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Freeing the mind from the confines of truth

JeroenJeroen Do it with a smileNetherlands Veteran
edited February 7 in Philosophy

Amidst the snowy winters weather we are having here I was just listening to some more Terence McKenna, and he talked a long while about truth and it’s limits. It made me realise that truth is one of the things we hold onto for dear life, it is a kind of bedrock on which my thinking is built, a faith in truth, mathematical certainty, and science.

Of course Terence being an experienced psychonaut and having taken many heroic doses of psychedelics has a very different view on this. He actually liked reason but disliked science. His piece on truth I found particularly insightful because it chimed with certain things you hear in Zen, such as the realisation that we know nothing.

I was interested to find in my thinking this piece of rather subtle school dogma. It’s another certainty to be examined, and possibly set aside. There are a very few universal certainties, which have limited applicability it seems, and most of the time truth can be seen from different perspectives. I remember Akira Kurosawa’s film Rashomon had this theme.

This is why I listen to McKenna, just his way of speaking helps to free the moribund mind from its assumptions of certainty. It’s as if something of the psychedelic experience seeps through in his voice, in a very dilute way.

This is the workshop I was listening to, the piece on truth is right near the beginning if you are interested.

Comments

  • "Everything evolves, will come to mean nothing is true"
    ~ Friedrich Nietzsche~

    Jeroen
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    Thats quite a good example of how we base our mental functioning on ‘what is true’. The concept of truth is very important, we learn it early on in life, and it is a basic way in which we evaluate other people’s communications.

  • Truth changes with time.

    The earth is flat, light travels in a straight line, all men are created equal, democracy is the best form of government.

    Jeroen
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran
    edited February 8

    I wouldn't equate certainty with truth.

    I do think it is better to try to build a worldview based upon reality (what exists even if you don't believe it) rather than some other foundation (our subjective perspective, a religious cosmology or what we might like to be true). But that doesn't mean we ever really know what is true finally and definitively.

    Here's an old post I made directed at truth.

    I'm listening to Yuval Noah Harari's latest book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century and found his chapter on truth to be especially compelling. I don't know if this is appropriate to do, I give it to the moderators to decide, but I thought I'd transcribe his chapter on truth in its entirety. So grab a cup of something, sit back and try to take it all in.

    Truth.

    If you feel overwhelmed and confused by the global predicament, you are on the right track. Global processes have become too complicated for any single person to understand. How then can you know the truth about the world and avoid falling victim to propaganda and misinformation?

    I so appreciate the way he thinks and embraces complexity and nuance and avoids certain, easy answers. He explains better in the following chapters on ignorance and post truth on how we can approach knowledge in today's world. Making a whole chapter on truth into 46 words speaks volumes on the way he understands certainty, it reminds me of the Buddhist idea of groundlessness. I'm also reminded of Einstein's quote "As the circle of our knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding it."

    At any rate, I recommend the book and Sapiens highly. I haven't read his second book Homo Deus.

    lobsterJeroen
  • Freeing the mind from the confines of truth

    Being present is to experience truth in motion AKA change...

    lobsteryagr
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran
    edited February 8

    @person said:
    Truth.

    If you feel overwhelmed and confused by the global predicament, you are on the right track. Global processes have become too complicated for any single person to understand. How then can you know the truth about the world and avoid falling victim to propaganda and misinformation?

    I was referencing truth more in the spiritual sense. I’m not really into trying to make sense of the modern world, if you understand the ideas of natural processes and capitalism and the idea that people interested in power are mostly corrupt and greedy then you can see a long way into how the world functions. But it’s irrelevant to the internal ideal of truth.

    The ideal of truth, of being able to know and describe what things are, is something that surpasses language. A language is made up of words, all of which are defined by other words in a kind of circular mesh of meaning that encapsulates our mind. Truth as an ideal is something that we all carry within us, it reaches back to our early childhood.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    @person said:
    Truth.

    If you feel overwhelmed and confused by the global predicament, you are on the right track. Global processes have become too complicated for any single person to understand. How then can you know the truth about the world and avoid falling victim to propaganda and misinformation?

    I was referencing truth more in the spiritual sense. I’m not really into trying to make sense of the modern world, if you understand the ideas of natural processes and capitalism and the idea that people interested in power are mostly corrupt and greedy then you can see a long way into how the world functions. But it’s irrelevant to the internal ideal of truth.

