What Is Truth? Mind the Gap.
There is a great gap today between “the truth that sets free” and “the facts of the matter”. That gap has grown into an abyss (and the abysmal), into a chasm (and chaos) into which everything threatens to tumble.
Mind the gap.
In many respects (and perhaps in all respects) this gap between “the truth that sets free” and “the facts of the matter” is even the meaning of disintegration (and distintegration of the ego consciousness), and I wrote at some length about that dissociation of truth and fact in the earlier Dark Age Blog. It is even, in some respects, the very meaning of the Parable of the Prodigal Son and his journey into a “faraway country” — also of the “widening gyre” of W.B. Yeats’ poem about the Falcon and the Falconer. Mind the gap.
(At yet it is also said that only a hair’s width separates the false from the true).
It was my very fortunate discovery of Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World that came as a revelation, in that respect. It explains perfectly the paradox of how a “hair’s width” and an abyss separates the truth that sets free from the mere facts of the matter, and how these have become so estranged from one another (the Emissary’s “usurpation”). Ideally, the facts of the matter should be a faithful reflection within the Emissary of the truth of the Master, and that’s reflected in the distinction Buddhism also makes between “Ultimate Truth” and “Relative Truth”.
Today’s “crisis of truth” is, then, connected also with the disintegration of the ego consciousness now become radically dissociated and alienated from its own inner truth and life. This belongs to the present “zombie” meme (and also to “the troll” who is, ironically, in myth and legend a subhuman or merely humanoid life form).
This bears on the meaning and distinction of the terms “Whole” and “Totality” too which, you might say, correspond to the spiritualistic and the materialistic sensibilities respectively. The “whole” is the affair of McGilchrist’s “Master” mode of perception; the “Totality” the affair of the Emissary mode of perception. Thanks to McGilchrist, we now have even a biological and neurological model for understanding why “the truth that sets free” and “the facts of the matter” can have meaning, and how they can become so alienated from one another.
That, of course, bears on the distinction I have made in earlier posts between individuation and individualism. Truth is whole. Facts are like atoms, and no amount of accumulating or aggregating factoids will ever, necessarily, lead us to into the realm of truth. It can do even the exact opposite. Knowing that 1 + 1 = 2 or 2 + 2 = 4 and such matters infinitely, while useful, won’t ever lead you into the realm of life, truth, and wholeness. Systems are often merely surrogates (or counterfeits) for wholeness. That’s one of the implications, too, even of Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem. The Incompleteness Theorem is also an acknowledgement of a distinction between the Whole and the Totality.
(The word “truth” is, not accidentally either, related to words like “truce” (peace) and “trust” (faith), so it’s not surprising to see their contraries — violence and bad faith — attending our “post-truth” era).
It is also worth pointing out once again that the word “fact” means, actually, “made” — man-made. It’s connected with the word “factory”. The Emissary (or eg-consciousness) has become a kind a factory for mass-producing facts. Facts are artefacts. And once you come to appreciate the distinction between the truth that sets free and the facts of the matter (it is a paradoxical one) you can appreciate what I think of us the ultimate paradox of Buddhism: “nirvana and samsara are the same; nirvana and samsara are not the same”. That’s very Heraclitus, too.
And we can say that the paradox of the One and the Many is directly related to the “truth that sets free” and “the facts of the matter”, and therefore with the odd relationship between McGilchrist’s Master and Emissary modes of perception, consciousness, or attention. Restoring the connection between fact and truth would mean, in effect, the return of the Emissary mode of consciousness to it’s role as servant or as the emissary (and not as king of the castle). That’s the meaning of the Prodigal Son, and its the meaning of most of the parables about servants and service in the New Testament.
And that is the nature of Gebser’s “re-integration”, also.
The crisis of truth isn’t that difficult to understand, actually, or why Gebser writes about “disintegration at the limits” once one takes into consideration McGilchrist’s neurodynamics, or why, then, it is indeed necessary to distinguish between “the truth that sets free” and “the facts of the matter” (ever proliferating), and what is also meant by “spiritual” and “material” (or even “organic” and “mechanical”). Gebser’s point is often that dualistic rationality confuses the real issue, and results in a dissociation of things that ought not to become dissociated. The ego consciousness (the Emissary) has become too dominant, and having become too dominant (a jealous God and petty tyrant as it were) its connection with the “vital centre” has been severed. That “vital centre” corresponds to the meaning of “the truth that sets free”.
And that’s what Gebser calls “time-freedom”.
So, spiritual truth and material fact. These should not be as far apart as they have become. Their reintegration is what William Blake calls “the Marriage of Heaven and Hell”, which is only another way of expressing the Buddhist paradox about nirvana and samsara. That’s what lies at the root of much utopian thinking, too — that the union of spiritual truth and material fact is desirable and possible (and that’s generally what Rumi means by saying “the whole universe is a form of truth”. He wasn’t referring to “the facts of the matter” or that 1 + 1 = 2).
(I wanted to revisit this topic of “the truth that sets free” and “the facts of the matter” as a way of also leading into a discussion of why “Christ is not a Christian” — which is bound to get many people mad at me. The term “Christ” has definite meaning in connection with “the truth that sets free”. But it is not the meaning Christianity has made of it).