I was going to use it in a book but wanted to know what everyone's thoughts.

What does "too profound to be understood" mean to you?

What does the phrase insinuate and are the other implications? I have found it is within 169 google books of which 94 are in the 21st century. Many of the places it is found are within Chinese-English translations of books.

Here are some examples: "He was just trying to say that the deepest truths are always profound. They have no hierarchy. They are always one, good, and beautiful in ways in which these features cannot be disentangled. Of course, this is too profound to be understood" "It may be that the saints, and even the elders, find such verses hard to comprehend, but that is because your eyes are clouded and you already have the concept that these matters are too profound to be understood."

  • 2
    It might be well to remember the etymological, Anglo-Norman meaning of profound. The French word profond simply means deep, and it is applied as much to swimming pools as it is to thoughts. Anyone familiar with French is unlikely to use profound without the idea of depth being at the back of their mind.
    – WS2
    Sep 27, 2015 at 14:24
  • The way you phrased your question (...mean to you?) sounds like it is opinion based.
    – Centaurus
    Sep 27, 2015 at 15:05
  • @WS2 And the etymology goes further back to Latin, as in Psalm 130, De profundis (From the depths) Sep 27, 2015 at 16:19

2 Answers 2


The expression "too profound to be understood" appears in two contexts. The first expresses the idea of difficulty beyond the capacity of a certain audience. For example, from The Casket, Or, Flowers of Literature, Wit & Sentiment describing the life of Isaac Newton.

In 1687, his mathematical principles were published, which, being too profound to be understood by every one , met with no small opposition; but when they were once know, were so well received , that nothing was heard from all quarters but one general shout of admiration.

This is a reference to Newton's Principia* in which he developed his theory of gravitation using his discovery of the differential calculus, mathematics too difficult and new to be understood easily.

In The Electrician: A Weekly Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electricity and Chemical Physics, Volume 2 (1862):

The causation in both cases has been too profound to be understood; and that being unknown the functions themselves, and therefore the conditions on which they depend, have been more or less confounded together.

The two cases here are electrical charge and electrical conduction. These are mysteries that cannot be understood because the science hasn't caught up with the application. In this case, James Clerk Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism is over a decade away.

In the second usage, the phrase means that the understanding is not amenable to rational investigation at all. It isn't a matter of not being clever enough (like Newton's contemporaries) or that people are waiting for reasons be discovered (like electricians before Maxwell). The profundity here is of a different order. Henry Miller says in Sexus

Joy is founded on something too profound to be understood and communicated. To be joyous is to be a madman in a world of sad ghosts.

The experience of joy is insanity, the very essence of abandoning rational explanation altogether. This use shows up in descriptions of transcendental religious dogma. From Truth and Error: Comparative Charts of Cults and Christianity by A. W. Gomes:

The Greek word musterion may denote something too profound to be understood by human reason, or something once hidden but then revealed by God....

That is, the "knowing" via revelation surpasses the ability to know via ratiocination.

*Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica or "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy"


profound describes something which can not be easily understood without giving a lot of efforts and thoughts to it as it is very deep in meaning.

too profound to be understood will mean "too difficult to be understood" or "too deep to be understood."

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