The Human Quest for Truth

May I be led from darkness to Light, from the unreal to the Real, from death to Immortality—so runs one of the earliest prayers known.  In a few words, this appeal, known as the Gayatri, sums up the human quest for truth.  In the millennia since it was first enunciated, humanity has made tremendous progress in gaining the enlightenment of the mind through near-universal literacy, widespread education, and in the past century through the developments of technology.  Today the spread of information is truly global and instantaneous.  Shouldn’t that provide us with readier access to truth—make us more capable than ever before of distinguishing truth from falsehood, more discerning in matters of belief, more reliant on the power of the mind to reason?

In fact, too often the opposite seems to be the case.  Alongside the wonders of “the information age” made accessible by the internet, it seems sometimes that we’re drowning in an unending downpour of views and beliefs which are claimed as facts.  On any given subject there is so much to consider, and so little time to do so before moving on to the next interesting development, that the mind becomes overloaded with data needing analysis and reasoning before acceptance.  In this condition the unprepared or unready mind can become susceptible to suspicions, conspiracy theories, gossip and rumors which can then be immediately disseminated by the worldwide web.  The saying that “a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes” has never been more accurate. 

It’s said that language hides truth.  That’s why a clever argument can be so convincing.  An example is what some have called “alternative facts”, yet the late United States Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan had clear insight into this dilemma when he said “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”  Adding to this, unsubstantiated viewpoints can gain traction through repetition, earning serious consideration because of people’s deep-seated impulse towards fairness and open-mindedness.  Schools of journalism struggle mightily with this conundrum because of their commitment to avoid bias and to provide equal space for consideration of differing opinions.

These problems are exacerbated by  the lower, concrete mind’s tendency to concretion and its willingness sometimes to accept a particular point of view too quickly—to settle comfortably into appealing but unexamined beliefs.  The easy conviction of a certainty of knowing, combined with the vast choices presented by the media which span the gamut of allegiances, is placing increasing demands upon people’s power of discernment and judgment.  For too many, their preferred choices for information seem to be those which seek not to inform but to affirm what they already believe.  We human beings, as a species, seem to be conditioned by inherited ideas of family, group, society, and nation far more than we realize.  This lack of exposure to legitimate but differing points of view is especially dangerous for a democratic society.

The intuition is a powerful tool for attaining insight into the challenge of discerning truth, particularly but not only “higher truths”.  However, there is much misunderstanding of what the intuition really is.  A common assumption relates it to “gut feeling”, but that only places it in the realm of the solar plexus, the major source of world glamour.  The true spiritual definition is that the intuition is a comprehensive grip of the principle of universality which leads to a complete loss of separateness and to universal love.  Its effect is a retreat from any sense of superiority or separateness, which are fostered by the mental counterpart of emotional glamour—illusion. 

Illusion is based on thoughtform-building by the lower mind;  it’s an important stage—but only a stage—in learning discrimination, and the underside of discrimination is criticism and prejudice—literally, pre-judgment without sufficient evidence.  Contrary to what might seem to be a natural progression, the critical mind doesn’t provide access to truth if it only fosters criticism, pride and suspicion.  In fact, suspicion, pride, and criticism are the three qualities that occlude the direct perception of truth.  This gives us a guideline for determining when a recognition or insight is true and correct.  We’re told that the creative imagination, while highly useful, can be the servant of suspicion.  It’s said that suspicion ever lies, but lies with such apparent truth that it seems only correct and reasonable.  Criticism is equally deadly, for it creates a thoughtform, particularly when voiced, that continuously reinforces itself through its narrow focus, dimming the wide lens of the comprehensive, balanced perception which reveals truth.    

How then, do we learn to trust our perception of truth?  The signs of a true intuitive perception of truth are the illumination, understanding, and love which are registered in the consciousness when it encounters truth.  These points suggest that, to determine the truth of an observation or an opinion or an insight, the questioner should ask, does it violate or obey the Law of Love?  Does what I am considering serve to strengthen the bond with my fellow human beings or deepen the sense of separation between us?  Perhaps beauty should also be added to these indicators of truth.  Mathematicians often express their solutions to challenging mathematical problems as “beautiful”, implying that an order or pattern has been revealed which meets a standard of aesthetic excellence.

Finally, we must consider a possible truth by examining it in the light of commonsense, that cumulative inheritance of human experience and hard won wisdom held in common by all human beings.  After all our questioning, we must trust in the inner light which dwells at the core of our being.  This is the indwelling light to which the Buddha referred when he said, in his final sermon, “be a lamp unto your own feet”.  A statement from The Secret Doctrine clarifies the path for the inquirer:


that we must not believe in a thing said merely because it is said; nor traditions because they have been handed down from antiquity; nor rumours, as such; nor writings by sages, because sages wrote them; nor fancies that we may suspect to have been inspired in us by a Deva (that is, in presumed spiritual inspiration); nor from inferences drawn from some haphazard assumption we may have made; nor because of what seems an analogical necessity; nor on the mere authority of our teachers or masters.  But we are to believe when the writing, doctrine, or saying is corroborated by our own reason and consciousness.  ”For this,” says he in concluding, “I taught you not to believe merely because you have heard, but when you believed of your consciousness, then to act accordingly and abundantly.”

Secret Doctrine III. 401



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