Fact vs. Truth vs. Story
A problem is people push Truth only to be a fact.
It isn’t: (inner) Truth is a person’s story of the facts.
How fact and story merge forms a new beast that people call truth. Truth is a slippery concept due to its hybrid nature.
For many life is a fishing tale, more story than fact. For others, life is literal, more fact than a story. No matter how truth is held, there exists plenty of room for misunderstandings as people try to balance out their truth with each other.
People will stand behind truth as if it were a magical shield as if it were the guidance to ultimate answers. To have such faith in a concept is an amazing thing. Let’s dig into truth a bit to understand it better.
Truth and Fact
People like to think there is an absolute truth in any given situation. This is the issue of holding truth only as a fact. People do think if you dig deeply enough there exists a gold nugget of fact in any truth. Often times the more you dig into a truth, the more mud you uncover. This is because all too often the facts being held are actually stories also.
At first this definition of (inner) truth being a mix of fact and story will seem strange. You will ask how can a story be a baseline for truth? However, truth is often layered with complexities, so the very human definition of truth is complex also. We need to dig into our nature to understand how humans hold and define (inner) truth.
One of the basic Taoist principles we teach in Awakening Dragon is this:
A human being is an animal that extends its instincts with stories.
Stories are a baseline for a person and how they connect to the world. Our (inner) truth is rooted in these stories, we hold and tell. This is the reason humans mix story and fact together to create (inner) truth.
Now you might have noticed I have been writing truth vs. (inner) truth. You might be wondering what (inner) truth means. Be patient, we will explain later in the article.
Truth and Taoism
Humans love definition. Definition implies we can find an answer for everything. The problem is assuming that an absolute truth exists to every definition. This is not the case. Taoism teaches that from a human perspective no absolute truth, no complete falsehood can be defined or embraced by a person. Taoism shows human nature in itself is a smaller part of the larger whole. When examining something, looking for answers, finding a statement: every such examination will contain both truth and falsehoods.
- Even more confusing, the mixture of truth and falsehood is relative to each observer.
- Even more confusing, the mixture of truth and falsehood will shift for each person over time as they change.
So when you look at anything, as a Taoist you accept a view of the world being a mixture of perception. Within that perception, there will be elements of truth and falsehood.
What is Truth?
We all think we know the truth: something that is immutable and defined outside oneself to the greater whole. Sadly this is why people look to judges, priests, and outside experts to define/limit their truth.
Truth has two different aspects. Inner Truth and Outer Truth.
The outer truth would be the truths defined by a larger universal standard. For instance: The Tao being undefined can be considered to be a universal truth.
Inner truths are truths which are defined by each person relative to their own life.
So for a Taoist, questions fall into two categories: Outer Truth and Inner Truth. Questions that fall in the zone of Outer truth are questions that can be answered outside a person’s nature. For example: What is Red? Red is a color, defined by being a particular wavelength of light… pretty clear cut right? Nope.
Since many questions still end up being relative:
For instance, What is Red? Well depending on how you perceive the world, Red can still mean something different. So to someone who is color blind, their RED may not be the same as your RED.
So questions which are dependent on your nature fall into the category of Inner Truth.
So questions can have different answers depending on if you are trying to answer relative to an Outer Truth or Inner Truth such as the “What is Red?” question illustrates. When considering this: of course a person can get stuck in endless loops chasing questions. A Taoist knows answers are infinite. A person can spend an entire lifetime chasing answers only to be left chasing after more. So a Taoist instead uses release as a way to work around this infinite chase. Release doesn’t require “answers” to work, it’s instead a process of letting go. Chasing answers often will cause additional problems to crop up. Yes at times knowing an answer can help a person resolve an issue. However, many times it’s easier and quicker to just release and move on.
A problem is when a person tries to force questions which are strictly Inner Truth in nature as if they were Outer Truth problems.
This is the root reason religions cause so many problems: trying to force personal answers as a universal truth upon others.
The problem is many Inner truths are defined by ego and personal need. For example, some questions such as acceptance of homosexuality are rooted in ego in scope. Ego-based questions cannot be answered from a universal perspective: despite ego’s insistence that it’s universal in nature. So in the end, “ego” based questions must be answered by each person. Giving a general answer creates interpersonal conflict. To a Taoist, this problem is easily avoided by leaving the question unanswered from a larger perspective. To recognize this question is personal in scope for each individual to balance in their life.
