What is truth?
If we are to attempt to answer this question we can have a measure of courage to explore for an answer as if it can be within our reach. Doing otherwise cuts us short of making progress, as we lose focus of the important prospect of gaining the fruits of better understanding truth. Using the as if approach, the following answer provides a starting point:
Truth can only ever be an absolutely correct expression representing part of reality.
What is reality?
We at our current general state can only apprehend a part of reality at any given time. To fully know what is reality is to be absolutely omniscient. This evolutionary goal is expressed as total cosmic consciousness and it is built upon the pre-requisite of a being’s growth through ordered stages of consciousness development. The stage a being is at in the order indicates how much of reality can be apprehended. Order implies a coherent system.
Humankind can currently discern that we are a small part of the way through that systematic order, based upon: our consciousness of the pattern of that order; plus our realisation of our decreasing rate of error in understanding reality; as well as usable knowledge given to us from sources further along the given order.
Reality is a goal. Knowing of the existence of the goal does not equate to fully attaining it. This presents a mental problem for our need for a direct answer: When faced with the turmoil and confusion of the world the need to have a true understanding engagement with reality is pressing.
How is reality understood?
Religions ask of us to have faith. Faith implies an acceptance of a static mental construction as a definite answer presented as a ‘truth’ large enough to be considered a full expression of reality. This construction generally encourages the ceasing of the exploring for truth and reality, along with problems such as blind acceptance of the errors of that faith. These problems create further disharmony and confusion as evidence of how the faith does not conform to reality. An amount of consciousness development reveals that faith as proposed by religion is unsatisfactory for a consistent and improving approach to understanding reality.
Elsewhere, there are persistent arguments that there is no truth at all and there is only just random perspectives. These relative points of view are somehow proof that truth is an impossibility. To imply this is to imply there is no reality. Any apparent discernible patterns are to be discarded in a ridged anti-truth that is void of meaning or harmony. Again, an amount of consciousness development allows us to see this position as being unsatisfactory and absurd: even an expression of anti-order is still an expression, and any expression is some sort of order.
Further still, there exists a demand upon us that sufficient evidence equates the deliverance of truth. To a hen pecking at grains reality may appear to be a tidy and small matter to grapple with. All the grains of evidence can only ever equate to a portion of truth, and our current experience easily shows us that if we have our heads down looking at the ground all the time we may miss something more important, such as danger or an opportunity. But we can also see that evidence is a powerful force that can move and confuse us much like religion can. Again, this problem is unsatisfactory.
There is also an added pressure to have a ‘firm grip on reality’ and ‘know what is true’ so that we can get on with attempting right relations. Fears press upon people creating the impression that we have limited time and seeking the truth can be seen as indulgent or pointless. Worse still is when dominant and powerful people, structures, systems and culture work against truth, sometimes deceptively. This creates an atmosphere of fear and confusion that encourages us to quickly pick a pre-packed ‘truth’ off the shelf and get on with what we think is right relations; but often ends up being an approximation of right relations, or worse still it becomes outright barbarism. Commonly this problem is not obvious to us given how culture can normalise separative behaviour. So from this it can be seen there is great risk in us rushing to think we have truth when we do not. Potentially, those appearing sage and wise can be destructive unless a certain level of consciousness development is deployed without any error. Even with this expression (what you are reading now) there is a degree of risk due to whatever room there is for this flow of language to be misinterpreted, or inherent errors are contained in the presented ideas.
Given the magnitude of this problem there is an urgent need to have a better approach to truth, and consequently understanding reality.
What is a better approach?
This need for improvement is possible with a change of attitude and culture that more pointedly discerns reality. Order implies potential pathways for better navigation: therefore applying ourselves to the task will bring a result. Exploring as if a result is possible. This pointedness is a conscious life path that forever seeks better understanding of reality as a primary and fundamental goal.
However, this point may be broadly parroted and forgotten unless it is both ceaselessly affirmed and applied by us as a community. The approach could be a culture that sees seeking as favourable. The affirmation must not just be mental: the desire to develop consciousness must brightly shine with consistency from our hearts, connecting us to one another.
Also problematic is adopting this path without useful emotional and mental tools to sharpen discernment and connection.
What are the best tools for discerning and connecting to truth and reality?
