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Truthfulness of Faith

The philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche constitutes a paradigmatic expression of the gradual resignation, both overt and covert, to verity which, on the whole, characterizes European thought of the past one hundred years. It seems as if after Nietzsche nothing were left to us but life as a game whereby knowledge and faith appear to have been released from the demands of „enslaving“ truthfulness. However, at a certain stage of its exhaustion, the destruction of grand ideas and a renewed surge of elemental and elementary creativity – both, following Nietzsche, taking the shape of an almost conscious and deliberate process in Europe – pose precisely due to this issue of truthfulness a new challenge and offer novel possibilities.

It was only from a certain postmodern position of detachment from the totalizing systems of „eternal truths“ that became possible to pose the question of truthfulness at a more profound and generally determining level. It came to transpire that the rational underpinnings of „a certain knowledge“ had been built on moving sands of a more powerful, fundamental and omnipresent irrationality out of which each rational formation of ideas proceeds, consciously or unconsciously, while serving that irrationality at its own level of accuracy. Not to be aware of it means being victimized, usually by its worse aspects (Horkheimer and Adorno, 1947; Jung, 1957).

Consciously to proceed from the terrain of irrationality – or to put it more precisely, from the innermost reality of spirit and life, which transcends and nurtures every conceivable thought – and not to resign, at the same time, to the dimension of truthfulness means to deepen one's own reflection as much as possible, taking it towards the most extreme point of departure of human spiritual life. It means to enquire about the truthfulness of faith.

Seen from this fundamental angle, truthfulness can be defined as a relationship towards what there is. As such, truthfulness is not a fetish of idle knowledge but rather a prerequisite of life. Because, even when the only thing left to us and the only thing important for us would be a totally blind, unthinking and unspiritualized life, we cannot ignore the invariably dearly paid-for conclusion that a life not aiming at truthfulness tends to be self-destructive. Unrelated towards what there is, enslaved by the destructive power of illusions, such a life turns into a self-enclosed dying, however rationally endowed it might be (Krzyston, 1984; Havel, 1989; Peccei, 1981). Confusion of playful coherence with relational truthfulness (Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Derrida, Rorty and others) throws human life at the mercy of any spontaneous irrationality. It deprives life of the possibility of taking one's bearing in what transcends it, letting life spiritually down. If „nothing is true and anything goes“, human life disintegrates itself into the shallowest functions. The abyssmal complexity of the real world is reduced to a superficial terrain of playgrounds and stages of the most diverse kinds, and the demanding profundity of genuine relationships between people is reduced to the tyranny of chance and the rules of manipulation. Individual persons and whole groups of people who perceive life as a game lose their capacity to self-transcendence, losing their relationship to reality and to one another – in an analogy to drug intoxication. But most probably only under such a historic situation is it possible to highlight sufficiently the importance of radically formulating the question concerning truthfulness.

But are we still capable of putting up with it? We feel that it is beyond our human powers to answer that question. But on many previous occasions we have already discovered that what prevailed merely by virtue of human strength was not the truth. We are afraid of the truth maybe because we sense that it is sufficient „merely“ to open ourselves out to it: what is this going to do to us? But are we entitled to defend ourselves externally against ideological and social totalitarianism when, internally, we tend to be ourselves so hopelessly close-minded?

However, we need not go to the entire length of exploring the weakness of a spiritual situation whose dimension of truthfulness has been lost, in order to start enquiring about truthfulness as such. After all, it is both possible and necessary at any time. Possibly, this is what renders the question of truthfulness so characteristic. Each and every situation provides its specific springboard for the formulation of this question. Nowadays, more than ever before, we have the opportunity of asking the query regarding the factor that controls and focuses our entire life from our depths: regarding personal faith.

Relation and Image

Humans are the only beings on Earth capable of maintaining a spiritual relationship with anything. (For a fundamental clarification, within our context, of the specificity of humans as spiritual beings see Scheler, 1927; cf. also Gehlen's dictum, „humans do not live, they lead a life“, 1940.) They do not live only in an unconscious immediate link to their environment as animals, plants and inanimate beings; they are capable of reflection, judgement and conceptualization. Automatic interconnection between situational stimuli and immediate purposeful reactions, typical of living organisms, is disrupted in man as if from another dimension: through enquiry, evaluation and decision-making.

Man relates to everything by adopting a certain distance, proceeding from an awareness of contexts which go beyond the immediately perceived situation: in his consciousness and unconsciousness, he constantly carries within himself a coherent system of individual, group and ancestral experiences, a system of ideated experiences at various levels and provenances. (Cf. eg. Husserl, 1913; Cassirer, 1923–1929; Jung, 1964; Ricoeur, 1975; and others.) These, in particular, constitute the mediating pillars of human relationships, enabling as they do to maintain a distance, providing an overview and independent effect on things. We compare and anticipate everything we actually encounter with those objectified and non-objectified mental images.

Their system as well as each individual image tends towards a certain degree of self-sufficiency – towards separating itself (and hence separating man) from what it really depicts, from what it has been originally related to. But if we manage to retain an unqualified interest in what is depicted, then, on the contrary, our images can be developed towards greater truthfulness, though remaining to be humanly limited.

