“The search for truth is a spiritual problem.” To understand the brevity of this statement, there must be multiple deep studies to be made, which would require a huge sample set, in addition to several thousand philosophy books.
But we can still interpret the statement and make our own opinions on it. Before, we get into the nitty-gritties of the statement, it is important to understand the meanings of the three important terms it contains: “search”, “truth” and “spiritual problem”. Let us begin one by one.
What is Truth?
The Merriam-Webster describes truth as an undisputed and verifiable proposition, principle or fact. To me, it can be aptly defined as the perception by our senses that, what we believe is correct and just. Truth and faith are the driving force that keeps humanity intact and propels us through the testing times to come out with our heads held high. In short, it is an individual’s perception of beliefs and decisions. It has the power to enlighten a person and save him from grief.
For that reason, truth differentiates among individuals through their differing and contrasting opinions. Basically, truth is something that everyone believes to be correct. Thus, it greatly depends on what is true in the minds of the people. Hence, truth is an expression, symbol or statement that corresponds to reality and happiness.
What one believes is the truth may not seem to be the same to another. That does not imply that the truth is in fact, a lie. It is simply factually differing.
According to Mahatma Gandhi, it is the sovereign principle which gives rise to numerous other principles. Truth not only implies genuineness and actuality of word but it should also reflect in deeds, actions and thoughts.
Although truth is cherished and rejoiced by man theoretically as well as on moral and theological grounds, as an ultimate existence of righteous and correct facts, yet a scrutiny of man’s known history reveals that it is one of the rarest things to exist and is never found in abundance. Quite ironically, it is a truth that truth itself is the hardest to discover in its purest kind.
The definition of philosophy, in Aristotle’s words, is in fact, the knowledge of truth. This might explain while most great philosophers are in peace with themselves. Having not only searched for the truth, but also found and defined it, they have attained the level of spirituality they need to find inner peace.
But the common man, his vision being limited, cannot understand the ultimate truth. This ultimate truth can be reached when man moves beyond a purely objective view point to a subjective and abstract view point. At such a level, the knowledge becomes less objective but more comprehensible and man moves nearer to the ultimate truth.
The Search for Truth
The search for truth is not merely an algorithm of reasons and logic. It leads to a path which ends in a higher level spiritual attainment. The search for truth is scientific to some extent but towards the end it becomes a truly spiritual quest. But such a distinction is never crystal clear because where science and per se logic ends and where exactly spirituality begins can never be ascertained for sure.
In order to pluck a rose you have to endure the pain of the prickly thorns. Similarly, the search for truth puts you to test the small burdens of life, since truth is always bitter. The biggest hurdle comes from the individual itself. Sometimes, the truth is uncovered at long last but unable to be accepted by the individual due to blind faith. Even this last step of acceptance comes under the search for truth.
There are countless books written to explain the search for truth, ironically some of which are not true in the first place. Since most of them relate to the religious point of view, let us take that example too. One of the most important truths in the world that nobody possible has determined is religion.
The existence or non-existence of God, and secondarily, which religion is the right one? This article will most definitely not support a single religion, nor disapprove of any.
But the example is most suitable. Each religion and community believes with full faith in what they are taught. That is the truth to them. Another man’s truth may not be the truth for the first. Yet, if one goes on the journey to search for the truth and uncovers something unexpected, they might not be able to accept it as the truth, as it goes against their previous learning and experiences.
To be honest, there is no truth to be found in this aspect – not in the current life at least.
To quote Suzy Kazzem, from her book Rise Up and Salute the Sun,
“The Truth searches for no one. It simply waits to be found.” It is
Where does spirituality come in?
Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life. As such, it is a universal human experience—something that touches us all.
Spirituality is concerned with spirits or in other words those phenomena which are intangible and incomprehensible. So to put in layman’s terms, one can say that as far as man’s senses reach is covered by science and beyond this lies the vast domain of spirituality. Truth is never absolute and not confined to a definitive materialistic boundary of science.
So when there is quest for truth man crosses the world of science and senses to tread into the world of unknowns, the world of spirituality.
Truth is a phenomenon not a thing. It is not something materialistic that can be comprehended by senses and logic. The phenomenon that it is, it goes beyond sense and hence it is spiritual. Truth is beyond man’s sense. Hence the man searches for truth.
The thin line that separates science and spirituality creates a barrier paramount for man to cross it over. When man crosses this barrier then only can he understand the ultimate truth. Truth lies in the realm of spirituality; science is simply a means to attain it.
The search for truth is never limited to mere objectivity. The ultimate truth lies in transcendence and the quest of truth can only be a spiritual problem.
Now that we have understood the three important terms and concepts in detail, we can proceed to understanding what we are supposed to do with the said knowledge. So when it comes to the biggest questions about truths, seeing as the deepest truths are ineffable or incomprehensible, then what are we to do when we are asked about them? There are two possible ways to go.
We could either pretend to have answers like the priests, politicians, imams, and assorted gurus. Or we could reply humbly as the Buddha did on his deathbed when his students sought guidance: “Therefore, be a lamp unto yourself, be a refuge to yourself.”
This is a most beautiful answer, as the only real answers to existential questions are the ones we find for ourselves. All others are hand-me-down or second-hand answers. Comrades may help us, but in the end we must find our own reasons to the mystery of being.
In the end, we are all beggars for the truth as William James had once framed it. The only difference is that some of us can beg better than the others. In other words, while none of us know the answers to all the big questions, some probably do know a bit more than others.
Regardless of all other facts, the search for truth will always remain a spiritual problem.