22 And the Truth Shall Make You Free-1
"31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
We have extravagantly bandied about the word truth in these past many sermons. We have pondered what it is, how to say, and it how to feel it. We have concluded that the DOING of the truth reveals the truth to us.
In the words of St. Augustine we have learned:
"All men indeed perceive that “shall know” is the same thing as “shall understand:” but that the saying, “If any man be willing to do His will,” refers to believing, all do not perceive; to perceive this more accurately, we need the Lord Himself for expounder, to show us whether the doing of the Father's will does in reality refer to believing. . . . . ."
We have thus contemplated the moral imagination as the source of right action, and have concluded, from the above, that right action is the realization of, an outer articulation of, an inner image created in the heart by faith.
"Without faith there is no truth, for that is all the truth is or ever was."
Truth, experienced through faith, is an inarticulate feeling to be found only in the "cloud of unknowing". Its resonance is at a spiritual depth that cannot be fully appreciated by reason. So how does it make us free? In order to answer this question, we must first examine its parameters, beginning with some articulate estimation of the character of freedom.
It sounds easy at first: freedom is the ability to do anything we want, to get anything we want--well duh. Freedom is the absence of restriction--nothin' is stoppin' us from nothin', nosiree! But what do we really want? And how do we know what we really want? Many of us spend our lives chasing after goals which, when achieved, turn out to be less rewarding than what we thought they were going to be, or, worse, to be the OPPOSITE of what we thought they were going to be. In The Screwtape Letters, a new arrival in Hell plaintively admits, "I now see that in entire life I never did what I OUGHT or what I LIKED." Clearly, the truth of this man's deepest desires was unknown to him until it was too late.
Perhaps it is truth, our own personal truth that allows us to really know what we want, and thus it is that the mere knowing empowers us to get it--what we want. But the question of what we want bears directly on the question of our relationship to the Son, and through Him to the Father. Do our puny little human brains ever truly know what we want, or are we led, hypnotized, from one glittering bauble to another, always tempted by the illusions of materiality, always fooled by the false truths of the world? Is freedom the realization of a dream, or is the dream one more articulate idea that, like light reflected on the surface of a puddle, makes it appear deeper than it really is?
Perhaps freedom is like identity and will--the more we surrender, the more we find our true selves. This is the principle that C. S. Lewis propounds over and over again: that the giving over of our personal will to the will of the Father, rather than diminishing us, simply makes us more and more our true individual, anomalous selves. God, as a "super-personalized Personality" subsumes us all under a single implicate (enfolded) umbrella. And thus, we find our true personal freedom in doing the Father's will. Do-be-do-be-do; identity and action are so intimately linked--who we are is what we do. And what our true identity is, is a single link in a long, hierarchical chain of identities leading to the identity of the Father. Doing His will is doing our own will if we only knew it. It is the truth of this that makes us free.
"Hell is full of people who said "My will be done". Heaven is full of people who said "Thy will be done."
"Aim at heaven, and you will get earth thrown in; aim at earth, and you will get neither."
Thus freedom is attained through right action--and DOING what is right is only possible when our individual will conforms to the will of the Father--a Will made plain to us through the moral imagination.
"I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, `Seek me in chaos.' I the LORD speak the truth, I declare what is right."
The expression "What is right," implies action; thus, to "declare what is right" is to DO what is right. Infinite freedom of action is bestowed on the soul who experiences the infinity of spirit.
Now the concept of "infinite possibilities" may be overwhelming to man's fumbling, squamous mind, but the Son, being a finite focus of the infinite Father, has no trouble choosing one action over another, because that is what the Son is all about--finite manifestation of infinity in the flesh. as we read in That Hideous Strength:
"To those high creatures whose activity build what we call Nature, nothing is "natural." From their stations the essential arbitrariness (so to call it) of every actual creation is ceaselessly visible; for them there are no basic assumptions: all springs, with the willful beauty of a jest or a tune, from that miraculous moment of self-limitation wherein the Infinite, rejecting a myriad possibilities, throws out of Himself the positive elected invention."
