Back when I was giving supposedly inspiring talks back in my true believing days, I used the term "ultimate reality" a lot. It just sounded so, well, ultimate. And real.
I enjoyed thinking that one day it'd be possible to know the final truth of the cosmos, what the whole amazing deal is all about, the answer to all possible questions. In short, the Aha! understanding that would demolish the noncomprehending Church of Holy Fuck!
It now seems to me that ultimate truth is a fool's goal. And I readily admit that, in retrospect (the best perspective to view one's shortcomings) this aptly described me: fool.
Ultimate truth came to mind this morning when I responded to some comments on a recent post. Someone noted:
Both of you are interpreting the available data from your particular bias. None of us knows what’s ultimately true.
I liked the last sentiment. But it seemed out of sorts with the first sentence.
After all, if there are data about something, if evidence concerning some phenomenon exists, then it sure seems like we should be able to figure out what interpretation of the data/evidence makes the most sense.
So I said in my own comment:
We aren't talking about ultimate truth here. We're talking about evidence that a supernatural realm exists, that certain humans have supernatural powers, that a part of human existence (soul) is linked to a supernatural realm.
This isn't ultimate reality stuff. This is just reality, and there should be some evidence for those things.
Lots of people overemphasize the ineffability of mystical, spiritual, and religious experiences. They claim that it's impossible to describe contact with a reality beyond the physical, or of sublime divinity.
Well, if someone has an experience, that's something which happened to them -- an alteration in their consciousness. If they recognized it as an experience, then they should be able to communicate that recognition, albeit imperfectly, haltingly, with difficulty, imprecisely.
Having taken psychedelics quite a few times back in my college days, I can tell you that a LSD "trip" is a journey far out of the ordinary. Yet it is eminently possible to describe what it feels like to be on LSD, though the description isn't the same as the experience (which is true of every experience).
But what about ultimate reality, ultimate truth?
I have no idea what these words mean anymore, assuming I ever did. Like "God," ultimate reality/truth is a concept without any content, an abstraction that's absent any meaningful concreteness.
Ultimate implies the end, the final destination, the There beyond which is no more. What could this be in relation to the cosmos as a whole, all of existence?
Existence exists. It's arguable that this understanding is ultimate truth. If so, I've got it. So do you. So do we all. How would it be possible to get to the edge of existence and take another step beyond? Where would you be? What would you be?
Still existent -- if you were to have an experience of supposedly ultimate truth. Yet you haven't understood why existence exists, because "why" is a meaningless word when it comes to ultimacy.
Again, the ultimate is The End. No why's, what's, which's, or whatever's allowed beyond this point, or at this point.
We humans have evolved an ability to conceptualize fantastical notions like "God" and "ultimate truth." However, this is far different from being able to experience or know them. All kinds of things can be conceived which don't exist in reality.
We can, though, know and experience all sorts of other phenomena. This is where our focus should be: living real life, not pursuing fantasies such as ultimate reality.