Any image is all the more truthful the more permeated with relationship it is, the more successful it turns out to be in presenting what we relate to. A „relationship“ without an image is not (a mental) relation at all but a mere immediate linkage to something which we humanly fail to recognize (because we lack the detachment provided by the image). But not even a relationship towards an image constitutes a real relation but rather a one cancelling itself out by sinking into itself, by getting bogged down in its own innermost structure, which has replaced the other pole of relationship, namely reality. Spiritual relationship is a relation towards an object through an image.

In this case, an aspiration towards truthfulness presupposes an awareness that there invariably lies ambiguity in the roots of human relating: an image enabling to maintain an inner distance and thus a spiritual relation (unlike immediate link) at the same time makes that relationship impossible precisely by placing itself, in human consciousness and unconsciousness, in between the relating man and his opposite, simply by not being that opposite itself. If we are really concerned with truthfulness in the sense of relationship to what there is we should somehow cope with the fact that through an image man actually separates himself from what he wants to attain but in spiritual terms he cannot reach the object he aspires to in any other way but through a relationship, hence through an image. If we want to remain human beings, there is simply no way of extricating ourselves from that paradox. Through this „koan“ something may open up to man only by virtue of his lifelong efforts for achieving greater truthfulness of all his relations.

To a considerable extent, the spiritual life of today's civilization appears to lack this sense of direction. The point of departure of genuine orientation to truthfulness is the neglected awareness that each image – ie. not only a concept but also a symbol, metaphor, word, even a non-verbal expression, each experience, either realized or unrealized but somehow and sometimes ideated – separates us from what can appear through that image, separating us all the more, the more we are (even) philosophically convinced that an image is an expression of the „thing itself“. In actual fact, the more we tend to forget it, the more we set our sights on the image, losing a relationship with the thing. What appears itself (through the image) is not exactly because of that appearance the truth of the thing itself. As a result, the paradoxical and deceptive ambiguity of each image (concept, symbol, metaphor, etc.) causes us to be tempted to live in a (mostly shared) realm of images, which we regard as an authentic self-expression of being, and in this way images, unwillingly, separate us from being. Therefore, in this game, involving speculative imagery „unburdened“ by the question of truthfulness, we find ourselves at the threshold of spiritually withering away.

We are in a position to preserve our affinity with being solely through constant self-transcendence by asking the question of the truthfulness of our entire spiritual life. To keep on posing such a question means to restore the relationship by questioning each image. This is all the more difficult because images do seem to have an autonomous life of their own: as if they came to us on their own. We are usually content with what springs to our mind spontaneously in an unrelated self-sufficiency of our creation. Thus, images can somehow completely „by themselves“ block the horizon, making vision absolutely impossible. They can become the most significant, profound, original thing. But some people seem to be concerned precisely with that: spirituality sunk into imagination experiences the loss of all relationships towards anything situated „behind images“ as a complete unification with the universe. (Eg. Neubauer, 1980: „In experience we experience the being of entity as it really is /p. 91/. Speech is reality itself /p. 84/. ... to live in truth that is to do the same as reality does – to be creative active self-sufficient self-expression /p. 84/. Reality is inherent in experience as my behavior, my attitude“ /p. 86/.) When totally separated from everything, when ceasing to feel that apart from myself and my imagination there is still anything else, I can easily come to the conclusion that I myself have become Everything.

It is possible for us to enter that distinguishing dimension truth-untruth only by having soberly assumed responsibility for our own images. In this way, relationship to anything else outside them (and outside myself) can be reopened. But it can also transpire that reflection of imaginative unrelatedness formulated merely as a descriptive scientific methodological statement confirms that unrelatedness, consciously legalizing resignation to truthfulness. The fact that we cannot suddenly and totally penetrate towards what there is, that we cannot have at our complete disposal an absolute yardstick of truthfulness may grow to be a reason for sophisticated alibism, covering up a lack of interest in truth, and for an attempt to legitimize giving priority to other interests, which may easily turn one's quest for truth into a noncommital, slightly dramatic aesthetic game.

In the sphere of hermeneutics the escape from the issues of the truthfulness of interpretation takes the shape of an attempted dialogue of mutually integrating interpretations, which is in itself a purpose, a yardstick and a meaning. In natural scientific research the same principle of game assumes the form of a similarly self-serving competition between theories, vying with one another in the growth of their empirical contents and their critically verified coherence.

An unrelated creation of beautiful, keen, useful, lofty, exciting and other images then automatically, unrestricted by their own creators, may eventually result in an ideological lie and material violence levelled against everything there is; before a relation could have or has been established the thing involved is being handled according to an image.

Linking up to such a spiritual facticity of our times, we can formulate a certain elementary vantage point: The struggle for the greatest possible truthfulness of relations, and hence for relatedness itself, should apparently be conducted as (1) a fight for our own sober awareness that we are all the more with the „object“, the more thoroughly aware we are that its image is nothing but an image, (2) without simultaneously giving up a relation with „object“ – without abandoning the truthfulness of our images.

