Thursday, 23 February 2017

Poetry as an act of resistance

Recalling Pablo Neruda and Mehmoud Darwish in Khayal’s Kashmir
When all appears dark in Kashmir and you have nowhere to look to for light and one stares at immense futility and tragic waste, what remains there to goad us on, to keep hoping and dreaming? It is faith for some but poetry for all including those who don’t know how to pray. Today we ask Mehmoud Darwish and Pablo Neruda about this sacred and prophetic mission of poets and then read few verses from our own G. N. Khayal’s new book of resistance poetry Shabnum Ka Aatesh Qada.
      Poets are those saintly alchemists who transmute our saddest thoughts and pains into songs that console, uplift and illuminate. As Neruda says,“give me all the pain of everyone, I'm going to turn it into hope.” Powerless against the sting of death as we earthly creatures are, what do we do when even life seems to sting and one envies dead in their graves? Neruda answers that “at least love should save us from life.”  We know that poetry is the revelation from the God of Love. The poet’s rather secular version of  scriptural statement that man is created for worshipping God is expressed by Neruda: “I just want to never stop loving like there is nothing else to do, because what else is there to do?”  The poetry’s way to fight barbarity is, in Darwish’s words,“by confirming its attachment to human fragility like a blade of grass growing on a wall while armies march by.” And in fact, every beautiful poem itself  constitutes “an act of resistance,” and a brick for the Home for those rendered homeless. Against the world marred by violence and war, the poet constructs an invincible fortress of words “that enables us to sign a pact for a permanent and comprehensive peace ... with life.” Peep into the hearts of violent people, criminals and war mongers and you will find battered hearts who have failed to make peace with life – its weal and woe and its wild jokes.
      In a scenario where our more important poets have chosen silence or highly veiled mode of writing for understandable reasons, researcher, translator, journalist, author of some highly useful works including the first one of its kind from Kashmir Gashik Minar that introduces major writers of the Western world, G. N. Khayal is one of the very few wide ranging, multilingual  and highly  informed poets who has now come up with his slim volume of what is mostly resistance poetry. Khayal has lived through, as a witness and even participant, of post-1947 Kashmir’s intellectual and literary history.
      We encounter a different Khayal in this volume – one who is best described as a rebel and who sings of a way of redemption by martyrdom, whose heroes are not mainstream leaders but counter-stream resistance leaders. At times the poet in him disappears and is replaced by an ideologue.
      This slim volume though impressive only in patches (one finds rather direct, less imaginative, didactic, clich├ęd and too explicitly ideological content in many poems) is a significant news for Kashmiris whose political tragedy hasn’t found due representation in great imaginative representation in poetry. Although we have poets of diverse hues from Mushtaq Kashmiri to Agha Shahid attempting to transmute Kashmir’s pain into poetry and we do find occasional expression in almost all better known poets from Rahi to our very  promising young poets, it remains a fact that Kashmir has no Faiz or Mehmoud Darwish. Khayal’s work seeks to atone for this silence or neglect. While it does give us some remarkable pieces but one feels the best will be forthcoming in future from his pen and it will inspire other poets to speak. Poetry mayn’t change the world but it does change the poet as Darwish has noted and it indeed is the case in Khayal. We have now a Khayal who seems to have found new youth or rebirth. He surprises us, almost shocks at times, with his new found celebration of resilience, hope and passion. With poets around, Kashmir needn’t despair. Leaders need to read them in order to understand  the role of memory and desire and the imperative to be authentically oneself. However, poets aren’t political leaders but messengers and singers of people’s dreams and hopes; they can’t be taken at face value. Transposing what Mehmood Darwish said about Palestine, we can say that the metaphor of Kashmir has more reality than the reality of Kashmir. Poets’ metaphors shouldn’t be read in the manner political slogans are read. Khayal’s love is now Kashmir with all its beauty and tragedy and the project has epic dimensions – to redeem the bride or Sita called Kashmir from the horde of Ravans who are difficult to identify or isolate. Our resistance and mainstream leaders who seem now to be short of ideas might profit  by taking note of poets who sing of those things that our politician ordinarily or often ignore. It is poets who are in the most intimate touch with people at ground level – they know their hearts and dreams and take note of their silent prayers. Poets are better guides as they are required to have escaped from identification with the projects of ego and ideally have no communal or ideological axes to grind.
