The gist of this blog came from both John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” And a Flannery O’Connor’s quote, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you odd.”
We live in an age where truth is whatever you want it to be– that is whatever makes you right (or at least makes you think you are). We also live in an age with unprecedented access to facts. One click of the “return” key on a computer keyboard can give you billions of facts. Never before has the ability to dispel ignorance been so available to so many. And yet…
For the sake of personal need, or greed, or zealous beliefs the truth as it is reflected in facts is ignored at a profound level. It’s as though the world is embracing ignorance at an ever-increasing rate. If you don’t believe this just listen to those who run for political office (or are currently in it), or those who dominate the radio waves with political ranting–twisting and turning truths into macabre representations of reality. Religions no longer represent the truth of the Spirit from whence they were born, but for many have become a form of sanctioned self-delusion.
We wrap these delusions in something we call “conviction” and once settled these strong beliefs need no evidence, or proof to exist. But it is these convictions that are the enemies of truth. Worse than lies, they keep us bound up and unable to fly free. In short, our beliefs are a prison for they don’t allow for truth.
“Truth will have no gods before it. The belief in truth begins with the doubt of all truths in which one has previously believed.”
But many are lazy, too lazy to think for their selves, so they leave the truth up to others. When those truths align with what is already thought then they are embraced as truth. The folly of this approach is that we then only perceive what we believe. How much we miss with this approach especially because God does not exist within the small confines of our beliefs. Heck, even you and I aren’t really reflected in the narrow confines of what we believe ourselves to be.
“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.”
~ Winston Churchill
Deep inside us is an unconscious part of ourselves it is full of shadows, bright glowing spirit, joys and fears. It is the home of our instincts, our intuitions, and stimuli for creativity. It can also be the home of truth for us. Truth is not something that is preached from the outside because it only comes from within.
How to tell if it’s truth vs. just another idea? If it nurtures, if it encourages growth, if it enlivens and frees the spirit, if it engenders love and acceptance, and fosters forbearance and gentleness it is said that it is then the truth. Anything else is an ego-self prejudice.
In the I Ching it is said that when the heart is free of prejudices, it is open to the truth. The intractable mind cannot hear the truth. Any form of self-righteousness prevents the discovery of truth.
I suggest that Truth is the essence of immortality. It is in the prisons of belief and conviction that we are mortal, that we are doomed to the dust of the earth. Truth is also something that can be chased after, something like happiness, but never caught as a function of the chase. The pursuit only prepares you for when truth enters the door.
Is there “the” truth, or is it as the Lebanese philosopher Kahlil Gibran suggested, “I have found ‘a’ truth?” And is it forever a truth, or just in the moment? Is it as the physicist Niels Bohr said “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth?“
I suggest that truth is a state of enlightenment, a place where the ego that you think you are becomes silent, when thought itself becomes still. It is here that you can hear the truth. It is here that you awaken and begin to seek. You may look as though you are alone, but in truth there is God all around you and you begin to glow.
A follower of truth, listens to the inner voice, not the one in your head that is talking right now, or the one in the radio, or TV, or even the pulpit (yes, I know, and even this blog). The true follower surrenders their ideas, their thoughts and beliefs. The student of truth accepts their shadow selves as well as the “self” that they imagine them selves to be, or wish that they were. Truth does not tie itself to any illusion, any time or place. Truth is not a judgment, belief or thought, or anything else that one may have attached themselves to. It cannot be held, or given to another. It cannot be pursued, or sought after and only comes to you when released. It cannot be found in efforting and can only be found in the moment. Truth may only come in the letting go of it, or of anything for that matter.
“The ultimate Truth is beyond words. Doctrines are words. They’re not the Way. The Way is wordless. Words are Illusions.”
Truth is not something apart from you, it’s not something you discover and take in. It’s always been there. It is not in your words, but is sometimes hidden between them. And it can only be found at the moment of death. The death of what you think you are.
“Forgive them Lord for they do not know what they are doing.” This quote by Jesus prior to his death struck me deeply as a young boy. Here was someone enough outside of their own self-interest outside their own ego that they could understand and forgive the wrong thinking of those who not only tormented him but want to kill him.
This could be construed as intercession but it could also be stating a fact about the human condition where most of humankind is unaware of their true nature and therefore can only act out of misunderstanding. Only someone who was conscious of their real self and the reality of the world around them i.e. someone who could transcend their ego could make such a statement.
