'The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off '- Gloria Steinem
How can my truth be different to yours? How do we come to accept something as truth? And, when we talk about something like EMFs (Electro Magnetic Frequencies) where there are numerous perspectives, how can we discover whose ‘truth’ is the right one?
Most of us believe in there being an absolute truth about something, if only we can find it. In spiritual traditions the word Truth is often capitalised to denote this, with the caveat that until we are awake/realised/enlightened (in other words, able to see the whole picture without distortion) we won’t be able to access it. But, until that point, what do we do?
Interestingly, on my MSc course we recently explored different theories of truth[i]:
- Correspondence ie. what is said must be true if it corresponds with what is seen in the ‘real world’ – the ‘scientific’ approach of finding evidence to support or negate a theory
- Coherence ie. what is said must be true if it seems plausible and internally consistent
- Consensus ie. what is said must be true if there is consensus between people about what it does
- Pragmatism ie. what is said must be true if it works.
So, I’d say that my view on EMFs comes from correspondence (there is enough scientific evidence to make me concerned), coherence (the ‘story’ of EMFs makes sense to me), consensus (several people I know and trust have suggested caution) and pragmatism (I get a headache if I spend a long time on a mobile or DECT phone). I’d say the last two are the most persuasive for me, and are why I wrote the last blog. But you could argue, if you believed a different truth, that I keep poor company and that the headaches are caused by something else.
So let’s take the debate into another area. If we look at the link between saturated fat and heart disease, back in the 1970s there was initially some scientific evidence (correspondence) between the two. Then, a coherentscientific theory was created to explain this, which was convincing enough to create a medical consensus. So far so good. And for decades now, the ‘truth’ that has been presented to us is that a diet low in saturated fat leads to good heart health. However, at the same time that this advice was being given out by doctors, food manufacturers and many other healthcare professionals, levels of heart disease have grown exponentially. So something clearly wasn’t right. Then the medical consensus began to change, initially with controversial voices disagreeing in the wider press, and leading, this month, to the highly respected British Medical Journal[ii] publishing an article declaring that saturated fat is not the major issue, trans fats are – and that the advice that was handed out for all these years may have made the problem worse. And yet on the day I heard about this controversy an advertisement was played on my local radio station giving advice to listeners to eat less fat.
So where is the truth in this matter? Have the scientists got it right this time, or are trans fats another red herring? More widely, what do we do when the truth (in the form of a general consensus) changes, or when scientific ‘proof’ is potentially decades away?
Finding the truth appears to be a delicate balance between not believing blindly (ie. looking carefully, questioning what we are told and exploring the potential agendas of those who might be presenting a particular truth to us) and having enough faith to be open to what lies beyond what we can see and feel and sense at this present time.
So we still need our teachers and guides, but always want to test this, where possible, ourselves. If I’ve never seen a rainbow because I’ve never looked up at the sky when there was sun and rain present, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and I can’t ever see one. And those with the experience of having seen rainbows can help me understand what the right conditions are and that I then need to look up! Then the experience of having seen a rainbow becomes mine, it becomes my ‘truth’, but I might not have got there without them.
So although we want to search for our own truth, we can never stop listening to others. I’ll leave you with this quote from Chogyam Trungpa, from his book Transcending Madness:
“Things do exist as they are, but we tend to see our version of them, rather than things as they really are. That makes everything that we see projections. But one doesn’t have to make a definite & absolute reassurance of that neccessarily at all. You just go along with situations, go along dealing with them. If you are going too far, they’ll shake you.”
So… notice what shakes you. Just as I notice headaches when I use certain phones. And let that, informed by what you read and are told by others, be your truth.
[i] Darwin, J (2010) “Kuhn vs. Popper vs. Lakatos vs. Feyerabend:Contested Terrain or Fruitful Collaboration?”, Philosophy of Management Journal