Thursday, July 29, 2010

knowledge of the part vs. the whole

1.
Can you read?

Scan over the lines in the paragraph below and see if your mind can read them:

"I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdgnieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthita porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as awlohe"

- From the work of Ph.D. candidate at Nottingham University, Graham Rawlinson's thesis 'The significance of letter position in word recognition' (unpublished) in 1976

2.
'en ar-KAY ayn ha LOH-gohs'
In the Beginning was the Word

As you can understand, most of us could perfectly read the above paragraph and make sense of it, even though the letters are random inside each words. The way human mind interpret words, it doesn't read every letter in a word, but the word as a whole. Is it too much of a coincidence that in the New Testament the likeness of the Creative Consciousness is referred as "Word" (Logos)?

If we take such unveiling from the field of brain science in terms of how mind interpret words as whole (the meaning surfacing / transcending the apparent), rather than arrangements of individual letters - as a metaphor and compare it for "knowledge derived from science" and "knowledge derived from spiritual realm" - secular science tends to be involved / pre-occupied in paying attention to the individual letters whereas spiritual wisdom is about the "whole reality" which can and does supersede the logical and still explains the reality and provide meaning.

The secular / materialistic science is often so pre-occupied to each individual letters, if we continue with the parable, that it typically lose track of the whole. And this has become the disturbing trend of our time where we are over-emphasizing materialism to such extent through the dazzling discoveries of ours that we are becoming so arrogant in our ignorance that we are abusing almost every aspect of our connection, be it the sacredness of earth (through industrial pollution and tremendously damaging policy) and the sacredness of human bond (through dissemination of pornography, destroying innocence of children by exposing them to nudity, sex and violence, immorality with no regard of long term collective effect of it to the whole of human society). 

Shaykh Abdal Qadir al Murabit calls the secular science as kafir science because of its inert tendency to cover up the Truth, i.e. denial of Creator by becoming caught up with the dazzle of creation. Kafir comes from the root K-F-R which gives rise to the meaning "to cover up". It cover up what is essential and eternal, it covers up what give us eternal peace and harmony for the sake of what give us more and more temporal stuff and more speed, haste.

There has been an irreversible damage done by the Christian Church in the middle age with its harsh conflict with science and scientific inquiries, from which the western mind has not recovered yet. Had it recovered from that bitter taste, then it will come to appreciate the complementary aspect of Religion / Spiritual Knowledge and Science - which both are uncompromisable heritage of humanity and neither of them can be divorced fully if humanity is to progress. Through our over obsession of material science we tend to think that Science prevails over everything else, including Spiritual Traditions and sacred wisdom of elders in the Path.

But like the example before, the grander meaning prevails over individual letters and their arrangement. So it is true for Science and Spirituality. In the debate of Science Vs. Religion / Spirituality, "Spiritual Truth" prevails over science, not science over spirituality. Yes, Science is "complimentary" only, because the world of matter, solid & form (the physical existence) came later. The matter is like 'dead earth' without the grace, through which it produces new life, a metaphor again and again used in the Revelation (Quran) as Sign of Spirit's role.

3.
The elegantly encrypted universe

Modern mind has lost all capacity to wonder. It has lost all capacity to look into the mysterious, into the miraculous, because of knowledge, because it thinks it knows. - Osho

The universe is encrypted. Sometime the signs are not always so obvious. Like the letters in the paragraph they might be placed in unexpected orders. You have to have an expansive and inclusive understanding in order to be enlightened with the meanings of life (just as your mind already has the intuitive knowledge of the words that it can transcend the exact order of  letters and make sense perfectly of the sentence and the whole paragraph).

This is not to say that the knowledge of the part is not important. Of course it is important. And interestingly enough when we zoom in more and more into the part, when we reach at the lowest possible divisible part, we find with amazement that it is an exact mirror reality of the whole or grander reality.

Take for example, when we keep dividing matter, no matter what the object is, whether its tissue of a cat, a chair or an apple, when we get to the atomic and sub-atomic level we find that its all become unity, the same atom, proton, neutron, quarks, leptons and meson that constitute everything in the universe. Its all made of the same reality, the Unity of Being is stamped upon every traces of the creation. Similarly scientists are bewildered to discover that the brain cell neuron network and the network of galaxies in the universe are so similar, even though their scale is gigantically different.


And this encryptic nature of reality, this illusion placed in the universe has its perfect place in grand scheme of things which has to do with free will. The Master Illusionist in His Infinite Wisdom have encrypted the Matrix in such a way that it gives Man two choices (i) either to believe (iman, yaqin or certainty) in Divine, Or (ii) not to believe in Divine (this tendency in the Quran is called kufr or 'covering up' of the already manifest Truth).

And did We not show him the two highroads?
- The Quran 90:10

Indeed We created man from a mixed sperm-drop, to try him, and so We made him capable of hearing and seeing. We showed him the way, whether to be grateful or ungrateful (rests on his will). - 76:3

So, in that process Man have all the justifications, reasoning and arguments to believe in Him. Equally, man can have all the apparent arguments / justifications not to believe in Him (if he choose to delude himself that science will provide all answers).

