The devil once went for a walk with a friend. They saw a man ahead of them stoop down and pick up something from the ground.
“What did that man find?” asked the friend.
“A piece of the truth,” said the devil.
“Doesn’t that disturb you?” asked the friend.
“No,” said the devil, “I shall let him make a belief out of it.”
Please form your own impression from this koan before reading further.
Anthony de Mello’s footnote to his koan is that a religious belief is a signpost pointing the way to truth. When you cling to the signpost you are prevented from moving toward the truth because you think you have it already.
My first impression was the devil had a friend?
Second impression—if I am holding on to one belief and you are holding onto a different one, then the devil is content to know that it will become a source for division between us. We can of course thwart the devil’s contentment if we manage to span that division between us and learn to love as Jesus commanded us to do.
Third impression—beliefs maybe a signpost to truth, but the path is through a dry, barren desert—an abyss. Perhaps that is why so many people cling to their signposts? Thomas Merton writes about a spiritual desert where you become lost and confused. Your imagination and old ideas about God do not seem to work anymore. Your stream of spirituality feels dried up. Your path seems lost in the dust; your destination uncertain. You cannot find any comfort. You are restless and searching, almost frantically at times. If you are not frightened by your fruitless efforts and run back to cling to your signposts, and if you persevere by letting go and seeking silence and calmness within your heart, you will eventually cross your desert and find truth in the palm of God’s hand on the other side. You will be silent because words will not be able to describe what you found.
Please feel free to add your impressions.