The modern Western world-view is said to be founded almost entirely on materialistic notions excluding, even denying, the spiritual or metaphysical dimension of existence. This is a controversial point but many so-called intellectuals in the Muslim world who do no more than blindly imitate what they see as Western and import it, despise and reject whatever constituted the traditional modes of thinking and living in their societies. This is largely because they have lost all awareness of the spiritual dimension of man's existence and life. Indeed, it is all but impossible for those who reduce existence to matter and think only in physical terms, to perceive and understand what is metaphysical and spiritual. Moreover, since those whose only skills consist in imitating are more radical in the attitudes they appropriate than even those from whom they appropriated them, and since imitation is often an obstacle to seeing the reality, those so-called intellectuals in the Muslim world, besides being more radical in rejecting what is spiritual and metaphysical, lack adequate knowledge about matter and what is material. Since the spiritual, metaphysical dimension of existence requires us to go beyond our sensations and instincts into deep and vast horizons, it is certain that materialists cannot understand it and do not like it. That is, in order to excuse their narrow horizon of thinking, those who are unable to perceive and experience spiritual and metaphysical realities tend to restrict the area of thinking. When they deceive themselves and others into believing that existence consists in only its material dimension without another dimension beyond it, they can present themselves as real intellectuals. Despite their claims and the assertions of their counterparts in the West, it is difficult to accept that scientific thought in the West, although primarily founded on materialism, has always been completely alienated from spirituality and metaphysics. As is widely accepted, modern Western civilization is based on the modern 'trinity' of Greek thought, Roman Law and Christianity which, at least in 'theory,' contributes a spiritual dimension. The West never completely discarded Platonistic thinking, although it failed to reconcile it with positivistic and rationalistic philosophy, nor has the West pretended that thinkers such as Pascal and J. Jeans and others never existed, nor has it excluded the intuitivism of Bergson. The part of those such as Bergson, Eddington, J. Jeans, Pascal, Bernhard Bavink and Heisenberg in the constitution of Western thinking is by no means less than that of Comte, Darwin, Molescholt, Czolba, Lamarck and others. Indeed, it may even be said that it would be difficult to find in the West an atheist scientist and philosopher before the mid-nineteenth century. By contrast, metaphysical thought and spirituality have been almost entirely discarded by many intellectuals in the Muslim world. In the name of certain notions reduced to simplistic slogans such as enlightenment, Westernization, civilization, modernity and progress, which have been used to batter traditional Islamic values, metaphysical thought and the spiritual life have been denigrated and degraded.
We mean by 'the horizon of hope': travelling beyond the visible dimension of existence and considering existence as a whole, all parts of which are inherently interrelated, without which it is impossible either to perceive things and events as they really are or to grasp the essence of existence and its relation with the Creator and the relation between Him and ourselves.Scientific investigations in which each discipline conducts its own discourse in almost complete separation from others, and the dominant materialistic conception of science which has so extensively compartmentalized existence and life, are far from discovering the reality of things, existence and life. When the present specialization and compartmentalization is observed in, say, the field of medicine which deals with man as if he were made up of many discrete mechanisms, it becomes to see easy how dire are the consequences of the approach of modern materialistic thinking to man, life and existence. This approach strips existence of its meaning and connectedness and presents it as discrete elements consisting only of matter.
However, the only way to comprehend and value life and existence in all its interrelated dimensions is to experience existence through the prism of spirit and metaphysical thinking. Neglect of this way means forcing reason to comment on things beyond its reach and imprisoning intellectual effort within the confines of sense-impressions only. Whereas when we heed the sound of our conscience or inner world, we will perceive that the mind is never content and satisfied with mere sense-impressions. In history, all the great, long-lived and inclusive modes of thinking have been developed upon the foundations of metaphysics and spirituality. The whole of the ancient world, from Hebrews to Arameans, from Hindus in India to the Muslim peoples of Arabian and Turkish lands, was founded and shaped under the influence of Sacred Texts such as the Qur'an, the Bible, the Vedas and Upanishads, Denial or forgetting of anti-materialistic Western thinkers, scientists and philosophers such as Kant, Descartes, Pascal, Hegel and Leibnitz means ignoring one of the essential strands in Western thinking. We can only imagine a new, better world based on knowledge or sciences, if we look at the concept of science through the prism of metaphysics. Muslim peoples have so far not been able to develop a concept of science in its true meaning, namely one derived from the Qur'an and centuries-old Islamic traditions moulded mainly by the Qur'an and the practice of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings. The application of science or technology by an irresponsible, selfish minority has brought to mankind more disasters than benefits. Muslim peoples, if they want to be saved from centuries-old humiliation and contribute to the foundation of a new, happy world at least on a par with the West, should give up repeating old-fashioned positivistic and materialistic theories and put forward the products of their own thoughts and inspirations. This, of a certainty, requires awareness of the pains and troubles they have been subject to for centuries and it requires exerting great efforts to define them and produce cures and solutions for them. A true concept of science is one that will provide us, in the light of spirituality and metaphysics, with a comprehensive, inclusive view which affirms the intrinsic and unbreakable relation between any particular scientific discipline and existence as a whole. This is so because only a concept which can embrace the whole in its wholeness is truly worthy of being called scientific, Seeing existence as discrete elements and trying to reach the whole from those disjunct elements will only end in drowning amid the multiplicity of things. By contrast, embracing the whole and then studying the parts in the light of the whole will enable us to reach sound conclusions concerning the reality of existence.
Spirituality and metaphysics also provide the range of art with their widest dimensions. It may even be said that art can only attain its real identity through spirituality and metaphysics. For what an artist does is to discover man's inner world with all its feelings, excitements, expectations, frustrations and ambitions, and its relations with the outer dimension of existence, and then present them in certain forms according to the medium being used, Art is the expression of man's inner essence being in continuous movement to return to its source. In other words, an artist is one who, uniting the inspirations flowing into his spirit from things and events, from all corners of existence, and bringing together all 'noumena' and 'phenomena,' can present things to us in their wholeness.
We should recall once again that the most important source of science, thinking and art, and even virtues and morality, is metaphysics. With a sound mode of thinking based on pure metaphysics, the entirety of existence can be perceived and it becomes possible to view existence from the top downward as a whole and to travel through its deeper dimensions. Without spirituality and metaphysics, it is impossible to build a community on sound foundations. A community devoid of sound foundations cannot be saved from begging from others and continuous shaking from a kind of 'heart disease.' Communities that have not been able to build their identity on sound metaphysical concepts are subject to identity crises. To build a new, happy world where human virtues and values are given due prominence and are effective in shaping policies and aspirations, the world's peoples, Muslims most certainly included, need urgently to rediscover and re-affirm the spirituality and metaphysics taught in the God-revealed religions.
The Horizon Of Hope: Spiritual Or Metaphysical Thought
- By M. Fethullah Gulen
- Category: Issue 20 (October - December 1997)
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