Robert and Dave continue the topic of spirituality and how our deepest beliefs affect not only us individually but the health of the planet as a whole. Robert believed at 18 that what he most desired was to become awakened. He believed that he could sidestep the fear and realness of death and firmly grasp the ultimate truth with such work. He found instead a great reverence for not knowing and shares his deeper insight of cultivating faith with a healthy amount of doubt.
Doubt is what allows us to make space for everyone and a vast array of views. Humanness softens the edges of certainty to make way for empathy and inclusiveness, and this is what the world is most in need of now. To continue to remain uncritical of our traditions is dangerous by unwittingly creating a kind of exclusivity, superiority, and even callous indifference toward others that are not in our particular state of certainty. Every religion and every spiritual approach needs to be the protector of all of life. The exclusive boundaries are the only ones that are playing favorites. Here, we are looking at fostering religions, spiritual approaches, and anti-spiritual approaches to develop character that cares about the world.
Mentioned in this episode
The Global Bridge Foundation
Note: Below, you’ll find timecodes for specific sections of the podcast. To get the most value out of the podcast, I encourage you to listen to the complete episode. However, there are times when you want to skip ahead or repeat a particular section. By clicking on the timecode, you’ll be able to jump to that specific section of the podcast
The Missing Conversation, Episode 50.
Robert Strock: (00:03)
Every religion, every spiritual approach needs to be the protector of everyone.
On this podcast, we will propose critical new strategies to address world issues, including homelessness, immigration, amongst several others and making a connection to how our individual psychology contributes and can help transform the dangers that we face. We will break from traditional thinking, as we look at our challenges from a freer and more independent point of view. Your host Robert Strock has had 45 years of experience as a psychotherapist, author, and humanitarian and has developed a unique approach to communication, contemplation and inquiry. Born from working on his own challenges.
Robert Strock: (00:47)
A very warm welcome to The Missing Conversation, where we do our best to address the most pressing issues that the world’s facing today and where we look for the most practical, inspiring programs and innovative ideas to support a greater chance of survival for our planet. And that survival is for not only ourselves, but our kids, our grand kids. And hopefully it’s very obvious to you at this point that these are not just words. These are not just happening in another neighborhood. This is a close and present danger. And today we’re gonna zero in on a brand new area. And it’s the final theme of The Missing Conversation with religion and spirituality. And it’s the dangers of certainty.
Robert Strock: (02:01)
The dangers in believing that we’re certain and many of us are taught that this certainty means that you’re more sincere. You’re more total, you’re more dedicated, you’ll receive more validation, and we’re gonna focus on how, in almost all circumstances, this certainty can lead us to miss seeing the parts of our human elements. So, for example, it’s crucial to have faith, but if we have so much orientation toward faith, we can completely bury our human side. It’s not a contradiction to have a life dedicated toward faith and still be a human being. It’s not a dis of faith at all. It’s a dis of blind faith. Yes, but not true faith. And I certainly am someone who has faith, but that’s different than certainty. There’s faith and there’s a human being. And it seems so crucial if we look closely at history and the present, we can see that the certainties of religions and spirituality and spiritual approaches so frequently blocks off the human sides of ourselves and can reinforce unwittingly a certain kind of exclusivity, superiority, even callousness, indifference toward the others that are not in our particular state of certainty.
Robert Strock: (04:02)
We can be taught, let your faith be all of you, just be compassionate, just be mindful, just understand the natures of the universe and be certain, don’t doubt. And what’s being said, here is the combination of staying with that purity of what you very likely consider to be your most sacred part and including a great interest and inquiry and what in what is going on at a human level for me, where are my fears? Where are my doubts? Where are my angers? Where am I withdrawals? And how do I have a relationship to those two that reflects a lack of certainty, but still allows me to be dedicated in the way that my dominant dedication has been. And maybe even my certainty, the certainty, hopefully can have an added element of, let’s say not for sure knowing, in the past, I’ve called it not knowing, but not for sure.
Robert Strock: (05:29)
Knowing you think you sort of know that it’s actually believe or faith. And that may very well be the most important part of your life. No question, but I believe a close second for all of us is a wise doubt, a wise, not for sure knowing that will reveal our human sides too, so that we can deal with what has been the source of wars throughout history, where religions are fighting each other because of fear and anger. That’s not dealt with consciously and superiority and competition, skepticism, rage from the prior generation and how they killed our family, carried over from one generation to another and the necessity to get a hold of this human sides of ourselves and learn how to tame the inner violence that we have, the inner hatred, the inner history that we’re carrying and working both on or relating both on the inner side of ourselves. That is certain and how we display it in the world. So, I’d like to start off today, acknowledging my dearest friend, Dave partner at the Global Bridge Foundation, Dave, thanks so much for joining us again today.
