Is “truth” totally subjective? The word “subjective” is often used as a way of dismissing an experience as not real or indicating it has no validity in the scientific sense. And “science” (read objective, material, physical) is the implied contrasting view that, by comparison, invalidates the merely “subjective” perception. But the conceptual-terminology-division of objective science on the one hand and subjective metaphysics on the other is fundamentally wrong.
Consider the symbol of the hyphen. The origin or root meaning of the word “hyphen” derives from a word meaning “one.” It means, literally “one.” This simple symbol provides a practical conceptual means of relating or unifying words, and by extension, their corresponding concepts. It is a conceptual tool and reminder that we should question each dichotomy to see to what degree we are satisfied with a given intellectual division.
In some metaphysical writings one comes across the concept of spirit-matter. Spirit and matter are regarded, in a sense, as one “thing.” (“Thing” is not quite the right word, but it will have to do.) The idea is that spirit and matter are parts of a continuum. So also such closely related concepts as physics-metaphysics, and subjective-objective. This way of thinking suggests a method of reexamining words and concepts, and in this light, we may think that it is not correct to say that truth is “subjective.” Also, it is not correct to say that truth is “objective.” To separate things in such a simplistically binary way is unnatural because in nature and in our experiences we find gradations everywhere. Such analysis reminds us, for instance, that what we regard as the most objective science is the product of a subjective entity, the human mind.
Likewise, it is not correct to say that truth is personal or impersonal. All such binary verbal-conceptual formulations always miss the mark to some degree. When we submit to the divisions implicit in the many word dualities, we automatically set up false psychological and perceptual divisions that can mislead us.
We could say that truth is both objective and subjective, though this is also an approximation. Or we could say that whatever is the next evolutionary step for us (or more broadly, for any entity), is our or their “truth.” It is not that this is “subjective,” but rather that it is individual—a different thing. There is “relative” truth that’s defined by an individual’s current location in the scheme of things, yet all our individual or relative truths are surrounded, defined, and stand in relation to absolute truth. Our little truths derive their relative light and merit from an absolute foundation.
When I was a young child, one morning well before the sunrise, we left on a camping trip. The sky was the dark-bright of a full Moon. The car sped along the highway and the cool wind whipped passed the open window with amazing freshness, the wind of childhood. I looked at the passing landscape of shadow-shapes, vague ghost trees, and an occasional house. There, far beyond the cool wind and ghosts was the large yellow Moon low on the horizon. It was then that I first really saw the Moon.
I have seen other moons since. Sometimes they bring an unexpected friend in the wake of their synchronicity. Sometimes they bring unusual thought, and sometimes a fire in head and a body electric. There are Moons of painful beauty that recall the visitations of childhood. They seem to open wide one of many hyperspace doors between worlds, where lights gleam from a current of numberless dimensions.
Sometimes a Moon passes by me unnoticed. I do not know one Moon from another but find them all benediction. So also I cannot name the stars or tell which is far or near. But I think, that in the far depths of space, there are many planets with Moons, and many children look to them.
We might think of beauty, in the usual personality way, as a passive perception. But there is another sense of beauty, the spiritual sense, and this is beauty as an active and transformative power.
On a superficial or personality level we may have an emotional response to beauty. In this there is a sense of objective separation where we feel beauty is “out there” and that we are “in here” here looking out. Perhaps there is the sense that perception of beauty is merely a subjective projection or that light or sound has bounced from there to us and stirred some emotion in the brain.
But there is a deeper experience of beauty that is entrance into a world of pure meaning. We walk along a path find a flower. If we look and enjoy it in a personal way, in the usual way, that is fine, but from a spiritual standpoint our perception is without great significance. But now, look again; this flower is the crystallization of the spiritual, as we are, and as all things are. We need not await a prophet to receive the commandments–one small flower will bestow the necessary mandate. This is not “just a flower” before us. It is the life itself. This flower, were we to see it spiritually would change us. This flower is to us nothing less than a messenger of divinity and healer of world problems. To see it is to be seized by its fiery Beauty, to enter a higher world, to be given a command. The flower is our prophet where we become medium for its affirmation; we are then the flower expanded into new and unexpected spaces. It’s coloring radiates from us, expands through us to envelope the world.
Externally or physically, the things we know are those that reach the brain. And for most of us, there is a mechanism that keeps us largely focused on things physical, on experiences coming through the five senses. But the threads of our lives run deep into psychic and spiritual worlds, and there is a part of us with other senses, a higher or deeper part of which we, ensconced as we are in the physical brain, remain largely unconscious.
We live our life, so speak, in parallel worlds and in addition to our ordinary waking consciousness, have also a vast and mostly hidden life. It is a life of which we, in our physical brain consciousness, remain mostly ignorant. For most of us that is the design of nature and the way, for the time being, that it should be.
