What is Truth?

YouTube: What is Truth?

Jesus said: “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32

I recently heard a podcaster say there is no such thing as truth. Truth, he said, is relative to each person, everyone has their truth. So, according to this thinking, the word truth has 7 billion meanings. What was Jesus talking about? He didn’t say, you will know my truth, and my truth will make you free. My truth, your truth or even his truth are better described as opinion, a view or judgment formed about something based on partial knowledge or facts. Just because an opinion seems true to you doesn’t make it true. The truth, as Jesus used the term, certainly implies something more than opinions we hold. Opinions often have the effect of restricting our view.

Imagine two scientists conducting independent experiments designed to determine the truth of the behavior of light. After years of experimentation, one concludes, “The truth is, light behaves as a particle.” The other disagrees. “No, light behaves as a wave.” Both scientists have their truth, but can I make their truth my truth? Which one do I believe? I want to be fair, so I read carefully all the details of the research from both camps. For whatever reason, I am persuaded by the scientist who says light behaves like a wave. So, I’ve formed an opinion that I feel good about because I’ve done my research and, for me, it seems more intuitively correct to think of light as a wave. I can explain both sides of the argument, but I’m persuaded that light behaves like a wave. This becomes my truth.    

Now let’s say a third scientist comes along, studies carefully the findings of the previous two. He decides that something is missing from their arguments. Anomalies in both cases have been ignored, left unexplained. He goes into the laboratory and begins his own series of experiments. In time, he emerges with a startling new conclusion. “The truth is, light sometimes behaves like a particle and sometimes it behaves like a wave.”

As impossible as this may sound, science does in fact acknowledge that this is the truth of how light behaves. How or why this is possible is still under investigation, but knowing what is true of the behavior of light sets the investigators free to consider a whole new range of possibilities.

In my research, I ran across a translation of Jesus’ statement on truth that I found very helpful. It reads this way:

“And you will have knowledge of what is true, and that will make you free.” John 8:32 (The Bible in Basic English).

This phrasing softens the tone of the wave-particle absolutism. Just as knowledge of what is true of light sets us free to think of light in a broader sense, so knowing what is true of God sets us free to think of God in new and broader ways.

You will have knowledge of what is true of God, and that knowledge will make you free.

For me, this simple statement provides a more accessible approach to God. I go from seeking some absolute definition or image of God, to knowing what is true of God.

When I use the term Truth – with a capital T – I’m using it in the sense of what I believe to be true of God,  the essence of the individual, and my understanding of the relationship between God and the individual. I’ve come up with a definition for Truth, which I’ll share in a moment.  I want to make clear that I’m not seeking universal agreement with this definition. I’m putting it forward so you’ll understand how I’m using the term.    

John’s statement that light shines in darkness and darkness does not overcome it is one that we can all agree on. Step into a dark room, turn on the light and the darkness disappears. The truth about light is that it dispels darkness. As we read further along in the first letter of John, we see this writer adopts the metaphor of light as an appropriate description of God:  

God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

We don’t think of light as a powerful, human-like being that rules the heavens. As I discussed last week, we see light as energy, the creative life force that powers all living things. The ancient Greeks considered the four elements of nature as air, fire, water, and earth. Aristotle added a fifth element, aether (ether), which he considered an underlying, incorruptible energy out of which all things are made. From my basis of understanding, I have no difficulty drawing a parallel between this invisible energy and the creative life force that is God. Further, I can see a correlation between these four elements of nature and the life, love, power, and intelligence that is God. Think of God as boundless energy, the single indisputable, omnipresent power that underlies all things, bearing no human characteris­tics whatsoever. To express itself, this invisible energy interfaces with the natural elements that make up the visible world.

This creative power moves from center to circumference, not as the concentric rings that form when we drop a pebble into water, but as a concentrated field of energy that is the essence, the very soul of every living thing. Here we find the point of contact between the individual expressions of life and the universal field of pulsating energy from which the visible aspect of creation rises.  

Think of this center as the soul, the spiritual identity, the immortal I that continues even after the physical body falls away. We don’t want to think of the soul as being centrally located in the body. Instead, we can see the body as existing within the atmosphere of the soul, condensed and compressed energy designed to reflect and serve as the interface between the finite visible and the infinite invisible realms.

Over the last few years, I’ve come to think in terms, not of many souls, but as a single soul expressing as many things. The soul is the creative aspect of God, that aspect that John refers to as the Word through which all things are made.

Thinking of the body as existing within the atmosphere of the soul is a powerful visualization for healing. The body is subject to environmental challenges. We’re all wearing masks and social distancing because of the body’s potential frailty. But if we hold that our body exists within the protecting light and power of the soul – untouched by the issues that can be problematic to the body – we literally walk in the light of God.

The mystical, or direct experience, is key to gaining knowledge of what is true of God. Otherwise, we only entertain ideas about God.

For many, affirming they are in the presence of God is like stating they have a book in their library they have never read. The book may be full of valuable information, but unless we open and study it, the information is of little value to us. We may get some gratification from owning this particular book, but it’s real value is found in the stimulating information within. Spiritual ideas can inspire us, but they do not automatically make us free. It’s the actual experience of God that imparts the knowledge that makes us free. A passage from the book of Job reminds us of this:

But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. (Job 32:8).

And Jesus, quoting from the Psalms, makes this statement that I have referenced many times:

It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God. (John 6:45).

The assertion that we can know and be taught by God presumes that God is both knowable and accessible, and the experience of God produces the positive consequence of freedom. As I already said, God, as the omnipresent creative life force, is the core, the very essence of each individual. From this understanding, I have developed a working definition of Truth that will serve as a good foundation.

Truth is the omnipotence of God expressing as the spiritual essence of every individual.

