Chapter 29: Mysticism: the Forgotten Language
In a village a man comes to a sage and says to him, “Please help me. My whole village, and the surrounding villages too, think that I am an idiot. Whatever I say, however reasonable or rational it may be, they make a laughingstock of me. It has become a nightmare to me. If I remain silent, they condemn my silence saying, ‘What else can he do? He is such an idiot, he cannot say anything.’ If I say anything, everybody is there to laugh. My life has become so miserable that I feel to commit suicide. I heard that a great sage is passing by and I thought perhaps you can help me.”
The sage said, “It is a very simple matter. Just do one thing: from tomorrow morning, whenever anybody says anything, immediately criticize it. Somebody says, ‘Look, what a beautiful sunrise.’ You say, ‘What beauty is in it? Who says? And what is the proof, and what do you mean by beauty? Define what beauty is. On what authority are you calling the sunrise beautiful? It is not.’
“Somebody says, ‘Look, a beautiful woman is passing’ - condemn. Just remember one thing: don’t assert anything on your own part. Only criticize, and particularly those things which cannot be proved - beauty, love, truth, godliness - things which everybody is talking about but nobody can prove, nobody can even define. And I will be coming back after one month. Then meet me.”
After one month the man was totally changed. He had gone through a transformation. He was not looking sad, he was looking radiant, full of authority - as if suddenly he had roots, had become grounded.
The sage laughed and he said, “So it worked?”
He said, “It worked tremendously. Now they all think I am the wisest man, just in one month. And they are making apologies that they used to think me an idiot; they are feeling very sorry for it. And I have not done anything other than what you suggested to me. I have not missed a single chance: anything, and I will pose a question and they cannot answer it. They feel embarrassed. Wherever I go people fall silent, they don’t talk, because even to say a word is dangerous. But they have started worshipping me, touching my feet; I have become a sage. You have done a miracle.”
The sage said, “I have not done a miracle. This is a simple phenomenon: whatsoever is valuable in life is unexplainable, indefinable, and whatsoever is definable is worthless.”
One of the greatest thinkers of this age, G. E. Moore, has written a book, Principia Ethica, and he deals with only one question in the whole book. The question is: What is good? - and it is the most fundamental question. You are talking about morality, you are talking about character, you are talking about goodness, badness, virtue, sin - they all basically need a clear-cut definition of what good is. In two hundred and fifty pages of very arduous, logical reasoning, approaching the question from every possible angle, he comes to the conclusion that good is indefinable. It took him two hundred and fifty pages - one of the best minds of our century - to figure out that good is indefinable. You can feel it, you can be it, you can live it, you can taste it, you can experience it, but you cannot explain it. As far as definitions are concerned, it is beyond definition.