Thoughts on the association between belief and pressure

Here’s a thought I had:

I seem to feel that belief is pressure-based.  In fact, pressure creates belief.  This would mean that belief is not based on things like:

  • What makes intellectual sense
  • What ones heart says
  • What society, tradition, or religion says

Generally, people think these are what makes belief.


By pressure I mean a number of things:

  • A reality or condition that presses down upon a person as something real and imminent
  • It is something that requires or prompts a response from a person
  • It is a situation where a person must conform themselves to its reality
  • It is often experience-based, a result of the ‘doing’
  • It is something that is perceived as being external to ones self 

One could say that pressure is the “burden of life” that rests on us.

Pressure and the self

Pressure is based in a self/non-self relationship.  By ‘self’ I mean a perception of ones person as an integrated whole.  This means that it is a part of you. By ‘non-self’ I mean something that is perceived as removed from ones person.  This could be something in the outer world or a quality within you which affects you which means your self has not integrated it and perceives it as removed from you.

In this way, pressure establishes the self as a separate entity in the world.  In this way, we can see this relationship

self—belief—pressure—non-self (world, reality, etc.)

What this means is that belief, given worth by pressure, establishes a relationship between the self and the non-selfIn this way, pressure becomes the basis of ones relationship with things not associated with the self, such as reality and the world.  Belief, then, is more than just facts, myths, and information but perceptions, interpretations, awareness, and experience.

This association shows that pressure is associated with the growth of the self.  In other words, pressure establishes the self and makes it grow.

Effects of pressure

Pressure causes a number of things:

  • Pressure makes things “real”, giving it substance and weight.  Without a pressure belief is just an “idea” or “thought” that passes away quickly.
  • Pressure makes things relevant.  By making things relevant belief establishes a relationship or an association between things.
  • Pressure makes things meaningful and have value.
  • Pressure makes something a part you or not a part of you.
  • Pressure makes things “last” or persist in value after the thing has disappeared.

Without belief things are just “there”.

In regard to belief, we can say these things:

  • Belief without pressure is empty
  • Belief without pressure passes away quickly

Because pressure establishes the self and makes it grow, it tends to place a weight or burden on the self.  In this way, pressure tends to cause a stress on the self.  This stress, in many ways, is nothing but the prompting to make the self act.


Normally, we think that the material or substance of belief is what’s important (that is, “belief is what is believed”).  We tend to think that belief is the “idea”, the “image”, the “concept”, etc.  But I tend to feel that belief is all based in its context not in what it contains.  In this way, belief is something that establishes an association and is the means of association.  Because of this, belief is not what is “believed” but an act of association.  With this we could say that “true belief is believing”.  We could call this association “believing”.

This association consists of three things:

  1. Pressure. 
  2. Believing.  This is the application of the substance in respect to pressure.  In this way, they are associated.
  3. Substance.  This is the “thing believed”, the idea, principle, or what have you.

The relationship between these three things would go much like this:


That is to say, believing becomes a mediator between pressure and the substance.  In this way, is not the same as “what is believed” (the substance).

Pressure, believing, and belief establish a relationship and does these things:

  • It establishes the reality of ones condition upon a person.
  • It gives a person the means of association.

Oftentimes, pressure forces a relationship to develop (that is, it forces a believing and a belief).  This is one reason why a dramatic event, such as an accident or serious illness, can literally change a person.  The pressure of that situation forces it.

Belief is only important if it establishes an association with pressure.  This means that a form of pressure must exist.  Without pressure, the substance and belief tends to be shallow.


Because these involve different qualities there is a tendency for individual people (and even societies) to develop an orientation emphasizing one aspect in particular.  In this way, there establishes three forms of orientations:

  1. Pressure-based orientation.  Here the belief tends to emphasis in “reaction”.  They are primarily responsive to conditions and situation.  They also do not reflect much of things (that is, they create not substance) and are often transitory, only existing while the pressure is in existence.
  2. Association-based orientation.  Here the belief tends to emphasize the act of believing.  In this case, believing is like “expressing belief”.  Often, these people tend to be more spiritual in orientation.
  3. Substance-based orientation.  Here the belief tends to be focused on the substance or matter of belief.  As a result, they sit and argue, debate, and have turmoil over details of what’s believed.

