“Our nature imposes on us a certain pattern of
development which we must follow if we are to
fulfill our best capacities: We must know the
truth, and we must love the truth we know,
and we must act according to the measure of
our love.” â€”Thomas Merton, Ascent to Truth
Why do we cry at the movies? Is the stimulus sadness, injustice, anger, joy? Is it beauty, or perhaps the recognition of some aspect of our own lives? These emotions seem so disparate. What, then, is the common denominator among these stories that touch us so deeply that they elicit a tearfully profound physical response?
Truth. The arrows that fly from movie stories into our hearts, whether positive or negative, go directly to the place of truth within. It’s the place where our truth meets God’s truth. It’s the soul; that familiar place for which a physiological reflex pathway is not defined, and yet, being the seat of our authentic self, it responds through a physiological mechanism: tears.
The soul is the point at which our personal truth, or relative truth, meets God’s absolute truth, and it cannot be explained by physical laws. For while physical truth has its own relatives and absolutes, spiritual truth is real and attainable by avenues not of the physical realm.
To access the soul you may at first feel it. To explain the soul you must know that there’s a transcendental aspect to our being that’s multidimensional and independent of time and space, yet is true. The soul is where the Holy Spirit resides in us. In this place we stand both naked and bold on the threshold of heaven’s gate. This is the seat of our divinity; it has no bounds or limits, save for those we ourselves impose. It’s a portal to what theologians call the Mystery.
“The eye by which I see God is the same as the eye by which God sees me,” said Meister Eckhart. This place is the lens. The truths we find in the movies aim at the very essence of ourselves and call us to authenticity. These stories call us to acknowledge the truths that define us, that bind us to Christ (and to humanity) through the Holy Spirit, and that afford us access to the presence of God.
Absolute Truth, Relative Truth, and Christ’s Truth Summarized
“We do not detach ourselves from things in
order to attach ourselves to God, but rather we
become detached from ourselves in order to see
and use all things for God.”
â€”Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
In truth, there is no separation. We are not separate from God; we are of God. God is in and of all. God is absolute (spiritual) truth. Our intellect allows us to believe we are separate; in fact, we choose to be “separate” or ignorant or unknowing of our true nature. This “separate” truth is your personal truth. It is the truth you learn from your human experience. Theologian Karl Rahner explains it this way: “There is a dynamism in us which we have not brought about through our own choosing, and this dynamism invites us to go it alone in life, to choose separation, radical selfishness, ‘thing-ness,’ which is eternal death and the tragic mockery of authentic selfhood.” One who pursues a personal truth not aligned with God’s truth will ultimately find an empty, lonely state of being with no purpose in relationship or life-promoting efforts. This is where Christ’s truth comes in.
Christ is the bridge between a God so infinite we cannot imagine his enormity and a God so intimate we are often ignorant of his presence. We find it difficult to feel close to God or to think that God wants to be close to us. We perceive ourselves not as part of God but as apart from God.
In truth we are of God. We are godly. We are of love. And it is through Jesus that we are able to recognize who we are, put aside our fear and sinfulness, and submit to our true nature. God wisely uses our very nature as “separationists” to speak truth to us through a psychological mechanism we are all quite adept at using called projection.
The Christ connection was an absolutely eloquent plan for the omnipotent God to relate to us in a life form familiar to us and to bring the message of truth to us firsthand. The truth of Christ, God’s truth as it involves us, is manifest eternally; in past, present, and future all at the same time. God’s truth is happening always, in all ways at all times. Like waves on the ocean, we come to God and return to God in a dynamic and eternal balance.
Our journey toward absolute spiritual truth involves the focusing or alignment of our personal truth with God’s truth through Christ’s truth.
God’s Truth Is Absolute
“The Truth man needs is not a philosopher’s
abstraction, but God Himself.”
â€”Thomas Merton, Ascent to Truth
Genesis 1. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.”