      Dedicated to Maqbool Bhat and “Khon-i- Shaheeedan sae jo khilae un veeranu kae naam/Is Kashmir pae mitnae walae deewanu kae naam” and singing of what one could call the phases of innocence (pre-Mughal and also pre-1989 and of Kashmir’s beauty or unsullied love) and experience (post-Mughal, also especially post-1989)  but  not consistently succeeding in converting the later part into poetry, we have here  a  call to action and not resignation or lamentation only. “Bekasu ki qasm/Kah-o-khoon ki qasm/Is jinoo ki qasm/Ab to shadaan hoga yeh apna wattan/Khul uthae ga dobara yeh veeran chamen.”
      Especially two poems that Kashmir lovers and analysts would find interesting are “Jeng” and “Shaheed-i-Kashmir sae Khataab.”  The first one recalls Kashmir of 90s when wild enthusiasm of mad heart could sing without inhibitions and there was no disillusionment with violence as a mode of resistance and the second one is important because the beloved of the poet has changed signifying change of qibla of Kashmiris from Delhi to Srinagar. It is a tribute to Maqbool  Bhat though it was originally written in honour of Shaikh Abdullah but with whom the poet, after 1975 when he is perceived to have sold his people cheaply, is disillusioned.
      This slim volume has some poems that talk of love (such as “Tumharae Naam”) and Kashmir that can be read by everyone, of all ideological persuasions. Here the poet has succeeded best both in form and content and has given us some memorable verses that recall earlier Khayal who was intoxicated with Persian masters such as Khayam and Hafiz. But what should interest conflict torn Kashmiris more is the later part of the book. Here the poet asks the stars to light up the dark night with tears to light up the graves of martyrs and laments that we have somewhere lost sight and stumbled, got blind and concludes with a prayer asking for forgiveness and light.
      I conclude with reflections on what poets can offer to Kashmiris today. When time seems to be out of joint, how poetry helps or heals? By making whole, by uniting opposites, by noticing hidden harmony, by lifting us some distance above the earth so that souls don’t bleed even if bodies will continue to be part of the deadly bloody ritual. As Neruda said: “I intend to confuse things, to unite them, make them new-born intermingle them, undress them, until the light of the world has the unity of the ocean, a generous wholeness, a fragrance alive and crackling.” This light shines there even in the darkness of Tihar jail and curfewed nights. Who can snatch the company of the moon and the stars, memories of near and dear ones – Khayal eloquently sings of them – strange joy of suffering for truth, infinite lightness and healing silence of our being and company of the great poets whom we can summon any moment to help us build a heavenly mansion of our own in the sanctuary of our souls.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

A Letter to the Conscience of the State

Recalling Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter on J & K PSC

Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.
(Potter Stewart)

When I heard some have been accused and counter-accused of moral failure and failure of wits for both appearing and not appearing in the PSC exam on 6th Feb, I recalled Hawtthorne’s great novel The scarlet Letter’s heroine Hester Prynne, a young woman, who is found guilty of adultery and a crowd gathers to witness punishment. She is sentenced to wear a scarlet "A" ("A" standing for adulteress) on her dress to shame her. She refuses to lose her dignity on the scaffold. When demanded and cajoled to name the father of her child, Hester refuses. “Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers—stern and wild ones—and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.”  Here is brewing up a similar story that might grow into a tale of shame and despair for hundreds or thousands of innocent people and might ultimately shame the State institutions.
     If credibility of an institution is suspect in the eyes of large number of scientists including employed and unemployed vets and if it has deeper repercussions for the moral health of the State, I think we all need to give a hearing to the case. The State has so far refused to take cognizance of an issue that hasn’t perhaps been well presented to its caretakers. Today I seek to present a case in the court of conscience and my immediate addressees are four important personalities – Chief Minister, Finance Minister, Education Minister and Animal Husbandry  Minister – whose mandate is to guard the sacredness of key State institutions.
