Huston Smith

One of our most important elders said, in The Roots of Fundamentalism:

131208-ice-ASC_7616s“OK, Literalism . . . Science has shown empirically that there are three great divisions of size. Qantum mechanics, where distance is measured in pico-meters, that’s the micro-world. And then there is our world that we are in now, where distances are measured in feet and and yard and mile. And then there is the mega-world of relativity theory and the astronomers with distances measured in light years. What the scientists tell us is that neither the micro-world nor the mega-world that flank our world can be described literally (using ordinary language) . . . because if you try to do it you get into the paradoxes that cartographers (mapmakers) have when they try to visualize the sphere of our planet in two dimensional geography books. You can’t do it. Greenland always balloons absurdly. Here we come to the clincher. If we cannot describe the micro-world or the mega-world in ordinary language, what chance is there to describe God, or truly spiritual things, because God is at least as different from us as are those other two flanking worlds, for the sufficient reason that God includes those flanking worlds . . . But science can access those two worlds with their own technical language. That’s mathematics. They can tell us accurately, but it needs a technical language. So, in religion, you need a technical language to access the truth, and that is metaphor. Symbolism. Art. Parable . . . Because you can’t say it literally.”