Monday, November 12, 2012

Truth is in the eye of the beholder

We all hear about "truths".  We hear it from the religious.  We hear it from the scientific community.  We hear it from ordinary people.  Truth seems to exist everywhere, and yet it is easy to disagree with.  What exactly is truth then?  What makes something true?  Before anyone reads this and think I'm saying "I have the truth", that is not the intent.  All of my posts are only meant to help you think about things from a different perspective, and it's up to you to decide whether you want to consider it or ignore it.  My only interest is in getting people to think deeper about their beliefs.

The saying "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" reveals the subjective nature of perception. Substitute the word "truth" for "beauty" and the same subjectivity exists.  It isn't that something is true or not true, but rather that we accept something as truth based on individual personal belief, observation or experience.  The fact of experiencing something makes that something true to the experiencer, though the interpretation and thus the "truth" may not necessarily be accurate.  This does not mean the experiencer's belief in that truth translates into a universal truth.  In fact, a universal truth can only exist if all (majority is irrelevant since majority simply means more than 50%) have personally experienced such a truth in the exact same way with the same belief.  Fundamentally, however, nothing is truth until someone experiences that truth, and then whatever was experienced is a truth to that individual only.  The reason why this is true is because of the nature of subjectivity.  One's perspective of the world is determined by their point of focus, mental framework about the world, and other aspects specific to each individual.  Those factors all contribute to how an individual interprets any experience including those physical senses.  While there are common experiences that people will have and is considered objective, each individual will remember and focus on their own specific experience for that common experience and thus it is a truth only to that individual.

Each of us believe what we believe because we were either taught to believe them, whether through those around us or the education system or the media etc., or we learned to believe them through reasoning, experience or personal choice.  Most of what we were taught is validated through the use of our physical senses or our mental reasoning abilities.  We were taught about "facts" of the world, right and wrong, living and non-living, humans vs. everything else, what is habitable and what is not, what you can and can't do, etc.  On the surface, these all may seem irrefutable and objective, easily verified through our senses, but if you look deeper into those "truths", you'll find that they aren't so easy to confirm as fact.  We take shortcuts by assuming things must be true without really knowing.  For example, you might believe some writing because you have high regard for an author, or you read a white paper and accept the conclusion because you believe it is thoroughly vetted by peers.  Our ideas about our world, our reality, and our belief/faith all come from the circumstances we were born into or grew up in.  Had you been born or raised in a different era or location or social norm, your ideas about what is truth may differ greatly.  We take this for granted because we do not consider our life circumstances in shaping our beliefs or the beliefs of others.  Those born into highly educated systems feel that their point of view must be true because they feel that they are very educated, while those who end up being uneducated feel either they are unable to be secure in their knowledge or they feel very secure in their faith.  In either case, the "facts" are based on feelings because their beliefs are subjective.  Each person does not question those "facts" that they accept as being "the truth" because they themselves have decided to accept it as fact.  That is why the idea of truth depends on each individual's experience.  If one adamantly chooses to accept a belief, then no amount of "proof" will sway them.  Any evidence against their belief can be brushed off as being falsely created by those who are against such beliefs or the opponent's lack of understanding or knowledge.  This is where we get derogatory terms such as "sheeple" (those who accept what they're told or taught) and "tin foil" conspiracists (those who believe the information is a lie and that the ultimate truth is hidden).

When religion says "such and such is truth", what they're really saying is that they BELIEVE it is the truth.  For example, the bible is universally accepted as the source of truth for Christians.  And yet the truth has not been experienced by any of these Christians.  They simply accept by faith or belief that what was told or written AS IS must be true.  In order to come to this faith, they must accept a long chain of intermediaries as being believable in their sharing of a truth.  A Christian must by faith believe that the publisher is truthful, who relies on the editor, who relies on the religious scholars, who relies on the translators, who relies on the linguists, who relies on Constantine, who relies on the religious leaders, who relies on the people who found the manuscripts, who relies on the author of the text, who relies on the experiencer's words.  At the end of this long chain, nowhere does Jesus or God exist as authors of any books whom Christians believe to be the source of their faith.  And yet so many millions accept by faith this chain of people as being unbreakable in propagating a truth, which is really just someone's experience no different than the many countless individuals before and since the time of Jesus, including the present, who have had "mystical" experiences.