Robert, thank you. Um, these last episodes and, and to some extent, the transition to where you started today, which was certainty and where you ended in the last episode, uh, which was the really dealing with our quote enemies or people with differing views and having a, uh, effort to have a dialogue on one side. But yet at the same time you use the phrase, animalistic strength. And animalistic strength, uh, and the word certainty to me are something that I think are worthy of talking about together to discriminate between what you mean by both.
Robert Strock: (07:56)
That’s a very good, uh, distinction. Uh, it’s very subtle and it may very well require you to listen beyond the words. I’ll do my best to dance around this, but it’s so subtle that it’s very hard to describe. There are certain, relatively less universal things like what you believe about the afterlife or whether you care about the whole planet, where we can be certain, for example, we can be certain that we just took a breath. We can be certain that we walked today. For those, that of us that can walk, we can be certain of the room we’re in, or at least the room that appears to be a room. So, certainty can be okay on a more minor level, even though it can be important. This is where it gets subtle, but not the universal issues. And so, when it comes to animalistic strength, yes, there frequently is a certainty. Or, I would still rather say a virtual certainty that someone is on the verge of murdering someone.
Robert Strock: (09:35)
Someone is on the verge of destroying democracy. And so, it’s like we almost have to develop a new language because the certainty of taking actions that are gonna save lives, where we have real evidence and even real evidence in today’s world is loaded. So, I still would say virtual certainty for 99.99 that’s enough to take actions, but certainty to where we lose our capacity. To doubt, for example, let’s take a political situation where we’re certain that someone is about ready to get a shotgun and blow somebody away. And that certainty can lead to immense hatred. We need to animalistically act strong because that’s the, let’s say most important level of certainty that is not universal. And when we do our best to boundary that person, put them in jail, contain them. We need to, out of not being absolutely certain that they are bad people be rooting for them to have a chance to heal.
Robert Strock: (11:11)
Even if it’s behind bars, we can’t hold onto our hatred, our anger, which is a part of, or our love and our compassion, which is a part of a black and white world in psychology. There’s a term that’s used called borderline, where you just see things in black and white pictures. And what we’re tempting to do with this next podcast and episodes is to see things in shades of gray and even seeing things in shades of gray sometimes is black and white, but you have to listen very closely. This is not a play on words. This is a relativity that separates out the universal taking care of everyone. The afterlife, universal truths from the relative truths that have to do with human actions and interactions and reactions and the necessity to find this animalistic strength when there’s a true danger to the systems that are going to keep us alive.
Robert Strock: (12:33)
And when we move forward, let’s say there are certain values that we need to hold sacred, which is we’re not going to intentionally kill human life. We may very well have a life imprisonment, and I’m not even gonna get into the debate of cap, you know, capital punishment or, or putting people to death. But we need to see that that animalistic strength needs to be able to deeply and, and some cases permanently, contain people who are bent on killing, but that does not mean that we are bent on hurting them forever and not giving them a chance. So, staying open to our faith, our belief, seeing the certainty is another word for having, when you’re talking about something that is including all of humanity and all of the globe or the, the rules or the guidelines of the universe, if there are any, we need to stay open to being human beings. Certainty is like, in those areas, is like having a blindfold over your eyes, thinking that you’re the most lucid person on the planet or in that unique chosen group.
Robert Strock: (14:05)
So, hopefully we can see that what’s being proposed here is kind of the opposite of what we might call the new age or, or an airy-fairy religion of, we have to love everybody. Yes, we need to love everyone. Who’s not homicidal or going to commit murder to the planet and we still don’t wanna kill them, but we need to be animalistically strong at the same time. So, it’s not usually thought of to have those two qualities on the same team or inside the same individual or inside the same religion. Every religion, every spiritual approach needs to be the protector of everyone. And the firm boundaries are only the ones that are violating that no favoritism. So I am someone who, for whatever reason, for the last 53 years of my life have been looking for certainty. I wanted to become enlightened when I was 18 at the risk of being embarrassed, I thought there was a chance of being awakened.
Robert Strock: (15:27)
And I’m not even saying for sure that there isn’t a chance of being awakened. But I am saying in spite of looking for 53 years and meeting some of the most interesting people in the world, some of which have claimed to be enlightened. I haven’t met anyone enlightened yet. And at 72, it’s looking a little bleak. So, we’re looking at fostering in our religions, your religions, your spiritual approaches, your antispiritual approaches to develop a character that cares about the world and recognizes spreading hatred is going to be a, a perpetual boomerang. It’s like we’ve got walls everywhere. And it just keeps boomeranging around. It’s like, it would be good to see our moments of hatred as having a life of their own that just bounces off the walls, goes out of your house and spreads to the neighbors. And we can make it much less impactful by adding a next energy of caring for humanity or caring for anyone caring for any individual.
