Tuesday, April 3, 2007

What Truth Is

A friend recently remarked: "what the truth is....we don't know," which got me to thinking about the Western reverie called “the truth."

The word "truth" conjures the image of an ironclad ideal, a conceptual firewall standing above imposter hypotheses laying claim to it. But early in the last century, with the simple statement that “matter is both a particle and a wave,” quantum scientists at long last discarded the either/or notion about “the truth.”

In the complementary, nano-world of particle and wave, the truth is found at both extremes of the quantum picture, in fact, at infinite points in between – and simultaneously! The quantum truth about reality may also be described as “neither of the above,” since it originates in the depths of manifestation - before reality splits into duality.

What is the truth? It depends on the perspective of the beholder.

For the average spirituality-seeking American, truth says that Jesus is God; that the messiah is soon to return; that souls abide in heaven and extraterrestrials are out there, somewhere, as well.

These envisionings have become truths to millions of people. In actuality, they are phantasms - mental and volitional projections - which we create because we need them to be there for our peace of mind.

All great spiritual traditions accept their mythic progenitors and gods as being real. But they also teach that there is no difference between the substantial and insubstantial. So their truths and gods come and go in many forms and planes as required.

Quantum science joins mystical spirituality in seeing things as natural projections out from a subtle fundamental state: the font of no-thinged-ness, the divine matrix, the plenum void. For both, truth abides at this sourceground, where all is in flux without any concepts or constructs yet existing.

Navajos, Tibetans, Balinese and Maya are among numerous living peoples of wisdom with a fine grasp of this deep truth. They achieved their understandings through fully-engaged membership in the cycles of earth and sky. From such natural wisdom come visions, stories, dreams.

Consider now the West’s rational, literal-minded mechanists. They comprise the majority of Americans and increasing numbers of people worldwide. Let’s call them “Modernicans.”

Modernicans have the identical cognitive and imaginal faculties as have the Australian Aborigines. Native Australians celebrate the Dreamtime as their spiritual sourceground. We Modernicans also live in the Dreamtime, although we do not realize it. We no longer understand that there is an all-creative, indescribable and immaterial font (quite unlike our personified, monotheistic God) from which all phenomena flow.

Modernicans had lost their foundational spirituality, which held this knowledge, when our European cultural ancestors discarded the spiritual dimension in Hermetic alchemy, renaming it chemistry. There could be no room for the unity of spirit and matter during the Age of “Enlightenment.” But since spirit does indeed matter, they were segregated into the conceptual apartheid systems of church and science.

Still, human beings yearn to be whole; it’s just the way we are wired. We are wired to see spirit amid matter, which are, anyway, one in the same at their root.

How then can one unveil spirit within form? Dreams of events to come and visions of animal or human guides and gods are universally heeded for the purpose. But their qualities and scenarios are determined by the cultural worldview from which they arise.

If that worldview is a picture of a state of wholeness underlying the natural cycles of time and space, then the dreams and visions of its beholders will be of similar character - in harmonious form and flow.

But if the world picture is of a fragmented and disharmonious character then this too is revealed in visions and dreams. In a world picture where time is an arrow, matter is solely material, and reality is predictable, then the old gods will no longer come - except in wounded or mutated form.

What form would the gods project onto a culture where earth and sky are no longer understood to be in oneness? Might they be beautiful but fierce; innocent but faulted? Certainly, they would take on iconic forms from the presiding mass culture.

Should the Modernican gods-to-come look like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, or even those cute bug-eyed ETs, this would work - so long as they are known spiritually, as projections of consciousness, species and culture.

However, without a wholesome worldview in which to find meaning and completion, we will continue to frantically search for truth in channeling Egyptian or Native American princesses, or in being startled by the veiled light of our own minds reflected in UFO sightings.

But, what of the inner meanings of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker? Will they serve us as helpful symbols of dualistic power and personal polar tendencies? Or, having become familiar to so many people via the cinema, are we now them and they us, but without understanding how and why this is so?

The world picture of the Modernicans describes a galactic reality in explosion and implosion, conflict and competition. It portrays massive hungering for more, for bigger and better things, experiences and worlds. It is a reality scenario underpinned by craving, frustration and confusion.

This is not the image of Native America’s world reality. There, animals, humans and gods move as relatives, in synchrony with the inexorable cycles of time and within the sacred embrace of earth and sky.

Nor is it the Tibetans’ all creative, timeless-formless state underlying space-time - and all that it contains. Both visions derive from their cultural and individual imaginations. They describe a wholesome and awesome world, which many people would appreciate and enjoy.

The reality that Modernicans see, likewise, is a projection of their individual and cultural essence. But this universe is in continued disorder, collapse and recovery. It is full with stories of empires and rebels, and of demi-gods (more recently extraterrestrials) bringing dangerous knowledge and power to earthlings while they walk among us in human disguise.

It actually sounds much like the way indigenous people had perceived the Modernicans to be, during the early years of contact and colonization. At first encounter, the white men seemed to the Native people to be quite the non-human horde, with an incomprehensible worldview, a bizarre god and alien ways of life.

Perhaps it’s time that we take a long hard look at our ourselves through others’ eyes, in partnership with the powers of our own imaginations. There is much to see and learn. Perhaps we may yet awaken from our sleepwalking haze to find a deeper and more meaningful sense of the truth.

All we have are our visions and dreams. We dream throughout the dance of life. What is truth and what’s the dream? Ay, there's the rub.

Beauty I’d always missed with these eyes before,
Just what the truth is I can’t say anymore.
- The Moody Blues,
Nights in White Satin -

Here we are on a dream caravan;
a caravan but a dream, a dream but a caravan…
- Sufi verse -

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