Monday, September 07, 2009

Nobody Has Seen the Whole Elephant

A familiar story circulating in various religious versions has four blind men touching an elephant and saying what it is. One touches the side and says wall, another grabs the tail and says rope, another takes hold of the trunk and says hose, a final one grabs a leg and says pillar.  Sometimes the argument rages until the men get violent, or some wise person will resolve the issue by telling them the truth, e. g., all of them are partially right but each has identified only a part while the truth lies in the whole.  

Now this story has right and wrong interpretations. The wrong one is that all religions have part of the truth, but none has the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

This view holds only if the wise person has seen the whole elephant and can identify partial views in relation to the whole.

I maintain that if we are talking about God, then nobody has seen the whole elephant and nothing but the elephant -- though many claim they have. More precisely, we can't be sure that anyone has, although many do so claim.

Hence, we can only testify to what we believe based on what is non-deniable and persuasive to us in light of convincing sources as tested by norms  compelling from our vantage point in history and, culture, given our particular life stories, reasoning , and interpreted experience.

But nobody can be sure of having seen, touched, felt, heard, and smelled the elephant, the whole elephant, and nothing but the elephant. Or at least, that is what I believe as of this moment.

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