Elephant heresy

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“I want everyone in the world to know!” When we have experienced something amazing and life-changing, it is natural to want everyone in the world to know. We do not care how we look, we may not even care that others may be hurt in the process. The Truth must out! But sometimes that doesn’t end well.

There is a certain irony in this, given that I am considered a heretic even among heretics.Β I also wonder whether I have run off to proclaim on the Internet about too many things of which I know too little, without having the required 90% of the iceberg below the surface. But still! The world needs to know this too, right? “We must say all the words that should be spoken, before they are gone forever.” Although I wish someone else would say it.

What follows is an answer I gave to a question on Quora, the moderated questions-and-answers site. I have rendered the question in italics and my answer in bold.


Is it better to be a heretic than orthodox on religious matters?
Doesn’t being a heretic mean you had the mental and intellectual fortitude to defy commonly-accepted norms of belief (orthodoxy) in order to know God better? Orthodoxy is stagnation and conformist by definition, right?

Heresy could also mean – and I believe it often means – that you jump to conclusions based on a little experience.

You may have heard the metaphor about the blind men and the elephant. Each of them touches a different part of the elephant and comes away with his own impression of what an elephant is. This metaphor is sometimes used about different religions, or about the varieties of religious experience. But the interesting thing in our context is that a person who has never been within a continent of an elephant may still have a better understanding of it than someone who briefly touched the trunk and then ran away, his life changed forever by his personal experience of the living elephant.

When someone has a particularly intense spiritual experience or revelation, a temptation arises to reject tradition and focus on the one thing one knows with inner certainty, downplaying other aspects. But as a religion or sect acquires more members and exists over time, it inevitably grows into the same wide range of circumstances and personalities. Having rejected the old tradition, it is now tempting to fill the blank spaces with logical extensions based on the existing body of experience. But if you fill out the entire elephant with what would be logical based on the trunk, you end up with a very different animal.

10 thoughts on “Elephant heresy

  1. I came across your blog while researching on Ryuho Okawa. I wonder what do you think of him Now, having read many of his books. I only read an excerpt and certainly agree with one of your older blogs that certain books or ideas of his are definitely illuminating wisdom and light. Yet to me he seemed more to be a well-read spiritually awakened individual, possibly someone who really can channel, spiritually gifted, yet as years past, using his gifts to push his personal agenda, letting his pride and ego to steer what he think is best, wanting to be “god” and influence/steer the world or people in many aspects. Behind the mask of spiritual teaching, advocating, the unconditional soul love, the great teachings of many enlightened masters in his words, I sensed narcissism and free will undermining which I do not like… I was curious about his more popular books like the Laws of the Sun, but kind of lost interest when I read your blog and other things on the internet about him. Would really appreciate if you could share your view πŸ™‚

    • I feel that Okawa’s early books, at least the ones that were first translated into English, were genuinely luminous and helpful. Even the Laws of the Sun, which included much obviously mythical stuff, had an atmosphere that inspired love and hope and courage. So it looked like this could become a respectable religion of sorts, giving people a framework for spiritual growth. But with his later change of focus toward politics, I no find Okawa nearly as interesting or relevant.

      • Thank you, I appreciate what you share. I just find it very sad that no matter how spiritually enlightened a person is, we are after all human, with human flaws. The whole spiritually awakening process stirs that awareness in you to acknowledge that unconditional love of all mankind, there are certain truth about the universe and abilities within us that is grand, beautiful, god-like, as we are images of God. You want to know more, feel that magnificent love, share with people who understands, help each other raise our consciousness to a higher level, start seeing psychic abilities develop… But suddenly, people like Okawa can regress from that to power, politics and personal influences… It is just sad but real that spiritual path can equally progress or regress…

  2. BTW, I just read your latest blog “Elephant Heresy”. Very interesting. I would like to share my humble opinion, hopefully it won’t offend you.

    “I also wonder whether I have run off to proclaim on the Internet about too many things of which I know too little, without having the required 90% of the iceberg below the surface. But still! The world needs to know this too, right?”

    The path of spiritual awakening/enlightenment is a process. Only knowing a little, feel very moved and want to share with the world is a common feeling shared by many of us on our own spiritual path. The intense experience and urge are wonderful, the opening for a person’s spiritual progression, but the world does not need to know. The real advancement and progression take place after he explore the 90% of the iceberg. He would feel even more moved and in bliss at that point, having a complete understanding and not doubting if it is flawed. If telling the world when he only knows 10% and he is challenged and end up defending his “real” experience and fill up the entire elephant without really exploring the 90% and refine his understanding, it would be a shame, since the experience just fed the egos of the person who challenged him and he who really discovered something magnificent. These two people are just in their imaginary worlds of false beliefs.

    However, if the intent to share with the world, he welcomes all type of inputs, discerning all supporting and opposing/challenging views without having to be “right”, not feeling insulted, undeterred if someone claims he is wrong, sharing with the world has its advantage, serving as a exploration ground.

    In regards to your answer – I have to admit that I agree the questioner – it is better being a heretic than orthodox since orthodoxy promotes stagnation, conformist
    and not using our intuition to feel/understand truth.

