What is Truth?
by Christian D. Larson
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The greatest question before the mind of man always has been, and always will be, WHAT IS TRUTH? It is a theme, therefore, that is always new—a theme that ever holds the deepest of interest for all who desire to know. And every book that deals with this theme in a broad, comprehensive, original manner will be more than welcome everywhere. And we claim that this is such a book. We also claim that all who read this book will not only gain a larger, a higher, and a more interior conception of truth, but will, in addition, secure that finer vision of real truth that mankind in general has never been able to discern. Originally published in 1912, this book is very scarce indeed.
The Meaning of Truth; How to Know the Truth; How to Seek the Truth; Where to Find the Truth; Where We Get Our Ideas; The Two Sides of Truth; Striking Illustrations of llalf-Truths; The Subconscious Factor; The Real and the Unreal; In Reality Everything Is Good; Causing the Best to Happen; The Truth About Right and Wrong; The Truth About Freedom; The Royal Path to Freedom; The Truth Beyond Truth; Discernment of Absolute Truth.
To formulate a complete and final definition for truth is not possible, the reason being that the truth in itself, or in any of its expressions, cannot be circumscribed by the human mind. The truth is too large to be described by any definition, however basic or comprehensive it may be. The best we can do, therefore, is to define our highest conceptions of truth. And moreover, we shall find this to be sufficient.
To define and understand our highest conception of truth is to know, in the present, as much of the truth as we shall find necessary to gain that freedom that invariably comes with the truth. And as we continue to seek higher and higher conceptions of truth, as we advance in life, we shall accordingly find that greater measure of freedom which must necessarily accompany the more advanced stages of human existence.
The purpose, therefore, of this book is not to present a clear-cut definition of truth, nor to give an answer to the question, What is truth? that would stand the test of all thought and experience. No, indeed, for such a course would defeat the aim we all have in view–the finding of more and more truth, and would make the search of truth far more difficult. The reason for this will be evident as we peruse the following pages.
Our purpose in this work is rather to present a plan or outline by which any individual may guide his mind in the attainment of higher and higher conceptions of truth in all its phases, and thereby understand the truth for himself at every stage of advancement which he may reach in his own sphere of life, thought and action. And this is the only rational course to pursue, for each individual must understand the truth for himself if he is to know that truth that brings freedom; but in order that he may understand the truth for himself he must seek and find the truth for himself. The only truth that is of any value to us is that truth that we have gained through our own individual efforts to actually know truth and inwardly realise the presence and power of truth.
This being true, all wide-awake and progressive minds will agree that the aim of this book, which is to present practical and effective methods through which anyone may find more and more truth, instead of trying to give a final and complete system of thought supposed to contain all the truth, which is impossible–all such minds will agree that this aim is the only aim, in this connection, that can possibly be rational in its process and practical in its application. And it is for such minds that this book is written. We feel, therefore, that every page will be fully appreciated, and that every statement will be thoroughly understood.
THE MEANING OF TRUTH
No aim can be higher than that of seeking truth, and no reward can be greater than that of finding the truth. In fact, it is now considered by everybody that the greatest virtue of all virtues is to have an intense and ceaseless desire for truth. And the greatest good of all that is good is to realise a greater and greater measure of real truth.
The necessities of life are many, but there is nothing that man needs so much as more truth. To possess the truth is to possess everything that we can use now, and also to possess the key to everything that we may require for the future. The great objects of every normal person are invariably emancipation and attainment. To be set free from the imperfect and the lesser and to attain the perfect and the greater–this is what everybody is consciously or unconsciously working for; and truth can accomplish this, but truth alone. To know the truth is to secure complete emancipation; and to know the truth is to ascend into higher and higher attainments.
The awakened minds of every age have realised that the knowing of truth was the one great secret that could unravel all other secrets; and they have given their lives trying to reveal to mankind what truth really might be. Nevertheless, the race does not know, and the universal question still continues to be, What is truth? To answer this question, however, is not difficult, but it is difficult for most minds to comprehend the answer. The human mind too often believes its own conception of a truth to be the truth itself, and here is where the difficulty lies. This is the one great mistake of every age. Truth is one thing, but man’s conception of truth is quite another thing. Truth is eternal, unchangeable and complete, while man’s conception of truth is temporal, mutable, and incomplete. To absolute truth nothing can be added, nothing taken away, but man’s conception of truth is frequently wrong, even when it may appear to be absolutely right.
