By George A. Boyd © 2020
Integrity is founded upon you discovering your core truths. When other people attempt to persuade you to embrace their values, beliefs, and behavior, it is important to recognize what you stand for and what are your values—what is true for you.
Truth is not a unitary abstraction; there are seven orders of truth. We have explicated these different types of truth in an article that we published in Religions, Cults, and Terrorism: What the Heck Are We Doing? We replicate this article here:
The Seven Orders of Truth
By George A. Boyd © 2009
When the seeker asks, “What is truth?” We respond that there are seven orders of truth. The discovery of the ground of Ultimate Reality comes when inner process has plumbed the other bands of truth and penetrated to our core. These seven orders of truth are described below.
Sensory truth – what is apparent and clear to healthy intact sense organs can be deceived by alterations of consciousness during drug use or mental illness (hallucination), misinterpretation of stimuli (delusion), misdirection of attention or inherent limitations of the sensory apparatus (illusion).
Cognitive truth – This is the model of the world that we construct inwardly, which defines the nature of self and our relationships with other people. It is our internalization of what we learn from others. It can be marred by analogical representations (symbol, parable, or myth) subject to multiple interpretations, representations of the individual by the class (stereotyping), emotional distortion (prejudice, scapegoating, displacement reactions), and fanciful learning not corresponding to objective fact (fables, folk tales, superstitions), and failure of memory (forgetting).
Cognitive truth is a subjective model of reality that is each person’s unique map of the world around him or her, and the world within; it changes with new experiences.
Representational or symbolic truth – the proofs of symbolic logic, mathematics, and geometry are representational truths. It is a lawful manipulation within certain parameters (game, set, universe of numbers) and certain rules, the results of this manipulation are uniform and unvarying.
Relationships between objects, forces, people, the social economic, political, and cultural environment, the workings of the objective universe can all be modeled by this means. The closer the original formulation of the mathematical model fits the observed data, the closer it may be said to approximate the laws that govern the world of matter, the world of the mind, the world of man, and the world of pure knowledge.
It is subject to the limitations of verification of a hypothesis, which must be done via observation (bringing in sensory distortion), researcher bias (bringing in cognitive distortion), limitations in the technology or ability to observe the phenomena, and following a wrong rule (miscalculation, logical fallacy).
Emotional truth – the experienced meaning or reaction to a life event (experience), a situation, an environment (mileau), another person, a stimuli, a memory, or an cognitive (idea, belief, thought). This truth is ever-changing, many-faceted, having many threads of association and meaning. It is what we feel in the present moment, the here and now.
It is subject to the distortions imposed by psychological defenses (repression, intellectualization, rationalization, fantasy, projection, denial); much of this material is not available to consciousness (subliminal or unconscious) and so is out of our awareness, and it is affected by the inherent limitation of language to describe to others the exact nature of what we experience emotionally.
Legal or formal truth – This is the one-to-one correspondence between a statement and its occurrence. When behavior matches what one’s stated intention, when an accusation is confirmed by the presence of objective witnesses, when an event is confirmed by the presence of multiple witnesses, it is said to be formally true. Formal truth is based on the construction of our laws, our consensus reality.
It is subject to distortion via differential interpretation of an event or a law, the implied ramifications of a rule or law that vary between individuals, the individual involved in presenting evidence may present only one aspect of what actually took place (impression management). Formal truth is what we use to determine someone is lying or deceiving us; what is observed or obtained does not match what was stated or promised.
Spiritual or moral truth – this inner arbiter of what is correct attitudes and behavior towards mankind, other species, and the world around us, and our correct relationship with the unseen worlds of the Spirit. Much of this material is learned, and internalized, by exposure to parental training, to teachings of schools and religious institutions, and to influential or charismatic people through the media, books, or personal contact.
This moral truth can be said to comprise the sense of conscience or Dharma. Spontaneous insight, spiritual revelation, intuitive understanding, and the contemplation of the inner structures or laws of the Inner Man form some portions of this truth; it culminates in illumination or wisdom. The violation of this truth results in subjective distress in the form of guilt, despair, and feelings of alienation or existential loneliness (abandonment). It is subject to the distortions inherent in learning, and determining an emotional or subjective truth.