It is impossible to find out how to conduct that struggle specifically (and whether it is futile or not) in any other way but by starting to fight. The sphere of faith constitutes the absolutely elementary field of action.

Faith and the World

Faith renders the world accessible in spiritual terms: by depicting it through a certain system or sequence of emotional and intellectual meanings. Ranging from the elementary proto-faith mediated by our mothers to the reflected and cultivated form of mature faith, faith indeed makes the world comprehensible and habitable, through the initial immediately experienced „our world“.

The world of each of us is different (Gadamer, 1961; Husserl, 1954): marked by a different shape, size, complexity, openness, arrangement, specialization, limitations, impact on other human worlds, with which it coexists, overlaps or cancels one another out, with which it finds itself in an inexhaustible interaction of support or absorption, indifference, destruction or enrichment. In a similar vein, faith, which co-shapes each of these worlds, is likewise differentiated.

The personal worlds we live in tend to create – using all the different modes of their specificity and interaction – a more general plurality of broader, supra-individual common worlds, once again with their relatively shared rules, scope, contents, order, and style: the worlds of different families, various interest groups, diverse ethnic or state formations, various civilizations – worlds in a mutual horizontal and vertical dynamic relation whose result is a hierarchical structure in which the specific holders of dominating positions are constantly changing because no human world has so far succeeded with absolute validity in proving that it is the world common to all humans, the best, definitive, victorious world, encompassing in itself all the other worlds (differentiated geographically, historically, functionally, etc.) and surmounting their limitations and imperfections in an absolute synthesis, whose order would determine beyond any doubt which knowledge is truthful, which behavior is good and which work is beautiful. An absolute perspective of any human world – relatively individual and comparatively common – is never certain and hence it is, by and large, a matter of faith (and not of any reliable and definite knowledge) to decide in which world we instinctively or freely want to participate receptively and creatively.

Since each world we live in is a multilayer „overlap“ of many other worlds and a cross-section of their relations, the preservation of the integrity of our world – its continuity, style unity, and identity and existence in general – necessitates a lasting dynamic integrity of our faith, maintained by permanently taking decisions and choosing from many options. However, the inaccessibility of a reliable, unequivocal knowledge, the dependence on the painstaking groping of faith precisely in the most important human matters also give rise to resignation to higher, subtler levels of human life (morality, spirituality). But it is only their meaningful elaboration that accords to human life its characteristic beauty and fullness, including the possibility of posing the question of truthfulness.

To decide about faith is no longer so difficult after the human world has been reduced to its lowest levels; it seems to be accessible to a mere calculating reason. This reason, shared with the other primates, gives us the opportunity of adroitly adjusting ourselves to any context and deriving gratification of our elementary needs without having to ask after the meaning of our own behavior. But a world reduced according to the concerns of comfort, enjoyment, ownership, eventually power is a mutilation of the humanly relevant world. The minimalism of faith in the eternity, permanence and absoluteness of these elementary values, however, fails to provide an adequate basis for communication about matters that are specifically human – eg. reflection of one's own faith and its truthfulness. The large-scale spread of this particular orientation makes it possible to calculate beforehand and in very great detail the elemental reactions of a crowd whose each member is isolated due to his or her primitive faith in a world underdeveloped in terms of relations, in a world whose qualitative emptiness man tries in vain to compensate by quantitative greed (Fromm, 1956).

The quality of our world therefore depends on our faith. True to say, the private world of each of us is invariably shaped also from the outside – through the impact of all the worlds to which we are somehow related and especially whose part it is. But our world is not disintegrated or absorbed by them because – just as all the other human worlds – it represents an organic structure moulded from within – through the living faith, which gives our own world, since its inception, its own autonomy, creating its unifying core, postulating its own intrinsic, irreplaceable and freely attainable purpose, experienced as a fulfilment of the meaning of our personal existence. Our world is not primordially given to us from the outside, rather we create it from the inside, from the vantage point of our faith in an interaction with external events.

But our own faith keeps changing and with it our world: external factors activate our innermost depths, then offering to their manifestations a multitude of various predetermined forms of expression. The more superficial layer of irrational depths of our existence, the elemental spontaneity, rests on a stratum of spiritual freedom. The actual face of our faith changes primarily in dependence on the interrelation between the assertion of our spontaneity and the attainment of our freedom. A faith which is sufficiently free can eventually open for us the world as it really is, gradually liberate us from the constraints and distortions of „my“ or „our“ world. That could be the „mundane“ aspect (and profit) of the truthful faith we are searching for.

Even though the question of truthfulness of faith may be addressed to any faith anywhere and at any time, it is asked genuinely and instrinsically only by a faith which is primarily concerned not with the fact that it believes but rather with what it believes in, with the opposite, with the relation to it as it is. As a matter of fact, such a question, however, emerges into human consiousness usually at the borderline of different worlds, if there are more modes of faith (religions, world views, philosophies, ideologies, or scientific beliefs) in an available cultural area. Only competition among them provides a historic and local impulse for stimulating the question aimed at their truthfulness.