The truth is infinite and immeasurable. No one, therefore, can know the whole truth. To claim that you have found the absolute truth, or that you have discovered the perfect path to absolute truth is, in consequence, to delude yourself. The truth is so large that no one can ever find it all. We may devote an eternity to the finding of more and more truth, and yet, what we have found is insignificant compared to the immensity of the whole truth itself. The truth is everywhere, therefore there is no one perfect path to the truth. Every mind is in the truth, literally filled and surrounded by the truth, but no mind can contain the whole truth. It is possible to discern truth and know truth, but it is not possible to actually comprehend the truth. It is possible to understand the mental conception of truth, but it is not possible to understand truth itself.
The truth may be defined as an eternal state of perfect being; therefore, to know truth is to know that real being is perfect, and also that the perfect state of real being is eternal. To obtain a larger and a larger mental conception of eternal perfection of real being, or fundamental reality, is to grow in the truth. To grow in the truth is to find more truth, and to pass into the larger, the better, and the superior.
To accept a mental conception of truth as the truth itself is to bring all growth to a standstill, but this is what mankind in general has been doing and is doing. And because of this the majority remain in mental darkness, bondage and inferiority. An age that worships some one mind’s conception of truth invariably becomes materialistic, no matter how lofty that mind was that originally formed the conception of truth that is worshipped. A materialistic mind is a mind that lives in the effects of previous efforts and that does nothing to rise above such conditions as heredity has handed down.
Growth, however, comes from the breaking of bounds, from the leaving of the lesser and perpetually pressing on toward the greater. The materialistic mind is like the stagnant pool; it is inactive or practically dead, no matter how active or beautiful its surroundings may be. At the present time we find materialistic minds everywhere surrounded by the highest culture and the most beautiful in art, and on account of those surroundings we fail to discern the uselessness, and in many instances the detriment, of the materialism thus hidden from view. We may believe the stagnant pool to be a pond of living water, because it is found in a garden of roses. In like manner we may believe that minds found in the midst of art, learning and culture must surely be living, growing, aspiring minds; but when we draw very near in either case we are disillusioned. In this age the most detrimental form of materialism is practically hidden within circles of enchanting music, fascinating rituals, elegant rhetoric and royal garments. Accordingly, materialism itself is not discerned by the many, and they follow blindly, continuing in sickness, sin, and death.
Truth alone can give emancipation, but we cannot find the truth so long as we humbly worship what some one has said about the truth. In this age many efforts have been made to formulate the truth in some definite system, but how can we place that something into system that is infinitely larger than all systems? To follow a system of thought is to worship some mind’s conception of truth and to ignore the real truth itself. A system, however, may be employed if it is employed solely as the means to higher conceptions, but as soon as we look upon a system as authority, our eyes will not be able to see the truth anymore.
Systems of thought, as well as systems of action, are necessary as a means to higher ends, but the higher ends will not be reached unless we constantly look through the system and keep the eye single upon the infinite, unchangeable and immeasurable truth. When using systems in this manner, however, we must remember that it is not possible to know absolutely any part of the truth upon which our mental eye may be directed. It is not possible, even for a mind that is ever becoming larger and larger, to comprehend the limitless at any time. All that we can do now is to form the largest and highest conception of truth that our present mental capacity can permit, and then proceed to enlarge that conception perpetually.
True wisdom comes through mental ascension into the unbounded truth, and not through a studied belief of what we now accept as the truth. That knowledge that has power is gained through the constant enlargement of mentality; that is, through the expansion of consciousness as the mind grows in the truth, and not from the accumulation of relative facts. Emancipation comes through ascension, and in no other way; that is, the ascension of the mind into a larger, a higher and a finer understanding of the truth. The mind that is perpetually passing into the greater is constantly being emancipated from the lesser. And the mind that is for ever growing better is daily being set free from the ills of error and imperfection.
