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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dîn, Modernism, Evolution, Science & Transcendence

Omar K N

1.1 Definition of tradition

Therefore according to how we understand the concept from its etymological root: tradere (deliver, transmit) - Tradition has nothing to do with peoples' usages or customs from old, but is understood as *revealed* tradition, that is truths and principles of divine order revealed or unveiled to mankind.

“Tradition is essentially of "super-human" origin, which is quite exactly also its correct definition and nothing traditional cannot be qualified as such without the presence of this vital and axial* foundational element, which defines its own authentic character.”

“Nothing which is purely human can be considered traditional, that is why it is wrong - as René Guénon rightly says - to talk about a "philosophic tradition" or a "scientific tradition"... because only the heritery forms of an uninterrupted chain of transmission (silsilah) deserve the qualification "traditional" for they will guarantee the reality and permanence of the "vital element", ie. that of non-human origin, inside a particular tradition.” DRG

Or to put in another way: Tradition is the light with which the human kind has been endowed with from the beginning of times to the end of it; it is the light of meaning in an otherwise meaningsless void, it is the light of spiritual guidance in a materialistic and hedonistic era, it is the light of the Logos shining upon the contingent entities. This Light is from God, the light of the heavens and earth.

In the case of Islam, which is the most recent - and the last of traditions, the concept of tradition, the dîn, is seen as being twofold:

• in its general meaning the transmission of an element of the suprahuman level - the Qur'an,
• and in its specific sense the words and sayings reported from Prophet Muhammad
 MHMD may Allah bless him and grant him peace, which have been recorded in the hadith collections together with the entire Islamic religion.

2.1 Modernism & postmodernism

In modernism it was believed that materiality or phenomena was everything there is and that it is superiour to anything else. This philosophy of science is called positivism - it is a rejection of metaphysics, as it holds that the goal of knowledge is simply to describe the phenomena that we experience, which we can observe and measure and nothing beyond that. 

In some quarters there was still an underlying, dormant longing for the construction or discovery of the Grand Design (4*), meaning a new unity of being, of what reality really is, but a unity which had to do without religion and metaphysics. ( 2.3ff  )

(4*) Probing the "Grand Design, in posing the greatest questions: How vast is the Universe, the entirety of existence? Was there a beginning? Will there be an end? What is the origin and fate of the Universe?" 
< From "Cosmology: A Cosmic Perspective" >

However, as Charles Upton has shown ( SAC-33 ) 
in postmodernism it is always held (as a conviction or belief ?!) that:
(1) there is no Grand Design,
(2) truth is plural and ultimately subjective,
(3) reality is only as it is configured,
(4) there is nothing out there but chaotic potential.
So much for the quest for truth! ( 2.2  )

Furthermore, with today's "celebration of diversity", normal logical thinking seems to have evaporated from many a contemporary mind, as modernism and postmodernism even can work together, or so it seems, in the mind of a single individual, confounding it and neutralizing any attempt toward a traditional or metaphysical view of reality! SAC 

____So much so that by now "modernism has become nothing more than a sub-set, one more disrelated item in the postmodern spectrum of "diversity" ." SAC-34/5

2.5.5 Man did not 'evolve'

As long as man has lived on this earth he has had a traditional outlook or perspective on life, which is proven by the many old cultural remnants, not the least his holy scriptures. It was then that he relied on the Higher Being, God, Allah and lived under His protection and guidance. Man has never only been an individual with a brain without heart, nor just a heap of molecules in a DNA-structure, meaning that the mind is luckily more than nerve-threads and electrical signals. Instead man has a potential for knowing God and his soul and for choosing what is better in any given situation, or creative of the most beautiful, - as God's viceregent.

The traditional outlook on life is opposed to the modern or postmodern way of seeing reality, in fact the two are irreconcilable. Man has always been man, he did not have to evolve from some lower being, from an ape or a fish ... The idea of bringing out the higher from the lesser is a modern myth, it is both illogical and unscientific! 

