An overview of “truth groups” and the “honesty culture” strategy (longer, anti-esotericist version)

(The following post constitutes virtually the entirety of the updated final section of Part I of my “Against the Lie” essay.  If you do not consider yourself an “anti-esotericist,” or are still unfamiliar with the subject matter of religious esotericism and have not yet formed any opinions with regard to it, then I recommend that you instead read a shorter version of this post which does not discuss the subject of religious esotericism or its relevance to an “honesty culture” social strategy.)


“Principle is not limited by Precedent.”
—Thomas Troward

I believe that it would actually be possible to solve the age-old problem of lying and dishonesty in human affairs if there were only a relatively small number of people who were willing to consistently adhere to a strategy based on the formation of what might be called “truth groups” (or “honesty groups,” to be more precise).  I certainly make no claim that the thorough elimination of dishonesty in society would be achieved in the very near future by using this strategy; but I do believe that, in time, it would be achieved.  (Incidentally, I also envision that these same “truth groups” would constitute the nuclei or beginning cores around which the moral communities that I describe elsewhere might come to form—with each of these moral communities practicing a non-esoteric religion or practical philosophy of its choice.)

I propose that members of truth groups would make four pledges, the first three being the most important to stress.  First:  They will never lie, either to each other or to outsiders—not even to those who have lied to them.  (There would be a single exception to this blanket “never lie” rule:  a kind of “self-defense” or “self-protection” exception that would apply in cases in which an individual’s personal privacy or autonomy was being unreasonably threatened—for example, by being asked intrusive and impertinent questions.)[1]  SecondTo the extent that they are reasonably able, they will never tolerate lying by others.  ThirdTo the extent that they are reasonably able, they will never tolerate the condoning (or promoting, or endorsing, or enabling) by others of lying by others.  Fourth:  They will strive to reduce how much they lie to themselves (at least to the extent they are able to do so, given that some degree of self-deception in every person is inevitable, and one must fight a never-ending battle against it).[2]

A particular truth group could be formed around any interest that its members shared in common, or any mission or goal that they wished to jointly pursue.  Any currently-existing group or association, including a small business, a non-profit organization, or an informal club, could always choose to additionally identify as a “truth group.”  Members of different truth groups wouldn’t need to have anything in common with one another except a shared desire to promote the development of a thoroughly honest society.[3]

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The “unclean foods” parable in the Gospels: Jesus lying again

In my writings on this site I repeatedly make the argument that all of the traditional religions practice “esotericism,” meaning that they knowingly make splits between an “outer meaning” and one or more “inner meanings” in their “sacred” communications.  The “outer meaning” is made freely available to “the multitude” or “the profane,” while the (different) “inner meaning” is reserved for the “elect” or “chosen” or “initiates.”  In other words, religions of this type are okay with misleading people.

Here’s an example of what I mean taken from the Bible.  (As you read what I write below, please keep in mind that I don’t believe “Jesus” was an actual, historical, individual, flesh-and-blood human being; I think he was functioning as a fictional, idealized collective representation of the authors of the Gospels, and persons like them.  So by my criticism of “Jesus,” what I am really trying to do is indicate the fact that the authors of the Gospels were oblivious to their own moral flaws—flaws stemming from their approval of religious esotericism—in so far as they were not able to recognize the defects displayed in their own imagined vision of how “the perfect man” would act.)

And having called the multitude to him again, (Jesus) said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and comprehend:  There is nothing outside the man that by going into him can make him unclean, but the things going out of the man are the things making the man unclean.  If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”  [Mark 7:14-16.]

Yes, I have ears to hear!  The meaning of the passage is perfectly obvious:  Jesus is telling us that there’s no such thing as a “ritually impure food,” since it’s what comes out of us, after we eat, that makes us unclean.  And after all, isn’t that why we wash our hands after using the toilet?  Just some sound advice from Jesus on the matter of personal hygiene, that’s all.

But wait.  The passage then continues:

And when he had entered the house away from the multitude [or commoners, or crowd: ochlos], his disciples asked him (the meaning of) the parable.  And he said to them, “So are you also without comprehension?  Do you not understand that everything going into the man from outside cannot make him unclean, since it enters not his heart but his belly, and goes out into the latrine, (thus) purifying all foods?”  And he said, “What goes out of the man, that is what makes him unclean.  For from within, out of the heart of man, go forth evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.”  [Mark 7:17-22.]

Ohhhhh, now I get it.  The first passage was only giving us the “exoteric meaning,” and, being “common,” I unfortunately got taken in by it.  Stupid me.  But now that we’ve all learned the “esoteric meaning,” we understand that food cannot make people unclean after all—perhaps not even when it “goes out” of the “belly” of the person “into the latrine” in the form of poo.  We now know that it is what comes “out of the heart” that makes a person “unclean” or “defiled”; at least, that’s the only kind of “uncleanliness” that seems to be of concern to Jesus.  So does that mean Jesus is telling us that if we’re true “disciples,” we needn’t be all that concerned with washing our hands after using the toilet, since using the toilet doesn’t actually make us “unclean” in any way that we ought to consider especially important?  It would seem so—at least, so long as we choose to take what Jesus says to his disciples at face value (which might be just as big a mistake as taking what he told “the multitude” at face value—but for the most part I will ignore that line of thinking for present purposes; I will only mention in passing the possibility that words like “food” and “belly” and “hands” may have been understood to have esoteric meanings of their own).