In this connection it is important to realise that the only cause of bondage, is found in a settled or inactive condition of mind. There are many minds that think they have secured freedom through the acceptance of a certain system of thought, but the freedom they have received did not come from the system of thought itself. Freedom never comes from the acceptance of systems, but from the mind’s ascension into the new and the larger. If a certain system leads you away from the imperfection of your present life you will be emancipated from that imperfection, but if you give the system the credit, you will worship the system. You will dwell in the mental conceptions upon which that system is based and your mind will not move any further toward the realisation of larger truth.
In this very place millions have brought their lives to a standstill; they having accepted various new systems as the whole truth discovered at last, and they have settled down in that belief. When they first accepted the new system of thought their minds naturally gained a higher place, and they were set free to that extent; but when they began to worship the system as the great emancipator it ceased to be a means to higher things, and became a prison which they dared not leave lest they fall back into their former condition. A new system of thought if worshipped as the truth will prevent you from ascending further into truth, and will, therefore, in due course of time make your mind just as materialistic and as limited as it was in the past.
The fact that you have health, peace and contentment does not prove that you have found absolute freedom, or that you have realised absolute truth. There are thousands who have health, peace and freedom who do not follow any system of thought at all, and who do not claim to have found a single absolute fact. For here we should remember that whenever we accept a new system of thought our minds are changed in a measure, and a change of mind always tends to eliminate adverse conditions of the system, both physical and mental.
Our great purpose, however, is not simply to realise peace, health and attainment, but also to develop our own individuality. And if we continue our individual development, health, peace and attainment, and all other blessings will follow. This being true, we must not permit anything that will in any way hinder our fullest individual expression. But the fact is that there is nothing that hinders individual expression and the development of individuality more than the acceptance of a fixed system of thought as the absolute truth itself. No matter how well it may be with you in your present condition, physically, mentally or financially, if your belief makes you dependent upon any person, institution or outside authority, your individuality is being kept down. And instead of moving forward, as you may think, you are actually on the path to retrogression.
The experience of all ages proves this fact, and what has crippled individuality, or caused man to deteriorate in the past, can do so again. It is the evidence of history that every fixed system of thought has made mental and spiritual dwarfs of its most faithful followers. We all understand the reason why. No individual mind can know the truth through the understanding of some other mind; therefore each mind must not only be permitted, but encouraged, to develop its own individual capacity for knowing the truth, and nothing must stand in the way of the perpetual ascension of the soul into new conceptions of truth every day.
The understanding of truth is promoted through individual research in all domains of life, and in the use of all the systems of thought available as means to an end in the furthering of all research. It is therefore evident that individuality or the power of each mind to stand upon its own feet is indispensable in the search of truth. Fixed lines of action may be necessary in the systematic search for truth, but these lines should not be limited in number, nor confined to certain spheres of action.
Thousands of minds, otherwise intelligent, keep themselves in mental darkness because they refuse to seek truth outside of the usual lines. They forget that the lines now looked upon as usual and regular were once upon a time very unusual, and even considered dangerous. The fact is, however, that any line of research will lead to truth, and nothing is dangerous that will bring us more truth. We may therefore lay aside all fears, open wide all doors to all realms, and place our minds absolutely out in the open.
In the search of truth it is of the highest importance to be able to discriminate between truth itself and our mere mental conception of truth, and also between those conceptions that are true and those that are not. When you are dealing with a mental conception you are dealing with something that your mind contains, but when you are dealing with truth itself you are dealing with something that contains your mind. A mental conception of truth is limited–it is something that mind can measure, but the truth itself is not limited, and therefore cannot be measured. False conceptions of truth, however, will not form themselves in your mind when you view the truth as infinite, and when the mind invariably ascends or tries to rise higher in the scale of understanding while attempting to realise more truth; in brief, a conception of truth is true as far as it goes if the mind expanded while that conception was formed. This is a simple rule and will be found to contain the greatest secret of all in the realisation of more and more truth.