      The crisis I am referring to resembles a moral crisis that would arise if all the members of any political party jointly – through their elected bodies – decide  to boycott  (for good or bad reasons, that isn’t the issue) an election on some ground and then a few members betray and join the show at the last moment and win unelected. The boycott of PSC examination by vets resembles more a call for collective hunger strike till death that is supposed to fail if some members break off the strike. And the strange justice demands that those who resisted temptations to break the strike should be shot or allowed to die of hunger and those who breached the trust should rule the roost.
       If at the very beginning of entry, a scandalous thing has occurred – breach of trust, opportunism, unfair representation, playing over smart and letting the other go down the drain – doesn’t it make one’s case for an employment questionable? And doesn’t it, at least, call for investigation on moral grounds? The bodies of the unemployed vets decided to boycott the examination to protest against State apathy towards the livestock sector, conversion of veterinary colleges into unemployment mills, countless leaks in the delivery of vet care services for want of qualified vets etc. And some vets choose to betray the decision and they include a good chunk of those who won’t perhaps ordinarily qualify if normal competition were held. Only few of those who took exam were really unscrupulous as they took the lead and others  joined fearing there is now point when even one entered the examination hall.  If this account is correct and if there has not been vocal opposition to decision of boycott beforehand and betrayal was premeditated and not because of confusion at the last moment, this amounts to a serious moral lapse that recruiting agencies who are required to take note of character certificates must take into account. It isn’t the question of law but of ethics. If this is not considered, it means PSC is above ethics and we know ethics precedes law. Moral qualifications are not directly relevant for any job, so goes the logic of PSC. But employees must produce character certificate which isn’t/shouldn’t be, legally, merely a piece of paper that can ordinarily be got by anyone. What if there is a demonstrable breach of integrity of character and the recruiting agency takes no note? Legally it isn’t to be taken into account, so goes the rule book. But if there is such a thing as conscience from which law ultimately derives its foundation and States too must face the trial of it, the verdict is very clear. What happened on 6th Feb is disgraceful from the moral point of view. If ethics has a role, the whole incident must be investigated and till then the examination should stand – in fact it already stands so – stayed in the court of conscience of the state/PSC. In the battle between law and ethics, letter and spirit, if the former wins, people are doomed.
      If we cared more for character than smartness (read as opportunism)  we would reward those more meritorious vets who displayed an exemplary moral heroism by sacrificing their reasonable chance of securing their job and stand with those who out of desperation or frustration or genuine reformist mindset decided to boycott without going deep into the wisdom or repercussions of such a decision. Once I heard someone remark that if posts are advertised for jobs in hell, there would be many applications. Given such a scenario, how much courage must one have to live by principles or on one’s own terms?
      It isn’t that all those who didn’t boycott betrayed but a few who engineered the show. And it isn’t that all meritorious students have boycotted; some have taken the exam. So it isn’t the question of judging those who sat in examination, some of whom could perhaps face the tribunal of conscience. What is the issue is that nobody was happy and nobody is entirely sure of being guilt free both for sitting in the exam and boycotting it. A solution out of all this is revisiting the ethics part of the whole issue, talk to the candidates and seek a solution that is both ethically and legally sound. The status on date is that it is ethically a scandal that costs souls of those who sat in the exam and killing regret of those who boycotted. Let us not make our best hundreds of our professionals/scientists regret or curse the system or themselves for battling a desperation or ill-advised move.
      6th February may be celebrated as a black day by vets every year and stage protests against those who don’t consider ethical argument relevant for recruitment. This day will haunt all the vets who even if they deserved job throughout their lives. It will mark them a sort of "A" we find in the collar of Hawthorne’s heroine and that A in fact condemns the State and society more than the wearer. Out of extreme job insecurity or apprehension of crossing age bar, some candidates decide to say yes to the posts in hell, so to speak. They need to be sympathized with rather than condemned on moral grounds which we know are difficult to apply in certain situations. What everyone can unhesitatingly condemn is a system that creates army of unemployed scientists in the first place. Many unemployed vets are scientists with higher degrees from accredited institutions. And the State has no room for them! What for are you scientists?
