Sunday, 26 February 2017

The Essence of the Truth

“Guarding the Rock of Truth” taken from "The Truth in 60 Seconds: 99 Tales to Set Your Clock By" by Art Lester

The Guardian of the Rock of Truth was entertaining his grandson on the mountain top. After several millennia he felt the need of a little company, and it wouldn’t hurt the lad to learn a few things about what grandpa did all day. They sat and watched as various humans below attempted to scale the mountain where the large Rock gleamed in the sunlight. They watched them as they got side-tracked or discouraged. Sometimes people actually fell in their attempts.

“Why do you need to guard the Rock, Grandpa?” asked the boy.

“Because the truth is dangerous to humans.”

“Why is that?”

“I’ll explain another time,” said the Guardian. He was looking closely at a human who was getting very near the summit. They watched as a man scaled the last few feet of the climb and stood unsteadily blinking in the sun.

The Guardian walked over and stood between the ragged and exhausted man and the Rock. “I’m afraid you can’t go any further,” he said.

“But I want the truth,” complained the man.

“Sorry. Out of the question,” said the Guardian.

He turned back toward his grandson, and the man dashed forward. In a second he had picked up a small piece of the Rock and jumped back onto the trail. The Guardian watched him head down with a sigh.

“Another poor fellow,” he said.

“But, Grandpa, he looked happy!” said the boy.

They looked down at the man. He was holding the tiny piece of the Rock of Truth over his head, a look of ecstasy on his face. Far below him they could see a crowd of cheering people who watched as the man made his way down the mountain. The Guardian clucked his tongue and shook his head sadly.

“Are you afraid he will fall, Grandpa? Is that why it’s bad for him to have a piece of the truth?

“No.” answered the old man.

“Is it because it will make him ill?”

“No,” said the Guardian.

“Then why?” asked the boy impatiently.

"Because now he will take that small piece of truth and start another religion.” The Guardian said.

"A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing…You can wear a crown, it doesn’t make you king, beware the trinkets that we bring"…"For all that glitters is not gold"…Beware the dangers of shiney things…perhaps the most dangerous being the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…Or perhaps the delusion that you believe that you hold the whole truth in your hands...

The Buddha reputedly said “Three things cannot be long hidden, the sun, the moon and the truth”. Now while these things are not long hidden we never see the whole of them from where we stand "whole of the moon", despite what the “Waterboys” sang, the whole of the sun and certainly not the whole of the truth.

None of us know the whole truth, we can only get a glimpse of it and even the small aspect that we get to glimpse upon we do not see directly. Any bit of the light we gaze upon is refracted…As Paul said in his famous words on love we only see into the glass dimly. No one sees the whole truth…It is important to remember this and it ought to breed humility…

People can be very funny!!!

I recently posted a comment on facebook, it was meant for my more theologically inclined friends. It read “Has anyone else ever noticed that when ever you type "panentheism" into Word it wants to correct it to pantheism...They are not the same and one is not a mispelling of the other...”

...The responses I received were hilarious, mainly from people who just made jokes about the terms, which they'd never heard of...

Now I’m not going to talk about their differences here, they are vastly so by the way, although one does seem not to be recognised by Microsoft. No the reason I mention this is that I was recently sent a questionnaire by a friend who was asking me for my views on God and Love amongst others things for her thesis titled “Models of God and the Meaning of Love”. The word panentheism had come up in my attempt to describe my own beliefs, as I attempted to share my experiences and my truth. I found the exercise both useful and deeply moving as I recalled and attempted to put into words experiences that are beyond the limits of my language and seemingly way beyond the limits of Microsoft spell checker, or this "Blog" by the way. Google blog keeps on wanting to correct "Panentheism" to "Pantheism" too. I was merely trying to attempt to share my truth from my experiences, my own understanding of the little aspect of the light I have glimpsed upon and only dimly…my partial truth…my imperfect truth...

I was also recently asked a question by another friend about faith, I think she was trying to work me out. She thanked me for my truth but I could tell it made her a little uncomfortable as it didn’t fit into her own model it would seem. I was also asked by someone at the gym, who I’ve been chatting to in recent weeks, “What I was doing later today” to which I replied “Mainly working, got a lot a of visiting today”. They then asked “Oh what do you do?” to which I replied “I’m a minister”. They then asked, with that slightly shocked look that people often give me when they discover what I do, “Oh are you very religious?” To which I replied, “Well it depends what you mean by religious?” We then had a very interesting conversation about matters of faith etc, in which they did most of the talking and I listened and shared a little of my truth. We then carried on with our workouts and I smiled to myself as I thought about the truth I’d just heard.

