Relative Truth and Absolute Truth

Writing the last article on the role of the universal law (1) was interesting for me because it brought out again how something can be true at one level of reality and not true at another.

This is the situation that gives zen choans and other mystical puzzles their potency, is it not? One part of the statement is true at a relative level and the other part true at a higher or an absolute level? For instance: “Die before you die.” The first reading of that statement causes paradoxical confusion. How can one die before one dies?

And the search for a way through that confusion upsets or brings into question all that one has considered true until that time. It shakes apart one’s complacency. And that is usually a good thing and a spur to spiritual growth.

And finally one sees that what’s being said is that the ego must die before the physical body dies for one to be enlightened. The physical body lives at a physical reality. When the physical body dies, the being does not die but the chances to become enlightened are affected. It’s said that one must become enlightened while in the physical body to end the need to be reborn. So one must become enlightened before the physical body dies.

The ego is not a physical reality. It has its existence in a spiritual domain. We are therefore saying that one part of us must die before another part dies and it’s possible for that one part to do so without causing the death of the second part. But this sorting out of things may not occur the first time one hears the mystical saying.

While the mystical saying initially causes paradoxical contradiction and confusion in us, it also requires us to transcend our thinking processes and realize in a moment of truth. But is that not a good thing?

Similarly, for some sages to say, as they did in the final article of the universal law series, that people have free will and for others to say that people don’t have free will, and for both statements to be correct and true at the same time again causes paradoxical contradiction and confusion.

But it remains true that at a lower-dimensional level people operationally have free will while at a much higher-dimensional level they see that all along God was the only doer.

However, the confusion this juxtaposition of statements brings is not welcome to many people. They don’t like feeling confused. They don’t appreciate someone upsetting their sense of knowing. They think something must be wrong instead of seeing the work the confusion does.

Hindus have a saying: Lead me from untruth to truth. We could say, lead me from ignorance to truth or from illusion to truth. This life we lead is, in its entirety, an illusion from beginning to end, a created drama or what Hindus call a lila. God created illusory life forms and introduced them into a manufactured setting, requiring that they journey through dimension after dimension in which something that was true in one dimension might not hold up in another.

At the lowest levels of that overall setting, it is relatively true that we have free will. But at the highest level of it, we see that God was the only doer of any action. Brave is the individual who would hold to the absolute truth that God is the only doer, true at the highest dimensional level, at the lower dimension where 99.99% percent of the population would not recognize the truth of that statement.

However, once we recognize that what holds true at lower dimensions may be shown to be illusion at the higher, we at least free ourselves from paradox and the feeling of contradiction and confusion.

And if we add to our statements “relatively speaking” and “absolutely speaking,” we can hold both statements to be true at the same time on their own level, even if apparently or actually untrue at others.

But more to the point, if we recognize that something can be relatively true and yet not absolutely true, or true at a lower level and not true at a higher, we can better appreciate the work the universal laws do in bringing us from those lower to the higher levels.

They do so by moving us through what would otherwise be a confusing situation, from a lower truth to a higher, and from an untruth to a truth.

The manner in which God designed life to cause our innate wisdom to arise in us when the circumstances themselves might not do this if we were left to our own devices is, for me, more and more humbling the more I see of it. Krishnamurti once said of the Divine Plan:

“The really important thing is … the knowledge of God’s plan for men. For God has a plan, and that plan is evolution. When once a man has seen that and really knows it, he cannot help working for it and making himself one with it, because it is so glorious, so beautiful, so, because he knows, he is on God’s side, standing for good and resisting evil, working for evolution and not for selfishness.” (2)

I’ve always found it as he said: The more I know about the manner in which life is designed, the more awe-struck I am. In the end, I’m so taken by the beauty and the genius of the design of life, that I can only serve it.


(1) “What Role Do the Universal Laws Play in Life? – Part 6,” at

(2) J. Krishnamurti, At the Feet of the Master. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1974; c1910, 17.

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