Ignorance and Foolishness

Ignorance is want, absence or destitution of knowledge; the negative state of the mind which has not been instructed in arts, literature or science, or has not been informed of facts.Webster’s American Dictionary To be ignorant is not to know, be unacquainted; take no notice of, disregard; to pass over without notice, pay no attention to.Online Etymology Dictionary Ignorant shares a root with the word ignore, one of those etymological connections which appear obvious once they are pointed out, yet remained overlooked by most. Both words come from the Latin ignorare (“to ignore, be ignorant of”).Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  A fool is one who is regarded as deficient in judgment, sense, or understanding.Oxford English Dictionary A fool is one who is destitute of reason, or the common powers of understanding; an idiot. Some persons are born fools, and are called natural fools; others may become fools by some injury done to the brain.Webster’s American Dictionary

“Ignorance is caused lack of observation, definite lukewarmness, indifference or failure to care after observation has taken place.”—Edna Lister

Ignorance is a relative law of doing, or in this case, of not doing by not obtaining wisdom. A fool indulges his folly: A fool layeth open his folly.—Proverbs 13:16. Folly (weakness of intellect; imbecility of mind. want of understanding.) underscores the fool's foolishness.

Edna Lister on Ignorance and Foolishness

The Supreme Trinity is composed of Love, Wisdom and Selflessness. It is the opposite of the world trinity of hate, ignorance (intolerance) and selfishness.—Edna Lister, Love: The Conqueror, April 12, 1934.

Do not invoke Power foolishly to experiment or to show off.—Edna Lister, Philosophy, December 16, 1935.

Great is the Lord, and great is His Way, beyond the finding of the foolish, who think they are wise, but are not.—Edna Lister, December 25, 1938.

God would be foolish to make our lessons here easy.—Edna Lister, December 26, 1938.

When foolish, unthinking ignorance asks for unearned favors of life, the train of events coming fast in their wake causes harm that none may repair. Who can tell what burden may come with the answer to wishes granted, if bold willfulness has stood in rebellion and asked, regardless of payment?—Edna Lister, October 30, 1940.

Ignorant and foolish one, learn and grow wise.—Edna Lister, November 6, 1940.

Evil flourishes in ignorance, but Light brings the knowledge of wisdom.—Edna Lister, Crusaders of Light, March 8, 1942.

Beware of thinking that "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."—John 12:32 is a simple law, which betrays profound spiritual ignorance.—Edna Lister, Five Important Steps in Ascension, 1945.

Ignorance is lack of observation or definite lukewarmness, indifference or failure to care after observation has taken place. Information gained through observation, pondered, analyzed and fitted into the facts of one’s life become individual knowledge.
  Disobedience to the law can create as much soul debt now as you created in one whole lifetime under ignorance.—Edna Lister, July 10, 1945.

Do not call your brother Raca (fool, Matthew 5:22), lest you be called a fool.—Edna Lister, October 20, 1947.

You may no longer tolerate your own unconsciousness. Ignorance is the last excuse to put forth with the laws before you.—Edna Lister, June 12, 1948.

Ignorance is darkness. You can illuminate darkness only to the degree of your light source. What power light source does your consciousness have, a candle or a 1000-watt searchlight?—Edna Lister, August 2, 1951.

The five foolish virgins represent the five senses — seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching — turned to the outer world. The five wise virgins represent the same senses turned up to the spiritual life.—Edna Lister, The Ten Virgins, May 8, 1955.

Ignorance doesn’t recognize its sin, since self always regards itself as perfect and "right." Once the Light is turned on, your ignorance falls away, revealing your underlying indifference. Having once heard a law, you cannot hide from it. Before the law is revealed, you have no sin. Once you know how the law works, you feel guilty if you neglect it, and self must destroy what makes self feel guilty.—Edna Lister, The Comforter, August 19, 1956.

You can cure ignorance of law by studying and learning law, but you heal foolishness only by experiencing heartache.—Edna Lister, February 23, 1960.

You must be innocent by choice, not ignorance.—Edna Lister, January 4, 1962.

Let go of foolishness: Seek wisdom.—Edna Lister, November 14, 1962.

Have compassion for the foolish.—Edna Lister, Many Pearls, Many Treasures, November 25, 1962.

To "suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise" (2 Corinthians 11:19) is understanding born of knowing the world’s frailties.—Edna Lister, March 3, 1963.

"Innocent ignorance" will disregard law to the point of sacrificing another. This includes covering up and avoiding listening, hearing, seeing and questioning.—Edna Lister, June 20, 1963.

God never tempts you, you tempt yourself by holding onto foolish things.—Edna Lister, The Rose as the Crown, June 30, 1963.

Law can legalize ignorance and innocence as a partial excuse until the embodied soul reaches puberty, which is the age of accountability. Then the lesson must come with full impact until the soul learns it. It is a matter of being hard enough and not too soft.—Edna Lister, December 17, 1964.

