Tuesday, January 24, 2006

More Unswers to Your Questings

Taking some of your additional questions in order, Jodie D. asked, why is the Muslim religion so decadent?

The fact that this is a good question is problematic, isn't it? It's almost a rhetorical question that provides it's own answer, like "why are you such a jerk?"

It's especially problematic that it is possible to ask such a question of a religion. If a religion doesn't even make you a better person, then what good is it? And what evidence do we have that Islam is producing superior and spiritually evolved people, cultures, institutions, and nations?

I didn't know anything about Islam on 9-10-01. However, even on 9-12-01, I retained an open mind. I was fully receptive to the MSM bromide that Islam was an essentially peaceful religion that had simply been hijacked by a few lunatics and radicals.

I am familiar with all the world's most venerated scripture and sacred writings--the Torah, New Testament, Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutras, Tao Te Ching, etc.--and I have very high regard for each of them. Although each is "relatively absolute" and complete in its way, I nevertheless feel that they all supplement and complement one another and that, for example, a Christian can benefit by trying to reconcile the Upanishads with the Gospel of John.

Once you are on a spiritual path, you start to develop a sort of sixth sense, or "third eye" that helps you understand spiritual matters. I don't want to overly romanticize this notion--I don't think it's really fundamentally different from any other kind of expertise. For example, a trained psychoanalyst is able to "see" or "feel" unconscious communication in a way that the untutored individual cannot. Or even a baseball or hockey fan can watch a game and see all kinds of things that the non-fan misses. The fan and non-fan literally see a different reality on the field or ice.

Anyway, I read the Koran with my spiritual detector switched on, but it was a sobering experience. I really don't want to be accused of bigotry here. Certainly you could say that my response was subjective, and that's fine. But I actually found the Koran to be rather disturbing. Although there are undoubtedly some passages that contain spiritual "light," there are also many passages that convey a deep darkness--again, based only on my subjective experience. I find no such darkness at all in, say, the Upanishads or Tao Te Ching. They are almost pure light.

One thing we must do at the outset is distinguish between the revealed vs. the "natural" religions. Christianity, Judaism and Islam are revealed religions, whereas the Upanishads are unrevealed, "positivistic" scriptures. Rather, they are much more explicitly philosophical and metaphysical. In fact, they are mainly experiential. Both Buddhism and Jnana yoga say to the spiritual aspirant: do this, and you will experience that. In their purest form--such as Vedanta or Zen--these traditions are very much free of dogma.

In a certain way, all of the revealed religions are more inherently problematic, because even if we are dealing with a pure revelation from God, it still has to be revealed to someone, specifically, a flawed human being. Judaism, to my knowledge, has never pretended that the prophets were perfect people. Nor does Christian doctrine maintain that the writers of the gospels were perfect beings who simply took dictation from God. In Judaism the Torah is perfect, but it still must be interpreted. In Christianity the perfect ideal is located in Christ, but in a very complex way that I won't get into here.

But in Islam, both Mohammed and his message are considered perfect, inerrant, and not subject to interpretation. This is problematic, for a great deal is known about the historical Mohammed, and the fact of the matter is, he was not just your average quiet, introspective spiritual seeker. For one thing, unlike Jesus or Buddha or Lao Tsu, he was a warrior, a conqueror. Like it or not, he was also a worldly man. He was married, not just to one woman, but to many women. Christians are told to "imitate Christ." How different would Christianity be if Christ had been a violent warrior with several wives?

Of course, one could say, "look at history. Are you naive? What about the crusades? The inquisition? The endless religious wars?" First of all, the crusades were largely a defensive action against an expansive Islam. But even leaving that aside, I believe that the Christian message is entirely self-correcting, given enough time. That is, there is no possible justification in the gospels for violent conquest, for treating others as less than fully human, for unfair treatment of women, etc.

I would be happy to stand corrected, but I don't see a clear-cut, self-correcting mechanism in Islam. Islam has a long and bloody history, but instead of being a departure from Mohammed's message, there are many, many passages in the Koran that quite clearly and explicitly justify and encourage such behavior. Again, this is not Muslim bashing. I'm simply repeating what I read in the Koran with my own three eyes.

Does this mean that all Muslims are bad people? Of course not. I actually tried to dislike the music of Cat Stevens, but I can't. He seems like a genuinely sweet and well-intentioned person who does a lot of good in the world.

But one thing that really troubles me is the lack of outrage in the Muslim world about the almost irreparable damage the terrorists are doing to something they hold sacred. I think about that poor journalist who has been captured in Iraq. Why aren't Muslims all over the world--millions upon millions of them--standing up, demonstrating, and demanding that she be released? Let's just focus on America, where Muslims enjoy the fruits of Judeo-Christian liberty. Why are our most prominent Muslim groups, such as CAIR, such dubious people? Every time they open their mouths, they just do further damage to Islam, and make one suspicious of their real motives.

