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The Blind Men and the Elephant

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posted on Aug, 26 2006 @ 11:25 AM
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This is an old Sufi fable. Probably most of us have heard of it at one time or another, but I doubt its meaning is properly appreciated very often. It goes like this:


Once there were six blind men who had heard tales of the elephant and wanted to check out this marvelous beast. So they went to India and found an elephant munching hay. They couldn't see it, of course, but each of the blind men moved to touch the elephant, and each declaimed on what he found.

One happened to lay hold of the elephant's tusk. "The elephant," he said, "is like a spear!"

Another grasped the elephant's trunk. "The elephant," he said, "is like a snake!"

A third wrapped his arms around the elephant's leg. "The elephant," he said, "is like a tree!"

The fourth placed his hands upon the elephant's ear. "The elephant," said he, "is like a fan!"

The fifth simply bumped into the elephant's broad side. "The elephant," he claimed somberly, "is like a wall!"

And the sixth happened to approach the elephant from behind and lay hold of its tail. "The elephant," he decided, "is like a rope!"

The men discussed their encounter afterward, and soon fell to arguing, and they became angry and pounded one another with their canes. Each espoused his claim to know what the elephant was like with great sincerity. But although each of them was partly right, all of them were wrong.


The meaning of the fable:

The elephant is God.

We are all blind, for the sight needed to fully see God is not human sight, and is forever beyond our brains' capacity.

The world's scriptures were all written by blind men for blind men. And although all of them contain a part of the truth (if one has enough vision to understand it, which few do), none contains the whole.

The world's religions in their disputes are blind men whacking each other with their canes over something they ought to know is beyond their understanding anyway.


Another fable. This one's mine.

There was once a shaman named White Fire. His tribe is forgotten now, but it is said that in the madness of his visions, he thought to put the ocean in a jug. He tried again and again, but no matter how full he filled the jug, the ocean was still there, apparently undiminished.

Finally, in a fit of pique, he threw the empty jug out upon the waves, where it floated and bobbed in apparent delight. And then the truth came to him:

"I had the order all wrong! The ocean doesn't belong in the jug, but rather the jug in the ocean!" At once his madness resolved itself into clarity and he understood the Great Mystery and became a famous holy man. He later went on to invent surfing, which was a sacred ritual in origin, though it lost its spiritual significance as time went on.


The meaning of the fable:

Every religion is a jug, finite and limited in its scope. God is the ocean. When you attempt to fit God into a religion and bind Him/Her/It to that religion's limits, you might as well be trying to bottle the ocean. The real test is: throw the bottle on the ocean and see if it floats. And if you see another bottle floating out there along with yours, it's no heresy: bear in mind that the ocean is bigger than your bottle.




posted on Aug, 26 2006 @ 05:12 PM
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Always learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth.



posted on Aug, 26 2006 @ 06:45 PM
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Originally posted by Sun Matrix
Always learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth.


Yes. That is exactly our role.

Anyone who thinks that they HAVE come to the knowledge of the truth, has simply stopped learning.



posted on Aug, 26 2006 @ 07:19 PM
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There is an old Bible verse/truth. Probably most of us have heard of it at one time or another, but I doubt it's meaning is properly appreciated very often. It goes like this:

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.



posted on Aug, 26 2006 @ 08:03 PM
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Originally posted by dbrandt
There is an old Bible verse/truth. Probably most of us have heard of it at one time or another, but I doubt it's meaning is properly appreciated very often. It goes like this:

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.


You are right that its meaning is not properly appreciated. In fact, I've never encountered anyone who quoted it, who did understand it.

Perhaps you are an exception. Do elaborate.

[edit on 26-8-2006 by Two Steps Forward]



posted on Aug, 26 2006 @ 09:19 PM
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Originally posted by Two Steps Forward

You are right that its meaning is not properly appreciated. In fact, I've never encountered anyone who quoted it, who did understand it.

Perhaps you are an exception. Do elaborate.

[edit on 26-8-2006 by Two Steps Forward]


Example, In hinduism the are millions of "gods". You need to apease them and seek different ones out for different problems and do this for one and that for another a million times over for each one. Then maybe, just maybe you'll find heaven and peace someday.

Not to mention the sick little game of reincarnation with these "gods". That you will have to be a pawn for their sick little games for eons and eons of time. Let's see you'll be a person this time and when you mess up the next time your gonna be a wildebeast, and boy are you gonna get it when that lion eats you, yah, that'll teach him. Then lets make him a bug that gets eaten by a meerkat. Ok now lets (gods are laughing), lets have him be a lice on a monkey.