Absolute or metaphysical truth – the horizon concept, or conception of the Divine: the greatest concept we can conceive. This conception may be the universe, a universal Mind, a Divinity Within man (a Higher Self), the Presence of God or gods in a spiritual Paradise, an Absolute Source of Life, spirit, and consciousness. This conception may be learned by exposure to philosophy, metaphysics, or religion—through studying the teachings of the exponents of philosophical, metaphysical, or religious schools—or it may arise through internal revelation or experience (mysticism, meditational experiences, dreams).
This model can be relatively stable throughout a lifetime; additional learning and experience elaborate it. However, exposure to conceptions of other people or other cultures through education or indoctrination can radically alter this “world view,” resulting in a new Absolute truth.
Metaphysical truths are the purported operation of so-called “inner laws” that impact upon our lives and destinies, and upon the workings of the universe. These laws are subsumed in an individual’s global conception of Absolute truth, they are subsidiary operations of Natural or Supernatural agencies working to produce the disparate phenomena of the external and internal universe(s).
In psychosis or severe mental illness, grave distortions can occur in the conception of Absolute Truth, throwing an individual into a frightening and chaotic inner world. Also, misinterpretation of abstract ideas can result in a distorted conception of Absolute Truth, creating a highly idiosyncratic or personalized version of the conception of the Ultimate Ground of All Things.
Each of our “truths” is subject to inherent or imposed distortions. Each of these are limited in its ability to determine the exact nature of the world without or the world within. It is important to understand that each of these ways of knowing truth has a realm germane to its functioning, a field in which it operates best.
- Sensory truth is the truth according to our sense organs; it is what we perceive.
- Cognitive truth is the truth according to our intellect; it is what we think or opine.
- Representational truth is the truth according to our analytical mind; it is the proofs of logic, and the demonstrations of Reason.
- Emotional truth is the truth according to our emotions, the world of our meanings, feelings, and experiences.
- Legal or formal truth is the truth that substands the laws that form the foundation of society and commerce; it underlies the rule of law and the operation of jurisprudence in each nation.
- Moral truth is the truth according to our higher emotionality, to our spirit, and is the inner principles by which we govern our lives.
- Absolute truth is the truth according to our intuition, and reveals the inner and outer horizons of our world.
Truths change as man changes. The tenacity of our adherence to a belief or structure does not make it truer, it simply is a statement of our conviction or faith.
Our laws, religions, science, philosophies are all changing; their truths today may not be their truths tomorrow. As we unfold our spiritual vision within, our old ring-pass-not horizons dissolve into grander vistas of the Sublime.
Perhaps the contemplation of our truths must bring another in its stead, a growing humility at what we do not know, and a growing awareness of the limitations for the instruments by which we do know.
Using the Seven Orders of Truth
You can use these seven orders of truth to identify your current station in life and consciousness. You can use questions like the following to explore these levels of truth:
- What are my sensory truths? What do I perceive right now?
- What are the cognitive truths I have learned? How do I apply these truths in my daily life?
- When do I use representational truth, the proofs of logic to test reality and to ascertain the veracity of an argument? When do I employ Reason to analyze what I have been told?
- What are my emotional truths? What significant meanings, feelings, and experiences have colored my life?
- When have I utilized legal or formal truth? In what ways do the laws that govern my city, county, state or province, or nation affect my personal liberty and the operation of my business?
- What are my moral truths? By which principles do I govern my life?
- What are my absolute truths that my intuition reveals to me? What are the core things I know about the world and my own existence?
As you explore these orders of truth, you begin to define who you are and what is your reality. Once you know these truths, you can utilize these orders of truth to answer specific questions. Here’s an example:
Let’s say you want to discover what you believe about death and dying. You could use a template like the following to explore this topic:
What You Discovered
What is my sensory truth about this topic?
What is my cognitive truth about this topic? What have I learned about it?
What does my logical and reality testing mechanisms tell me about the representational truth of this topic?
What are my emotional truths about this topic?
What legal or formal truths apply to this topic?
What are my moral truths and realized values about this topic?
What does my intuition reveal about the absolute truth of this topic?
You may wish to examine topics about which you are uncertain or confused using a heuristic tool like this template.
Those who want to learn to gain deeper experience of the realm of their absolute truths will benefit from taking one of our intermediate courses, the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation and the by-mail and on-line Accelerated Meditation Program.