Taoist practice teaches a person how only to embrace ego lightly. In this manner, Taoist practice resolves many questions into not mattering.
This is very important and has implications for many other questions.
Another way to define Inner vs Outer truth is:
Inner Truth: How we hold our personal stories to facts.
Outer Truth: Are truths that go beyond our stories.
What is Falsehood?
Seemingly a falsehood is something that isn’t true. This is a good starting point.
Lets briefly look at this a little more. People often say the light is truth. That truth is projected out from a larger universal source. Fair enough, since, we are all one with the universe, part of our nature is to project out our own truth. This leads to quite a bit of conflict as people then fight over their “projected” truth.
Delusions are when a person projects out their own reality: changes outside truth to fit their needs. Every human does this, it’s a matter of degree. In Taoist practice we release ego, in this release, remove the need to live in delusion. The nature of ego is projection. The projection of falseness / delusion is deeply rooted in the ego’s nature of being projection and using projection to control the larger world.
If you are ever looking for a definition between being human and animal, one definition is the ability to project out delusion (The full difference is a human being is an animal that extends its instincts with stories). To have ego. If you ever come across any life form that has ego, then it is as human as you in its base nature.
The interesting thing about falsehood is it also has two sides to it. Falsehood reflects the nature of Truth after all. Outer Falsehoods are the delusions which humans project outward. Inner Falsehood: something which isn’t true to your own perception of life.
How Truth Shapes Us
One interesting angle of truth is it shapes us. Being human means to hold life as a story. As we grow up we hold our stories of truth as a baseline to form against. Once we form against a story, we harden against it and hold it dearly. Even at the cost of breaking ourselves.
We are like clay early in life and are shaped by the truths impressed into us. When we harden against our truths we lose flexibility to accept new truths at times. Fortunately, every seven to nine years we change, allowing new stories into our life. At these points of life it’s possible to truly re-visit our inner truths to reshape ourselves.
So when working with others when coming up against resistance to shifting truth. One doesn’t push another too hard, rather be patient to share new truths when a person is ready to hear new stories.
The lesson: never try to hammer in new truths that only will shatter another person. Discover timing, the art of fishing and a gentle hand when it is time to shape life against newer truths.
Honesty, Truth and Stories
Honesty is misdefined by all too many people. People think honesty means to tell the truth. The fundamental problem is this: people often think truth is a fact. All too often truth is a story and not a fact.
Every person has stories that comprise and assemble up as a collage to represent their life.
The collage-like nature of pasting stories together can create a beautiful tapestry to behold. So much so, we value storytellers very highly. However, these tapestries often blind the beholder, trap people to think such a collage can represent absolute truth.
Due to this nature of how people assemble their life story, no two people can ever perfectly match up to their stories. If the emphasis is placed in the conflicts between stories, then this sets up the dynamics for interpersonal conflict. So then people seek some form of outside truth to resolve such differences.
People seek honesty. Value honesty since people define honesty to represent the truth. Just because many times we can use “facts” to stand in for “truth,” people assume honesty represents the ability to stay to the facts. The deeper problem is often the truth is subjective; facts shift to perception and create a huge problem for honesty. Since in all too many cases, no “exactly perfect” truthful answer exists between conflicting stories.
Honesty, honestly cannot represent the truth. It represents the ability to relate your story in a manner that matches to other peoples stories in a harmonious manner.
In other words, the deeper definition of honesty is this:
Honesty represents is the ability to reconcile stories.
So here is a truth:
When a person is unable to shed their story to fit “facts”, and most people hold onto to stories as facts beyond question, that creates a vastly difficult problem to overcome when resolving an interpersonal conflict of different stories.
When this is the case, it’s time to embrace this larger definition of honesty
Honesty is the ability to reconcile stories.
This requires acceptance, learning to understand stories from many angles, to bridge the gaps of belief, to reconcile such story conflicts.
Humanity embraces countless stories to express life. Enjoy each story as is, and discover how each story is about how a person relates to their world. If you do this, chances are you can teach other people to open up and also to discover more than one story to hold in life. So a person won’t have to defend one story to the exclusion of all else, but rather with honesty, it becomes possible to bridge the gap between stories and discover new stories to view the world.
Skeptics and Truth
I love skeptics as deep inside their very core they are very spiritual. Why do I say this? Because, their life is based upon the search of absolute truth. Anyone who seeks truth within their core is a spiritual person, since the seeking of truth is their spiritual path.