The God of the Bible says it's not like that. There's only one of Me, and this is how you can know me and live with me for all of eternity, because that's what I want. I don't want you to have to guess about it, I'm going to tell you the way, as a matter of fact I'm going to take care of the hardest part myself, removing your sin.

That's what it means.



posted on Aug, 27 2006 @ 01:38 AM
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Originally posted by Two Steps Forward
The meaning of the fable:

Every religion is a jug, finite and limited in its scope. God is the ocean. When you attempt to fit God into a religion and bind Him/Her/It to that religion's limits, you might as well be trying to bottle the ocean. The real test is: throw the bottle on the ocean and see if it floats. And if you see another bottle floating out there along with yours, it's no heresy: bear in mind that the ocean is bigger than your bottle.



Very good post Two Steps.
The only problem may be your meaning: some people are happy to seek their own "Light" but most people appear to require guidance and descriptions and the metaphor that Ocean=God will not suffice.



posted on Aug, 27 2006 @ 01:40 AM
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Originally posted by dbrandt

The God of the Bible says it's not like that. There's only one of Me, and this is how you can know me and live with me for all of eternity, because that's what I want. I don't want you to have to guess about it, I'm going to tell you the way, as a matter of fact I'm going to take care of the hardest part myself, removing your sin.

That's what it means.



Which part of the elephant are you touching there?



posted on Aug, 27 2006 @ 03:35 AM
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No, dbrandt, obviously you don't get what Jesus was talking about there. No biggie, hardly anyone else does, either, and those who do generally don't call themselves Christians. Let's set that aside then and see what you do say.


Originally posted by dbrandt
Example, In hinduism the are millions of "gods". You need to apease them and seek different ones out for different problems


No. That's a very shallow misunderstanding of Hinduism, which is premised on a Unity underlying that apparent diversity -- a Unity not only of deities, but of all consciousness.



Not to mention the sick little game of reincarnation with these "gods". That you will have to be a pawn for their sick little games for eons and eons of time.


Well, now, how is that any worse than being a pawn of the Christian God's sick little games -- I definitely see burning people alive perpetually as sick -- for eons and eons of time?

Both reincarnation and spirit-world survival are metaphors and neither should be taken literally. You are immortal, but only because you are not who you think you are. Who you think you are is mortal. But who you really are is not. The trick is discovering that hidden identity. Until you do, ideas about immortality -- and it doesn't matter what ideas -- will mislead.



The God of the Bible says it's not like that.


There you go trying to bottle the ocean. God is and is not like that. You can relate your own experiences, and those are true and can give you some idea of what God IS. But neither you nor anyone else is in any position to say what God is NOT. You simply don't have a big enough mind to set those limits.



That's what it means.


No.

If you understood what it means, you could repeat Jesus' words, saying them yourself in the first person, and not lie.



posted on Aug, 27 2006 @ 07:41 AM
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Originally posted by Ersatz

Originally posted by dbrandt

The God of the Bible says it's not like that. There's only one of Me, and this is how you can know me and live with me for all of eternity, because that's what I want. I don't want you to have to guess about it, I'm going to tell you the way, as a matter of fact I'm going to take care of the hardest part myself, removing your sin.

That's what it means.



Which part of the elephant are you touching there?


His heart.



posted on Aug, 27 2006 @ 07:50 AM
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Originally posted by Two Steps Forward
Well, now, how is that any worse than being a pawn of the Christian God's sick little games -- I definitely see burning people alive perpetually as sick -- for eons and eons of time?



That's what it means.


No.



You do realize God didn't tell those "christians" to kill those people over the centuries. Not everyone who says they are a christian really are. Those burned at the stake were there because they were telling and living the truth of who God really is and what He really says, so they were being silenced.
You say that's not what it means, I say it is and it is much more than what I even wrote down. Once again God wants us to know Him. Will we eventually know all there is to know about Him, No. That will take all of eternity to know Him and find out who He is. But He wants us to start and so some have placed their faith in Christ to get their lives started for real, and some have not.

It's about a choice, I have made mine and you have made yours.

[edit on 27-8-2006 by dbrandt]



posted on Aug, 27 2006 @ 09:49 AM
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Originally posted by dbrandt
You do realize God didn't tell those "christians" to kill those people over the centuries.


Of course I do. God never tells anyone to do anything, not in any simplistic way as that. The experience of God's presence is personally transformative. We do not hear instructions and obey (unless we are psychotic), we simply think differently than before, being aware of levels of reality of which we were previously ignorant.

However, those whom the Inquisitors and Crusaders accepted as speaking with God's voice -- the scripture, the Church authorities -- DID tell them to kill those people. And that is what I'm talking about. When you surrender your moral judgment to God, in effect you are surrendering it to other people (living or dead) whose word you accept as God's word.

