Category Archives: Doubt

On Truth and Arbitration

Dearest Father,

As expected my quest continues, enriching my young mind in the process. I have met many on this path, both seasoned lovers of Sophia and young amateurs like myself, but it seems none wants to give me the time of day. I do not blame them; I myself am not a very talkative fellow. I am sure a single look at my scowling visage, as my winged companion rambles on on whatever topic he fancies, has served as a deterrent for many a prospective friend. I have been very busy with my regular duties as a human, and the next few weeks promise to be rather hectic. I am approaching a milestone in my training, a point at which I shall finally be awarded a document that states I am worthy to call myself a bachelor in my art, and the days leading up to such a ceremony are bound to be tasking. This perhaps explains why I’ve found myself scowling more often than not. It is certainly not as a result of my little friend’s ramblings; he knows better than to speak on issues surrounding my studies. With matters so pressing I cannot afford to entertain his musings for more than a few minutes.

I will not bore you, Father, with tales of my studies. I suspect you will not find such topics too interesting. On the issue of my quest, however, I must say that it is going rather swimmingly. Now I may not be able to travel very far in the coming weeks – the aforementioned issues have all but captivated my attention – but the progress I have made thus far has been very rewarding indeed.

With regards to Platocrates and his Republic, it has finally become clear to me exactly why the book is called thus. Initially it boggled the mind as to why a treatise concerning justice would bother with the description of a state, but it seems that in order to show his listeners and readers what the true meaning of justice is, Platocrates has elected to construct the perfect city – he reasons that in such a city the most perfect rendition of justice would be all too easily discovered. This is an act I find both admirable and slightly annoying. Admirable, for it shows the immense dedication of the lover with whom I have cast my lot; annoying, because it makes this one segment of my journey stretch even longer. I would much rather he got to the point in short order, but I suspect that his long-windedness will eventually pay off. I have already learned quite a bit from his words so far, not in the least of which is the fact that he eventually bests whomever questions his postulations. I suspect this is because we are passively experiencing his account on the matter, an account that attempts to drive home a point. As the points are being made by Platocrates himself, it would certainly be odd if each and every one was struck down and he was shown to be the fool. There is also the fact that we are reading a one-sided account of the dialogues. For all we know Platocrates did miss a few points that fateful afternoon in the house of Polemarchus, and pride kept him from writing about it.

As I settle in to follow him on this journey into the perfect city, I suspect it will not be long before you start seeing missives from me addressing both these issues: justice and perfection. While Platocrates may seek to join them in order to make a point, this young lover still considers them to be very separate things indeed.

On the Numidian’s Confessions, an almost similar theme is discovered. When I left him, Augustine was lamenting his sinful nature, comparing some of the ways of your children with those of their almighty Father, and of course finding them lacking. He spoke about the deplorable nature of his youth, with his wayward father and his good, but at times misguided, mother. All of this was delivered, of course, with the requisite tone of exultation, as the Numidian never misses an opportunity to praise you and your ways, even the manner in which you mete out punishment.

Perhaps it is because I am also walking the path of justice with Platocrates, but his mention and acceptance of your punishments made me think once more of justice and what it means to be just, especially for one such as yourself. I doubt Platocrates will address divine justice in his dialogue, and so I expect that this is another issue on which you will soon be hearing from me. If I am finally to find and understand you, understanding the purpose and impetus behind the laws with which you rule the universe is essential, no?

Aside from the lessons I am learning from my wonderful teachers, I still have my once little friend to contend with. As I mentioned, I have found it very easy to ignore his mutterings these past few days; my human duties leave no space in my head to entertain him. As you know his questions, per his name, always play on my perceived ignorance. He finds anything that I may have ever questioned before, even in my earliest days, and he brings the full force of his evil voice to bear upon it. It has occurred to me in the weeks past that if I am to rid myself of him completely, I must be certain of the answers I give him; I must be as convicted as the greatest elders in the House, as wise as Sophie’s most prolific lovers. Unfortunately, for one as conscientious as myself, in order to be certain of my answers I must be convinced that they are true, and if there is one thing I have discovered thus far Father, it is that finding the truth is very hard indeed.

The subject of truth is one that I know many lovers of Sophie have battled with across centuries and millennia. One cannot know Sophia if one does not know truth, but how does one know when one has found truth? Of course the very question of how one knows anything is an even more fundamental problem for lovers of Sophie, one that ties directly to my conundrum with Doubt. Once again I find myself envious of you, dearest Father. Such petty questions as how to know what you know have never bothered you; would that I could be like you in that regard.

