How do you explain color to a blind person? In point of fact you cannot. It must be experienced. While colors are based in the objective world for color to be color it must be internalized and made a subjective experience. God is like that.
Scientists can detect, measure and quantify the exact wavelengths of the color green in the spectrum. They can explain how the wavelength impacts the rods and cones in the eye’s retina and the bio-electrical reaction to the light. They can trace the signal from the retina through the optic nerve to specific centers in the brain and they can map the neural responses to the optic signal. What they cannot grasp, account for or explain is the phenomenon of ‘greenness’ that occurs in the human consciousness. In the myriad aspects of interconnected steps that occur to place the knowledge that something is green into our awareness the one spiritual and purely human act is that of giving meaning. It is not just light and chemicals and electrical stimuli. It’s a leaf, and its GREEN!
We can add “color” to things, indeed, we can’t help but do it. A tree growing behind your house is an objective reality. It exists. It can be measured and studied. Its’ growth can be tracked and graphed, its’ height and breadth known. With effort even its weight and the depth of the roots can be determined along with the amount of carbon dioxide it consumes and oxygen expelled. But when you look at it you see the tree your great-grandfather planted. You see the shading limbs your parents were married under. You see the place you declared your undying love for Martha Mallone and carved initials inside a heart. It is just a tree, an objective thing, but when you look at it … it is more. The subjective reality of the tree, what it means to you, is an integral part of its perceived existence and yours.
Subjective reality is what we do. As human beings we are more than the sum of our constituent parts. There is something within us that creates meaning. We personalize existence. We have being, and being is more than existence. It is existence with perspective.
Truth can be an objective reality. It can be seen, understood and verified. It can be quantified as to its origins, the modality of its continued existence and its impact in the future. That is what could be called empirical truth: the hard truth. 1+1=2. This arena of reality does not need us to be truth. When a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one around, does it make a sound? No. It creates vibrations in the air and earth but without a person there to give meaning to the vibrations there is no ‘sound’. But the tree still falls.
Spiritual truth is a bit more difficult to nail down. While still objective, existing independently of our perception, spiritual truth requires our participation.
Spirit, by its nature, is the breath of life. Spiritual truth isn’t passive like a tree or a rock, it is dynamic. Spiritual truth is God communicating his life to us. It is truth with a purpose. Like a seed that is preserved, waiting to be placed in an environment where it can grow, truth is the seed of God’s life waiting for fertile ground. That is the point where our participation is needed. It is where our unique talent is required. That is where purpose becomes meaning. It is in us that the seed sprouts and truth becomes life.
This is also where it is important to keep the distinction between empirical truth and spiritual truth. With empirical truth, like a tree in our yard, we can impart meaning and the meaning is purely subjective, it is us overlaying the colors of our perceptions on the tree. With spiritual truth meaning is inspired. (Great word ‘inspired’. It means ‘breathed in’) Spiritual truth is life waiting to take hold. Our talent for meaning is a natural receptor for seeds that are designed to become meaning. The care that must accompany us in our encounters with spiritual truth is to find the color of the intended meaning and not just supply our own.
Spiritual truth is not something that we can be sentimental or romantic about. We do not memorialize truth or encamp around it. We also cannot treat truth in a way that maintains its ‘objective’ status when we receive it. It must become subjective. It must interact with us, change us, create in us meaning and life. We cannot just be a fan of the truth. We cannot even worship it. Truth is not an end in itself. Truth is a means whereby the life of God is created in us. When we encounter spiritual truth we do not then possess the truth. The truth must possess us.
If we are presented with ‘Peace’ as a spiritual truth, we understand it to be an aspect of God that he is communicating to us. We cannot just love peace. We cannot just respect peace. We cannot desire it, or work for it, or try to create it. If peace is spiritual truth communicating the nature of God to us we must BECOME peace. That which is presented to us as objective truth must find root in us and create the life of God within us. It must become subjective, personal, living reality molded in the image of God.
While some forms taken by spiritual truth are more direct and easily deserned, truth can take many forms. The form really matters little. The vital aspect of spiritual truth is spirit. Whether it be the words of Christ or an object lesson in daily life if the Spirit of God choses to be involved and uses the truth to inspire, life will result.