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Living with BS also Known as Belief Systems

By Joyce Shafer

I once wrote that beliefs change, Truths never do. But how can we know which is which; and, why should we concern ourselves with the difference?

Belief Systems, which author David Brown humorously (and somewhat accurately, when you think about it) referred to as BS, are concepts we cling to and believe are factual... until we don't. There was a time when, if you didn't believe the Sun orbited the Earth, you had a pretty bad day being burned at the stake as an example of how "heretics" were to be dealt with. And then there was that whole human sacrifice matter, when people believed that's what their god or gods wanted, for any number of "known" or presumed reasons. Those are extreme examples from days best left in the past; though, we have our contemporary versions that aren't as readily obvious to us at times. But such examples show us that beliefs change to accommodate facts or, at least, to better fit our amended BS.

Author Robert Anton Wilson asked us to pay attention beyond even the facts: We have absolutely no guarantee that equally important and obvious facts are not screened out of our perceptions by our current dogmas… Every belief system (or BS) colors experience in a different way, rosy-red or gloomy black or some unique personal flavor… We can all see how other people's BS makes them blind and "stupid" at times, but we find it very hard to notice how our own BS is doing the same to us... The world is not governed by facts or logic. It is governed by BS (belief systems).

And so it is for most of us and our daily lives. The primary reason many of us follow the belief systems we do - and this includes religious/spiritual, political, educational, societal, etc. - is because we were told we must. We were told of penalties if we didn't, so our chief motivation is often fear, not love and inspired purpose. The secondary reason is we really do want a compass to guide us. But in our human experience, the outer compass is meant to assist the inner one, not the other way around. The Power is not in the compass, it's in the user.

Only the most adventurous explorers feel a general direction is enough and a map unnecessary; but even they tend to prefer to have some form of compass on hand. If you've ever used a guide or map, you know that although either gives a lot of information, neither could ever include everything about what's really there. Wilson wrote it this way: "The map is not the territory;" and that perhaps the most precise comment we can make about our BS is, "This map here seems to work pretty well for my purposes, in most cases, so far." (Or in more academic language, 'The data does not yet justify revising the theory.')"

That's the thing about belief systems: They change as and when we need them to, or decide they do or should. And this is dependent on or relevant to how we filter new information we sought and found to replace or refine old information we suspect has, or definitely has, gone faulty in our version of "reality."

Each one of us filters information through our perceptions, presumptions, and assumptions, and then we plaster the results like art posters along the walls of what Dr. Timothy Leary called our reality-tunnels, which is our own tunnel-vision of reality. Occasionally, reality-tunnels of others intersect with or run somewhat parallel to ours and we get along. We judge the others as okay as "we are," for as long as a measure of agreement exists. It can get pretty sticky, or intense, when reality-tunnels disagree or differ too much or about specific matters.

Belief systems can sometimes be one choice or defensive posture away from dogma. Dogma is thought and behavior tendencies born out of conditioning. It's why some people believe sauce should be ladled over pasta and some believe it should be mixed in before serving. And both sides can be equally adamant that their way is the "right and only" way. More dogmatic types would be willing to get into an argument or fight about this, while the truth is... it's just pasta and sauce and preference. But, it's not really about the pasta, sauce, or preference. It's about being right. And sometimes it's not even about being right, it's about getting others to agree or succumb to the louder, stronger, more aggressive reality-tunnel holder.

Wilson wrote, "The decline of dogma that comes with detachment from conditioned reflexes can only accelerate the peace-making process..." This is because so much of how we think and behave comes from our conditioning rather than as fresh, unfiltered, in-the-moment responses that address what is, while leaving what was out of the picture. "We all want 'liberation' but we rarely notice how conditioned reflexes make us our own jailers." (Wilson)

What about truth? Let's say that "truths" are subjective (individual, changeable) and Truths are objective (universal, constant). It's a matter of discerning which is which. Law of Attraction is an objective Truth: All are subject to it, and it always works; its nature is constant. And one of its objective Truths is it allows us to explore and experience our subjective "truths" derived from our reality-tunnels, for example, Life is good; Life is not good.

You can see how this could get tricky because you could use the Law to make a "truth" appear to act as a Truth, and miss the Truth entirely. You can get past this by realizing that if what you tell yourself is Truth, it will be the experience of everyone and is always so, even if the experiences look a bit different. One example: How you think, and your attitude, affects how you experience or perceive your experience of life. Can you think of any time this isn't true, or of any sentient person it isn't true for?

Up until the last minute, I debated whether to take out the BS part or leave it in because it could seem disrespectful, which isn't my intention. I decided to leave it in to encourage all of us to laugh at ourselves and our antics a bit more. Belief systems are supposed to lead us to wisdom, clear thinking, fulfillment, and joy, even if the path is at times uneven or rock-strewn. But sometimes we get overly serious about our BS; some get deadly serious. When either scenario happens, it's not about our belief system, it's about our ego.

We can pay attention to how our ego clings to our BS as part of its identity. "I'm Italian" is only absolutely true if you were born in Italy; otherwise, Italian is the cultural tendencies you were raised with (I can practically hear the dogmatics barking about this one). "I'm a Buddhist / Protestant / Agnostic / etc." isn't true, because it isn't who you are, it's what you practice; but ego likes a label. Because of conditioning - and ego's attachment to identity - it becomes easy to identify who we are with what we do, which takes our focus away from who we really are in the bigger picture: individual, unique expressions of Spirit engaging (not just having) human experiences.

Every belief system fits someone, and each of us finds the one that fits us, until it no longer does. That moment when we recognize our BS no longer fits can feel frightening, because we rely on our BS as our map to lead us through life. Maybe we find one day that our map no longer serves us or we've outgrown it and we need a new one for a new territory. Or, maybe we've never explored our map beyond a certain boundary: we don't know what's just on the other side of that line or beyond it that doesn't detract from our known territory, but expands it.

We have the right to decide to decorate our reality-tunnels with belief systems that make us happy or ones that make us miserable. We have the right to explore either one or both. We also have the right to explore and differentiate BS from Truth and carry that with us as we travel through our reality-tunnel. Which of these ways we practice is up to us. Appreciate that you have this Spirit-given choice.

Practice makes progress.

Copyright 2012 © Joyce Shafer
Joyce Shafer is a Life Empowerment Coach dedicated to helping people feel, be, and live their true inner power. She’s author of “I Don’t Want to be Your Guru” and other books/ebooks, and publishes a free weekly online newsletter that offers empowering articles and free downloads. See all that’s offered by Joyce and on her site at State of Appreciation.

Joyce Shafer
"I'm following my heart and sharing the pdf of my book, I Don't Want to be Your Guru, But I Have Something to Say.
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