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
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.