First, in order for truth to be possible, one must implicitly maintain that the world is intelligible and that man may know it. Truth then is a relation or adequation between these two: ultimately between man and cosmos.
Next, one needs to propagate this truth to others.
No, I take that back. Rather, one can always just horde the truth and keep it to oneself. More for us! But interestingly, virtually no one wishes to do this, least of all the God in whose image we are.
Instead, when a normal man stumbles upon a truth, he has an intrinsic desire to share the joy with others. Indeed, truth radiates, just as does beauty, but in a slightly different way. I would say that truth partakes of the Absolute, beauty the Infinite. Truth doesn't need to be compelled by force, as the left believes, because it attracts by its very nature. Only lies are compulsory. Also, if truth were compulsory, we would be deprived the merit of faith. Faith too is an adequation, but it involves one's whole being, not just the intellect.
As an aside, wouldn't it be nice if some people would keep the truth -- or what they regard as the truth -- to themselves? If they had just done that, then there would have been no Soviet Union, no Nazi Germany, no Islamism. We'll return to this topic later, i.e., the impulse to propagate the Lie, and what it means.
[UPDATE from seven years hence, i.e., today: I was just reading of this very subject in Dennis Prager's line-by-line analysis of Genesis: placing ideology above truth "is not only common, it is probably the greatest source of mass evil in the world." Each of the genocides of the twentieth century was justified by massive lies that were obviously attractive to masses of people. "Given the overwhelming importance of truth, it is no wonder the Talmud states, 'God's signature is truth.'"]
In order to propagate truth, man must be able to formulate it in his head, put it into words, and transmit it to others. But then the person to whom one is speaking must decode the transmission back into the experience of truth.
Right there you've got another problem, because, to plagiaphrase Karl Popper, it is impossible to speak in such a way that one cannot be misunderstood. Did you understand that? Well, good. This means that some things can be understood. Communication is difficult but not impossible.
But what about more complex things, like, say, the truth of man? When we say "truth of man," we have several things in mind, but they essentially come down to three areas: our origin, our destiny, and our present purpose. Or in other words, where did we come from, where are we going, and what should we do? Or even more simply, Who (are we), Why (are we here), and What (are we supposed to do with our lives), respectively.
[To which another critical item must be added: what gets in the way, and why?]
Now, any sane man acknowledges up front that ultimate -- or transfinite -- truth is impossible for a finite being. Unless, of course, this truth is somehow communicated -- which is to say, revealed -- to man from outside, above, beyond, or behind the cosmic system. Some will say this is impossible and leave it at that. However, if you have senses of irony and humor, you will recognize that only a god would be in a position to affirm such a thing. Or in other words, if God doesn't exist, only he knows it. And if he does exist, only man can not know it.
Back to our problem. What if someone 1) discovers a critical truth, 2) formulates it, 3) publishes it, and 4) no one but a few fertile eggheads pays attention?
What I specifically have in mind is Voegelin's Science, Politics, and Gnosticism, which strikes me as densely packed with vital truths about man. And when I say "vital," I mean that man cannot survive -- not as we know him, and not in the long run -- without knowing them.
Time out for aphorisms:
The modern man is the man who forgets what man knows about man.
Each day modern man knows the world better and knows man less.
First, we should point out that Voegelin is hardly the only person to discover truths that no one wishes to hear. But more importantly, if this is the truth, then it is doubtful in the extreme that he would have been the first to discover it.
Indeed, Voegelin once quipped that one of the hallmarks of truth is unoriginality. Just as animals come equipped with various mechanisms of defense, man's intellect has always been able to arrive at certain salutary and guiding truths (to paraphrase Schuon, as unwavering instinct is the animal's intellect, unwavering intellection is man's instinct). But since we also have free will, we are free to deny, invert, and even oppose these truths.
This lines up with something else Schuon wrote, to the effect that everything has already been said, and even well said, but it still needs to be discovered anew by each generation. And as mentioned above, when spontaneously discovered, there is an intrinsic joy associated with sharing it, i.e., the cosmic Woo Hoo!
One of Voegelin's themes is that when a man moves from faith to ideology, he falls from uncertain truth to certain untruth. Obviously, man has a lust for certitude, but this must be a means, not an end. If this passion does become an end, then one has entered a state of pneumopathology.
As mentioned in yesterday's post, Voegelin made the statement that "the essence of modernity is Gnosticism." What did he mean by this?
First, let's discuss what impels a man to Gnosticism. First, the would-be Gnostic "is dissatisfied with his situation," which, in a certain sense, is neither here nor there, for all men are dissatisfied with their situation. This is just another way of saying that man is a finite being with infinite appetites. Life is tough. Deal with it.
Ah, but this is precisely what the Gnostic refuses to do, which is to say, accept reality. For the Gnostic does not consider the constraints of existence, let alone the nature of man. Liberals, says the Aphorist, describe a past that never existed and predict a future that is never realized.
[One immediately thinks of Sowell's classic elucidation of the unconstrained vision. If you pay attention to the forthcoming Democratic debates, you will hear nothing but unconstrained vision mingled with unconstrained hate, which I believe to be the most dangerous combination in mankind's deadly arsenal.]
Rather, the Gnostic visionary concludes that the community of man is just "poorly organized" and that "salvation from the evil of the world is possible." No one doubts that things can improve, but everyone should doubt that, say, an Obama has it in his power to do such a thing, especially with no unintended consequences, no losers, no trade-offs, no scapegoats, etc.
But the Gnostic believes "that a change in the order of being lies in the realm of human action" and "that this salvational act is possible through man's own effort." Remember Obama's 2008 promise -- or was it a threat? -- that he intends to fundamentally change this nation. But of course, it has always been known that any idiot can make history by changing things. The hard part is keeping them, e.g., life, liberty, property, etc. [A slogan comes to mind: Keep America Great.]
Usually the Gnostic has his own personal issues, which he avoids by inflicting them upon the rest of us. I mean, no one cares if Obama thinks he can save the world. It only becomes a problem for the rest of us if he is given the power to try.
We'll end with another aphorism to bear in mind as the Twenty Dwarves fight over who's the tallest:
Social problems are the delightful refuge of those fleeing from their own problems. --Dávila