Thursday 2 March 2023

The inescapable karma of untruthfulness

The phrase, the karma of untruthfulness, is taken from a series of lectures by Rudolf Steiner, and it can be understood to mean that untruthfulness - lying, dishonesty, deliberate misleading - carries a 'karma'. 

This I mean in a Christian sense (and one different, in several important respects, from that implied by several of Steiner's metaphysical and empirical assumptions):

Sin necessarily carries a cost; and untruthfulness without repentance is a sin; and un-repented sin is the prime path of a soul, to self-chosen damnation. 

The karma of untruthfulness operates at the level of our Western civilization, at regional and national levels, for social institutions of all sizes; and, most importantly, for individual human beings. 

We already, and increasingly, live-by untruthfulness: untruthfulness structures the main aspects of our public life, policy, and discourse; and (ever-more-so) our private discourse - even within marriages, families, and among close friends.

And, at its core; untruthfulness structures the basic reality assumptions (metaphysics) and thinking of many or most Western people.  

The usefulness of the term karma is in its unavoidability; the idea that the costs are intrinsic

This is not a matter of costs coming if people 'don't get away with' their lies. It is that our 'world' of untruthfulness brings its own punishment immediately and necessarily - as well as cumulatively through time

A world in which people choose to believe and live-by that which is false is already a world that is self-damned; and self-damnation manifests at every level; because it is a choice of negation, of hostility to divine creation - a choice of meaninglessness, purposelessness, and chaos.  

Here and now - truthfulness is of supreme importance; a truthfulness that needs to extend down to the roots of our understanding of the world itself, as well as to the minutiae of everyday living. 


Lucinda said...

I like how you bring out the aspect of intrinsic cost. It lines up with a habit I've developed over the past few years, that has helped me resist pathological peer pressure toward self+damnation, basically amounting to a cost-benefit analysis that includes spiritual realities, such as the karma of untruthfulness.

Maybe related: This last week my 13 year old son asked why God would tell Adam and Eve not to take the fruit if the result of taking the fruit was so important to spiritual progress. At first I said I didn't know, then I said I do know that as a parent there are things I tell my younger children not to do, like don't cross the road without holding my hand, that I expect them to grow out of, and that maybe the command to not partake was similarly, in God's mind, meant to be temporary.

I'm not sure what you think of the Adam and Eve story. For me it is such a blessing to be able to explore and consider, and it doesn't bother me one way or the other if it is literally true or just developed over generations as an invitation and a help for God's children to seek/understand deeper truths.

Bruce Charlton said...


I find the Mormon understanding of the Adam and Eve story to be much the most coherent I have encountered; but I regard it as a truthful myth rather than an historical account.

I think the Garden of Eden refers to our pre-mortal spirit state, rather than anything that happened in mortal incarnation.

And, there is also a parallel to our development from an infant and young child (in a loving family) and the trajectory, temptations, opportunities of growing-up.

Francis Berger said...

"The karma of untruthfulness operates at the level of our Western civilization, at regional and national levels, for social institutions of all sizes; and, most importantly, for individual human beings."

I was mired in firsthand experience of this just the other day at work. I won't go into details, but the project involved all the levels mentioned above. Every level was permeated with untruthfulness, and all of that untruthfulness was quite visibly gnawing away at every region, nation, institution, and individual involved in the project.

It goes without saying that the only proposed solutions to this karmic quagmire of untruthfulness was *more* untruthfulness, thereby ensuring the continued expansion of untruthfulness. It truly was a thing to behold.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank - I presume that most people look at the 'karmic quagmire' and assume that the task of starting to be truthful is impossibly complex and difficult; so it is 'easier' incrementally to expand the untruthfulness.

Lucinda said...

"a parallel to our development from an infant and young child (in a loving family) and the trajectory, temptations, opportunities of growing-up" This is why the Adam and Eve story so central to the Mormon ethos. It invites us stumbling along from naivete into the joy of loving family.

I wanted to say something about the men-without-chests problem wherein modern people have largely discarded the validity of truthful myths, which ironically has set them up for the dominance of outright malicious lies. There is something about truthful mythology that preserves a sense of free thought as one outgrows a literal interpretation, whereas the modern mythology of facts and evidence inevitably collapses into a sense of hopelessness and chaos.

GFC said...

There are many people now in the West who believe that reality can be fundamentally changed if you can make (force) everyone to think certain thoughts and act as if the fantasy is real... eventually it will become real. So they give themselves a pretext of doing good ("the world is awful - we're trying to make it better") to cloak their lies. Lying becomes habitual, so in doing so they have become addicted to untruth and it now permeates everything they do.

Bruce Charlton said...

@GFC - I would say instead that they regard reality as being made by everyone thinking certain thoughts and acting on that basis. And, to a high degree, that seems to be true - modern Man can create the reality by which he lives.

The problem is that when such a mass-made reality is Not harmonious with divine creation; then it is evil - and will carry the consequences of evil, including feeding (self-destructively) upon itself.

A terse summary could be that when 'reality' is divine-compatible it adds to creation; but any other reality adds to entropy, and accelerates towards chaos (no purpose, no meaning, un-being).

Lucinda said...

Thinking more about the value of truthful mythology: I think the story of Adam and Eve, and so much other true mythology, is better at teaching reality than abstract truth or factual stories, because of the necessity of suspension of disbelief. C.S. Lewis tapped into this with his Narnia and Tolkien with his Lord of the Rings. This morning my children are watching The Giver, which I find has one of the lessons that is fundamental to true origin mythologies, the necessity of disobedience and failure, necessary to love.