      Most of those who appeared in exams have been judged “A” by themselves and fellow vets who didn’t and will be by the society afterwards. Who will take care of them, their souls or their dignity? Who will take care of the health of veterinary profession? How do we see veterinarian’s oath being openly flouted by vets? How does the State take care of the canker in its recruitment system that has no points for moral qualifications? It is a moral conflict and one can’t afford neutrality. How can CM and cabinet stand as mute spectator?
PostScript: The State’s greatest success story has been crossbreeding programme that radically transformed livestock sector and generated and sustains thousands of jobs till date for which the State should be eternally grateful to every field and farm worker. Dozens of costly animals are saved on daily basis and production of thousands greased daily thanks to vets/paravets. Boycott vetcare – A.I, vaccination, dosing, treatment of only few problems like mastitis, hypocalcaemia and dystokia – for a season and it will be a disaster for the farmers and a loss of many more crores than are spent on the salary bill of vets,(don’t forget that a significant fraction of this salary is eaten by taxes and pumped back into the system that makes economy grow instead of draining it). Livestock sector has been improved a lot thanks to Animal and Sheep Husbandry Departments and there are countless heroic tales that our planners should have known that made it possible. How difficult it has been to cross breed, fight diseases, maintain people’s faith in new developmental programmes is known to field vets and paravets, our legendary doctors and directors. The great miracle has been crafted by staggering feat of prostylization, night vigils, hard climbing of mountains, putting families of employees at risk.  Failure to acknowledge immense contribution of vets is not only a moral failure but a case of cognitive dissonance as well. Just check the State’s own planning documents and statistics of contributions from various departments and we see lion’s share of animal husbandry.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Insight and Blindness in Modern Science

Schuon offered a devastating criticism of modern priests of science such as Freud, Dawkins, Hawking on a very different plane.
Few are aware that the science that claimed to oust God, to explain everything in principle without reference to the First Principle/Absolute, to dissolve mystery and to usher in an age of universal happiness has been discredited not only by postmodern philosophers and certain developments at the edge of modern science itself but also by our great metaphysicians such as Coomaraswamy and Guenon who were also trained as scientists. Lyotard famously pointed out that modern science as a grand narrative (grand overarching explanatory paradigm) is no longer credible in our age. Feyerbend and others have reiterated the thesis that modern science has been dogmatic and power-inflected and thus can’t arbitrate or monopolize truth. However, criticizing science’s big ideological claims alone doesn’t suffice; what we need is arguing for an alternative epistemology and metaphysics that puts science in perspective, recognizes its boundaries and transcends religion-science quarrels in a manner that the best minds wouldn’t feel any need to betray either reason (mind, ratio) or heart/intellect. This task has been admirably performed by another great metaphysician Frithjof Schuon. He shows why we can’t buy the sermons (as distinguished from cogent philosophical arguments that one sees deployed in greater minds like Wittgenstein and Whitehead who span both science and religion) of great priests of modern science such as Freud, Dawkins, Hawking and others who would have us believe that we have no other light to guide us than modern science and seek to throw away religion and philosophy.
      On the metanarrative of modern science - its absolutistic, universalistic and imperialistic claims that
  • negate existence and knowledge claims of revelation and intuition,
  • pretend to provide the Theory of Everything,
  • seek to enclose all Existence in a set of mathematical formulae,
  • boost to discover the Mind of God, as Hawking in true Faustian spirit asserts, or to determine how much freedom God had in creating the world as Einstein, in Promethean spirit that characterizes modern project, would say.
      Schuon observes that the foundations of modem science are false because
  • it replaces Intellect (a supraindividual supramental faculty of which reason is a reflection at mental plane) and Revelation by reason and experiment,
  • lays claim to totality on an empirical basis,
  • replaces the universal Substance by matter alone,
  • denies transcendence.
      Modern science’s impotence in explaining many phenomena is attributed to its ignorance of higher modes of consciousness and objective reality:
      In view of the fact that modern science is unaware of the degrees of reality, it is consequently null and inoperative as regards everything that can be explained only by them, whether it be a case of magic or of spirituality or indeed of any belief or practice of any people; it is in particular incapable of accounting for human or other phenomena of the historic or prehistoric past, the nature of which and the key to which are totally unknown to it as a matter of principle.
      He declares that it is a most pernicious abuse of language to call modern scientists sages because they ignore everything that transcends the physical world and so everything that constitutes wisdom.
