Illusion of Knowledge
the defining of truth
In these next paragraphs I present to you
one of the more intense of philosophical dilemmas; the real nature of learning. Whilst not strictly
talking of shamanic practices, this section is shamanic in its application,
which will become clear a little later on.
In a nutshell, learning’s ultimate goal is
understanding; facts and knowledge inevitably get in
the way of understanding because ego is attached to
outcomes and not processes. Please re-read it a few times
if it is not making sense to start. OK, on with the
“The fact is…”.
“The fact of the
“… and that’s a fact!“.
How many times have you heard someone’s
version of what ‘the fact is’ and found that from your
viewpoint of reality, the so called, ‘fact’ is not a fact in any
shape or form to you? The seemingly incontrovertible
fact was simply another's interpretation of a
set of data; often the same data from which you arrived
at a totally different conclusion, given your point of
The main problem is that anything we wish
to brand as, “truth”, “fact” or even “reliable
assumption” ultimately requires subjective assessment. Let’s set out a bit
of background before we get too tangled up though...
We constantly judge and assess data. Am
I hungry?, does that dog represent a danger?, am I
prepared for work?, how fast should my car be going
now? These are moment to moment judgements and
assessments necessitated by survival. The main point
here is that we are constantly assessing and judging
data, now let’s look at how we assess that data,..
There are two methods of assessing
anything, objective and subjective assessment.
Objective assessment is defined as one
which is free of bias, personality and prejudice.
Objectivity is regarded as scientific, impartial & dispassionate; it
will [theoretically] produce a consistent outcome which will be
arrived at over and over given the same reference data.
Measuring a temperature with a good quality thermometer
yields an essentially objective assessment; a result that any person
could reasonably expect duplicate fully given the same
Subjective assessment happens where one
or more points of data are not classically ‘measurable’;
the functional opposite of objective assessment,
subjectivity utilises experience, judgement and personal
scales. Pain & love are classically subjective terms.
Subjective assessments require grading of the thing
being assessed into a personal and non-material scale.
“It is a cold day” is a subjective
statement of personal opinion, suggesting a personal and
relative set of references.
“It is 18 degrees” is a [more]
objective statement, based on the output of an
instrument [thermometer] independent of emotions,
opinion or bias.
Objective data is the goal of modern
science. Science’s [often forgotten] challenge to its
devotees is to constantly challenge old data and
constantly challenge every assumption, every measurement
and every principle. Science is based upon a thing
called the, “scientific method”.
In a nutshell, the scientific method
demands a theory be backed by experiments which produces
results [observations] accurately predicted by that theory.
Science demands that the results of a valid experiment
be consistently replicable. To make this happen,
scientists have to identify and control as many
variables (things that may change the outcome) as they
The scientific method tells us that once all of the variables are
identified and controlled properly, then a valid experiment
will yield the same results over and over. Then
altering a single variable with a subsequent alteration
of outcome proves that the changed variable was the active
factor in the changed outcome. When
achieved, such an outcome is scientifically ‘proven’.
Most of science’s greatest breakthroughs
have come when the inquiring minds of the day decided to
re-examine the scientific facts of the day; discovering
in the process that the popular interpretation of the
data was ‘less than optimum’ (a nice way of saying,
“wrong”) when reassessed from a different point of view.
It is good to remember that some
irrefutable facts from not that long ago included a
completely flat world as the undisputed centre of the
The ultimate goal of the modern
scientific method is arguably to produce a fact.
The objective determination that a given thing
is true. Something which stands up to all methods of
disproof and is completely and reliably replicable. A
collection of facts is called knowledge. Those
scientists mentally 'standing up and shouting' at these
words can rest easy, your vindication is coming next in
Now it gets juicy!
Facts can not exist, by their own
definition. For anything to be perceived of as a fact,
it has to be assessed; measured against the known
technology and methods of the day. A problem happens
when a thing requires assessment, whether objective or
subjective. The very methods of assessment in
themselves are only as valid as the understanding of the
day and are totally subject to change in the face of
evolving technologies and frames of reference.
Facts are, by definition, closed to
further exploration, reinterpretation or change because
they represent an irrefutable (absolute) truth, the very definition
of 'fact'. Please open your
mind to the thought that there may be no such thing as a
fact; there is only our best understanding of the day
given the quality of the available data and the quality
and technology in methods
with which we assess and analyse that data.
Truth is a concept which is just as
unlikely. Philosophers have been trying to define and
teach ‘truth’ for centuries and seem no closer now than
they ever have been. Truth, like love and pain, is
totally subjective. The 'spanner in the gearbox of
truth' is pretty much based on one persistent problem alone,..
Change is the most constant thing we observe in our universe. The passage of time is
significant only in that it marks change, the difference
between now and then. The moments
that have passed since starting this sentence and now
are moments that will never be replicated again. This
is change happening. It is a statistical
likelihood that given enough readers, someone still reading this page instead of
getting into their car a few minutes ago just avoided an
accident in which they'd have been maimed or killed.
Change is always in action, we call it linear time.
Absolute truth is in itself subjective
false by its own definition, as it can be seen only from
the known references of the perceiver observing and judging data as
‘truth’ at that time. My definition of truth is
something along the lines of, “what is conceived of as
sufficiently accurate to satisfy the needs of the
perceiver at that time”.
Knowledge is the presumed result of the process of accumulating facts to arrive at truth. Knowledge is said to be
built through learning.
Here is the problem though, if
a fact is not open to challenge, then neither is
knowledge built upon those facts. This knowledge
in absolute denies change and disavows the process of
evolving understanding by
its own definition.
Knowledge's truth is
illogical, in that it is essentially 'made of facts' which
deny that a person, a technology or a new discovery
might materially invalidate the assumptions that lead to
a thing being a ‘true fact’ in the first place.
The closest to telling the truth that a
reasonably objective, honest person can come is to say,
“My truth is...”.
Objective or subjective truth is judged
from the framework of our construct. Our construct is
our framework of self, familial and societal norms;
perceptions, viewpoints and frames of reference built by
experience and learning. A society’s construct is
basically the same thing, but on a bigger scale.
Constructs are continually exposed to
change through further development, experience and
learning. You reading this site is a good example; your
construct is likely to change in some small or large way
during your experiences with these words, regardless of
whether you agree with the content or not.
Both objective and subjective perceptions
and assessments of a thing depend totally on the
perceiver’s construct for that assessment. It is through
the lens of our constructs, personal and societal, that
we assess data and judge what we generally accept as
fact, that which we call, "real".
This leaves us
with the challenge that is posed by 'understanding'
So if facts and truth can not exist, it
is understanding, our malleable and changing
assessments of available data, that define our personal
truths. Honesty compels us to acknowledge this,
whether scientist or new-age spiritualist.
Challenge is to open your mind and leave it open to new
interpretation of the same data. We'll discuss this
in more detail now,...