Here is a passionate, thought-provoking post by Eric Wayne on the dangers of current trends away from respect for truth towards shared narratives divorced from critical evaluation and thinking for oneself – and whether banning ideas from media is actually a sinister trend in the wrong direction.
I particularly like his quotes from an old friend, Roman Emperor Marcus Aureliius. Eric also posts really innovative art.
I’m old school on reality. Well, technically, I’m kinda’ old period. And white. And male. You could say I am a remnant of a bygone era. I still believe that reality should be sought, and accepted, and that to do so is healthy and necessary.
We should defer to the greater argument.
There are a few obsolete ideas that I still cherish, and they could get me erased if I’m not careful about acting on them. One is that we should defer to the better argument and evidence. I might have picked that up from an Intro to Philosophy class in community college. [Not that I didn’t go on to get a Master’s in Art, but I think I learned the most in a couple years of free community college, back in the day, which is part of the reason I think we should bring it back.] This idea has…
Do you sometimes wonder at the larger number of do-gooding organisations in the world? How come there are so many, many people willing to dedicate part of their lives to improving the lot of others and our connection with nature. Their name is legion.
Of course, many of us despair at the dark forces of personality and greed that apparently lead many major governments and businesses. But behind this there are so many forces moving in a more enlightened direction, and changing the nature of political debate, slowly but surely.
I believe that we see here the symptoms of genuine progress of humanity, away from the strong attraction of charismatic and fear-driven personality/ego forces, towards a deeper and genuine connection with, for want of a better phrase, spiritual values such as truth, beauty, goodness, compassion. Humanity is evolving, not least because of the demands being placed on us as a result of recent materialistic blindness,
I was much struck by the words of Simon Marlow in the recent Arcane School full moon talk for the sign of Sagittarius:
“Let us be clear in our assertion of the reality that over the course of history humanity has displayed a real trajectory of spiritual progress and development. This view causes not a few eyebrows to be raised, especially these days, when there is so much apparent evidence to the contrary. The conventional scientific and sociological view is that humanity has not really changed at all for thousands of years; that the great civilisations are but superficial veneers which temporarily paper over the permanently present and serious cracks or flaws in the character of humanity; that humanity is in fact fatally flawed. All apparent progress is only notional, to use Stephen J Gould’s striking phrase.
If we just existed as the form, as separate selfish personalities, as forever warring nations and competing power blocs, I think we would be quite justified in holding this view. But the point is we are not just personalities. The personality is, if you like, only the tip of the iceberg, the visible bit. Deeper than that, perhaps hidden to many but always present, are far more extensive, holistic and loving dimensions of our being. These dimensions are now demanding a widespread recognition. And did we but know it, the very flaws and deficiencies within humanity are forcing us all to become discoverers of these dimensions of conscious living that lie hidden within us all. And the guarantee of their existence is their revelation in the lives of the increasing number of spiritual giants and geniuses who have emerged from the womb of humanity over time.
We do not perhaps hold sufficiently in our minds the reality that it is our recognitionof these problems that is so encouraging. The fact is that millions of people all over the world are facing up to this reality and are now working and serving to heal, to remedy injustice, to resolve the urgent environmental and climate problems, to hold new images of beauty before the eyes of everyone, to penetrate ever more deeply into the mysteries of the unknown, and to attain to new heights of achievement in every single field of human activity without exception.”
Full Moon Talk Sagittarius, November 2020, London, Simon Marlow
Humanity is rising to new heights of being, to more conscious living. Each of us has a part to play…
Featured image shows hidden dimensions of an iceberg in Svalbard, its underwater surface structures. from Andreas Weith, via Wikimedia Commons
Kerry McAvoy has written an interesting post on evil What Evil People Have Taught Me, which came to my attention because she referred to my earlier post on People of the Lie. She poses an interesting question, can evil people be ‘saved’ or redeemed, and suggests that this may not be possible.
To recap, my post picked out three major characteristics which give warning signs of evil:
refusal to face the evil within, denial of one’s own guilt, often means projecting onto others and scapegoating.
an extreme narcissism, termed malignant narcissism by Erich Fromm.
a strong will to control others, leading to manipulative behaviours, demanding loyalty,…
We tend to think that all people with evil characteristics can be redeemed, a speciality of Christianity. But what if the characteristics are so strongly built in that they are effectively caught in a world of their own, surrounded by the courtiers willing to go along with them? Adolph Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Napoleon come to mind.
