Last week I wrote about the transcendentals that lead us to God, even apart from divine revelation or religious dogma. And in that essay, I tried to show how the Way of Beauty can bring anyone who is open to an experience of the living God.
This week I would like to investigate the Way of Truth as a transcendental pathway to God.
But right off the bat, we hit a brick wall. While there is a consensus to what constitutes the Beautiful, it is an unpopular opinion to say that there is objective truth that is true for everyone, no matter where they are from and what their presuppositions are.
We are deep into a near-consensus in our modern world that there is no such thing as objective truth. Everything is conditioned by those who formulate truths. Depending on their background, they are influenced by what they choose to highlight out of their own intrinsic values. In popular parlance, we speak of some things as ‘true for you, but not for me’.
This would be absurd to thinkers and philosophers of the past! Nothing is just true for me ‘only’. Therefore, in the search for truth, one can be wrong in one’s conclusions and others may be right in theirs. This is anathema to the modern sensibility that everyone is right, whatever they believe.
Underneath this modern fallacy is the conviction that no one should disturb another in what they think is their own personal truth. Of course, the fact that ‘personal truth’ does not really exist does not enter into the equation. This unwillingness to engage in frank and charitable discussion for the purpose of unveiling the truth that exists, irrespective of the personal wants, desires and prejudices of the individual, seems to be one of the only absolutes that modern culture allows.
While it is true that the search for truth has often caused dissension and even wars, this should not outlaw the valid and caring search for the Truth that alone can make us free. We, in the modern world, are enslaved by our false philosophical notions which cause us to move about in error, and in doing so puts up barriers to the discovery of God who is at the center of human existence.
Yet, like the other transcendentals, Truth could bring to faith even the most hardened atheists and agnostics since it brings peace and relief in a way that cannot be found through any other means. What prevents this is the unacknowledged prejudice against the Church and God and the things of God. This bigoted position, when recognized, can be dropped and shed to reveal the vast expanse of Truth which is one Truth for all people and does not admit to the vagaries of human fashion nor the historical fallacies embedded in every era.
Once the mind makes this leap of faith all that is true becomes even more self-evident. Someone who begins to see (a favorite theme in the Gospels) can be amazed that they did not do so earlier. What held them bound was their own prejudices which were not known to the individual. St. John Henry Newman compared prejudice to an old stain on a sofa. After a while, we don’t even notice it; that is, until a new visitor comes into our homes, points to the stain and says something like: “How did that stain get there?” To which we often reply: “What stain?”
The Truth, once it is discovered or acknowledged, does indeed set us free. We can humbly admit this truth and see reality as it is for the first time. It goes from black and white to Color, like the ‘Wizard of Oz’. The Spanish say that life becomes “De Colores”, that is ‘in color’, for the first time!
One of the reasons for the blindness in modern western society is that it no longer believes that there is objective truth. This is what Pope Benedict XVI called the dictatorship of Relative. In a world devoid of absolutes, everything is permitted and nothing is forgiven.
Would that we all had the genuine scientific objectivity not to listen to our social and personal prejudices and to be truly open to the truth that is objective and not open to the whim of the subject.
As Jesus reminded us two thousand years ago: “The Truth will make you free” (John 8:32). It still does.
“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name.”
– Psalm 86:11