Why Truth Matters
New research finds increasing danger in endorsing disinformation.
Posted February 13, 2021 | Reviewed by Devon Frye
We find ourselves awash in oceans of disinformation, with millions detached from reality. Current circumstances, including a pandemic that has fully exposed lingering social and economic injustices, make opposing forces even more pronounced, resulting in deeper divisions everywhere.
Well into the throes of a great shift in the way we relate to each other and the planet we share, we have critical choices to make in this transformational moment. Will we allow polarization to further divide us, or will we seek cooperation and unity? Will we watch intended disinformation further overwhelm us, or will we search unfettered for a truth that underlies reality?
There is no quick answer or easy fix. Our unfolding evolution depends upon the difficult work of confronting our shadow side, individually and collectively. As Carl Jung made clear, “The way to wholeness is made up of fateful detours and wrong turnings. It is a snake-like path that unites the opposites.”
The so-called emergence of “post-truth” America, with an “alternative” version of reality, is an attempt to reverse the Enlightenment, a way to upend a standard toward which humanity has long aspired, and an assault on the very principle of truth itself. This trend is antithetical to our very nature as human beings with a mind capable of rational and reflective thinking.
A holistic vision of evolution and consciousness understands a purpose to these turbulent times. Cycles of transformation and renewal punctuate our evolutionary progress, as we see in this year of lockdowns, demonstrations, and confrontations. Yet, all the divisions that natural differences create are essentially due to an incomplete investigation of truth.
Consciousness is a potentiality set in motion by an organic process of discovery. But this innate potential is totally dependent upon the initiative we take to see with our own eyes. Only the independent investigation of truth expands our consciousness as we transcend the seeming limits we are faced with. To seek truth, to know reality, is to be open to what is beyond what we already know, and open to what is greater than us.
One important factor that has allowed a “post-truth,” “alternative” version of reality to gain a grasp on people’s thinking is that we are born into a realm of dualities, where opposing forces clash for their survival. If we are satisfied with what has been handed to us, we will be taken in dangerous directions. A recent New York Times article reported that the spread of conspiracy theories, fake news, and other forms of disinformation has wrought suspicion, irrational responses, and havoc upon our society. Living by principles of separation and division, which enables and supports disinformation, can result in “extreme antisocial psychological orientations” and “non-normative behavioral patterns” that create hierarchies and endanger all.
Polarization mixed with disinformation and conspiracy thinking produces the social toxicity of endorsing “mutually incompatible conspiracy” thinking when “important psychological needs are not being met.” What is needed, psychologists find, is “the need for knowledge and certainty,” along with the need to feel safe and secure when powerless and scared, and the need to feel unique compared to others. Promoters of and believers in disinformation will often automatically dismiss factual claims disputing their beliefs.
The storming of the Capitol building on January 6 is not an isolated event, or even some “innocent” form of belief, but rather a genuine threat to public safety. This is all deeply rooted in an outdated misunderstanding of the nature of evolution itself, which may at one time have required competition and conflict but now demands cooperation and harmony for the good of the whole.
With an understanding of the evolutionary impulse leading eventually toward unity and wholeness, an unfettered search for truth would lead to a prosocial orientation with actions contributing to a unity of purpose.
Truth based in reality, in common sense, and a universal understanding, is a final protection for our way of life, our wellbeing, and our very survival. If this is allowed to be overlooked and replaced with its opposite, all semblance of order and justice is lost.
The search for truth is a primary principle of the timeless wisdom of the world’s sacred traditions. All express some form of the familiar, “Seek and ye shall find.” It is also one of the most important of all human rights. But what we shall find in our search is the remarkable realization that we are led to a boundless consciousness that unites us with all beings, and with all of Creation. This is what will unite us as one human family.
Living in truth is courageously acting for the common good, supporting communities of fairness, and choosing to be a steward of the planet. This fulfills our individual potential, is the means for advancing civilization, and acknowledges our diversity of views, appearances, and contributions to the whole as our sustaining strength.
Atkinson, R. (2017). The Story of Our Time: From Duality to Interconnectedness to Oneness. Ft. Lauderdale, FL: Sacred Stories Publishing.