Friday, 18 July 2014

The Feast of Mystery

Wonder that lies at the heart of philosophy is understandable as Mystery

It can be safely asserted that more than 99% people are blind – blind to the mystery and grandeur of things, heedless of the signs of God that all things in virgin nature are. We see things but not God’ signs or the Mystery that vivifies soul because they partake of the Mystery called God. 
What is the food of the human soul? There are various answers but what is common to all of them is Mystery. In fact mystery is the reverberation of Infinity in all beauty. Wonder that lies at the heart of philosophy is understandable as Mystery. Fundamentalism is wrong because it seeks to claim possession of this Mystery. So is rationalism that wants to explain everything and demystify the world. Against the both, saints and poets have always stood for profound awe and opening to Mystery all around us. In fact the keynote of Islam as of other religions is respect and acknowledgment for Mystery. 
Let us ask what do we know? The structure of quarks? The depths and breadths of cosmos? The reasons for love and love of beauty? Our passion for arts and poetry? Our subjectivity? The person before us? Mother’s love and sacrifice? Our deepest convictions? Why we were born and why we die? Our destiny or secret of taqdir? Do we know our own spouse or the unique individuality of any person? We don’t know how life with all its manifestations came to be though we have untestable hypotheses of scientists. Do we  know God, the angels, the otherworld in the name of which some exploit us? Zindagi teray ma’soom sae sawaloon sae pareeshan hu mein. Science offers no answers when we penetrate deeper into the how questions or seek to comprehend totalities, and why questions. Science explains in terms of lower order entities which in turn it explains in terms of further lower order entities and a stage comes when the process ends in silence or ignorance and we are told it is as it is. And this is precisely how God is understood in the Bible “I am that I am” as God answers Moses when asked on whose behalf he will go to Pharoah. Nagarjuna has famously shown that no answer given by rational faculty to ontological or existential questions  is free from contradiction. Last station for Sufis like Ibn Arabi is one of wonder. 
Omar Khayyam is one of the greatest poet-philosophers of Islam. Keynote of his Rubbiyyat is that we don’t know answers to deeper questions and those who claim to know can’t e trusted.

Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and saint, and heard great argument
About it and about; but evermore
Came out by the same door as I went

Hafiz made a similar point in his famous verse that states that none has been able to unlock the mystery at the heart of existence. 
The Quran calls God as Mystery and believers of all traditions are required to affirm the primordial mystery (Yuminoon-a-bil-gayyyib). God has been understood as depth or unfathomable mystery of things. If we could grasp God as we grasp other facts he would not be a God worthy of worship. God is a mystery or He is nothing, says W T Stace, a great mystical philosopher. Here are reproduced a few passages from a perennialist author John Herlihy’s essay “Hidden Sanctuaries: Unveiling the Spirituality of the Natural World” on role of mystery in human life and these make us realize why modern science’s attempt at demystifying the universe has been fraught with great dangers for us. We need mystery to live.
“One question we need to ask during this modern era: How do we understand the word “mystery” and how does it define and shape the way we understand ourselves and the world we live in? Many people today may even be surprised by a question that has little relevance to their daily lives. Today, who is prepared to assert that there are mysteries surrounding us that will never be resolved, mysteries that actually heighten human consciousness, mysteries that promise alternative worlds and a deeper experience of life than we could ever imagine on our own. The question of mystery and its power to resolve the human dilemma no longer inspires the modern psyche. The modernist mentality of today wants answers not questions, facts that neutralize the mystery pertaining to our origins and final end through scientific speculation, when once there was a time when certain questions were not asked lest a person risk destroying the very forces that keep us asking them.
On the surface, the question of mystery is profoundly simple; we ask it because its subtle inscrutability confronts us at every turn and stimulates the desire to discover what lies at the heart of the human condition. On the other hand, the question of mystery is quite simply profound, so deep that although it will never be resolved within this world, it fuels the desire to transcend human limitations. Elements of the mysterious substantiate for humanity an ancient purpose to life’s procession through time; that which is knowable or provable through the evidence of human investigation is superseded by an ancient mystery—amysterium tremendum—that positions us within a framework of time that does not pass us by and that creates an ambiance of wonder and bewilderment that opens onto the grace and beatitude of the supra-natural.

From within the cosmic wilderness there is placed within each person an initial spark—call it a form of energy, a vibration, a sound or a light—that initiates the line of human inquiry into the cosmic mystery. It is a spark that begins as a mystery, that becomes a hidden secret of the Supreme Being, that flowers into a revelation of the essential knowledge of God, that enters into the human soul as an eternal flame, that expresses itself as worship and praise of the Divinity, and that ultimately reflects through human virtue the qualities and attributes of God. Before a person can adopt a religious tradition, before any active participation in the life of the spirit, and before any true understanding of the role of a personal identity within a universal plan, this spark and the mystery it represents must be acknowledged and then confronted.
At the heart of the cosmic universe lies a fundamental mystery that will never be resolved on the human plane of existence. Yet this mystery, like a lingering scent, stirs up desires and emotions that lead us to the edge, not of some forlorn darkness, but of an ineffable light that illuminates a vast universe of aspiration and hope, a mystery that will witness the destiny of humankind as cloud-covered mountain peaks witness the valleys to which they are enjoined.

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