To seek the truth is a blessed endeavour, for “you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free”. It is a journey common to all the great spiritual traditions of the world. Gandhi described himself as a “satyagrahi” which means ‘a seeker after truth’. As I am a Christian, I shall use the Christian language here.
To seek the truth is a journey. It flows from a decision to pursue the truth, but we cannot fully attain the truth in this world. This is because “the heart is deceitful above all things” and we are to pray “save me from my secret sins”: we deceive ourselves. To become free from that deceit is the work of a lifetime.
The journey into truth is called ‘the way’. The way is followed by developing the habits of truth, letting our yes be yes and our no be no, and putting a bridle on our tongue. Before speaking we ask, not simply “is this true?”, but also: “is it loving, is it timely?”. This development of habits is called the cultivation of virtue.
The most important virtue to cultivate in the pursuit of truth is the virtue of humility, for it is humility that enables us to see ourselves as we truly are. Humility avoids two equal and opposite errors: the great sin of pride, in which we puff ourselves up and believe ourselves to be greater than we are; and the great sin of despair, when we despise ourselves and believe ourselves to be unlovable.
We cannot go on the journey into the truth relying on our own power. We need help, help from a higher power. This is why it is a spiritual journey, and all the great spiritual traditions describe it. The journey into the truth is the journey into God. It is the Holy Spirit that will lead us into all truth, for there are things that we cannot yet bear to know.
We cannot sustain ourselves on the journey into truth unless we know that we are loved by the higher power. If we are not confident of that love then we will be terrified of making a mistake, and then we will not be able to take a single step. The love that enables us to walk in the path of truth is called forgiveness. If our hearts are set on God then it does not matter how many mistakes that we make. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
The most important thing to know about forgiveness, a spiritual law, is: “the measure that you give shall be the measure that you receive.” In other words, if we share forgiveness, then we shall be forgiven. If we share condemnation, then we shall be condemned. This is called the life of grace: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
This is what it means to be perfect, and we are to be perfect in the way that God is perfect. God sends his rain upon the just and the unjust alike – in the same way, we are to share forgiveness with those who are worthy of it and those who are not worthy of it. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, we all fail in our seeking towards the truth. Yet because we do not rely on our own power, our own goodness, we can keep going even when we stumble. This is what is meant when we are told to “bear each other’s burdens”.
There are dangers on this journey into truth. The world does not recognise the truth and is hostile to those who seek the truth. The ways of the world are flattery and manipulation, accusation and condemnation. The world will use those ways to tempt and force those who seek the truth to turn their backs upon the way. In order to progress towards the truth we must become wise to the ways of the world.
The ways of the world can be known by learning about the prince of this world, the enemy, the father of lies, the accuser, the Satan. If we were on trial there would be a prosecutor, whose job is to accuse – that is the Satan. To walk in the way of truth is to realise and know that we do not have to defend ourselves from those accusations. It is the job of the Holy Spirit to defend us from all assaults of the enemy. As we do not need to defend ourselves, we do not need to play the game of praise and blame. In this way we are set free from the world, and we “know the peace that the world cannot give”.
The prince of this world has been overcome. We do not need to be afraid of him. Indeed, fear is the opposite of truth. The command repeated most often in Scripture is “do not be afraid”. As we cultivate the virtue of humility we learn the truth of who we are, and the truth of who we are is that we are the beloved children of God who have been redeemed from captivity in the world by what Jesus has achieved. If we turn to Jesus, no matter where we are, then we will know the truth and the truth shall set us free.
The deepest lie told by the father of lies is that we are unlovable. The journey into truth is the journey into realising the nature and consequences of that lie, and slowly and patiently allowing God to heal us.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life… If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
That is the destination that we find at the end of the journey into truth. We will be at home, we will know that we are loved, and we shall be at peace.