“I seek the truth,” spoke the liar.

Perhaps no one has ever been sufficiently truthful about what ‘truthfulness’ is.

Friedrich Nietzsche

I am a big fat liar. As if proof were needed, there are at least two lies in the previous sentence. Like all of us, I have been lying to myself for a long time; probably since I started using language and perhaps before.

The particular lie I refer to was in not admitting to having long since given up seeking. Initially believing the lie I was able to present it as truth. As I began to see through it I nonetheless kept up the pretence.

The most common lie is that which one tells to himself; lying to others is relatively an exception.

Friedrich Nietzsche

The degree of self deception mainly depends on how much truth a person can live with. Fortunately there are many convincing and palatable justifications for supporting such a lie.

Modesty is both believable and culturally acceptable; false modesty perhaps even more so. 

This is the hardest of all: to close the open hand out of love, and keep modest as a giver.

Friedrich Nietzsche

***

I also taught myself to fear being labelled arrogant for no longer seeking. Though this fear masked the greater fear (and excitement) of feeling as though I was growing ever more distant from the profession.

Many a peacock hides his peacock tail from eyes – and calls it his pride…

Friedrich Nietzsche

Ironically there is an arrogance in being a seeker. Seekers present as humble while basking in the reflected glory of their ideals; they rest in their identity as modest after the truth. The incentive to reach their goal is only eclipsed by a greater incentive to not give up this identity and continue joining in with their fellow seekers.

***

Learning the value of solitude is part of what it takes to overcome seeking.

I said to Hank Williams: how lonely does it get? Hank Williams hasn’t answered yet,

Leonard Cohen

According to Leonard Cohen, Hank Williams apparently chooses, or at least contributes to being lonely. We can only wonder why Hank does not answer, and like Leonard, we might also wonder – since we can only wonder – whether Hank feels lonely, and if so, how valuable it is to him.

One man runs to his neighbour [psychotherapist] because he is looking for himself, and another because he wants to lose himself. Your bad love of yourselves makes solitude a prison for you…

Friedrich Nietzsche

While for many solitude can feel like a prison, to others being in company can feel worse. The pressure and desire to join in can over-ride the discomfort and pain of not fitting in, and so the company of people can feel very lonely. Though joining in need not mean fitting in, it does require a certain observance of collective norms, values and beliefs.

I go into solitude so as not to drink out of everybody’s cistern. When I am among the many I live as the many do, and I do not think I really think. After a time it always seems as if they want to banish my self from myself and rob me of my soul.

Friedrich Nietzsche

***

I’ve paid the price of solitude, but at last I’m out of debt

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan chose not to live in debt, it is as though he acknowledges an indebtedness to solitude and the importance of being debt free. We might wonder what it cost him and how much he paid for it.

Whether Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan found solitude, or solitude found them, it is hard to imagine their art without it: neither of them followed the crowd.

***

Solitude makes us tougher towards ourselves and tenderer towards others. In both ways it improves our character…

Friedrich Nietzsche

Solitude is being on your own with your many selves without seeking. We neglect ourselves and others when we neglect our solitude.

Psychotherapy can become a sort of shared solitude, in a certain sense it and solitude can become a remedy for loneliness.

***

How from the beginning we have contrived to retain our ignorance . . . in order to enjoy life! And only on this now solid, granite foundation of ignorance could knowledge rise so far—the will to knowledge on the foundation of a far more powerful will: the will to ignorance, to the uncertain, to the untrue! Not as its opposite, but—as its refinement!

Friedrich Nietzsche

An important first step toward to re-evaluating the relationship between knowledge, truth and ignorance is to see that they are complimentary; they are not opposed.

Are psychotherapists even able to discern how far their knowledge and truth are a refinement of ignorance? I suggest we have to ask the question since there a great many interventions that make good use of the will to ignorance.

For example a typical approach some therapists take when working with trauma is to tell the person to keep repeating ‘their’ truth until the trauma loses its power. The necessity to convince themselves acknowledges that they do not fully trust their truth as true. Rather than being a demonstration of the power of truth, it demonstrates the force of their will to ignorance: their ability to convince themselves. The only power truth has over ignorance is to refine it. 

You may lie with your mouth, but with the mouth you make as you do so you nonetheless tell the truth.

Friedrich Nietzsche

The dance between truth and ignorance is psychological aikido. In aikido there is no attacker or opponent; the person coming at you is called your ‘partner’. You do not resist them, you must ‘agree’ with them by joining in the direction of their force, until eventually there is no conflict.

