The Lie of Truth

by Φ

The Lie of Truth, by Rene Daumal

At the beginning, there was error. Truth is one, but error proliferates. Man tracks it down & cuts it up into little pieces hoping to turn it into grains of truth. But the ultimate atom will always essentially be an error, a miscalculation. Thus it is that man runs towards error & away from truth which can only be instantaneous & unextended, thought in action.

Take the Sun, for example. It orbits around the man looking at it from Earth. At the same time it orbits around the sky, going through its twelve signs. But at the end of 365 orbits around Earth, it has done a little less than one orbit around the sky; at the end of 366 orbits, a little more. A miscalculation. The Moon from time immemorial dances through its four faces, resulting from the interplay of light, the Sun, and dark, the Earth. Because 2×4=4.But it only makes the miscalculation worse, because it never show a complete number of phases when the Sun has finished its orbit around the zodiac. And this movement of the Sun cannot be used to measure error, because of the Precession of the Equinoxes. And you would probably find, if you looked hard enough, a Regression of the Precessions, or something along those lines. The astronomer looks for cycles, draws up formulae, spends his whole life composing a 260-page formula of the movements of the Moon, which will be disproved a year after he dies. Inevitably, since he is trying to use Truth to explain what is error. At the same time, he prevents us from seeing the movement of the stars as it is, and, since we are linked to that movement, to see ourselves as we are, errors, miscalculations.

Let me be more specific. The circumference is incommensurable at its diameter. The mathematician vainly draws up thousands of decimals after 3.14159… And yet the geometrical representation is clear enough; it alone, or rather the idea we have of it, is the only adequate conception of π. Similarly in the case of the square & its diagonal, as indeed for all existing forms. The mathematician prevents us from thinking that the Squaring of the Circle or the evaluation of the Golden Number are problems which can only be resolved in me.

Let me be even more specific. The definition of a series of integers is rigorous; it is a constructive law whereby I add one to one, one to the number obtained, and so one. The definition of a prime number is rigorous; it is a definition of property, which names as prime all numbers devisable by themselves & by one. This & only this definition is used to place primes in the series of numbers. But this place is totally unpredictable. 1, 2 & 3 are prime numbers, after which primes only appear according to the completely empirical proof of the Sieve of Eratosthenes. In each generation a mathematician claims he has found the law of primes; & each time, you find that if you go further than he has in the series of numbers, his law is no longer valid. And if you found the law, the world would cease to exist. Because the mind could construct, & therefor destroy numbers, which are the basis of everything. In fact, primes are the only primordial numbers, since the others are conceived as divisions; 15, for example, is 3 times 5. But 3 & 5 are irreducible facts. If the astronomer found the exact law of concordance of the lunar & solar cycles, the world would cease to exist. Because the same phases would from all eternity have ceaselessly produced the same effects; simple observation of the stars would have revealed the truth to us from the very beginning, & so we would not have anything left to think about. If the mathematician calculated π exactly, the world would disappear, because we would have the common measure for all possible dimensions of space.

Everywhere we find irreducibles, everywhere approximation, everywhere error. I suppose, in fact I am convinced that atomic physics & the theory of electron waves will always come up against the horizon of the incommensurable, where the empty mirage of truth hovers before the eyes of the scientist. Science is truly great when it is a question of practical application. But what it should be doing, instead of making us believe that there is some sort of truth external to us, is trying to make the fundamental error clear to us. And when that was done we could turn our eyes to our innermost selves. And each one of us could say: ‘At the beginning, I made a mistake, a miscalculation’. Some have mysteriously translated i by God, and error by world.

And each one of us would see that he thinks with an intelligence, emotion & a body. Three aspects of himself which play each other up in a world of make-believe, just like the Sun, the Moon & the Earth, just like the circle, its diameter & π. In a fraction of a second, my intelligence sees the oasis shimmering in the desert. In two seconds, the time it takes for the blood to circulate two or three times, the desire to reach the oasis has taken root. But it is only in two hours or three days that my body reaches it. Three speeds which ought be harmonized. Man is head, chest & stomach. Each of these animals operates, more often than not, individually. I eat, I feel, I even, although rarely, think. And these three animals can be further subdivided into functions. And each has a ghost; intelligence has the ghost of intellect, feelings have the ghost of sentimentality, desires the ghost of tastes, & so on. This jungle crawls & teems, is hungry, roars, gets angry, devours itself, & its cacophonic concert does not even stop when you are asleep. A miscalculation. But in this case I can spot who is responsible: me. It is up to me then to conduct the orchestra so that the roar of the lion, the silence of the eagle & the rumination of the bull find the common chord. But at that moment, the only moment of fully human truth, everything will come to an end.

I really am the one who is responsible. I can create numbers, by successive addition, indefinitely & yet my creations escape from me, they are always coming up with new properties. Where is the error? The error must be looked for. It must also be articulated. For even if the Truth existed, it would deb criminal to speak it. Or rather one would only speak words & figures, numbers & forms under the sway of the original Error. Whosoever believes he has heard the truth no longer has anything left to think. He is dead. But the truth is not in space; it is the moment of consciousness. It is solitary. And this solitude is, along with death, by which I do not mean the death I might meet next week, but the death in this very moment in time, the only reality common to all. It is only in that reality that we can real commune. Truth is solitary & one. Error is prolific. Seven great methods have been invented by man to provoke us all into thinking: one day I will say why the arts, originally destined to transmit the only transmissible things, that is to say errors, but errors chosen to be the moulds for thought, the containers for truth, one day I will say how the arts have become an illusion, so that men believe they are communicating their thoughts, hearing & speaking the truth, but forget that they all inhabit the same solitude. Art has a double face: the reality of error & the phantom of truth. To prove it, read the Calendar again, that approximation.