Several weeks back, a scientist in the audience at the Center for Sacred Sciences got worked up around the types of truths as they relate to science.
Joel said that science deals with relative truths, and today’s accepted theories are tomorrow’s garbage pile of obsolete views (paraphrased). It seems obvious, from both a mystical and scientific view. All theories and models are limited and they are of only temporary value as well. Everything is provisional. Even the absolute truth, revealed to itself and expressed through mystics of any tradition, can only be expressed in a relative and limited way.
The science guy was very reluctant to admit that our current worldviews and theories are provisional, and I noticed it triggered a reaction in me. I could clearly see how he tried to made relative truths into apparent absolute truths, but could not – in the moment, see how I do the same. Instead, I went into a story that I see relative truths only as relative truths, and he does not. I get it, he does not.
From the discrepancy between (a) already noticing that this is not true and (b) trying to tell myself otherwise, many things happened including stress, discomfort, stronger sense of I and Other, sense of something to protect.
He shouldn’t see relative truths as absolute.
- Is it true?
Yes. He is a scientist, and should know better (even a child knows that any map is incomplete and provisional, for god’s sake!)
- Can I absolutely know it is true?
No. And I don’t know what is best for his path, nor for mine.
- How do I react when I believe that thought?
I feel I am right and he is wrong. I see myself as superior. I become righteous. I have something to defend. I experience a split between us, a sense of separation and alienation.
How do I treat him?
As rigid. Inferior. Somebody who doesn’t quite get it. Somebody who is reactive, who allows emotions and irrationality take over.
How do I treat myself?
As superior. Somebody who gets it. Somebody who is more cool headed. As right. As separate from him, and others who don’t get it.
Also, I blame myself for going into this. I see that believing the thought brings contraction and discomfort for myself, and I know it cannot be true. Yet I still act and react as if I believe it. I am in the grips of this belief, which I know cannot be true. There is some despair coming up from this. A sense of hopelessness. Of being stuck. Of not quite knowing what to do about it, at least in the moment.
When did I first have that thought?
Probably in my early and mid teens, when I realized – to my shock and amazement, how apparently irrational many or most adults seem to be. I still haven’t quite gotten over that shock and disbelief.
Where in the body do I experience it?
A contraction and holding in my chest and abdomen. A contraction of the muscles in my lower leg. Tension in my neck. Holding my breath back some.
What is the payoff?
I get to be right, superior, more insightful, clearer, more cool headed.
What is the cost?
Stress, discomfort, sense of separation, getting caught up in emotions, caught up in and to some extent blinded by my reactiveness.
- Who or what would I be without that thought?
Somebody who sits there and listen to and watch somebody else speak, with clarity, ease, interest and curiosity. I am interesting in what he has to say, where he is coming from, why he would see it that way, and (especially) how that mirror myself.
Instead of stress and reactiveness there is interest and curiosity. There is a sense of connection and intimacy.
There is a human being speaking, just like me. And he mirrors me perfectly. Whatever I see in him I can find in myself (if I look).
(a) He should see relative truths as absolute.
Yes, because he does, according to my story. It is his path right now, until it isn’t. He is doing what he has to do, right now – as we all do, myself included.
When he sees relative truths as absolute, what are the gifts for me?
I get to see my beliefs around it, and explore how I do what I see him doing. I get to see myself more clearly, in ways I wouldn’t have been able to without him.
He mirrors me, whether I see it or not. If I don’t see it, there is stress which is a motivation to see more clearly what is going on. If I explore and see it, I learn something new about myself and also about the process of believing in thoughts and projections, and then seeing through it.
I see that he is my teacher, in a very real sense. Without him, I wouldn’t see this in myself. His presence there is a gift to me.
(b) I shouldn’t see relative truths as absolute.
Yes, that is more true. I am far more interested in what I do here, and in finding clarity for myself.
What are some examples of how I see relative truths as absolute?
Whenever I believe a thought – any thought, I take a relative truth and make it into an absolute. And in this, there is stress, unease, sense of I and Other, separation, not being at home.
For instance, in believing that he should not see relative truths as absolute, I do the same as what I see in him. I am the one making this relative truth into an absolute. I attach to that thought as if it is an absolute truth, eternal, always valid, unquestionable.
(c) I should see relative truths as absolute.
Yes, when I do. When I see relative truths as absolute, then that is what I do – and have to do, until I don’t.
When I see relative truths as absolute, what are the gifts?
I get to experience, from the inside, the dynamics of believing thoughts. I get to become more familiar with the process, from living it.
I get to experience the stress in it, which encourages me to find some clarity around it, to see more clearly what is going on.
Also, I find myself in the same boat as anyone, anywhere, who believes in abstractions. This opens up for empathy, and possibly for helping others see it for themselves later on (through mirroring for them what they already know).
(d) I shouldn’t see absolute truths as relative.
Hmm… That is an interesting one. I shouldn’t see absolute truths as relative. How do I see them as relative?
Another way of phrasing this turnaround is…
I shouldn’t make absolute truths into relative truths.
The only absolute truth arises when what is remembers its own nature, of no I anywhere, and this cannot be expressed through any abstractions. I cannot see it, apart from being it. How do I then make it into something relative?
I make it into something relative when I try to reflect it in abstractions, at which point it automatically becomes relative truths, at best.
So this turnaround is a reminder to see this more clearly, that the absolute truth is revealed when what is awakens to its own nature, and anything expressed automatically is a relative truth, at best. There is no need to get too caught up in terminology or ways of speaking, in comparing or trying to find the one best approach, because it is all relative truth. I can hold it loosely. This is a good reminder.
As soon as the absolute is expressed, it becomes a relative truth, and I should know the difference.
(d) I should see absolute truths as relative.
Whatever is expressed, even when it points to the absolute, is a relative truth. And that means it can be expressed in many different ways. It is similar to many different artists trying to depict the same landscape, each one will do it a little (or a lot) differently.
And it is all OK. Some depictions resonate with some folks, and other depictions with others. Some are highly realistic, others are more poetic. Some use broad strokes, others include lots of details. Some are rough and approximate, others are more faithful to the landscape. Some are dramatic, others are toned down. Some come directly from the artist, others come through numerous copies of the original. It is all OK.
Together, all the depictions give a more comprehensive and rich picture. And each one resonates with some people who may not be able to hear it in any other way.