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I believe that scientists and other intellectuals are, at this point in history, at a major juncture. We are in the midst of what I call a renegotiation of our whole picture of life and the universe, something that happens once every few centuries. - Michael Cremo

What is Truth and the Path?
07/19/2018

Some significant time ago I found myself talking to a Jewish doctor at an afternoon summer party. Both he and I were second-hand guests, being invited because of our women partners. Of course he was an intelligent and educated man, and soon we started talking about philosophy, discussing epistemology, the challenge to determine what is true..

At some point I said, "Doctor, let me ask you a question. Metaphorically, if the truth walked up to you and shook your hand, how would you recognize it?" He thought for a while, and, although he was not a Christian, he said, "The truth will set us free." I was stunned and unprepared to adequately deal with this answer, and then we got interrupted and that was end of that.

A couple of millennia ago, another man who was no fool in the ordinary sense, . sarcastically asked when confronted with a claim of the truth, "What is truth?" Pilate didn't know, and in the face of more practical matters—power and control— he certainly didn't think it mattered very much.

Freedom from What?

So, the truth will set you free. Sounds wonderful! I haven't found anybody that seriously argues against this age old adage. BUT, what they DON'T do is believe it. What has been established is that when people are adequately conditioned to not be free, they lose the ability to appreciate it, are numb to it and even afraid of it. Much of the time they can no longer even imagine what it is like.

But the larger issue is what does it mean in a more specific or tangible sense? Free from what? There are many things we do NOT want to be freed from, such as life, desire, fulfillment, etc., the good things and aspects. To have any real import or significance, to be good news for us, it must mean to be free of the undesirable or bad things and aspects of life and reality. This thought is immediately met with a dark cloud of skepticism.

And why not? Of course it is! After thousands of years of philosophers and theologians ostensibly doing their best to find it, see it, retrieve it, understand it etc., we are still not free and the immediate future does not look good for it. Have all these learned sages looked in the wrong place? Have they not looked high enough? Long enough or hard enough? Or, have they not recognized it when they did cast their eyes on it?

Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest
of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be!
 - Miguel de Cervantes (29 Sep 1547-1616), author
of what is the most widely published, disseminated
and read novel in all of earthly history, Don Quixote

The Path to the Truth

The above title is an ancient phrase describing an ancient analogy, but it is as apt today as it has always been. No two people start on their course from exactly the same point, nor do they ever take exactly the same steps, but we all begin life in the same territory. However, it is the position of this site that the word "path" may be misleading.

Path or pathway generally implies a well worn, easily discernable course to follow, but that is NOT the case spiritually. Rather, a better characterization is that we all have to fight and chop our way out of a jungle tangle while concentrating on seeing the "road not taken" or the path not well worn. Or to use the sentiment of the J person, find the narrow way that few find.

Causes of Conviction of Knowledge and Belief

What is probably very important to understand are the three basic approaches within which we can be or are moved to conviction:

1. Pressure: Pressure to be convinced or convicted is aimed at and applied to one's psychological makeup and emotional state, and comes in a variety of different psychological and emotional flavors. Although it can be incredibly subtle, it relies heavily upon direct influence of our feelings rather than information and logic for our intellect to do that, and it is defended on the basis that it "transcends" the merely intellectual. Is it not usually an attempt or ploy to bypass one's personal sovereignty and transfer power and influence to the presenter? Some types or styles of pressure are:

a. Appeal to fear

b. Appeal to authority

c. Appeal partial identity

d. Appeal to the mystical

e. Appeal to prejudice

f. Appeal to ignorance

g. Appeal to unhealthy ego

2. Reasoning: Reasoning relies upon humane values, information and logic and appeals primarily to the intellect; it lets the individual's intellect sort things out and have the impact on their own feelings. Reasoning strives to be intellectually responsible and make things come into focus by being clear and concrete, not nebulous or unclear.

3. Demonstration: Of course, demonstration is on another level in that is applies to  and comes through our senses and/or direct experience and not just the words of another person. Is it not the final arbiter of what is true?

