Why is there a disconnect between them?
Shouldn’t the truth be sacred? Especially in a democracy? What could be more democratic than truth for everyone equally?
Well, it is for everyone equally. Except in practice. Jesus had that one figured out more than two thousand years ago.
“Give not that which is holy unto dogs,
neither cast ye your pearls before swine,
lest they trample them under their feet,
and turn again and rend you.”
Beware, Jesus was saying, for many are not ready to deal with truth, sacred or not, and the consequences of that could prove perilous to the person who declares it.
As we see every day, the ego inclines to take issue with truth, in particular when it fails to support the ego’s pressing desires. Most of the chaos and cruelty in today’s world is a reflection of precisely that.
Although it should seem obvious, a truth is never negotiable. Universally, it is the law. This does not deter us, however, from attempting to break it or bargain it down, mainly through the twisting of facts, because facts are easier to manipulate, especially if you’re a lobbyist or politician. But truth is or it isn’t, regardless of how we might wish to revise it.
People say, “I want the truth.” What they mean is, “I want it to confirm what I want it to be.” We tend to have a personal stake in believing we are right about what we believe, and many hold to it even in the face of opposing proof. The Flat Earth Society is still around.
In a democracy such as ours, we extol the virtues of truth, yet we witness its currency under frequent attack of devaluation. As voters, we go to the polls to support its noble cause, only to find that truth is not on the ballot. Here, again, the ego presumes upon it, and for a time the ego appears to occupy the seat of authority. But truth cannot be voted out, covered up, or compromised for long. That’s because its “chief of staff” never forgets or overlooks a transgression. Karma, the keeper of accounts, keeps them unerringly in balance.
In courtrooms, people swear to tell the truth. How many even know what that is? Is it something contained in the evidence that convicts or frees a person suspected of a crime? Truth is not probability. It is not based on information that may or may not be correct. Truth is always correct. It operates on a higher plane than that of mere information, higher than that of reason, higher than that of any legal ruling.
Democracy is a lovely idea, and I wish our leaders would practice it, but truth is not a democratic ideal, except in how it is meant to apply: to everyone, everywhere, always.
Democracy is a design that supposedly yields to the majority of those it governs. Truth is nothing of the sort. It is not relative or subject to interpretation.
Here’s another truth about truth. It does not play favorites. Yet, some people think they can “spin” it to serve a particular point of view. They may declare that theirs is the only religion that offers eternal salvation, that God loves one race of people more than another, or even that God is just a figment of our imagination. But such beliefs do not alter the truth of what their proponents have failed to see.
The opposite of truth is bigger than just a lie; it is delusion itself, and delusion is extremely good at its job. It convinces people that wrong is right when wrong is what they want to be right; and when they have made a mess of things, delusion also persuades them that others are the ones to blame.
The tone of Jesus’ warning, about not casting pearls before swine, may seem a harsh rebuke of the ignorant, but more so it is an observation that people live on different levels of understanding, and that all are not equally capable of discerning a pearl’s value.
Paramhansa Yogananda said that patience is the quickest route to redemption. Nature does not evolve by leaps and bounds. Nor do we. One does not become an expert in physics without first becoming an expert in basic mathematics. Without that foundation, exposing him to more advanced courses would not only prove useless, the student would probably learn to hate math altogether.
Until a person’s receptivity to a truth is equal to the power of the revelation it contains, it is simply wiser to withhold that power from him. Just as it would be reckless to entrust the safety of a nuclear facility to someone of insufficient knowledge or training, that which is holy cannot be safely entrusted to the care of a person who is not steeped in its sanctity and full understanding.
Someone who is ignorant of a truth can be trouble, but even more troubling is the person who gives it his own interpretation. History is awash in examples of people who have misconstrued the meaning of a sacred ideal and applied it to a personal agenda. Tyrants, in particular, are adept at doing this. Hence, we have further cause to prevent the democratization of wisdom that is beyond the comprehension of the general public.
Where this becomes a delicate issue is deciding where to draw the line. We cannot pass draconian laws in such matters. That in itself would be a form of tyranny. But a little knowledge is a dangerous thing in those of little mind.
There is no formula for this, and even if there were, democracy in this high-tech age of the Internet would hardly be a guarantee of its proper application.
It is also essential to notice where we, ourselves, are yet unprepared to fully embrace the holiness of a higher practice. When Mahatma Gandhi was asked by a woman to tell her son not to eat certain sugary foods, Gandhi said, “Bring the boy to me in a week, and I will advise him.”
A week later the boy appeared with his mother, and Gandhi did as she had requested. The mother then asked him why he waited a week to offer his counsel. Gandhi replied that he had been eating the same sugary foods, and that he needed the time to wean himself of their sweet appeal. In respect of even such a minor integrity as that, he would not offer advice that he, himself, was unwilling to abide by.
We need to live our sacred teachings to the best of our ability, and that best will be different for each of us. But regardless of our differences, our efforts must be sincere, and they must be progressive.
Will we falter at times in our practices? Will delusion still get the better of us when temptation comes along with something alluring? Until we have reached the summit of our sainthood, we will have plenty of work to do, daily blunders and faults to correct, courage and strength to cultivate and master. That is why we are here.
“Truth is one and eternal,” wrote Swami Kriyananda, adding that our assignment is to “realize oneness with it.” Democracy, because it is human, is destined to disappoint. Truth, because it is divine, is destined to lead the devotee to freedom.