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Only The Virtuous Find The Truth
The information on this page is offered as basis for each of the seven core articles plus selected others.
In preparation for this writing, I reviewed theological books and papers I'd put away a good while ago. In the survey, I was reminded that so much of theology represents academics talking - not to the lay person, but - to each other, to peers; talking at each other, vying for advantage, attempting to minimize and discredit, regarding opposing theological tenets.
Most theologians represent "aligned interests" -- purchased opinions, staff scholars with pensions to protect -- of Big Religion, marshaled to defend the party-faithful against "heresy," which is anything deviating from church-approved "infallible" doctrine. I speak from personal work-experience when I assert that the actual, hidden aim is to control the thinking of the membership in order to safeguard the flow of income to church coffers.
However, in this cesspool, there are a few good teachers. And I thought of something I learned from Dr. William Barclay decades ago. It's a principle that extends naturally from "The Reason Behind The Reason."
only the virtuous find the truth
Dr. William Barclay, in his New Testament Words, instructs us regarding the importance of the Greek word eusebeia.
Often translated godliness in the KJV of the New Testament, eusebeia speaks of a respect for things pertaining to deity. Anciently, in classical use among the Greeks, eusebeia referred to "the greatest of all virtues"; that, "everything else stands second to this." This quality "rises, in spite of trial and danger, superior to the enticements of individual passion and selfish ease." It is the heroic, selfless, fearless approach to life.
Further, eusebeia directs us to a "freedom from superstitions, imperfections, and improprieties." This latter is very important. The Small Ego loves to strut and proclaim its piety - but, none of this display rises to the level of godliness/eusebeia, because, in reality, the ego is merely negotiating for its own fears. Its devotion to God is only apparent, not real; a mere demonstrating for publicity purposes, to impress others, and itself. It cares nothing for the truth, per se. It pays deference, if necessary, to superstitions and fables, so long as these might offer safe harbor against the fear of death. This pathology, despite surface posturings as a "good person," has nothing to do with the New Testament virtue, godliness/eusebeia.
the good thinker must, first of all, be a good person
Dr. Barclay summarizes:
"Eusebeia is the origin of all true theology and of all true thinking... One of the great neglected truths of the Christian life is that inspiration and revelation are morally conditioned. God can only tell a man what that man is capable of receiving and understanding. The closer a man lives to God, the more God can say to him. The great thinker must first of all be a good man ... It may well be true that the man who says that he cannot understand the [truth] does not want to understand it, and may even be afraid to understand it."
Very good. I can see why eusebeia, by some, was considered to be the most important virtue: If the core of one's thinking becomes perverted, then, one's perception of the world, and everything in it, will also be distorted. I am reminded of a proverb which, in my youth, impressed me greatly: "Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23).
we don't see things as they are, we see them as we are
Many thinkers, teachers, and mystics of history have discussed these same issues. Consider these related quotations:
Anais Nin: "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."
Upton Sinclair, I, Candidate for Governor: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Editor's note: His salary is a hot concern, but the fear of death trumps all.
Karl Popper: "No rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude."
Father Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), burned alive by the Church: "It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people."
Tolstoy: "I know that most men...can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their lives."
Charles Peguy: "The honest man must be a perpetual renegade, the life of an honest man a perpetual infidelity. For the man who wishes to remain faithful to truth must make himself perpetually unfaithful to all the continual, successive, indefatigable renascent errors."
Henry David Thoreau: "Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth... Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe...till we come to the hard bottom of rocks in place, which we can call reality."
Winston Churchill: "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened."
Erich Fromm: "Historically...those who told the truth about a particular regime have been exiled, jailed, or killed by those in power whose fury has been aroused. To be sure, the obvious explanation is that they were dangerous to their respective establishments, and that killing them seemed the best way to protect the status quo. This is true enough, but it does not explain the fact that the truth-sayers are so deeply hated even when they do not constitute a real threat to the established order. The reason lies, I believe, in that by speaking the truth they mobilize the [psychological] resistance of those who repress it. To the latter, the truth is dangerous not only because it can threaten their power but because it shakes their whole conscious system of orientation, deprives them of their rationalizations, and might even force them to act differently. Only those who have experienced the process of becoming aware of important impulses that were repressed know the earthquake-like sense of bewilderment and confusion that occurs as a result. Not all people are willing to risk this adventure, least of all those people who profit, at least for the moment, from being blind."
Oscar Wilde: "A thing is not necessarily true because a man died for it."
Emile Zola: "When truth is buried underground, it grows, it chokes, it gathers such an explosive force that on the day it bursts out, it blows up everything with it."
Charles Van Doren, speaking at a memorial service for Mortimer Adler, 2001: "I remember the first seminar we led together, nearly forty years ago. The text was Plato's dialogue, The Sophist. I had read it twice or three times and struggled to get the point. It could not be what it seemed to be. But Mortimer helped us all to understand: The true sophist, Plato is saying, cannot be trapped - if he is willing to say anything whatsoever to win the argument. If he wants to win at all costs and does not care what is true, and if he is adept at fending off the truth when it is presented, the sophist will triumph, and you will fail."
Brian Josephson, Times Higher Education Supplement, 12 Aug. 1994: "For the last six weeks, BBC2 TV has been running a series called Heretic, detailing the responses of the scientific community to ideas generally considered unacceptable by scientists, and the treatment given to those advocating such ideas... In every case a similar story unfolded: dismissal of the claims as being nonsense or impossible, generally without any serious attempt to look at the evidence or the arguments; the non-materialisation of the honours, promotions, invitations to give public lectures and so on that such individuals might have been expected to receive given their past achievements; violent attacks by other scientists; and, for some, demotion or withdrawal of research facilities."