As Kerry suggests, we can face them with the truth:
Our defense against such people is to stand firm in our convictions. To refuse to bow and tremble in fear. Truth is our best weapon.
Reality is the other corrective. Such as when a UK cabinet minister was sent to prison for his misdeeds and emerged from the experience a changed man, redeemed. Redemption has to be a possibility, but is difficult to envisage in cases such as Hitler and Napoleon. It would seem that there are degrees of evil.
There is much profound wisdom in the posts of Aperture of Brahma. I am reblogging this post, which asks whether lying to save the feelings of others is ever justified. It suggests that the ‘skill of gentleness’ can avoid the hurt caused by truth, and that it is our own approval seeking that avoids telling truth. There is much food for thought here; but this ‘skill of gentleness’ is not easily developed, and what if we judge that the truth is not beneficial to those concerned?
Have you ever received a phone call and just let it ring and sometime later said “Sorry I missed your call,” and perhaps even offered, “My ringer was turned off,” or “I was in a meeting?”
What is a lie but the opposite of honesty? What are half truths but lies?
Justifying a lie due to our assumption that we are saving another from suffering does not disqualify an untruth. The opportunity to tell the truth in every situation is an opportunity to develop the skill of gentleness. The truth does not have to hurt. It is pride that makes it seem so.
Words are triggers that activate unresolved emotions. When we lie, our repressed emotions become associated with assumptions. They swim together, like schools of fish. The more these repressed emotions (complexes) are pushed deeper into the personal unconscious, the greater…
Ideas from a talk given by Patrice Brasseur at 2017 World Goodwill seminar, summarised in World Goodwill Newsletter. The quotes are from Patrice’s talk.
Truth is only a symbol or representation of reality, which is always something more.
“The quest for truth is a mental process of discerning, of understanding the fundamental laws of the Real; and this Real is always beyond the truth we are to approach.”
Until we become genuinely intuitive, we will struggle with the many different symbols of truth in the mind. All truths are partial and need to be grounded in personal experience to work out.
For example, if we hear that “Everything is one”, can we integrate this understanding into daily life? If we do so, we may find that our attitudes to others change, with increasing interest in cooperation and a broader expression of brotherhood. It is by applying truths in this way that we can convince ourselves of their validity “we must become scientists of the inner life.” In so doing we learn that every truth forms a part of a wider truth, and our understanding can continue to widen:
“At whatever level we may be, the truth is always the next step.”
So we may say that we do not go from error to truth, but that we progress from smaller partial truths to larger ones. In that sense the truth is everywhere, no matter where we stand on the path of the evolution of consciousness.
“Truth is the certainty to which everyone has access according to his or her level of consciousness, the certainty that serves as a basis for his or her evolution, up to the next step.”
This helps us to understand that every teaching is true, as all are useful at specific points on the evolutionary journey; and once a teaching has been integrated, one can move on to wider truths, but those teachings still remain useful to those who have not yet encountered them. This underlines the need for continuing education.
All truths are not equal – the more global in application a truth is, the more important it is. But we should not neglect smaller local truths because of this. The main question we should ask ourselves regularly is “What useful truth am I willing to implement?”
The global Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations are not the final truths for the planet, but are a very useful stepping stone that everyone can grasp.
Simple observation tells us that there are two aspects to life: inner experience and the outer world, subjective and objective. Our senses provide the link between the two, the inner perceives the outer.
We also recognise the life in other humans, beings in the animal world and, more subtly, insects, fish, the vegetable world, and so on. They clearly also have a ‘vital, living’ inner as well as a perceived form. Even places and spaces can have a clearly perceived atmosphere.
As far as I can see, Descartes came along and muddied the water, saying ‘I think therefore I am,’ when the reality is ‘I perceive therefore I am’ – thinking is something layered on top of this. This was part of the process that led to the creation of modern science and technology, and their focus on the objective, rather ignoring that inner subjective element. Quantity became all-important, to the exclusion of quality. Vitalism, that recognised the living spark within, was in the process rejected.
