Transcript of OnionUnlimited podcast episode 106
HELLO AND WELCOME TO EPISODE 106 OF ONIONUNLIMITED—THE PODCAST. I’m your host, Daniel Torridon. In this episode, I talk about truth. What is truth? Is it to be found in religion? Are Jehovah’s Witnesses “the truth”? And why do I think I’ve finally found the truth?
So, as a child growing up in Jehovah’s Witnesses, “truth” was a term that I heard often and that I learned to repeat. To be precise, the term I was familiar with was “the truth.” I was raised to believe that my religion, and my religion alone, was “the truth.” I was “in the truth.” I was encouraged to “keep walking in the truth”, never to “leave the truth”, only to have friends who were “in the truth”, and to “marry in the truth”. Essentially, “the truth” was synonymous with “the organisation”, “the Watch Tower Society”, the religion I belonged to—but it also referred to the teachings I was raised to believe. My religion was the truth because the things it taught were, supposedly, true, accurate, factual. Growing up, it never crossed my mind that the doctrines I’d been fed since being a child might be false. “False religion” referred to all the other religions, not mine. My religion only taught true things. So as a child, my religion, my faith, my beliefs—as they were indoctrinated into me—were very stable. Nothing ever seemed to change as far as what was being taught was concerned. I was in the truth. What I was led to believe was true, and truth doesn’t change—except in the Jehovah’s Witnesses it does.
Over time I began to notice that the teachings I [were] told were true, absolute, unquestionable, would be swapped out for something new. I was taught that there were “old truths” and “new truths.” As I entered my teens I found it quite entertaining when someone answered an old truth at a meeting. Sometimes they would be corrected by the meeting conductor, or even another person answering up—embarrassing for them no doubt! But always there would be a discussion on the way home from the meeting. My dad or mum would be chatting as we drove home and say something like, “Did you notice that brother so-and-so got something wrong tonight? He said (such-and-such) whereas the new truth is (whatever).” I found it intellectually exciting, exhilarating even, to “keep up with present truth” and it never dawned on me that what we were calling old truths were, in fact, falsehoods. Until it did.
I still remember the time I got my hands on the 1920 book entitled Millions Now Living Will Never Die. I was 32 years old and still thinking of my religion as the truth. So imagine how shocked I was when I read the following on page 88: “Since other Scriptures definitely fix the fact that there will be a resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other faithful ones of old, and that these will have the first favor, we may expect 1925 to witness the return of these faithful men of Israel from the condition of death being resurrected and fully restored to perfect humanity and made the visible, legal representatives of the new order of things on earth.”
This was such a bold statement, repeated again on page 97 of the book, that it prompted a sudden awakening in me. I realised that the old truths we spoke about were nothing short of the organisation getting it wrong–really wrong—and that this was a pattern that went all the way back to the inception of the organisation. As I read more of the old Watch Tower publications, I found tons of things over the years that had proved false: The teaching that Armageddon would come in 1914; that the Great Pyramid of Giza was God’s “stone witness” and proof that 1914 would be the end of the world; I read how, up to 1929 the organisation had taught that Jesus’ invisible presence began in 1874, but how in 1929 they then shifted it to 1914.
Growing up as a child in the 70s, I was all too familiar with the idea that the people living in 1914 would still be alive to see Armageddon, that it was coming in my lifetime, and that I would never leave school before the end came. Yet here I was, now 32 years old, married with three children, and as I delved further into the Watch Tower’s writings I found that they had strongly insinuated that 1975 would be the start of the 1000-year reign of Christ over the earth despite my parents denying this was ever a thing, and I noted how various teachings even changed and then changed back again, for example: “Will the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah have a resurrection?” Now, my parents used to laugh about this one all the time.