Thus, the infinite made manifest in the finite is the essence of right action. As Ramana Maharshi says:
"There is no Truth. There is only the truth within each moment."
"There is no truth", meaning that truth, like a photon, cannot be pinned down to a single moment of time, but is always evolving through a kaleidoscopic continuum of "elected inventions," always choosing, yet never chosen.
To continue this hit parade of "truth definitions" John 14:6 says:
"Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me."
[Sidebar: When I was first converting to Christianity, I got a terrific insight into this text from a doctoral thesis written a long time ago by a friend of mine in California--the insight has to do with the dual nature of Jesus as human and divine. My friend made the comment that the divine personality of the Son of God was a finite focus of the infinite God personality; he said that when Jesus speaks of Himself as the Son of God, as the ONLY way, truth, and life, it is not Jesus the man speaking, but the spirit of God, the I AM Presence, speaking THROUGH Jesus. Thus the Messiah is not necessarily a human God, but a merely man POSSESSED by the spirit of God. This argument made a lot of sense to me back then, when I was still quibbling about the impossibility of all those little miracles in the Bible--when I was still unaccepting of many of the basic tenets of Christian theology, like the virgin birth, Lazarus rising from the dead, and everlasting life.
Now, of course, these miracles are not in the least troubling to me, and I can still live with them or without them--I find there to be no difference between the mythological truth and the actual truth. The mind-boggling idea of the infinite focussed in space and time cannot be understood, but only experienced through faith in the cloud of unknowing. The agnostic may well question the divinity of Jesus, a man who appears to emerge at an arbitrary moment in time; but if we consider that, "In the beginning was the Word", and that the term I AM is the name of God that Moses learned way back in:
"God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, `I AM has sent me to you.'"
it is a lot easier to accept the concept that the Messiah has ALWAYS existed, and that His choice to manifest in human focus, at one time rather than another, does compromise the basic mystery of the event, nor its power to open the gates of heaven.]
"The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth."
John 1: 14 :
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father."
Recall the sermon by St. Augustine we read recently:
"Therefore, to speak briefly, beloved, it seems to me that the Lord Jesus Christ said, “My doctrine is not mine,” meaning the same thing as if He said, “I am not from myself.” For although we say and believe that the Son is equal to the Father, and that there is not any diversity of nature and substance in them, that there has not intervened any interval of time between Him that begets and Him that is begotten, nevertheless we say these things, while keeping and guarding this, that the one is the Father, the other the Son.
But Father He is not if He have not a Son, and Son He is not if He have not a Father: but yet the Son is God from the Father; and the Father is God, but not from the Son. The Father of the Son, not God from the Son: but the other is Son of the Father, and God from the Father. For the Lord Christ is called Light from Light. The Light then which is not from Light, and the equal Light which is not from Light, are together one Light not two Lights."
Remember that the truth of the Son is the truth of the Father; therefore, the mediation of our prayers by Jesus Christ is the surest way to obtain wise counsel when difficult choices of right actions are to be made.
"For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."
Between grace and truth there is a subtle but deep connection--just as truth originates in the cloud of unknowing, manifesting as faith, so grace is a mystery--a flow of nonjudgmental love spilling into us not from the mind of God, but from the heart of God.
The next few scriptures bear on the quality of truth and warn us that Satan may tempt us with false truths all the time. From this pulpit I have constantly cautioned us against using verbal structures as the basis for right action. Words are never more than pretty lies, and all lies originate in Hell.
"You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies."
1 John 1: 6:
"If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth;"
1 John 1:8:
"If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."
We heard this C. S. Lewis quote recently, as well:
"For there are two things inside me...they are the animal self and the diabolical self; and the diabolical self is the worst of the two. That is why a cold self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute."
Let us beware our own devil who delights in lies--lies that offer all the glamor of a glimmering, hypnotic appearance, lovely and fetching in all ways except for the fact that they won't hold up under the scrutiny of infinity. Another of my favorite sayings of Jesus, on this subject is the following from Mathew:
16 But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows,
17 And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.
I love this passage because the image of kids sitting around PRETENDING is so funny! It's too bad that people who base their actions and attitudes on make-believe can do so much damage.
