How to free the mind from cognitive bias and see the truth as it is – eternal, absolute and for everyone
Hi there U Community St Thomas Aquinas said – "Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur" – meaning the contents is molded by the container, or perhaps more accurately “Whatever is received into something is received according to the condition of the receiver.” I’m discussing the philosophical point made by this Catholic saint today because it makes a change from my usual reference to the Vedic Sanskrit texts.
Also, it was St Thomas Aquinas who said “beware the man of one book”. As a result I don’t want to continually quote references from just the Sanskrit Vedas, but rather wish to find truth and meaning in all valid works of great scholars. Catholicism is a rather recent addition to world history and philosophy, compared to the Vedas, but we also need to set aside our cognitive bias, which is our tendency to find truth in information that confirms our opinion as it already stands. This “confirmation bias” sends us cherry-picking points of truth from certain references that may not have the full substance to it, only our subjective perspective thereof.
And that’s what is implied in the Latin reference used by St Thomas Aquinas when he says that the contents is molded by the container. Human nature is fairly predictable and modern psychology along with Renaissance and modern philosophy has mapped out our minds for us quite well already. Confirmation bias exists in most of us. It is one of the most typical types of cognitive bias that shapes our thinking, almost unconsciously. It suggests the tendency to find and attach to writings or evidence that supports what we already believe. It turns one into the “man of one book”, which true lovers of wisdom (Philo=love; Sophia=wisdom) understand to be limited. We might call it fundamentalist today.
Real truth comes in many guises and from numerous sources. After all, we are but one human race, and our brain and body design has not changed at all in the past tens of thousands of years, or is it hundreds of thousands? It depends who you ask. Palaeontologists and archaeologists will tell you that it may be the latter, based perhaps on fossil records and carbon dating. In other words we are the same human species that has walked every continent for all this time with little change, so the basic insights and revelations will apply to all of us at all time in history. Such foundational truths do not change wit time like fashion. They are a part of our genetic make-up as a species.
We may have changed our interpretation of and labeling of whatever happens in our consciousness when we have a religious or spiritual experience. Neurotheology may say that certain brain chemistry can be connected to certain states of consciousness, and that brain chemistry is still present in all of us, whether from the Pineal, Pituitary or both combined. It is still the same vessel that we inhabit as was inhabited by all humanity over all time, generally speaking. There are evidences of giants based on skeletons of 14 feet tall in America, and there are Egyptian mummies with oblong skulls, all alluding to the possibility of a shift in the human species, but for our purposes here, humans have had the same tools of consciousness to understand and personally experience the transcendent since the beginning.
So truth and consciousness is an “eternal” stable point for all humanity at all times in history. We may, however interpret it differently according to our awareness at the time as a species or as an individual. Which is what St Thomas Aquinas is saying when he says that whatever is received, is received according to the condition of the receiver. Truth is subjectively interpreted by the one hearing the truth according to their realization, according to their capacity to comprehend it.
Or according to the paradigms of their particular culture at their time in history. We may be hearing pearls of wisdom but our culture today may have stunted our ability to comprehend the full import of the truth revealed to us. Many a swine has looked upon a pearl with disdain, unable to comprehend its potential beauty or value. We may already have the full meaning of life and the universe yet be unable to see it for what it is. Some great transcendentalists from another time or with a totally deeper insight may reveal their wisdom but it may not match our cognitive bias or it may be too foreign for us to interpret.
We hear the truth and see it based on our subjective capacity to comprehend it. We are a vessel that is shaped by subjectivity and we shape that truth to fit into our paradigm. And that paradigm is constructed by our current society, made up of teachers and parents. Sometimes in reading the wisdom of the ancients, or the saints of the past, we cannot say for sure that we are actually comprehending what they are telling us. So who has a premium on the actual truth then? Who can say they know what’s going on, what is the real meaning of life?
According to another cognitive bias called the “Dunning-Krueger Effect” less competent people have a tendency to believe that they actually know more than they do. And conversely, well-informed people have a tendency to be less confident in their insights or realizations because they know enough to see that they may not know it all. The symptom of a more aware person, in other words, is their humility. Often it is the brash and over-confident ones that make it to the top though, because they are louder or more forceful, yet it is these very types that are the less-informed.
He who speaks does not know, and he who knows does not speak. That’s another old aphorism from the mists of time. You can tell a fool as soon as s/he opens his or her mouth. Often the lesser informed person may be extremely confident but may not have learned enough to see how foolish they are. Socrates said that true wisdom is “to know that I know nothing” or something along those lines.
To conclude, we can at least know that we must be careful of our cognitive bias, our confirmation bias, and that we should beware the man of one book. You can figure that one out, according to your realization. As to who has a monopoly over truth, I presume that all humanity can access real truth, full consciousness and also transcendence because we all have the tools to do so. We may just be more covered by culture and illusion than others, or vice versa. So be sure to balance out the subjective with the objective perspective when looking at relative and absolute truth and find yourself somewhere in the center of all of it. That’s where all truths from all times in history converge in the eternal absolute truth of the eternal now. There you have it.