Understanding New Truths

I owe to organized religion my introduction to the notion of truth and to my schoolteachers the awareness that the progressive movement of humanity is not only possible, but highly probable. What I never came to understand from either church or state, however, was how we might realistically and practically come to the point where we as a body - the body of mankind - could become so aligned with truth that religious and political divisions would no longer serve any purpose or be seen to hold any value.

We see in the remarkable stories of great prophets and secular leaders the influence one person can have upon the many, but even the most ardent optimist can become dismayed by the reactions of the tumultuous crowd which aim to smother, cover up and rationalize away any evidence of men or women who reveal truth in any meaningful and clear way. Anyone compelled to reveal the truth of love must come to terms with this tiresome rejection, but more importantly, he or she must have faith in the longer-term impact of a life lived in accordance with truth.

Consider this brilliant analysis proffered by Leo Tolstoy in 1893:

Men do not only assimilate a truth through recognizing it by prophetic insight, or by experience of life. When the truth has become sufficiently widely diffused, men at a lower stage of development accept it all at once simply through confidence in those who have reached it by the inner spiritual way, and are applying it to life.

Every new truth, by which the order of human life is changed and humanity is advanced, is at first accepted by only a very small number of men who understand it through inner spiritual intuition. The remainder of mankind who accepted on trust the preceding truth on which the existing order is based, are always opposed to the diffusion of the new truth.

But seeing that, to begin with, men do not stand still, but are steadily advancing to a greater recognition of the truth and a closer adaptation of their life to it, and secondly, all men in varying degrees according to their age, their education, and their race are capable of understanding the new truths, at first those who are nearest to the men who have attained the new truth by spiritual intuition, slowly and one by one, but afterward more and more quickly, pass over to the new truth. Thus the number of men who accept the new truth becomes greater and greater, and the truth becomes more and more comprehensible.

And thus more confidence is aroused in the remainder, who are at a less advanced stage of capacity for understanding the truth. And it becomes easier for them to grasp it, and an increasing number accept it.

And so the movement goes on more and more quickly, and on an ever-increasing scale, like a snowball, till at last a public opinion in harmony with the new truth is created, and then the whole mass of men is carried over all at once by its momentum to the new truth and establishes a new social order in accordance with it.

Those men who accept a new truth when it has gained a certain degree of acceptance, always pass over all at once in masses. They are like the ballast with which every ship is always loaded, at once to keep it upright and enable it to sail properly. If there were no ballast, the ship would not be low enough in the water, and would shift its position at the slightest change in its conditions. This ballast, which strikes one at first as superfluous and even as hindering the progress of the vessel, is really indispensable to its good navigation.

It is the same with the mass of mankind, who not individually, but always in a mass, under the influence of a new social idea pass all at once from one organization of life to another. This mass always hinders, by its inertia, frequent and rapid revolutions in the social order which have not been sufficiently proved by human experience. And it delays every truth a long while till it has stood the test of prolonged struggles, and has thoroughly permeated the consciousness of humanity.

What you do now matters immensely, no matter how obvious or not it may be to you at the moment. Truth will take hold in men’s hearts and you need not despair about the speed at which the process works out. Don’t let the rejection or doubts of others distract you from your inner spiritual path, which incidentally, is only of value if it leads you to embrace more full the doctrine of meekness, forgiveness and love.

I’ll leave you today with this final, brilliantly inspiring thought from an earlier paragraph of the same book by Count Tolstoy:

This transition from one organization of life to another is not accomplished by degrees like the sand running through the hourglass grain after grain. It is more like the water filling a vessel floating on water. At first the water only runs in slowly on one side, but as the vessel grows heavier it suddenly begins to sink, and almost instantaneously fills with water.

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9 Responses to Understanding New Truths

  1. Kai Newell says:

    I am enjoying getting to know some of Tolstoy’s writings through your blog. Very thought provoking!

  2. Kierney says:

    Wow, such an insightful and fascinating excerpt about the process by which the truth is understood.

  3. Coco says:

    What a compelling explanation. I’ve often thought about how that sequence might proceed. Brilliant, thank you. It does emphasize the power and responsibility of the few, …” a voice crying in the wildness “. Thank you Gregg for your ever encouraging posts to stay the course.

  4. Steve V says:

    Yes there is an immense responsibility for those with true spiritual intuition. The world really does depend on those who have such inclinations. Thank you for providing a setting for all so inclined.

  5. Brad says:

    i was talking with my children just yesterday about the choices they make and the impact even the “smallest” decision can have not only on themselves but others as well. And then i was given an opportunity to learn from my own suggestion, and my children were there to remind me. (good thing for a loving support network regardless of age or experience)
    That’s the thing I enjoy about life, the opportunity to learn and grow at every stage…and sometimes we pass thru those lessons smoothly and other times with a bit more struggle as the past is held on to with a tight grip. I find change to be easy if I allow it, other times I can be a bit more stubborn 🙂 . one thing is true, it takes only one to start the process of change – (think you’ve shared this before – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V74AxCqOTvg)
    i love your encouragement to know the truth, to step out, to not be overly influenced by what others are doing, and to rise to our full potential.
    thanks Gregg.

    • Gregg Hake says:

      Great video, Brad. Thanks for sharing!

    • Strawberryfield says:

      Loved that TED talk! Thanks so much for sharing it! It does take courage to follow when the leadership or idea you want to support is still in the phase of being derided. This is where faith and perseverance are developed.

  6. Zach says:

    I never realized that Tolstoy had such a remarkable insight into the progress of truth. He has so eloquently described a process that most would see as an intangible. Most in the preceding sentence being the “whole mass of men” that he describes. Yet it is not an intangible to those first few, it is a process of purification where what is discovered as the “real” truth (actually the truth all along) is able to filter from “spiritual intuition” into action in everyday life. That is what we must realize: it is our job to make these intangibles tangible in ourselves, first.

  7. Ricardo B. says:

    Now there’s a gem – if there can be anything salvaged from a distorted situation, please, by all means, let it be salvaged! “Don’t let the rejection or doubts of others distract you from your inner spiritual path, which incidentally, is only of value if it leads you to embrace more full the doctrine of meekness, forgiveness and love.” Classic!

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