    Your answer pointed common flaws of heretics – heretics that are very ego driven. Heresy does NOT mean jump to conclusions based on a little experience. But there are heretics that jump to conclusions. Heresy only implies belief contrary to orthodox religious doctrine. If a person only cares to know the Truth of the Universe, his path to enlightenment, he would not care about other people’s opinions, nor would be jump to conclusion. His initial conclusion is just the original slab of clay of the sculptor would be moldable.

    Many who think they are seeking spiritual enlightenment, the truth, or god, are doing exactly the opposite – Using his understanding and reading to justify what he already believes, feeding to his ego, proving that he is right, wiser, better…. than others. The sad truth of humanity is that most people are not even aware they are the type I described above, driven by their ego, thus limiting their spiritual advancement….

    If one really values spiritual progression as top priority, he would have the humility and be happy to know he is (partly)wrong. Because the moment he knows he is wrong, he in fact finds out what is right and take one step closer to higher consciousness.

  3. “Doesn’t being a heretic mean you had the mental and intellectual fortitude to defy commonly-accepted norms of belief (orthodoxy) in order to know God better? ”

    The issue behind the question and what you observed was never about heresy/orthodoxy. The issue is i) fear of being wrong, ii) ego wanting to be right, iii) duality. All of which are obstacles to fully understand and feel truth and God. The pride should not be on adhering to common beliefs or defiance. Both promotes two opposing stands. When one is of higher consciousness, one would understand and could feel all is one; and if the two people put love and understanding in forefront, one is really no better than the other but a progress from different angle towards a common goal that is most likely in between.
    I personally think orthodoxy is not as good since institutions and conformity do not promote deep understand of what is not in the bible or advocated by the church and laziness of the mind/heart, following what is told, which makes the whole belief more of a superstition.

    • This conversation reminds me of an article I read years ago (in “The Empty Vessel”, I believe). It said that a worldly or materialistic person will feel uncomfortable in a place of worship, because his spiritual level or frequency is lower than the locale. But if he grows spiritually, he will come to feel at home there. Yet if he grows even more, at some point he will start to feel out of place there again, because now his level is higher than the environment.

      I would say something similar applies to orthodoxy. There are those who resist it because it limits their freedom to grow their ego, and there are those who transcend it. But there is also a great deal of room to grow within tradition. So whether I defend orthodoxy really depends on who I expect to read me.

      • Thank you very much for your response – I really want to read the article, lol. Kind of ironic how we are always going to feel out of place, no matter spiritual frequency are low or above others, unless we stay with the mass – ie orthodoxy. But perhaps at higher spiritual level, with more understanding, you would feel more comfort to be out of place/alone.

        I agree and understand everything you said up to the sentence before last. I see that religion and orthodoxy as necessary for ones of lower spiritual level, or mass population, especially before technology and education advancement, when they are at a stage, being exposed to many religions and social programming. And there is so much room and greater wisdom within tradition. How could one not believe that there really is no “one better than the other”.

        However, lol, with your last comment, whether you defend orthodoxy depends who you expect to read your response, I would like to raise the question – why? The bible does not change as the audience change, nor the heretical beliefs… Wouldn’t the best response be 67% grey, instead of black or white, so both people who believe in black or white could understand your reasoning and perhaps moving closer towards the polar opposite? I am not really trying to challenge you or look for an answer. I am thinking perhaps it would be helpful for your growth to fully understand the intent and reasoning behind that positioning. And perhaps it is unnecessary, you are perfect as is, at the progressive level you are in, and taking opposing stands may seem helpful to others, spiritually/intellectually stimulating, but limit our own understanding of the issue, and ourselves at a much deeper level. something to ponder… and a reminder for myself too πŸ™‚ Know that your insights and thoughts were much appreciated. Love & Light…

        • Yes, it definitely gets more comfortable to be out of place. Look at Jesus Christ, who was the same luminous presence when eating with the pharisee as when eating with the taxman, and he was not bothered about being touched by a “sinful woman”. But a man who has just recently had very different experiences with such women, even if only in his mind, would find even her presence in the room to be very disturbing. And someone who has just recently been a pharisee would feel very uncomfortable surrounded by pharisees. Jesus loved them all deeply, even though he knew there was more hope for prostitutes and economic criminals than for those who thought they had won the game of life.

          But as for me, I have not gone above traditional religion as much as I have gone behind the scene and seen how it works. And this is not something I can in good conscience recommend for the common churchgoer. I want to be there for those who have by accident got lost “backstage” and have seen too much, but I have no place to lead them to where they can relax and feel safe surrounded by others of the same kind.

          As for you, I have enjoyed your comments, and I hope my occasional reader will too. If you have a forum of your own where you share with the world, I would love for you to leave a link.

  4. Hi there, I really enjoyed our correspondences too and have thought about you fondly. Unfortunately I do not have a blog but starting from our conversations and further spiritual awakening, I have started to write my own views and post a few on facebook groups. Have you read books from David Hawkins? I posted on his Letting Go group. I wonder if there is anyway we can further share our opinions, providing each other angles to ponder, without me posting my email address and identity publicly πŸ™‚ I wish there is a way to send you a personal PM πŸ™‚

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