Books, words, consciousness and truth.
Let me begin with books. I have been sorting through the books on my shelves, trying to decide which ones I want to keep. In the process I ‘discovered’ some books that I would like to revisit before I part with them. One of them was “The Phenomenon of Man” by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, which I must have bought for 35p about the year 1971. In the introduction by Sir Julian Huxley he describes the work as a “threefold synthesis – of the material and physical world with the world of mind and spirit; of the past with the future; and of variety with unity, the many with the one.” The language is amazing, combining scientific, spiritual, psychological and philosophical terms and words which de Chardin himself invents, like ‘noosphere’, which represents the world of collective consciousness. The book is a ‘tour de force’, whether or not his take on theory of evolution is accepted.
I took part in a group studying the Bible this week. We considered several passages to explore the position of women in John’s Gospel. This book too is a ‘tour de force’, carefully constructed to help Christians to understand and be encouraged by the life and spirit of Jesus. We found many different layers of meaning and possible interpretations. This Gospel is part of the Bible, which is regarded by millions of Christians to be the inspired Word of God, though the precise way in which it is inspired is understood differently by various sections of the Church. In another group a few days later I heard about the way in which Mohammed was inspired to utter the words of God, mediated by an angel, which form the Quran, the book which is the inspiration for the faith of millions of Muslims. The original words were in Arabic and have been translated many times and with different emphases, leading to many interpretations. I have copies of the Bible (in several translations) and a copy of the Quran on my shelves.
I also have lots of other books, on theology, adult education, psychology, sociology, and general scientific theory, as well as novels, books of poetry and prayers and meditations. Which of these books, what words, will raise my consciousness and lead me to truth? When I am searching for meaning, for a deeper understanding of the universe and for a purpose in life, where should I turn?
Or is the answer not to be found in books at all? Should I look elsewhere, for instance to what is happening in the world as reported in the media? But with reports of ‘fake news’ or ‘alternative facts’ I am not inspired to place much trust in some elements of the media. So, should I turn to people I know and trust, to my family, friends or the fellowship of faith groups? But is that likely simply to reinforce my prejudices and limited me within a particular cultural world? Perhaps I should just rely on my own experience. But is that also liable to be limited and partial?
One of the passages in de Chardin’s book suggests that we need each other to evolve our thinking. The way to greater consciousness is not by becoming isolated or by belonging to an elite group. It is the concentration of living, thinking persons that leads to greater consciousness, to that point at which human consciousness expands to the next level, the Omega point. If I want to be part of this growing awareness, I must be as open as I can to the thinking of others around me; listening to different voices; reading a variety of views and opinions. I will have to be discerning, sifting to find truth where I can, and synthesising ideas from everywhere in order to find my own truth.
I may still end up being mistaken in my thinking, deluded or misguided by the complexities of thought around me. But it is an adventure which promises wonder, amazement, joy of discovery and warmth of friendship on the way. Putting my thoughts into words, contributing to the collective consciousness, however inadequate my offering might be, is the way to truth.