W. Somerset Maugham:
"Man has always sacrificed truth to his vanity, comfort and advantage. He lives... by make-believe."
"We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable."
Simone de Beauvoir:
"I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth - and truth rewarded me."
Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please - you can never have both."Neale Donald Walsch:
"There is no truth except the truth that exists within you. Everything else is what someone is telling you."William James:
"The greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths."John 16:13:
We must concern ourselves, as much as possible with our own personal truth, expressed in out own personal language, and avoid coming to any verbal conclusions about anybody else. We must look into the cloud of unknowing with minds uncluttered with verbalizations about the world, and allow the light of heaven to spill into our hearts. Only when the light in our hearts shines through our mouths will we speak the truth, and know the truth, and share that truth with others.
"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come."
The Son sees the future, and, by leading us in right action, He sets up a chain of causality that affirms spirit manifesting through faith. Thus truth is prophetic. Right action is like hope: it not only brings spirit into the present by enlightening the eternal now with heavenly energy, it affirms the promised future descent of spirit into mundane reality by virtue of the essential nature of karmic causality; I mean: right action is motivated by the moral imagination which is unbounded by time, but right action still generates repercussions which spread out like waves through time endowing past, present, AND future with the radiance of truth manifested in the step-by-step progression from one plane of spiritual hierarchy to the next; I mean: every right action leads to another right action, and another, and another blending all the dimensions of time into a single implicate (enfolded) order.
The next collection of quotations deal with truth in nature. The manifestation of God may be felt permeating the essence of all His created works.
Martin H. Fischer:
"Truth is rarely writ in ink; it lives in nature."
"Truth is no Doctoresse, she takes no degrees at Paris or Oxford... but oftentimes to such an one as myself, an Idiota or common person, no great things, melancholizing in woods where waters are, quiet places by rivers, fountains, whereas the silly man expecting no such matter, thinketh only how best to delectate and refresh his mynde continually with Natura her pleasaunt scenes, woods, water-falls, or Art her statelie gardens, parks, terraces, Belvideres, on a sudden the goddesse herself Truth has appeared, with a shyning lyghte, and a sparklyng countenance, so as yee may not be able lightly to resist her."Robinson Jeffers:
"Science and mathematics Run parallel to reality, they symbolize it, they squint at it, They never touch it: consider what an explosion Would rock the bones of men into little white fragments and unsky the world If any mind for a moment touch truth."Werner Heisenberg, from Physics and Philosophy:
"It will never be possible by pure reason to arrive at some absolute truth."
Remember the Englishman, Anselm of Canterbury whose so-called "ontological proof of the existence of God", (proof of the existence of God based on WHAT IS), relies on reason, but not language-based reason, but rather, faith-based reason:
"Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that thou mayest understand."
"Anselm held that faith precedes reason, but that reason can expand upon faith. The groundwork of Anselm's theory of knowledge is contained in the tract De Veritate, where he affirms the existence of an absolute truth in which all other truth participates. This absolute truth, he argues, is God, who is the ultimate ground or principle both of things and of thought. The notion of God becomes the foreground of Anselm's theory, so it is necessary first to make God clear to reason and be demonstrated to have real existence."
Clearly, there can be no more "real existence" to the human mind than existence in nature, and yet to speak of "real existence in the human mind" reminds us not of nature, but of the many logical quandaries of Kant who was never satisfied with the evidence of his senses, but who put many filters between his sense experience and his inner psychological experience. As we have seen, in the authors quoted above, ontological materialism does not cancel out a sense of spiritual wonder at creation, this sense of wonder that cannot be contained by any science.
The next group of quotes concern themselves with the effects truth may have on us when seen by the world. Truth separates you from the crowd; giving up your preconceptions leaves you without props. Truth is not silent, nor is it passive; even if we try to keep truth a secret, it shows on our faces, and betrays us to men. This is why Jesus could not have escaped the cross even if He had wanted to: the truth excites the vengeance of people who are committed to their own private or group lies, and they WILL revenge themselves on those who threaten the comfort of those lies. Jesus threatened the Pharisees' complacent self-righteousness--it was a fated conflict written in the stars; and the outcome was pre-ordained.
"Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first, it is ridiculed, in the second it is opposed, in the third it is regarded as self-evident."Galatians 4: 16:
"Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?"Shoseki:
"Truth only reveals itself when one gives up all preconceived ideas."Oliver Wendell Holmes:
"Truth is the breath of life to human society. It is the food of the immortal spirit. Yet a single word of it may kill a man as suddenly as a drop of prussic acid."
James A. Garfield
"The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable."Aldous Huxley:
"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad."
Many years ago I wrote this little parable for a completely different purpose than the one for which I am using it here; it was about muscular tension in violin playing. Nevertheless, the idea of walking with an unnecessary cane my apply to the mind as well as to the muscle:
The Land Where Everybody Walked with a Cane
Once upon a time, in a far country high up in the faraway mountains, there was a land where everybody walked with a cane. The reason they walked with a cane is unclear: maybe there was an old grandfather in their distant past whom they imitated out of respect, or perhaps it had started out as a disguise against foreign invaders. Anyway, for centuries, in this isolated country the people had all walked with canes. The little toddlers had their baby canes, then they graduated to their kindergarten canes, their middle school, high school, and college canes, and then their walking-down-the-aisle- to-get-married canes. They never thought about it because this is how they had always done it, and life went on with everybody hobbling around leaning on a stick.
One day an explorer appeared on the horizon, lost in the mountains, and strode down into their little world on two feet. They took him in, fed him, befriended him, and tried to give him a cane since they noticed he didn't have one. He told them, "Thank you very much, I don't need a cane, and by the way why are you all leaning on them?"
They didn't quite know what to say, since no one had ever asked this question before. "Well, uh, gee, we, uh, always walk with our canes, we can't walk without our canes, if God had meant us to walk without canes He would have given us three legs, we can't walk without our canes, WE CAN'T WALK WITHOUT OUT CANES!"
Well, this explorer wasn't buying it: so one night while they were all asleep, he crept into everybody's room, grinch-like, and stole all their canes. When they woke up in the morning, they had to crawl out of bed and struggle to the street on wobbly legs to discover the meaning of this catastrophe. There in the square stood the explorer standing before a great bonfire, where a great pile of canes was cheerfully crackling up in smoke. The people were enraged, they were hysterical, they were petrified.
But as they approached the fire to try to save some of their equipment, somebody noticed, "Hey, we're walking!" "Hey, we're walking without our canes!" From a wobbly perspective they looked around and saw each other for the first time standing upright on two legs with both hands free. It took a moment, but in almost no time all they were dancing, and prancing, and striding about the square on unencumbered happy feet, free at last!
This is how the truth makes you free--by liberating you from the shackles you think you need.
Now the act of giving up your cane is not a trivial one--it can hurt like nothing your imagination can possibly prepare you for; but sometimes throwing off your self-administered shackles, like tearing the scab off an old wound, is the only path to freedom. Lean on Jesus and you will get some support, but, as C. S. Lewis says in The Screwtape Letters, you must ultimately do it on you own:
"Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs-- to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot 'tempt' to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles."To me, it is not a question worth asking, "Does truth really make us free?" Rather we should cherish the choices we have made dictated by faith. We must accept the freedom of the cross to which we have been pre-ordained, and plunge into the glory of the narrow path of infinite freedom.
The benediction today is by Rabindranath Tagore. Let us pray:
"Time after time I came to your gate with raised hands, asking for more and yet more.
You gave and gave, now in slow measure, now in sudden excess.
I took some, and some things I let drop; some lay heavy on my hands; some I made into playthings and broke them when tired; till the wrecks and the hoard of your gifts grew immense, hiding you, and the ceaseless expectation wore my heart out.
Take, oh take–has now become my cry.
Shatter all from this beggar’s bowl: put out this lamp of the importunate watcher: hold my hands, raise me from the still-gathering heap of your gifts into the bare infinity of your uncrowded presence."Amen.