There was a fascinating show that my wife and I watched last night on Mind Field with Vsauce (Michael Stevens). It was season 3, episode 7, titled “Behavior and Belief.”
It was all about the nature of beliefs, and whether they are real, lies, true, false, or something else more fuzzy. I think it explored this subject in a very intriguing way, doing experiments with people, and they came to some stunning conclusions. This has many implications for religious and spiritual beliefs, particularly those beliefs that we may have believed were true and yet found them to be not so true, or perhaps even false, and have shifted our beliefs in that wake. What does it mean to “believe” something, or believe in something? What is the nature of superstition? Do our beliefs coincide with an objective reality, or do they have another function?
(This continues a series of posts about reconstructing the Mormon/Christian narrative. Please read this introductory post first, if you haven’t already, before continuing.)
Mormonism traces back its history in modern times to its founding prophet, Joseph Smith Jr., and his “First Vision.” Joseph was a young farmer boy who lived in western New York, born in the early nineteenth century. This was the time of what’s known as the Second Great Awakening, and where Joseph lived is known as the “burned-over district.” It was a time of much Protestant religious excitement, revivals, reforms, and the formation of new religious movements and denominations (which eventually included Mormonism). A Restoration Movement grew in popularity in the area, which involved ideas of “restoring” a pure, primitive, uncorrupted, and original form of Christian faith.
Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) was a Russian novelist, writer, and philosopher. He often explored questions of psychology, philosophy, and religion. He wrote many acclaimed novels.
He published a short story in the 1870s in a collection called A Writer’s Diary with the title “The Dream of a Queer Fellow,” also published as The Dream of a Ridiculous Man. As Maria Popova points out, “the story sheds light on Dostoyevsky’s personal spiritual and philosophical bents with extraordinary clarity — perhaps more so than any of his other published works.” As with so much so-called “fiction,” it is perhaps a true reflection of his own deepest intuitions, spiritual experiences, and understandings. Continue reading “Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “First Vision” Account”
Annie Dillard (b. 1945) is an American author of fiction and non-fiction. She won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction in 1975 for her work Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. This nonfiction book was written in the first-person detailing Dillard’s exploration around her home in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains and her close observation of nature and life.
Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892) was the founder of the Bahá’í Faith. In 1863 he announced that he was the fulfillment of a messianic prophecy given by the Báb in 1845. This prophetic call he said was made clear by a vision he had while imprisoned. The vision was of a heavenly Maiden who he said gave him his mission as a messenger of God, or Manifestation of God, as had been prophesied by the Báb.
Armella Nicolas (1606-1671) was a serving-maid who lived in France in the 17th century, who came to be held in high veneration in the Catholic church. She could not read or write, but told friends of her spiritual experiences, including sister Jeanne de la Nativite, who wrote down her experiences. The following is one of her recorded experiences: Continue reading “Armella Nicolas’s “First Vision” Account”
Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022 AD) was a Byzantine Christian monk and poet, and was canonized as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox church. He wrote much about Christian mysticism, including his own experiences. The following comes from his Hymns of Divine Love: