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Truth seeker

By - Dec 2, 2013 - Category Articles - Print Print - Version française

Newton and the apple

I noticed recently, as I was listening to one of these debates we all too often get to see on TV or hear on the radio, how little Truth is expressed in these exchanges. Perfectly malleable minds, weaving through this verbal universe; ideas and concepts going back and forth, one after the other, but carrying no weight, relieved of all reality, emptied of all knowledge.

Why is that? Because knowing, truly understanding, involves more than this mere game of ideas and theoretical scaffolding, no matter how ingenious and brilliant. Knowing involves a personal experience of reality, it involves the challenge of confronting our convictions and beliefs to reality.

I really like this anecdote recounted by the philosopher Emmanuel Berl. He greatly admired Henri Bergson as a teenager and was zealously defending the Master’s book to a friend. “We were talking about laughter”, he says, “my friend tickled me; I laughed. You see, my friend said, your Monsieur Bergson doesn’t mention that in his book! I was confused. I thought about it for a while and realised to my own surprise, that I passionately admired Mr. Bergson, but did not believe almost anything he said.”

And this is how some light tickling deconstructed Bergson’s theory in all lightness! As one master said, you can write pages about salt and its taste and discuss it for hours, but a single grain of salt on your tongue will teach it to you forever.

Ostad Elahi continuously insists on the irreplaceable and heuristic character of experience. “I have not written anything,” he says, “that I have not personally tested and put into practice.”

This is not to say that theory is vain. But, he says, “practice without theory is blind, and theory without practice is ineffective”. This maxim seems to set the way for those who wish to claim that they are “Truth seekers”.

Reason is certainly an essential tool. No one would imagine Newton discovering the theory of gravitation merely by watching apples fall from trees. Reason had definitely prepared the framework for this discovery to be made. But reason must be confronted with experiences that will validate its inspirations and deductions, as well as determine its limits.

This is true not only in science, but also in spirituality. Because, as Ostad Elahi puts it, “spirituality is a science” and life in this world is like a lab, providing us with continuously renewed experiences and infinite opportunities to increase our self-knowledge.

The Truth seeker’s efforts lie in the constantly renewed implementation of his or her practice of ethics. “You can learn what you already know,” Vladimir Jankélévitch liked to say. The benefits of putting theory into practice are obvious. What had only been thought about takes root within ourselves at unexpected levels of depth; we gradually verify the meaning of our presence in this temporary womb we call the body.

For the seeker who is motivated by this practice and sincerely in search of truth, there is no doubt that somewhere along the road joy will suddenly arise and the true human being that lies within will finally emerge.


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13 comments

  1. Haleh Dec 06, 2013 2:55 am 1

    “No one would imagine Newton discovering the theory of gravitation merely by watching apples fall from trees. Reason had definitely prepared the framework for this discovery to be made.” The same way, no one should imagine people controling their reactions better merely by reading the theory …

  2. Linda Dec 06, 2013 5:15 pm 2

    I consider myself a truth seeker, and am trying to wrap my head around the meaning of “Truth”. I get that I am not able to explain/define the experience of laughter to someone who has not experienced it before, but I don’t believe Truth is something that I can decide to experience when I don’t even know what it is! Newton had his mind set on physics and one day he was enlightened by the truth about the theory of gravity (and mind you, I don’t think he found the real Truth about gravity!). I am gonna trust Alain and believe that “…somewhere along the road joy will suddenly arise and the true human being that lies within will finally emerge” and I’ll experience the Truth!

  3. A. Dec 07, 2013 8:55 am 3

    While I have observed many times the importance of practice in order to understand theory, the example that impresses me the most is the “law of trust in God”: when you rely on Him, you understand that all that happens to you (pleasant or unpleasant) is for your own good.

    I thought I had understood this but didn’t realize that it was only through practice that I could really grasp its true meaning. Only by testing and seeing for my myself how some very unpleasent things were in reality blessings in disguise, aimed at healing my flaws and allowing a better understanding of myself (see article “Keeping a logbook: a key to the practice of ethics”) or preserving me from committing dreadful mistakes, did I realize the wide-ranging impact of this law. To appreciate the scope of this law, we could try to envisage what our lives would be like, if we were fully confident in it (this law): we would not be afraid of anything, we would be stress-free and serene, confident in the future. On top of this, we would be true believers in “Unicity”: we would understand that everything is managed by one benevolent being, and that nothing, really nothing, happens if He does not want it to.

