One way of talking about spirituality is that it is that which is concerned with the ultimate truth or absolute truth. The concept is that absolute truth is universal, never changes and can be directly perceived/experienced at all times and places. It cannot be learnt or accumulated as it is always already present and known. I use various capitalised words synonymously to describe it, eg. God, Truth, Love, Wholeness, Love, the Universe. The teaching is that its perception does not require special equipment (such as a microscope or telescope) and it does not depend even on the body, mind or senses. It cannot be described and defies and transcends all concepts. Absolute truth cannot even be divided into the absolute and relative, the division being merely a conceptual one.
It cannot be learnt or accumulated as it is always already present and known.
In contrast to this, worldly knowledge can be called relative knowledge or relative truth. This includes scientific knowledge, knowledge of skills such as a sports game or knowing facts such as how tall Mount Everest is. This knowledge is relative because it does not stand alone and is only true in relation to something else. For example the height of Mount Everest depends on various factors such as defining the point from which height is measured and the unit of measurement. The height will also change over time as the mountain topography changes. In fact one of the cardinal features of relative knowledge is that it changes over time depending on specifics relating to time and place. Relative knowledge can also be accumulated and developed over time. Lastly it requires the body-mind-senses to reveal/discover it.
So to summarise we have two concepts, the relative and the absolute. The relative is concerned with those things which change. We can lump all things that change together and call it the world. This world includes the world outside us, as well as our inner world of thoughts, feelings, emotions and psychic perceptions. The absolute is that which, in theory at least, remains the same no matter what. You could call this Spirit. It is always and already known by everyone whether they know it or not.
So to summarise we have two concepts, the relative and the absolute. The relative is concerned with those things which change…The absolute is that which, in theory at least, remains the same no matter what…It is always and already known by everyone whether they know it or not.
Strictly speaking, this division into relative and absolute itself is arbitrary, but because we take ourself to be a doer, this division is provisionally made so our mistake can be corrected. Once corrected, concepts of relative and absolute disappear (we see they are also false concepts), and all that remains is this, the unnameable. But until that point, the concepts are useful teaching aids pointing one in the right direction like the proverbial finger that points at the moon: don’t worship the finger otherwise you will miss the moon in all its heavenly glory. The flip side is that once you have seen the moon, you don’t need the finger any more. Teachings are always conceptual and are to be thrown away eventually.
Strictly speaking, this division in relative and absolute itself is arbitrary, but because we take ourself to be a doer, this division is provisionally made so our mistake can be corrected.
This means, according to my definitions above, talking about and working with emotions, feelings and thought processes is still in the domain of the relative world and so is not spiritual. I would even go as far as to say as that someone who is only interested in these things remains a materialist caught in the clutches of the ego. In this teaching we place our attention beyond the body, senses and mind (including any psychic powers and mystical experiences) and discover what appears to transcend and permeate everything.
Teachings are always conceptual and are to be thrown away eventually.
Now, before I get accused of being a nihilist let me make it clear that I am not saying that we shouldn’t do worldly things. Politics, medicine, health, social work, psychotherapy, psychic work, art, music, etc, all have their place and worth. But there is something more. I sometimes call this Spirit, but you can use any word that resonates with you. Or you can use no word at all.
Through discovering that which already (apparently) transcends the world (which is the same as discovering your ‘true nature’, that which you already are) you can ‘realise’ your Natural State. It’s just noticing something that is already here, but that noticing is powerfully transformative and enables us to realise that we are already, and have always been, free.
Once [the root mistake has been] corrected, concepts of relative and absolute disappear (we see they are also false), and all that remains is this, the unnameable.
2 thoughts on “Absolute vs Relative Truth”
All distinctions are illusion, Tom. We make them up. 🙂