Can one even imagine Christians sitting by quietly while such evil were being perpetrated in the name of their religion? The largest demonstration in the history of Israel occurred after that savage, may his memory be cursed, opened fire on Muslims in a Mosque. Why has there never been anything comparable in the Muslim world except recently in Jordan, but only after they were attacked?

By the way, just to show that I am not inherently anti-Islam, I've studied a fair amount of Sufism, and I am quite favorably disposed to it. They seem to have succeeded in eliminating the darkness and retaining the light. However, my understanding is that they are generally regarded by mainstream Muslims as a fringe, if not downright heretical movement.

Again, my mind remains open, and I would love for it to be changed. The main reason I supported the liberation of Iraq was that I felt--whether naively or not--that it would engender a transformation of that part of the world, and show that Muslims could create a decent, tolerant, and democratic society. I pray that I was right. The world-historical implications of being wrong about the capacity of Muslim nations to transform themselves are just too awful to contemplate.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Bubba Kartoffel said...

It's too bad that Sufism has been pushed to the edges of Islam, but that seems to be the fate of the most 'mystical' aspects of organized religion.

It's hard for me to imagine anyone who has expressed more love for and union with the creative Source than Rumi. Is there anyone?

Islam desperately needs a spokesman/mystic today who would be able to redirect the billions toward the light.

...as minerals on the ground rise inside trees
and become tree, as a plant faces an animal
and enters the animal, so a human
can put down the heavy
body baggage and
be light.

-Rumi

1/24/2006 09:47:00 AM  
Anonymous 6Kings said...

Whatever way you want Islam to redirect to inside of itself isn't going to change the fact that at the core, the religion is flawed and built on the whims of a selfish tyrant. You can highlight all the good of the religion you want but you are only showing parts and not the whole. Islam needs redirecting to the light alright...right into Christ.

1/24/2006 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Goesh said...

I've suspected Petey of being a whirling Dirvish for quite some time, I just didn't want to vocalize my suspicions.... great post, as usual

1/24/2006 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Goesh said...

-some of the Sufi poets are quite awesome
"..I have been thinking of the difference between water and the waves on it..." Kabir

Such a far cry from the jihadistic monotheism that demands total submission and subservience to a single interpretation of the divine sublime

1/24/2006 10:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Bubba Kartoffel said...

6kings ~

'Islam needs redirecting to the light alright...right into Christ.'


I called through your door,
"The mystics are gathering
in the street. Come out!"

"Leave me alone.
I'm sick."

"I don't care if you're dead!
Jesus is here, and he wants
to resurrect somebody!"

-Rumi

1/24/2006 10:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing. We are so afraid of being accused of Muslim-bashing that we have to actually elevate the religion to some sort of respectability, in order to critique it. So it's NOT a religion of peace? Duhhh...
Our ancestors were not so easily fooled.

1/24/2006 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger DSmith said...

Bob, exactly right. But how dare you say such things!

We don't tolerate followers of the Aztec religion anymore. Islam should be similary destroyed, for similar reasons. There is simply not enough there to save, as any open-minded review of the scriptures and history of Islam will show.

This all makes me incredibly sad. But if folks will persist in murderous delusions, well, self-defense is the first human right.

We must be as unashamed, unafraid, and unattached as Krishna urged Arjuna to be. Krishna destroyed demons. The same lot falls to us.

1/24/2006 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger LiquidLifeHacker said...

I will not be so "politically correct" because I have no problem being called a bigot towards the ideology of muhammed. So if this offends you...scroll on down or ignore it all together.

With that said, any of you can romance the ideas of sufism as something good or a reformed type of poetic liberated mystical sect of Islam, some believe the idea that it will be a type of sufism or a sect of, which will be used by the islamist to overcome the schism inside Islam and reunite the muslims around the world eventually. It would be great if it could unite them in a peaceful way, but just because the Wahhabi hate sufism and make it a capital punishment in Saudi to even have sufi text doesn't mean it cannot be used for something sinister in the future.

Quoting from THIS ARTICLE
Sufism is renowned primarily for its achievements in the fields of poetry and mysticism, and its popular image in the west is an inner spiritual quest that eschews external action. But the legacy of anti-imperialist insurgencies from Algeria to Chechnya over the past two centuries shows that nothing could be further from the truth. Historically, it is a very broad phenomenon, spanning quietist sects to militant splinter groups. The ambiguous relationship between these two persuasions is key to understanding al-Qaida. In his Landscapes of the Jihad (pdf), Faisal Devji, one of the most perceptive and original observers of al-Qaida writing today, picks up on this otherwise neglected point.

