We say that religion is ancient and eternal because truth is everlasting. But religion is also new, because whenever truth is realized the experience is new, fresh, virginal. If a person believes that religion is old or if he believes that religion is new, he will not be inconsistent with truth. If he says that truth is eternal and maintains that it cannot be new, you will not find him to be inconsistent. Another person, on the other hand, may hold that truth is always new.
Gurdjieff, if asked, would say that religion is eternal and ancient; Krishnamurti, if asked, would say that it is absolutely new, that it can never be old. But both of them are consistent.
The question that you ask me could not be asked either to Gurdjieff or Krishnamurti. Their answers would only be half-truths. Half-truths can always be consistent, but a total truth is always inconsistent because in a total truth the opposite is also included.
One person may say that light and only light is the truth. He will then ignore darkness and look upon it as false. But just by calling darkness false, the existence of darkness is not denied. He can be consistent because he denies darkness and does not bother about its existence. His philosophy can be clear, straight and consistent like mathematics. In his philosophy there will be no riddles. However, someone else who says that there is darkness and only darkness everywhere, that light is only an illusion, can also be consistent.
Difficulty arises with a person who says that there is darkness and there is light also. The person who accepts the existence of both accepts the fact that darkness and light are only two extremes of the same thing. If darkness and light are two different things, then by the increase of light darkness should not be reduced, and by the decrease of light darkness should not increase. But it is a fact that by the increase or decrease of light, darkness can be decreased or increased. The meaning is clear: that light is somewhere a part of darkness and vice versa. Both are two ends of one thing.
Therefore, when I try to tell the whole truth, the difficulty is that I seem inconsistent. I am telling at the same time two things that seem contradictory. I say that truth is eternal and it is wrong to call it new; at the same time I also say that truth is always new and there is no sense in calling it old. When I say both of these things together, I am attempting to catch the whole truth at once in its complete fullness.
Whenever truth is told in its fullness, in its multiple meanings, then opposing, inconsistent statements will have to be made. Mahavira’s theory of syatavada is only an attempt at balancing the opposing views. Against whatever is said in the first sentence an opposite statement will have to be made in the second sentence. In this way, the opposite, which would otherwise remain unsaid, is also included and comprehended.
If the opposite is left out, the truth will remain incomplete. Therefore, all truths that appear clear and unambiguous are really half-truths. Inconsistency is inherent in truth, and that is its beauty and its complexity. But its power lies in the inclusion of polar opposites.