Tag Archives: truth

A distillation in four points

I’m always looking for new ways to get across the key points of Middle Way Philosophy in a compact list that can be readily referred to. The Five Principles  on which our summer retreat this year will be based (scepticism, provisionality, incrementality, agnosticism, integration) are one way of doing this, but these five principles focus on qualities to cultivate or use in judgement, rather than on the distinctive world-view they emerge from. So here’s a new attempt to distil that world view into four very brief slogans:

  1. Meaning is body-memory
  2. Belief is assumption
  3. Justification needs provisionality
  4. Truth is archetypal

The explanation of each that follows will no doubt be rather compressed. However, the main idea of this blog is to encourage you to see these points as interdependent (each building on the previous ones), and to at least glimpse how they challenge much conventional thinking and offer new ways forward  for humans stuck in that thinking. For more details on this whole way of thinking, please see first the introductory videos, then the Middle Way Philosophy books.Four Points

1. Meaning is body-memory

The embodied view of meaning tells us that meaning is an accretion of memory. But by ‘memory’ here I don’t anything on the analogy of data-storage which people too often use to try to understand memory.  Rather, whenever we encounter a new experience, we create new synaptic links connected to our whole body’s active engagement in that experience. That experience may involve associating words or symbols with the experience, and when we are prompted by similar words, symbols, or other associated experiences in future, we mildly re-run the synaptic connections associated with it. We thus lay down layer after unconscious layer of memories that then provide the basis of meaning-association in future, and even quite complex or abstract language draws on this embodied experience to be meaningful, via the medium of metaphorical constructions. Think about the most abstract language – a scientific paper, say, or a company board meeting. The meaning of all this language, however abstract, still depends on your body. When you have no body memories to connect with it, you cease to understand what is being said.

2. Belief is assumption

The dominant tradition in philosophy and science, which then influences the way people usually talk about their beliefs, is to think of them as explicit, but explicit beliefs are the tip of a very large unconscious iceberg. Most of our beliefs are a matter of what we assume, rather than what we have explicitly said. If you said you were hungry and then started looking at the sandwiches in a café, it would not be unfair to conclude that you believed that a sandwich might address your hunger, even though you didn’t explicitly say such a thing. Yet, strangely enough, most of the established thinking about how to live our lives just offers explicit reasons for believing one thing rather than another, rather than trying to work with what we actually assume. It is not reasoning (which always proceeds from assumptions) that will help us make our beliefs more adequate to the situation, but rather greater awareness of the assumptions with which we start to reason.

But we can only believe what we first find meaningful in our bodies, so the second point depends on the first.

3. Justification needs provisionality

How do we tell how well a belief is justified? That’s a question at the core of all the judgements we make in everyday life, in ethics, in science, in politics or elsewhere. The traditional answers all involve explicit reasons: for example, that a certain action is wrong because it says so in the Bible, or a certain scientific theory is correct because it can be supported by evidence. But we are constantly subject to confirmation bias, all of us living in our own little echo-chambers in which we seek out what we want to hear. The old ways of justifying our beliefs are not enough by themselves. We need to take into account the mental state in which the judgement is made too, to incorporate psychology as a basic condition in our reasons for adopting one belief rather than another. If we can hold a belief provisionally, so that we can consider possible alternatives, we are better justified than if we do not.

The mental state in which a belief is held is inextricable from the set of assumptions that support that belief. We can hold a belief provisionally if we find alternatives sufficiently meaningful (using our imagination). In the traditional ways of thinking dominant in philosophy and science, this way of justifying our beliefs cannot be taken seriously, because meaning is assumed to depend on belief and belief to depend on justification. In that way of thinking, reasoning comes first rather than the mental states in which the reasoning takes place, but this mistakes the tip for the whole iceberg. The third point thus depends on the first two.

4. Truth is archetypal

People are typically obsessed with ‘truth’, ‘the facts’, God, nature, ontology, ultimate explanations. Surely these things are important? Well, only in the sense that they are meaningful to us, not in the sense that we need to build up justifications of our beliefs by depending on them. If we think of ‘Paris is capital of France’ as true and ‘Paris is the capital of Mongolia’ as false, that is usually a kind of shortcut for the thought that the first is much better justified than the other, and that we assume it in practice. But, according to the third point above (justification needs provisionality), to be justified in believing that ‘Paris is the capital of France’ I need to believe it provisionally, that is to be able to consider alternatives. Whether I actually do this or not, claiming that it is true or false adds nothing to that justification apart from cutting off the provisionality, making it the final story and closing off any further thought or discussion on the subject. Claiming that it is true or false thus actually seems to undermine one’s justification.

