It was the Imam Ghazali who discouraged strongly argumentation for the sake of argumentation in his seminal work The Revival of Religious Sciences. Actually I want to quote from Section IV of Part 1 the book of knowledge:
- The sixth condition which justifies debate is that the debater should seek thereby the truth in the same spirit as that of the person who is searching for a lost object: he does not mind whether the object is found by himself or by his aides, regards his companion a friend not an adversary, and thanks him whenever he points out a mistake to him and reveals to him the truth.
- The eighth condition which justifies debate is that one should only debate with those from whom he expects to learn something, people who arrive at their knowledge independently
Our discussing and sharing our thoughts, feelings and opinions here is in the interest of seeking the truth and more importantly coming together to really look at the world around us and each other. It is a chance for us all to really create a space for Oneness to manifest in our day-to-day activities Everyone’s comments really have been invaluable helping me come to a conclusion. So before anything more is said, thank you to everyone who has commented and taken the time from their day to share some words. Finally I would like to quote the following lines from Hafiz, because they reminded me the deeper significance of our coming together and the grace in this moment.
The time of judging who’s right or wrong, who’s drunk or soberwho is closer to God or farther awayAll that is over!This caravan is led instead by a great delightThe simple joy that sits here with us now.That is the Grace.
History shows us that civilization, like the human beings who are its constituents are born, live for a while and die not before imparting or contributing something to the the history of humankind on this planet. The Islamic Civilization comes readily to mind. It started in 750 as history tells us and for me it ended in 1492 with the death of the last Sufi mystical poet Nur ad-Din Abd ar-Rahman Jami. To give some historical context in the same year the last Moorish King surrendered and the Reconquista was over in January of that year. In July of that year the Jews were expelled from Spain and 150,000 fled the country. Aug 3rd , 2 days and 489 years before my birthday Columbus set sail for the new World.
The Islamic civilizations gave us many advances in science, medicine, art, architecture and engineering to name a few The Arabs revived the ancient Greek philosophy and reintroduced it back into Europe, centers of learning and universities were built, and I could go one, ad nausea. It is clear to everyone that, that civilization is no longer here. The same can be said for the ancient Roman Civilization, Mayan, Aztec, the Western and Eastern Christian civilization, The Mongol empire etc. It is without a doubt that our western Civilization which has given humanity many things too will go the way of the dodo bird as to when that will happen , or if it has happened it is anyone’s guess. If anyone is skeptical of the birth and death of civilizations please visit your local museum, or one can look at James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (which Joseph Campbell has called ‘ a mighty allegory of the fall and resurrection of mankind) to view symbolically the rise and fall of civilization.
Because of the abuses of our civilization against Nature and each other we are clearly facing a tumultuous time, where unlike the past few decades or centuries, we really have to take into account how what we do affects the Natural Balance of the world. Global warming is a reality now, compared to it being the subject of the Captain Planet cartoons when I was a child in the 80′s. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the demonstrations in Iran, the whole Jasmine revolutions really called our attention back to how we treat others and the terrible ramifications of greed and corruptions that decent people have to bear. As one commentator said quite eloquently ” Aung San Suu Kyi is leading the march to freedom in Burma, and brave men and women struggle in this age of instant communication to free themselves in China, Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea, the last outpost of the failed experiment in Communist dictatorships.” It is really a beautiful time in our history were there is so much promise. However I dont want to for the sake of the future promise turn a blind eye to the past lest it repeat again. For me there is something deeper.
A Mystical Approach
As a dervish , all things have their origin in God especially civilizations. It has always been my belief that souls come here to have the necessary experiences they need to complete a phase of their journey. Civilizations in many ways provide on a large scale those unique experiences we need to grow. The functional unit of a civilization is a person, who expresses the particular ideology. That person belongs to a family, and in turn to a society to a culture to a nation which is part of a few nations etc. All of these are the constituents of a civilization in its totality. In the same way cells come together to make tissues, tissues come together to form organs, organs together form an organ systems and systems together to form a completed human being. At each stage one can have a unique experience, For example the western ideology is mirrored in personal beliefs, familial structure, societal conventions, nationalistic trade policies and trends etc.
However to bring it back to the mystical these following Suras from the Qur’an stick out most in my mind, because they point to a special relationship between God and the many communities, nations that have been born and that have died and are of course in existence.
Many ways of life have passed away before your time. Go, then, travel through the world and see what happened in the end to those who denied the truth: here is a clear lesson for all human beings and a guidance and a counsel for those who are mindful of God. So do not lose heart, nor fall into despair: for if you are faithful you are bound to ascend.
[Surah Al 'Imran 3:137-139]
For every one of you have We designated a law and a way of life. And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but He willed it otherwise in order to test you by means of what He has bestowed on you. Strive, then, with one another in doing good! Your goal is God; and then, He will make you understand the truth of everything in which you have differed.
[Surah al-Ma'idah 5:48]
And among his wonders is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the diversity of your tongues and colours: for in this, behold, there are signs indeed for all who are endowed with knowledge! (30:22); We . . . have made you into nations and tribes so that you may come to know one another (49:13).
It may not seem possible that one can experience the spiritual ties that exist between God and man on a larger scale than just the personal, especially when like for instance a summer day camp full of the most unruly children enter the train cart on a hot summer day when surprising there is no A/C, and one get jostled and tossed about like driftwood on an angry sea but such a connection does exist and can be experienced I feel at least.