- 1879 – Yes
- 1955 – No
- 1965 – Yes
- 1967 – No
- 1974 – Yes
- 1988 – No
- 1988 – Yes
- 1989 – No
The thing I noticed as I did my research was that “wrong” was rarely if ever a word that was used. I certainly never came upon it. The governing body never said, “We got it wrong.” Instead, they would say things like, “There’s been a new understanding” or “This belief has been clarified” (a complete misuse of the word clarified there) or “There’s been some new light.” These, I felt, were all ways of not saying “We were wrong” or “Our teaching was false”, and no sooner was a teaching discarded, the new teaching was deemed to be the truth, and it began to dawn on me, how could I know for sure that what I was being taught now was actually true, what I was teaching others was, indeed, the truth? The teachings themselves could hardly be called “the truth” with any certainty—they were fluid, always changing—and that became more apparent as time went on.
The 1914 generation teaching changed multiple times. The “faithful and discreet slave” who, up to 2012 had been “all anointed Christians on earth at any given time” suddenly, overnight, became just the governing body. The supposed appointment of the slave was changed from 33 AD to 1919, jettisoning not just Charles Taze Russell and the Bible Students as part of the faithful and discreet slave, but even the apostles. Now, only since the time of Judge Rutherford was there ever a slave dispensing “food at the proper time”. “That’s convenient!” I remember thinking because by ditching Russell they could sweep aside many of the initial falsehoods that were, frankly, embarrassing. It no longer mattered that Armageddon didn’t come in 1914. Later, Rutherford could denounce the Great Pyramid as Satanic. They only had to think of the truth as being things they’d taught since 1919.
But even that seemed problematic to me. Supposedly, Jesus chose Rutherford and his colleagues as his faithful and discreet slave at a time they were still celebrating Christmas, smoking (that didn’t become a complete no-no until the 1970s), having blood transfusions, believing Jesus died on a cross and many many other things that later were swept aside by so-called new truth.
[The prophecy that the “faithful worthies” would be resurrected in 1925 was published in 1920, a year after Jesus’ supposedly chose the “faithful and discreet slave” to provide spiritual “food at the proper time.” Apparently, truth didn’t matter to Jesus either! Either that, or their “prophecy” was of their own originality, in which case we must ask the question, Are Jehovah’s Witnesses a False Prophet?]
The argument was always made that “the light was getting brighter”, a reference to Proverbs 4:18, but upon reading that verse I realised it wasn’t talking about truth at all. It was talking about the path of the righteous one. The verse was never intended to be a prophetic indication that God gradually reveals truth to the Watch Tower Society. It wasn’t talking about truth. Truth is always true. Truth doesn’t get brighter. Proverbs 4, when read in context, is actually a comparison of the actions of good and bad people. The path of a righteous one would become more righteous, more moral, more upright. It has nothing to do with dispensing doctrinal truth through an organization. This was just something Jehovah’s Witnesses had applied to themselves to excuse their constant doctrinal changes.
Around 2004 I also began looking more closely at Jesus and the gospel message. I saw clearly that when Jesus referred to the truth he wasn’t talking about a religion or an organisation. In John 14:6 he said he was the truth. In John 8:32 he said “the truth will set you free.” Jehovah’s Witnesses had claimed “the truth” as their title. This seemed wrong to me, at odds with what Jesus was saying, even blasphemous. Jehovah’s Witnesses proudly stated that becoming a Witness, coming into the truth, would make you free, but from what? False religion, and ultimately from sin and death. But what I saw was the opposite of that. I saw that as Witnesses we were far from free. When it came to what we believed, what we were told to believe, we were enslaved to the whims of the governing body. What they said was true was the truth, until it wasn’t. And we were taught to change our beliefs whenever they changed their minds about something. It struck me that this was not really truth or even real belief. It was just the current best guess of a group of men who had placed themselves in a position of authority over a group of religious adherents, and Witnesses were just accepting whatever they were being told, usually without question.
Truth really mattered to me. Real truth. Not just ideas that would change like the wind, and it shocked me to find that truth wasn’t of such importance to other Witnesses. Even my dad, who had been a Witness all his life, an elder for most of it, didn’t really seem to care about truth. When I asked him, “What would you do if you found out Jehovah’s Witnesses were not the truth?” he replied that he would stick with it because there was nothing better out there. Firstly, I don’t know how he could come to that conclusion. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t investigated every religious or spiritual option. He was, like many, like me, born into Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s all he’s ever known and he’s never looked outside of it. Secondly, it amazed me that he didn’t really care whether what he believed, what he was teaching others, was really true. So long as it worked for him and gave him a framework to live by then it was okay. I kind of get that. It’s nice to have the world make sense, to have answers, or at least to think you have answers, but me—I wanted more. I didn’t want to settle for “good enough”. I wanted actual truth, absolute truth. Was that even possible?
