Sunday, March 11, 2007

Spiritual Beauty and Primordial Religion

On the origin, nature, and development of moral conscience:

Forget Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, the labels, and all the ideological baggage and cultural misattributions that hang onto them.

Just think of ad din, or the deen, the primordial religion, or the primordial unity, if you will, into which we are all born, which is often then acculturated out of us.

The first principle of the 'ddin is the complete unity of God. Nothing exists outside of God, and that includes us. We are within God, of God.

Recognizing this, we strive to surrender to God's will, and to use our God given gifts of free will to direct us to do the good, both for ourselves and for others, to the extent that we can discern it.

This represents the development of conscience, one of the higher forms of human consciousness.

Just as no one else can take responsibility for our own individual acts of conscience, or our failures of conscience, all the more so no one can mediate between any one of us and God. It is a purely personal relationship, sans priests, rabbis, gurus, imams, sheiks, et cetera. This is a truth of the 'ddin.

In the 'ddin the essential nature of God is held to be beauty, compassion and mercy. And our fitra ~ the essential, primordial nature of our own souls, is also held to be beauty and goodness. This is how we come into being: as beauty, from beauty, as a goodness, out of Mercy.

Thus, the central inborn attribute of our God-given conscience is a profound moral and spiritual beauty.

Sadly, unfortunately, culture often works to deform this God-given conscience. Our often degrading print, broadcast, and other media, even certain aspects of our own religious traditions, may work to mask our spiritual beauty, and to instill a false view, an illusion of spiritual ugliness.

From Judaism we have the angry, vengeful, exclusive egregore of the chosen people, and a several millenia-old body of law in the Talmud that sanctions the mistreatment of children, and all who are not Jews. An ugly picture. In Christianity we have been burdened with fear and revulsion at our own physical natures, with the albatross of original sin hung around our necks, along with the false notion that only by praying to Jesus, who was indeed a unique prophet of God, can people know and express their love of God. In parts of the sharia of Islam we have many absurd, often obsessive and even draconian rules and punishments, covering things from obscure aspects of personal grooming to millenium-old culture-bound ideas of social behavior and custom. All of the foregoing, each in their own ways, can and frequently do form tableaux of spiritual ugliness.

So we may suffer, even those of us brought up with faith in God and within a religious tradition, from a refusal to let go of deeply embedded, culturally-instilled illusions of our own spiritual ugliness. And of course the purveying of ugliness, particularly debased views of human nature and socially "acceptable" speech and behavior by the media industry does much to make this already dire situation far worse. And the reactionary forces of secular humanism, a form of idolatry unto itself, exacerbate the situation even more.

These are forces with which we must struggle internally, as well as with our outward behavior, throughout each day of our lives.

We find that we must strive to recover our fitra, our primordial and pristine spiritual and moral beauty, and work to re-establish it, to nurture it and to strengthen it.

And while our primordial conscience may then become present in something resembling its pristine state, we may yet remain like the once ugly duckling, now grown to physical maturity, who needs a mirror and some reassurance in order to realize that we are in fact beautiful swans.

Our culturally instilled fear and reluctance to accept and acknowledge this, our own spiritual beauty, over time can become reified into an actual inability to perceive this beauty, a veritable spiritual blindness imposed upon us by the same sick culture whence it arises. And it functions thus, via the process of cultural reinforcement, as that very thing which most serves to keep the ugliness going.

This moral agnosia or spiritual blindness is thus culturally instilled and culturally self-perpetuating to our own detriment, and to the detriment of all.

We are helped immensely by the reassurance that there are many other lovely, intelligent, faithful, noble, and kind-hearted swans in this world. We need to pay attention to the evidence that there are many such people who are also beings of conscience working at large in this world, despite the programming to which we have been subjected with messages to the contrary. Such good people exist, and they may possibly see things in this world, ourselves included, more clearly than we may sometimes be able to see ourselves.

If we continually strive to find and hew to the good and to the morally beautiful, to immerse ourselves in such thoughts, and deeds, then surely goodness and beauty will come to occupy more and more of the space in our lives, and we shall find ourselves once again in the state of fitra.