“Truth alone prevails, not unreality”
-The Mundaka Upanishad
It must be acknowledged that belief in truth is a kind of faith, but we needn’t acknowledge this sullenly. It’s a noble faith which assumes the existence of univocal goodness and compels oneself to recognize that he is but a part in the greater whole. It’s a faith marked by the assumption that human ideas (whether they be empirically demonstrable or not) are characterized by an alignment with either reality or unreality. The pursuit of truth must be an intentional process, free from the desire to egoistically reinforce one’s biases; that is, we must intend to be illumined by what we encounter on the path. Neither should we relegate the truth to knowledge attained in any one fashion. A baleful disservice is done to the maturity of one’s mind when the pride of intellect refuses to acknowledge its colossal limitations. Having embraced this universal wisdom, the spirit of enquiry becomes equipped to receive all kinds of knowledge; however, if once we resolve to approach truth with this sort of tenacity, we resolve in kind to undertake the discipline of looking inward. We must know ourselves.
To possess knowledge of oneself requires mindfulness. In addressing this topic, Rose Snyder, of The California Institute of Integral Studies, says “Many researchers have described mindfulness as promoting a ‘‘metacognitive’’ ability, in which the practitioner develops the capacity to observe her own mental processes…” (qtd. in Attachment Theory and Mindfulness 4). In gaining this capacity, it becomes possible to glean from ourselves knowledge regarding the motivations that rule over words and behavior. In short, through mindful disciplines and the self-awareness they afford, a measure of objectivity can be attained.
The ability to employ objective analysis can alleviate burdens that are immediate in nature. Here, Snyder (2011) is able to provide us with an example: “when an individual is having a difﬁcult emotional experience, she can step back from the experience to see it clearly as simply an emotional state that is arising and will in time pass away. The knowledge of the impermanence of all phenomena can allow for a greater tolerance of unpleasant states of being…” (qtd. in Attachment Theory and Mindfulness 4). The benefit of this cognitive, self- removal can hardly be overstated. Reflection on one’s own being eventually annihilates the pains and truncation of a passive existence.
I believe it’s reasonably safe to assume, most people begin their adult lives harboring substantial amounts of conditioned bias. Living without regard for this recognition, many (myself included) will gain knowledge only for the sake of adapting it to their preconceived notions. Thankfully, mindful disciplines are quite capable of threshing out biases. In this way, knowledge gained may truly benefit one’s comprehension. In the sense I am here using, knowledge is synonymous with information; and in ordinary human experience, we gain information in order to reduce uncertainty. Ahmad M. Kamal, faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario addresses uncertainty in the following way: “Within the domain of information behavior, uncertainty is viewed as a psychological condition resolved by access to appropriate information. Under this paradigm, uncertainty is a condition to be reduced if not eliminated, and better information services, increased accessibility of information, better-designed information systems, and improved search skills are—implicitly or explicitly—identified as the means to that end…” (qtd. in Addressing Uncertainty: When Information is Not Enough 1).
In this context, knowledge functions as the “cure” for uncertainty. Kamal consolidates this idea further by stating “The experience of uncertainty—internal or external—is in every case driven by a lack of knowledge. The important difference lies both in what is unknown and in whether it is knowable. In the case of internal uncertainty, the information seeker lacks information, and once they have accessed the appropriate information, their uncertainty can be resolved…” (qtd. in Addressing Uncertainty: When Information is Not Enough 4). Uncertainty gives rise to all sorts of personal anxiety, indecision, and shortcomings. By actively gaining testable knowledge, we pursue a basic solution to a common plague.
You will recall, perhaps, my initial allusion made to knowledge that isn’t empirically testable, yet still valid and illuminating. Largely, this sort of knowledge will be found in spirituality; and (I believe) sorely misguided are those who do not seek, in spirituality, some of the answers to life’s integral uncertainties. Human spirituality is varied in its beliefs (though I see curious unity in the variance); but I’ve found that, on the whole, it usually concerns itself with several recurring questions: Those of our Origin, Identity, and Destiny. The answer to these questions, if it be of the truth, would certainly transcend our personal contrivances. Therefore, we should orient ourselves only in reference to something greater than we know ourselves to be. Dirk van Dierendonck, of the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University in the Netherlands, seems to be of the same opinion: “Spirituality signiﬁes the inner attitude of living life directly related to the sacred…” (qtd. in Spirituality as an Essential Determinant for the Good Life, its Importance Relative to Self-Determinant Psychological Needs 4). This position should be advocated fiercely lest our worldview become destructively egocentric.
