There is a famous phrase in Scientology: “If it’s true for you, then it’s true. If it’s not true for you, then it is not true.”
According to Ron, Guatama Siddhartha was the first one to preach this and maybe that is true. But there is some considerable power in this little precept and I find it hard to believe it hasn’t occurred to many thinking men in the past.
What Does It Mean?
It might communicate better if you said that it meant “Don’t believe everything you are told” or “first hand knowledge is always better than second hand.” But it is all based on the simple and observable fact that the best and most valuable knowledge is that discovered for yourself by yourself.
Examples speak louder than words here.
Once upon a time I got my first brand new second-hand car. A little orange Torana. Not long after someone ran into its side and made a mess. I was cheered up when a mechanic friend told me that all I had to do was go the the wreckers and get a new front end and swap it over. This datum sounded pretty reasonable to me even though I wasn’t very sure what a “front end” really was. But I knew I would find out along the way.
I didn’t rush into it. I bought the manufacturer’s manual. Read it and re-read it. Read a couple of other do it yourself magazines too. It really did look pretty straightforward and I had no doubts that the material in that manual was simple, authoritative and true. But I had no idea.
I bought the tools the manual said I was going to need and the next Saturday morning my car went up on blocks and Operation Front End began.
It was far more difficult than I thought and it took me many weeks to get that car back together again.
A few months later, my Torana blew a head gasket and once again it was up on blocks for a couple of months this time getting his cylinders rebored and put back together.
After that, I could finally understand that manual. I thought I knew it before, but now I really did know it because I had gotten my hands dirty and discovered it for myself.
I’ve always been mad-keen on racquet sports. I used to buy books on how to play. I found it usually took about an hour or two to read the book and it all sounded so plausible and so true. But I would read Ken Rosewall’s description of how to play the perfect backhand over and over. Do you think I could do it? No, it took me eight or nine years before I could understand and actually use all the truth in Ken’s description.
You can read the manual and think you know it. But it can take hours or years to discover the truth for yourself.
The Value Of Other People’s Experience …
It’s a great help to have someone who is experienced and successful tell you how to do something. You can use what he has learned without going down a lot of blind alleys that he went down as he learned the subject. It speeds up learning dramatically.
But it does not change the fact that you will still need to learn to use the data for yourself and by your own efforts.
Other People’s Certainty
Other people rely on other people’s certainty for so many things. They do things a certain way because they were told it was the best way or they had to do it. But they never find out why or experience great certainty on it and one day circumstances change and a disaster occurs because they are not in control.
I used to drive that way. I considered myself a great driver. Yes, I had a few narrow escapes but I thought that was normal.
One day I went and did an Advanced Drivers Course. I was told to put the car into skids and other uncontrolled situations. It was terrifying when I found how little control I actually had. But after that experience, now I do know so much more about what I was doing and I feel safer on the road.
You Have To Find Out If It’s True Or Not For Yourself
Yes, there is a lot to learn and you have to work with a lot of second hand data and just hope that it’s true. Most of the time we get by. But you must never forget that if you want to accomplish success and security in a particular area, you can only do it by finding out for yourself. You have to put in the effort to really find out if it is true or not.
How Do You Know Something Is True?
When considering this “if it’s true for you” precept, it’s worthwhile giving some thought to what “true” means. I’ve heard people saying that if something is true for you, that doesn’t mean it’s true. Which is one of those things that sounds like common-sense but only holds up in certain circumstances.
I’ve heard Scientologists voice out-arc thoughts or obviously shallow opinions about something and when I’ve queried them they say “Well, you know, if it’s true for you …” Which I took to mean that they thought this precept meant they could think whatever they liked without any due diligence at all. In other words, they use it as a justification for sloppy observation and thinking.
For example, it wouldn’t be outrageous to get the idea that heavy things fall faster than lighter things. You will find many people even in this day and age that hold that opinion. They might even prove it by dropping a brick and a feather and point out that the feather takes a lot longer to fall.
But the observation involved is minimal. They could do a simple experiment by blowing on both the rock and the brick and find out that air resistance affects one a lot more than the other. But they don’t do that. I have to admit that I myself experienced a moment of disbelief the day (long ago) when my science teacher told us that if we dropped a feather in a vacuum it would fall at the same rate as the brick.
Then he told us the story about the guy who took a lot of different sized ball bearings up to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and timed them falling to the ground and found they all dropped at the same rate. This story is possibly exaggerated but it still points clearly to the fact that to find truth you have to put in a bit of effort. You have to put aside preconceptions and try a few experiments.
I should say that even though I fervently believed that story about the Leaning Tower of Pisa, my personal certainty on this datum about falling objects comes from my own experience in that science class as we rolled ball bearings down inclined planes and timed them. I found out for myself.
How True is True?
Isaac Newton worked out some rules that revolutionized the way we thought about motion. All sorts of things were invented and developed because of his laws of motion. Cars and trains and rockets. They were put to all sorts of tests and were found to be absolutely TRUE.
Then Lorentz and Fitzgerald and Einstein came along and found out that they were NOT true and did not properly describe motion in the physical universe. And it seems there was a lot of truth in what they said too because now we have a lot of great things like nuclear bombs and radioactive waste which we wouldn’t have had if they had left poor old Isaac Newton alone.
So is Newton’s work false and Einstein’s true?
The answer is that the discoveries of Newton and Einstein are both true because each can be used to our benefit. Nearly all work with motion is calculated using Newton’s laws because they are simple and good enough to work out what we need to work out on this planet where things don’t go close to the speed of light.
Something is true if you can achieve the effect you want to achieve with it.
Someone can always come along and find a more fundamental truth that underlies the one you know. But it’s only as true for you as you can do something with it.
This concept of workable truth answers the question we posed which was how do you know something is true. You will know because it is working for you.
On the other hand, if it’s not working for you, then you need to recognize you are operating on something that is not true.
If you think you know all about business yet your business is failing, guess what? It’s not true.
Joe hated his job, was passed over for promotion many times and knew it was because his boss was an idiot. And Joe subscribed to the “if it’s true for you…” justification so never noticed the datum was false.
One day someone gave him some False Data Stripping and he realized this datum was false. He worked out that his boss was just another guy like him doing the best he could and that it was in Joe’s interest to help him. Using that datum he made friends with his boss and became valuable by helping him. Later on he got the promotion he was after.
So remember, “If it’s true for you, it’s true” means you have to get your hands dirty and find out for yourself.
And if you think it’s true and it isn’t working for you, then you have missed something and it’s not as true as you believed.