There is plenty of Biblical support for the idea of mass-murder in God's name if you look for it.



Not everyone who says they are a christian really are. Those burned at the stake were there because they were telling and living the truth of who God really is and what He really says, so they were being silenced.


Now wait a minute. People were burned at the state for heresy. Heresy isn't necessarily the truth, it's just different from the official brand of falsehood; there are many brands of falsehood around. People were burned at the stake for being Jews who converted and then recanted, or in some cases refused to convert, or for being satanists.

All I'm saying is that it's morally wrong to kill people for their beliefs, and that people did this because they surrendered their personal moral judgment. The authorities they accepted told them it was the right thing to do, and so they did it.



You say that's not what it means, I say it is and it is much more than what I even wrote down.


You are not telling me anything I haven't heard already, friend. Here is what I know for certain: Jesus said nothing to imply that one must worship him, Jesus, in order to find God.

Remember that he taught in parables. He knew that what he had to say couldn't be said in straight language. If any words of his seem simple and straightforward to you, almost certainly you are not understanding them. He that has an ear, let him hear.

I'll repeat what I said earlier. You will understand what Jesus meant by those words when you can say them yourself -- as if you were speaking for yourself, not quoting Jesus -- and not lie.

Here's another hint: Jesus and the people he was speaking to were, in his perception and understanding, one, not many. Just as he and God were one, not two -- something he also said repeatedly, and which has also been misunderstood by Christians repeatedly.



Once again God wants us to know Him.


It's not a question of what God wants. It's a question of what the human brain is capable of. We CANNOT "know" God in the sense you "know" something in the objective world, which always involves drawing its boundaries and limits. But God has no boundaries or limits.

That is why theology, taken literally, is always wrong.



It's about a choice, I have made mine and you have made yours.


It's about understanding. I am opening a window, and suggesting that you take a look through it. Until you do, you can't make a meaningful choice.



posted on Aug, 27 2006 @ 12:16 PM
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Originally posted by Two Steps Forward


He knew that what he had to say couldn't be said in straight language.


John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Of course it could.



posted on Aug, 27 2006 @ 06:57 PM
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Originally posted by Two Steps Forward
This is an old Sufi fable. Probably most of us have heard of it at one time or another, but I doubt its meaning is properly appreciated very often. It goes like this:


Once there were six blind men who had heard tales of the elephant and wanted to check out this marvelous beast. So they went to India and found an elephant munching hay. They couldn't see it, of course, but each of the blind men moved to touch the elephant, and each declaimed on what he found.

One happened to lay hold of the elephant's tusk. "The elephant," he said, "is like a spear!"

Another grasped the elephant's trunk. "The elephant," he said, "is like a snake!"

A third wrapped his arms around the elephant's leg. "The elephant," he said, "is like a tree!"

The fourth placed his hands upon the elephant's ear. "The elephant," said he, "is like a fan!"

The fifth simply bumped into the elephant's broad side. "The elephant," he claimed somberly, "is like a wall!"

And the sixth happened to approach the elephant from behind and lay hold of its tail. "The elephant," he decided, "is like a rope!"

The men discussed their encounter afterward, and soon fell to arguing, and they became angry and pounded one another with their canes. Each espoused his claim to know what the elephant was like with great sincerity. But although each of them was partly right, all of them were wrong.


The meaning of the fable:

The elephant is God.

We are all blind, for the sight needed to fully see God is not human sight, and is forever beyond our brains' capacity.

The world's scriptures were all written by blind men for blind men. And although all of them contain a part of the truth (if one has enough vision to understand it, which few do), none contains the whole.

The world's religions in their disputes are blind men whacking each other with their canes over something they ought to know is beyond their understanding anyway.



This "fable" from the start is flawed for how does the fable teller KNOW it's an "elephant"? Because he can clearly see it is an elephant and not a tree or anything else.

The narrator knows that the elephant is not God and that the 6 blind men are in error.



The world's scriptures were all written by blind men for blind men. And although all of them contain a part of the truth (if one has enough vision to understand it, which few do), none contains the whole.



Your statement makes no sense. First you claim that the Scriptures only have "part of the truth" and then state "none contains the whole". How did you come to know this?

Which parts of "truth" do the correctly contain, and which "truths" are missing? You state this with such confidence as if you are privy to truths most are not.



posted on Aug, 28 2006 @ 01:55 PM
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Originally posted by dbrandt

Originally posted by Two Steps Forward


He knew that what he had to say couldn't be said in straight language.


John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Of course it could.


That is NOT straight language. And if you take it as straight language, you will completely miss its meaning.



posted on Aug, 28 2006 @ 01:59 PM
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Originally posted by UnrealZA
The narrator knows that the elephant is not God and that the 6 blind men are in error.


