Illustration: Alexej Von Jawlensky/Bridgeman/Getty Images
What makes a relationship right, or an important decision? How can you tell if deep spiritual questions have an answer? As children, we all asked these questions. They came naturally. Is there a God? Do I have a soul? What happens after I die? Children are too young to understand that their parents are just as confused as they are. But the answers are given, and for a time they suffice. If Grandma went to heaven to be with Grandpa, a child will sleep better and feel less sad.
When you grow up, however, the same questions return. You can postpone the deeper ones, perhaps, but not in matters of love, relationships, and personal decisions. Everyone wants to know the answers to those kinds of dilemmas. And thus you discover that your parents, however well intentioned, never showed you the way (unless you happen to be one child in a million who had very mature parents who could truly love and understand you).
I know I seem to be painting a very large, open-ended picture. But getting into a healthy relationship, discovering whether you have a soul and even picking the right job have something in common.
In all these cases you either hope, believe or know what the answer is. "I hope he loves me enough." "I believe my spouse is faithful." "I know this marriage is solid." These are very different statements, and we find ourselves awash in confusion because "I hope," "I believe" and "I know" are never the same thing. We just wish they were.
If you will indulge me in sounding so abstract, there's a useful lesson here. The spiritual path actually has only these three elements. You move from a state of uncertainty—"I hope?"—to a somewhat firmer state of security—"I believe"—and eventually end up with true understanding—"I know." It doesn't matter whether the specific issue is about relationships, God or the soul, about the higher self, heaven or the far reaches of the supernatural. Either you hope, you believe or you know.