Faith or No Faith
Chantal Babin reports on an interview with Fred Tropp, meditation teacher
Fred Tropp, a meditation teacher, was brought up in the progressive Judaic faith. Being a rebellious child he merely let his religious heritage impact upon him. That was back then. Paradoxically, nowadays, he acknowledges having integrated some of his religion's values, amongst others a belief in knowledge, in education, in the family and in dissent.
Fred Tropp's conception of faith cannot exist without him first considering both subjective and objective truth; he reminds me that the former is based on personal experience, whilst the latter should be scientifically provable. Furthermore he explains faith as something one has in the absence of subjective and objective truth. For him faith is the acceptance of something – the existence of a god may be? – based on neither.
I read him out a lexical definition of faith: “Faith is defined as a strong belief in the doctrine of a religion based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof ”. I then ask him if he has faith: he has none and is adamant about this. However he later specifies “I do not have faith, not according to that lexical definition, but I have an experience of god”. Are the two compatible?
Fred's spiritual experience is that of awe. According to him one does not need to have faith in order to have an experience of awe: “The experience of awe, the numinous does not directly relate to theism”. One might ask is it really then the experience of god? Could it be that the experience of awe is sometimes called an experience of god for want of a better word?
We suddenly journey through subjective territory. I challenge Fred: “Could the experience of awe, which Abraham Maslow defined as a peak experience, be some sort of delusion?” “If so” he says, “it is accepted as subjective truth”. Indeed, for him numinosity is an experience of non-divine awe. Yet Maslow saw the experience of awe as part of a religious experience. Subjectivity seems to be the culprit leading us into confusion. Fred Tropp's conception of faith appears to be a contradiction in terms.
He rightly expresses concern that the word “faith” evokes ideas of fundamentalism. Quickly I remind him that faith is not always absolute, and that French writer Saint Exupéry, for instance, once stated: “A faith that does not doubt any more is a dead faith” Fred agrees.
Remaining true to his subjective beliefs Fred asserts that faith is not as important as spirituality, defining the latter as “the conscious awareness of sacredness, numinosity, awe, formlessness, or non-dualism”. Largely based on Ken Wilber's Integral Spirituality framework, Universal Spirituality is a concept which Fred has developed and teaches through the practice of meditation and other spiritual practices. With or without faith, meditation leads to a higher state of consciousness. Anyone who is willing to try meditation can experience awe, all that is required is an open mind.
Since being inspired by the Beatles in 1969, and being attracted to meditation for practical reasons Fred Tropp has trained in a variety of meditation schools and traditions: Transcendental Meditation, Vipassana, Tantric Meditation, Kabbalah Meditation to name only a few. What practical reasons? Relaxation and stress relief. As a result Fred claims to be addicted to meditation....and jogging.
He has now been teaching meditation for over 10 years.