October 16, 2002
volume 13, no. 117

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Truth - the Forgotten Ideal

    Submission is one of the deepest needs of the human heart. After a century and a half of false liberalism, in which it was denied that anything is true, and that it makes no difference what you believe, the world reacted to totalitarianism. It grew tired of its freedom, just as children in progressive schools grow tired of their license to do whatever they please. Freedom fatigues those who want to shirk responsibility. Then it is they look for some false god into whose hands they can throw themselves, so they will never have to think or make decisions for themselves. Nazism, Fascism, and Communism came into being during the twentieth century, as a reaction against false liberalism.

    Self-will always repudiates a truth which challenges it. However successful self-will may be, it is never satisfied; that is why the egotist is always critical. The "head that wears the crown is uneasy," not because he is tired of the crown, but because he is tired of himself. He has it within his power to do anything he pleases, and this living without boundaries and limitations becomes as dull and stagnant as a swamp. A river must be happier than a swamp because it has banks and boundaries; a swamp is a valley of liberty that lost its shores and became "liberal."

    The only ones who are truly free from the bondage and the burden of self are those who hold to a truth. "The truth will make you free," said Our Divine Lord (John 8: 32). Only the boxer who knows the truth about fighting is free to stay on his feet. Only the one who knows the truths of engineering is free to build to build a bridge that will stand. The lover of truth is under an eternal law of rectitude; as he submits to it, he enjoys peace. Truth is not something that we invent; if we do, it is a lie; rather truth is something we discover, like love. In that great book of C.S. Lewis called Screwtape Letters, there is a series of correspondence between an uncle devil in hell and a young nephew devil on earth. The young devil is trying to win souls over to himself by talking about the "Truth of Materialism." The old devil reprimands him saying that he must not talk about "truth"; that is the word that is used by our "enemy God." You might confuse minds; get them to inquire whether a thing is "liberal or reactionary," "right or left," "modern or behind the times." Evidently Screwtape, the old devil, has succeeded pretty well with politicians and others.

    Truth does not challenge, but truth does develop. Two and two do not make four in the thirteenth century, and sixteen in the twentieth, but arithmetic does develop into geometry, and geometry into calculus. Nor is truth easy to discover, particularly when it affects our lives. There are two kinds of truth; speculative and practical. Speculative truth is the truth of knowing, such as comes to us from philosophy, mechanics, physics and chemistry. Practical truth, however, is concerned with doing and living, such as ethics and morals.

    The first kind of truth is very easy to accept, e.g., London is the capital of England. The reason is because it does not in any way involve a change in our conduct. It makes no practical difference to our lives. But the truth of morality, such as purity, justice and prudence and charity are not so easy for acceptance, because they often demand a revolution in our behavior. That is why men are more willing to accept objections against a principle of morality than against a theory of science. Our Divine Lord referred to the difficulty of accepting practical truths when He said: "You will not come to Me because your lives are evil" (cf. John 5: 19-47).

    Truth is a narrow path; either side is an abyss. It is easy to fall either to the right or the left; it was easy to be an idealist in the nineteenth century, as it is easy to be a materialist in the twentieth century; but to avoid both abysses and walk that narrow path of truth is as thrilling as a romance. Truth is like the veins of metal in the earth; it is often very thin and runs not in a continuous layer. If we lose it once, we may have to dig for miles to find it again. Grains of truth are like grains of gold that prospectors find; they can be discovered after a long search; they must be sifted from error with great patience; they must be buried with sacrifice to erase the dross and washed in the streams of honesty. Notice how often today men in public life accuse one another of "lying." Why is it they never speak of truth? May it not be that they studied in the same school as Pilate and asked "What is Truth?" (John 18: 38) and then turn their backs on it. IT takes a heap of virtuous living for any one of us to discover Truth.

October 16, 2002
volume 13, no. 117
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