Arthur Findlay, The Rock of Truth: "What is the truth? ... Truth is eternal and unchangeable. We who are finite and subject to change can only appreciate it little by little. Truth is always the same, but as we change and advance mentally we can grasp it better. Until we are mentally developed, truth will not be fully comprehended, but, as we evolve, it slowly becomes clearer. Often in ignorance we mistake for truth what is error, and the history of man is the history of error gradually giving place to truth."
Martin Luther King, Jr.: "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant."
Spinoza: "Be not astonished at new ideas; for it is well known to you that a thing does not therefore cease to be true because it is not accepted by many."
Winston Churchill: "Truth is incontrovertible, ignorance can deride it, panic may resent it, malice may destroy it, but there it is."
Will Rogers: "Nothing makes a man, or a body of men, as mad as the truth. If there is no truth in it, they laugh it off."
Thomas Jefferson: "I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led."
Albert Einstein: "Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth."
John Adams: "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
Thomas Jefferson: "I have sworn upon the altar of Almighty God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."
If the God of the universe is a virtuous entity, and no bloodthirsty despot as depicted by Big Religion, then assuredly, one day, all those who consecrate themselves to the Truth shall find vindication.
But allow me to say something more regarding how Truth shall be recognized. I subscribe to something Einstein reportedly once said; that, the truth, when we find it, will be beautiful in its simplicity. And, by implication, this intrinsic beauty will draw us to it - in other words, we'll recognize it, and even resonate with its essence. Einstein, and many of the great scientists, "followed the path of the beautiful" and allowed this principle to guide toward new discovery.
What does this mean for us?
As I mentioned, but as you likely had already known, theology is a sewer-quagmire of competing egoic voices -- 40,000 different religions, sects, denominations and isms -- each claiming to be "right," jostling and clamoring for supremacy in the marketplace. Much is at stake. So much power and control over people; so much money; so much potential bolstering for needy egos looking for support in their fear of death.
We discover endless debate, from all manner of self-styled authorities, who assert or deny the veracity of this or that theological precept. Is anyone correct? How can we know?
Most of us are not Greek or Hebrew scholars. We cannot spend our lives poring over ancient texts, archeological sites, or works of so-called church fathers. Nor should we. None of this is necessary and, in the main, even helpful to that which is most important.
here's how you'll discern the Truth; it's easy - you'll recognize it
Jesus offered a very simple and beautiful analogy. He said that finding the truth is like farm animals recognizing the voice of one who loves them.
As a displaced farm boy, I have many memories of such things; but I recall Bob Feland telling me of his days as a peripatetic horse-shoer. At regular intervals, Bob would frequent certain stables, and the horses would get to know him. He told me how he'd walk into a barn, and immediately the tethered equines would sense his presence, and lovingly call to him! Is this not amazing?
The horses recognized him, knew him, and perceived that good things would come from him.
And if God is a good person, and loves us, and not some sort of unfeeling bureaucrat as portrayed by the "salvation doctrines" of Institutional Religion, then the universe, and our future in it, will be something good, sane, and rational. And, therefore, when we come into contact with the Truth, as Jesus said, we will be like those horses instantly recognizing the "voice" of a loving presence; that is, the truth will resonate deeply within ourselves.
those who know have no use for belief
You will not need to "believe" the truth; instead, you will know it. Jesus said you will "know" the truth - not believe the truth - and the knowing will make you free.
And when you experience the intuitive knowing, derived from an inner resonance issuing from the deepest part of you, a sense of reality and certitude will rise up to meet you.
only the virtuous find the truth
It is more than a small matter to understand that many of those who crafted and designed "infallible doctrines" were some of the most corrupt and murderous thugs of history. Do not be impressed with their propaganda, designed to keep you on a short leash of cultism. It is impossible for dark-spirited individuals to come to a deep sense of the truth - yes, impossible. Do not look to them for guidance, except to learn what not to do.
From this moment forward, my encouragement is that you would never again accept anything as "truth" unless it passes Jesus' simple test of recognition and resonance. It has to "feel right," way down inside you -- the center of the "true self" not the false -- or do not accept it as "what's real."
Editor's last word:
But, you say, no one is perfect; we all do things we're not happy about; therefore, can anyone be called virtuous? How then shall we find the truth?
Let's keep certain things in mind:
The virtuous person is not a super-saint, never making a mistake. But he or she will be "pure in heart" and want to do what's right and good. Even concerning "good attitude," however, we will fall down at times. It doesn't matter. When we stumble and become angry or despairing, as long as we desire and hope for the truth, as long as we "come back to ourselves," our true selves, we'll be fine. It's also important not to be too hard on ourselves, but a good friend, sympathetic to our current frail frame, as we would offer sympathy to any person in need.
Finding "the truth" is not a one-time event. It's an eternal process. We'll be taking it in -- a glimpse here, a perception there, tiny dribs-and-drabs -- every day of our lives for the next million years and beyond. So just relax. Enjoy the ride. Be cool. No trash-talk to yourself about yourself. Cut yourself a break for the good attitude you have most of the time; that's enough, no one could expect more.
Take the scenic route. Stop at the designated viewing stations and peer at the mountains. Thrill to the creation, there's a big universe to explore, out there, and inside you.