planet, and to human life.
This sort of belief-versus-fact thinking affects each of us in our daily lives. We see it in our government, our workplace, our churches and our schools.
If we present data to support factual thinking, we are often ridiculed, harassed, or labeled a “trouble-maker.”
People who cling to their beliefs often dislike facts, and fear them.
In some cases, just because you believe something doesn’t make it true. In other cases, it does.
How can we, as a society, nurture and celebrate our ability to hold sacred beliefs, and to hold our beliefs sacred, without falling victim to lies? How can we make a distinction between our personal beliefs that define us, and our erroneous beliefs that enslave us? How can we find the courage to stand up and be heard when we mention the elephant in the room that no one wants to see?
The answer, as I see it, lies in the wisdom of the High Priestess, card two in the Major Arcana of the tarot.
The High Priestess remains neutral and balanced. She draws her wisdom from many sources, both internal and external. She seeks, and demands, perfect truth.
The problem is, her energy is not the energy of the activist, or even the teacher or communicator. She sits, she meditates, she sees and she knows. But she does not specifically act on her knowledge, she is satisfied to simply know it.
It is not fear that keeps her silent. Her priority is knowledge, not action.
If we want action, we need to take the wisdom of card two, the High Priestess, and advance it to card three, the Empress. The Empress is the Earth Mother. She nurtures everything and everyone around her. Her protective nature motivates her to speak out, and to act.
It was often said that the Viet Nam war wasn’t ended by the student protests, it was ended by the protests of the mothers, who were tired of sacrificing their sons.
The Greek play, Lysistrata, shows this example as well. In it, women unite and refuse sexual relations until the men stop making war. It’s no peace, no piece.
As we progress through the Major Arcana, we see the next card, card four, is the Emperor, who is the community leader, the masculine authority, the declarer of war and peace.
So the wisdom of the High Priestess is expressed through the action of the Empress to influence the decisions of the Emperor.
Way beyond a fortune-telling device, tarot is a book of spiritual wisdom. From it we learn personal growth and spiritual truth. These truths can be directly applied in our personal lives, and our lives within our communities.
That’s my belief, anyway.