The possibility of finding a genuine solution of this issue seems to be more of a civilization luxury. It is opened in the situation of an absence of the tyranny of a single faith and after the barriers of mutual communication have been lifted. Engaging in a dialogue, oral or written, with persons holding different views helps us in learning about their own faith and worlds from their own rendering, hence we are offered an immediate, undistorted account, as if at that moment their faith were ours too. In a climate of tolerance, ample information and with the possibility of introducing an unbiased mutual opening, which happens nowadays on a planetary scale (Cf. the ongoing dialogue of world religions) in spite of the surviving ideological bulwarks, we have a chance – proceeding from an acceptance of the plurality of different worlds and from their authentic knowledge – freely and sincerely to start enquiring which of all human faiths is truthful or whether there is any at all.

An honest resolution of this question is, however, possible only if and when our civilized tolerance is a consciously cultivated product of spiritual openness and not a mere byproduct of puzzled insensitivity, in which we „choose a faith“ not because it is truthful but because it seems to suit our elemental spontaneity (as a coat bought in a department store: Is it still fashionable? Am I feeling comfortable wearing it? Is it going to last? Do I look decent or attractive in it? Do the people I care about wear a similar coat?). For people whose perception of other than aesthetic or utilitarian criteria has been blunted (Valadier, 1988) the question of truthfulness represents just some kind of a mysterious spectre. In a postmodern situation of an unsuppressed plurality, when this question could be tackled freely by any man – without streamlining pressures being applied or in spite of their paltry leftovers hanging around – , it is sometimes driven away by the elemental arbitrariness of spontaneous devotion.

Voluntary sectarianism, religious and otherwise, is, certainly, kind of an unnecessary barbarianism as soon as new possibilities of a spiritual dialogue and growth open before humans. But competitive thinking and tendencies towards rivalries in the field of faith can just as well be an expression of hopeless anxiety, ensuing from those open possibilities, which are immaturely rejected as a dangerous jungle of relativity or a desert of uncertainty. What is rejected together with them is the meek question of truthfulness, which is the only one in a position, unlike all the other criteria, to lead us safely through that „jungle“ and „desert“, open to us the vertical freedom of growth in contrast with the horizontal freedom of choice of a suitable self-provision. A faith complying solely with the elemental needs of psychological or social certainty at any cost (Lauer, 1973), where faith is just a badly affixed label on the artificial absolute, re-introduces, at least in the eyes of its followers, the situation wherein the issue of truth is once again becoming an inadmissible luxury.

Man's material wealth and spiritual emancipation therefore manage to yield, together with external conditions of tolerance and communicability of various worlds, solely the possibility of tackling the question of truthful spiritual orientation. By themselves, they do not solve it. They facilitate spiritual cultivation as well as spiritual decline, a search for truthful faith as well as dependence on surrogates. Enjoying the looseness of elemental spontaneity but without the innermost free will to attain the truth, dependent on external conditions, one can manage to arrive at nothing better than a destructive hopelessness towards the relativity of „truths“ and towards the violence of „absolute certainties“, a state of bluntness – getting accustomed either to tedious coexistence or permanent hostility -, a cultivation of faith according to utilitarian, prestige, emotional or aesthetic aspects – at the cost of, let us say, total self-deception and utter mutual isolation. Paradoxically enough, today's plurality of faiths provides to many people an alibi for this kind of resignation to truthfulness. At the same time, it offers a unique opportunity for something completely different.

Interaction between different faiths (accompanied by a global interaction of their worlds) may basically crystallize into its following three types: (1) physical and psychological manipulation – with the ultimate aim of attaining total consent of all; (2) a noncommital discourse – with all relativistic consequences of an anthropocentric plurality, (3) a shared painstaking and loving dialogical and cooperative quest whose meaningful vanishing point is universal human mutuality in a faith articulated differently but still being the only, because truthful, faith. The process of penetrating into that truthful and hence universal faith is inextricably linked with an opening of a commonly shared world of all the people and its absolute foundations. This possible association in truth is attainable only very far beyond the borders of all „our worlds“ – as a result of a permanently shocking and demanding query concerning faith, capable of releasing us from all the „too human“ mirrors of our relatively cocooned partial worlds and their still persisting tendency to domination. A perspective of this faith opens itself up in the depth of the personal existence of each of us once we dare to penetrate into our freedom and therefore be able to go beyond our world, open it to the world there is and its absolute foundation.

Faith and the Absolute

The „thing“ to which faith is related through its images, hence the specific „object“ or opposite of faith, is Absolute – an instance which, through faith, establishes and in the most general terms determines human spiritual life. Whether this „thing“ exists or not, whatever nature it has (virtually anything can become an Absolute), it is through faith that it becomes the ultimate support of human life. Faith, formulated religiously, philosophically, scientifically, artistically, or otherwise, but always personally, humanly experienced before such a formulation, therefore constitutes a relationship of supreme importance for all our other spiritual relations. Faith is that furthermost, innermost point of departure out of which man asserts himself as a being capable of establishing a spiritual relation to anything. As a result, faith as relationship to what we regard as the Absolute is invariably the supreme regulative of our reflection, appraisal, conception, enquiry, evaluation, and decision-making. It is the profoundest expression, background and yardstick of our spiritual freedom.