We've all known how difficult it is to tell the full story of an experience.  The problems of translation, lack of comparable words or descriptions, cultural differences, limited recall, strong feelings, background beliefs and biases which create assumptions, etc.  These all play a part in the sharing of experience, and thus it cannot be easily shared as a truth since all aspects of that experience cannot be shared.  Some will say the main point of the experience is the truth, but even then, you cannot know for certain that it is the main point since biases and interpretations can and does exist.  The reason why "truths" are so personal and difficult to share is because that "truth" comes from your own belief system.  Your belief system creates your reality, and each individual, through their own free-will, chooses the life they live.  That individuality is what allows us to perceive the world we live in from our own unique perspective, with all of the varied life experiences.  No two individual will perceive the same event in exactly the same way.  One may focus on one aspect, while the other chooses to focus on something different, and even then, they choose how to interpret that perception.  Any shared "truths" among individuals is by choice, not that the "truth" is common across individuals.  In other words, each individual decides to accept a "truth" through their belief system, in whatever terms that "truth" means to them.  It does not mean that "truth" is a reality for all.

This point is easily seen in the scientific search for "truth".  When Science claims truth, they do so based on the repeatable observations due to the belief that the universe is bound by unbreakable physical laws.  Unfortunately, observations only go so far and so deep (how much of the physical laws do they really know?).  They do not understand (or more likely, accept) the root causes because they occur at a much deeper level beyond the observable, even with instruments since that too is simply observables.  What people observe as cause and effect is merely a portion of the entire process and thus cannot be claimed as truth or even knowledge.  But what little they observe leads to a belief which over time may present the "bigger picture".  But there is a point where observation will no longer provide additional evidential information.  Even with instruments, they are limited to observing what science considers "real".  In addition, science claims to have a process that is without bias, and yet they often are biased with their personal beliefs.  Such is the case for those who do not believe in a non-physical reality.  All of their conclusions are biased towards a physical explanation, regardless of its lack of logical integrity, while readily denying the possibility of non-physical explanations without any evidence except to request proof of their existence.  Because of their bias, they can claim many times that something must be the case based only on circumstantial evidence, and yet they deny other possibilities with the same types of circumstantial evidence as being without proof.  Our objective reality is merely a tiny portion of the true reality, and by only accepting objective observations, the understanding will remain limited since the physically observable world is finite and so is the information it can provide.  If only objective information is truth, then what about subjective experiences?  If it is not real, then all consciousness must accept that they do not exist since consciousness is subjective.  Besides the fact that all sensory perceptions must go through the filter of subjective consciousness (which allows for objective experiences because of the "rules" of the physical system), but also, you can only know and experience your own consciousness and no one else's.  Acceptance of any other consciousness is purely by reasoning ("I know I am conscious because I am aware of myself, and others have the same behaviors, therefore they are conscious").

There is another problem with relying on intellectualism too much.  The problem is related to Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem.  The theorem is applied to mathematics, but it can also be applied to philosophy.  The idea is that when one "truth" is discovered, it creates additional unknowns, making that "truth" unprovable.  The reason is, when you discover an answer, it resolves one question, but when you have additional information that changes any assumptions or knowledge, it brings to light additional questions.  This presents a problem of never having enough knowledge because an answer will lead to more questions infinitely.  This is clearly visible in the assumption of creation (if you believe we were created from nothing, who or what created us, and who or what created or started the creator, and so on).  The other problem is that you cannot prove the system's "truths" from within or using that same system you are trying to prove.  This is like religion using the bible to prove the bible's authority or science using physical reality to prove that only physical reality exists.  What that means is, whatever "truth" you discover, it is only a truth within the system that it exists in.  You cannot know if it is a "truth" outside of the system, nor can you discover from within the system if the system itself is all that exists.  In this case, by "system", I'm referring to our perceived beliefs about the physical universe.  So because of this "incompleteness" theorem, you'll never be able to get all of the answers for questions about the system from within the system.

