How do you know when you’ve stumbled upon the whole truth and nothing but the truth? If you’re not sure, take some hints from this interview about truth from Esoteric School co-founder Alan Joel. Enjoy!

* There are a lot of so-called “truths” out there in the spiritual world. How do you know which ones are true?

Whereas science looks for proof, which means that something can be verified through certain measurements or indicators, I look for truth in terms of what I can verify through my own experience. I look for the inner taste of truth. We all have the innate ability to perceive truth, what you might call a truth barometer, but it’s hard to define if you’ve never experienced it.

* What was your first experience of this inner taste of truth?

For most of my life I didn’t know that I could “taste” truth so I used all kinds of outer methods, like tossing a coin or sitting in a question circle. Then one day my teacher asked me how I could verify the truth of some belief we were working with. I told her I would use one of those outer methods. She said, “Why don’t you just look inside and see if it’s true?” That’s when I began looking inside to taste the truth. She had given me permission and let me know that it was possible.

* When was your first “aha” moment of tasting inner truth?

When I realized that my dog Tether had come back to me for a second lifetime. During her first lifetime, she had a lot of non-dog characteristics — for instance, she liked to climb trees and play mirror games. She also liked to carry around this rubber dog toy, a sea urchin from France, while whining and moaning. When she was killed by a car, I kept a lot of her toys and I dreamed about her constantly. Every time I dreamed about her she looked better and better — more and more healed.

A year later, my wife brought home another dog. I didn’t want the dog but ended up keeping her anyway. This dog soon started climbing trees and demonstrating all the things that Tether knew. My wife asked me what I was going to name the new dog, and I said, “Tether.” My wife replied, “Oh, you’re going to name her after Tether?” and I said, “No, this IS Tether.” At that moment Tether grabbed up her sea urchin toy and began running around the house whining and moaning. That’s when I knew I had tasted inner truth.

* What does truth taste like?
It probably tastes different to different people. For me, it’s having a premonition of something (which isn’t necessarily about anything bad), a sense that something is going to happen a certain way. Then I look for confirmation that my sense of things was on target. If I get it, I connect the premonition with the confirmation to deepen that inner taste of truth.

* Is that premonition a thought or a physical sensation or something else?
It’s most often a surprising illumination that just pops into your awareness. If you’re looking for it, you’ll recognize it when it happens. It has a different quality than anything I can think of. Most people are too distracted and busy to notice it, but if you look for it you’ll find it.

Trying to describe the inner taste of truth is like trying to describe puppy love — almost everyone has felt it but it’s difficult to pin down. For most people, it’s a fluttery feeling in the stomach area, sort of a nervous feeling with a sense of longing. Once you’ve felt it you know what it is, and if you’ve never felt it, you don’t.

* Do you have any suggestions for how people can develop their inner taste for truth on a practical or daily basis?
It would be neat to say, “Just get up every morning and wish to know your inner truth,” but we can’t hold onto that wish. It has to become really important first. For a lot of other people there are other things that have to come first. A lot of times we have to first know that we live in a friendly and a non-threatening universe, because until we know that we’re always trying to defend ourselves. So much of our attention is devoted to self protection. We can’t find truth that way.

* What do you suggest for people who feel the need for self protection?
Well here’s a perfect example. If I’m looking at someone who is doing a behavior that I don’t like or that seems threatening, my first reaction is to judge them. But instead of judging them, I look for when I have done a similar behavior to someone else. For instance, I might feel threatened by someone yelling at me in anger, but instead of reacting to or judging that person I look for when I have done the same thing.

When I can really do that, I no longer feel threatened. I understand that person and I am in relation to them. I don’t have to protect myself from that person’s behavior. Then I am available to the truth. Then the miraculous happens — that person’s behavior will change because I have seen the truth of myself in another person.

Right there is a good test of truth because there are two states that we can identify. The first one is that of tensing up, which often precedes anger or righteous indignation then criticism and judgment. The second, when I have seen myself in another person, is a relaxation, a feeling of acceptance. That’s the same feeling one gets with a sense of inner truth. You could say that inner truth is a sense of inner relaxation — a release of inner tension. It tastes good to the inner senses.