Hence this or that faith constitutes a setting on which man perceives the ultimate meaning and value of anything he encounters or creates. In this way, faith shapes the most fundamental spiritual orientation and style of each individual man, giving a certain general meaning and motivation to his creation, learning and utilitarian intentions. It brings together individual people, associating them on the platform of various common measures of life. The truthfulness of faith is starting point towards the truthfulness of entire human life.

The question concerning the truthfulness of faith is a question enquiring whether the „thing“ to which faith is related – an ideal, an experience, a material value, a personality, a principle, God or a god, hence any Absolute of faith – exists as the Absolute either only as an image of faith or still further as some „thing in itself“. Hence, (1) whether an opposite of faith is something that: a) somehow exists outside faith at all, outside its depicting capacity and independently of it, b) whether, in this position, it has also the quality of absoluteness, and (2) whether and to what extent it is expressed in faith, through the images of faith, as it is.

The complexity of the question becomes apparent especially from a global comparison with the question concerning the truthfulness of our knowledge. Even an answer to that question was and still is difficult, complex and never complete, as documented by the history of philosophy, science and other modes of knowing. Furthermore, faith is related to that which even goes beyond the reach of knowing and its verification methods – otherwise it would not be a faith but knowledge. But what kinds of measures of truthfulness can there ever be? How to apply our question at all? Isn't it absolutely useless? But isn't it at the same time supremely important? Can it be bypassed? Surely, the truthfulness of faith determines, among other things, precisely the truthfulness of knowledge: it can be observed that the supreme, though not always explicit, criterion of truthful knowledge is, after all, invariably consonant with some historically determined faith – with its overall paradigmatic image of the world and relations with the world, an image whose truthfulness is simply believed in; in actual fact, the ultimate criterion of the truthfulness of knowledge always inheres in this accord with some hypothetical conception claiming that what there is must manifest itself in that it is and that it is such and such in a specific, beforehand known manner (whose connection with the studied thing is believed in). Consistently to enquire about the human criteria of the truthfulness of knowledge – and analogously other spiritual relations too – means to come to as far as that point of departure from omnipresent and often unreflected faith. Such faith marks out the entire groundwork of each culture, offering an ultimate yardstick of human truth, which has been valid for centuries or millennia, before it is gradually demonstrated whether and where it was false and before another measure is accepted. Because in this way faith is our gateway to truthfulness, the struggle for its truthfulness is a fight for truthfulness in general, fight for the dimension of truthfulness of the entire human culture and history – naturally always as a struggle for the truthfulness, of one's own life, through which we participate in this whole.

Therefore, if all the spiritual relations (cognitive, purposeful, creative, contemplative, etc.) are subjected to yardsticks of truthfulness provided by an Absolute-focused relationship of faith, if the truthfulness of our faith – the quality of its relation with what there is – ultimately determines whether our life is enclosed into illusions or opened to the truth, then faith should be most consistently enquired about its truthfulness, regardless of the difficult nature of such a question.

For spontaneous human faith – faith hitherto untouched by this free enquiry which casts doubts on it – the Absolute may be identified with various instances man perceives individually or collectively as the most important for him in a given period: Mother, Father, Wife, Children, Education, Money, Drug, Sport, the Church, Party, Work, Friend, Power, Progress, Justice, Freedom, Salvation, God, State, Love, Guru, etc. The Absolute of a spontaneous faith is that „thing“ which matters most to man at a certain period of his life, which he experiences as a unique, irreplaceable and determining foundation and purpose of his own life. This can be virtually anything – ranging from things quite „mundane“ to metaphysical ones, from tangible objects to pure ideas – anything of material or personal or supra-personal nature, all invariably endowed with this importance, with a supreme significance in one's life.

For each of us, spontaneous faith is an initial mode of faith, making it possible for us somehow to believe and thus to lead a meaningful life, to have any idea of values and purposes at all, for which it is worthwhile to accomplish something in life. Yet this initial faith does not reflect its own truthfulness.

To subject spontaneous faith to the free question of its truthfulness means putting aside all the other reasons for the importance of this or that Absolute and casting doubts on spontaneous faith; it means enquiring whether its Absolute is an Absolute solely for it (only within its image) or whether it is also an Absolute independently of it. Whether its Absolute has been elevated to its position of the Absolute by faith or whether it is an Absolute in itself. Whether it is an Absolute only because it is believed in or whether it is believed in because it is an Absolute.

It is in the intrinsic nature of spontaneous faith that it cannot stand the test of such a question. Truthfulness is a dimension which can be introduced into faith only after transcending the original elemental spontaneity through a free decision: to be guided not by what we uncontrollably wish to be the Absolute but rather by what is the Absolute.