The fact is, that the aspiring or expanding attitude of the mind is the only attitude through which more truth can be gained, for no mental conception of truth is true unless it is superior to the conception that was formed before. And here it must be remembered that to know the truth is to know more truth. The very act of the mind in knowing the truth involves the act of knowing more truth at that particular time. Whenever the mind is trying to know the truth it must try to know more truth in order to know truth at all. We are not moving forward unless we are moving forward. For the same reason we are not knowing truth unless we are knowing more truth, because the truth is limitless, and every act of the mind that is attracted toward the knowing of truth must of necessity be attracted toward the knowing of all the truth. This means that every effort to know the truth must be a forward movement in the mind.
What was truth to you in the past is not truth to you now because that alone is truth to you now that you discern through your own present mental capacity, which is necessarily larger than your capacity was in the past. What we call truth is our present view of infinite truth, therefore if our present view is not superior to the past view we are still living in the past view; and if we are still living in the past view we are worshipping a system of outgrown beliefs; therefore do not see the truth at all.
The mental conceptions we form while in a stagnant state are not conceptions of truth; they are simply varying beliefs concerning the size and the structure of our prison walls; that is, the walls of the system in which we have encased ourselves. When you are confined in a system you are standing still, you see the bounds and the limitations of the system, but you do not see the boundlessness of the truth itself. And since we cannot form conceptions of truth unless we have our eyes directed upon infinite truth, the fact that your present conception is not superior to its predecessor proves that you are not viewing the truth. Accordingly, that conception cannot be true. The truth in variably lies in the line of an ascending scale of thought or mental action, while the untruth is formed when the mind is at a standstill, or is in the line of retrogression.
The understanding of truth is never fixed. A fixed understanding is no understanding, because to understand is to go deeper and deeper into the unfathomable states of the absolute; in brief, it involves an action of the mind. And any action of the mind that aims to understand must necessarily move toward the greater truth. We therefore see how impossible it is for any form of understanding to be fixed and stable. Comprehension does not comprehend unless it perpetually enlarges itself, because when the mind ceases to expand it ceases to act, and when it ceases to act no comprehension can take place. To comprehend is to go around, but if we are not going there necessarily will be no comprehension.
We therefore realise how necessary it is that every effort to know truth must be an effort to comprehend greater truth. The mind either goes out into the larger or remains at a standstill, though frequently when it remains at a standstill it is actually being contracted into a smaller mental sphere. When the mind remains at a standstill, or deteriorates, it does not act upon anything that is larger or superior to its past belief; and consequently the act of comprehension does not take place.
A mind that is belittling itself is not on the way to the realisation of greater wisdom. The mind can know only through the act of ascension or expansion; that is, the rising in the scale of thought, feeling and consciousness. When the mind ceases to ascend it ceases to know, because the act of knowing is a forward movement of those mental processes that are involved in thinking, reasoning and similar acts of the mind. Therefore, when the mind ceases to ascend it begins to dwell in mental darkness, and from mental darkness come all the ills of life. To find the truth and to know the truth it is necessary to view the truth as infinite and immeasurable, and to ascend perpetually into a larger and a larger consciousness of that infinite view of truth.
When you think of things as entities, and try to know the truth concerning them, it is always necessary to turn the attention upon the limitless truth that is back of appearances. We cannot gain the truth about anything unless the mind expands into the consciousness of the all that is contained in everything. And we cannot ascend in this way unless we direct our research into the vast realms that are beyond all appearances. There will always be a beyond, but the beyond of today should be the tangible and demonstrated realities of the days succeeding. What is hidden today should be proven fact tomorrow. This is possible when we search for the truth, not in the world of appearances, but in the wider realms just beyond present appearances.<>But our object in seeking the truth is not simply to possess the truth–it is also to find greater means for growth, progress and ascension. Emancipation and attainment are the two great aims in real life, and both are the results of knowing the truth. To know the truth is to ascend perpetually into the infinite domains of truth, thus leaving behind the lesser and for ever entering into the greater. In this way we pass out of and rise above everything that has served its purpose and enter constantly into the marvels and splendours still in store