The course of our current culture is now pulling adrift from the old mores of religion. In the wake we have developed a hunger for experts and answers. And now there are more experts and answers than ever before. Who is delivering the truth? What expresses reality best? We get confused: “The more persuasive the more impressive; the quicker and the more effortless the better.” Fictions and illusions lure and confuse us into making the quick clumsy grab for truth. “It is uncool to be uncertain.” Superficial and pleasant heart-buzz of individuals and groups is sometimes mistakenly taken to be a measure discernment acuity. Style can null content. The risk is that an expert’s answer is taken in much the same way as religion is taken: idolising the expert and putting a halt to seeking.
The proposed antidote for this begins with a cultivated passion for questions.
Questions can be the first tool in discerning reality. A question can be used to affirm staying steady on the path of seeking. All questions are valid, but the better the question the better the approach to truth and reality. Questions that are directed to the validity of ideas, while our hearts remain in unity and co-work, are a healthy beginning to developing consciousness. A new culture could affirm wariness of answers coming before questions but also affirms seeking as if the answers are possible. New societal systems could be grown to encourage this two-aspected approach.
What could example questions look like? What questions open to more questions? What questions lead to dead-end answers? What questions broaden? What questions narrow?
- What are the basic aspects of reality?
- What errors am I making that separates me from we?
- What do these inaccuracies lead to for this or that?
- What are the best possible right relations for this current situation?
- What are the fictions and illusions we are labouring under?
- What note are we in the symphony of the universe?
- What best affirms beauty and order that is in accordance with reality?
- Which way is best to start and finish for any given creativity?
- Which methods are best for cognising infinity and what is immediately before us?
- Which feelings are worth cultivating and which are not?
- Which actions best bring us together so that we may better refine our ideas?
- Which methods approach better accuracy?
- Which labours joyously build community?
- Which dates are to be observed for the best order of things?
- When is when no longer useful?
- When can infinity best be applied to the now?
- When is the best time for us to share our questions?
- When is it best to act with urgency and when to have patience?
- When is detailed deep accuracy required and when is powerful brevity best?
- When is the heart of beauty not able to be expressed?
- When are we ready for what?
- How did consciousness begin?
- How is the universe ordered, structured and patterned while containing apparent disharmony and chaos?
- How is love expressed by the mind?
- How can we achieve better ideas in mental conflict without insulting one another?
- How can any given pattern be applied to better understand the world and life?
- How can art best express a rare beauty?
- How can ancient mysteries reveal a new culture best suited for the problems of now?
- Why is there meaningless suffering at the same time as apparently meaningful evolution?
- Why do we evolve rather than the opposite of that?
- Why is it we look for a teacher in any given situation?
- Why is friction coming up in our effort to develop consciousness?
- Why is the search for meaning without rest when we sometimes feel tired of it all?
- Why is ugliness and darkness so appealing to some?
- Why is all one?
These are just some examples of how the truth can begun to be sought, as well as how to keep that seeking on track.
However, questions alone are not enough – along the journey sooner or later a clearer apprehending of reality offers itself to the seeker. A pearl. An insight. An epiphany… At this realisation, or at any point, a testing can be applied. How tenable is the answer, idea, expression, etc, as it applies your ongoing existence? To what degree does the proposed ‘truth’ work out in real life? What are the results after periods of time? Or, the results per given range of contexts? What parts of the results show blocks to consciousness development? And so on. The metaphor of the field scientist doing endless experiments built upon previously illuminating experiments is applicable.
Even apparent knowledge and wisdom handed down to us from ‘greater beings’ bears ongoing testing, no matter how compelling the authority is.
Until we achieve total cosmic consciousness we can never have fully objective discernment of reality – so in the meantime questioning and testing provide to be useful tools. So our constant interfacing with truth has some degree of subjectivity to it. Instead of faith, belief, or outright resistance, the way of understanding reality can be characterised by what Laurency scientifically calls “the most tenable working hypothesis of what reality is”. Agni Yoga goes on to call this “trust”, for example: trust in life, trust in self, trust in the way and order of nature, etc. Both distinctions imply an organic ongoing process that we play part in as both conscious individuals and community members.
This realisation allows for a flexible and flowing engagement with proposed ‘truths’ as we apprehend them on the path of life. It reduces the need for any one ‘truth’ to be absolutely objectively correct and embraces degrees of subjectivity. We can have an ever evolving trust in a tenable working hypothesis of our discernment of truth and action in reality. Our discernment and connection is never shut down, but we are never paralysed with inaction because we can apply trust to undertake vital action.