“An understanding heart”

An open mind is really a mark of foolishness, like an open mouth.  Mouths and minds were made to shut; they were made to open only in order to shut.  In direct connection with this question of mythology and human belief the point may roughly be put thus: An extraordinary idea has arisen that the best critic of religious institutions is the man who talks coldly about religion.  Nobody supposes that the best critic of music is the man who talks coldly about music.  Within reasonable bounds, the more excited the musician is about music, the more he is likely to be right about it.  Nobody thinks a man a correct judge of poetry because he looks down on poems.  But there is an idea that a man is a correct judge of religion because he looks down on religions.  Now, folklore and primitive faiths, and all such things are of the nature of music and poetry in this respect — that the actual language and symbols they employ require not only an understanding, they require what the Bible very finely calls an understanding heart.  You must be a little moved in your emotions even to understand them at all; you must have a heart in order to make head or tail of them.  Consequently, whenever I hear on these occasions that beliefs are being discussed scientifically and calmly, I know that they are being discussed wrong.  Even a false religion is too genuine a thing to be discussed calmly.

The Illustrated London News, 10 October 1908.

Published in: on December 17, 2008 at 6:59 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. And again! I really ought to just set up a direct feed on my own blog.

    Chesterton has a wonderful way here of saying the simple truism that religion is ultimately experiential.

  2. […] Jorim’s List gets a slight makeover! 2.  “An understanding heart” by G.K. Chesterton 3.  Eucharist Inspiration (YouTube Video) 4.  IHS (cute story) 5.  What’s wrong with […]


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