Robert Strock: (16:53)
So, we need to develop our deepest spiritual beliefs, our faiths, our understanding, our practices. And at the same time, see, as Christian Murray said in his definition of a spiritual person, that it includes continuous skeptical investigation, that it has a healthy doubt, as well as a faith. When we really see this, no matter what approach we find ourselves in, or whether we’re on our own, it’s a certain breaking out of clicks. And that click could be, as we talked about in the last couple of episodes, our families, our friends, our religion, our country, our political party, our gang, could be any click, but it’s breaking out of that click and wanting to open our mind, our communication and being a conduit of spreading the faith and the goodness that we have found and being open to looking at the doubts in other people’s points of view, every group, every teaching that isn’t utterly devoted.
Robert Strock: (18:19)
And when I say devoted, I don’t mean intellectually devoted. I mean, if they have money, they’re giving a good percentage of it to the people that need it, to the planet that needs it. If they’re not doing it, there’s a level of hypocrisy and I know that sounds like it could be enraging. Say the Catholic Church, worth, I don’t know if it’s billions or trillions of dollars, probably trillions. That the shoes of the fishermen, which I’ve mentioned before on a prior show, the show of the Pope awakening and realizing that it needed to give the money away, a lot of the money away and be more bare bones. That this is part of the missing conversation is not being so certain and being inclusive. And then looking at the inner parts of ourselves, what’s the basis of un, of certainty, psychologically. Now my view is the basis of certainty.
Robert Strock: (19:28)
Psychologically is the suppression of fear. The root of it is I wanna be safe. Oh, you’re offering me a money back guarantee. I’m going to heaven or another life, I’m signing up. Now, I don’t mean to trivialize any of the traditions, but perhaps I do mean it in terms of the absolute certainty of it. I do mean to critique that and the incredible value of you being a messenger of valuing what your doubts are. So, as you’re listening to this, look at your relationship to certainty. And both inner and outer and look and see if they’re the same. You may be a part of a religious organization or spiritual organization and inwardly, you have plenty of doubts, but outwardly you appear to be a loyal congregant. And see if you can see the importance of bringing this relativity to what is usually presented as an absolute and the importance, not just to your congregation, but to the whole world, because how many religions and spiritual paths do you think are presenting themselves with certainty. And certainly there’s too many certainties.
Robert Strock: (21:13)
Does that make sense to you? That, that this lack of respect for relativity and inclusiveness, this lack of exploring the roots of, of the need to try to have a feeling of certainty, then I don’t have to face my fear of death. And there are many people where that is an incredible gift, even blind believers. There are many people where that’s a much better way to go than a lot of other ways to live, but what is it really gonna take? What’s The Missing Conversation today in today’s world. And it has to do with the going for whatever you most believe to be true and inquiring, where am I not certain? And where could this be of benefit to my community? Where could this be of benefit to the world? At first, for many people, this may sound like a downer. A couple of episodes ago, we told the story of a minister’s wife saying if Jesus is not the son of God, I wanna be the last one to know.
Robert Strock: (22:49)
And I found that to be both horrifying and breathtakingly touching at the same time, because it was addressing the issue of certainty, but acknowledging a private doubt and actually a pretty big private doubt, but it didn’t go all the way to becoming public because what she didn’t say was, and by the way, please keep my secret. But it was implicit. It was obvious being the minister’s wife. You can’t tell anybody else. It’s only because of our friendship that I can tell you this, no, this needs to go public. This means you who has the insight. Again, I don’t think you’d be sticking around this long, even in this episode, if you didn’t have some part of you that sees the dangers of certainty and at the same time, advocating the benefits of whatever your best practices are, your deepest faith is your deepest understanding is your, your best meditation practice, your devotion to prayer, honoring all of that and the big and, and the human side of you that needs that kind of wisdom and trust being deep enough. So, you can afford to have doubts and public doubts and conversations that are going to maybe crucify you a little bit. And at the same time, at another level, very likely to inspire you because it’s not a contradiction to be a deep devotee and to have real doubts at the same time.
Robert Strock: (24:56)
My hope that The Missing Conversation that we’re talking about here is The Missing Conversation that isn’t missed by you and your inner world and you and your outer world. And that you feel a little stirring again, as we said earlier, not out of guilt, actually, it’s out of joy, actually. It’s out of freedom. I get to think for myself, I get to be authentic. I’m not just somebody, that’s a carbon copy of somebody else’s presentation of something that may have happened 2,000 years ago, 3,000 years ago, 4,000 years ago, I’m alive. And I get to be an Inquirer and true to all of who I am and consider the greater family at the same time where it’s most needed in the 2020s and beyond. Thank you so much.
Join The Conversation
If The Missing Conversation sounds like a podcast that would be inspiring to you and touches key elements of your heart, please click subscribe and begin listening to our show. If you love the podcast, the best way to help spread the word is to rate and review the show. This helps other listeners, like you, find this podcast. We’re deeply grateful you’re here and that we have found each other. Our wish is that this is just the beginning.