    The ideal of truth, of being able to know and describe what things are, is something that surpasses language. A language is made up of words, all of which are defined by other words in a kind of circular mesh of meaning that encapsulates our mind. Truth as an ideal is something that we all carry within us, it reaches back to our early childhood.

    My point was less about the modern world and more about the view that the world is way more complex than any of us can really understand.

    I guess I don't really know what truth might mean aside from views that correspond to the actual world. How would you define truth in the spiritual sense or the internal ideal of truth?

  • yagryagr Veteran
    edited February 8

    @person said:
    How would you define truth in the spiritual sense or the internal ideal of truth?

    Dynamic. I sat for a spell trying to flesh this out a bit so it was more than a one word answer but every attempt to expand it took away from my understanding rather than adding to it.

  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @person said:
    How would you define truth in the spiritual sense or the internal ideal of truth?

    I kind of alluded to it in passing in my previous post. I think the ideal of truth is being able to know and describe what things are. Something is true if it is a fair and accurate description of what is, the reality of the situation. So if you believe in truth you believe that you can describe or at least understand a given situation.

    So in that sense perhaps the world is greater than what we can encompass with our ability to apprehend truth. I’m not saying that Harari is wrong there. But it seems to me that most people have a certain allegiance to the truth, from the moment where your mom first tells you “grass is green”.

    yagr
  • yagryagr Veteran
    edited February 9

    @Kerome said:

    @person said:
    How would you define truth in the spiritual sense or the internal ideal of truth?

    I kind of alluded to it in passing in my previous post. I think the ideal of truth is being able to know and describe what things are. Something is true if it is a fair and accurate description of what is, the reality of the situation. So if you believe in truth you believe that you can describe or at least understand a given situation.

    So in that sense perhaps the world is greater than what we can encompass with our ability to apprehend truth. I’m not saying that Harari is wrong there. But it seems to me that most people have a certain allegiance to the truth, from the moment where your mom first tells you “grass is green”.

    This post helped me to expand my single word response, so thank you for that - or perhaps, sorry...

    I don't see reality as it is. Rather, I see it as it appears through my filters, mental distortions, etc. As long as I do not see reality accurately, I can't know the truth of something. Since I'm changing constantly, along with my filters, distortions, opinions, etc. the 'truth' as I'm able to discern it also changes, so - dynamic.

    edit: While reading a moment ago, I was reminded of a quote that speaks to this: "The process of perception of reality runs parallel with the process of creation" - Meher Baba

    personDavidlobster
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @yagr said:

    I don't see reality as it is. Rather, I see it as it appears through my filters, mental distortions, etc. As long as I do not see reality accurately, I can't know the truth of something. Since I'm changing constantly, along with my filters, distortions, opinions, etc. the 'truth' as I'm able to discern it also changes, so - dynamic.

    So you are still “knowing and describing how things are”, except that you see these things through your filters. And you are acknowledging that your view of the truth is subjective, that knowing an absolute truth is likely beyond your capabilities, and that it is changeable. It seems a worthwhile expansion ;)

    Davidyagr
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    @person said:
    How would you define truth in the spiritual sense or the internal ideal of truth?

    I kind of alluded to it in passing in my previous post. I think the ideal of truth is being able to know and describe what things are. Something is true if it is a fair and accurate description of what is, the reality of the situation. So if you believe in truth you believe that you can describe or at least understand a given situation.

    So in that sense perhaps the world is greater than what we can encompass with our ability to apprehend truth. I’m not saying that Harari is wrong there. But it seems to me that most people have a certain allegiance to the truth, from the moment where your mom first tells you “grass is green”.

    I think I'm getting where you're coming from a bit better now.

    I think I'd call what you're talking about a value. Truth as a value, other values one might have are justice, order, balance, liberty, beauty, fairness, purity. I'm sure many others too.

    For myself, I'd say truth is my primary value. Followed by balance and liberty.

    Regarding the OP, I'd go back to the distinction between truth and certainty. Kind of like you mentioned about the difference between a full cup and an empty cup.

    I'm not sure if I can explain myself here. Having a full cup means you think you have the truth, you are certain, that shuts down curiosity and the search for truth. Having an empty cup means you are open to possibilities and realize there is much more that you, and humanity collectively, doesn't know. I'd say an empty cup isn't about knowing the truth, it is more about searching for the truth.