When people define and categorize each other they cut off their access to love. When they imagine that who and what they see outside themselves is real without the slightest notion of what they personally added to that reality they affect how love is experienced. Too often they experience the love as something outside themselves and the cause of their experience when in fact they are the cause of what they experience.
Later this week I’ll be posting the Love/Hate conflict in the Dark Knight of the Soul blog. Click on the picture link to the right of these posts.
As one begins to see that they are cause of their reality they begin to be more aware of what’s actually out there beyond their skin, what exists beyond the ego. When this happens the next time they experience love they know that it comes from within them and when they experience hate it is because the love has been buried or projected away.
We long for what we are down deep. It is this longing, this connection that moves us when we see love in any of its many forms.
One of the paradoxes of being human is that we hold within us both the dark and the light.
Carl Jung the Swiss psychiatrist described how each of us has that part of us that we identify with and present to the world and that part of us that we keep hidden, the dark and unbearable characteristics of ourselves. This shadow, or dark, side of our nature is kept cut off from the rest of our being but is still attached through the unconscious part of our selves.
Jung went on to say that our growth into wholeness required that we come to terms with our unacceptable aspects– our desires, hidden impulses, hostility, greed, and selfishness. What he believed was that we all long for the essence of ourselves, what some might call the soul, that part of us that is connected to the divine.
Prior to being born we may have been fully integrated with the wholeness of the universe and only after acquiring a body and by extension an ego did we become separated from this whole. It is then thought that each of us in our own unique way is going through a process of reintegration from the incomplete status of a separated body and soul toward the harmonious fullness of a being integrated with all other beings.
Thus the process of integrating our shadow parts is a major goal of spiritual growth, but how to do this?
It’s a little like Peter Pan trying to get Wendy to help him reconnect with his shadow by having her sew it back on. The way we do this is to reacquaint ourselves with what we’ve cut off from ourselves. What keeps us from doing this is fear.
We know that this part of us has a negative charm attached to it and whenever we get too close it will invalidate and make wrong any of the good in you. This extends to the world as well. Have you ever noticed how anger, fear, and negativity comes up whenever it looks as though peace is about to break out?
While the lower thought forms of our unconscious mind control us we are stuck until we learn to transcend the forces that lay there. We can only do that by bringing to light what is hidden in the darkness.
We can’t overcome the shadow by hating it for hate is of the shadow itself. The shadow is only the wounded part of ourselves that needs to be reunited with the rest of us much like Peter needed. And it was only through the love of Wendy that this could be accomplished, which is why he came to visit in the first place. The answer to dealing with the shadow is through love, compassion, and forgiveness. This is true for both the individual and the society in which he lives.
It’s our own individual and collective arrogance that disallows the points-of-view of others and won’t give deference to the spiritual views of others. On an individual level this is a person who runs rough shod over the beliefs of others. On a collective level like the United States for example (and I only use this example because it is where I call home) the great American shadow through capitalism and its powerful defender, militarism, tends to take whatever it wants and disallows the spiritual principles of anyone and everyone.
It goes on to display an arrogant disregard for the effects on others and the environment that it too often exploits. Corporate America affects more than the other countries it shares the world with it also disenfranchises the people of its own country. This will only get worse because America refuses to acknowledge its shadow and wields its heavy hand all over the world.
Oh it has better angels within itself and these do a lot of good in the world, but its unacknowledged dark side causes it much self-inflicted grief and prevents the outbreak of peace.
Now, America is not the only country that ignores its shadow and the effects it has on the world, arrogance is not limited to only one country, or one people, there are many, many other perpetrators of this kind of grief– its part of the human condition to be arrogant and dismissive of what one thinks is not them.
But the transformation needed to reintegrate the fragmented self begins with the individual– you and I and what we support in ourselves and in others around us. Do we support what brings joy and healing or do we continue to maintain the separateness through our own self-righteousness? It’s up to us– you, me.
Like Peter Pan each of us need to find our own internal Wendy to reattach what we’ve become separated from and become whole again.
Both are allegorical in that they both point to something and teach a lesson. “That’s like a fable! You might say.” Though both parables and fables teach lessons, the former uses people, whereas the latter uses animals. Both teach morals, both are a form of guidance.
