The Nature of Truth
Humanity has grappled with the question of truth about life for millennia. Verbal and
physical wars have been fought over what is truth. Groups and individuals like to believe they are right in
what they believe the truth is and consider those that see things differently as wrong. So can anyone know
what is truth?
A story is told about five blind men who encountered an elephant. One touched the beast’s
leg and concluded that the animal was like a tree trunk. Another touched the ear and thought the animal was
like a fan. The third handled its tail and felt that the animal was like a rope. The last two men came to yet
other conclusions. Who was right? They all were, even though they all contradicted each other. They each
simply had only a part of the whole truth. Human understanding of truth is relative to and limited by
individual beliefs. We all only see a tiny aspect of the picture – perhaps comparable to a handful of dirt
from a tall mountain!
Grasping the truth about life can be compared to watching a photograph
in the developing process or putting together a jigsaw puzzle – it is always a little here and a little there.
Only when enough aspects of the whole have emerged, one can get an idea of the picture. Aspects of truth are the
same – the more pieces we understand, the clearer our picture is. Even then, however, it is only a picture – an
approximation in words and concepts – and not the total reality which cannot be described or even fully
experienced in this life.
Truth as perceived from our limited human perspective is often full of
paradoxes – seeming contradictions and logical impossibilities. However, spiritual truths do not have to follow
human logic – God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and the universe functions according a different, divine,
logic (cf. Bible, Isaiah 55:8-9). Scientists have recognised paradoxes even in the physical universe and
developed the concept of quantum logic, realizing that everything
is indeed relative to human perspective.
Through their faculties as well as through inspiration, humans can
discover much truth for themselves. It is a process of exploring, observation, thinking, reasoning, and
thereby growing in knowledge, understanding and wisdom. At any time, certain things are considered to be
true, but the understanding may change as time goes on. A classical example is the belief held for centuries,
that the earth was flat, as well as being the centre of the universe. And certainly from the human perspective
it seemed to be so. A broader and higher perspective, however, changed all that. So truth is always a matter of
Therefore, if others see things differently from ourselves, even in the
opposite way to how we perceive them, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt that their perception and
perspective is not necessary wrong, but rather another aspect of the total, humanly unfathomable, ocean of truth
from which we each experience just a drop or two. And perhaps we can even learn from them and gain a
richer understanding ourselves.
I found the following paraphrase about peace, truth, and paradox
Peace, the Hebrew shalom, means
wholeness and completeness. Peace is not when all agree, for this is impossible. It is the ability to realise that
all the various perspectives, even if contradictory, are only partial perspectives of the whole picture. The truth is greater than the sum of
those parts. The path to paradise is really paradox and we need to make peace with the apparent conflict.
One perspective can never be the be-all and
end-all for understanding the ultimate truth and therefore should not be taken too seriously – though
it is a partial accurate view of
reality. From a higher perspective, it will realised that there were no contradictions, but rather different
perspectives of one complete truth.
Reference: Rabbi David
Aaron, The Secret Life of God: Discovering the Divine Within
You, p. 130.