Our intellect is a very important part of our existence. It’s main task is to determine what is true and what is false. This is the context of both science and Western religion. While they differ in how they determine true from false they both take on this task.

Let us consider a performance of the ballet Swan Lake. A ballerina appears on the stage dressed as a swan. This is not the appropriate context for the scientist to leap up and shout “Don’t be fooled, that is not really a swan!”, nor is it appropriate for a priest to leap up and shout out “Look, its a giant swan, it’s a miracle!”. Nor does the ballerina stop, upon entering the stage, to announce “Please do not be fooled, I am not really a swan” nor to announce “It is important that you believe that I truly am a swan”. These considerations are appropriate in the correct contexts, but there are times when something very important is going on and the judgements of the scientist and the priest are simply not relevant.

The title of this post comes from the same-titled chapter of the book ‘Steps to an Ecology of Mind’, by the anthropologist Gregory Bateson, from which this particular thought arose.

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