Sufism is not a marginal phenomenon within Islam, as widely perceived even by many contemporary Muslims themselves, influenced perhaps by Wahhabi or Orientalist agendas. It was in fact the basis of Islamic practice between the 11th and 19th centuries, and the openness and enthusiasm of its practitioners largely accounts for the expansion of the Islamic world during the same period. Even the intellectual resource to which Islamist polemicists invariably refer in their quest for legitimacy, the militant "sheikh of Islam" Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328), was committed to a branch of mainstream Sufism.

As a theosophy of universal proportions, linking microcosmic man to macrocosmic God and enjoining its followers to a moral existence, it is no surprise that Sufism forms the psychological underpinning of a movement like al-Qaida that, as Devji reminds us, is essentially global and ethical in nature. This is what accounts for the family resemblances, as he argues, with other universalist ethical trends like environmentalism and anti-globalisation. While such resemblances exist, al-Qaida is more precisely the spiritually orphaned grandson of the Sufi movements that once dominated the Islamic world, particularly those that upheld an absolute ontological gulf between man and God.
-----------------

I think Sufism is used as a new age thinking today and romanced by it's sufi saints or considered a type of Islamic psychology on it's own in a way as it seems to have much Buddhism comparisons and eastern asian influence. But all that put aside, sufism still is connected to muhammad. Sufism began as a hidden teaching of muhammad and pretty much all the sufi schools still trace their orgins back to muhammad and although it teaches to understand good from evil, one cannot overlook IMHO, that it's orgins are from evil itself as it goes back to the traditions of muhammed and the quran.

Many will argue this point, but the quran teaches that the people of the book: Jews and Christians, are to to grasp the final revelation that God was suppose to have given to Muhammad via the angel Gabriel, this is all based on the possibility that the quran is God changing his mind about his sacrifice of his only Son and in arabic basically is overwriting the Torah and the Gospels. So basically the quran perverts the Gospels.

Now it's easy to be all mystical sitting in the desert smoking opium or chewing qat, since in the 15th century sufi muslims chewed the leaves during prayer and meditation. One can get a flashback of the Doors and Jim Morrison's poetic inspiration and feel that its liberating too, but we have seen Bin Ladin use psychology warfare and work it towards his own agenda in a mystical sorta way for muslims as many hold him as some superhero for Islam. We also see the president of Iran reaching higher to recruite muslims into his mystical lights when addressing the UN as he paves the way for the madhi.

So when endorsing Sufism, keep in mind it's origin source. For you that read the bible...Remember in 2 Corinthians 11 and 12
______________________
And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. 13For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

Also In Galatians 1:6-9, Paul explained to us, 6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
____________

Isn’t this the very birth of Islam? That the “ANGEL” Gabriel came down and gave the words of the Quran to Mohammed? Shouldn't the basis of Islamic belief under whatever sect it manifest be honestly questioned about it's authentic source of it's origin?

1/24/2006 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous larwyn said...

The UK defense attorney for the one-eyed,hook handed imam has had korans passed out to the court to prove that the hate preaching including the calling for participation in jihads to kill infidels is only the following of the religion.

His name is Fitzgerald and I think that either outcome of the case, allows us the same conclusion as applied to the religion of the Aztecs.

It is wrong - just wrong to
call it a "religion of peace". It is a religion of
PIECE - a piece of your life, your country, your money, your daughters, your law and your choices.
(How's that Petey?)

1/24/2006 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I looked up Sufism on a mainstream Muslim website, and they didn't have anything positive to say about it, so it can't be all bad! They hate sufis because 1) they don't read the Koran literally, 2) they give it a mystical interpretation, 3) because it supercedes Mohammed, and 4) because it's very similar to Vedanta. Those all strike me as good things.

"Sufism: A Muslim who has accepted misguidance by dividing into a sect of people who worship graves and saints and claim Divine incarnation. Tasawwuf (mystism) has come to be known as "Sufism" in the west.

"From the very days of Muhammad, saaws, there have been always those who, whilst they called themselves Muslims, ****set aside the literal meaning of the words of Muhammad******, for a supposed mystic or spiritual interpretation....

"The Sufis themselves admit that their religious system has always existed in the world, prior to the mission of Muhammad, saaws, and the unprejudiced student of their system will observe that Tasawwuf, or Sufism, is but a Muslim adaptation of the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophers....

1/24/2006 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Has anyone even noticed the little Joyce feature I added to right hand side, where I try to provide a quote from Finnegans Wake that relates to the topic of the day? Since no one understands the book, I thought I could try to show that parts of it are understandable and that it might be one of the funniest books evver written. It depicts all of of human history in the form of one long punning dream in the night of a single individual.