It seems at times that we live in a sort of half-world, glorifying science, technology, money, material goods, laws – but somehow disconnected from the qualities, beauty, truth and goodness that make it all worthwhile, indeed that make human life work sustainably – as is beginning to become apparent.
Featured image of Tao symbol courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
That which is false troubles the heart, but truth brings joyous tranquillity.
Is there a universal truth?
I would suggest that truth relates to a frame of reference. It is undoubtedly true that 1+1=2 in the frame of mathematics.
But is it true, for example, that capitalism is the best way to organise human resources, or that democracy is the best way of choosing a leader, or that everything has a materialistic explanation, or similar articles of modern Western orthodoxy? Well it all depends… on the particular circumstances in question.
It seems more appropriate to suggest that truth is relative to its context. Our aim is to live by the best and highest truth in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We might term this the Living Truth.Read More »
It is only when we are true to ourselves that we can understand and grow. It is only when we are true in relationship that the relationship can flourish. It is only when we are true in politics that we can make real choices, that democracy can flourish.
When was it so-called democratic politicians stopped telling us the truth? Maybe it was around the 1970s, as suggested in the interesting BBC documentary hypernormalisation. But it seems to have got worse e.g. reality of what happened in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel; Iraq war buildup; the so-called axis of evil; inequality and its causes; so-called trickle down economics and reality of increasing inequality; house and debt bubbles; causes of 2008 financial crash; not addressing the causes of that crash; blaming other politicians through untrue stories; tax avoidance and promises to do something that never materialise; targets for immigration that have no means of achievement; the idea that there is no alternative to austerity; blaming the EU rather than solving problems with them; gesture politics rather than really addressing problems; dropping campaign promises as soon as elected; funding fossil fuels known to be a danger to us all, and on and on and on.
So it is no surprise that people have today little faith in politicians and have in large numbers rejected the current set in the UK Brexit and US Trump votes – even though the campaigns were even more based on lies. What was the difference, people may well have thought. At least let’s try something different.
Now, I know it’s easy to call for truth, yet we know that as parents we sometimes tell varying degrees of lies to protect or entertain our children. We lie to other adults, perhaps where we would cause unnecessary offence or unpleasant consequences. So it’s no surprise that governments lie in a similar way.
What’s so different today? Maybe it’s just that the edifice of lies, ‘the narrative’ that is defended at all costs, has grown so large and is just so far separated from reality. The point is that people live in reality, so they become increasingly dissatisfied with the gap between that and the narrative. So they vote for change. They’ll probably not get the change they wanted, just a different narrative.
But maybe one day we’ll get the politicians and governments we actually crave – those that actually tell us most of the truth most of the time, and actually address the real issues facing us.
Trouble is, it’s so hard today with all the media and vested interests. At the tail end of his role as US Secretary of State, John Kerry actually for once speaks out the truth of the situation in Israel. He is immediately shouted down by all the vested interests and their narratives.
Truth is one of Plato’s three primary qualities: goodness, truth and beauty. The journey can be hard, but may this always be our direction of travel, as individuals and as collectives.
Review of the book by Steve McIntosh, subtitled ‘The Spiritual Experience of Beauty, Truth and Goodness’.
This is in some ways a very theoretical and philosophical book about spirituality, a bit dry. In other ways it is frustratingly vague, in setting future directions for the evolution of spirituality but not being very specific.
Yet in other ways it is very practical, pointing a clear direction for the development of human consciousness, exploiting the fundamental attractors of truth, beauty and goodness (see Goodness, Truth and Beauty) as a direction, a sort of ‘gravitational attraction’ for consciousness. It is worth reading just for this, building on the work already published in Steve’s earlier book Evolution’s Purpose, reviewed here.Read More »
provides a model of evolution that applies to outer and inner – objective and subjective
thus reconciles science and religion/spirituality, showing how their historical differences came about, and how primitive materialism can be transcended
gives a context for the ‘culture wars’ in the US and elsewhere, and outlines how they can be transcended
explains why areas such as the middle east present such an intransigent problem
gives a story of development of human societies that is convincing and explains why such things as democracy are so difficult to transplant to other parts of the world
gives a philosophy of hope, with a vision of an emerging spirituality and a realistic approach to getting there
shows how the good, the beautiful and the true provide the attractive direction of human development
explains why the so-called, traditional, modern and postmodern elements of society find it so hard to get on, and what is the transcending evolutionary process that can pioneer the way forward
shows how the dialectic is a fundamental part of the evolutionary process
puts evolution at the centre of the story of life, the natural world, the universe and everything
gives the hope that we are on the threshold of a New Enlightenment.
