There is an old story about the Blind Men and the Elephant. Where it came from varies according to the accounts I have read but the stories all agree that the blind men in the story represent religious leaders and philosophers and the elephant is the Divine Presence. Here is the story in my own words:

Some blind men were very curious. They were fascinated by the tales they had heard of this creature called the Elephant and they wanted to explore it further. After careful and sincere study enhanced by their own experience, they came together to share what they knew with others who sought the truth about the Elephant.

“The Elephant is an amazing creature! It is vast like a wall. Vast and unmovable. You reach it and you can go to the right and the Elephant is still there. You can move to the left and the Elephant is there. The Elephant is like a great wall that protects us from harm!”

“Pfah! I don’t know what you found but it is not the true Elephant! The Elephant is not a wall, by no means. The Elephant is like a mighty tree planted in the ground. I myself experienced the true Elephant and far from being a wall, I could wrap my arms around the Elephant even as I wrap them around my children or a tree! It is, as you say, unmovable. But other than that you don’t understand the Elephant at all.”

“He is right about the tree! I myself have experienced the Elephant and it was like the Palm Tree. While I don’t know about this trunk – I did not experience that – but trees have trunks. We can postulate that. But truly it is not a wall. My experience of the Elephant is like a gentle Palm Tree whose leaves sway and move, creating a gentle breeze even in the heat. Yes, I think we can agree the Elephant is a tree and not a wall. This one has a demon and is a false teacher!”

“You are all false and deluded! These trees and walls! None of them is the one True Elephant! The One True Elephant is like a snake, strong like a python but gentle and kind. As I approached the Elephant with fear and trembling it acknowledged me…ME! The Elephant wrapped personally around me like a mighty serpent and even lifted me off the ground and set me gently back down. I felt the tough leathery skin of the Elephant-Serpent. This is the True Elephant and you are all deceivers and liars!”

“What is this talk of the One True Elephant? I too have explored the Elephant and I think it called to another and was answered! I think there may be a Divine Trinity of Elephants all of the same nature only different.”

Heresy! the others screamed. And the discussion of the elephant ended as the wise men began swinging sticks and throwing rocks at one another. Meanwhile, the elephant, who was looking on. Just turned and walked away.

The first man came to the side of the Elephant and experienced it as a wall that he couldn’t get around. When he moved to the left the Elephant walked forward and when he moved to the right the Elephant backed up so he thought it was like a wall. The second man came to the Elephant’s leg and as the Elephant was tired of moving he just stood there immovable like a tree. The man reached around the leg with his arms and tried to move it and when he couldn’t he left – confident that he now understood the Elephant. The next blind man came to the Elephant’s ears and the great floppy ears of the African Elephant seemed to him like the great leaves of a palm tree. He was cooled by the gentle breeze caused by their movement. The other man approached the front and the Elephant wrapped his trunk around him and even picked him up gently before setting him back down. The man left, overjoyed that the Elephant had a personal interaction with him that no one else had.

Each blind man felt that HIS experience of the Elephant was correct and true. He believed that he understood the Elephant and felt that the differing experiences that others had threatened his own belief and understanding because it was different. What none of the blind men realized is that the Elephant was great and powerful and beyond their ability to perceive in its entirety. They were all right about their perception of the Elephant but each one was so small that they were all wrong and none of them understood the elephant in its entirety, nor could they.

Similarly, Moses was told by God if he ever saw Him all at once he would be consumed in flames and simply said, “I Am, That I Am.” But, unfortunately, humanity has tried to place this vast transcendent entity that formed and interacts with the entire universe into a small little God-Box” collection of ideas that they can understand. All of these are a mockery of the Mystery of the Divine, in that our finite little brains can never understand the Mystery in its fullness. I believe that the founders of these world religions were experiencing the same Divine Presence and that the, if brought together, would recognize the truth in the experience of the others.

However, after every great religious leader dies the followers try to “standardize” their beliefs. Too often trying to copy what the leader did and said instead of maintaining their own relationship with the Divine.

I have even heard people say, “God wouldn’t do that.” As if they had such a thorough understanding of this vast mystery that they could tell what God would and wouldn’t do. They MAY be able to thoroughly understand the scriptures but this, to me, is not the same as understanding God. For one thing, people turn to the Bible, as I do each day. However, I understand that the Bible is not God and that God, quite frankly, never told us to close the canon into a book. That was the idea of humans.

The God who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (if you believe the Bible,) must still be speaking to His servants. If He didn’t then that would seem to indicate that he has changed. Some scholars came up with the idea that God’s power has different “dispensations” but this is not Biblical and I don’t think it is a godly idea. The idea of dispensations is used by scholars in the West to explain why we don’t see miracles like they used to. John Wesley, whose preaching spawned over 150 different Christian denominations said that there are no different dispensations. The reason we don’t see faith and miracles like they were in the Bible is that “our hearts have grown too cold.”

Indeed, if we are to believe the Christian Pastors of the Third World such miracles still occur with regularity. I find it interesting that they don’t tend to occur as much in enlightenment countries.

I was speaking to a fellow pastor about people who experienced their loved ones coming back to speak to them or encourage them and also about encounters that I had that I can only describe as “demonic” requiring an exorcism for me to end the hazard. His response was interesting. He said he had a close friend who was a Catholic Priest and the Catholic Diocese of Nebraska had investigated hundreds of supposed demonic encounters and only a very minute number seemed to be supernatural. This pastor insisted that “demonic” encounters were psychological or emotional in nature and not real. I responded, “But Michael, some WERE considered to be actual demonic possession.” That ended the discussion as he changed the subject to a game we both enjoyed.

There are mysteries out there that we don’t fully understand and God is one of them. Also, I suspect that some people have developed an idolatrous relationship with the Bible and are worshipping IT instead of the Living God. I used to tell my parishioners that the Bible is just “dead words on a page” unless you read it in the presence and under the guidance of the Presence of the Divine. God is still speaking to us…if we but listen, and he will do it directly or through the Bible as HE/SHE/IT wills it.

Deus Vult!

Join me, share this page, and walk with me as we explore the nature of the Divine Presence. I don’t care what name you use for God as long as you respect the ancient scriptures and the beliefs of others and are open to learning about God. Like the Blind Men I think our modern religions are somewhat “blind” and encourage everyone to follow the religion in which they find the truth but to open themselves to the Divine Presence and give IT precedence over the religious teachings of human organizations. There is an old belief that if we ever learn all the names of God at that point time will end. In English, we look in the Bible and see God but in the original languages “God” is a vast myriad of names and titles. Similarly, “Satan” is not what we would assume reading an English version of the Bible. But that is for another Blog.

I am Rivan Ělän’. (Prounced Rivǝn Ělän´) I used this name in my BlogTalk Radio Show but my parishioners know me as Pastor Daniel.