by Nazhim MaHmood
You doubtless have heard the saying that one “can’t compare apples and oranges” while being warned away from miscomparisons. This is good advice too, as far as it goes, but ignores the fact that at the end of the day apples and oranges have at least as much in common as those specific traits they do not share.
The ongoing argument between science and religion, cast nowadays as a debate between evolution and “creationism,” is a fine example of this and creates also an opportunity for the reconciling work of the Sufi.
In the first place, this persistent ruckus tells us a good deal about the actual inner condition of the protagonists, especially since supposedly this one was settled at the time of the Renaissance and Galileo, or at least by the time of Darwin, one hundred-and fifty years ago! Nevertheless, people keep arguing about it now, at what my friend, Mr. Judson Andersen of Eagle Lake, Minnesota, calls the the “hind end” of the age. So plainly we can see that in addition to a crisis of religious faith that has overcome more and more through the generations, there is now a looming crisis as well in scientific faith. This is because as is well-known in the other saying, these religionists and scientists all “doth protest too much!” Hyperactive assertion is always meant first of all to quell inner doubt, and that means both in the agitated individual and the culture generally and slowly losing its moorings, as the seabed of the Sufis’ famous Ocean of Possiblity shifts.
These same Sufis have long contended that means must suit conditions after all, and as the popular mind changes so the intellectual and spiritual needs of individuals require new formulae, new frameworks.
Perhaps it will help to notice in this context what si‘ Smit’, er, Smeeth has written in these pages, quoting historian-emeritus John Lukacs. Professor Lukacs points out that in historigography there is a critical distinction between motives and purposes, that is, the push of the past and the pull of the future.
Formerly, visionary religon had to draw on the well of the human imagination and explain the beginning of existence in emotionally convincing mythic images, a Creator God with long whiskers, a bad temper and a Secret Garden and so forth. Unfortunately, this all was casuistry since man is an animal that can anticipate and what people mostly are worried about is the future, and (most of all!) “What happens after I die?”
Enter the emerging science of the great five hundred-year-long Age of Exploration, and people simply were able now to come up with better explanations about the origins of things. Sufis at least welcomed this innovation as it in turn freed religion and spirituality to deal more directly and honestly with the felt meaning of things, not least in terms of the future — and all that lies beyond this immediate life. These no-doubt irritating transcendant needs of human beings remain real, if only for sake of the fact that there were plenty of scientists at Auschwitz who did hellish medical experiments on their misearble captives. So we now know, or should, that science-by-rote with its A-bombs no more than parrot religion with its suicide bombers can convey real progress to humans as such. The fundamental similarity of men is as the sameness of apples and oranges, both of which are fruit. So likewise, the idea that, of science or religion, one is somehow “better” than the other is pretty fruity and it is just ridiculous. Simply, the rule is:
“For apple pie, apples…and for orange juice, oranges.”
Please note (using the scientific tool of observation!) that it just doesn’t work the other way around. This too should give point to the assertion that new forms of experimentation are in order. Indeed, the only reason that this is broached now is because, as the Sufis say often, “The secret protects itself.” Thus if you have read this far, you may be able to appreciate the following experiment:
Like everyone else, you know for a certainty at least two people who are bitterly divided over this religion versus science business, simply because it is a great source of popular entertainment these days, mostly nothing more worthwhile than that. But, it is also a great waste of time and energy. So — this is very simple — just repeatedly visualize your two friends getting together and discovering they both have now a new shared interest. (This is best done by setting aside no more than ten minutes at the same time everyday.) It can be learning Spanish or jogging, or watercoloring, just let that come up in your mind of itself, whatever it may be. Then whenever you meet, observe your friends closely, allowing up to no more than ninety days for possible results. This is simply for your own information, so if something good should happen to stop what Mr. Andersen calls “all the the bellyaching,” do NOT tell them about how “I prayed for you” or “I did this thought experiment” or anything like that. In any case, do not be surprised if results do not come along until some time after your work is done.
As it is written, this is for your own information and if you can manage keep silent about it, you may be very possibly ready to learn more about how to serve the sooner-rather-than-later movement (evolution!) beyond human being that awaits us all.
[Emmett R Smith all transcription-rights reserved 14 May 2008]