Well there is such a book. It’s all laid out, and more, in Steve McIntosh‘s Evolution’s Purpose.
If you’re familiar with the work of Ken Wilber and Steve’s other books on ‘Integral Philosophy’ you may not need to read it. But this is really great philosophical stuff.
This sort of approach is a fundamental part of the New Renaissance, as I prefer to call it. This book gives an idea of how it could just come about through the conscious development and gradual transcendence of each person from their own starting point – despite those who are just not interested.
“The true, the beautiful, the good: through all the ages of man’s conscious evolution these words have expressed three great ideals: ideals which have instinctively been recognized as representing the sublime nature and lofty goal of all human endeavour.”
When I first came across Plato’s ‘big 3’ I knew this expressed an essential truth. I wrote this original article in 2010 for the magazine of the Astrological Psychology Association, but I think it bears repeating here in edited form for a different audience.
It was in the writings of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato that the beautiful, the true and the good were first identified as primary intrinsic qualities, from which all other values are derived. Over the many centuries since, many philosophers have continued to regard these qualities as of prime importance; for example they formed the subject matter of Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant’s three major treatises The Critique of Pure Reason (truth), The Critique of Practical Reason (goodness) and The Critique of Judgement (beauty). Mystics and spiritual teachers have also championed these three essential ‘windows on the divine’, for example they correspond to Sri Aurobindo’s ‘three dynamic images’.
It is not surprising, therefore, to see beauty, truth and goodness identified as primary considerations in the ‘integral philosophy’ pioneered by American philosopher Ken Wilber. One of the building blocks of Wilber’s comprehensive philosophy is his model of the Four Quadrants. On the left we have the subjective ‘I’, and on the right the objective ‘You’. At the bottom the field of the ‘Collective’ and at the top the ‘Individual’. The words in the quadrants indicate the sort of field of human experience that relates to that particular quadrant. In this diagram Wilber can situate all fields of human endeavour. (See e.g. A Theory of Everything, or his magnum opus Sex, Ecology and Spirituality.)
It will not help us enormously to attempt to define beauty, truth and goodness in great detail; we all have a good idea of what they mean. Goodness is basically about how I, the subject, relate to the collective – Wilber’s bottom left ‘cultural’ quadrant. Truth is about how we relate to the world in an objective sense, and hence particularly relates to the second and third ‘objective’ quadrants – ‘social’ and ‘behavioural’. Beauty is the term we apply to the most exquisite features of the external world, and of our internal world, so essentially belongs to the field of the personal subjective – Wilber’s fourth ‘intentional’ quadrant. This mapping of the ‘big three’ onto the quadrants is given by Wilber himself.
Bruno & Louise Huber
Of course, the quadrants are not unique to Wilber. A similar model is found in the astrological birth chart, which is particularly related to the human psyche in the astrological psychology pioneered by Bruno & Louise Huber. The quadrants are related to the four elements Fire, Earth, Air and Water.
The Hubers discovered a relationship between the four quadrants and the stages of a human life, in a technique called ‘Age Progression’. At birth, we begin at the ‘I’point and move through the quadrants in a counter-clockwise direction, as follows. There is an interesting relationship with the ‘big three’ qualities.
Age 0-18. Life in the first ‘Impulse’ quadrant is about establishing and preserving the self in a formative environment, and adapting to this environment. How often do we hear the injunction ‘be good’ addressed to children? Goodness is about how we relate to others, and in those early years we learn what goodness is about, particularly relative to the demands of society. It is well understood that where this early conditioning is not available or unsuccessful there is a much higher chance of criminality in later life.
Age 18-36. Life in the second ‘Instinct’ quadrant is about establishing a position in the collective society as the unconscious social self. We learn to adapt to the You. We soon discover that ‘be truthful’ is the necessary condition to earn the trust of others, both in personal relationship and interacting with groups. So in this context truth is again about how we relate to others, but now these truths relate to objective things, such as laws and behaviours, contrasting with the more subjective codes of morality and goodness.
