Home 2012 May 20 Sceptics and Spirituality

Sceptics and Spirituality

A while ago I read a good book, called the Red Lion by Maria Szepes. In it there is one interesting story about scepticism. It’s interesting how there are people who have so many arguments to disprove things they are not opened to. Sometimes what they say can seem logical, explaning in details why such and such is  or isn’t so. Don’t be fooled with their “logic”, because it is based on their own intelectual rationale. Intelect in itself is very limited, which makes logic limited too. Often there are things that goes against logic, yet they are true.

Here is the story:

“Once upon a time there was a clever and learned Chinese named Hui-Shen who lived in the province of Shan-shi on the Huang-Ho, or Yellow River. He was so clever that people came from all over the country to gather around his bullrush mat and listen to his endless debates with a gentle old village priest. For years they had been debatingthe existence of spirits. The priest insisted that spirits existed, but his only proof was that he regularly saw and talked to them.

But Hui-shen had exactly seven hundred and seventy-seven arguments to prove that spirits did not exist. Anyone who claimed to see them was either sick or drunk; anyone who talked with them was only mumbling a senseless dialogue to himself. The air and the sky were really empty, and only the graves were full — full of rotting bodies. Man was the spirit, and when he died everything ended.

Hui-shen would crush the old priest’s arguments like eggshells and, if others spoke up in support of the priest, he crushed their arguments too. He would not allow the slightest possibility for even the tiniest spirit to squeeze into the Universe. His arguments were invincible. Finally the old priest got tired of these fruitless debates. He told Hui-shen that his health was no longer good enough for him to continue with them and he would send someone better prepared to argue. This left Hui-shen alone with a whole storehouse of unused arguments. No one would debate him; if he so much as opened his mouth, people backed away out of fear.

One evening Hui-shen was preparing for bed. He was restless and dissatisfied because he had had no one to argue with for days. Then he noticed a skinny, dark man sitting on the other rush mat. Hui-shen was amazed, for he had not seen or heard him come in. He was about to reprove him for bad manners when the stranger spoke.

“I am the one for whom you have been waiting. A friend of mine sent me to convince you of the truth; he says you don’t believe in spirits.”

“But of course not!” Hui-shen burst out in his relief. He forgot all about his plans for going to bed; already he loved this white-robed stranger, and he would not have let him go for anything in the world. He began to present his arguments in a sarcastic, mocking voice. He stated and refuted, argued and proved without ever giving his opponent a chance to open his mouth. Every time the stranger took a breath to say something, Hui-shen would raise a hand to forestall him. “Wait! I know what you’re going to say. You needn’t tire yourself.” Then he would raise his voice and enumerate the other’s every possible argument, then dissect and kill it. The stranger grew increasingly gloomy and restless and kept trying to speak, but Hui-shen would stop him before he could utter a single word.

This went on until the silver rays of dawn lightened the window and a rooster started crowing in the yard. Then the stranger lost patience, jumped up, and interrupted Hui-shen’s steady flow of words.  “Silence, you wretched fool!”  His angry voice shook Hui-shen’s tiny house.  “I cannot refute your damned reasoning; what you say sounds like the truth, except that it is not. In spite of all you say, there are spirits, damn it, because I myself am one.”   With that, he disgustedly evaporated before the eyes of the deflated Hui-shen.”

Author: Dario

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