To pose the question pertaining to the truthfulness of faith means to open ourselves out to the plurality of faiths: to place one's own faith side by side the faiths of others – for instance, our own spontaneous Christian faith side by side the spontaneous faith of, let us say, a Buddhist, a nationalist or an esoteric – and to see it through their eyes as well. This means to open ourselves out to other people's motivations for espousing their own different faiths. To see their faith as necessary and acceptable in a certain human situation. It means to unveil even one's own similar spontaneous motivations, which have also very little in common with a profound will to truthfulness. To see them as mere human (cultural, situational, instinctive) „reasons“. While the only sufficient reason for espousing truthful faith is the genuine Absolute itself.

But which, then, is the genuine Absolute? And how is it possible to recognize it at all? – These are already the initial questions of potential truthful faith. They only seem to be insoluble.

It is evident that as an Absolute there can only be one Absolute. In relation to all the rest, an Absolute (which is the source of establishing and determining everything) can carry the only quality: it transcends everything. So that nothing man is capable of spiritually transcending on his own can be accepted as the Absolute: (1) none of man-made material and ideal things (naturally the ideas of the Absolute included), (2) nothing from the entire nature (which transcends man only in material terms), (3) not man himself either (since he is capable of transcending himself exactly by searching for the Absolute). This criterion generally disqualifies an innumerable series and levels of potential artificial Absolutes. Human being is capable of perceiving the infinite sum-total of everything there is, even being itself, in its limitations, enquiring about its ultimate reason, purpose and meaning – and thus transcending it on its own. But what is there left to such being who, still seeking in vain something higher than himself, finds nothing of that kind, everything he encounters crumbles down under his hands, turning into nothingness? The last thing man can do is finally to transcend himself, also transcending the nothingness, which he perceives as that in which the entirety of everything, including himself, inheres and out of which this whole has actually arisen. On his own man cannot achieve anything more.

The genuine Absolute is that which infinitely transcends man even at this moment and which can therefore encounter man only by itself.

Precisely at the apex of one's own abilities, and yet at the very bottom of one's own spiritual desire can man sense that he is transcended together with everything and what is it that transcends him. Only there, on the spot of the innermost freedom does he leave behind himself the limited projective wishes and is capable of distinguishing them from the self-giving of the Absolute. Only in the clarity of this enquiring self-transcendence does the relation of truthful faith open up to man, a relationship with the Absolute which is no longer the product of believing but which, on the contrary, creates faith itself.

The authenticity of such a donated faith can, however, be deformed by relapsing into the relative matters of this world, which are still attacking human freedom; by repeatedly immersing oneself into illusions, prejudices and self-centred needs, which (in an individual and collective shape) assume power over man again and build their own image even of the Absolute itself. Nevertheless, as soon as the first contact has been made, it can be repeated, strengthened, deepened, rendered permanent – but only with the help of the „other side“. In a relationship with the Absolute You is it possible gradually to overcome lasting elemental spontaneity; and establish a free and truthful relationship even with everything that is relative – objects of the world.

As regards the true image of the Absolute, which could be used to distinguish it from all the „Absolutes“, we can possibly use the old, „overused“ word God. This says everything and nothing about the Absolute. This is an image which is virtually empty – and this makes it highly possible to transcend this image by a relationship.

God and Humans

Is, therefore, a man who has formulated his faith as a faith in God basically spared the constraints of spontaneous faith? There are signs that he is not because spontaneous faith can have also „an Absolute“ denoted by the word „God“.

Within the framework of spontaneous faith, „God“ is whatever man expects from God most, whatever man needs God most for, whatever makes God important to man. This „God“ – the target of atheists – is only a spontaneously ideated experience of the noblest spiritual aspirations which eventually revolve only around man himself – his consolation, sustenance, self-improvement, existential fulfilment, salvation. A spontaneously believing man strives for these matters primarily and that is why in his spiritual life he implicitly encounters always only himself as an Absolute (Lévinas, 1961; Adorno, 1966). Explicit „Absolutes“ which he worships under the name of „God“ could easily be deified under their own names: Security, Joy, Success, Drug, Power, Future, the Church, Freedom, Reason, Justice, etc.

These distorting approaches are not only a matter involving individuals (the state of personal development of faith) but also groups (integrational needs of various communities and societies, civilizational and cultural patterns, paradigms, norms, and ideas) and the human species as whole (horizontally self-sustaining tendencies and sterotypes we have in common with all animate beings). These approaches conform with the overall structure of human spontaneity, untranscended and uncorrected by relation.

The development of faith towards truthfulness occurs through the difficult disengagement from the man-created „God-for-me-or-for-us“ – as from any other „Absolute“ – and through the establishing of a genuine relation with God independently of what man would like to obtain from God, what he would need him for most, what God could be important for man for, etc. All this can be added to man – but only by God himself, only in a relation established with him alone, if we are concerned only with Him, primarily because He is the genuine Absolute (Juan de la Cruz; Teresa de Ávila).