What then, is this sacred reality? What answer has been given to the questions of Origin, Identity, and Destiny? Look closely; there’s a curious nature about these questions. If we answer one, then we answer all. In the Ecclesiastical tradition (that of Jesus Christ) it is through God that all things were made (see John 1:1-3). In the Upanishadic (Hindu) traditions, the supreme reality is Brahman (known also as the “Lord of Love”) who is “the cause of the cosmos” (see the Shvetashvatara Upanishad). To Jesus, “God is Spirit” (see John 4:24), and Brahman is likened to “pure consciousness” (see the Aitareya Upanishad). Furthermore, in both Ecclesiastical and Upanishadic traditions we see proclaimed the same fundamental axiom: “The Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (see 1 Corinthians 10:25-26), and “All belongs to the Lord” (see the Isha Upanishad). In orienting our importance in reference to the Lord, self-obsessive desires are discarded and we begin to exhibit concern for the needs of those around us, begetting the foundation of a reciprocal community. You may ask yourself, should such radical beliefs be taken seriously? Dierendonck (2011) certainly reasons as much: “Spirituality was already recognized as an important element of well-being in the 70s. Particularly, Moberg’s (1971) theorizing was instrumental in this respect. Spiritual well-being was interpreted as a lifelong pursuit and an afﬁrmation of living life in direct connection to God, Self, the community and the environment. There is a growing body of empirical evidence that conﬁrms the link between spirituality and wellbeing…” (qtd. in Spirituality as an Essential Determinant for the Good Life, its Importance Relative to Self-Determinant Psychological Needs 4). Like unto the very pursuit of truth, spiritual knowledge begins with faith. The validity of such knowledge cannot be tested under empirical conditions, but rather, must be recognized in the sincere goodness of a life lived selflessly.
It seems ironic that, through rational discourse, we’ve come right back around to our primary article of faith: That truth is transcendent to us, free from the subjectivity of human contrivance. In the end, many of our beliefs may prove to be mere contrivance; but the character of truth will have remained invariable. Mind, it is the invariability of truth that bespeaks of its infallibility. And when we, by egoistic or malicious agendas, attempt to misrepresent reality with arbitrary falsehoods, we suppress infallibility and introduce fallibility. It’s actually very curious that day to day falsehoods are perpetuated so much as we observe, given that it’s easier to accurately represent what we know to be true than it is to misrepresent; and according to Michael B. Lewis of Cardiff University, The United Kingdom, we aren’t meant to misrepresent it: “Our default communicative stance is to tell the truth. Without the assumption that speakers utter the truth most of the time, it is difficult to see how efficient communication could ever occur. This suggests that when people wish to lie to a question they will need to intentionally suppress the default, truthful response, which should increase the difficulty of lying relative to telling the truth…” (qtd. in Telling Lies: The Irrepressible Truth? 1).
Truth isn’t arbitrary, human lies are. Were there no such thing as unequivocal falsehoods, men could represent reality by relating whatever bile happened to slide off their tongues. As it is, the true nature of things must be suppressed when a conscious lie is told, and Lewis (2012) supports this claim: “There is indeed plenty of empirical evidence consistent with the claim that telling lies involves suppressing the truth. For example many researchers have found longer response times for lying relative to telling the truth, and there is neuroscientific evidence that brain regions active in lying overlap with brain regions associated with general response inhibition…” (qtd. in Telling Lies: The Irrepressible Truth? 1). In maintaining the truth out of an honest will, we rely on infallibility. Truth is the backbone of honesty, and is therefore existentially involved with good intentions. There is a great task left to us who are of good and noble ambition: to mitigate the influence of egoism in our world by eliminating falsehood. In this, we must always champion the truth.