The Legacy of a Truth-Seeker

(This is a new, revised and extended version of a poem I originally published in 2012. I feel that this version is the only appropriate and complete one, the earlier one having missed a crucial half of the 'story.' This is also the final version. The video below was created by Peter Jones and imbues the poem with life. Thanks Peter!)

The Legacy of a Truth-Seeker

Having trodden the path for cycles uncountable,
Having crossed the ocean of mind from end to end,
Through all veils, its fountainhead have I finally seen.
To you, honest truth-seeker treading the path behind me,
I grant the gift of my legacy.

I have learned thus:

Only untruths can be experienced.
Hence, only untruths can exist.
Truth is fundamentally incompatible with existence
For it is that which gives rise to existence,
Like a loudspeaker gives rise to sound.

Experiences are self-referential tricks:
They arise from nothing and are made of nothing.
If you dig deep enough within yourself,
You shall always find the layer of self-deception
Upon which any one of your convictions ultimately rests.

One's reality sprouts from the first layer of self-deception
That escapes one's field of critical awareness.
The deeper this field, the more subtle the self-deception.
Those with little critical awareness thus live more colorful lives:
Their fiction is fancier.

The honest search for truth annihilates its own subject
Slowly, recursively, from within.
Having peeled away every layer of self-deception within me,
I have found myself to be like an onion:
Nothing is left.

Only nothing is true.
No external references exist, no outside arbiters.
We are self-created fictions and so is the cosmos.
Truth-seeking is the path to self-annihilation
And thus to liberation.

Rejoice, for your pains, fears, frustrations and regrets
Are all untrue.
There is nothing to fear, nothing to strive for, nothing to regret.
You have no soul; that's just self-deception.
And you won't die; that's just self-deception.

But beware!
As a dream allegorically portrays the inner state of the dreamer,
As a novel insinuates the aspirations of the writer,
As a lie betrays the insecurities of the liar,
So the fiction you call reality reveals something about truth.

Thus pay attention to life,
For truth expresses itself only through its own fictions.
To discern truth in fiction: here is the cosmic conundrum!
To engage wholeheartedly without being taken in: here is the ultimate challenge!
To find meaning in nothingness: here is the epic demand of nature!

Watch reality as you watch a theatrical play:
With inquisitiveness and curiosity.
But watch it as audience, never as character.
Characters spend their lives chasing their own shadows,
Whereas audiences attain subtle insight.

May my legacy serve you as a warning, but also as encouragement.
The prize at the end of the path is handsome:
The freedom to make the deliberate, guiltless choice
Of which untruth to live.
Exercising this choice wisely is the art of life.


  1. This sounds a bit melancholy, not quite in the spirit of your excellent work which I am just discovering. I am sure you'll be taking further steps towards the "one truth" very soon!

    1. Thanks William! This last post is as much art as philosophy... I'm keeping on with my real philosophy work. As a matter of fact, by the end of the month I should be able to share a significant new piece here...

    2. Brilliant - I've just read it for the first time, after someone recommended your book 'More than Allegory' to me. I will definitely be buying it!

  2. Your post is from one who Knows that the Scientist, Artist, Mystic are 'categories' that are not separate magesteria. I resonate with the 'no one' who from another 'no one' who plays in the interdimensional belief systems, all relative to Truth as expressed in your post. I have worked in the field of professional psychology for over 35 years. I understand the way 'Emprical Science" works and can only say to you that unless one has the 'eyes that listen through the heart' of someone who has realized for themselves that the veils of phenomenal appearances, all beautiful and true in a relative sense, are not the Truth. Your post reads perfectly clear to 'no one' that used to believe he was someone with a life story, narratives of self, commitees of introjected selves, belief systems unconsciously and transparently stacked upon eachother, all invisible even for the most ardent "seekers" and that all of these 'illusions' are somehow dismantled or pierced and seen through,than your post cannot be felt into at the level of the author that leads to the direct experience that there is only "The One without a Second".

    1. Rick, many thanks. If I may ask, are you a Jungian? Gr, B.

    2. Bernado,
      I regard my orientation at present as Jungian and Transpersonal. I have been fortunate in my career to received training in a number of orientations that include Cognitive-Behavioral, Developmental Object Relations, Interpersonal,Family and Group Field Theory and Systems,and neo-analytic theories of practice.

