Human Understanding

Even though our minds posses by nature an insatiable desire to know the truth, there are two tendencies that will weave a veil between ourselves and the truth in short course if we are not careful. Both were articulated beautifully by Francis Bacon and it is my great honor to reflect the light of his understanding in your general direction this morning.

The first is simply this: “Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true.” It is complicated by the second: “The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it.” Both present a formidable barrier to seeing things as they really are.

The good news is that no matter how eclipsed the truth might become, it is can never be extinguished by human ignorance or its sister, human arrogance. No matter how far down the rabbit hole you have gone, you can always find your way back to the light if you are patient, humble and inquisitive and honest.

Man has long sought to arrogate to himself the knowledge of all truth, but the truth is not information to be gathered. No man nor any assembly of men, religious or secular, can ever lay claim to the truth. Man can, of course, incline his heart and let his mind be moved by the calm certainty of truth.

The question of the ages is, will he? The question today is, will you?

9 thoughts on “Human Understanding

  1. Ricardo B.

    Those are great qualities you mention – patience, humility, honesty and being genuinely inquisitive. What in a disposition can be more uplifting than that?
    When these qualities are directed towards the world in the service and benefit to mankind, then the process of coming to understand what truth is happens automatically. You’ve made mention before that truth is known in its expression, as you express the 4 aforementioned quailities of character into the world…..and so the question is indeed, can we hold ourselves to this level of integrity?


  2. Colin

    You see these two tendencies in the organizations that say they have a corner on truth or the ways to find it, science and religion. In the historical record, we have seen over and over again where what seems to be truth has been built up to be unassailable, while the real truth has been buried and its supporters have been lambasted and ridiculed. I am sure that this is just as prevalent today as it ever was.
    The tendencies which Bacon described also leave people who have them open to abuse, as manipulation is easy when you are only looking for information that supports your hypothesis, and burying that which disproves it. The truth is what it is, regardless of what people think of it, an that fact offers a certain protection to those who do not let themselves fall into the traps described, because the truth will always eventually come to light.


  3. MMc

    Trying to support what is believed is how witch hunts begin. I think gossip has served this purpose as well. If something is believed than the facts to support it become what ever can be vividly, assiduously and repeatedly described. Politics and celebrity are famous targets but the truth has been the most maligned. I think the key is inclining the heart. Your thoughts are appreciated, thank you.


  4. Vincent

    This well describes the mechanisms of illusion that certainly tend to characterize the sense of self in most people. Of course it seems easier to observe the tendencies of self-delusion in others, but on occasion friendly pricks to the ego’s balloon can be a blessing if there is a real concern for what is true!

    A lazy sense of self floats along, filled with comforting assumptions that may be utterly false, while often fiercely defending half-baked views and habits. It takes a little courage and honesty to really look for the flaws in one’s own approach and to be grateful when they are revealed.


  5. Teryl Worster

    Great starting point for the day! Getting ourselves out of our own way can bring us quietly to the path of “truth”. Thanks Gregg!


  6. Joshua

    Most certainly!
    Let the rest of this day be filled with the eager yet relaxed glaze I am now enjoying!
    Thank-you, perfect start to a perfect day!


  7. Rebecca Ledet

    These tendencies that Bacon spoke of have also been embraced by science and religion. However, the real key, is what are we going to do about it? Are we going to perpetuate this type of thinking, or will our search for and expression of the Truth in any situation be what’s held above all?


  8. Pingback: Human Understanding | HappyTipsDaily

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