Nevertheless, we can respect the motive of those who seek to establish the truth (which they will do best by considering the justification of a belief against alternatives – by doubting the truth of their claims rather than asserting it). Truth can thus still be a kind of symbolic inspiration or archetype (see this blog post for examples), and not claiming to possess archetypal truth a mark of fully respecting it. Just as we need to avoid projecting an archetype on someone else by thinking that they are God, or the perfect woman, or whatever (even though we may also appreciate ideal artistic depictions of God or of the feminine) we need to recognise truth as a symbol that we find meaningful in relation to our body-memory, without projecting it onto a particular set of words that we take to be ‘true’. Instead, whenever there is a discussion about whether we should hold one belief rather than another (in science, politics, ethics etc.) we can focus on justification.

We could not make sense of truth being archetypal if we did not separate meaning (point 1) from belief (point 2), recognising that meaning precedes belief rather than the other way round, and that we can find truth meaningful without believing that we have it. It’s also precisely because of the need to maintain provisionality about our beliefs (point 3) that we cannot justify claims of truth.

This view of truth can potentially transform our view of science, ethics and religion: whether we are talking about scientific facts, the good, or God, we can respect the motivations of those who value these things without accepting that any of them are actually possessed in a particular verbal formula.

The four points and the Middle Way

The Middle Way means a practice of seeking justification for our beliefs in provisionality rather than in consistency or evidence alone. To stay in this provisional zone, we avoid the absolutes of claiming truth on the one hand or falsity on the other. To do this in practice requires our mental states to be provisional, which is just as much a matter of our emotions and body as of our reasoning. It’s not a question of aiming to be in some wonderfully enlightened mental state, but simply of judging better every time by being less confined by our personal echo-chambers than we might otherwise be.

In connection with the founding story of the Buddha from which the term ‘Middle Way’ derives, we need to focus not on the final state that the Buddha supposedly achieved by using the Middle Way, but how his judgements at each stage reflected provisionality and enabled him to move beyond the rigid assumptions of those around him. First he needed to leave the palace with its rigid ‘truths’, then also move beyond the religious world of spiritual teachers and ascetics with their ‘truths’ (which also declared the world ‘false’). If we unpack what is required for the Buddha to go through this process at each stage, it involves maintaining a sense of the meaning of alternatives (point 1), developing a greater awareness of the limited assumptions of those around him (not just their explicit views – point 2), and recognising their lack of justification (point 3). If the Buddha had at any point discovered the ‘truth’, this would have halted his progress by ending the story, but instead the story continues – indefinitely.

Beyond ‘post-truth’ and ‘alternative facts’

After the recent inauguration of Donald Trump, a row broke out about the number of people who actually attended the inauguration, in which Trump’s spokesperson was derided for using the phrase ‘alternative facts’. The evidence, as illustrated by the photos, seems pretty clearly not in support of the ‘alternative facts’ offered by the Trump administration, but I’m not interested in discussing the details of that (which have been much debated) here – rather I’m interested in the outrage attached to the idea of ‘alternative facts’. After all, the thinking seems to go, we have the facts here, so how can there possibly be alternative facts? A similar line of thinking seems to be behind the burgeoning phrase ‘post -truth’ – as if we used to know the truth, but now people aren’t accepting that truth any more. My  view is that people who pay attention to evidence and try to develop personal objectivity are not doing their cause any favours by talking in terms of ‘post-truth’, but rather reinforcing the kind of confused thinking out of which the Trump phenomenon has been born.Inauguration_crowd_size_comparison_between_Trump_2017_and_Obama_2009

Let’s first reflect on some basic features of the human condition, that we can all probably find in our own experience. We all have beliefs about the world, but those beliefs have also often turned out to be wrong, even if we held them along with lots of other people. This applies not just to ‘values’ such s the past belief that slavery is OK, but also to past ‘facts’ such as that the world is flat. As an individual, I can confess that I used to believe a number of ‘facts’ that I now no longer accept, such as that sisters are always older than you, that I would never be able to find a girlfriend, or that it’s safe to drive at 60mph over a moor with loose livestock on it. There are also the limitations of our senses, perspective, and most of all our language, which depends for its meaning on our bodies and metaphorical constructions, not some kind of correspondence with potential truth (for more on these sceptical themes, see this article). On the whole then, we must admit that we have no access to facts. It’s not just Trump who is deluded if he claims to know ‘the facts’ or ‘the truth’, but you and me too. Post-truth politics, along with post-truth philosophy and post-truth everything else, thus seems to have begun with homo sapiens as a whole, and our emergence of a capacity to hold and express any kind of belief that we might assume to be true. The first post-truth politician was the Serpent tempting Eve.