    I obviously still have a long way to go, but by putting true principles into practice, and directly testing spiritual laws, one gets a little bit closer to reality, in other words one understands oneself better and one really understands how this world works (the laws that govern it)

  4. kbld Dec 12, 2013 1:47 am 4

    @ Linda

    I think “the Truth” is to be experienced gradually.

    The idea of sudden experience of total Truth, for example by being inhabited by It, is, on the one hand mostly inherent to classical spirituality, and on the other hand, “reserved” to spiritually very advanced people:
    – Inherent to classical spirituality, because in classical spirituality, the idea is not to concentrate oneself on the development of cognition but to devote oneself to God through formal acts of devotion and, one day as a result of a long period of practice, receive Love or something similar in an instant. It’s what Bahram Elahi calls the “sensorial method”, which does not result in the natural development of the soul due to a premature connection of the sensory faculties of the soul to the body, without proper previous development of the spiritual intellect (sound reason). (See chapters 7 and 8 of his book Medicine of the Soul).
    – “Reserved” to very advanced people, because experiencing total Truth means to be totally inhabited by It, and it requires to be in a state of being from which I, for one, consider myself very far.

    Meanwhile, Truth can be experienced, but gradually. Every time that you practice a spiritual truth, that you see the effects, and that you draw conclusions and thus understand the Truth a bit more, you experience it. It is not a spectacular way of experiencing it, but a natural one, adapted to our human nature. It is a true experience, even more true than the classical one I would say, because you understand it. And as Bahram Elahi explains in the lecture “the purpose of our existence”

    at 8:18) emotion is also produced: an emotion similar to the one experienced by a researcher who loves his science, but that has no equivalent.

    So, the idea of natural spirituality, if I’ve understood well, is to understand spiritual truths rationally, little by little, so as to develop our sound reason, and therefore gradually experience the Truth, in accordance with our nature, but to really experience it, by understanding it.

  5. Pouria Dec 13, 2013 10:08 am 5

    Speaking about ethics give me joy but when it comes to practice, I feel much less motivation and interest. That is my weakness, that I escape from practice…!!!

  6. mer Dec 22, 2013 1:51 pm 6

    @ Linda
    Your question made me think a little more about this article which I nearly dismissed as something I had heard before, never quite understood and had given up trying to. For me the words”…the human being that lies within will finally emerge” were really powerful because it reminded me of the times, when for a split second, a light bulb seemed to flicker in my head. Just for a second things made more sense and I felt safe and secure – full of energy and optimism. I have been happy to carry on thinking that these were just spontaneous moments of spiritual enlightenment because I am quite lazy and this would be great. But when I look at it, I have to (reluctantly for me!) accept that they have happened at times when I had been struggling to fight against a weakness and I was paying attention to what I was doing, why I was doing it and making sure to try to stop myself from expecting any pre-set results. Your question made me think of cause and effect. For example, laughter is not spontaneous. There has to be something to laugh about, maybe a joke or tickling to cause it. The more I think about it the more I realise that I should start looking for the effect of Truth and then maybe I will be able to get to know the Truth. I suppose then, I have to stop relying on my wishful thinking that by some inexplicable bit of good luck I will be in the right place at the right time and suddenly be transformed into a perfect human being. I do not find it easy to completely let go of this “wish” and I have to admit that like a stubborn child I keep finding that I am clinging on to it. I am in the process of setting myself a practical program and what really helps to combat my laziness is to remind myself that it is only at times when I have used my reason and put correct principles into practice that I came a tiny bit closer to seeing the effect of Truth, which to me is “the human being within”.

