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p. 13


There was a great city in the country of Ghûr, in which all the people were blind. A certain king passed by that place, bringing his army and pitching his camp on the plain. He had a large and magnificent elephant to minister to his pomp and excite awe, and to attack in battle. A desire arose among the people to see this monstrous elephant, and a number of the blind, like fools, visited it, every one running in his haste to find out its shape and form. They came, and being without the sight of their eyes groped about it with their hands; each of them by touching one member obtained a notion of some one part; each one got a conception of an impossible object, and fully believed his fancy true. When they returned to the people of the city, the others gathered round them, all expectant, so misguided and deluded were they. They asked about the appearance and shape of the elephant, and what they told all listened to. One asked him whose hand had come upon its ear about the elephant; he said, It is a huge and formidable object, broad and rough and spreading, like a carpet. And he whose hand had come upon its trunk said, I have found out about it; it is straight and hollow in the middle like a pipe, a terrible thing and an instrument of destruction. And he who had felt the thick hard legs of the elephant said, As I have it in mind, its form is straight like a planed pillar. Every one had seen some one of its parts, and all had seen it wrongly. No mind knew the whole,--knowledge is never the companion of the blind all, like fools deceived, fancied absurdities.

Men know not the Divine essence; into this subject the philosophers may not enter.