As illustrated by the history of all religions and the developmental patterns of personal faith of individuals, a relation with whatever or whoever is called „God“ can also be a relationship with image, a relation sunk into its own organism, a surrogate of genuine relationship. At the same time, competition of images casts doubts on the genuiness of relations; the more so, the more destructive forms this competition applies, ie., the more it is precisely a mere image that matters to man most of all. In the specifically human relation with God – unlike the links between God and beings who lack the capacity to establish spiritual relationship – it is certainly impossible to make do without an image. Even though the existence of God's relation to us is independent of our own relationship to him, we can consciously – fully humanly – return that relation solely through a spiritual image of faith. But the truthfulness of an image is commensurate with the truthfulness of relationship (Cf. also Buber, 1923).

Relation with God is non-transferrable and non-communicable. It opens itself out to each man separately. In our mutual conversation we usually do not know whether the other one speaks of „God“ or God. This can only be sensed in rare moments of our insight or his trial or on the long road of joint spiritual quest. Only God and not man can safely deliver us to God. And conversely, „God“ alone can lead us most efficiently away from God.

To cut off an image from what is to be perceived through – it is, particularly in the case of God, very easy, proportionately to the level of difficulty with which it is possible to establish a genuine relation with him. A person who is responsible for indulging in such a self-deception and in deceiving others need not have, however, originally known what he was actually doing when assuming his faith in a way faith in anything except God is assumed. „God“ is the „Absolute“ among other Absolutes, a mere toy in human hands. But: precisely the falsity of image can serve as a stimulus for seeking relation.

God relates to us out of his own freedom and the question concerning the truthfulness of faith can actually be answered only by himself – or that query must remain open for his answer. There is no entirely truthful answer to be given to that question by man himself. The image of God extracted from the very bottom of collective unconsciousness and most brilliantly elaborated is always something exhaustively humanly comprehensible (if the term comprehension is not confined solely to rational performance), and that is why such an image cannot transcend man. It is only an aid, a sign used to delineate a direction in which we establish a relationship with God.

That is why a theoretical concept cannot constitute a criterion for truthful faith because then we would rather believe in that concept and not in God. Nor can it be any kind of human testimony – because then we would rather believe in people and their reports and not in God. Nor can it be any of our own totally comprehensible experience – because then we would rather believe in ourselves and our limited experiences than in God.

At the same time, it is in a relation with God – and only in it – that everything which is not God receives, in return, the function of a „permeable“, transparent image (Stein, 1979; Bonaventura, 1861; Teilhard de Chardin, 1957). Nothing is the „solid“ self-purpose, everything becomes an instrument of global communication between God and man, an expression of their intrinsic dialogue. The world as (originally, in its purity) God's work and the work and life of man in this world remain to be, to the last oscillation of their being, kind of a total language used by God and man to communicate. (Man who does not particularly care about the truthfulness of faith does not know that he, too, speaks in this way independently of his own will.) Communication with God cannot be reduced to a conscious act of a intended prayer at an allotted time. For God our entire being is transparent and tells everything about us. And, in return, in our relation with God everything we encounter is transparent for us and we perceive in it a language affecting the very centre of our being.

On the contrary, outside relation with God everything is rather dim and dark: turning into a veil, an obstacle and a source of misunderstanding – a screen for projecting illusions.

In this dual human perspective – determined by whether or not our point of departure is relation to God – we can perceive even Christian Revelation. Even that can become a gate through which man will pass into a living relationship or it can function as a stumbling stone: a barrier at which he will stop in protest or in illusory piety. Just as any Divine traces, gifts and images Revelation too represents an offer extended to human freedom. Jesus keeps referring to his Father – not only in word but through his entire being, through his whole mission. He is fully aware of the abyssmal disparity between what appears (albeit this is for man a morally and spiritually unattainable maximum) and what remains hidden and cannot reveal even in the most perfect human shape. In Jesus's intentions we cannot understand Jesus Christ in any other way but as an instruction leading us towards our self-transparency for Relation in which man can finally muster courage to abolish himself as a natural absolute point of departure and assume towards everything a relation carried by this Relation in which everything appears as it is and in which man makes himself totally available, including the most supreme sacrifice.

Our spontaneity perceives this truthful, liberating relationship primarily as a loss of the existing reliable supports, as a threat to everything we have been accustomed to and what provides a feeling of safety to us, what confirms to us our horizontal identity. In a relation of truthful faith, in which we are not the determining, dominating side, we can lose everything, even ourselves (Merton, 1955). We do not believe that this in particular could save us. We do not hear that gentle voice of freedom telling us that in relation with the Absolute there is nothing to lose. It seems more natural to us to feed ourselves with spontaneous images, to relish as the fruits of paradise the esoteric sciences, which confirm to us what we have ever known anyway, what is encoded into the depths of our self-sufficient Jungian unconsciousness as various recurrent symbols of our spontaneous faith.

