Right reasoning versus the "elephant" approach

An old fable that children of all ages in India enjoy is that of six blind men who have never seen an elephant. They travel to the palace of a rajah where each of them touches and feels a different part of the beast.

The first blind man feels the side and states, "An elephant is like a wall." The second man feels the trunk and declares, "An elephant is like a snake." This approach is repeated by all the others, who report their individual impressions of the elephant: tusk—like a spear; leg—like a tree; ear—like a fan; and tail—like a rope. After much argument about what an elephant is really like, the rajah settles the matter by telling the men the importance of finding out the whole truth. See Lillian Quigley, The Blind Men and the Elephant (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1959) .

Like the blind men confronting the elephant, humanity approaches many problems of life through limited perception and reasoning. Problems of supply, of human relationships, and specifically problems of a physical nature are seen almost exclusively as solvable only through the tedious process of scrutinizing the material evidence to discover the possible causes. Most of mankind is accustomed to solving problems in this way—beginning with the symptoms, or outward appearance, and working from effect back to cause. Such a procedure is commonly referred to as "scientific." However, this material method is very different from the Christianly scientific method of reasoning.

Enjoy 1 free Sentinel article or audio program each month, including content from 1898 to today.

February 13, 1984

We'd love to hear from you!

Easily submit your testimonies, articles, and poems online.