Thursday, April 8, 2010

Progress and Success

"Without truthfulness progress and success, in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul."

Although I've already written a bit about the difference between truthfulness and honesty, I should probably summarize it again. Truthfulness, as I am sure you know, is that which conforms to reality. Honesty is that which you believe. Hopefully they are pretty close to the same thing.

Originally I wrote about this in the context of a quote from the compilation on Trustworthiness, but given some of the discussion I have seen in study circles, I thought it might be nice to examine this quote, too. Of course, I hope you will remember that everything I write is only my own opinion, and nothing official. I do not claim to speak with an authoritative voice, and I hope that if I say anything bozoid you will forgive me.

This one, found in the first unit of Ruhi Book 1 (section 3, if you really want to know), is followed by the simple question, "What is impossible without truthfulness?" The answer, obviously, is "Progress and success in all the worlds of God."

First, many participants ask me why this question is even there, and I explain that one of the many reasons is to help us develop the habit of turning to the Writings before answering. That usually satisfies.

But then we get to the next section, with the question, "Can we acquire these virtues without truthfulness?"

Well, this is an interesting question. And it always raises a good discussion.

For myself, I don't think there is a simple answer to this question, and that it really is intended to raise the discussion. I think that is the point.

It would be quite simple, and possibly even obvious, to say that you actually can acquire virtues without truthfulness, but then that's not the point, is it? The implication is can you keep them? It's like the old saying: A fool and his money are soon parted. It never says how the fool got the money in the first place, just that he won't be able to keep it for long.

So let's look at this quote again: "Without truthfulness progress and success, in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul."

It doesn't say anything about temporary progress, or a partial form of success, not being possible, but instead that "progress and success, in all the worlds of God, are impossible".

To begin to understand why this might be the case, I think we need to look at another quote in that same section: "Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues."

I often ask the participants in the study circle if it is possible to build a house without a foundation. The answer, of course, is that you can. But, as I love to point out, I sure wouldn't want to live in it. The problem is that the house will not be strong in a storm. It will fall down when the tests come.

Similarly, you can develop your virtues without truthfulness, but the problem is that they will not withstand the tests that are inevitably going to come.

So, you may find someone acting with a degree of compassion, but if their life is not founded with a basis of truth, then their virtues will collapse either in this world or in the next. It is only inevitable.

Or perhaps they will begin to uncover more truth as time goes on, and thereby strengthen their foundation.

It should be recognized that none of us have a complete understanding of truth, and that our understanding will grow in time. As our understanding of truth grows, as our foundation becomes stronger and stronger, then we, too will be able to develop, grow and succeed throughout all the worlds of God.

You see, I think what happens in our life is that we build some spiritual structures that we feel are sound. The tests come, whether it is the death of a loved one or just the continued presence of someone who is annoying us, and parts of those structures fall. If too much falls at once, this might be what we call a breakdown. Either way, it is painful, not fun, at the zero end of the enjoyable-spectrum, and not something we wish to experience over and over again. But experience it we do, and we get up and build new structures that are, hopefully, a bit stronger.

It is called "learning".

When a part of structure collapses, it would be good to examine why it fell. If the foundation wasn't solid, then we know to strengthen it. If we build a whole section of our life on a premise that is just not true, then we can call that premise into the light, examine it, and correct it.

That is called "growth".

I really love this quote, because it opens up so much discussion and gets us to re-examine some of our basic concepts again. But then, it seems like a lot of quotes in the Writings do that. Go figure.

Oh, by the way, my friend Samuel, with whom I study the Kitab-i-Iqan, has asked me to put some simple helpful hints at the end of each article. A couple of days ago, as we were sitting in the garden studying, I casually mentioned why I was throwing coffee grounds on the rose bush. It's good for them. Helps them grow and bloom. So, there it is. Helpful hint number 1: put your coffee grounds on your rosebushes. They love it.

And if you don't have any coffee grounds, come on over. I'll brew some up and you can use them when we're done.

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