  7. yocto Jan 05, 2014 5:03 pm 7

    Please bear with me as I try to explain how a Holiday party could have ended in experiencing the “Truth” or rather “my definition of Truth”, but then didn’t. A few nights before Christmas I was invited to a “white elephant gift exchange” holiday party with a group of friends. A White Elephant gift may be a tacky gift, a humorous one, something from your garage or a thoughtful gift, and the purpose of the game is to entertain not gain. A few days before, I got a very nice gift from my boss, a box containing a variety of herbal tea with different flavors. I am not a fan of herbal tea so as soon as I got it I thought “it will be a re-gift” and soon enough it was nicely wrapped and taken to the party. First off, I am not sure where “re-gifting” stands in ethical manners, some people think it’s reduce, reuse, recycle at its best! Anyway, I got there. I was really at my best, nice, very friendly, engaged in conversations, asking about others rather than talking about myself, until they passed around the hat with numbers for the game. Now that I am thinking back, I am having second thoughts about this white elephant game thing too. I know it’s just a game but still, some people get attached to their gifts, it is never a good idea to “steal” it from them. Well, back to the party, I usually pull a low number and end up taking a worthless gift home. This time I pulled number 8. I was excited, because it meant I would have more choices to pick from! I think I started off on the wrong foot and I don’t remember hearing my inner guide saying “hey, I thought the purpose of the game was entertainment not gain!” so here you go, look how many opportunities I had to correct my thoughts/behavior.

    The game started and number 1 got tickets to AMC theatre and I thought “hmmm not interested, I already have a gift card for AMC.” Number 2 got the cutest little statue made of glass with big nose and big eyes that was designed to hold your eyeglasses, adorable! It immediately caught my eye and I fell in love with it. My ego was talking: “I always misplace my eyeglasses. That is a perfect gift for me.” I was looking at the gift holder who was the host by the way; he was fondly looking at his precious gift, trying to hide it away so no one even think of snatching it from him and I was thinking “not so fast my brother, you won’t have it cuz it’s mine! You temporary holder of the gift, my turn will come and I will be the permanent rightful owner of that little statue.” Many others also had an eye on it. My ego was now very excited and wouldn’t let go. Number 3 got my gift (the box of tea). She was the wife of the host and appeared to like it. “Whew…” I was pleased that she liked my gift. “So it wasn’t such a bad idea after all…” I thought. Number 4 first went for the statue but didn’t take it, instead he went for the box of tea! Wow…. my ego was very pleased now: ” the gift is really good. What a thoughtful gift you brought to this party!” I was not paying attention to the fact that the whole premise of that gift was based on my intention to get rid of it! The wife of the host now had a chance to pick another gift, unwrapped it, and it was a nice little DVD player. She really liked it and I still wasn’t getting it! I was staying on my ego’s side and being selfish with no regards for others! “YES slam dunk! Just this morning I was thinking that I needed a DVD player. Huh… what a coincidence! It was meant to be. The stars are aligned and the universe wants me to have a DVD player. That gift is mine!” Don’t you already have a DVD player? I asked and she said “we have two TVs and only one DVD player. I need it for the other TV”. I was relieved… “she has one, who cares about her other TV!” I was not hearing my inner guide saying “she is the host she has earned it, be mindful and considerate let her have it.” Instead, my ego convinced me “I brought food to the party so I have paid my dues, and am entitled to the DVD player.” The rest of the guests opened their gifts, some didn’t like what they opened, and exchanged it for another, nobody approached the statue or the DVD player! I was anxious for my turn to come, the rule of the game was that after two exchanges, the gift would be sealed with the owner. I was too drawn into the whole excitement of the game that I forgot it all… my purpose for being there, my chances for spiritual growth by controlling my ego and following my inner guide. Well, now it was my turn and I was already energized by the forces of my ego, like a conqueror “I can have any gift I want!” I carefully examined the statue. Yup, it was made of glass and very cute, but I gave it back, I already knew I want the DVD player, I either was being playful or selfish enough to buy time to compare which was worth more to me. I looked around, none of the gifts were tempting, the rest of the unwrapped gifts did not look promising at all. One of them was decorated with a beautiful huge golden bow signaling the content was not of much value. I looked at the DVD player, and asked to check it out. Yup, it was brand new. The wife was looking at me hoping I would give it back to her. I held the DVD player and for a few moments I had the chance to come to my senses and give it back to her and move on to open an unwrapped gift but no, it was too late. The work needed to be done ahead of time. No one is able to just start studying on the day of the exam! I kept the DVD and she snatched another person’s gift. All the others went for the unwrapped gifts. The box with the big bow was a box of chocolate. I was so happy that I didn’t pick that one! The party was over and it was time to say goodbye. I made a semi-fake gesture and offered the host to exchange her gift with my DVD player but of course she said no and I kept my conscience clear “you are so nice, you offered your gift, she didn’t want it, you are off the hook.”