If we finger populist politicians for a fault that it can easily be seen that we all share, then, it is hardly surprising if we’re seen as hypocritical. Though I don’t see a lot of the often unpleasant social media output by Trump supporters, one thing that has struck me about a lot of what I have seen is the predominance of accusations of ‘liberal hypocrisy’. If liberals claim to have ‘the facts’ and respond to Trump’s excesses with blustering counter-assertions in a similar style, that accusation doesn’t seem to me wholly unjust. I think there are far more effective ways of responding that identify much more clearly what Trump and his henchmen are doing wrong and which avoid this ‘post-truth’ shortcut. It’s not whther they have or don’t have the facts, or don’t share your view of them, that matters here: but that they don’t offer those facts with provisionality, are not open to correction, are not interested in examining evidence or justification, are not even concerned about gross inconsistencies in their beliefs, and are not at all interested in improving on their beliefs or making them more adequate. In terms of values, they do not respect the truth or the facts. In relation to all these points, I agree very much with Trump’s critics that the new administration’s attitudes are extremely alarming.

If you genuinely respect the truth, you don’t claim to have it, just as if you respect the power of electricity, you don’t stick your finger in a live socket. Truth is a meaningful concept to us, because we use it in all sorts of ways in all sorts of practical contexts – for example, in science, in law, and in everyday conversation. We have set up an abstract model in which ‘truth’ stands for an idealisation – a fabled position in which we could really know what is going on, not just more than we did before, but totally, as in a God’s eye view. But nevertheless that abstract idealisation is just an extrapolation of our much more limited experience: the experience of recognising things we didn’t ‘know’ before, and of confidently interacting with the world around us in a consistent way. Most of the time, our confidence about how the world works turns out to be justified, so we apply this idealised concept of ‘truth’ to that experience, in the process completely failing to take into account the limitations of our view. So it’s very important that ‘truth’ is recognised as meaningful, and not relativised in its meaning, but at the same time recognised as beyond our reach.

Let’s take an example. A child brought up in a household with a  friendly dog, confidently playing with it and interacting with it, thinks it’s ‘true’ that dogs are friendly. When he encounters the first unfriendly dog, though, his whole model of the world is briefly shaken, the ‘truth’ is shattered. There may be denial – the unfriendly dog doesn’t really count as a dog. There will certainly be initial stress, followed by suspicion and unease in a new uncertain relationship with dogs. But we don’t all have to be as fragile as that child, if we stop thinking in terms of ‘truth’ but rather cultivate the awareness that our beliefs are only justified for the moment on the basis of the evidence so far. If we can be aware of other possibilities to begin with, we will be less overwhelmed by the nasty surprise when it happens.

In the realm of politics, that means concentrating on the qualities that actually matter in making our judgements adequate, the ones that involve a larger respect for truth, rather than railing about others offering ‘alternative facts’: namely the personal qualities of provisionality, awareness, imagination and observation. It means setting the example to those who don’t understand this, and teaching children not to ‘tell the truth’, but rather to reflect upon and justify what they say. It means holding Trump to account, not for ‘lying’, but for being grossly inconsistent and failing to offer evidence or respond to criticism.

It may well be that most of those who complain about lack of truth, when pressed, would actually agree that what they value in practice are these ways of justifying and adjusting our beliefs. But while they continue to use ‘truth’ and ‘post-truth’ as a lazy shortcut, I think they will play straight into the hands of people like Trump. All that such populists have to then do when challenged is to turn back to their unsophisticated supporters, deny the criticism, and offer their own ‘alternative facts’. The discussion will then stay at the completely unfruitful level of mere claim and counter-claim. As our beliefs about the world are wrapped up with our goals, our ontological obsession with what is or is not ‘really’ the case is our biggest weakness, the absolutizing vulnerable spot in our cognitive abilities. It’s only by putting ourselves in the messy middle zone of neither accepting nor denying these ‘realities’ that we can make progress, whether in politics or any other area of human dispute.