Now I am sure that countless men before me have tackled the issue of truth in an attempt to settle it once and for all. As an amateur on this path, I cannot even hope to come to conclusions as rich and as complex as theirs. For this I ask your forgiveness, dear Father; whatever you read in this letter today will be but the simple musings of a child plagued by a wily foe…

As a younger man, the question of truth was a non-issue for me. I believed everything I was told by parents and elders, and in my mind those things were true. I did not know any better, you see, and, as you must have observed in your children, in the absence of actual, concrete knowledge, anything goes. If we are not told what to believe we create our own beliefs, extrapolating from whatever foundations we have previously established until we arrive at a worldview. The problem arises when something challenges this worldview. At such a moment we have two choices: change our views, or prove to ourselves that our views are true while the other view, the challenger, is false. Of course I have found my challenger in my companion.

Now a long time ago I believed that logic, or to my young mind sense, was a good metric for determining what was true and what was not. Things that made sense were true, and things that did not were not. Of course this is a very flimsy method of determining the truth, and when Doubt finally came along it was not long before I was made aware of this. On this journey alone I have discovered numerous positions taken by various lovers of Sophie, all addressing the same issues, and yet all diametrically opposed to each other. The presence of multiple Families within the House is another immediate strike-down for this line of reasoning. To a certain extent, as much as my inexperienced mind can discern, the positions held by the chief dissenter at the time of the Great Rebellion made quite a bit of sense. I have often told myself that had I been alive with the German at the time, I may have joined his cause. Many positions put forth by members of the Family of Rebels make sense; in many ways they are logically consistent. The same can be said of the core beliefs of my Universal Family. And while I do not know much about them, I am fairly certain that the Orthodox Family, which broke off long before the Rebels even came into view, also has teachings that are sensible and logically consistent. And yet all these Families vehemently disagree on fine points, and all of them teach that each is the true way to your heart and the Great Upstairs. From this alone it is rather evident that sense, or logic, is not enough to ascertain what is true; after all, even Doubt’s words make sense. Evidently in order to find truth, its essence must be separated from that of logic and sensibility.

After some thought it occurred to me that at its core, a truth is something that is accurate, a fact. A statement such as “John is male” is true in so far as the concept described by male can accurately be attached to the person known as John. Now there is a danger for me to devolve into definitions of “concept” and “knowledge”, and Doubt is whispering dangerous nothings into my ear, trying to compel me to verify exactly what these are. But I am tired, and my mind is not yet formed, so I beg that you use basic intuition to understand what it is that I mean. (Even the word “intuition” causes the creature to smile.) I do not think this should be a problem for you, Father. While mere humans may quibble over the true meanings of these words, you see into my heart; you must know exactly what I am trying to describe.

From the aforementioned definition it becomes clear that every statement that asserts something has the potential for truth, including this one. In fact I can say that most of the sentences I have written to you thus far possess truth-potential; all that is required is the fulfilment of such potential, their verification if you will. In this way the question of logic becomes a secondary one, one that I must admit is difficult to push aside. Whether by nature or by nurture, I look with disdain upon statements that make no logical sense; I am far more likely to consider an inconsistent statement to be false than to consider it true. But if we are to go by our new definition of truth then its logical consistency is irrelevant. “John is not John”, while apparently nonsensical could in fact be true. One just needs to ascertain this fact and harvest, so to speak, its truth-potential.

In the absence of verification, it seems then that a statement simply remains a statement, neither true nor false as far as the observer is concerned. Of course it is one or the other, (or perhaps – senselessly – both) but not neither… or is it? Doubt is toying with me once again. For now we will state that it must be one or the other. The fact remains that it is impossible to tell which until verified. Such a statement, hanging in the nebula of truth-limbo, could then be termed an “arbitration”, a simple string of words whose actual value is yet to be discovered. And as long as this arbitration is logically consistent, newer, assumed truths can be spun from it and entire paths can be forged in its name.

It seems to me that this is exactly what has happened in reference to the countless things that we your children, both within the House and without it, find ourselves at loggerheads over. Regardless of the truth value of the statements made, it seems some great men have made many arbitrations and, assuming them to be true, have dedicated their lives to the logical implications that follow. By so doing their viewpoints appear very attractive to those of us that hold logical consistency in high esteem, or at the very least agree with, for whatever reason, the underlying arbitration. This of course is most applicable to the differences between the Family of Rebels and the Universals, where with the Rebels I believe there are five fundamental arbitrations, listed and championed by the dissenting German elder, Luther. I am neither disposed, nor do I believe I know enough, to tackle these arbitrations and unearth their real truth value, but it is an exercise I am sure I would undertake at some point.