For example, today we have "In the Name of Annah the Allmaziful, the Everliving, the Bringer of Plurabilities," which is a takeoff on the Koran's "In the name of Allah, the All merciful," which substitutes the female principle ("Annah") for the male.

Is this just too esoteric?

1/24/2006 04:23:00 PM  
Blogger who, me? said...

Love the Joyce connection.

On the other hand, I suspect there is significant worth in liquidlifehacker's qualms about Western enthusiasm for Sufism; it may be rather like the modern taking-up of a "Buddhism" that many devout Asians wouldn't recognize. There is rumored to be a portion of Sufi material that is a good deal bloodier, more ruthlessly gnostic, intemperate, and less romantic, that is kept secret from infidels and non-initiates. Agreed, Rumi's mystical poetry as translated by Westerners is shatteringly powerful and disarming. That does not settle the issue.

In fact, art is awfully easy to disproportionately focus on. It has its purposes, but IMO doesn't really trump ethics and cultural convention.

Sufis being the object of dislike by other Muslims is neither here nor there, logically. FWIW, there are US Sufi collectives. The one about which I have immediate knowledge is indistinguishable from any other incoherent cult, complete with a charismatic bully -- sheikh-certified Sufi -- at the helm, whose signature is on the group bank account. I do not tar the whole movement with this experience, but can only smile mirthlessly at hearing an automatic exemption in place for Sufiism.

It's an open question, not a certainty, whether, apart from the common neurology, there is true identity of mystical experience across traditions. Further, most traditions warn about the dangers of collecting mystical experiences to the exclusion of the other more banal disciplines, individual and collective. Many tend to assume a spiritual father or novice master for accountability and eventual "graduation" into saint and teacher. No doubt that is rife with slippage and abuses, too.

Easy or reliable answers to these questions seem scarce, especially in our do-it-yourself every-man-his-own-prophet era. But we are faced with certain historical phenomena in response to which we would be well-served to make prudent, cautious, and decidedly unromantic evaluations.

1/24/2006 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Oh well.

Let me make it clear--my default setting is that Islam is hopeless--indeed, that it isn't even a religion but a diagnosis--a group mind parasite.

However, in the Sufism I have read, there at least appeared to be something to me resembling religion. I'm not a big fan--only saying that it seemed to have certain things in common with other mystical traditions. But perhaps that is wishful thinking.

1/24/2006 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger LiquidLifeHacker said...

Bob, I think what you were recognizing and identify with is the neo platonism and buddist influences that sufism evolved with over the years.

As I have heard Craig Winn mention before that todays new age sufism really isn’t considered Islam because it doesn't follow the quran literally and so a sufi is to the fundamental type of Islam kinda what the Talmud is to the Tanakh.

My point is that no matter what sect of Islam that sufism surfaces under...it is not a separate religion...its still a tradition that follows the quran and muhammad. There is one sufi order that traces its knowledge back to Abu Bakr which directly feels it is linked to muhammed and imam Ali.

So IMHO, if anyone wants to endorse sufism thus they would be endorsing it's origin and I wouldn't want to do that to anyone as so many get lost in their own spiritual search through new age seductions.

1/24/2006 08:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't mind seeing a " Ask Petey" component to this blog where questions of life's mysteries could be directed at Petey via Bob, sort of like an Oracle type-deal where we can't directly approach Petey without some form of ritual. Or maybe "Petey Pontificates" where direct pleas for guidance are channeled via Bob through various incanctations and chants

1/25/2006 04:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Bubba Kartoffel said...

We have recently heard it suggested that Islam is entirely incapable of any kind of reformation since it is puportedly God's direct and last word on the matter. Clear thinkers understand that, without reformation, the future seems bleak indeed.

I'm just saying that it would be 'nice' if someone were able to stand up and change its' course. It may very well be wildly, blindingly optimistic, but it is still my hope, my prayer.

In pointing to Rumi, I merely indicate that, within Islam (don't ask me how), there appear to have been individuals moving up along the vertical rather than being mireg in the horizontal, and we need to encourage more.

Does prayer work?

1/25/2006 04:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Bubba said...

...puRportedly, mireD...

1/25/2006 04:20:00 AM  
Blogger Goesh said...

What has islam contributed in the arts, science, jurisprudence, architecture, medicine, literature these past 60 years? It is roughly 60 years since the oil boom really began in the Gulf. Islam in the sense of its center being in the Gulf has had at its disposal a trillion or two dollars. What has it produced?

1/25/2006 04:24:00 AM  

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