Picture: Comparison between inauguration crowd sizes for Donald Trump in 2017 (left) and Barack Obama in 2009 (right). Images copyright to 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee (left) and ewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images (right), and are used at low resolution under fair use criteria. 

Archetypes for science

To talk of an archetype is just to talk of a basic, universal psychological function that we can either project or take responsibility for as part of ourselves. Religion, art, and myth are of course rife with archetypes, but there’s no reason to assume they stop there. Archetypes can be found in every field of human experience. So why not science?

I’ve been thinking recently a bit more about what scientific archetypes might be like. Since scientists and other supporters of science are people, we can expect the same four basic archetypal functions in them as in anyone else, but they are likely to take a rather different outward form, because scientific culture makes such a point of avoiding ‘subjective’ stories (unless they are the object of scientific investigation themselves). So scientific archetypes are likely to avoid traditional forms, but (since they are based on the human mental constitution) nevertheless emerge.projection-of-truth

If scientists don’t acknowledge their own stories, that creates a new danger of projection, where the stories are simply played out in the ‘objective world’ without recognition that they are a result of the biases and assumptions of the scientist. The fact that much scientific ‘rationality’ depends on procedures to eliminate bias that are followed at a group level, rather than just individual thinking, increases that danger. So I thought it might be helpful to try to identify some scientific archetypes to look out for. This can also provide another way of distinguishing science from scientism. Scientific method itself is entirely compatible with acknowledging the biases represented by these archetypes, but scientism is equivalent to projecting these archetypes outwards without acknowledgement (particularly the final one).

So I’m going to base my suggestions for scientific archetypes on the four basic archetypes I’ve described elsewhere: for example in my 2014 talk, and book Middle Way Philosophy 3. These are the hero, the shadow, anima/animus, and the God archetype (which Jung also called the self).

The hero is the archetype of the ego, representing our idealisation of what we can achieve in the form we identify with at the moment. I recently discussed the hero in another blog. We identify with the heroes in stories because they are striving for goals in the face of difficulties just as we are, and we feel their triumph as they achieve them. So, who is the hero in science? Well, the scientist of course. Maybe it’s Galileo whom we identify with as a martyr for the cause, or Einstein as the genius who overcomes the doubters. The scientific hero may slay the dragons of ignorance, or perhaps of pseudoscience, religion or irrationality, to win the fabled Nobel prize and carry it home in triumph. The scientific hero is projected when you really think that someone else is like that and you really believe in their goals 100%, or perhaps that you yourself are such a hero. Such an archetype can be integrated when you recognise that figures like Einstein can be inspiring, but they’re also complex, and that the desire to slay those particular dragons is based on limited assumptions that may need further examination.

The shadow is the archetype of evil, based on what we reject. The Shadow is often identified with Satan or other evil figures, but can be projected onto someone we hate, who then gets a whole host of shadowy attributes given too them. For example, the boss frustrates you in your current project, so you fantasise that he is nasty in every respect, not realising that he actually goes home and has a wonderful relationship with his children. The shadow for science has already been mentioned as the target for the hero: probably pseudoscience, religion, a rival theory, or whatever is understood as standing in the way of science. For example, you may have identified one way in which you think homeopathy is mistaken, but you then project that evil ignorance onto every other aspect of homeopathy. That means that when examining it you will be heavily subject to confirmation bias that makes you interpret positive or neutral information negatively. To integrate that archetype and avoid projection, you would need to recognise that although some specific beliefs held by those you reject may be unhelpful, you can separate the overall shadow from the figure you reject, who will be much more complex and multifaceted.

The anima/animus is the archetype of the attractive other, which most commonly takes a form sexually opposite to the one you identify with. Falling in love is a common indicator of a projection of the anima or animus: usually with a person, but it could also happen, say, with a place, a subject, a book, or an animal. You believe it to be wonderful precisely because it has qualities you lack yourself, and as a result you fail to see that you could develop more of those qualities in yourself rather than seeking them elsewhere. A scientific anima/animus could be an attraction for something perceived as non-scientific, perhaps even irrational. Thus scientists can be observed not only falling in love with non-scientists of the opposite sex, but also going in for escapist fantasy, or even adopting a religious or new-agey view precisely because it doesn’t fit their normal requirement of scientific rationality. The projection of the archetype depends on that blindness to the incompatibility of the two worlds, because you don’t want to have to make the effort of being rational all the time. To integrate that archetype, though, you’d have to admit the incompatibility and find an overarching understanding that could contain both your scientific self and your fantasising self. In the process you might loosen your assumptions about what ‘rationality’ is and how humans can make use of it.