Age 36-54. In the third ‘Thinking’ quadrant we establish ourselves as conscious and autonomous contributors to society. We begin to realise our true conscious self and understand our own life philosophy. We come to understand what it means to be ‘true to ourselves’. So this truth is about our inner life and what we are really about – if you like, our ‘soul’s purpose’ and any ‘life vocation’.
Age 54-72. Finally, in the fourth ‘being’ quadrant the full fruits of life are experienced, first out in the world and then as inner spiritual beings. Beauty is perhaps the quality that is closest to our inner spirituality. It is ‘peak experiences’ of transcending beauty that often signal events of spiritual significance. We recognise the beauteous radiance of sages such as the older Krishnamurti, the outer beauty a reflection of an inner spiritual beauty. It is pleasing to consider the prospect that such beauty might be a fruit of the later years of life after all those busy years of contributing to our society.
After age 72 we move on again into the first quadrant, but that is another story.
As shown by the quote at the beginning of this article, the fundamental importance of our ‘big three’ qualities was recognised in the late 19th/early 20th centuries by Rudolph Steiner, polymath and founder of anthroposophy. Steiner gave a more spiritual perspective on truth, beauty and goodness.
He suggests that a feeling for truth is connected with our consciousness of the physical body, and that living in truth helps to retain the sense of the connection between this physical body and pre-earthly existence. The physical body is clearly that part of our existence that most corresponds with the objective right hand ‘truth’ quadrants of the Huber and Wilber diagrams.
Steiner relates beauty to the etheric body – the formative forces that lie behind the physical body and provide the link with previous spiritual existence. He suggests that a highly developed sense of beauty gives us a right relation to the etheric body. Now the etheric body is the ‘inner’ corresponding with the ‘outer’ of the individual physical body and thus corresponds fairly naturally with the fourth quadrant.
Steiner goes on to relate goodness to the astral body. Through goodness a person can develop the actual power that will lead him directly into the spiritual world – a goodness that flows to other human beings and is not confined to self-interest. Again, the astral body is an ‘inner’ body, this time related to the collective and other people, which naturally corresponds with the first quadrant.
Thus Rudolph Steiner’s analysis from a completely different perspective is consistent with the Wilber and Huber models.
This exploration of truth, beauty and goodness has taken us from Plato’s philosophy via Ken Wilber’s modern integral philosophy to Bruno Huber’s astrological pychology and Rudolph Steiner’s anthroposophy. In the process, we can see that these high-minded philosophical ideals do have a very practical relevance to our lives and our life journey.
We might speculate on the Life Clock of the Western societies on some almost unimaginable timeframe and wonder if we are not in the period of adolescence towards the end of the first quadrant, where our concept of goodness is being thoroughly tested in the the current economic crisis [written in 2010]. It is clearly unthinking greed in the financial community that has led to the current crisis – ultimately a problem of lack of ‘goodness’, grasping for ‘me’ while letting ‘you’ go hang. Global warming presents another example – we collectively must have our creature comforts and travel, to the detriment of the third world, the environment and future generations.
And yet the encounter with ‘truth’ from the second quadrant increasingly comes to meet us – the truths of what is really happening in the financial world, to populations denied justice, to the environment – truths that cannot be avoided by denial such as has been evident for a generation.
When we can learn to face this truth with goodness, creating a just and more equitable global society that can sustain the global environment, we will be collectively metaphorically entering the second quadrant and approaching adulthood.
It is salutary, but perhaps also exciting, to realise that there is a long way for the our societies to go before they even get to the 3rd quadrant and start to become truly conscious and will-driven, learning to live out humanity’s true destiny.
What a prospect, to reach the fourth quadrant and for a society that lives in true inner spiritual beauty, which will of course be reflected in a world of outer beauty. No longer will the blight of ugly functional human construction mar the beauty of the creation; it will be enhanced and glorified…
Integral Consciousness, Steve MacIntosh A Theory of Everything, Ken Wilber Sex, Ecology and Spirituality, Ken Wilber LifeClock, Bruno & Louise Huber The True, the Beautiful, the Good, lecture by Rudolf Steiner, January 19, 1923
Featured image shows a sunset at Santa Monica, California