Note that the sound "Scientific Method" is to try to eliminate the first entirely, and to focus on the latter two.

The Two Territories

We all face two territories, one inside of ourselves and one outside. In finding the way, do we first look outward or do we first look inward?

Do you know anyone, any psychologist or philosopher, that thinks newborn infants lie around and contemplate either the truth about themselves OR external reality? Rather, we understand they are like sponges, soaking up experiences, and initially reacting with raw animal responses and emotion whether that be contented reception or vociferous objection.

Let's face it, choosing to seek the truth comes much later in life, IF AT ALL, and for just a few after being exposed to their own personal environmental religious programming. Most become TOTALLY absorbed in the mundane aspects of the life struggle to maximize Eros, the fulfillment and enhancement of life's needs and desires, and to minimize Thanatos, the lessening or loss of the enhancement and sustenance of life, WHILE they continues to wear the mantle of that which they have been indoctrinated. Truth to them seems too relative, too ethereal and elusive, or too irrelevant, and they are overwhelmingly conditioned and encouraged to accept some already packaged version of it.

For those of us who DO choose to seek the truth at some point in life, probably the first issue we face is choosing whether we are on our own, or whether there is an agency we can trust to lead us. And then, will that agency be other people we interact with on earth, or some more reliable agency that is outside?

Being mindful of the seven spiritual stages of granting spiritual authority that we CAN go through, we don't really have much volitional involvement in going through the first four. At first, we are totally dependent and must trust our caregivers, parents or surrogates. And then that authority we invested in parents begins to be diluted and transferred to teachers and pastors or priests. And so on. It is only when faced with stages five, six and especially seven that we are confronted with using our power of choice. The last stage, of internalizing authority, is a daunting one that seems to be too extreme for the vast majority of people.

What is being said above is that we don't get to choose whether we start our journey by looking on the inside or the outside. Life first puts our feet on the territory that is outside.

Does our hard won pathway to the truth go through the inside?

The pathway to the truth DOES involve taking the inward journey, and for three vital reasons:

1) With brutal honesty we need to assay the realities regarding the extent of our ego problems and weaknesses, to find out how bad it really is. This requires a great deal of courage, and this is a point on the course that causes many to falter and cease the journey.

2) We also need to see realistically how good it is, to affirm our intentions, virtues and potentials.

3) what is of equal importance and takes even MORE courage, in the face of tradition and especially the experience of life, is take a candid, honest internal look at and see clearly what we really, intrinsically want and need, what it will take to "fill the cup", regardless of what anyone else including God may think

Since the ancient admonition is to know thyself, this is nothing more than getting to know oneself, and is a demonstration that we have the courage to finish the journey. If one can't stand to get to know oneself, there is little point and really no hope of struggling on to the finish.

In contemplating the journey to the truth, here are some of the other issues that must be plumbed:

Is the pathway a mystical one whereby we set aside our rational faculties, empty ourselves of not only the influences of other people but of ALL of the influence and information that comes to us from the external world of experience, and expect ourselves to be infused with the truth? Is this even possible and can anyone actually do this? OR, is this the exact opposite of what the creator of our rationality, logic and reasons desires and expects?

Is it ever legitimate for the authority leading us to inject us with the truth, or pressure us, or overwhelm us with experience? OR, does this agency with rare exception simply lead us into learning situations where we can exercise our volition to choose and believe?

Even the J-person said, "Because narrow the gate and constricted the way leading into Life, and those finding it are few." Sounds like bad news, doesn't it? But maybe it is GOOD news. Perhaps the first part is really good news, and the second part is just a sad commentary! And again, "Strive to enter by the narrow door." Obviously, we can ignore all the normal or wide entrances in our search or approach because they fail to even offer freedom and success. And why not? A narrow path is well defined and precludes drifting or wandering around.

Without palavering around any more, this author sees that the path is bounded on one side to include only those concepts that promise to satisfy what we need and what we want, and on the other side bounded by intellectually responsible and never abdicating rationality, logic and reason.

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