  3. Bernardo,

    Love this blog. Its honesty and its depth. The question might be how deeply embedded the ultimate layer of deception might be buried within the self and whether logical analysis alone can do the job of finding it. This post comes juxtaposed with a stay with my brother in hospice who is in late stages of multiple myeloma. He’s always had a zest for life and still does. Consequently, his pain meds are at a level where he can maintain his mental faculties at the expense of not infrequent bouts of extreme pain. My own mental constructs - for instance, the the one that says pain is, as far as we know, made of electrical impulses - crisp like bacon in a blast furnace when he cries out, knowing such a construct, or any construct, or several together, cannot begin to describe his experience of unimaginable pain.

    What I’m getting at is, can we ever discover ultimate truth - the ultimate layer of deception, in the case of the poem - simply by constructing a mental model of the world, testing its accuracy and solving its internal problems? Even if that model is all of science itself? Or, as in the case of my brother’s pain versus my ideas about pain, will the model never quite equal direct experience? If, then, acquiring Ultimate Truth, such as that described in your poem, requires directly experiencing Everything, then I suspect, Bernardo, that your poem speaks from the vantage point of some form of expanded mind; of an expanded science.

    Hope this makes sense.

    1. Hi Joe,

      > he can maintain his mental faculties at the expense of not
      > infrequent bouts of extreme pain

      First of all, my heart-felt sympathies, Joe.
      I think passing on with a degree of lucidity is probably very useful to minimize the confusion and dissociation of the transition. You probably don't want to 'wake up' outside of space-time not having a clue what happened to you. That said, personally, I would make a different choice than your brother: I'd go for staying just at the edge of lucidity -- just enough to continue to be aware of what's happening to me, though otherwise perhaps incapacitated) -- but would surely be glad to weaken the 'mind-body connection' as much as possible. I do profoundly respect and admire his choice, though.

      > logical analysis alone can do the job of finding it

      I doubt it... have you seen my TEDx video on logic being a form of self-deception? (have patience in the beginning, when I talk about computers... it gets much better half way through it).

      > What I’m getting at is, can we ever discover ultimate truth
      > - the ultimate layer of deception, in the case of the poem -
      > simply by constructing a mental model of the world, testing
      > its accuracy and solving its internal problems?

      The spirit of the poem is that all mental models are ultimately a layer of self-deception, necessary for ordinary experience... the question is, do you, or even I, trust the poem? ;-)

      > will the model never quite equal direct experience?

      When I think about it, I consistently get a loud and clear answer back: Never. I would guess your brother, when he is having a crisis, doesn't care at all about what model of his pain is true... only the experience holds any significance to him. No model can ever convey that experience; they are just abstractions.

      I myself have difficulties understanding the true meaning of this poem I wrote. It came from an a-rational part of my mind during an unusually deep meditation. Every time I try to interpret it according to some 'model,' I feel I am not doing it justice. I guess its spirit is that the ultimate truth, though it exists, can never be captured in words or equations; in myths or models. From our vantage point (i.e. from the perspective of the ego), the best match between a word and the ultimate truth is perhaps 'void,' which is profoundly dis-satisfactory for a rational mind living in space-time...

      So, in my daily life, I don't live by this poem; even though I hold in the back of my mind the notion that it is probably true..

      Cheers, Bernardo.

  4. Would that the world be drawn ever deeper toward the 'void', for want of words. Thanks so much, Bernardo.


  5. " All mental constructs can ultimately:
    Be shown to be self-contradictory and, thus, self-defeating;
    Be shown to be based on arbitrary, gratuitous axioms.
    There exists nothing but mental constructs.
    There thus exists nothing."

    This one part of the poem stands out quite plainly. I do think our conception of "nothing" doesn't hit it. Even to try to imagine nothing is met with drawing a blank. I apologize, but I find that this statement draws on a false sense of nothing. Just because the world (MAY) be a sort of massive illusion and deception, there still is something. Even if you remove the mental content there still is the something of awareness, Maybe you think I'm being to simple, but this is simple in it's essence. Just a simple look at the difference between something and nothing. Unless, of course, you mean something else by nothing, wherein I think you should elaborate more clearly.

    I understand that to peel away every layer of oneself is to be met with a blank state, but this isn't nothing. There is still consciousness. Going further, in our world of "something" (because any state in this reality can be accurately called "something"), we have all these "somethings". Why? Perhaps because a world with happenings, and somethings is far more colourful than this blank state. i do think this blankness is an impossible state, maybe even an illusory one brought on by various conflicts in the entity.

