An Excerpt from the Lectures of Arithmeus; recorded by a student whose name remains unknown
Date: C. 50-100
And what is truth?
Does our nature incline us to seek for it, or for something like it? For fact, or for fictitious representation similar in some respect to fact? Does it exist of its own self, or because something calls it into being? These are questions with which we, as an entire being, as a collected mind, have not interested ourselves in, and yet I cannot fathom why. Why has this not yet been seriously confronted? Are we stones, deaf to the pleas of reason? We take for granted such simple things as that one and one are two. The greatest minds of our age have found ingenious ways to tell you which stars will be where at night, that Arimulos will be aligned with Marulos in three weeks, but God! Hasn’t it occurred to anybody to ask why?
Why are the stars where they are when they are, why do we exist, what is the meaning of it all? What is the sky blue? Why is anything what it is? We all have this sense of wonder as a child; where does that go? For some reason this feeling never deserted me; I still want to know.
But, first; we must define this question more clearly; what it is we’re searching for.
I would like to know exactly what truth is and why it’s possible for something to be true.
As far as I can see, there are a few possibilities;
One: That truth exists only in the mind of humans or other thinking beings.
Two: That truth needs no external support; that it exists of itself.
Three: It exists in a framework as yet undiscovered.
Four: It does not exist. Our ability to make reason out of the world around us is naught but an illusion.
If the last is true, our whole argument is moot. I believe there must be an absolute truth somewhere in the universe. Even if things do change over time, at any given time, it can be said of anything that it was a certain way at that particular instant. I do not believe that the fourth argument is correct, but again, I reiterate, if any of you young, over imaginative minds have cause to think otherwise, I invite you to stay and discuss your reasons with me afterwards.
I include the third possibility only because it is always imprudent to rule out the relevance of things one has not yet thought of, but I seriously doubt that truth as we speak of it here has any relevance outside of the first and second possibilities here proposed.
Truth as the human mind perceives it is a fickle thing; hard to define exactly. How many of you recall the color of our late King Sarshon’s Eyes? Yes, Golden. How many of you ever met him? Three of you? What color were his eyes? I know I just asked that, now come; tell me. Golden? You? Blue? You remember them having been Blue? Very clearly now, are you certain you weren’t under the spell of a certain drink? No? So there it is! Human truth at work! The only instance I have ever heard of in which a man’s eyes changed colors before the Sun itself! Miraculous! Sarshon’s powers are beyond even what Sarshon had imagined! Now why does he remember it one way and he recalls this fact a different way? This is the essential ambiguity of human truth; it is inconsistent. Much better to rely on Absolute truth.
The problem though with this strategy; is that Absolute truth is impossible to determine because, as you clearly know, we are humans! The only thing we can know is human truth. What color eyes, according to absolute truth, did our late King have? Human truth then, must be trusted, but then we must assume that there are multiple correct interpretations of a single fact. Contradicting ones, even. For you there, our King’s Eyes were Golden, and perhaps you only recall it that way because you were told it was that way, and now you imagine it must have been that way. The reason though is irrelevant. For you his eyes were golden and for you his eyes were blue. Was he followed by a chorus of Divine figures clad in scarlet and white who sung arias at his every footstep? You all seem to think so, how about you, boy? Ah, not heavenly figures, were they? Just boys? Average ones? Were they perhaps boys from the heavens? No.
I give you this lecture today, shortly after the death of our King because I would like you to know the truth about Kings, about the world of men. Our lives are lived according to the truths of men, not according to absolute truths. I met King Sarshon. From the other side of prison bars, as a young man. I spoke out against him. His eyes are not Golden, they are a piercing blue, and his chorus of angels is comprised of young boys taken from their mothers at a young age for instruction in singing. That is why they are the best singers on the face of this earth, not because of any Divine influence. I escaped fate by agreeing to serve in his army. I have seen horrible things done in the name of Sarshon, The Great, the Merciful, our Illustrious and Shining King. Our empire is great. Its accomplishments are many. Sarshon’s Palatial temple in the East will inspire the world for years to come, the light of its tower shining into the seas will guide wary warriors and traders for years to come, and yet a great lie has been wrought upon it.
Our king was not who he claimed to be. He deluded the masses. I met our king and established my own personal human truth about him before any other human truth had been imprinted on him for me, therefore I can count myself as one of a very small group whose knowledge of Sarshon can reasonably be expected to match in most respects with the absolute truth.
What worth is absolute truth then if we cannot know without any doubt what it is, we cannot use it in our evaluations of things past, and it does not actually describe what we experience?
Absolute truth is important to the individual. If I were to sling a stone into your head, it would kill you regardless of what you believed it would do. But if I were somehow able to convince the rest of the class that you were instead simply transported into a different world full of delicious food, warm fires, and no boring lectures like these, you would all line up to have a stone put through your heads, would you not?
Now this is an extreme example; that would not be an easy deception to arrange, and yet the greater the body of people it seems, the easier it is to convince them of total lunacy. Sarshon’s promise of a Kingdom in the Heavens for those who served him convinced hundreds of men to go into battle, knowing that death probably awaited them. Is this any different?