It is as if a one-way mirror stands between our ordinary consciousness and the heights and depths of our life in the psychic and spiritual worlds. Our brain lives on the reflective side of the mirror, and our higher self lives on the transparent side. Usually we are unconscious—at the brain level–of our larger identity and it’s life on the inner planes, and we do not realize to what extent we live this higher life, and do we realize that our “I” is but a small part of a larger deeper consciousness. At all times, the deeper part is an active participants in our life, but while the material world engages most of our attention, our brain registers little of this deeper nature. Most of what we are in our higher nature is hidden behind the one-way mirror so that when we look inward we see only the usual physical and emotional awareness. But there is another part of us that lives on the far side of the mirror, and in that space sees not only down toward physical personality, but outward to the psychic worlds and up to the world of spiritual.
Each of us is structured differently according to our needs and karmic conditions, so not all mirrors are the same. And the matter-energy barrier, of which our “mirror” is symbolic, is not a static veil but a dynamic one, being part of the living etheric-biological structure of our bodies. And sometimes, our mirror, or part of it, becomes more like translucent glass or a transparent window. Then for a time the mirror may no longer act as a barrier between worlds, so that we register part of our inner life in the brain. Then, to some degree, we experience “continuity of consciousness” where our brain registers not only the usual physical existence, but also aspects of spiritual or psychic life.
Brief or tenuous connection between worlds can be disorienting and radical thinning of the veil can be especially difficult, for most of us have trouble enough with the problems of a single level. There are many cautionary stories about magicians who evoke energies they are not yet ready to handle, a theme applicable to meditation practices. There are natural and forced developments that thin the veil between worlds, of which meditation is often cited. There are dangers associated with the premature development of anything, and this is especially true of psychic and spiritual experiences. If a strong energy is poured suddenly, prematurely, and persistently into an unready personality, then we may have a rending of the veil between worlds, with chaotic or pathological effects.
Awakening energies often proves confusing, and in seeking to understand them, a meditator may adopt one of the many schools of metaphysics or seek some teacher or guru to guide them. Unfortunately, the current wave of humanity hasn’t produced many spiritual midwifes who have the knowledge to lead people through such an energy crisis. Nor has it produced large numbers of sane, balanced and healthy souls who are ready for the difficulties of sudden awakenings. Instead, we have many half-right teachers in the world, and sad to say, some will make matters worse rather than better. In some cases crisis is actually precipitated in the first place by dangerous meditation practices taught by a pseudo-guru or drawn from a metaphysical book.
Gopi Krishna, in his book “Kundalini, The Evolutionary Energy in Man.” aptly describes the state of the world in this respect. He writes:
“I consulted other holy men and sought for guidance from many reputed quarters without coming across a single individual who could boldly assert that he actually possessed intimate personal knowledge of the condition and could confidently answer my questions. Those who talked with dignified reserve, looking very wise and deep, ultimately turned out to be as wanting in accurate information about the mysterious power rampant in me as those of a more unassuming nature who unbosomed themselves completely on the very first occasion without in the least pretending to know any more than they really did. And thus in the great country which had given birth to the lofty science of Kundalini thousands of years ago and whose very soil is permeated with its fragrance and whose rich religious lore is full of references to it from cover to cover, I found no one able to help me.”
Art by ihave3kids (modified)
“I was lifted high,
In sun-bright healing winds—desiring now
A greater beauty…”
— Marion Wentworth
Usually, people think of beauty as something perceived, something we subjectively attribute to an object or a person. But I find the spiritual meaning of beauty is different. Spiritual beauty is not a passive perception but an active and transformative power. It is the energy of the intuitional world. We commune with such beauty, we enter into it and it enters into us. It is unity and Fire. It is “the world of pure meaning.” This beauty is not our personal response to an object in the world. Rather, beauty is itself a multidimensional world of rainbow archetypes.
In the archetypal world the divine mosaic shines in beauty. We encounter considerable fidelity problems in translating this world of pure meaning into its best correspondences in thought and words. It is a valiant effort, yet the lesser cannot fully include the greater. Still we try to mirror it. Fortunately, the mental mirror is itself in long-term evolutionary motion.
“…beyond the Beauty that is predicated of various forms and relationships, there is a pure Transcendent Beauty, and this is a mode of the very Being of the SELF. This Beauty is not something that is beautiful. It is Self-existent and casts its luster upon all things… Ecstasy is pure Beauty, as well as pure Joy and Knowledge.”
