Volume VIIIa - Sufi Teachings
THE CONSERVATIVE SPIRIT
THERE ARE two different points of view open to one about everything in the world: liberal and conservative; and each of these points of view gives a person a sense of satisfaction, because in both there is a certain amount of virtue. When someone looks at his family from the conservative point of view he becomes conscious of family pride and acts in every way so as to keep up the honor and dignity of his ancestors. He follows the chivalry of his forefathers and by looking at it from this point of view he defends and protects those who belong to his family, whether worthy or unworthy. In this way he helps to keep going a flame which has perhaps been alight for many years, by holding it in his hand all through life as a torch to guide his way. And when one looks at one's nation from a conservative point of view it gives one a feeling of patriotism, which is the substitute for religion in the modern world. It is no doubt a virtue, in the sense that one begins to consider one's whole nation as one family. It is not only for one's own children that one cares, but also for the children of the whole nation. Man gives his life when occasion arises to defend his nation, or the dignity, the honor, and the freedom of his people.
The conservative spirit is the individualizing spirit, which is the central theme of the whole of creation. It is the spirit which has functioned as the sun; but for this spirit there would be only the all-pervading light, and it is its power working in nature which keeps many branches together on one stem and a number of leaves together on one branch. Again, it is this spirit working in man's body which keeps man's hands and feet together, thus keeping him an individual entity. But there is always a danger that this spirit, if increased, may produce congestion. When there is too much family pride man lives only in his pride, forgetting his duty towards mankind and not recognizing anything which unites him with others beyond the limited circle of his family. When this congestion is produced in a nation it results in all kinds of disasters, such as wars and revolutions with violence and destruction. The nightmare that humanity has recently experienced has been the outcome of world-congestion produced by the extreme of this same spirit.
This shows that it is not true that virtue is one thing and sin another. The same thing which was once virtue may become sin. Virtue or sin is not any action; it is the condition, it is the attitude which prompts one to a certain action, and it is the outcome of an action which makes it a sin or a virtue. Life is movement, death is the stopping of the movement; congestion stops it, circulation moves it. The conservative spirit is useful in so far as it is moving, in other words, as it is broadening itself. If a person who is proud of his family, after doing his duty to his own people takes the next step which is to help his fellow-citizens, and the third step which is to defend his nation, he is progressing. Both his family pride and his patriotism are no doubt virtues, for they lead him from one thing to another which is better.
Congestion comes when a person is absorbed in his own interest. If he is so taken up with his family and its pride and interest that nobody else in the world exists to him except his own people, then his patriotism becomes a veil over his eyes, making him blind so that he is neither able to serve others nor even his own. In selfishness there is an illusion of profit, but in the end the profit attained by selfishness proves to be worthless. Life is the principal thing to consider, and true life is the inner life, the realization of God, the consciousness of one's spirit. When the human heart becomes conscious of God it is like a bubble which turns into the sea; it spreads and it extends the waves of its love to both friend and foe; and spreading further and further it attains perfection.