____Imagine a piece of computer evolving - by accident - from its integrated IC-circuits, from its bits and zeros into the practical machine which it is - without the mind to design it and programme it! How much less is this conceivable in the - much more complex - biological domain of life itself !

Or the words of Charles Upton:
"The projection of this false myth of progress on biology results in the ideology known as 'evolutionism', the doctrin that the less is the causal origin of the greater, that the higher and more complex life forms, including man, have developed incrementally from simpler forms.
The Traditionalists, on the other hand, teach that the advent of new life forms, which the fossil record shows to be more discontinuous than continuous - thus calling Darwin's 'natural selection of random mutations' into serious question - actually represents the descent of matter-organizing spiritual archetypes from the higher planes of Being, in response to God's creative word. These 'Platonic Ideas' of species then draw themselves the matter they need in order to construct physical vehicles for their life in space and time." SAC-105

2.4.2 Principles Are Necessary to Transcend the Human Level

However, doctrines and principles are necessary to gain meaning from empirical sense-data and to gain meaning is proof of perfection and permanency, and giving up on the quest for meaning leads to ignorance and despair. As one of the ancient savants, Aristotle, declared:

"The things which are most knowable are first principles and causes; for it is through these and from these that other things come to be known, and not these through the particulars which fall under them." AM I.ii.6
Man has therefore to prepare himself to a way of life concerning thought and practice, which will enable him to transcend the materialistic, and only psychological levels of understanding.

2.4.3 The Validity of the Modern Sciences

Transcending the materialistic and psychologic levels of understanding is neither intended nor envisaged by modern science. Obviously can neither empiricism, nor validification through induction, nor "reliance upon the data of the senses as confirmed by reason, serve as principles in the metaphysical sense." TIM These scientific methods are valid on their own restricted levels leading to results and applications of the sciences which created them, but they are neither able to answer our existential questions nor improve our normal human condition. (normal: how man was meant to be, ...  )

____What is worse, modern science has with all its inventions brought about a serious disequilibrium in this world - despite their partial benefits - , precisely because of it being divorced from - and its inability of taking account of - the higher principles, even if this may not always have been the intention of the individual scientist.

In modernism reason is conceived as a purely human activity, also cut off from the Transcendant and in postmodernism one is set to deconstruct reason by taking hold of and referring to the irrational levels of the human psyche, whereas in traditional sciences the human mind is understood as being a mirror of the Divine Mind. The picture produced on the mirror is the product of the Picture-maker reflecting Itself on it. 

Thus tradition has always held that the organ ''and container of knowledge is not the human mind but ultimately the Divine Intellect.'' Therefore ''true science is not based on purely human reason but on the Intellect which belongs to the supra-human level of reality, yet illuminates the human mind.'' TIM p.100. 
"When Descartes uttered, 'I think, therefore I am (cogito ergo sum), he placed his individual awareness of his own limited self as the criterion of existence, for certainly the 'I' in Descartes' assertion was not the Divine 'I' who, through Hallâj, exclaimed, 'I am the Truth' (ana'l Haqq): The Divine 'I' which alone, according to traditional sources has the right to say 'I'. Until Descartes, it was Pure Being, the Being of God, which determined human existence and the various levels of reality. But with Cartesian rationalism, individual human existence became the criterion of reality and also the truth." TIM p.100

   And what could be of more success to earthly man than to relate his intellect to the higher Intellect which is not of his own and which is unrestricted and independant of place and time. ( Quran 24-19 )


References:
TIM: Traditional Islam In The Modern World; Seyyed Hossein Nasr;
SAC: The System Of Antichrist; Truth And Falsehood In Postmodernism & New Age; Charles Upton; Sophia Perennis, NY 2001
DRG: Dictionnaire de René Guénon, Jean-Marc Vivenza; Éditions Le Mercure Dauphinois, Grenoble 2005

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