This may sound like a pretty silly suggestion at first, but it begins to appear less silly when the quoted verses are read in the context of the preceding verses of Mark 7:1-8, in which we are told that Jesus’s disciples would refuse to wash their admittedly “unclean hands” before eating.  Regardless of how “hypocritical” the scribes and Pharisees may have been, I still would have been appreciative that they were washing their hands and utensils before eating.  (I don’t wish to get too graphic, so I’ll say nothing more than remind the reader that toilet paper did not exist in ancient times.)

(And by the way, if anyone thinks I’m being vulgar in talking about this subject matter, just remember that the vulgarity came from the Bible, not me; it was Jesus who brought up the subject matter of “latrines” and digested food.  And I’m quite certain that this particular double meaning regarding “the things going out of the man” was meant to be noticed and appreciated by the more “discerning” reader—although, needless to say, prim and proper Christian clergymen have never allowed themselves to devote too much careful thought to what is going on here, even though it’s all to be found in their very own Holy Bible.)

Now, did you notice the little bait-and-switch pulled by Jesus?  Pay close attention to the technique, because esotericists do stuff like this on a regular basis.  Jesus himself later admits to his disciples that his parable involves “food”—that’s what “goes into the man from outside.”  (And if you need even more proof of this, he also explicitly mentions “bellies” and “latrines.”)  So, since Jesus is admittedly thinking about “food” as being that which “goes into the man from outside,” and since Jesus also speaks to the multitude of “the things going out of the man,” the reasonable member of “the multitude” would—if that member made what, it so happens, is the correct assumption that Jesus had “food” in mind—also assume, for the sake of consistency, when Jesus speaks of “the things going out of the man,” he must be referring to “excrement” (or, less likely, “vomit”).

But no—without bothering to make anyone in the multitude “privy” to the secret “esoteric meaning” of his parable, he surreptitiously allowed his “food” reference—along with what would appear to be the reasonable understanding of “the multitude”—to just pass away “into the latrine,” so that, when alone with his disciples, he could instead talk about something entirely different:  namely, “what goes forth out of the heart,” which according to him consists of evil mental tendencies and vices.  In short, what Jesus did was to suddenly “switch body organs” behind the backs of “the multitude.”  And they had been given absolutely no reason to expect that he would do so.  But even in spite of that fact, Jesus still feels justified in expressing impatience with and contempt for the multitude by saying to his disciples, “So are you also without comprehension?”—as if the multitude’s “lack of comprehension” was their problem, rather than a result of Jesus’s own difficulty at communicating—in public, anyway—in a clear, honest, and straightforward way.

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Why did Jesus lie?

John 11:11-14 says,

(Jesus) said to (his disciples), “Our friend Lazarus is taking his rest [or, ‘has fallen asleep’: koimaō], but I go (to him) that I might awaken him [or, ‘bring him out of sleep’: ex-ypnizō, derived from hypnizō, which means ‘to put to sleep’ and is in turn derived from the word hypnos, meaning ‘sleep’].”  Therefore his disciples said to him, “Lord, if [ei] he is taking his rest [or, ‘has fallen asleep’: koimaō] [in other words, “If what you are telling us is in fact true”], he will be kept safe [or made safe, or saved, or rescued, or preserved: sōzō, related to the Greek word sōtér, meaning ‘savior’].”[1]  Now Jesus had spoken [ereō] about his death [thanatos], but it seemed [or appeared: dokeō, related to the word doxa, which can mean either “opinion” or “glory”][2] to them that he was speaking [or “meaning”: legō] about the rest [koimésis, derived from the word koimaō] of sleep [hypnos].  So then Jesus told them plainly [or openly, or forthrightly: parrésia], “Lazarus has died [apo-thnéskō, related to the word thanatos, meaning ‘death’].”

Carefully observe the Greek words being used, and notice how Jesus’s disciples initially took everything that he said at face value.[3]  The disciples’ supposedly incorrect “interpretation” of what Jesus said was essentially nothing other than a straightforward restatement of what Jesus had himself told them.  In other words, what Jesus “really meant” was something other than what he actually said.[4]

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An open letter to Moti Nissani concerning the creation of non-esoteric religious communities

Dear Dr. Nissani,

The article of yours recently published on Veterans Today, “7.4 Billion Cheers for Real Democracy,” resonated with me quite strongly.  Like you, I believe that small-scale communities need to be developed that are essentially democratic and egalitarian in nature.

I approach this matter from a slightly different angle than you, however.  In your article, you wrote, “[I]n real democracies, the truth comes out more readily and it is more likely to lead to criticism, debate, and a change of course.”  I believe that our approach should effectively be the reverse of that:  We would insist on truth-telling, with the expectation that doing so would inevitably lead to more democratic forms of social organization.

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Why society’s tolerance of lying is not rational

(The following constitutes the entirety of Chapter 1 of Part I of my “Against the Lie” essay.)

I strongly believe that all of the problems facing human society can be traced to people’s collective choice to embrace the Lie, with the Lie being viewed as a metaphysical force in the world.  That, however, is not how most other people see things.  They might agree that—as a general proposition—lying is the source of many problems in the world.  But even though they will claim not to like lying, they continue to tolerate the people and institutions that do the lying so long as none of the specific lies they tell happens to greatly disadvantage or displease them personally; and, needless to say, they also tend to be quite tolerant of their own lies.  In other words, they often have a very easy-going attitude regarding lies they consider “harmless”—but what they really mean by “harmless” is harmless to them and their narrow range of goals and concerns.

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