The Christian influence – the effects of conversion

The substance-based point of view is an attitude that has had much influence from Christianity.  In fact, it is instrumental, in Western society, in the emphasize on the substance of belief . . . what is believed.

The emphasis on substance originates because Christianity was intent on trying to convert everyone to their specific beliefs which, of course, is has “substance”, being a specific belief.  Because of this, they put especial emphasis on their belief versus other beliefs.  This created a strong substance-based orientation in which what is believed is what matters (“you must believe in Christ”).  This has caused a strong orientation, in Western society, in emphasizing what is believed . . . the substance . . . as all that matters.  This same attitude carries down to today.

The emphasis on substance would have great impact on philosophy.  In fact, the dilemma and arguments of philosophy, in Western history, can probably be said as reflecting the over emphasis on substance that Christianity created.  It has caused great dilemma in Western society, what I call the ‘substance-dominant dilemma’.  The over emphasis on substance tends to cause great dilemma’s in society and individuals.  It can cause great strive, despair, confusion, and conflict within a person and in society as a whole.

Some of the reasons why the ‘substance-dominant dilemma’ creates problems include:

  • It takes the orientation of “there’s only one answer” . . . the correct belief (substance) will answer everything.
  • It creates an attitude of analyzing, “splitting hairs”, and getting mixed up with trivial details.
  • It doesn’t tolerate contrary views.

In this way, it often creates an attitude of desperation and frustration.  In many cases, the “answers” don’t work.  In addition, it often creates conflict and tension within ones self and with others.

A product of philosophy, science, appeared and tried to portray itself as answering the problems caused by the ‘substance-dominant dilemma’.  That is to say, it offered itself as the “one answer”.  But all it is, in actuality, is a continuation of the attitudes created by Christianity and philosophy.  So what we see is that the whole “truth debate”, in Western history, is nothing but the result of this Christian conversion attitude which caused an over emphasis on substance.


Ones stance toward the world, and society, can have great impact on belief.  People, such as primitive people, who see themselves as “small” in the world tend to be more association focused.  A substance-based orientation is seen in more populated societies who see the world at a distance.  In other words, an emphasis on substance becomes more critical when the world diminishes as an active presence in life.  In some respects, this shows that belief is based in an association with the greater world of nature.

This tendency, where the world diminishes, also coincides with the growth of society.  As a result, a large population and society makes the substance more critical.  Because of this, its safe to assume that a substance-based orientation generally means that a person is living in a more populated society and/or the world is perceived as being at a distance.

There seems to be a strong association between pressure and the natural world (that is, non-human world).  This suggests something akin to an “instinct” in respect to pressure coming from the natural world.  In other words, the instinct makes one sense pressure from the natural world and naturally reacts to it, like a reflex action.  All other forms of pressure take a “backburner” quality.  Because of this, the stress and turmoil created by the modern world, for example, including things like war and economic disaster (which can be quite tragic), tends to be of a different type of pressure, of a type that doesn’t quite hit as deep and seems to not necessarily get a deep response.  Because of this, many forms of pressure originating from society tends to have a quality of a “disconnect”.  In many cases, much of the turmoil of society these past some odd centuries has been the turmoil creating by this “disconnect”.  This creates problems in people of being unable to “make sense” of social problems, which causes a frustration.  This frustration is seen in many political and religious feelings and why these disputes are so involved.  One could probably very well say that the great struggle we have been seeing these past some odd centuries is a struggle with being “disconnected” with the pressure.

Another reason why pressure from society is more shallow is because of the fact that pressure caused by social situations (or that is perceived as social situations) only entails the social aspect of the person.  This is only a part of a person.  The pressure of the world, on the other hand, entails more of the self and hits to a deeper “primal” part of the self.

The “primal” part of the self makes the pressure from the world have a more spiritual quality.  As a result, people who feel pressure from the world tend to be spiritual-like.  Accordingly, they tend to take a more association-based orientation typically.  The people who feel pressure from society tend to be more substance-based.  In this way, they tend to emphasize ideas, ideals, and principles.


Belief establishes an overall conception of the world.  This can appear as a mythology, theology, knowledge, and so on.  This view of the world is based on the conglomeration of many forms of substance forms.