      There is certainly no reason to admire a science which counts insects and atoms but is ignorant of God; which makes an avowal of not knowing Him and yet claims omniscience by principle. It should be noted that the scientist, like every other rationalist, does not base himself on reason in itself; he calls “reason” his lack of imagination and knowledge, and his ignorance are for him the “data” of reason.
      He sarcastically remarks that “too many “believers” consider that it is time that religion  should shake off “the dust of the centuries”, which amounts its “liberation” from its very essence and from everything which manifests that essence.” Weinberg receives a fitting reply. To quote him:
  • One of the effects of modern science has been to give religion a mortal wound, by posing in concrete terms problems which only esoterism can resolve; but these problems remain unresolved, because esoterism is not listened to, and is listened to less now than ever. Faced by these new problems, religion is disarmed, and it borrows clumsily and gropingly the arguments of the enemy; it is thus compelled to falsify by imperceptible degrees its own perspective, and more and more to disavow itself.
  • ….There is close relationship between rationalism and modern science; the latter is at fault not in concerning itself solely with the finite, but in seeking to reduce the Infinite to the finite, and consequently in taking no account of Revelation, an attitude which is, strictly speaking, inhuman; our quarrel with modern science is that it is inhuman, or infra-human, and not that it is ignorant of the facts which it studies, even though through prejudice it ignores certain of their modalities... .And what is to be said of the pretentiousness which sets out to “discover” the ultimate causes of existence, or of the intellectual bankruptcy of those who seek to subject their philosophy to the results of scientific research? A science of the finite cannot legitimately occur outside a spiritual tradition, for intelligence is prior to its objects, and God is prior to man; an experiment which ignores the spiritual link characterizing man no longer has anything human about it; it is thus in the final analysis as contrary to our interests as it is to our nature; and “ye shall know them by their fruits.”
      He denies the claim that scientist has greater share of intelligence. He points out the singularities that scientistic rationalism encounters at deeper levels because of its crass ignorance of transcendence or the sacred, due to its a priori rejection of everything that transcends reason. Scientists like Weinberg assert that the more the universe becomes comprehensible the more it seems pointless. This statement is incomprehensible or simply absurd from the traditionalist perspective as it also reflects utter failure of scientific intelligence to know “one thing needful.” Meaning comes only from above, from transcendence and modern science’s attempt to find it at the level of sensory world or the world of Maya is doomed. Science encounters only darkness at the end as Stace and Russell have pointed out as it chooses to be blind to God, the Light of the World.
      Schuon points out that modern science does not know what man is, life is or Existence is. It knows nothing of the Origin and the End, of the Principles or Substance.
      Modern science, which is rationalist as to its subject and materialist as to its object, can describe our situation physically and approximately, but it can tell us nothing about our extra-spatial situation in the total and real Universe…. Profane science, in seeking to pierce to its depth the mystery of the things that contain - space, time, matter, energy - forget the mystery of the things that are contained: it tries to explain the quintessential properties of our bodies and the intimate functioning of our souls, but it does not know what intelligence and existence are; consequently, seeing what its “principles” are, it cannot be otherwise than ignorant of what man is.
      The science of our time knows how to measure galaxies and split atoms, but it is incapable of the least investigation beyond the sensible world, so much so that outside its self-imposed but unrecognized limits it remains more ignorant than the most rudimentary magic.
      Schuon in his great works like Logic and Transcendence, Light on the Ancient World and others has argued, with great force and persuasion, what modern science misses and misses in principle due to its methodological naturalism that informs its philosophical abuse and ignorance of symbolism and divorce from the Science of First Principles. Ultimately he seeks to warn about limitations of modern science without arguing against its great strides and use in its limited domain.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

(Dis)Solving the Controversy

Religionists may lack intellectuality and scientists may lack, and abuse intelligence.