When God made life he did not separate himself from it. He poured himself into it. God is life. Life happens at every functional level. Everything about God happens on as grand a level as you can possibly imagine (macrocosmic) and on as minute a level as is understandable (microcosmic). Theologian Karl Rahner on God’s Truth: “The world does not reflect God simply by pointing to God as its creator. Our world with its evolution and history is the place and the process in which God himself means to become ‘all in all,’ in Word and Spirit.”
Life requires synergy, symbiosis, and the unified effort of all organisms and forces if it is to live on. The forces and functions we call life are, in essence, the physiological intricacies of the Creator, and God’s purpose rests upon these harmonious interdependencies. Decisions we make and actions we take are far more wide-reaching with regard to life on this planet than we assume from where we stand at this moment. This is cosmic truth. This is God-truth, and it is absolute and eternal.
1 Timothy 4:4. “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected.”
You and all life are God’s creation. This passage cautions us to see ourselves not as separate from God but as part of God’s creation. Those who believe in God accept that God is Truth. What most do not give adequate consideration is that God is eternal and in all and of all. God does not reside outside of us or outside of our world. God is both the Creator and the life itself. “It is not a speculative science of nature, but rather a habit of religious awareness which endows the soul with a kind of intuitive perception of God as he is reflected in his creation,” states Trappist monk Thomas Merton, who also paraphrases the message of Timothy: “…it is false to reject elements of Gods creation…[t]here is vanity and illusion of all things as soon as they are considered apart from their right order and reference to God their Creator.” We are not separate, we are part of; God’s deepest longing is that we know who we are in reference to God and glorify his purpose in our lives. God wants us to know the truth.
If God is everywhere at all times through all ages, so is truth. Therefore absolute truth is much bigger and expansive than we can know. God’s truth is both dynamic and eternal. It may seem counterintuitive to think of something as both absolute and dynamic, but it is true. God is life even though life changes. If you think you have encountered many changes in your lifetime, just imagine what changes take place over an eternity! God’s realm does not take place in linear time, a human measurement that makes our world a little easier to navigate. The real truth is if we are spiritual beings (and we are), then our relative truth reaches outside of the bounds of conception and decomposition. Indeed, even as physical beings, our spirits connect to realms beyond the physical. Remember, God is eternal, absolute truth.
Karl Rahner offers this perspective on God truth: “The whole drive of human knowing is toward God…He is the context within which any thinking and knowing takes place. He is 1) that within which we experience anything; 2) that toward which we move in all questions and decisions and 3) the source which evokes and opens up the possibility of all human transcendence.”
Reaching absolute truth is our destiny, and one that we will never achieve in the physical world. We don’t need to. All we need to understand is how we relate to God and find peace in the knowledge that we are God’s.
Personal Truth Is Relative
Genesis 1 again: “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.”
Relative (personal) truth is subject to interpretation. Your personal experience dictates your personal spiritual truth, and this truth is unique and sovereign to you. You may choose to share it with others; you may find that is coincides with others’ personal truths. God the Creator gives you a choice to find your truth, share your truth, practice your truth, and live your truth.
How you define yourself and your world is your personal truth. This is truth uniquely woven from your responses to the physical world. From the day you are born you begin to interpret life by using external cues and examples. You learn that there are certain things to fear, most importantly things that attack you at the very center of who you are: those things that try to convince you that you are not important, worthy, beautiful. As you are taught to judge these aspects of other people and places, you also question these aspects in yourself. You define yourself not as a godly creature but as flawed by the very defenses you build to protect yourself from your own interpretation of yourself. It is as if God and Satan are living in the same body. Indeed they are in a sense. God in you is your pure goodness and love; Satan feeds you negative stories about yourself â€” and you believe them. This is just what Satan wants: To turn you away from wholly recognizing and using your godliness.
“The obstacle [to our union with God] is in
our ‘self,’ that is to say in the tenacious need to
maintain our separate, external, egotistic will.
It is when we refer all things to this outward
and false ‘self’ that we alienate ourselves from
reality and from God.”
