The search for truth

10-04-2022

“What is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus, to later have Him crucified in a lying manner as the would-be “King of the Jews”. However, Jesus had clearly explained to him that He was not an earthly king.

Many people are convinced that they know “the truth”. Muslims believe, for example, that it can be found entirely in the Qur’an.  Atheists have a whole range of philosophers with striking formulations, with which they try to give their actions a meaning and a framework of thought. Well known is, among other things, Karl Marx’s statement that “religion is the opium of the people”.  Hindus have their Vedas and other holy books that explain spiritual and material phenomena. Orthodox Jews immerse themselves in the study of the Talmud all their lives. Christians rely on the Bible, especially the Gospel…

So it seems that many people assume that “the Truth” is based on something that was written somewhere. Since a mere mortal is unable to read, process, compare and then draw concrete conclusions from everything that is written, most are mainly guided by what they were taught in their youth, while others place their trust in the dominant views within their society. Some prefer a more opportunistic attitude and just follow what they hear here and there. For a minority, their whole life is dominated by a consistent search for truth, which opens their eyes to what is noble, beautiful, and holy.

All truths, written or not, interact with our inner life. Whether or not one believes in an afterlife, for example, can exert a major influence on important life decisions. On the other hand, the search for truth can only bear good fruit if we manage to move far enough away from self-interest, prejudices, false goals, etc. Today’s “prosperity people” are constantly distracted in their quests by superficial speeches and publicity, which, according to the  media, leads to optimal satisfaction of their needs.   But is it not rather true that, in this cacophony, man loses his best weapons to maintain his intellectual and moral integrity: wisdom and common sense? In those mind-confusing circumstances, he is led by “opinion makers” who are often themselves controlled by lying spirits who poison their souls.

After all, the key to true truthfulness lies in the soul of each person, as the Christian faith teaches us.  But how many of our contemporaries are still well aware that they have a soul? How many people around us consider the fundamental truth that Christ taught 2,000 years ago: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”?  (Isn’t this the right answer to Marx’s deception?). In modern reality, it is mainly the mouths that have the upper hand on radio, television, or other media, that set the masses in motion and play on their feelings. The truth proclaimed is that of the channels that set the tone and even in the most democratic context, in general no one can say precisely how and according to what priorities, interests or criteria these are distributed.

But aren’t we unconsciously on the wrong track when we think we are seeking the truth? If we dig deeper, it seems that we are not so much looking for “The Truth”, but rather for “The True Happiness”. Somewhere in the deepest part of us, we are constantly trying to find “the way to true happiness.” Some hope that “science” will show him. Others are convinced that he is attained by the greatest possible material wealth. Still others seek him in a sublimated “love relationship”, or in “nature”, in “mind-expanding” drugs, in the adrenaline of top performances, in celebrity, unlimited individual freedom, …

Thinking more about it, the question arises: “What is true happiness? Does such a thing exist? We will certainly not find the answer to this in scientific treatises, not even in theological ones. But whoever opens up to it honestly, knows that the way to the truth and real happiness does exist. It is  found in the One who rightly called himself “The Way, the Truth and the Life”. He did not prove it by theological treatises or surprising scientific discoveries, but by his life and example, in which word and action were one, animated by a Love that transcends everything and makes everything possible.  He taught us that love and sacrifice are inseparable, that we must bear each other’s burdens, that he who wants to be the greatest must humbly put himself at the service of the little ones, that we must perfect ourselves in the light of God’s commandments, that we must carry our cross with a light heart, that “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies”, it cannot bear fruit, …

The truth that man must face is that the road to lasting happiness is usually not the most pleasant or the easiest. Sometimes he can feel even more like an ordeal. Such a thing collides head on with everything that is presented to us as ideal goals from childhood: career, success, money, sexual satisfaction, …  How many wealthy celebrities who had achieved all this in abundance have not prematurely ended their successful “happy lives”? Is this not proof that they did not live in an atmosphere of truth, but became entangled in the nets of the one Christ called “the Father of lies”? This arch-liar constantly plays on the dark sides and internal weaknesses that we all face, consciously or unconsciously, and he proclaims the exact opposite of Jesus’ words to Nicodemus: “But he who acts according to the truth comes to light, so that it may be clearly seen that his actions are performed in accordance with God. (Joh.  3:16-21).

In the background or – to put it Freudian – somewhere deep in our subconscious, there is another factor at play: a slumbering nostalgia for a paradisiacal condition of which we have lost the “human right”. Deep within us lies the need for an ideal world or state, which remains as unattainable as a mirage. Sometimes that need can bubble up like an indefinable and vague sadness with no specific cause. In depth psychology, this can be explained as a latent reminder of our life in the womb, and to some extent this may be true. But framed in a broader metaphysical view, the fetal state symbolizes an “earthly paradise, in which we feel safe and loved, without pain, stress or fear, with everything we need at our disposal.”

In this context, we do not want to enter into the question of whether such a paradisiacal condition ever existed outside the womb. Judging by the paradise stories in different cultures, the memory of this still seems to be present in the collective subconscious of humanity. But we talk about it elsewhere (among others in the section Creative Evolution). Here it is about the essence of the experience of paradise and the basis of true happiness. “Knowing that you are truly loved”: this is both the irreplaceable soil and the source of this. If this lacks something serious, human happiness is simply impossible. Then we spiritually die of emotional dehydration, and it is almost impossible to have and give true love ourselves.

Thus, we discover, digging deeper, that our search for the Truth, which governs reality in us and around us, is not only an expression of instinctive curiosity for cerebral explanations. In fact, this “quest” is intimately linked to our need for happiness. And finally, we see that true happiness can only be found in a shared and real Love (of which maternal love is a striking example). Something as great and mysterious as true love cannot be shared with a conclusive concept or theory, but only with a living being that responds to our love. Science seeks and finds answers to questions about the “how” and the causes of realities. But even if all the answers to these questions had been found, we would have reasoned “outside the question” and ended up with a sense of dissatisfaction. Far more important to our inner well-being are the “why” questions: those that answer our concern about the meaning of our short earthly life, marked by pain and dissatisfaction.

Faced with this, we must inevitably cross the line between rationality and faith. If we really want to get to the heart of the issues that concern us deeply, we find ourselves in a field in which rationality does not help us, if we do not use spiritual working tools, such as intuitions, explanations of dreams, interpretations of natural phenomena or scientifically inexplicable phenomena, the discernment of true and false spirits, trust in the magisterium of certain people of the past or present, …  In that spiritual landscape without material reference points, “scientific insights” tend to lead us astray. We notice this, for example, in the current debate that divides our Western ecclesial community on the question of whether or not to consecrate homosexual couples, in which there is a lot of arguing in a “progressist” way with “new scientific knowledge”. Christian positions are based on the word of God and its transmission. Only to a limited and secondary extent can this be cautiously supported or supplemented by what is accepted as “scientific” in a given period or place.

So, in summary, we can say that – if we want to make progress on this vitally important quest – we have to make faith choices from a wide range of believing perspectives. The veracity of what we believe and profess is not obtained by purely rational or scientific means, but emerges, among other things, from the internal coherence of the doctrine adopted. If the human and thus historical source of this has translated that teaching into action, and if it appears that all this was animated by the only pure source of joy, namely Love, then we are probably in the right direction. The conclusion is clear to the believing Christian: in the historical Christ, crucified for all of us, and in Him alone, we find satisfactory answers to our deepest questions and desires.

IVH

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