“What is Truth?” asked Pilate. [Bible, John 18:38]
“Why must we search for the Truth,” asked John Cage, “why don’t we have it?" [John Cage, 1957 Darmstadt lecture on “Communication”]
Truth, in its meaning as ultimate knowledge of reality and human life, does not conform to the restrictions of rational thought. Rational thought (frequently and loosely referred to as “reasoning”) serves best where it operates within a set of unyielding givens. This is not possible where every critical given is open to endless modification, in any search for ultimate Truth. In short, putting what is all-encompassing within an enclosing mental frame is an exercise in futility. Deliberators on ultimate truth waste their time (and ours) when they fail to see that it does not – can not – proceed from the human mind, a reality confirmed by centuries of consistent failure to succeed. Smart as we are, try as we may, the Truth remains beyond the grasp of philosophy, beyond science, beyond politics, beyond opinion and, face it, beyond argument. What is left for mortals, concerning ultimate knowledge of reality and human life, is to concede that it must come from the mind of God. For it is simply not something we can originate or, what is laughable, establish by consensus.
Which leads to the second question, “Why must we search for the Truth, why don’t we have it?” Well, the answer is, we do have it. The Truth is present in us as a reflection from our Source of Being, something that Plato elaborates on in his “Allegory of the Cave” [The Republic] and mystics have sensed throughout history. That reflection – faint in some, stronger in others – is the inspiration for action tending toward a more fulfilling, happier life than otherwise possible. This “bridge” to our Source, sensed intuitively (not rationalized), is manifest in God-centered religion that, when unadulterated by politics, provides the best available guide to a good life.
Sadly such best guidance gets disregarded, twisted, politicized in the interest of selfish ends or through carelessness. Most sadly, religion is frequently confused with its institution or administration, forgetting that substituting messenger for message blocks any guide to a better way of doing things, including conducting one’s life.
Though the first question, “What is Truth,” has never been successfully answered rationally, important insights can proceed from serious attempts at an answer. For example, it serves to remind us that we are incapable through reason alone to attain that balance of inner and outer conflicts that delivers the happiness we long for, dream of, struggle for. This universal dilemma is wonderfully vented in a literary visit to the deepest level of thought regarding music and poetry:
“...thus when by Poetry, or when by Music...we find ourselves melted into tears, we weep then, not through excess of pleasure, but through a certain petulant, impatient sorrow at our inability to grasp now, wholly, here on earth, at once and forever, those divine and rapturous joys of which through the poem or through the music, we attain to but brief and indeterminate glimpses [of the divine].” [Edgar Allan Poe, “The Poetic Principle.”]
It is just so for anyone who can sense transcendent truth, even if unable to “reach it” in a purely mental way, which is where faith takes over and the need arises for God-oriented doctrine if the means to best guidance is to resonate with our Source of Being. Reaching for certainty, fulfillment, wellbeing ought to lead to an adaptation to life that draws from our Source, universally acknowledged as the Creator, God. Without a serious effort toward that end, there is stumbling from crisis to crisis with misery for the many.
This is extremely sad, considering the fact that the consciousness of the Creator entered the consciousness of humanity in the event we celebrate as Christmas. Via the birth and life of Christ, it became abundantly clear to all what the portal is to “the truth, the way, and the life” [John 14:6] – true happiness, in other words. Yet this divine light on human wellbeing continues to be rejected and reviled wherever it conflicts with selfish gain or unbridled ambition to power. The latest result stares us in the face: a world with no moral anchor, beset with endless confusion, finger-pointing, back-stabbing, suffering, and bloodshed.
Many will waste their lives arguing over which “version of Truth” is best, as though it comes in many different varieties, so why not pick the one you like? They are all “equal,” right? The ancients remained in this fog, worshiping numerous gods ad hoc; many traditional cultures remain in this fog, worshipping their gods ad hoc; moderns remain in this fog, worshiping their gods ad hoc. Always taking charge of the confusion, however, are unscrupulous leaders who exploit the fog of differences to divide, conquer and enforce their “version of truth.” You can bet that the adopted “truth” will best serve the rulers, not the people affected.
You need not bet, however, as mathematical thinker Blaise Pascal did [Pensées], that the best “version of truth” is one that unites Earth and Heaven and restores full access to the Source of our Being – one forever resident in, as I see it, (unadulterated) Christianity.