At first, I thought absolute truth was about facts and that, I found, was nigh on impossible to tie down. When it comes to facts you can think you know something only to gain additional information later that changes your mind—kind of like Jehovah’s Witnesses were doing. That to me wasn’t truth, not in my book. Truth, I figured, must be something more. So I returned to Jesus’ words. He said, “I am the truth.” That really resonated with me. It felt like I was close to an answer to the same question Pilate had asked Jesus in John 18:38: “Quid est veritas?” or “What is truth?” Jesus was saying he was it—he was the truth—but what did he mean? Further Bible reading led me to the words of the apostle Paul in Colossians 2:3 where, speaking of Jesus, he said “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden in him. What did this mean? That Jesus knew everything? That Jesus had all the facts? Absolute truth? Maybe, but I couldn’t get away from that bold statement Jesus made, “I am the truth.” I am. I am. I am the truth. That rattled around my head for many years as I tried to figure out what he meant. In the meantime, I had what I could only describe as a “born again” experience.
In August 2004, I identified as an anointed Christian with the hope of going to heaven. At the same time, it felt like the Bible opened up to me in a way it hadn’t before, and I began to see many of Jesus’ teachings and the teachings of Paul from a more mystical perspective. The New World Translation, the JW version of the Bible, spoke of being “in union with” Jesus, but when I read other translations I found they used the expression “in” Christ, and if Christ was the truth, that would mean being in the truth meant being in Jesus, not in an organisation. But what did that even mean? Further research led me to understand more fully the idea of being “baptised into Christ”, becoming one with him, and in turn one with the Father. I began to understand verses such as 2 Peter 1:4 that spoke of becoming “sharers in divine nature.” I began to see the message that Jesus was preaching—a message of Oneness, a message about who he was, who the Father was, and ultimately who I was.
It was in 2006, after my first disfellowshipping for apostasy, for questioning the JW narrative, that I wrote a book called I Am. The full title was I Am—God and it was essentially a conversation with who I thought of at the time as God—Jehovah. But as I wrote the book, as it was channelled through me from somewhere outside of my physical body, I began to realise that I was God. Now, I know how that sounds, but don’t get me wrong. This wasn’t me just having grandiose ideas. I wasn’t claiming that I alone was the transcendent, omnipotent, God of the Bible! I meant that I am, as Jesus was—indeed as all of us are—One, that there is only One. The idea of many, as my book went on to explain, is purely an illusion, and that became my belief, even after I was reinstated as a Jehovah’s Witness in 2009. I had this very mystical view of God, of Jesus, of my Oneness with them as an anointed Christian and I genuinely thought of myself as “in” Christ, as part of the body of Christ, and from 2006 to 2019 when I left Jehovah’s Witnesses I lived my life to all intents and purposes as a born again Christian within the only framework I knew at the time—Jehovah’s Witnesses—and I lived with an understanding that I was One with Christ, with God, and with my fellow anointed believers.
It wasn’t until after my second disfellowshipping in 2019 that I began to reevaluate all of my beliefs, from God to Jesus to the Bible itself. Now, I couldn’t deny that I’d had a spiritual experience in 2004, an awakening to my Oneness with All That Is, but I was also struggling to believe the entire Bible as 100% the inerrant, inspired word of God. Much of it seemed at odds with Jesus’ teachings of love and Oneness, especially the Old Testament, and so I began to deconstruct my JW beliefs, routing out any doctrines that I’d inherited from childhood if they didn’t feel right. I began to trust my instincts, to look within, to examine the subject of Oneness in a much broader sense than just a Jehovah’s Witness or even a Christian. I began to formulate my own ideas, and the one thought I kept coming back to was “I am”. I am conscious. I think. I exist. Really, I am the only thing I can be certain of as true, and that’s when it occurred to me that’s what Jesus meant when he said “I am the truth.” He was identifying himself with the Ultimate Source, the singularity of all possibilities, all knowledge, and he didn’t just mean that he alone was the truth. Remember, he taught Oneness so it’s as accurate to say Jesus is the truth as it is to say I am, or you are. Who I am, who you are, is our reality such that it is. “I think, therefore I am”, as Descartes wrote.
