SITTING ON A HEAP OF HOARDED TREASURE
The spiritual attitude represents nothing essentially new in the material life of the individual, but is rather a reorganization and reinterpretation of all that has existed in his life, and an infusion of new meaning into the present and future. In achieving this reorientation the aspirant often finds himself temporarily confused.
One of these points of confusion concerns his attitude towards intellectuality, science, and technology. If the spiritual quest is to be real it cannot be deflected by an obsession with this vital nerve network of modern civilization. In some ways the aspirant must place it in proper perspective with the totality of human development, and thereby be neither hypnotized nor repelled by it.
Intellect is reserved so to speak by nature for man. To have intellect one must be a human being. Regardless of how keen and quick that intellect may be, though, it will always remain just one of the stepping stones to wisdom, inspiration, illumination, knowledge, and at last, realization of truth. To keep playing on the steeping stone, however polished it may be, is like sitting tight on a heap of hoarded treasure.
Like everything else, intellect can be used, as well as misused. The deeper the intelligence, the greater one's responsibility to discriminate between essential and nonessential, service and disservice, progress and retrogression. The task of the aspirant is to use intellect as a tool, not to be overcome by it.
Often one hears in religious discussion of the opposition between matter and spirit. There is no fundamental opposition between matter and spirit. Like the closely-knit elements of life and form in a person the spiritual and material aspects of human life are closely united. Realization of this would eliminate erroneous contrasting concepts such as God and man, one and many, light and darkness, etc., all of which spring from the illusion of duality.
The fundamental link between spirit and matter can be seen in the necessary connection between ideas and deeds. Mere playing with spiritual ideas without putting them into action is as unproductive as emphasizing the material at the expense of the spiritual. The simplicity of the real solution to all problems makes that solution increasingly baffling. The real solution lies in the elimination of all self-interest; this makes man practical in the truest sense of the word and gives him strength to face the facts concerning body and soul.
The aspirant need not worry about the opposition between spirit and matter, but should rather concern himself with the proper use of the one as the vehicle of the other. Then he will realize the higher ideals which relate to the actions of everyday life. The living spirit behind love, service, and brotherhood then blossoms out in accomplished deeds and is no longer empty words and academic theories reserved for armchair practice. God's infinite beauty, power, and bliss are experienced with full consciousness in art, science, literature, nature, and all walks of life.
Although the unconscious slavery of modern man to the industrial age is a serious matter, the emancipation of mankind from physical and economic slavery is a comparatively easy affair. The real slavery, because it is the most cruel and destructive of all, is the intellectual bigotry which claims to possess an exclusive monopoly on all truth. It is people obsessed by such a belief who, when they happen to be in a position of material power, hasten the downfall of a laboriously built civilization or the disintegration of a living religion.
Man can be redeemed from all types of bondage physical, mental, spiritual, social, political, moral sooner or later. But the redemption of man from the self-imposed shackles of intellectual self-sufficiency, uncritically accepted ideals and a dry religious heritage is a task which is well nigh superhuman. Here is the real task of the aspirant: to pierce through his own layers of self-imposed self-sufficiency and insensitivity so that he may expose a layer of vital awareness to the world about him, which would teach him if it could.
LISTEN, HUMANITY, pp. 174-176, ed. Don E. Stevens
1957 © Sufism Reoriented Inc.