â€”Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
Your knowledge of your truth is held hostage by your fear and the limitations you have imposed upon it in order to survive in the physical world. When you begin to realize your truth, you will see that it is the same truth Christ espouses. You may verify your truth simply by asking yourself, “What would love do?” You know the truth. You know what love would do, because you are of love. God is within and without, always and all ways. God lives in you; always has and always will. You just have to remember this and seek unceasingly to live in God’s truth. Let God’s truth become your truth.
Christ’s Truth Is Absolute Truth Incarnate
“The becoming of GOD in the Word
incarnate is the decisive manifestation of God’s
will to share divine life/love in the Spirit with
all humanity.” â€”Karl Rahner
Christ’s truth bridges a gap that for some is still difficult to cross â€” the gap between our fallible humanness and God’s divine forgiveness and acceptance. As truth is multidimensional and eternal, so is our relationship to Christ. We don’t just adhere to his principles, but we internalize his divinity. God was incarnate in Christ, who, according to John, stated clearly that he was “…the way the truth and the life…. If you know me you will know my Father also” (John 14:6,7).
God’s plan in Christ was incredibly orchestrated to permeate the very nature of humanity on both personal and social levels and infuse every aspect of our beings and our cultures with a “God sense” or spiritual knowing. That is, how God is manifest in all aspects of creation and assures us that we are not separate from God (or each other). God came to us in human form, as a baby, in a stable, born poor and humble. Jesus spoke to us of the worthiness of those less fortunate; he cautioned us against blind obedience to legalistic ritual. He demonstrated over and over to us that the truth of his love is unconditional and that he expects us to love him unconditionally. He showed us that unconditional love requires great personal sacrifice; and that even after our physical deaths we live on as eternal beings through the Holy Spirit.
Humanity is taught to separate itself from creation from the moment of birth. As individuals we are taught to become independent of each other for survival in a world where independence is valued and, in many ways, necessary. In relationship we learn to modify our personality through the development of ego, a protective persona that, unbeknownst to the consciousness, intervenes on behalf of our sensitivity to shield us from worldly assault. While the ego’s intentions are often good, this protective persona disguises our divine and loving nature with the barriers it builds. So well hidden is our true nature that we cease to know ourselves. We lose our connection to creation, to each other, and to our own true spirit. We define who we are by the reflection of ourselves in others, often to our own detriment. We project our false expectations, our negative personality characteristics, and our faults onto others and in doing so we diminish our own value and responsibility as divine emissaries. We need to see ourselves as reflections of Christ, for it is as we know him in ourselves that we see him in others; and it is as we see him in others, that we know him again in ourselves.
John goes on to quote Jesus as he delivers the promise of the Holy Spirit to his disciples, “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth…. You know him, because he abides with you and he will be in you. I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you” (John 14:16-20). His message? Because of Jesus, we are of the Father, God, who lives in us and works through us by the Holy Spirit.
If you truly know that you exist (live) as Jesus does, in spirit above and beyond the physical, then you will live with meaning and purpose every moment of your earthly life and any and all dimensions of your spiritual life. You are saved, as you are nothing but light and love. You will have an idea of returning to God, which is where God calls you. You have always known the truth, for the absolute truth is the place that you came from and that to which you will return.
“We must not cease from exploration.
And the end of all our exploring will be to
arrive where we began and to know the place
for the first time.” â€”T.S. Eliot
When you stand at the threshold of heaven and see God with the same eye with which God sees you; when the negative images of your personal truth are washed away by the knowledge that in Christ you have received the Holy Spirit; when the illusion of separation yields to the fact of unity, you will wake from your sleep in the physical to the wonder and glory of the eternal. You will walk from darkness into light. You will no longer be ignorant, but you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
PEGGY BEATTY is a veterinarian working as a freelance medical writer. She’s been volunteering in children’s and youth ministries for 10 years. She lives in Kansas with her husband and two boys.