    Maybe this also goes back to something I mentioned in another recent post of yours about Carl Sagan's notion of science being not so much a list of facts but rather a way of thinking.

    Jeroenlobster
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    I don't think truth has limits except through our trying to understand. If truth had limits, I think the world would be less wondrous resulting in less innovation, less imagination and less potential.

    Luckily, the truth is unfolding all around us all the time. Truth is probably not seperate from us so perhaps if we stop trying to catch it, stop trying to know it, then maybe it will be more clear.

    @Shoshin1 said:
    "Everything evolves, will come to mean nothing is true"
    ~ Friedrich Nietzsche~

    I generally like Nietzche but sense he's missing a piece of his puzzle. Change doesn't mean things are not real, it means things can happen. So what if we are interdependent? That is not bad, it just means we should practice how to live accordingly.

    Change and impermanence makes life more real, not less.

  • the truth is unfolding all around us all the time.

    True (no pun intended :) )

    Whosoever sees Dependant Origination sees the Dharma
    Whosoever sees The Dharma sees Dependant Origination

    One can't really see the Ultimate Truth, one can only experience it in motion..as we are part & parcel of this evolving truth...of change...

    To try and see the Ultimate Truth is to attempt to stop motion, an happening of which this psycho-physical phenomenon ( AKA the self) is part & parcel of.... It would be like trying to grab hold / cling to oneself to try to stop yourself falling...

    The Buddha said (thus have I heard) "Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya” Nothing whatsoever Should be clung to..

    Perhaps this is because....

    Everything evolves, will come to mean nothing IS true" ...in both the ultimate and conventional sense...

    In a round about kinda way perhaps this is what Friedrich Nietzsche was getting at....

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited February 21

    @Shoshin1 said:

    the truth is unfolding all around us all the time.

    True (no pun intended :) )

    Whosoever sees Dependant Origination sees the Dharma
    Whosoever sees The Dharma sees Dependant Origination

    One can't really see the Ultimate Truth, one can only experience it in motion..as we are part & parcel of this evolving truth...of change...

    I can neither confirm nor deny this as what I get out of it may not be your intended message.

    To try and see the Ultimate Truth is to attempt to stop motion, an happening of which this psycho-physical phenomenon ( AKA the self) is part & parcel of.... It would be like trying to grab hold / cling to oneself to try to stop yourself falling...

    For myself it is best not to try to picture it at all. It gets revealed when conditions allow.

    The Buddha said (thus have I heard) "Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya” Nothing whatsoever Should be clung to..

    Perhaps this is because....

    Everything evolves, will come to mean nothing IS true" ...in both the ultimate and conventional sense...

    Buddha also taught the practice and insight of "drishta dharma sukha viharim" or "dwelling happily in things as they are".

    In a round about kinda way perhaps this is what Friedrich Nietzsche was getting at....

    Hmm... I can't rightly say I agree with that because not clinging is not the same as denying or aversion.

    "If you get caught up in an idea, believing it to be true, you lose the opportunity to know the truth."
    --Thich Nhat Hanh

    Edit to add: Don't get me wrong, I do admire Neitzche and understand he had a respect for Buddhism. I do not think he was nihilistic but I do think he may have seen a bit deeper if he had contemplated Dependent Origination as the insight of Interbeing.

    I think he got caught up in the whole having absolutely no absolutes paradox.

    Shoshin1lobster
  • I don't know mind. A zen classic is not to be beholden. We can be rigidly wrong but true.

    In other words uncertainty and chaos is no more true than a programmed mind.

    Stay fluid like ice?

    In the unspoken word of mindless certainty, 'dance moves us' ...

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    I saw this picture and thought of this thread. Too cute and on point.

    Shoshin1lobster
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I think it was in Jim Pym's book, "You Don't Have to Sit on the Floor!" where I read that he thinks the phrase "I don't know" Is a worthy one and should be bravely used more often.
    People associate Ignorance with fear. If you don't know something, how will you ever progress?

    Pardon me - I think I'm pretty good at doing some things, but because I don't have a Top University 1st Class with honours, and letters after my name, why, surely, I must be a charlatan.