It is only natural to expect that we can extend the analogy further. What I mean is that just like a person comes to this plane of existence with a certain light, that illuminates in every sense of the word so too would a civilization. If someone has ever been with someone when they are dying or close to death in the hospital one can see gradually in their eyes the light dimming. I remember when I was volunteering in a cancer floor there was one patient who everyday left us a little bit. What happens exteriorly always mirrors what has occurred on the inward planes. The same can be said of civilization.
When this happens in a civilization we can see its gradual decline. The values, ideology and I will go so far as to say the mythic elements which were at its basis no longer apply. Gibbons outlines this very well in his massive tome on the Rise and Fall of Rome. I think it would be important to point out specifically what happened after the fall of Rome, and a relative dark period that ensued when the Germanic tribe consolidated their hold upon Europe and laid the foundations of a new civilization on the ruins of the past one. The Western Roman Empire collapsed in 476 as Romulus Augustus was forced to abdicate to some Germanic warlord. It was a time of great instability. I believe there is a reason the periods from the 5th century to the 15 were called in Europe at least the Dark Ages (“Dark Ages” is a historical periodization emphasizing the cultural and economic deterioration that supposedly occurred in Europe following the decline of the Roman Empire. – from Wiki) though now historically we acknowledge many great thing which were acheived during that time.
The 20th century has been termed the turbulent passage in part because of the clash o many cultures and civilizations. Currently we have become and are in many ways a global culture.
So then with all that said (I’m surprised at how verbose I’ve been tonight) when I came to Llewellyn’s articles and the all the comments I have read from all of you out there in Cyber Space I didn’t see it so much as a meditation on gloom or a message devoid of any hope. I think hopelessness and depression are anathema to the traveling the path, and just living really. I saw it really as a part of a natural cycle of things: Birth life death. As we transition from each stage there are signs inwardly and outwardly that mark such changes. I feel in many ways our own cultural fear of death and getting older get magnified and projected to an great degree when we encounter ideas to our civilization dying because we can only imagine the future with the images of the past. Ultimately we cannot imagine something we cannot see or experience. I dont see my own death or the death of a civilization or the light going out of it as a depressing thing. I see it as liberating really.
Something new is about to be born, a new gift is about to be placed in our hands. But we have to prepare ourselves for such a gift. Hafiz says union with the beloved is something we cannot strive to attain, it is a gift always. What we will inherit in the future whenever we do will be a grandiose gift. But first we have to prepare ourselves , we have to make sure to turn over every rock and stone when we look back on what we have done to each other and the planet.
God’s Representative on Earth
It has always been my opinion that we were supposed to be the guardians of this planet and for all the creatures therein, which is why we given the knowledge to and the command name all creature. As we haven’t been living up to this responsibility we have to really look within and without to become truly aware of the extent of what we have done and in doing so be in a better position to receive the gift of what is to come.
Truly, God does not change a people’s condition unless they change their inner selves.
[Surah ar-Ra'd 13:11]
I would like to end this part at least with this sura about God’s representative on Earth. Stay tuned for the and final part.
On a Deeply Personal Note – In 2001 I was a sophomore in college going for my Chemistry degree. I had already or so I thought at the time been a seasoned seeker after the Truth. I had already traveled to India which I felt was incumbent upon ever seeker and read what I felt was everything there was to read until I ‘happened’ unto Sufism. 5-6 years I started writing an essay on the role of the Edifice in the Transmission of esoteric knowledge. It was a combination of insights from studying myth, ancient civilization, esotericism, and day dreaming during class when I wasn’t disrupting them with my joking. I managed to rope a dear friend and fellow seeker into this big endeavor to write a book which would talk about not only the “edifice’ but how esoteric knowledge and mystical insight served an an undercurrent to the growth and evolution of a civilization . We got 3-4 chapters into the book, until life called. There were other newer adventures to be had like graduate school, falling in love, leaving home and paying rent, and trying to pay off college loans. While writing this response and outlining the final responce I stumbled across this partly written oeuvre. Maybe its time to dig whats useful out of this endeavor and share with you all as it overlaps a lot with what we are talking. Feel free to share your thoughts ____________________
He it is Who created for you all that is upon the earth; then He turned toward the heaven and made seven firmaments, and He has perfect knowledge of all things. And behold! Your Sustainer said to the angels:
“I am about to establish upon earth a representative, a khalifah.” They said: “Will You place on it one who will spread corruption thereon and shed blood-whereas it is we who proclaim Your limitless glory and praise You and hallow Your name?” God answered: “Truly, I know that which you do not know.” And He imparted to Adam the names of all things; then He brought them within the ken of the angels and said:
“Declare to Me the names of these, if what you say is true.” They replied: “Limitless are You in Your glory! No knowledge have we save that which You have imparted to us. Truly, You alone are all-knowing, truly wise.”
Said He: “O Adam, convey to them the names of these.” And as soon as Adam had conveyed to them their names, God said: “Did I not say to you, ‘Truly, I alone know the hidden reality of the heavens and the earth, and know all that you bring into the open and all that you would conceal?’ ”
[Surah al-Baqarah 2:29-33]
- The Last Words of Ghazali (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- Sufism and Miracles – Some words from Nur Ali Shah Kermani (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- My Responce to the Recent Writings of Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee (1) (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- DIFFERENT CHALLENGES FOR MEN AND WOMEN by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- A New Archetype (2) – by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- Names of Creation by Llewellyn Vaughan Lee (mycaravanofdreams.com)
- Witnessing the End of an Era by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee (mycaravanofdreams.com)