Truth is an interesting concept, especially in matters of faith, belief and disbelief. So often people see it as a rock that must be clung to, that is absolute and must not be questioned. It can often lead to argument as people find that in order to hold on to their truth they must disprove the truth claims of another that differs from their own. Such reasoning lacks humility, because the truth is that whatever we believe or disbelieve about truth we never see the whole truth completely, instead we merely glimpse through the glass dimly or maybe get a hold of only a tiny piece of the truth. Who can honestly say that they know the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Well I suppose some can say it and even believe it, but that doesn’t make it true. Whether that is a person in the gym or coffee shop or the leader of an institution or nation.

This brings to mind this little snippet from Anthony DeMello’s “One Minute Wisdom”

"To a visitor who described himself as a seeker after Truth, the teacher said: “If what you seek is Truth, there is one thing you must have above all else.” “I know,” answered the student, “an overwhelming passion for it.” “No,” said the teacher, “an unremitting readiness to admit you may be wrong.”

To seek the truth one needs humility and openness and enough self-esteem to see that we are wrong sometimes and of course the capacity to admit to this. If we cannot, we will not be able to see the truth, even when it is right in front of us. It is so easy to become blinded by what we think we know. We need the openness that comes with true humility, it’s a truth that will set us free.

According to the Gospel of Thomas Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

Whilst Lao Tzu wrote in the “Tao Te Ching”

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”

You will never bring forth what is within you while ever you are afraid of what is within you. There have been times when I have been afraid to bring forth what is within me and I have witnessed the same fear in others too. After all isn't it a little less scary to receive our truth from elsewhere rather than to let it come forth from within ourselves?

It can appear safer to accept the truth offered to us, rather than to seek it out ourselves. So often in life we want certainty, absolutes black and white and not a thousand shades of grey. So often we seek the illusion of certainty. This though just closes us in, builds those walls and keeps us cut of from what life offers to us.

The key to truth seeking is openness, born from uncertainty and humility. Openness is a way that enables us to experience new previously unseen truth; a truth that will set us free. It will allow us to bring forth what is within us and by doing so we might just uncover what will save us from the delusion of what we think we know about ourselves, one another and life itself. It will build bridges between the walls we build around ourselves.

There’s an ancient Chinese proverb that goes something like this: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” I suspect it’s the same with truth. Is it better to be given something that will feed us for a short time or is it better to be given a way that will enable us to keep on feeding ourselves and one another? Do we want to be given a fish that will fill our bellies for now or do we want to be given a method that will keep on feeding us; a method that will enable us to seek the truth that will set us free and continue to set us free?

Do we trust ourselves enough to seek out the truth and therefore to bring forth what is within us or would just rather stick with the safety of what we think we already know of what someone has taught us or told us is the truth.

In John’s Gospel Jesus said “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” when I first read DeMello’s wisdom shared earlier in the "blogspot" these words immediately sprang to mind. What I have discovered is that we are only truly set free by living in the truth. Not by accepting the truth we are given but by fishing for the truth and by seeing that some of the fish that we catch are of no use at least today and throwing them back. As DeMello taught if you want to be a seeker of truth then above everything else what you need is an unremitting readiness to admit that you may be wrong. Remember we only get a partial glimpse of the truth. Can we even trust this? Can we trust our own eyes?

Well we can trust what we unearth if we learn how to truly live in the questions of ours and others truth claims. Trust is vital. We have to learn to trust what we discover, what we unearth, what we catch, whilst not putting a fence around what we see as the truth today; the key is an open attitude whether that’s in finding your own truth or in offering truth to another. Now the challenge of course comes in dwelling in the ambiguity of truth without becoming overwhelmed or paralysed by it; the challenge comes in maintaining a deep commitment to the openness that truth seeking requires and not allowing yourself to become closed down.

This is not for the faint hearted. This takes courage. This is not the easier path, but it is definitely the one worth taking, for it is the one that will set us up to live in and through truth.

You know its ok to get it wrong to make mistakes. It’s ok to feel lost and confused about life at times. That is so human. There is something both glorious and beautiful in this.

If we want to be a seeker of truth then above everything else what we need is an unremitting readiness to admit that we may be wrong. .

The truth is of course. Once you can see you are wrong about something, admit you are wrong about something, do whatever you can to put right what was once wrong, then you are no longer wrong, you are right. The key is to feel right enough in your humanness to be able to admit that you can only ever vision the partial truth and to be open to the truth of others…

The key is in being right enough to be wrong...For that is essence of the truth...

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