I am working through “The Soul of the Marionette,” by John Gray, an enquiry into the question (some would say myth) of free will. And I ran across the above quote, attributed to T.F. Powys in his 1918 work, “Soliloquies of a Hermit.” The quote so resonated with me that I sought out the essay and am now sidetracked reading it. So much for John Gray…
The quote in its entirety is thus:
“Though not of the Church, I am of the Church. Though not of the faith, I am of the faith. Though not of the fold, I am of the fold; a priest in the cloud of God, beside the Altar of Stone. Near beside me is a flock of real sheep; above me a cloud of misty white embraces the noonday light of the Altar. I am without a belief; — a belief is too easy a road to God.” — T. F. Powys (“Soliloquies of a Hermit,” Andrew Melrose Ltd, London. 1918)
The quote resonates because it so concisely sums up my own attitude towards religion and spirituality. My atheist friends want me to be an atheist, my Christian friends, a Christian. My attitude towards both and everything in between is that taking such a route is too easy. A few days ago, someone asked me what I believed. I said, “I don’t know.” He asked what I thought would happen to me after death. I said, “I don’t know.” I said that I pray, and he asked, “To whom?” I said, “I don’t know. I just try to offer humility before the awesome mystery of life, and gratitude at being allowed to participate in it.” And this is true. I don’t know, and neither does anyone else who still breathes. We can only believe in what we think or decide to be true. And choosing one belief over others just seems to me too simple. I’ve commented on this in various ways, once in asking why we adopt the religion of our parents, and again when reflecting on God without religion. But personally, I like my ocean liner analogy.
In reading Powys essay, I’ve found a wealth of wisdom and frank confusion presented in what, at first read, almost appears to be free association. I will reflect on it after I’ve worked through it.