It is said that once an atheist and a theist debated the question of belief in God and after they finished, the atheist became a theist and the theist an atheist – showing pointlessness of usual debates on God. Buddha when asked about God responded by silence and is also by making seemingly opposite statements depending upon the questioner’s obsession with theism or atheism. To an atheist he said that only God meaning non-self/Absolute/pure Being really is and you are nothing and to the other one that there is no God as he imagined. The Bible says that only a fool denies God and the Quran implies  that there is no possibility of entertaining doubt regarding God. How are we to understand heated debate on God between atheistic/agnostic scientists and believers of world religions including Islam? How come we can assert people like Russell, Hawking, Dawkins are fools if they deny God? How come we can contradict the Word of God which leaves no doubt entertainable and calls those who deny God fools? Leaving aside subjective claims, who has reason, evidence and plain common sense on his side? Has science somehow made atheism more rational choice for modern man? Answering these questions requires clarifying the terms of the debate. Here, at some risk of oversimplification, I attempt it.
      Major world religions are not dependent on the view that God exists – Buddhism, Taoism, Jainism, Confucianism, Hinduism, all are largely compatible with silence regarding personal God – and mystical traditions talk about Godhead (Absolute/Void) rather than God that is usually contested by atheists. All the religions are wedded to a metaphysics accessible to Intellect all potentially share that affirms what is dimly intuitively known by all regarding Being/Consciousness/Intelligence. What is or may be contested in the name of reason and science by atheist scientists and philosophers is mostly:

  • The God of popular religion or exoteric theology.
  • One model of the Divine that posits a cosmic policeman or voyeuristic vindictive deity who threatens instead of complementing my freedom.
  • A God who fills the blanks in scientific explanation, a being who intervenes from outside and encounters the world as other.
  • An abstraction which one could dispute about and not feel emotive/existential bonding with.
  • A King who primarily operates from otherworld or directs afterlife film, a God who has to contend with Satan as an adversary (as if Satan isn’t His left hand or his agent in a way),
  • A being among other beings, who isn’t my very being/Self.
Let us ask if any atheist would fail to appreciate, in certain sense at least, the God of:
  • Abraham who grounds ordinarily unalterable natural “laws” – Allah’s unalterable sunnah – such as rising of the sun in the East.
  • Moses who is “I am that I am” or the witnessing consciousness we all know we are when we see without judging or identifying with any phenomena.
  • Jesus who is Love something of which is experienced by all of us and in more intense manner by every mother and good spouse.
  • Poets (which is Imagination of which Blake speaks) and creativity and celebration (which Hafiz and Rumi sing).
  • Mystical philosophers like Simone Weil (“attention without distraction” which we, for brief moments at least, are all capable of realizing), Levinas (encountered in the face of the Other) and Stace (who is Mystery of existence or the Sacred experienced in “the sense of mysterious” as Einstein would put it or as Haldane emphasized in his statement that the universe is not just queer but queerer than we can imagine).
  • Plato (who is Beauty and Truth and felt as attractiveness of the Good by every good person) of  lover of beautiful things or faces).
  • Upanisads (for the sake of whom all things or anything is loved, who is non-different from Me, who is Bliss we dimly know in joy or in another expression of a mystic-philosopher “sweetness of all sweet things” and “Isness of things” and “Being of being”)
  • Scholastic thinkers like Aquinas (who is “What Is”)
  • Scientists who try to understand how “the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible,” what grounds Truth and requires passion for truth and weighing evidence and
  • Who/what is  experienced in the depths of ourselves, where we are silent and free of ego, or in and through nature/art/moral and aesthetic dimension of the self we are endowed with that evokes wonder, irresistibly attracts, transports us to ecstasy, moves us to tears or makes us bow as in presence of saints, makes us lose ourselves in dance or contemplation or an object of work.
  • Modern theologians like Tillich’s “power to be”  and “ultimate concern” or whatever concerns us ultimately, and Bonhoeffer’s “the beyond in our midst.”
  • God has not been denied and can’t be denied in principle by any scientist or philosopher in one or more of these senses.