The God archetype is the big one, that I find those with a scientific worldview are least likely to acknowledge, obsessed as they are likely to be with the ‘existence’ or otherwise of God. The God archetype is a foretaste of a state of integration, also variously called the self, or the wise old man or woman. If you project the God archetype, you believe that there is a God (or a person) beyond yourself who has the energy, wisdom, positivity and awareness that you’d normally attribute to an integrated person – but, in the case of God, to an infinite degree. You might also project that archetype onto a guru, a Buddha, a wizard, a healer, a teacher etc, or even onto yourself if you start to believe that you are perfectly integrated. If you integrate that archetype, though, you recognise that it is your own integration your dealing with, that integration is always a work in progress, and that the people you may be projecting it onto are imperfect.

I have already written a blog that touches on the God archetype in science when I wrote about idealised figures of truth. Truth is one of two major concepts that I think scientists are likely to project the God archetype onto, the other being Nature. Compared to the imaginative richness of  religious representations of God, of course, scientific concepts of truth or nature are likely to be rather dry and abstract, and not often given an imaginative form such as a personification. Nevertheless, it seems clear that some scientists routinely project an absolute truth or nature, either by believing that their theories are ‘true’ and that they know ‘laws of nature’, or that, even if they haven’t achieved it yet, truth and nature are achievable and scientific theory is capable of describing them. Thus they project a quality that depends on their actions, attitudes and procedures (objectivity) onto the universe itself.

Just as with God, there is no harm at all in having truth or nature as archetypes representing your goals. As such they can be highly meaningful. However, if you assume that the object of your efforts really exists out there, you make a similar basic mistake to those who believe in a supernatural God or a perfect lover. To integrate such projections, we need to separate out the archetypal symbol and recognise it as such, but refrain from projecting it onto the people or things in the world around us, or even the world as a whole.

Of course, it’s not just scientists who may be subject to the scientific versions of unintegrated archetypes. They may increasingly just be products of the scientific worldview as it is also adopted by others. As a group, scientists are also probably more likely to detect these kinds of projections than most other people. So I don’t want to be read as having a special go at scientists, only as pointing out that they are subject to exactly the same processes as everyone else, and it would be rather surprising if they were exempt. Reflecting on the presence of these archetypes might also help to discourage the more naïve versions of scientism in which the scientifically-influenced make metaphysical assumptions that they believe are justified by scientific results.

Picture: composite of projector with ‘Truth’ sculpture by Lefebre

Symbolising truth

I thought it would be good to follow up my recent essay on scepticism (which points out that we have no access to truth) with some positive comments about truth as a symbol. I was also particularly moved recently by finding this picture in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. It is an anonymous picture, dated about 1620-30, called ‘Truth presenting a mirror to the vanities of the world’.

(c) The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Artistic depictions of Truth as an allegorical figure are interesting. They are overwhelmingly female, and sometimes naked (obviously reflecting the idea of ‘disclosure’). This Truth, on the other hand, is sumptuously robed and dignified. Her expression seems appropriately severe. The use of a mirror to symbolise truth is widespread, and can be interpreted both as an indication that we should confront uncomfortable facts about ourselves, and also that we should look at our own role in creating the ‘truths’ we believe in. The skull is obviously a reminder of the ‘truth’ of impermanence and death, that we may often fail to face up to. What I found particularly striking here, though, is that Truth is also holding up a pair of scales. That suggests a particular emphasis on the need to balance our judgements in order to get closer to truth, a direct suggestion of the Middle Way as well as related philosophical ideas such as that of ‘reflective equilibrium’. From the Middle Way point of view, positive or negative metaphysical extremes would distort the scales either way, preventing the much more subtle balancing of the scales required to make judgements in experience.

