(Looking for black and white answers in a kaleidoscopic world)
“All we want are the facts, ma’am,” the television police detective Joe Friday used to demand from witnesses of crimes. He just wanted the facts to get at the truth about a crime he was investigating. We’ve all seen television shows in which a lawyer is pressing a witness on the stand to truthfully answer a factual question with a “Yes” or “No” answer. The complexity that the witness knows and wants to describe is considered irrelevant and an obstacle to finding the truth that the law values.
Leo Tolstoy did intensive field, social, and historical research to write an objectively “factual” account of the 1812 French invasion of Russia and its consequences for the Russian aristocracy, as well as determining the fates of countless ordinary people. He discovered that the historical Truth could not be described by only the historical facts.1 In order to tell the story as it related to the lives of real human beings, Tolstoy had to write War and Peace,2 a book that is “strictly speaking neither novel, nor epic, nor historical chronicle, nor philosophical inquiry; rather, it inherits characteristics of all four to embody an expressive life entirely its own.”3
But what happens when people, who may have a lower, “pre-Human” level of consciousness than Tolstoy’s artistic consciousness, realize that facts don’t “simply” make a story True? Tolstoy labored greatly over his efforts to write the Truth as an artist instead of truths as an historian. But not every person is a creative artist,4 especially in a nation that values the technologies of existence over the art of living. Consequently, naïve people may come to believe that facts are irrelevant to truth in order to avoid the much more difficult task of judging how to match a myriad of competing facts with a multitude of little truths.
Facts and Truth have a complicated relationship. Even though he didn’t like it, Tolstoy was able to accept this fact and he had the skill, intelligence, and consciousness to paint one of the most vibrantly truthful portraits of the human condition that has ever been written.
Tolstoy transcended the inadequacy of facts to create the higher representation of Truth that speaks to humanity as a whole. His literary writing and his approach to religion5 indicate that Tolstoy functioned at the Human level of consciousness—from the quadrune mind model’s perspective.
The model also describes three pre-Human levels of consciousness6 in which most of us live. Pre-Human-minded folks may try to resolve the fact/truth dilemma (whether they recognize it as such or not) in one of two ways:
People may seek a truth that completely arises from and corresponds to simpler, more “basic” facts. This choice can show up in people of law as legalism, religion as fundamentalism, psychology as behaviorism, and science as reductionism. In none of these cases is Truth revealed as viewed from the quadrune mind model of consciousness. Even in the “hard science” of physics, reductive study has led us to quantum mechanics at which point the facts are incomprehensible at the human level of meaningfulness.
On the other hand, people may completely sever facts and truth from each other. In this case there is no need to appeal to established authoritative factual sources for the truth. Once decided, facts continue to be irrelevant to the person who knows (“feels”) the truth.
Surprisingly, people of both the pre-Human and Human levels of consciousness can reach the same conclusion: facts and truth are not one. The pre-Human-minded person uses disagreements about facts to justify truths that divide humanity; the Human-minded person rises above the clutter and noise of individual facts to clearly see a holistic Truth that unites all of humanity.
Postscript, March 15, 2023: Additional Resource
Shelden, M. (2020). George Orwell: A Sage for All Seasons (Course No. 2454). Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company. From the course overview: “Much like Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Tolstoy have come to represent the literature of their nations, Orwell captured and conveyed the spirit of Great Britain in the first half of the 20th century like no other writer of his generation….
“While many consider George Orwell’s bigger themes to be ‘what is truth?’ Professor [Michael] Shelden demonstrates he is asking a much more provocative question: ‘What is it about the truth that we don’t want to know?’ While Orwell didn’t believe truth was unknowable, he did question whether we as people had the will to know the truth, to face it, and to truly accept it….
“‘What Orwell envisioned was not a world of perfect truths,’ Professor Shelden says. ‘He envisioned a world in which lies are more difficult to tell, and more difficult to live with.’”
[Shelden unintentionally presents a Master course on the pre-Human minds, especially the reptilian mentality, as seen from the quadrune mind model. On the other hand, George Orwell well-represents the Human level of consciousness. Importantly, Shelden does not avoid noting the chilling social, cultural, and political Orwellian forces, which surround our own lives today].
- Tolstoy, L. (2007). War and peace (R. Pevear & L. Volokhonsky, Trans.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf. “Yet Tolstoy found that the truth could not be approached directly, that every attempt at direct expression became a simplification and therefore a lie, and that the ‘shortest way to sense’ was rather long and indirect…. Against his will, he found that to be an honest man he had to be a poet….
“This leads to a crucial if paradoxical reversal: the most real and even in Tolstoy’s sense, historical figures in War and Peace turn out to be the fictional ones; and the most unreal, the most insubstantial and futile, the historical ones” (pps. xii-xiii).
- Wikipedia. (2022, April 5). War and Peace. “Tolstoy said War and Peace is ‘not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less a historical chronicle’. Large sections, especially the later chapters, are philosophical discussions rather than narrative.” [It is art].
- Mustich, J. (2018, August 27). What books should everyone read before they die?: War and Peace: Leo Tolstoy: Literature. The Company of Books. [Tolstoy wrote a kaleidoscopic book].
- Richtell, M. (2022, April 16). We have a creativity problem: Outwardly, we praise innovation. Inwardly, we harbor a visceral aversion to it, studies have found. New York Times. “Creativity is lauded as vital, and seen as the lifeblood of great entertainment, innovation, progress and forward-thinking ideas. Who doesn’t want to be creative or to hire inventive employees?
“But the emerging science of implicit bias has revealed that what people say about creativity isn’t necessarily how they feel about it. Research has found that we actually harbor an aversion to creators and creativity; subconsciously, we see creativity as noxious and disruptive, and as a recent study demonstrated, this bias can potentially discourage us from undertaking an innovative project or hiring a creative employee.” [Hyperlink to the study in the original. Implicit: “present but not consciously held” biases arise from the reptilian-level mind, which is dedicated to preserving the status quo].
- Tolstoy, L. (1894/1984). The Kingdom of God is within you: Christianity not as a mystic religion but as a new theory of life (C. Garnett, Trans.). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
- See page 9 of the Study Guide for details of the four minds of the human brain.