Of course, this puts many skeptics at a position of angst. Since many skeptics are busily tearing down various practices to discover the truth. So on the outside, it would appear they are not spiritual in their practice.
The skeptic has issues, since, often they are trying to find the absolute outer truth, when in fact, from a human perspective, the truth is always an inner truth. To have outer truth, is to let go into the Tao… Something a skeptic would be unwilling to release into as it means accepting to no final definition.
From this perspective > The Tao / unknown becomes the only absolute truth one can verify.
As a result: It’s a long path for the skeptic resolving the differences between inner and outer truth. However, in the end, all skeptics come face to face with the un-defined as an ultimate measuring stick. That’s the Tao.
The Two Sides of Truth
Truth is a perishable commodity; considerable care must be exercised when shipping it across the world.
Peter Fleming: Brazilian Adventure
For science (western culture) one goal is to reduce falseness / inaccurate results to maximize knowledge. So, as a result, this forms a baseline for how many people approach problem-solving.
As Truth and Falseness are paired concepts: you create diminishing returns of benefit when exclusively pushing toward truth. In fact, at some point, the very push for accuracy creates false readings and seeds of problems, that end up pushing one to false statements.
When looking at any spiritual teaching, we have the same issues. People “focus” in on only “their” truth, or the truth being projected by particular teaching as being “wholly true”. To focus solely on truth ends up pushing extreme manners of resolution, such as conflict, to resolve out differences in opinion or even chasing phantoms of truth.
So in the end it is easier to accept we all have to deal with a mixture of truth / falseness in all statements we encounter. To instead learn how to “flip” what ends up being false. This allows a Taoist to learn as much from the false aspects of what we encounter. One benefit of this approach is it works as a path to discover harmony between conflicting view points and how to balance many different personal truths.
This is all very important in working with potential since as a Taoist we sort how you relate to life and your truths in a holistic manner. Holding truths lightly, since one truth is always in reflection -> a rainbow of truths and a collage of falseness. Which you have to take together and re-paint out as a mural of an answer for those you work with to see as a path towards their answers.
The Yin and Yang of Truth & Falsehood
So from all of this comes a very important teaching tool that Taoists use called: the eye of truth. This is very important since it means: you can discover truth within everything. It’s a matter of perspective. Over time this merges with the third eye. Since with the third eye we can relax and see potentials around us. From this we get a larger universal perspective to balance out our own inner perspectives.
Everything created by human endeavor will contain a mixture of truth and falsehood. This means everything is open to a Taoist to learn from. We learn as much truth reading a science fiction book as a science text book of nature. Everything ripples and contains reflections of our world.
As a Taoist, it’s possible to learn everything you need with what is around you right now. You don’t need Masters, well thought out Ph.D. degrees or Leaders to teach you what is right.
As an example:
The Chinese government before 1990 worked to suppress the Taoist teachings. They could never destroy Taoist teachings; as Taoist teachings are weaved into the fabric of society itself, you will find many references and aspects of Taoism even within the western culture.
A Taoist embraces the negative as much as the positive since (think yin and yang) it all plays a part in opening up our understanding and spreading the truth. So the fact that the Chinese government once tried to suppress Taoist teachings also actually helped to serve to spread Taoism also.
The world is always our teacher that all the lessons and truths are at our disposal: always. It’s just a matter of being open to seeing things from many perspectives, from many voices. Coming to our retreat or finding a master might help speed up the learning curve but the information is already around you now to help open up doors.
Now also be careful (think yin and yang) if you embrace your ideas of truth too hard, you will push your truth into falsehoods. This is the projection of delusion mentioned earlier.
Embrace truth lightly to have the clearest view of the world.
When learning from a person, strangely even when being taught incorrectly: a Taoist will learn from that and reverse it back into truth.
Also you must listen to your body, essence, and mind. People listen to others too much… even true masters, at the price of hurting themselves, at the price of lessening their own nature… Listen to yourself as much as the master, as your teacher, as another person in authority. At some point you learn enough and grow. You learn from everyone. It’s just that from some people you learn what you need to know in 5 seconds and then move on.
Earlier in this article, I stated:
Taoism teaches that from human perspective no absolute truth, no absolute falsehood can be defined or embraced by a person.
This is not quite correct. That’s the problem with any statement; the truth is also relative to focus and always focus shifts with each moment.
Taoism teaches that from a human perspective one absolute truth can be defined or embraced by a person.
Who we actively live in our heart to be…