The truth can only exist within each person.  As the saying goes "the truth will be revealed", but only if they seek it.  All truths are obvious, but it is our biases and beliefs that cloud or obfuscate these truths.  They are obvious because the first impression, observation, thought, etc. gives the "truth", but we translate this truth to fit our biases.  For example, when someone sees an image of the religious woman figure known as Madonna on a toast (how does the claimant know what this person looked like?), it's obvious it's a burn on a toast, but our own beliefs and biases interprets this obvious truth to be something else.  The same goes for the "truth" that we are more than the body, which some recognize when they consider how we can think or imagine.  Our biases, however, minimizes this feat as something the body does because of the belief that they are physical beings.  The majority of people do not recognize their own biases in their thinking because it is so natural to them, having grown up and learned them as "truths".  The Ego, not willing to consider its error in reasoning, tries to find more and more "truths" to justify the contradictions it "sweeps under the rug".  The idea of critical thinking means you are aware of as much possible outcomes as can be accommodated.  From these possibilities, we recognize what is and isn't likely, but without denying their existence.  From these possibilities, we can seek the truth through personal experience.  We see with our senses and thus gain the truth of the world we experience.  We feel with our emotions and thus gain the truth of relationships.  We think with our minds and thus gain the truth of our consciousness.  And yet all of these truths we take for granted and forget that our own consciousness is the source of our truths.  We'd rather trust others to tell us what is truth and what we should believe, thus denying our own experiences.

[Edited 8/16/15] Here's a couple of new NDE experiences that I found to be amazing and further exemplifies a lot of what I've been writing about.  Click on the name to see the whole story:

3991.  Mohammad Z NDE  8/14/2015.  NDE 16083.  Non-western NDE from Iran. Original in Farsi, translated to English by Amir.  One example of my life review was when I was a little kid. We were traveling by car and stopped somewhere along the way. There was a river not far from the road and I was asked to go and bring some water in a bucket from that river. I went to fill up the bucket but on my way back, I felt that the bucket was way too heavy for me. I decided to empty some of the water to make the bucket lighter. Instead of emptying the water right there, I noticed a tree that was alone by itself in a dry patch of land. I took the effort to go out of my way to that tree and emptied some of the water at the tree base. I even waited there a few seconds to make sure the water is soaked in the soil and is absorbed. In my life review, I received such an applaud and joy for this simple act that it is unbelievable. It was like all the spirits in the Universe were filled with joy from this simple act and were telling me we are proud of you. That simple act seemed to be one of the best things I had ever done in my life! This was strange to me, because I didn’t think this little act was a big deal and thought I had done much more important and bigger things. However, it was shown to me that what I had done was extremely valuable because I had done it purely from the heart, with absolutely no expectation for my own gain.   
Exceptional Muslim NDE from an auto accident.
 
3993.  Duane S NDE  8/15/2015.  NDE 7743.    As I was shown around, it was explained to me how most of our celestial, eternal knowledge is blanked-out during our chosen life spans on earth. We must temporarily forget most of what our higher-self already knows so we can immerse ourselves in the roles we have chosen to play. Furthermore, they said that it might take a while for all my knowledge and memories to return. To ease the transition back into this realm, I was told to think of my time on earth as an extended visit to the ultimate theme park. Consider it a place with thrilling rides and various adventures that I could choose to experience or not. I was also reminded that the reason we leave the celestial realm at all was for the excitement, variety, adventure, and entertainment that different incarnations offer. However, to take all our celestial knowledge with us on our various adventures would have ruined the very experience that we had chosen to live. Someone there said that I should think of our trips to other realms as choosing a new novel to read. I can choose a new book, depending on what I am in the mood for. Furthermore, if I knew every turn and twist of the story, line by line, prior to reading it, it would spoil the fun.'  
Astonishing exceptional NDE due to illness.

If what I am saying doesn't make sense, it may seem like I'm just rambling.  But that is the nature of subjectivity.  Until you come to your own "aha!" moment, my words are only a guideline from my own experience to how I view the notion of "truth".  That's why you have to seek your own truths for them to be revealed.  But just remember, your beliefs and biases are always waiting to interpret those truths, so keep them in mind before you lose sight of the obvious.

Think about what is written and debate it in your mind to see if it makes sense.

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