My greatest understanding of truth and its relation to self-identity and Oneness with Source came when I was introduced to Advaitism, the philosophy of non-duality, the idea that there is only One. That One, that singularity, is, according to Advaitism Nirguna Brahman—Brahman or God without attributes. I have come to refer to this, as many spiritual teachers have, as “Source” rather than God—this singularity of all possibilities, unbounded by Time or Space, the All Without Manifestation. What we see as the Universe, as ourselves, as individuals, is but an illusion, a projection of Source—Saguna Brahman or Brahman with attributes. It’s like Source fragmented into many instances of the same consciousness, unlimited fractal instances of awareness, and as such was able to experience all things, “good” and “evil” to coin a phrase from the Bible. Perhaps this is what the Jewish writers meant when they told the story of Adam and Eve becoming “like one of us (the gods) knowing good and evil”? I don’t know, but what I do know is that this body of mine is just an avatar, a projection, through which my Higher Self, one of the infinite fractal consciousnesses out there is able to experience a physical existence. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” And my Higher Self is also just an avatar, a manifestation of the Ultimate Source, and this is my true identity. I am God, I am Source manifesting itself as indeed was “the Word” of John chapter 1 that manifested as Jesus Christ. I am All That Is, including Jesus, and so are you. We are One. We are a manifestation of the Ultimate Truth, and that truth is Source.
This realisation of self-identity with Oneness is what Advaitists call Moksha. Unlike Hindus in general who believe that Moksha is only attainable after death, Advaitists believe Moksha can be realised even in this life. This is certainly my experience. Moksha, the understanding of Who I Am, this spiritual awakening, is something I’ve personally experienced and come to understand more fully over the years. Source, to me, is the Absolute Truth and having realised my relationship to it I feel I have been set free. I am no longer enslaved to a religion or to a god or gods or any specific holy book for that matter. I’m beyond all of that. Now, these things were a useful vehicle to get me so far on my spiritual path, but I’ve outgrown the idea of truth being a particular religion worshipping a particular god in a particular way. I no longer need these things.
Now, I’m not saying worship is not edifying or useful. It can be, but it’s unnecessary. If I worship a god or gods I’m effectively just worshipping myself—either that or a man-made fictional deity. I can see that now so I don’t worship. I don’t pray, at least not in the way I used to, and I don’t live my life worrying about whether a certain religious “truth” is true or not. All the complicated mental gymnastics that I was expected to perform as a Jehovah’s Witness to make sense of the Bible are now of no relevance to me. I feel free, at peace, certain of who and what I am and where, ultimately, I am returning. I know the truth and the truth has set me free!
Now I can live my life in the knowledge that everything is fine. I don’t have to worry about doing enough to please a made-up Jehovah deity. I don’t need to concern myself with getting to heaven or surviving Armageddon. None of that matters anymore. I can live my Dharma, my purpose, content in the knowledge that I’m okay as I am. All the teachings and doctrines of my JW days are just religious noise to me now. I really don’t care. None of it matters. I can enjoy just Being and know that when this body, this avatar, dies I will return to my true spirit nature. Maybe I will return into another body as I have in many previous lifetimes—reincarnation if you will—to have another human experience, but ultimately when the Universe ends, which it will, I along with all other instances of consciousness will return to Source, to the singularity, to repeat again ad infinitum. I know that I Am and that I Always Will Be and that, I believe, is “the truth.”
Let me know in the comments if any of what I’ve said in this podcast makes any sense at all and what your thoughts are on truth. Is truth about facts? Is Jesus the truth? Or is it something else? And if you like my podcasts a Like and Subscribe to the channel would be great.
Thanks for listening. Join me again soon. Bye for now!