So I must say, while the first possibility of truth is probably the most accurate, it is accurate only inasmuch as you are attempting to determine what absolute truth is. And as you’ve probably gathered by now, Absolute truth is worth little in the world of men. Do not use it. Be mindful of the difference. Seek for higher truths in life. Seek for the absolute truths, but if you desire to keep your body intact do not use them!
As the sun sets in the east, so it rises in the West. Now that Sarshon’s personal will is no longer here to enforce his own personal reality upon the world one of two things will happen. Either alternative versions of his life, alternative recollections, will be forgotten and the Golden Eyes Chariot from Heaven version will become the absolute truth, or people will come to realize that his life does not fit with what we know to be possible according to absolute truths, according to the basic essence of reason.
We still have not answered the question of why though; why exactly is truth what it is? It must exist according to a set of rules, for objects seem to act in a relatively consistent manner. This ground I stand on is brown, and if I close and open my eyes, it will probably still be brown, right? So we agree that some things must be constant, not subject to any sort of external framework or interpretation? What makes it that way? All objects seem to have properties that are constant at any given time, but I’ve seen all sorts of dirt. I’ve seen pink dirt, green dirt, red dirt, black dirt, and grey dirt. I’ve seen more dirt than any of you care to know. That’s another thing you care a lot about as a kid; dirt, I watch you little unruly barbarians run around and play in the mud and the dirt and it always makes me think about all the different dirt I’ve seen. You haven’t been amazed by dirt until you’ve been west. The dirt is different there; it’s yellow and grey, cracked and baked. Now you’re curious; you thought dirt had constant properties, didn’t you? Eh? Didn’t you!? Well it doesn’t. That eliminated my initial thoughts about constant properties as the framework for truth. But there is one thing that does remain, that even human truth cannot change, and that is moments. I realized after a time that the key to what constitutes absolute truth lies not in what was, but when it was.
Human perception can change the color of a man’s eyes, it can change a recollection of an event, and after everyone forgets what really happened, the absolute truth becomes irrelevant. If the truth of an event can so easily be changed though, what is immutable? Time. Time must certainly be the force, will, or thing that holds universal truths.
Sarshon’s Eyes could be green, blue, grey, gold, or give off light for all I care, what matters to me is I know that it is an absolute truth that I saw blue in his eyes when I saw them. Time alone keeps track of what was true; and I define this concept as the state of things at a given moment. Dirt may have changing properties, it may be brown according to my human truth at this moment and grey the next, and because of this I will never know what the true color is, and likewise; Sarshon’s eyes may be blue to you and Gold to you; and we will never know the absolute truth, but because you perceived something at that moment in time we know without doubt that there is an absolute truth. Time will not lose that information. Even if you die and the knowledge of that instant is lost, it will still have happened.
In this way I can determine that there must be something lying underneath the world, things must be true because of something intrinsic in the universe that makes true things true. Time passes in order to accommodate all of the varying and distinct versions of the truth that we perceive as thinking beings. Each instant, each singular moment in time represents a new truth, a new form that the universe takes on.
But what is this knowledge worth? We’ve proven that there must be an Absolute truth, something that cannot change no matter how convinced we humans are that something else happened, but what is it worth to us? Human truth follows behind Absolute truth, mimicking and mocking it, but following just close enough that we are able to live and function most of the time without killing ourselves through stupidity or incompetence. In order for man to proceed we must know the difference between absolute and human truth. That is why you are here. Studying is a privilege, an honor to be upheld. Man’s purpose is to carry our world closer to that absolute truth. The masses are incapable of this. They will eat up a human truth like vermin eating rotten cheese, not knowing that only a pasture away lies perfectly good cheese, not wanting to search because there’s already cheese in sight. You must know this, you must recognize this absolute truth because it is what you are here to find.
Mankind is carried forward by the few, not the many. Sarshon, Melyphitos, Critimos, Larcephalas, these names will live on through history. They brought us to where we are today. These are the men who brought change to our world, and without change, there are no new versions of the true world. Time stands still when nothing changes. This brings us back to our original question; are we inclined to seek truth? The masses are not. The few are. You are the few. I’m telling you what the absolute truth is so you can find it. But when you find it, you must not bring it before the people. They will be angry with you for upsetting their rotten cheese. You must bide your time and wait for the right moment, people will realize on their own that there is better cheese to be found, but you must wait for them to discover this on their own. They will come to us. That’s why all of you are here. Nobody is forcing you to be here, so obviously you knew there was something you were missing or else you would not be here. You came of your own accord. Sarshon tolerated our existence, he tolerated the fact that we seek the absolute truth about him specifically because he knows that we are unable to sway the masses against him. But the masses will come to us now. Whether in peace or in riotous discord I do not know; the world, in times of trouble, tends either to turn towards or against those able to think clearly, but if they do not come peacefully we must scatter ourselves, hide among them or else the thinking men of the world will die and time will stand still for anywhere from hundreds to thousands of years.
Sarshon’s heirs will not mourn him long. There is a kingdom to be divided and possibly reunited. They will fear us, and come to us. If they do, you must scatter across the earth and begin teaching anew. I am old, my part in this world is nearly done, and if one of us must die that the others live, it should be me. Human truth can change whether or not I am real, but it can never change the absolute truth that I once was real.
On that note I am finished, and would like some water.