Monday, June 4, 2007

The Rajah and his Folly, Part One

This is the first of a three part series analyzing and drawing logical conclusions from the ancient fable from India about a Rajah and six blind men. Part two and three will take a look at the damage that the wrong conclusions drawn from the fable are having on society and, more importantly, the Church. To be sure, these conclusions are not the problem, but the symptoms of a more insidious problem: illogical thought processes and the worldview that follows them. As those with a relativist's worldview have used the fable as an aid in explaining an illogical ideology, so will I use it to expose the fallacy of it's argument, and to show how this thinking has permeated the entire culture including the Church.The fable has been popularized in recent years by it's frequent use in illustrating how all religions contain different truths about the same God. Following is a brief synopses of the fable:

  • Visiting the Rajah six blind men, upon entering the palace courtyard, encounter an elephant for the first time. Examining the elephant with their hands, each describes it according to the part he is touching. One says "the elephant is like a tree" (the leg), and another: "the elephant is like a rope" (the tail), a wall (it's side), and so on. The blind men soon begin to argue loudly in their disagreement over the nature of the elephant. The Rajah, awakened by the commotion comes to his balcony and informs the blind men that they are only examining a part, and that they must examine the whole animal to know what an elephant is like.

Though the fable is useless in revealing any truth about God, or religions for that matter, it does inadvertently reveal some truth about the person who would use it to that end. This can be seen by considering the positions and attributes of the players and who they represent. There are the blind men arguing in the court yard; they represent religions. There is the elephant who silently stands there being large; he represents God. And there's the sleeping Rajah who is elevated above the fray, and of course, can see all. He's not suppose to represent anybody, but he ends up representing the relativist.

The thrust of the fable is suppose to draw our attention to the blind men because of their closed-minded, and stubborn refusal to accept all religions as equally valid. But I'd like to divert the reader's attention away from the blind men and toward the person using the fable to make his relativistic point. As one listens to the story, the first question that should be asked is: who does the story teller most relate to? The answer of course is not those dogmatic blind and intolerant religious people arguing down in the courtyard; but rather the reasonable and seeing Rajah standing in his elevated balcony. This is the very reason the fable fails in making it's point. No person has ever escaped the bounds of our existence to be in a position from which religions can be objectively observed as they seek God. So claiming to be wise, they become fools. This is also the reason the fable makes it's unintended point: that those who think all religions are valid are the real narrow-minded blind men. They are blind to the fact that if differing religions disagree, only one can ultimately be true; they are narrow-minded in their lack of willingness to consider the possibility that any one can be true, and true to the exclusion of all others. It also reveals their utter ignorance on matters of religion, and their hypocrisy in the fact that though they themselves are blind, they accuse others of being so.

It has been said that ideals have consequences, and I would add that as of late, so do worldviews. In part 2 I will discuss the dangerous consequences for society of the real narrow mindedness illustrated by the Rajah.


Jon said...


Great point. I have had some of the same thoughts about this "parable" before. The storyteller knows it's an elephant. But what if, as you say, he is not completely objective, and it's really a circus, of which all parties involved can only see one animal?

danny wright said...

Good point, and what if one of those animals spoke?

Pat Jenkins said...

d.w. good post, though i have a question. what in your opinion seperates religions?

danny wright said...

Beyond what they believe, in my opinion, what separates them the most is the objective evidence, or lack of it, that supports each one's claims.

Pat Jenkins said...

d.w., thanks for your response, would you say then religion is based in following a set a principles or guidelines? or is it about worshiping a deity?

danny wright said...

Pat, thanks for the question.

I suppose as far as religions go, from what I can tell they seem to lean heavily on following rules and guidelines to show some sort of worship to a deity. And though there are Christians who adhere to these same sorts of principles as well, I find that I have nothing more in common with them than I would a non-Christian. The Bible says taste and see that the LORD is good. This goodness when tasted causes the whole concept of religion to kind of fade.

Although not enough, I love God, and I ask him often to pour even more love for Him into me. There is a reality that no ritual or following of rules is going to draw me closer to him, and at the same time that no failure on my part is going to separate me. As I try to live a righteous life, and I do, I end up coming to the same conclusion that Paul did: that I am chief among sinners; that the very best I can do is as filthy rags before God. This does nothing to hinder my love for Him though, it causes me to love Him all the more as I realize more and more what was accomplished for me on the cross.

To perhaps better answer your question let me try asking you a question. The Bible uses marriage as an analogy of the relationship between Christ and the Church. That said, do you consider your marriage based more on doing what pleases your wife, or more on showing adoration?

BTW, Just like to say how much I admire your blog and your writing.

Pat Jenkins said...

thanks for the complaments d.w. flattery will get you everywhere. you bring up a great analogy with marriage. i am a lucky man i do believe i have found my soul mate equaling we being one. i am wanting that same oneness with God and believe it can be no other way. i am in total argreement with you on my religion question. we all get lost in a relationship based on action then with a being. thanks for allowing me to pick your brain. now i must go read your other posts you have been a busy man and i am sure i will have more to talk with you about.