Belief – a dangerous thing

Belief can be a dangerous thing, as Galileo discovered to his dismay early in the 17th century, when he was denounced to the Inquisition because of his claim that the earth went around the sun and not vice versa. Unfortunately for him, the Catholic Church was committed to the opposite belief so he never stood a chance. Nowadays, of course, we know better and happily acknowledge that Galileo was correct, despite the fact that everyone still talks about sunrise and sunset!

(Incidentally, this is a frequently encountered metaphor for the change that occurs upon self-realization. Just as we recognize the truth of heliocentricity, yet still talk as if the Sun revolved around the Earth, so the realized man still acts as though he lives in a dualistic world, even though he now knows that everything is Brahman.)

Belief is so often treated by the believer as if it were true knowledge, instead of simply a strongly (and often wrongly!) held opinion. We really ought to know better, given the history of such mistaken, scientific views as the theories of phlogiston and ether. If the most brilliant scientists can be wrong, so can we! Continue reading