      Neither atheists nor their critics usually deny the imperative to be moral or fail to appreciate loftiness of Socratic principle that virtue is its own reward and knowledge is virtue. Who doesn’t in principle agree that our self has a moral dimension that asserts itself in care for the other/neighbor/stranger/posterity/environment? Who doesn’t affirm, in practice at least, need for certain degree of accountability of deeds in some plane here if not elsewhere and what is the crux of scriptural demand for ethical behavior, as far as it is applied on earth, if not this? Whether we believe in survival of personality after death or not or only in some mystical/philosophical doctrine of immortality that posits survival of suprapersonal intelligence (intellect) only, none denies summon from the court of conscience and that is what is essentially required from humans for living well. What is incompatible with religion is assertion, from some pseudoscientific or less intelligent scientists or dogmatic scientism of intelligence/consciousness being dispensable for or merely incidental/ad hoc/accidental to life/universe/existence/Being and this ultimately denies logic and rationality whose champion science is supposedly, and also an assertion of absolute denial of mystery for the sake of narrowly defined rationality and thus sacred and thus the rejection of the attitude of humility and receptivity towards phenomena in all their depth/height and this results in closure of mind characteristic of dogmatic scientism. Both religion and science are to be tested in the laboratory of Life (grounded or implicated in God’ s name Al-Hayy) and whatever diminishes life and its potential to creativity, beauty, joy, wonder, celebrate, adventure in outer and inner (higher) worlds, closes channels and modalities of newer expression of human personality and let us not forget that God is the ideal pole of man and another name of what is held intrinsically valuable or good or beautiful or true.
      Since religion is for saving people and not truth as such which is the prerogative of metaphysics and accessible to intellect and religion is filtered truth for consoling people  that has to give concessions to different individualities and emotions of believers, the more truly intellectual we are, lesser is the scope for religious point of view (which is fall from the intellectual constant as Guenon would put it) – religions use, for instance, the term God where metaphysics uses Being and to equate the two is an error. Science if committed to truth and nothing but truth would be more comfortable with esotericism and metaphysics – many great 20th century scientists including Plank, Einstein, Pauli, Heisenberg etc. have been strongly mystically oriented. Let us accept science’s passion for truth wholeheartedly, transpose religious language back into original esoteric and metaphysical language, recognize that metaphysics and individual sciences have very strictly delimited jurisdiction and can be autonomous as Guenon noted. Scientism and fundamentalism are both united in restricting rationality and abusing intelligence.
      What the Quran requires is right use of intelligence, transcending prejudices of all kinds, bringing evidence for what one believes even if it is  one’s paganism or shirk, affirming unity of reality as one witnesses it, being true to our own self – ethical self and the self that seeks company of stars and beyond that is in principle accessible “empirically”  or one can witness/enjoy/taste. No scientists qua being a scientist will have problems with these demands.  As far as modern science lacks or abuses intelligence (“science doesn’t think” remarked Heidegger) it deserves a thrashing and that is the key thing in the critique of Heidegger, Jaspers, Schuon, Burckhardt, Wilber and many other brilliant thinkers against philosophical abuse of science or scientism. Those scientists who:

  • trapped in literalist reading and ignorant of ta’wil fail to find scriptures as keys to treasures of being,
  • or who imagine man to be at bottom only a clay as Satan did,
  • or reduce consciousness and intelligence to what is neither conscious nor intelligible,
  • deny man intellect (nous) by reducing it to reason (ratio) and the intellect access to certainty of the Absolute by virtue of very definition or constitution
 are not pursuing science but a particular philosophy that may be critiqued on philosophical grounds and rightly charged with ultimately impoverishing man, emasculating culture, refusing noetic aspect of beauty and attractive power of truth that deliver us from ego or samsara. Both theism and atheism need to be transcended (“all propositions about God, including “God is” and “God isn’t” are false. For all propositions operate through concepts. And all propositions are the work of logical intellect”) and believers and their critics can agree on dignity of man thanks to intelligence that applied to moral sphere means conscience and to cognitive and aesthetic spheres means pursuit of truth (ilm, irfan) and beauty (ihsan). Man qua man is born neither theist nor atheist but a playful spirit or consciousness that seeks creative expression, knowledge, joy, love, freedom, beauty, truth, goodness. Maintaining lofty human state in this sense requires strength of critical intelligence and lofty character and this is what all great thinkers and religions ultimately demand. How true we are to this challenge is the question and not badly phrased theology of less gifted minds or anti-theology in the names of religion or science respectively. Theology needs to be taught as autology (science of Self) and we bring otherwise warring camps of science and religion closer.