I like this conclusion, Father, because even Doubt is silent and pensive as I write this. To summarise, I believe there are statements whose truth values may or may not be known. When they are known we can safely term them truths, and as long as they are not we must view them as arbitrations and tread carefully in our consideration of them. Of course such a worldview makes you the Great Arbiter, for whatever you speak becomes the truth, immediately shaping the universe to your desires. The world, then, is nothing more than one very long statement spoken from your lips, in an instant both arbitration and truth. Such a realisation, dear Father, is very humbling indeed.

With much thought,

Your Prodigal Son

P.S. Not to be outdone my companion has pointed out that all of this is nothing but verbose arbitration, and I agree with him. I cannot describe my glee at the horrified look on his face.

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On My Once Little Friend

Dear Father,

Time trudges on as it must, and so do I. Slow and steady progress is being made on the teachings of both Platocrates and Augustine, and I am starting to find that my journey may be a little more organic than I had imagined. I have taken many detours, exploring various sub-concepts espoused by the great men I follow, and in so doing I am learning far more than I could have hoped to had I simply stayed on the beaten path of justice, Republics and Confessions. The time is coming when you and I shall begin to have discussions on the thoughts and postulations of these and other men, but unfortunately, it is not here yet. At the moment I wish to draw your attention to the fellow that has been following me since my departure; in the weeks past, he has become quite the problem.

As I mentioned in my last letter, the little spat over the season’s sacrifice resulted in the shocking growth and enlargement of my companion. This growth seems to have affected more than just his size. His voice appears to have changed as well, turning slowly from its playful, high-pitched squeal to a deeper, more ominous baritone. And with this change in tone and size has come a disturbing change in demeanour.    When he first joined me, he yammered about useless, trivial things. I would look upon the sky and marvel at its blueness and he would ask how I knew it was blue and not some other colour. I would breathe the air and marvel at its coolness and he would ask whether or not it was hot to the fellow down the road. There was nothing too little, too simple, for him to have an opinion about, and while at times I found his yammering to be nerve-grating, it was for the most part rather harmless.

All that changed when the Season of the Fast began and I was forced to consider what to give up for you. For the first time, it seemed, he turned introspective; he turned serious. It was as though he understood the gravity of the season, and what a sacrifice to you would entail for a soul as lost as mine. For a few moments I felt he’d finally realised that his constant bickering was of no constructive value, and that he was to be quiet while I tried to sort out my deep questions. Of course that is not what happened. His questions did not cease; they became even more disturbing. There was nothing he did not drill; every point, every sacrifice I considered, he questioned till it could be questioned no more, causing me grow increasingly unsure of its worth and its importance. There was nothing I could hide from him, nothing that was sacred to him. Even when I tried to push from my mind the habits to which I was most attached he latched onto them in an almost prescient manner, asking why I did not wish to consider those for sacrifice, questioning my perceived nobility, how much I actually wished to sacrifice, and whether or not I was simply posturing to sate my inner guilt. In those days after we heard the bell it seemed like he saw into my very soul; I may have made light of the matter at the time, Father, but it was a very troubling period for me.

In the end, overwhelmed with uncertainty and unsure of even my innermost intentions, I decided to default to food. It has proven most helpful and useful, and after assuring myself with soothing words and intimidating the creature with harsh ones, he seemed to  quiet, and I was left in peace. The damage had been done, however, as I found the day after that he’d grown much bigger overnight. When I first noticed this many weeks ago I was filled with a deep dread. I already hated the way he had attacked me on the sacrifices; something told me that his playful and frivolous questions were going to get much fewer, and his deeper and more powerful ones much more numerous.

I mentioned last time how he seems to grow more talkative whenever my thoughts are focused on you and things concerning you. That was why I refused to add your Book to those I was currently focusing upon, in order to pre-emptively keep him from talking. But like a being that knows my innermost thoughts he has brought his questions regardless, determined to force conversation in his direction. It is not enough that I have tried occupying myself with a variety of things, from my on-going quest for you and for Sophie, to my normal duties as one of your children on this earth. Not to be deterred, it seems, he has wormed his new, deep voice into almost everything now. Where his questions were at once fun and foolish they now cast a spectre upon my day, paralysing me completely and preventing me from making a single decision. It is only when faced with matters of extreme urgency, or when I am able to muster the full breadth of my resolve, that I am able to get past his voice. If I have even a modicum of time to think on something, I find it impossible to shut him out.

