I do not believe in deities. I do not believe in spiritual energies like qi or mana, meridians, acupuncture. Neither do I believe in astrology, tarot, or the kabbalah (the one esoteric system I still hold dear, if simply for its incessant overflow of symbols and associations). Homeopathy? Duh. Don't get me started.
One can not believe what one does not believe. I don't think it's true, and it makes no sense to try and convince myself of it.
But, sometimes, there is this idea in my head that all the "energy exercises" that I perform almost daily - and which proved extremely worthwhile to me - might do a lot more for me if I just gave in to the belief that those "spiritual energies" actually exist.
I must admit that this is a very seductive possibility.
I can well imagine that there is indeed a very real foundation for that in the human brain. After all, religion didn't come from nothing. Feeling connected to the earth, the air, the universe as a whole - not only in a symbolic, psychological way, but as an actual reality - surely must be a tremendous experience.
It is quite ironic: I have the tools, now, to basically create those feelings "at will". Six, maybe seven years ago, I would most probably have attributed reality to them and gone on a wild, enthusiastic spiritual ride. But alas, then I didn't know how. Now that I have learned a few things, I could, but I won't do it.
It would be nice to have a little belief switch: Switch it on, believe in whatever wacky spiritual idea you like. Perform your exercises and have the most intense transcendental experiences. And then just switch it off again and go back to thinking critically.
And of course, in a way, drifting into the nondualistic, non-discursive depths of "Self", is a bit like that, only without any words that could describe those beliefs.
But ultimately, I think one just has to live with it. You can't get the placebo's full effect while knowing that it doesn't contain any active ingredients. Once you've pulled back the curtain and paid attention to the wee man there, there's no way to close the curtain. You can never unsee.
And of course, the upsides outweigh the disadvantages by far.