The elephant is not literally God. Do you not understand the concept of allegory?

And of course the blind men are in error; that's the point.



First you claim that the Scriptures only have "part of the truth" and then state "none contains the whole". How did you come to know this?


By reading various scriptures and studying various religions in the light of my own experience of the Sacred. I can find pointers to what I know is the Truth in all religions. But the very fact that different pointers are found in different ones shows that none contains the whole, because if it did, it would contain the same pointers as found in others.



You state this with such confidence as if you are privy to truths most are not.


That is correct. I am.

Unfortunately, I also know that the truths to which I am privy cannot be communicated in words. Each person must discover them for himself/herself. That's another meaning to the allegory of floating on the waves rather than trying to bottle the ocean.

[edit on 28-8-2006 by Two Steps Forward]



posted on Aug, 29 2006 @ 01:18 AM
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The elephant is not literally God. Do you not understand the concept of allegory?


I understand it very much so. Do you not grasp or understand that the teller of the story has a full grasp of Truth and Reality? The story was created to make the claim that all people view God differently and they all have some truth in that belief. Some may claim their god to be a tree, others a stone, others the wind, others an energy, etc. No one is truly wrong. Seeing, though, as how the story teller knows that it is truly an elephant THAT then is the ONLY view of reality that is correct.



By reading various scriptures and studying various religions in the light of my own experience of the Sacred. I can find pointers to what I know is the Truth in all religions. But the very fact that different pointers are found in different ones shows that none contains the whole, because if it did, it would contain the same pointers as found in others.


In other words, you had a preconceived idea of what you believed god, truth and reality to be. You then pick and choose what agrees with your preconceived religion and toss the rest. You can then rightly call the rest erroneous.



Unfortunately, I also know that the truths to which I am privy cannot be communicated in words. Each person must discover them for himself/herself.


This is one huge contradiction.....again! As if anyone should be surprised. I won't state them though, perhaps you can see the errors in it?



posted on Aug, 29 2006 @ 09:47 AM
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Originally posted by UnrealZA
Seeing, though, as how the story teller knows that it is truly an elephant THAT then is the ONLY view of reality that is correct.


But with respect to God, the world's religions are not in the position of the teller of the story. They are in the position of the blind men. And the teller of the story, who at least understands the elephant a little better than a blind man, cannot tell anyone what the elephant is.



In other words, you had a preconceived idea of what you believed god, truth and reality to be.


It's not preconceived. But yes, although I cannot claim to completely understand what God is, my understanding is as much better than that of any mundane religion, as a sighted man's understanding of the elephant is better than that of the blind men in the story.



This is one huge contradiction.....again! As if anyone should be surprised. I won't state them though, perhaps you can see the errors in it?


If I could see the "errors," I would not have said what I said. And I'm not going to second-guess your objection. State it or be silent on the point.



posted on Aug, 29 2006 @ 10:27 AM
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UnrealZA, I'm going to add a suggestion of a personal nature.

Leave the insults and nastiness out of your posts. You do nothing to enhance your arguments by inserting such gratuitous invective. On the contrary, it goes a long way towards earning you the contempt of everyone who reads it. And that makes it less likely that you will be taken seriously.



posted on Aug, 29 2006 @ 01:17 PM
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Originally posted by Two Steps Forward
UnrealZA, I'm going to add a suggestion of a personal nature.

Leave the insults and nastiness out of your posts. You do nothing to enhance your arguments by inserting such gratuitous invective. On the contrary, it goes a long way towards earning you the contempt of everyone who reads it. And that makes it less likely that you will be taken seriously.


First, my replies contain ad hominem but it's not in the form of a personal attack against your character. I have not stated YOU are an "idiot".

Secondly, Scripture calls you a "moron", not me.

Third, while your worldview is contradictory, "ignorance" is not an insult but rather it's a condition or state that can be changed.

Lastly, the contradictions in your statement are as follows.

You claim that the truths you are privy to cannot be communicated in words yet you then communicate to us that each one must discover it for themselves. We now know from this that these truths -

1) Can't be communicated
2) It can be discovered
3) Each must find their own truth

You have in fact COMMUNICATED to us things about your "truth". Have you communicated to us ALL there is to know? Obviously not BUT you don't need to for the other area of contradiction comes when you claim you are "privy to truth".

I have searched for Truth and discovered a Truth that rejects yours. The Author of this Truth claims there are no others, He is the Absolute. Am I wrong? If I am wrong, how can you then state that each person must discover "their own truth"?

So again, your worldview is based on contradictory first principles and therefore it becomes nonsense.



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