This statement embodies the omnipotence of God, the divinity of the individual, and the relationship of oneness between God and the individual. I like to think of it as something much more than a compact, affirmative formula to be memorized and spoken. The statement describes a current activity – something that is happening right now. The full power of God is pushing out through you, as your very essence.

To make this statement real, just think of the fact that at this very moment you are desiring freedom from some condition – probably something relating to your body, which could be a health condition, finances, relationship issues, or concern for your future. Why do you desire freedom? How do you know you’re in bondage? What is it in you that thinks greater freedom is even possible?

The desire for greater freedom is literally a signal from your spiritual essence, your soul. It’s the very voice of God, your spiritual source expressing as you. Is the condition you’re concerned about stop the activity of God? No. This is why you desire freedom. Your fear or negative attitude may thwart the expression, the out-picturing of your freedom from suffering, but it doesn’t stop that healing radiance that is your spiritual birthright.   

So, let’s refer back to John:

“And you will have knowledge of what is true, and that will make you free.” John 8:32

What is true? The omnipotence of God, the full power of God, is expressing as your spiritual essence. Take your eyes off the problem and focus on the truth of this statement. Know it. Feel it. Paul suggested that we feel after God (Acts 17:27). Become still enough to feel this expansive desire for freedom as the living activity of God within. This is the living water Jesus spoke of, a living energy that is welling up from the very core of your being as eternal life.

I’ve talked about prayer as being an aligning process. Many people will pray for a thing and look outside of themselves for the answer. Here, we’re seeing prayer as the process of aligning ourselves with the truth that God is expressing as our spiritual essence. This spiritual essence is the exact same essence of God. Think of it as a light shining in the darkness, and the darkness is powerless to suppress it.

I have an 8” telescope, a Schmitt/Cassegrain, which contains two mirrors. Light from a source – a planet or star – enters a canister, hits the primary mirror in the back of the scope, reflects the light to a secondary mirror which then reflects it into the eyepiece. If these two mirrors are out of alignment, the image you see in the eyepiece will be blurry. To correct this, the scope has to be collimated. The word collimation means to make parallel. In the case of the telescope, collimation is adjusting the primary and secondary mirrors to make them parallel.

If we think of the soul as the primary mirror, and our consciousness, our belief system, as the secondary mirror, prayer can be thought of as a collimation process. I’ve pointed out many times in the past that one of the meanings of slotha – the Aramaic word for prayer – is “to make an adjustment.” Prayer is the process of bringing our consciousness – our overall awareness – into alignment with what is true at the soul level. God, of course, is the original light source expressing as the soul. There is no need for alignment at the soul level, as there is no place where God leaves off and the soul begins. Here, we’re in a perpetual state of oneness with God.

It’s our secondary mirror of consciousness that has gotten out of alignment, causing us to respond to appearances that are not true of God or the soul. Our spiritual vision has become blurred. Again, as Paul said, we’re seeing through a glass darkly.

It’s this blurred vision that people mistake for truth – their truth. The situation is dire, so I must suffer. I must be in bondage to things as they appear to be. This is reality. This is my truth. But is it the Truth? Is this condition an example of the omnipotence of God expressing as my spiritual essence?

The challenge here is that we want to fix the problem, so our attention usually goes to the thing that’s broken. This is understandable, and we certainly want the problem resolved. But again, the promise is, you will have knowledge of what is true, and that will make you free.

To bring a telescope into collimation, you use a steady light source as a reference that allows you to make the two mirrors parallel. In our case, the inner light of God is our steady light source. We stop scanning the landscape of our life and the problems we’re having, and we turn our attention to what is true of the indwelling presence of God.

And what is the Truth? The Truth is you are immersed in the healing, prospering, balancing life of God. The love that God is, is now dissolving that which is not for your highest good and is drawing to you that which is. The power of God is working through every aspect of your mind, body and affairs to establish wholeness on earth – that is, in your life – as it is in heaven, the limitless realm of the spiritual domain. The full intelligence of God is active in you, making clear your path, freeing your mind of all fear, and establishing the confidence in the truth that the greater good you seek is now unfolding through you.

I can’t agree with the podcaster that said there’s no such thing as Truth. I do understand what he was saying – that my truth and your truth can’t possibly represent an absolute Truth. It just so happens that this podcaster is a self-proclaimed atheist, and so it’s not likely that he’ll delve into anything much deeper than the appearance-driven human intellect. But to gain knowledge of what is true, we must first accept that there is an absolute Truth. And, if that Truth has the power to make us free, then it must be within our power to know.

If I hadn’t discovered the Unity philosophy, if all I had of spiritual understanding was what I gleaned from my exposure to mainstream religion, I too might set aside the whole spiritual thing as inconsequential. But Unity has helped me learn to turn within, to have my own first-hand experience with God. It’s enough to understand that it is possible to achieve freedom from lack and limitation by knowing the truth of our unity with God.

This is the mystery hidden for ages and generations that Paul wrote about (Colossians 1:26). He says the mystery, which is Christ in you, is now made manifest to his saints. But let’s not think of a saint as anything more than one who is devoted to knowing, not only what is true of God, but is willing to open our mind and heart to God as a living presence. That would be you and me.

I don’t recommend that we go around proclaiming we’re saints. But if we want to experience the freedom promised by knowing what is true, we start with the understanding that what is true of God, ourselves, and our relationship to God is within our reach. And since we’re interested in attaining freedom in this life we live, we know this Truth has practical value, that it empowers us to live freely and successfully each day of our life.

Thanks again for watching. My affirmation for each one of you is that you have knowledge of what is true, and that Truth will make you free.

Author: J Douglas Bottorff

Doug is minister of Independent Unity, author of 8 books, musician and photography enthusiast. He lives with his wife and cat in western Colorado.

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