    I left the party with a feeling of uneasiness. I didn’t realize until later, when I analyzed the whole chain of events. I know it was just a game, games have rules, I played according to the rules, but what about the rules of spiritual growth? Don’t they precede all the others? Call me crazy but I am pretty sure, had I taken one of those chances to correct my thoughts/behavior, I could have left the party with a feeling of happiness and certainty leading to experiencing a glimpse of the “Truth”. I know “Truth” has many facets, layers, meanings. But I think the ultimate, most beautiful, most enchanting, most profound and real meaning of “Truth” is experiencing some kind of closeness to The One, The Unique. I could have had it on my way back home that night, oh well, I lost it, but there will be other chances. “Truth” is within reach. We can touch it, only if we pay attention.

  8. run Jan 09, 2014 3:01 pm 8

    Thanks for your experience, which was really good.
    I think it’s okay that you gave your gift from your boss. The person that got your gift was happy. And you were happy to give your gift too.

    But the hostess had a gift that she wanted to keep herself and it gave an imbalance in the game.
    If the hostess was glad you won, you could of course also be happy for the gift.

  9. mer Jan 13, 2014 10:45 am 9

    @yocto
    Thank you so much for you experience because it made me think. I would say that you actually did nothing wrong. You made sure a good gift from your boss went to a good home, you were on your best behaviour and you simply played within the rules of the game. But I recognise that uneasy feeling you talk about. I have to admit that I suffer a whole lot more when I miss material opportunities which I think is because I am better at judging and Knowing exactly what I have missed out on. But when it comes to spiritual opportunities, I am not that good at even recognising them, let alone realising what they ultimately mean. But when I do, I become really upset and it takes me a long time to start doing anything positive about it. Thinking back, there have been many times I have just stopped at feeling upset and not moved on to doing anything else. Seeing it from someone else’s perspective was a good reminder that the only way I would ever have any chance of improving is if I made mistakes from which I learnt… and I had better start working on my pride! Also, a good reminder that analysing my day is crucial. Thanks again.

  10. kbld Jan 14, 2014 7:49 pm 10

    Me too, I don’t see the problem in selling a gift on the internet … A gift should be intended to please somebody, not to be a burden for him.
    The best is to propose to the person to whom we offered something to exchange it. The problem of giving the bill is that there is a price, and we aren’t used to it. But nowadays, we can see the price of anything anyway …
    Re-gifting has the only /potential/ problem to be a sort of lie to the new receiver: you make it as if you really chose it for him, as if you made that effort. But I don’t think it’s a really big problem…
    Of course, there is also the problem of hurting some people…

  11. Haleh Jan 17, 2014 2:46 pm 11

    yocto,

    You write so beautifully and analyze so well. I like reading your experiences a lot. As other comments suggest, you did nothing really wrong, but I also know the beauty of doing unusual good deeds, those that are only between you and God.

    Your story reminds me of another story my father used to tell me. To pass the entrance exam of a very good university my father had to be perfect in some subjects, one of them was technical drawing. His brother (my uncle) found a person who would buy correct perfect technical drawings for a good price and asked my father to provide some perfect ones telling him he could earn some money. The suggestion, apparently, was tempting and my father stayed awake at nights to draw more and consequently earn more. Some years later, when my father had graduated, my uncle had to leave the country due to some problems. My father along with some friends went to clean his apartment to make it ready for sale, and there they found all the drawings in a box in the garage …

  12. run Jan 17, 2014 9:05 pm 12

    kbld

    When I read your comment, I came to think back many years ago when I make a homemade gift. A few days later I saw that it had been a re-gift. It hurt me. At that time I thought it was ill-mannered to give a gift way.
    But today when I give a gift, I say if you do not like it you may give it to someone who will enjoy it. (The person who got my homemade gift was very happy about it)

  13. pzlz Jan 20, 2014 3:07 am 13

    I find this part so deep: “… The benefits of putting theory into practice are obvious. What had only been thought about takes root within ourselves at unexpected levels of depth; we gradually verify the meaning of our presence in this temporary womb we call the body.” Thank you for this article and thanks everyone for sharing your comments. I enjoy reading them!

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