    That line in the poem does not hold much weight in describing the wonderful something of this reality. In fact, it may even be a rolling over, a forfeit to learning. as insightful as it can seem, it is really an empty statement.

    I have much enjoyed your work, Bernardo, but this is almost a giving up. A gratuitous use of a very subjective word, and a turning away from the colour of reality, that that is, for nothing, just for peace.

    1. Hey Josh,

      -- No need to apologize for criticizing!
      -- I agree with your assessment of 'nothingness;'
      -- This is just a poem, not philosophy. It's not to be interpreted literally, but only seeks to convey a certain feeling. It's supposed to speak more to your right than your left brain hemisphere;
      -- As such, what is said here is not part of my philosophy. The idea is that, from a certain point of view (i.e. a certain non-literal interpretation of the words), this poem is true. But not true in an analytic sense, like the rest of the philosophy I write about and live by.

      Cheers, Bernardo.

    2. That's pretty much what I thought... I may have jumped the gun a bit. This poem does make you stop and think, because it contradicts itself all over. I understand what you mean though, using words to describe certain things (love, anger, etc) can be very difficult. Ineffable would be the word.

    3. Don't agree myself, Bernardo, (Pete here - had to post as anon.) and think you're being overly modest. It looks philosophically sound to me and in an analytic sense.

      I suppose words like 'nothing' would need a sympathetic interpretation. Rigour would say 'Nothing really exists', referring to a lack of independent existence, while 'There thus exists nothing,' might be read as nihilism. But I'd say that the rest of the poem indicates the correct interpretation of the line.

      I see it as poem that could never be written on the basis of logic alone but that nevertheless stands up to logical analysis and makes a strong philosophical statement endorsing Nagarjuna and Lao Tsu's metaphysical position. .

      I always leap to the defence of logic where I can, albeit that it cannot reach all of the parts...

      I don't think you should back off on the poetry/philosophy thing. It seems to be a good poem and good philosophy.

  6. 'Like caterpillars weaving their cocoons,

    We need models and theories to weave a deception we can inhabit.'

    Ouch: the unkindest cut if all. :)

  7. "Only untruths can be experienced.
    Hence, only untruths can exist.
    Truth is fundamentally incompatible with existence
    For it is that which gives rise to existence,
    Like a loudspeaker gives rise to sound"

    Funny you should have updated your poem at this particular time, Bernardo. I've been spending some time recently with Tom Campbell's work, and had been thinking about how it relates to your own work. I found that this opening stanza in particular resonated.

    As I understand it, Tom thinks of the everyday world as we experience it as a virtual reality; at our level of consciousness, it's what we generally experience, but of course it's only at best relative truth, limited by the rule set we perforce have to live with. We may think of it as quintessential existence, but what it presents us with--the impression of matter, time and space for example--is an artifice within which we can evolve and reduce our entropy, and thereby enable Source to evolve and reduce *its* entropy.

    Our existence may be incompatible with (perhaps alternatively, only a harmonic simulacrum of?) the true existence of Source (which owes to nothing its existence, but rather, simply *is*); but for all that, it's a reasonable hypothesis that it's a necessary and desirable illusion into which Source has invested its intelligence and nurturing love. In other words, it's not pointless or purposeless, and should be accorded a due amount of respect, even perhaps awe. It has miraculousness despite its essentially illusory nature.

    There's something that can stand aside from the experiencer in us: the ever-imperturbable and dispassionate witness that is devoid of judgement, but for all that, continuously and insatiably filled with curiosity:

    " Watch reality as you watch a theatrical play:
    With inquisitiveness and curiosity.
    But watch it as audience, never as character.
    Characters spend their lives chasing their own shadows,
    Whereas audiences attain subtle insight."

    Indeed; and who or what is the narrator of the poem? I suspect it's the witness, and I further suspect that that's something that connects relative existence with the absolute existence of that which is uncreated. It has a knowing that it doesn't know it knows; a love it's unaware of possessing because it's reflecting the pure knowingness and love of the uncreated, which is the task of the experiencer to experience insofar as it ever can in the adventure of what we call life.

    At any rate, that's some of what I'm getting from the poem. Your mileage may vary, of course, but if so that's in the nature of poetry; the poet unleashes his words on the world and everyone and his dog appropriates them and makes them his or her own, becoming a co-creator according to particular circumstance and conditioning.