As a sceptic, I don’t believe that we can have access to truth (and saying this is not itself a truth-claim but rather just facing up to our embodiment and inability to be God). However, that doesn’t in any way prevent us from imagining and symbolising truth. Indeed, maintaining truth as an ideal, and relating to it positively, seems to me an important process. There is no contradiction here. We can, at one and the same time, honour or even worship truth, whilst recognising our inability to access it. Indeed, at a more profound level it is our very commitment to truth as an ideal that drives us to recognise that we do not have it. That commitment (or faith) in truth does not consist in propositions about truth that are claimed to be true (or false), but in the meaningfulness of truth to me. I may have all sorts of neural connections that enable me to respond to ideas of truth, these being linked into embodied experience and activity in all sorts of ways, but none of these are so entrenched (I hope) that they result in claims that such-and-such is formally true.

The embodied nature of what truth can mean for us is evident in this picture, as all the ways that truth is depicted are not about ‘the truth’ itself, but rather about ways that we need to face up to conditions that we are resistant to. The scales, as I have already mentioned, are a more directly embodied metaphor for the judgement process. The mirror and skull are directly associated with often unwelcome recognitions of the imperfection of our bodies. But the woman herself is also an embodiment of truth rather than an abstraction from it, and can remind us of some facets of the meaning of truth for us: dignified, restrained, and slightly severe.

‘Truth’ has sometimes been relativised by pragmatic philosophers (such as Nietzsche and William James), who would talk about ‘our truth’ rather than ‘the truth itself’. This does reflect ordinary informal usage, where I’m quite happy to admit that the phrase ‘That’s true’ does sometimes cross my lips, meaning ‘that accords with my experience and understanding’. But in my view truth has too much dignity – is too sacred, if you like – to be treated in this way on the more formal occasions when we talk or write more reflectively about it. It’s only because we find truth meaningful in this way, and preserve its symbolic absoluteness, that we are able to be sceptical when it comes to truth claims. Indeed, it seems to me that sceptics are the people who find truth most meaningful, at the same time as recognising fully that they have never met with her in person.

The metaphor of ‘truth as a woman’ was famously developed by Nietzsche at the beginning of his ‘Beyond Good and Evil’:

Supposing truth to be a woman – what? is the suspicion not well founded that all philosophers, when they have been dogmatists, have little understanding of women? that the gruesome earnestness, the clumsy importunity with which they have been in the habit of approaching truth have been inept and improper means for winning a wench? Certainly she has not let herself be won – and today every kind of dogmatism stands sad and discouraged.

An attractively embodied point of view, though obviously a very male one. ‘Clumsy importunity’, though, seems quite an appropriate metaphor for how many people, male or female, treat truth. They completely misjudge her, thinking she’s like them and can easily be made part of the group. Beyond that, however, perhaps we shouldn’t push Nietzsche’s analogy too far. It is not so much Truth that has not let herself be won, but rather us who are incapable of winning her.

Some of the ‘dogmatic philosophers’ attacked by Nietzsche for importuning truth have more recently taken to more indirect, hypothetical appeals to her. The truth-dependent theory of meaning widely accepted in analytic philosophy is something like a fake cheque supposedly drawing on Truth’s bank account. We’re told that a certain claim is meaningful because we understand the circumstances in which it would be true – even though, in practice, we have never experienced and never could experience an occasion when we know anything to be true. If we were ever to pay in the cheque, rather than just passing it round as a medium of exchange, payment would be refused, because Truth does not let her account be drawn on in such a way. Hypothetical appeals to truth in practice have nothing stronger than convention to draw on.

As a symbol, Truth can also be understood as another version of the God archetype recognised by Jung. If the archetypal God in our experience is a forward projection of the possibility of our integration, Truth is very much the same, for the outward process of removing delusive barriers reflects the inner one of removing conflict: in both cases it is absolutisations that stand in our way. Just as those who really have respect for truth should not claim to possess it, similarly those who really have respect for God should not claim to be in possession of revelations that reflect God’s will.

The acceptance of truth as meaningful at the same time as recognising that we don’t possess it is a difficult balancing act, but, I think, a crucial aspect of the Middle Way. There are lots of judgement calls as to where the boundaries between truth-claim and truth-meaning lie, and different people may disagree on exactly where they lie in different cases. But if you want to practise the Middle Way, I think it is the overall balancing intention that is important here. Not getting sucked into claims about truth or falsity requires resolution on the one hand, but respect for truth as a symbol of what is out there may be equally important.