And while I stood there
I saw more than I can tell,
and I understood more than I saw;
for I was seeing in a sacred manner
the shapes of things in the spirit,
and the shape of all shapes as they must
live together like one being.
- Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks


I do not think the measure of a civilization
is how tall its buildings of concrete are,
But rather how well its people have learned to relate
to their environment and fellow man.
- Sun Bear of the Chippewa Tribe

PS. In this post, 'the whole' is not meant to be a or the brain function but meant as the Self-Sustaining Reality, the unbroken reality that is. Perhaps we may quote Osho who spoke about this when he said, "Sufi (Path) is not concerned with knowledge. Its whole concern is love, intense, passionate love: how to fall in love with the whole, how to be in tune with the whole, how to bridge the distance between the creation and the creator."

4. 
From 'that which vanishes' to 'that Which is Eternal'

There is a story in Rumi's Discourse, "Fihi Ma Fihi" about a king who entrusted his son to a group of skilled men, with whom the boy remained until they had taught him total mastery of various field of science such as astronomy, geomancy, and other, despite his utter stupidity and ineptitude. One day the king took a ring in his fist and, by way of testing his son, said, “Come, tell me what I am holding in my fist.”

“What you are holding,” he answered, “is round, yellow, and has a hole in the middle.”

“Since you have described it correctly,” said the king, “tell me what it is.”

“It must be a millstone,” he said.

“You have given its characteristics so precisely that the mind is boggled. With all the education and knowledge you have acquired, how has it escaped you that a millstone cannot be held in the fist?”

So it is now that the learned of our time miraculously fathom the sciences! They have learned perfectly to comprehend all sorts of extraneous things that do not concern them. What is truly important and closest of all to a man is his own self, but that our learned do not know.

If I may interject with Rumi's story, in our time the scientists, the so called men of knowledge are most busy in creating the next micro-wave oven which will cook your meal even more faster, they are more concerned in inventing the next mathematical algorithm that will predict the stock market more accurately for the corporates to profit more, they are busy in lab creating the next HIV medicine which will be sold at a higher price and denied to the poorest in Africa if anyone else made at cheaper price. The are busy creating the next unmanned drone and how to make it more sophisticated to distinguish between a goat and a black turban from sky and to drop bombs at the next village in the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan at a wedding feast where there might be "some" future terrorist hiding.

Rumi's story continues: However, the hollowness, yellowness, design, and roundness of the king’s ring are coincidental, for if you cast it into the fire none of those things remains. It becomes its essence, free of any of these characteristics. All the sciences, acts, and words that they put forward are likewise: they have no connection with the substance of the thing, which will abide after all these others. Likewise are all these attributes of which they speak and upon which they expound. In the end they will render a judgment that the king is holding a millstone in his fist, since they know nothing of that which is the principal thing. (credit)


Certain things catch your eye,
But pursue only those
that capture your heart.
- ancient native indian saying

5.
“The One Thing You Must Do”

There is one thing in this world that you must never forget to do. If you forget everything else and not this, there's nothing to worry about; but if you remember everything else and forget this, then you will have done nothing in your life. It's as if a king has sent you to some country to do a task, and you perform a hundred other services, but not the one he sent you to do. 

So human beings come to this world to do particular work. That work is the purpose, and each is specific to the person. If you don't do it, it's as though a priceless Indian sword were used to slice rotten meat. It's a golden bowl being used to cook turnips, when one filing from the bowl could buy a hundred suitable pots. It's a knife of the finest tempering nailed into a wall to hang things on. You say, "But look, I'm using the dagger. It's not lying idle." Do you hear how ludicrous that sounds? For a penny, an iron nail could be bought to serve the purpose. You say, "But I spend my energies on lofty enterprises. I study jurisprudence and philosophy and logic and astronomy and medicine and all the rest." But consider why you do those things. They are all branches of yourself. 

Remember the deep root of your being, the presence of your Lord. Give your life to the One Who already owns your breath and your moments. If you don't, you will be exactly like the man who takes a precious dagger and hammers it into his kitchen wall for a peg to hold his dipped gourd. You'll be wasting valuable keenness and foolishly ignoring your dignity and your purpose.

- Jalal ad-Din Rumi, Translation by Coleman Barks

One of the most important teaching of Isa Ibn Maryam (Jesus, son of Mary) was: "Seek the Malakuth (Kingdom of Unseen, Kingdom of God, Ghaiyb) first, and God's righteousness; 
everything else will be given to you."
- Matthew 6:33
 
6.
Inna salatee wa nusukee 
wa ma hyaya wa mamatee 
liLlahi Rabbil 'Aalameen.

Indeed my prayer, my sacrifice
my living and my dying
is for Allah, Lord of the Multiverse.

- an Islamic invocation (6:162) Pin It Now!

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