This has been going on for a while now, and the longer it lasts the larger he grows. I mentioned in my very first letter how I wasn’t sure whether or not he was a minion of You-Know-Who, and in a funny and subversive manner, it seems even he is not aware. I have tried my best to figure out just what he is, and I think I may have arrived at an answer. He is not my conscience, that wonderful thing that many in the House have held up as reason to praise and thank you every day. No. While he may sound and act like it from time to time, I believe he is something even more fundamental than conscience, something that on some level even conscience needs in order to operate. I doubt he is some strange manifestation of myself, or my stereotypical innermost desires. If he were, it would be fun and terrifying to study him, not annoying and incapacitating. No. From the nature of his questions, and the timing of both his appearance and his growth, I believe he is Doubt.

Think about it, dear Father. He questions everything I do, even the very act of doing. He is always there, commenting on even the most mundane of human pursuits. He at times offers amusement and introspection, at others confusion and fear. And perhaps most important of all, he showed himself the moment I left the safety and reassuring protection of the House. Now I have no doubts that he has been with me long before I stepped beyond the Gates of the Rock. I mentioned, in the letter on my reasons, the many questions I had concerning you and your love and your presence; I am certain it was he that was the source of these questions. It seems he joined me when my faculties of reason reached a threshold, when I could finally look upon the world and attempt to understand it.

Where he came from, and who sent him, I do not know. Doubt, I have been told, is a healthy thing, a good thing. Perhaps then he comes from you. That would certainly explain why he grows bigger when I consider the more important issues on this your earth. On the other hand, Doubt is perhaps the underlying motivation behind my departure from the House, which from where I am standing, and from where history has stood, is almost always a bad thing. So perhaps he is from You-Know-Who. It has always struck me as odd that you would allow the Dark One so much access to your House and all within that he is able to plant his minions comfortably among us, and it seems this may be one of them. Strange then that only upon leaving the House did he appear; perhaps you were keeping me from seeing him, that I may defeat him without truly engaging him, and now that I am no longer under your care, you have removed the protective veil…

I have been thinking about what to do with him, Father. I cannot let him continue to grow, and it seems the more I leave him unattended, the more likely that is to happen. I have managed to get to him to cower on occasion, by either berating him into silence or by sufficiently showing him that he is wrong.  Now I am a cultured fellow, dear Father; shouting at someone to get them to shut up is something that should only be done when one has no other recourse. And so it is my initial intention to reason with Doubt. His biggest questions, my biggest doubts, lie with you: Who you are, what you do, where you are, why you seem to have left me, why I am compelled to seek you out. Of course these are perhaps the biggest questions that all of humanity has come to ponder across all ages. Silencing Doubt on such matters will not be easy, and in many ways I doubt simple reason will be sufficient to ensure that he stays quiet – as of this writing there is no issue on which I have managed to guarantee his eternal silence; the best I have been able to achieve is a simple reduction in the frequency of his questions.

So how, Father, shall I tackle and tame my once little friend? With tools learned from my quest for Sophie like reason, truth, observation and evidence? With a dogged, House-like conviction, even as he grows larger and fatter before my very eyes? With choice and fortuitous revelations from you, as you have done for others many times in the past? Of course you know the answer, dearest Father, and of course you will not tell me; I have been told that is not your way. I will not be deterred by this uncertainty, however; it is fairly evident that if the current situation persists the creature will eventually drive me mad, and I am very much in love with my sanity. So I plan to sample all three methods, to the best of my powers of course. Await my letters, dear Father; my battle with this beast is bound to be a very, very interesting one.

With a little hello from Doubt,

Your Prodigal Son

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On My Reasons

Dearest Father,

It has been more than two moons since I left home, and in that time I have requested my inheritance and written you about my love. As one engaged in studies, training and a variety of personal projects, you must know that I have very little time on my hands. Forgive the sparse letters. As I draw farther and farther away from the House, it, I assume, takes longer and longer for my letters to reach you. Please take that into account as you wait patiently for my missives. I will do my utmost to ensure that I write regularly, perhaps on a fortnightly basis.