It is far from easy to transcend this horizon of images, with which we have prereflectively grown together. The only thing we can lean on on our side is our freedom; human nature cannot be reduced to spontaneity. Spontaneity – which can sometimes suppress freedom – receives a natural shock in each situation of suffering. These situations carry their specific message. Suffering does not leave us spiritually in peace, in a stagnant cove of our illusions. Whether it is our own suffering or suffering of somebody else, it provokes our entire personality, forcing us to start searching. It keeps returning in various forms for as long until we have internally ascended above that suffering and above ourselves. Heavily suffering man needs genuine Divine presence, an authentic relation; illusions in suffering flourish only as long as suffering has not been accepted as a new starting point of our quest, as long as man is blindly struggling for nothing but previous living standards. Once accepted and once contemplated in an unbiased fashion, suffering purifies and opens man. In a relation with God it ceases to be important, it ceases to matter. Only a truthful relation with God can make each human suffering if not insignificant, then at least bearable. Suffering is a catalyzer of the Relation.

In proportion to his dependence on God man is therefore independent; but in proportion to his independence he is committed to a cultivating service to the world, which is now being perceived in its unreduced width and complexity, in its splendour no longer made wretched by man's personal projections and in its squalor no longer made beautiful in the eyes of his self-indulgence. Relation with God results in man's fruitful service free from personal obstacles or reservations (Ignatio de Loyola, 1978; Doig, 1978). In it man can become so purely a life-giving force as air or water. The rate of devotion to this service is a sign of the degree of truthfulness of our faith. Only in a genuine relation with the Absolute does it occur that God, residing in his „Elsewhere“, liberates us secretly towards the productivity which no longer has any centre inside us but inheres in the truth of His absolute love. This love becomes our constantly deepened point of departure towards everything.

Thus, truthful faith does not „recognize“ God but remains with him. It does not prove his existence but loves him. It does not experience him but serves him.

It is, therefore, a faith which seems to be ceasing to exist: instead of it there appears to be God alone. It is neither understanding nor confession nor attitude; it is a relation – being given to God, adjusted according to His terms. Truthful faith needs no proofs, testimonies, experiences; compared with them, truthful faith is „dark“ or looking out at the void; in relation with God it is „as transparent as a clean window pane“ (Juan de la Cruz).

In Conclusion

Faith striving for its own truthfulness is a faith struggling with itself. The more it doubts itself the more it is becoming dependent, meek, courageous, pure, receptive – truthful. The opening of a theocentric relation is preffered to the accumulation of anthropocentric images. God's image, transcended by relation, is thus ceasing to be a rebounding board for man's attitude to himself and is rather becoming an instrument of universal communication: with God and with all the people living in relationship with Him, whether this relation is established through whatever images.

Truthful faith is a faith which has succeeded in transcending the horizon of spontaneous human needs. It is no longer motivated by man's fear for himself and his concern for his own salvation. It is carried by man's simple and free love of God and God's love of man.

While we are striving to attain a truthful faith, all other relations open out to us. We manage to activate our depths out of which we are capable of establishing a truthful relation with anything. To relate ourselves to the world as it is – to the only world which is common to all the people – is not completely possible without having an implicit relation with God. Even though we are in this only world (independently of ourselves), without a relation with his absolute foundation we are still captive to routine projections of „my“ or „our“ worlds. The world as it is can gradually open out to us only through the relation with and service to that Absolute which is (absolute). Enjoying this kind of freedom, also we more are, from greater depths are we becoming more ourselves.

A truthful relation is, at the same time, the basis of the truthfulness of images. But since not every image is the product of a genuine relation, the production of images can actually be independent on such a relation. It can be a game involving our unrelational spontaneity. While building various reflected systems of images, such as philosophy or science, each partial criterion of truthfulness and each conception of truth certainly plays its role and occupies its own position. These criteria and conceptions have their importance at least in arranging know-ledge, in acquiring findings and in outlining a heuristic direction. But it applies to all these criteria of truthfulness that they can go barren or can be meaningful – in dependence on the kind of broader framework of human thought and experiencing in which they operate: the framework of a game or the framework of relation to what there is. Authentic aletheia, authentic adequacy, authentic evidence and authentic validity is achievable only on the basis of the entire-thought-activity-transcending profound human relation to what there is.

This relation – as we have tried to demonstrate – is not accessible immediately, by merely plunging into the imaginative game of our creative spontaneity, in which we ourselves can easily be „like gods“, without obstacles illusorily „thinking Divine thoughts“, but it is a hardly attainable goal of spiritual purification. In it, through the death of „God“, the self-absolutizing man dies, together with each ontology of his subjectivity. A prerequisite for the genuine resolution of the question of truthfulness in any sphere of man's spiritual concern is nothing less than authentic, non-poetic, practical mysticism in its innermost, demanding, „hard“ sense, which could and perhaps should implicitly underlie our entire life.

If a man was constituted as a being of a spiritual relation, then destruction of a relation inevitably leads to the destruction of man as a spiritual being. He finds himself in an immediate link to his surroundings and in a no longer mediating linkage to his images. He becomes a non-relational slave to his spontaneous images and to the unreflected impact of the external situation. A man unable to transcend himself sinks below his constitutive ontological level. In such a distress he urgently searches for his own self but, by means of that, only deepens his self-centredness and gets entagled into his games even more. Redemption is not possible in any other way than through a relation to what there is. A primary form of this relation is truthful faith.

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