— Pathways Through to Space, Franklin Merrell-Wolff
Why is the perception of the real world such a shocking experience? Because it is so different, so unusual, being revelatory of both the grandeur that we are, and the littleness we often express. This contrast is shocking. Imagine how the awesome beauty of reality compares to the thoughtless ignorance of our daily life. We may see something so beautiful that it is painful. The beautiful itself is not painful, but the contrast between beauty and our newly revealed ignorance is most painful. Spirit is pure Beauty and it illuminates errors by contrast.
We do not know to what extent we agree or disagree with another until we understand each other’s thoughts, and to do that we must get behind each other’s words. Intellectually, it would seem that we all know this obvious truth, yet emotionally we often demonstrate we do not. So, if a person’s words are foreign to us, we may assume the thoughts behind them are foreign as well though this may not be true. Frequently, we will argue, so to speak, with the words of another and never connect with the ideas, never realize that we failed to understand what was is in the other’s mind and heart.
It’s useful to understand the special language used by another, especially when that language contrasts with our preferred usage. It helps to be able to put on different verbal hats. Indeed, the externalization of thoughts is so intimately bound up with language that often we must be able to put on a different verbal hat in order to think toward something new. Adopting another’s terms and meditatively translating them into our own language can often advance understanding of the new.
Through this discipline, we gradually approach the realization that words are not the same as meaning, that essence is not the same as form. It would seem that this is obvious and that we understand this, yet the frequency of arguments based on unexamined definitions shows that our understanding of word/meaning relationships is weak. In the abstract we may know that words are not the same as the things they refer to, and that words mean different things to different people, yet to often in our conversations we betray “the better angels of our nature” and foolishly fail to act from our understanding. Here then is a practical aspect of semantics that can promote essential understanding and avert many arguments. About arguments, fools may rush in, but angels can tread most anywhere without ill effect. And where we prove more the fool than angel, well there’s the lesson also.
What does an illuminated sage see through physical eyes? I imagine that such eyes do not see the world as “matter ” at all, but as “spirit-matter,” that is, all is seen through to its luminous depth and height. All such looking is, or may by choice be, spiritual seeing. The eye never stops upon the surface of anything—it probes the depths of all things instantly divining their innermost meaning.
We can distinguish psychic from spiritual perception in this way: psychic perceptions do not interpret themselves, but spiritual perceptions do. We must seek and question the meaning of a psychic perception, just as we do with any normal sense perception. But in spiritual or intuitive perception, the meaning is given directly, being inherent in the experience. In the spiritual we may see, hear, or sense something—or more properly expressed, become something, because we apprehend that which is part of our being. If the spiritual experience is genuine, we do not need to ask, “What does this mean?” The question does not arise because true spiritual experience takes place in a world of pure meaning, and in this world perceptions contain their own validation, their own seals of authenticity. Validation is inherent in and inseparable from the experience. Instead of having to intellectually explain the experience, the experience itself is the explanation and the meaning. Likewise, in the case of “intuition” which means “direct knowledge,” we find that intuition is the answer, not the question. Mental or intellectual questioning arises in relation to phenomena, but intuition is the matrix of light that contains the answers.
Psychic and spiritual or mystical experience may sometimes be combined. For instance, we can have a vision, in the sense of a picture or image of something correspondent with the material world, and we can hear a voice with words that take objective form in our mind. These psychic experiences may be factual, or illusory, or some blend of the two. But the soul of a true mystical experience is real, while the form it may take in words or images is only relatively so, and is never fully adequate to express the spiritual which is formless. Spiritual experience may take a form in the mind or in expression through images or words. We normally give spiritual experience a psychical body either consciously or unconsciously, but these formal expressions are symbols, and are always a relatively limited embodiment and not the reality itself.
Is light form or formless? Even physically considered, it is energy and relatively formless. But “light” is a word adopted by both physical scientists and metaphysicians. We can use the word to point to something physical, psychic, and spiritual, because light is on spiritual as well as material levels. But here we make an intellectual distinction, which though it has some real validity, fails to reflect the continuum of things. We can say that psychic perception relates to form and that spiritual perception relates to formlessness, and this is more or less correct. Yet form and spirit remain a continuum, and our perceptions evolve in the fluid middle ground between material and spiritual material between the finite and the infinite.
For simplicity, I’ve divided the spiritual and personal levels. But in reality, things are not so sharply divided, and we should blend them because that’s more realistic. In this way we find that in objective seeing or hearing there can be a spiritual component. Everywhere, the spiritual transparency is laid over the personal one. So in every experience, physical-psychic-spiritual, we’re presented with a unified field. The physical and psychic (emotional-intellectual) components of any experiences may be rightly questioned. We can examine them and assess them. But if there is a spiritual component, if our experience has a soul, then that is the self-validating part. The body of our experience, the form it takes in our sense or psyche (shape, color, words)—these are the external or relative part, the part that intellect can address. But the spiritual part is transcendent to the intellect and phenomenal perceptions.