Conception tends to have two origins:

  1. Social
  2. Personal

Generally, each persons conception of the world is a mixture of both, each mixing in their own way and with their own emphasis.

Conception can range from small to extensive.  It seems that the more extensive it is the more stronger the substance-based orientation is.  In other words, conception is often reflective of an emphasis on the substance of belief . . . the more the conception is developed the less the emphasis on association.  In other words, the more the conception the less association there tends to be.


The most powerful pressure in “human life” is best seen in primitive tribes.  I speak of this pressure as ‘primitive pressure’.  It has a number of characteristics:

  • One is living in the middle of nature
  • One depends on nature
  • One must associate with it directly
  • One is in a small social group

These create a condition where “nature is bearing down on you”.  In this condition, there is great pressure upon a person.  As a result, one needs to establish an active association with ones condition to survive.  In many primitive societies this gives a particularly strong sense of a pressure, a strong sense of believing, and something of substance to believe in (see my article “Thoughts on defining shamanism: an ‘active belief system’“).  It seems, to me, that most primitive societies tends to take an association-based orientation.  This emphasis on association is one of the qualities that give primitive society, belief, and religion, its unique nature.

It can be said that pressure is what establishes and keeps belief going.  In other words, without pressure there is no believing.  Pressure establishes a need for an association, believing, and keeps it going.  In addition, this believing makes the substance relevant and important.  In this way, pressure is necessary for any believing and belief.


When there is little or no pressure then “casual belief” tends to appear.  Its generally found, it seems, in societies that tend to be substance-based.  Because of this people tend to “need” a substance.  As a result, they are always looking for it.  But, because there is no pressure to “ground” the substance becomes like a tumbleweed and goes every which way.  This creates a number of conditions:

  • A tendency for ones belief to meander all over the place.  They believe this then that and nothing seems to work.
  • A tendency to be in turmoil and not knowing what to believe.
  • Having no belief at all . . . nihilism.

The modern world, especially, tends to create these conditions.  This is because it causes an absence of pressure, particularly as it is like a shell and keeps us from the world.   The effect of this is a strong tendency to “casual belief”, particularly in Western society, which has a strong substance-based orientation in the culture.

Some forms of “casual belief” is what I call “frivolous belief” if the belief is frivolous and trivial.  In actuality, a lot of belief, nowadays, is a form of “frivolous belief”.  Most belief has no value and serves no purpose.

Another type I call “decorative belief” as its a means for people to decorate themselves.  They wear it like clothes.  In many cases, this becomes a source of identity.


The relationship established between pressure and belief and conception tends to lead to a productivity of ones self and passion.  In this way, believing helps a person grow and be in the world.  This is because believing establishes a relationship and productivity is based in association.  In other words, believing creates an association which leads to productivity and growth.


It also seems that, without this pressure/belief relationship, there is a tendency to neurosis.  Primitive people weren’t neurotic because they had a strong pressure/belief association to keep them productive.  This productiveness made their passion meaningful and useful, giving it a place and purpose.  This is not the case with people in large societies and in civilizations.


Pressure tends to create a ‘tribal sense’ in response to it.  This pressure bonds the tribe together.  In fact, when pressure is reduced the bond between people falls.  This is why civilization, and “stable societies”, tend to see a fall in social bond.  Because of this, one can see that social bond is directly related to pressure.  In some sense, one could even say that social bond is a result of pressure.


Since religion is based in belief the forms of belief affect the religion and how it appears.  I always say that there are two forms of religion:

  1. Active religion.  This is association-based orientation and display that form of belief.  These religions are generally religions based on an active participation of the world, such as seen in primitive tribes.
  2. Passive religion.This is a substance-based orientation and display that form of belief.  Generally, passive religions are based on established traditions and beliefs and written documents.  Their belief is usually a comparing of life to an existing “model”.

One could say that organized religions are passive religions where the substance takes precedence.

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Christianity, Christian conversion, Post-Christianity, and Christian influence, Existence, Awareness, Beingness, Consciousness, Conceptionism, and such, Life in general, Philosophy, Primitive society and people, Psychology and psychoanalysis, Religion and religious stuff, Tribal society, tribalism, and the tribal sense and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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