I have travelled quite a bit since my last letter, accompanied by my incessantly talkative acquaintance, enjoying the scenery of the Outside and making small progress in my quest to find the great Sophia. There is no dearth of people and books claiming to have found the way to her heart and selecting a starting point was a difficult and drawn out task in itself. I have decided to settle, for now, on the teachings of the ancients. In the world you saw fit to create their works are the easiest to obtain, and in one form or another contemporary lovers have been greatly influenced by their ideas. I cannot go into too much detail – I am only just beginning – but rest assured that as progress is made you will be dutifully informed. I hope you would be kind enough to offer a helping hand; I have no doubts that advice from a Father as wise and as old as yourself would place me at her feet in next to no time.

But enough with the small talk, Father. As you know my progress with Sophie is not the topic of this letter. I have been putting this off for a while, but I knew that eventually I would have to tell you, explicitly, why I left the House. I feel it only fair that I elaborate; courtesy demands it, and my conscience expects it.

I hinted at the single biggest reason for leaving in my first letter; it was, and still is, Father, your absence. But absence in and of itself is not enough to drive me away. I have never seen you before, and even in my youth I had no problems with this state of affairs. No. My decision to leave came from your customary absence at a time when I was most lost and most in need of your comfort. Imagine for a moment how I must view you, Father, per what I have been told about you since before my brain could even give meaning to words. You were perfection; my almighty, just, and loving Father. In my mind you were a doting parent, at once firm and gentle, strict and caring, dedicated to providing nothing but the best for his offspring. As a younger man I felt truly washed in your love. This love after all was the centre of the doctrine put forth and spread by the Family, and by extension, the House. It was the reason for everything beautiful, from the greenness of the grass to the freshness of the air. It was the reason for laughter and joy, the reason for brightness and warmth.

As I grew however, I felt this love less and less. It seemed to diminish in intensity and effect with age, dwindling as both my years and my faculties of reason advanced. As I grew the wonderful image of this earth that I had been given fell apart, revealing a world much darker, much bleaker, and this discovery brought with it a pernicious scepticism that began to eat away at my soul, year after year.

I must say that I have remained largely removed from this twisted world around me; my short existence has been one of happiness and joy, garnished with the occasional tragedy but sweetened with healthy servings of good fortune. Perhaps this is why my discovery was so earth-shattering. Like the famous prince in the East whose father sheltered him in hopes he would never know pain and suffering, I was astounded when hit with the harsh reality of the world I live in. I refused to disbelieve, however, waiting patiently for you to reach out from up above and comfort me with your words, enlighten me with your truth. But such a time never came and I was left waiting, my doubts becoming ever more pronounced, my questions growing in number and nuance…

At this juncture, I am sure you have a sad smile on your face. You must know that my description above is but the tip of a very, very familiar iceberg. I am not the first to write about these things, the absence of both you and your love, the doubt, the confusion. Of this I am well aware. In fact, back in the confines of the House I heard many the tale of children led astray by what our teachers called the seductive whisperings of You-Know-Who, falling prey to the growing seeds of doubt and confusion in their minds. I realise, Father, that I have fallen into a similar trap. This seems apparently to be the curse of all your children; while you, our wonderful Father, by virtue of his vast well of knowledge, seems untouchable by such ponderings and wonderings, your infinitely more short-sighted children cannot help but succumb to them. Like the moth that sees countless of his brothers die as they fly into the hot, glowing wire and still follows, I cannot help myself in this regard. I am drawn, irrevocably so, to the Outside, for I must see for myself if the stories I have heard are true. I must confirm if the reason I cannot see you, and can no longer feel you, is not because you are absent from the House, but because I am deficient, blind, in some manner. I am made slightly more confident by the fact that I have seen some from the House embark on journeys like mine and return safely, made stronger and more resolute by their ordeals on the Outside. But these are in the minority, dear Father. The odds, it would appear, are not in my favour.

You must understand now why I am infatuated with Sophie. With these troublesome thoughts and misgivings, with these feelings driving me further into the realm of disbelief, it seems that only the cool salve of her words can bring me back. Only by finding and wooing her can I come to the kind of understanding that countless of my brethren before me seem to have possessed, both those that embarked on my journey and those that did not. As I mentioned in my last letter, perhaps by finding her, Father, I would at last find you, see you. And what better reward than this? What better reward than to finally lay eyes upon you, laying to rest all my questions and running at long last into your arms.

You will be hearing a lot from me, dear Father. I know you have already seen countless variations of the questions, postulations and inquiries I will lay at your feet. As I stated I am not the first to make this journey, and I am certain that I will not be the last. Regardless, the journey is mine to make. I beg that you indulge me; I beg that you support me. But most of all dear Father, if I do not return, I beg that you forgive me.

With a heavy heart,

Your Prodigal Son

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