That which destroys ignorance liberates the truth.—Edna Lister, November 19, 1968.

One gets no credit for being a martyr or a fool.—Edna Lister, August 7, 1969.

Many people who open their mouths reveal their ignorance.—Edna Lister, Undated Papers, 1924-1971.

Believing darkness before considering the Light is foolish.—Edna Lister, Undated Papers, 1924-1971.

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< Stories that Illustrate Ignorance and Foolishness

The Parable of the Ten Virgins: Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.—Matthew 25:1-13.

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New Testament on Ignorance and Foolishness

Every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.—Matthew 7:26-27.

And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.—Mark 7:20-23.

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.—Romans 1:18-25.

The foolishness of God is wiser than men.—1 Corinthians 1:25.

God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.—1 Corinthians 1:27.

The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.—1 Corinthians 2:14-16.

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.—1 Corinthians 3:18-19.

We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ—1 Corinthians 4:10.

For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.—1 Peter 2:15.

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Old Testament on Ignorance and Foolishness

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.—Proverbs 1:7.

Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.—Proverbs 4:13.

Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.—Proverbs 8:10-11.

Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.—Proverbs 9:6.

Wise men lay up knowledge: but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.—Proverbs 10:14.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.—Proverbs 12:15.

A fool’s wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covers shame.—Proverbs 12:16.

A prudent man conceals knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaims foolishness.—Proverbs 12:23.

Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuses instruction.—Proverbs 13:18.

Every prudent man deals with knowledge: but a fool lays open his folly.—Proverbs 13:16.

Every wise woman builds her house: but the foolish plucks it down with her hands.—Proverbs 14:1.

He that is soon angry deals foolishly.—Proverbs 14:17.

The crown of the wise is their riches: but the foolishness of fools is folly.—Proverbs 14:24.

The tongue of the wise uses knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools pours out foolishness.—Proverbs 15:2.

A fool despises his father’s instruction: but he that regards reproof is prudent.—Proverbs 15:5.

The heart of him that hath understanding seeks knowledge: but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.—Proverbs 15:14.

The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the Lord.—Proverbs 19:3.

Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.—Proverbs 19:20.

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.—Proverbs 22:15.

Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.—Proverbs 23:12.

The thought of foolishness is sin.—Proverbs 24:9.

Though thou shouldest bray [grind] a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.—Proverbs 27:22.

If a wise man contends with a foolish man, whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest.—Proverbs 29:9.

A fool utters all his mind: but a wise man keeps it in till afterwards.—Proverbs 29:11.

The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself. The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness. A fool also is full of words.—Ecclesiastes 10:12-14.

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Ignorance and Foolishness in Other Sacred Writings

Fear is nothing but a betraying of the help which reason offers; the fearful expectation within, being less, counts the ignorance more than the cause which brings the torment.—Wisdom of Solomon 17:12.

Do not be ignorant of anything in a great matter or a small.—Wisdom of Ben Sirach 5:15.

When the totality went about searching for the One from whom they had come forth, ignorance of the Father brought about anguish and terror; and the anguish grew solid like a fog, so that no one was able to see.—The Gospel of Truth, Codex I, 3 and XII, 2. [The "totality" is the multitude, the many, the myriad of souls that sprang into being from the One.]

[By reason of ignorance], error became powerful; it worked on its own matter foolishly, not having known the truth.—The Gospel of Truth, Codex I, 3 and XII, 2.

[Ignorance] set about with a creation, preparing with power and beauty the substitute for the truth.—The Gospel of Truth, Codex I, 3 and XII, 2.

[Ignorance creates] anguish and the oblivion and the creature of deceit; for this reason, despise error.—The Gospel of Truth, Codex I, 3 and XII, 2.

The oblivion of error was not revealed, [but created as the by-product of ignorance]; oblivion did not come into existence from the Father, although it did indeed come into existence because of him.—The Gospel of Truth, Codex I, 3 and XII, 2.

He who is ignorant is in need, and what he lacks is great, since he lacks that which will make him perfect.—The Gospel of Truth, Codex I, 3 and XII, 2.

When a person comes to have knowledge, his ignorance vanishes, as the darkness vanishes when the Light appears, so also the deficiency vanishes in the perfection. So from that moment on, the form is not apparent, but it will vanish in the fusion of Unity, for now their works lie scattered.—The Gospel of Truth, Codex I, 3 and XII, 2.

They were ignorant of the Father, He being the one whom they did not see. Since it was terror, disturbance, instability, doubt and division, many illusions were at work by means of these, and (many) empty fictions, as if they were sunk in sleep, and found themselves in disturbing dreams.—The Gospel of Truth, Codex I, 3 and XII, 2.

Those who have cast ignorance aside from them like sleep, esteem it as nothing, nor do they esteem its works as solid things either, but they leave them behind like a dream in the night; the knowledge of the Father, they value as the dawn.—The Gospel of Truth, Codex I, 3 and XII, 2.