People tend to listen and respond as if words have more or less fixed meanings. But words don’t have fixed ordained meanings. They mean what we, the community of word users, agree they mean–and we often disagree and change our minds. Word meanings are in motion like the fluid consciousness that gives them birth, and dictionaries are the fluent history of our collective verbal habits. Dictionaries are not meaning bibles but an ephemeral record of how we have used words. Words are a catalyst for consciousness–there is no meaning in the words themselves. Or we might say words have shadow meanings that follow the actual meaning that exists in the life of consciousness. Words are symbols, forms, obscure mysteries—they are in the world of dead things and only take on meaning in a moment of illumination in the mind and heart of the reader or speaker.
I am a shadow of what will be, a suggestion of things to come–so are we all. And in dawn of future light, the shadow looks even less me than I foresaw. And when we start to be, to become in essence what we are, what sacred wonders then unfold! In these we see that space, that communion with our truer selves–along that way of lights is future world, yet present now were we more timeless in our present.
Let us consider the world of the “esoteric” or “spiritual science”—these suggests a wide diversity of things such as psychic phenomena, the supernatural, mysticism, meditation, tarot card reading, kabalistic obscurity, crystal balls, reincarnation, astral bodies, auras and chakaras, Eastern thought, metaphysics, and the occult. For some, the language may also call to mind witches and wizards, seances, a yogi in a mountain cave, magical charms, mysterious rites, and perhaps even some UFOs thrown in. And for some, the esoteric terms even associate with cults, satanic worship, or some TV show on the latest strange, weird, or bizarre phenomena. We might say that, the human scene, being what it is, people inevitably acquire a superficial picture; a caricature of whatever realities esoteric language is intended to point to. And among many people, a term like “esoteric” or “occult” conjures emotions most strange, while in this maze of language and concepts–usually but vaguely and poorly defined–wander the metaphysically oriented people of the world.
All this is not to belittle the truth underlying the language, but rather to help us realize more clearly the difficulties of discerning that truth. It helps to realize that excellent things are rare, and that for every true teacher, there are a thousand pretentious gurus. For every true psychic, there are a thousand pseudopsychics. For every prophetic visionary, thousands of false prophets walk the earth. And for every truly enlightened individual, there are thousands spiritual charlatans. And the matter is further complicated by the fact that we rarely have just obviously “false” communications but a cryptic blend of the true, and half-true, of false, and a partly false. There are a thousands of shades of partly true offered us from every direction.
And everywhere we find systems, gimmicks, offerings of pretty packages, of effortless cures and quick enlightenments, and even metaphysical versions of get-rich-quick schemes. And for every purely wrought axiom of wisdom, there are a thousand clichés and inferior versions.
It may also help us to realize that, at one extreme, everything becomes counterfeited and debased. Everything has false and glamorous versions. Everything has illusory and shadowy counterparts. So, on the surface, everywhere is scattered fool’s gold.
At the other extreme, in deeper spaces, is the clear gold light of wisdom. But between the extremes is a world of grays where things gradually shade toward the light. This is the world where our discrimination and insight are constantly tested. This is the world where we must learn to think and see ever more clearly. We live along a twilight path of human understanding, a world mixed of dark and light. Yet, along the way, we may more optimistically recall that shadows suggest the light that cast them.
Take heart then that the Powers that be thought so well of us as to lay upon our path such difficult circumstances. Our own powers are equal to the challenge, if not today, then surely tomorrow, and we have an infinity of tomorrows.
Let us bring out of the dense fabric of human thought some clear ideas, set them upon a pedestal, elevated, striking, luminous—suitable objects for reflection. The light of them is beautiful and, in one way, simple, yielding to us by interior radiance that vision of clarity we so deeply need for the difficult journey.
Everything is gateway and symbol. See these dots: . . . They’re an “ellipsis,” a form of punctuation indicating an omission. The word “ellipsis” is from Latin and means, “to fall short.” When we speak, write, or think, we always fall short and the ellipsis reminds us of it. Therefore, add an implicit ellipsis to each thought and expression.
The ellipsis is the most important form of punctuation. It should be burned into our memory like bright dots of fire. These little dots are not dots at all: they are points of light opening into the larger cosmos. The ellipsis has a powerful gateway attribute. It’s one of the most useful symbols in an open-minded person’s equipment. It reminds us that there’s always more to everything than is said or expressed. This means that no book, group, idea, teacher, philosophy, religion or science, ever tells us all we need to know about anything. There is always more beyond what is given.
Also useful for our understanding is the word “etcetera,” from the Latin, “the rest.” It is an antidote to our human tendency of period-and-stop thinking. The word should remind us of the bad habit we sometimes have of picking up a piece of the truth and saying with it. This is simple and obvious yet rarely understood and applied.