***

The will to truth that still seduces us to take so many risks, that famous truthfulness of which all philosophers [psychotherapists] so far have spoken with respect: what questions this will to truth has already laid before us! What strange, wicked, questionable questions! That is a long story even now—and yet it seems as if it has scarcely begun? Is it any wonder that we should finally become suspicious, lose patience, and turn away impatiently? That we should finally learn from this Sphinx to ask questions, too? Who is it really that puts questions to us here? What in us really wants “truth”?— Indeed we came to a long halt at the question about the cause of this will—until we finally came to a complete stop before a still more basic question. We asked about the value of this will. Suppose we want truth: why not rather untruth? And uncertainty? Even ignorance?

Friedrich Nietzsche

If enjoying life is more important than not enjoying life it may be that a will to ignorance is a better representation of truth than the will to truth. 

It is as though they are locked in a protracted and complicated one player game of “Hide and Seek”; with only one outcome.

Truth was never going to win; it was hamstrung the moment the Church crowned it as a supreme value. The crown inevitably became a mill-stone, not only because truth could not measure up to its own standard, but also because it could not bear the weight of promise placed upon it.

For example, ‘the truth will set you free’ is a religious claim that successfully crossed over into secular culture. Though demonstrably false, it is a creed people want to believe in; it has even been adopted into mainstream psychotherapy. To base freedom on truth is a form of voluntary slavery.

Rather than trying to resuscitate truth to its imagined former glory, it would be more honest to give up our traditional idealisation of it, and accept its intimate relationship with ignorance. Fighting and arguing over truth has been as futile as it is endless, it is a deflection from acknowledging any debt to ignorance, and acts as a way to maintain the artificial conflict between them.

Psychotherapists could start by asking themselves: what ignorance supports my life and the way I work with people?

The challenge would be to consider what might you have to do, or think to be able to celebrate your will to ignorance.

***

There are only two things. Truth and lies. Truth is indivisible, hence it cannot recognise itself; anyone who wants to recognise it has to be a lie.

Franz Kafka

Kafka’s aphorism inverts our thinking and questions the possibility of recognising truth. However it does allow for finding, having and manifesting it, provided we do not recognise it as such. It also questions whether there is anything authentic about the desire to recognise truth.

If ‘the truth will set you free,’ as Christianity maintains, then according to Kafka, any attempt at recognising it is a form of self-incarceration.

If, as Christianity claims ‘God is Truth’, we could say God is for those who do not want to recognise him, in other words; God is for those who are ignorant of him, and want to remain so.

If belief in God requires some recognition of him, then God is for non-believers. And so the God we are worthy of – is worthy of us – is a God we cannot believe in.

Ironically atheists are more likely to recognise God since they are less likely to want to and more likely to deny it. Unfortunately and interestingly for them, they would no longer be able to trust how they deny his existence.

If ‘Seek and ye shall find,’ is poor biblical advice, then what is the best way to approach God? The answer is not at all; if you want truth, freedom or God, do not seek them. Instead, if God is love; then love, create, become kind and playful – though you may not call this God, you will no longer have a desire to recognise him.

***

God and truth are for those who have no need of him or it. This is consistent with the Book of Genesis, having completed all creation, he rested on the Seventh Day, then sanctified it. Like Hank Williams he apparently wanted to be alone. Might solitude be the greatest gift he gave himself? Perhaps it is the most precious thing we can learn from him – and give back to him.

If we left God to move freely amongst us (or not) without being recognised, the only people that would suffer are those who feel the need to legitimise their cause, activism, teaching, beliefs, justice, moralism, sexuality, prejudice, desire, hope, war, crusade, charity, hostility, peace, love and kindness.

Given that a priest’s role is to recognise truth, telling lies is part of their job description. Though we might wonder how church would be transformed – and how transformative it would become – if priests were able to say, ‘I cannot recognise truth.’

***

Is not psychotherapy a means and an end toward no longer recognising ourselves?

Once done with the lie of seeking, the absence of self and truth recognition came as a relief and a joy.

This was the same realisation Jesus had on the cross when he said, ‘It is done,’ and was able to no longer recognise God.

All rights reserved © Copyright Glenn Nicholls 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author of this post is strictly prohibited.

2 thoughts on ““I seek the truth,” spoke the liar.

  1. If ‘Seek and ye shall find,’ is poor biblical advice, then what is the best way to approach God? The answer is not at all; if you want truth, freedom or God, do not seek them. Instead, if God is love; then love, create, become kind and playful – though you may not call this God, you will no longer have a desire to recognise him.

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