However, a parable generally refers to spiritual lessons and in this way is not unlike many dreams that help one to develop a connection with their spirit. Over the centuries many people have claimed to have received messages from God through the medium of the dream. Throughout the history of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) dreams were said to have been sent from God to certain individuals that were supposed to be used for the good of all people, or to advance the understanding of one so that they may do more good for others. Parables were for all of these religions a means for communicating religious and spiritual concepts.
Why do parables, fables and dreams exist? The answer may be because that they are easier to remember than a direct example. “Dreams, easier to remember?” You say incredulously.
We don’t remember many dreams these days because it is not encouraged by the culture, but once a dream comes through, it’s hard to forget, especially if you’ve figured out what it means. But just because we don’t use them much, dreams haven’t gone the way of the appendix. Ever notice how much you dream after you start reading about dreams?
Mysteries bewilder us and tend to make us pay attention and to focus. Few of us would want to leave a mystery unsolved. Bewilderment makes us strive to know why, or what, or how–it is the carrot at the end of the stick. Dream symbols also beg that we interpret them just as we tend to add meaning to every event and person in our waking life (though this is most often an unexamined ego-supporting process where we project ourselves onto everything and then label it as reality).
Unlocking the meaning of a dream is not unlike discovering the meaning of a parable in that the process starts with asking the right questions and noting that these questions are affected by our beliefs regarding the symbols. Certain questions will often determine the answers, or at least bias them. So before you ask the questions, take a look at the foundation that they sit on. If you already have an answer, that will drive the question and bend it toward your answer. You see this phenomenon frequently with regard to news articles. This is just another form of, “We see what we want to see.”
What did this parable really mean? If the word “shepherd” were a metaphor for soul, your soul (your guide), what would the parable mean?
Is it possible to read this parable in yet another way, other than the traditional shepherd/flock metaphor? Might Jesus be telling us of our own divinity, our own spiritual nature and its connection with God? Might he be showing us how we can be following the wrong shepherd (the ego-self)? Might the guide that is within us all and that can come to us through a dream be the unconscious self?
Parables and dreams encourage us to dig deeper into their meaning and then apply the lessons to our everyday lives. Neither have to be an accurate depiction of actual events– they only need to point to the idea being conveyed in order to be instructive.
*Photo by-The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.
Today I thought I’d tackle yet another of the English-speaking world’s favorite fantasy stories, Peter Pan.
“The second star to the right and then straight on ‘til morning.
But, Peter, how do we get to Never Land?
Fly, of course.
It’s easy! All you have to do is to… is to… is to… Ha! That’s funny.
What’s the matter? Don’t you know?
Oh, sure. It’s… It’s just that I never thought about it before. Say, that’s it! You think of a wonderful thought. “
And thus began one of fantasy’s most incredible magical journeys, Peter Pan by J.M Barrie.
What is this Never Land of which he spoke?
Barrie thought of this land as a place found in the minds of children. Each land is as different as each child, though there are some basic similarities as it is between children as well. This seems not unlike the archetypal images of which Jung spoke which would make Never Land an archetype for the psyche’s imaginal realm.
In this way Never Land might be likened to the dream world with the “mainland” of Wendy, John and Michael Darling representing the waking world.
Barrie’s Never Land was probably a reference to the popular name for the Australian Outback i.e. The “Never-Never” that was to be found in the deserts of the Northern Territory. This wouldn’t be too far fetched when one thinks of the Australs as the southern most land mass on the planet and thus analogous to the unconscious mind from whence all dreams are born.
Neverland can only be reached by flying and in the dream world, flying is a metaphor for freedom and independence, it’s also a central theme in Peter Pan’s world.
The star in the beginning of the story serves as a guide or map to the place of their desire; where they aspire to be i.e. Never Land. In dreams stars also relate to ones aspirations and desires. There’s also an aspect of fate or luck in the story because you’re encouraged to believe that you just have to follow “the 2nd star to the right and then straight on ‘til morning”, a star in ones dreams also symbolizes this same aspect of luck.
In the book TheArchipelago of Dreams Robert also followed a star that drew him into the Spirit World of his deeper self where he also tempted fate.
Growing up in some way is also an aspect of many stories both in the desire and the resistance to it. We all want the seeming independence of being grown up and in charge of our fate, but how many times have we all, when overwhelmed with the responsibilities of our grown-up status, wished for the simpler days of our childhood? In our dreams this often shows up in images of our childhood home, friends, events, or family.
You see, our fantasy stories as well as our myths come from the same place as our dreams– they are projections of our deeper, and all too hidden, nature.