Each has acted this way, as though asleep at the time when he was ignorant; and he has come to knowledge this way, as if he had awakened.—The Gospel of Truth, Codex I, 3 and XII, 2.

Men wise in their own estimation, putting Christ to the test, but he confounded them, because they were foolish; they hated him, because they were not really wise.—The Gospel of Truth, Codex I, 3 and XII, 2.

The Word destroyed punishments and tortures with power and confounded them with knowledge. He became a way for those who were gone astray, and knowledge for those who were ignorant, a discovery for those who were searching, and a support for those who were wavering, immaculateness for those who were defiled.—The Gospel of Truth, Codex I, 3 and XII, 2.

Faith came to dissolve the division of wisdom into ignorance, and it brought the fullness of love, in order that there should be the unity of perfect thought.—The Gospel of Truth, Codex I, 3 and XII, 2.

Let us dig down after the root of evil which is within, and pluck it from our heart from the root. It will be plucked out if we recognize it, but if we are ignorant of it, it takes root in us and produces its fruit in our heart. It masters us. We are its slaves. It takes us captive, to make us do what we do not want; and what we do want, we do not do. It is powerful because we have not recognized it. While it exists, it is active.—Gospel of Philip, Codex II, 3.

Ignorance is the mother of all evil. Ignorance will result in death, because those who come from ignorance neither were nor are nor shall be.—Gospel of Philip, Codex II, 3.

Truth is like ignorance: while it is hidden, it rests in itself, but when it is revealed and is recognized, it is praised, inasmuch as it is stronger than ignorance and error. It gives freedom.—Gospel of Philip, Codex II, 3.

The Word said, "If you know the truth, the truth will make you free" (John 8:32). Ignorance is a slave. Knowledge is freedom. If we know the truth, we shall find the fruits of the truth within us. If we are joined to it, it will bring our fulfillment.—Gospel of Philip, Codex II, 3.

Examine yourself, and learn who you are, in what way you exist, and how you will come to be; it is not fitting that you be ignorant of yourself.—Thomas the Contender, Codex II, 7 [As Pythagorus said, "Know Thyself."].

He who has not known himself has known nothing, but he who has known himself has at the same time already achieved knowledge about the depth of the all.—Thomas the Contender, Codex II, 7.

This is the doctrine of the perfect: If you desire to become perfect, you shall observe [the laws of Light]; if not, your name is ’Ignorant’, since it is impossible for an intelligent man to dwell with a fool, for the intelligent man is perfect in all wisdom. To the fool, however, the good and bad are the same.—Thomas the Contender, Codex II, 7.

The ignorant do not teach God, and scorn those who do.—Authoritative Teaching, Codex VI, 3.

The rational soul learns about God.—Authoritative Teaching, Codex VI, 3.

If there is ignorance, and learning does not exist in the soul of man, (then) the incurable passions persist in it (the soul). And additional evil comes with them (the passions), in the form of an incurable sore. And the sore constantly gnaws at the soul, and through it the soul produces worms from the evil, and stinks. But God is not the cause of these things, since he sent to men knowledge and learning.—Asclepius 21-29, Codex VI, 8.

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Edna Miriam Lister
The original Pioneering Mystic,
Christian Platonist philosopher, American Idealist, Founder, Society of the Universal Living Christ, minister, teacher, author, wife, and mother.

Edna Lister

Etymology of ignorance: Latin ignorantia, from ignorantem, from in- "not" + Old Latin gnarus, "aware, acquainted with."

Etymology of fool: Middle English fol, from Old French, from Late Latin follis, "windbag, fool," from Latin follis, "bellows."

Ignorance and foolishness are relative laws of doing.


Ignorance is not innocence, but sin.—Robert Browning

To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.—Benjamin Disraeli

Nothing is more terrible than ignorance in action.—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.—Martin Luther King, Jr.

The foolish and the dead alone never change their opinion.—James Russell Lowell


Browning, Robert. The Inn Album: By Robert Browning. London: Smith, Elder, and Co., 1875, p. 155.

Disraeli, Benjamin. Sybil, 1845, bk. 1, ch. 5.

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe. T. Bailey Saunders, trans. New York: Macmillan and Co., 1906, p. 231.

Harper, Douglas. Online Etymology Dictionary, 2024.

The Holy Bible. King James Version (KJV).

King, Jr., Martin Luther. Strength to Love, New York: Harper and Rowe, 1963, ch. 4.

Lowell, James Russell. Abraham Lincoln, My Study Window, Chapter V. Cambridge, MA: Houghton, Mifflin, 1891, p. 156.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 2023

The Nag Hammadi Library. James M. Robinson, ed. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988.

The Oxford English Dictionary: Compact Ed., 2 vols. E.S.C. Weiner, ed. Oxford University Press, 1971.