The Three Stages of Truth According to Arthur Schopenhauer

The Three Stages of Truth

Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher best known for his book, The World as Will and Representation (German: Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung), in which he put forth his ontological theory that our world is driven by a continually dissatisfied will, continually seeking satisfaction. Highly influenced by Eastern philosophy, he had concluded that the penultimate truth of existence had long been “recognized by the [Vedic] sages of India”—his recognition of the root source of existential turmoil and angst and his solutions to suffering were similar to those of Vedic (in particular those of the later Vedantic school) and early Buddhist thinkers. His faith in the reality of “transcendental ideality” led him to accept metaphysical atheism (as opposed to materialist atheism.)

At the age of twenty-five, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four distinct aspects of experience of objective reality. He has been influential in the history of phenomenology, and has heavily impacted the philosophy of art and theory of aesthetics. He has influenced numerous thinkers, writers and artists, including Friedrich Nietzsche, Richard Wagner, Otto Weininger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Otto Rank, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, Leo Tolstoy, Thomas Mann, and Jorge Luis Borges, among others.

Schopenhauer is perhaps most famous for his modern objective reinterpretation in 1818 of the Early Buddhist formulas of metaphysical enlightenment and liberation entitled The Three Stages of Truth:

  1. First, it is ridiculed.
  2. Second, it is violently opposed.
  3. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

Inherently positing a social theory of karmic justice as regards revolutionary and avant-garde movements—whether political, philosophical, aesthetic or spiritual—Schopenhauer correctly determined that it can be demonstrably proven throughout the historical record that where one attempted to pass on a message of genuine truth, they would be initially subjected to ridicule and mockery, which would soon give way to out-and-out persecution, often violent but always discriminatory in an extreme manner, but in time, invariably becoming accepted as a self-evident reality.

In the annals of legend and history, this can be seen in the Bhagavad Gita in the Dharmic mission and struggle of Krishna; throughout the Biblical narrative, from the time of Abraham to that of Jesus Christ; the Shi’a Islamic passion plays of Imam Ali and Imam Hussein and the historical incidents of their betrayal and martyrdom at the hands of Yazid; the mission of the prophet of Thus Spake Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche whose “voice calling out in the wilderness” goes unheeded by the ignorant, decadent masses, and many more other examples where the initial periods of ridicule and violent persecution ultimately dissolve into a widespread acceptance of the truth that had been preached.

This continues to hold true in our contemporary era more than ever, as we witness the popular ridicule and persecution of those who seek to tear down the veils of illusion to which the status quo blindly grasp onto in desperation slowly dissipating as more and more awaken to the realities of our society and the world at large.

Those who engage in these senseless campaigns of ridicule, mockery, and persecution have yet to learn the one simple fact that all philosophers and activists since time immemorial have preached: that no matter how much the establishment and status quo try to resist and crush it, nothing can ever stop the forward advance of truth.

And that is certainly self-evident.

—[adapted and reworked by Lexander Magazine Editors from the Wikipedia article]

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