    So unqualified, there are some things I know, and some things I don't know. Hands up to that.
    But letters after anyone's name don't necessarily mean they know better...

    yagr
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran
    edited February 25

    @lobster said:
    I don't know mind. A zen classic is not to be beholden. We can be rigidly wrong but true.

    In other words uncertainty and chaos is no more true than a programmed mind.

    I-don’t-know mind, I like it. Mind that knows nothing. But I think then you would learn from your surroundings, nature. Which has an organic order. I believe it is the nature of mind to accumulate learning from what surrounds it.

    But knowing when your thinking is constrained and when it is free has value too... it’s one of the things I enjoy about Terence McKenna, he had a way of speaking that was enthusiastic, infectious and insightful, even if he sometimes spoke about things that were way out there, such as the end of the world. I enjoy the freedom with which he approaches intellectual topics, without necessarily believing everything he says.

    Its as if by witnessing the breadth, freedom, originality of his thought you are shown where your own thought is limited, unenergetic. It shows you the places where you can free yourself. I have found him to be a breath of fresh air.

    lobster
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @federica said:
    Pardon me - I think I'm pretty good at doing some things, but because I don't have a Top University 1st Class with honours, and letters after my name, why, surely, I must be a charlatan.

    McKenna also didn’t get on well with academia, he started studying in 1965 and graduated in 1975 with a degree in ecology, shamanism, and conservation of natural resources.

    He was more a darling of the counterculture, opposed to hierarchies and priesthood and all those things.

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    @federica said:
    I think it was in Jim Pym's book, "You Don't Have to Sit on the Floor!" where I read that he thinks the phrase "I don't know" Is a worthy one and should be bravely used more often.
    People associate Ignorance with fear. If you don't know something, how will you ever progress?

    Exactly. However, it is when we think we have it all wrapped up that we can no longer understand.

    Pardon me - I think I'm pretty good at doing some things, but because I don't have a Top University 1st Class with honours, and letters after my name, why, surely, I must be a charlatan.

    So unqualified, there are some things I know, and some things I don't know. Hands up to that.
    But letters after anyone's name don't necessarily mean they know better...

    True unless google university is up against an in depth course on the subject.

  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    We have a tv show here where two teams are diagnosing a patients illness. The catch is, one team is made of three doctors, and the other team is three members of the public armed with Google. Who wins is often surprisingly close.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Master GuangHui Lian said to an assembly:

    There’s originally nothing to Buddhism; the sages since time immemorial have all been hoking up wonders, creating [devices], oppressing free people and making them menials, burying their posterity. 

    Then there were YunMen, ZhaoZhou, DeShan, and LinJi; deadly dull, they suffered injustice all their lives.

    Here I am not that way. 

    Even if old Shakyamuni Buddha were to show up, I’d banish him to another world, so there would be no trace of him. 

    Why would I do this? 

    So I wouldn’t have to worry about losing my posterity!

    When I speak this way, how do you people understand? If you can understand here, won’t that be joyous? It will get you to shed your hair shirt so you can be clean and free. 

    If you don’t understand, next year there will be more new stipulations, disturbing the spring wind, with never an end.

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    We have a tv show here where two teams are diagnosing a patients illness. The catch is, one team is made of three doctors, and the other team is three members of the public armed with Google. Who wins is often surprisingly close.

    I can see that. I was misdiagnosed with hepatitis A, a month after I was in the emergency room for gurd caused by too much Advil for any impacted wisdom tooth. I even asked the guy if ibuprofen could also screw with liver enzymes and he actually said no. I looked it up and sure enough, too much ibuprofen can indeed screw with the liver and cause the kind of sickness I was dealing with. I was pretty p/oed.

    In my above post I was mainly thinking of the anti-vaxxer crowd.

    Just got my first round today.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Fortunately there is a test for Truth ...

    https://sufi-tavern.com/sufi-stories/the-test/

    ooh these Zen/Sufi types ... nothing but trouble o:)
    looking again @yagr post ...

    Truth is not personal. We of course are ...

    yagr
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    I kind of feel like truth has to come first. If you're basing some other values upon a faulty understanding of reality it could easily be not that value. For example, someone helping butterflies out of their cocoons, they may be expressing a value of kindness or compassion but since butterflies need the struggle out of the cocoon to force fluid into their wings, that person would actually be doing harm rather than help.

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