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Volume XIV - The Smiling Forehead

Part II - The Deeper Side of Life

Chapter XV
The Liberal and the Conservative Point of View

THERE ARE two points of view open to one in everything in the world: the liberal and the conservative. Each of these points of view gives a person a sense of satisfaction, because in both there is a certain amount of virtue.

When a man 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 the family 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 up a flame, lighted perhaps years ago, by holding it in his hand as a torch to guide his way.

When one looks at one's nation from a conservative point of view it gives one the feeling of patriotism – which today 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: one cares not for one's own children only, but for the children of the nation. Man gives his life when occasion arises to defend his nation, the dignity, the honor, the freedom of his people.

The conservative spirit is the individualizing spirit, which is the central theme of the whole creation. It is this spirit which has functioned as the sun; otherwise it was the all-pervading light, and it is the power of this spirit working in nature which keeps many branches together on one stem and several leaves together on one branch. It is again 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 that 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 the world has just passed through was 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 once was virtue becomes sin. Virtue or sin is not an action; it is the condition, it is the attitude which prompts one to a certain action, and it is the outcome of the 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 first was proud of his family, after having done his duty to his people, takes the next step forward which is to help his fellow-citizens, and the third step which is to defend his nation, he is progressing. His family pride and his patriotism are no doubt a virtue, for they lead him from one thing to another, better than the former.

Congestion comes when a person is set in his interest. If his family causes a man to be so absorbed in his pride and interest in it that nobody else in the world exists for him except his own people, or when a person thinks of his own nation alone – nothing else interests him, others do not exist for him – in this case his family pride or his patriotism becomes a veil over his eyes, blinding him so as to make him unable to serve either others or 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 turns into the sea and it spreads; it extends the waves of its love to friend and foe. Spreading further and further it attains perfection.

The Sufi message is not necessarily a message of pacifism. It does not teach to make peace at any and every cost; it does not condemn family pride or patriotism; it does not even preach against war. It is a message to make one conscious of the words of the Bible: 'We live and move and have our being in God' – to realize this and to recognize the brotherhood of humanity is the realization of God. The natural consequences of this will bring about the spirit of brotherhood and equality and will result in preparing the outer democracy and the inner aristocracy which is in the nobility of the soul whose perfection is hidden under the supremacy of God.

checked 10-Nov-2006