Monday, August 17, 2009

More Marxisnm and Mysticism

Muhammad Maroof Shah

I Couldn't resist the fingers hastly wishing to type the following lines. Sorry for ur time. u can take ur time to read it as per ur convenience. i began to write one paragraph but ended up in writing few pages. Sorry for length.

It is unfortunate accident of history that religion n Marxism collided with each other. they have colloded because of misperception from either side. They talk of the same man, the same earth and are geared to serving his multfarious needs in their own ways.Had Marx and Engels endeavoured to sift the chaff of so-called religion from the grain of intellect (nous) centred mystical truth in them, had they been more careful to appraise religion's inteelectual dimension and had not linked religion with capitalism as if it was not essentially human prorogative, at the very centrer of Homo Sapiens's evolution and deveopment, had they been more sensitive to the finer asopirations of all men which include the reverce for the sense of wonder and mystery too primordial to be explainable with reference to mundane material laws of production, right to love unbounded, instinct for unalloyed beauty that no utilitarianism can explain away,. a desire to rise above the given,, our access to a consciousness that transcends and witness all objects or identifications made with them ordinarily, a wish to see life as a gift, a holy thing that no permutation of atoms in motion could produce they would have integrated the religious element with their worldview rather than dismissed it or acknowleding some consolatory but at root illusory role to it. It would have served marxism. No logic can erase the dazzling evidence of transcendence at all planes, from quarks to superclusters of galaxies and from a flu virus to human brain. The world is charged with the grandeur of God(sacred) according to all religions and almost all philosophies of the world, all poets, all worshippers of beauty, all lovers in love, all artists who dissolve their egos in their art. Workers have been sustained in their drudgery and in their moments of leisure and contemplation by God. Man lives by God because God is life (HaYY in Quranic terminology and Life in Biblical terminology). God is I am ness of which no sane man is doubtful. This is how He described Himself in dailogue with Moses in the Bible. No atheist doubts God in these senses. Atheists are not fools and only the fools have said in their hearts that there is no God as the Bible.

Religions are united with the Marxism on many points especially in building a just society but don't stop at that. Their work begins where the work of welfarist Marxism ends. Individual starts exploring his limitless resources for spiritual development when his belly is first taken care of. Marxism n religion can complement though on metaphysical questions it is advised to keep silence and focus on practical needs or issues, on what could be done to amelorate suffering.
Marxism recognizes all the needs of the body and works for their fulfilment. Economy is basically a question for body. Religion focusses on our psychological/intellectual/spiritual needs about which Marxism doesn't primarily propose to focus. Marx is primarily political economy and it is Engels who sought to build the grand narrative of dialectical materialism Marxism has proved disastrous in its views on family, social Darwinism, genetics, human psychology etc. Metaphysics is secondary to practical program for socioeconomic emancipation that classical Marxism propounds. For religions too - yes all religions besides Buddhism- metaphysics/theology is secondary.
Marxism n religion always meet because man is body, soul and spirit (u can use more demythologizing terminology when talking about soul n spirit, say psyche/mind/ and consciousness respectively). marxism takes ample care of the body. It has shown little interst in many forms of consciousness that men have explored knowing primarily only the consciousness associated with jiva or individual ego which even religion recognizes as mortal or determined by social/environmental factors or material reality. There is no serious work by any Marxist (excepting Marcuse) on psychology and psychoanalysis as psyche was reduced to body ultimately in Marxist ontology.
Historically man has to live many lives, at many planes and Marxism guides him admirably on certain planes but other planes it chooses either to ignore or complacently dismiss in reduxctionist vein.
Marxism attempts to feed me,clothe me and shelter me and gets opprtunities and lesisure for me to pursue my intellectual/spiritual desires. But it is not its prerogative to tell me what my higher needs are and how to approach them. Marxism has yet to give these questions sufficient attention.If marxism aims at being a comnprehensive way of life, a sort of religion it needs to do a lot more thinking and must enter into a constructive dialogue with world's traditions. Feudalism n slavery are not the only thing in world traditions.
No religion not even excluding Christianity takes it to be a private affair only. Yes beliefs are private things to which even a believer himself may not have full access sometimes but religion is not belief. religion is faith that demands transformative action both at individyual level. Jihadi spirit that ideally seeks to fight oprression of any kind is a part of all religion. Religion doesn't just condemn the unjust, the transgressor (i.e.the sinner, to use less fasionable term) but seek to get righteousness to rule just like Marxism which instead iof cursing the explotors fight them off. Indian religions and philosophical systems have seen themselves as ways of life. Islam too is not a religion but AdDeen which impliess a way of life. Confucianism has no theology like Buddhism but like the latter is a transformative course of action or way of life. Archaic religions have been ways of life. Christianity is a way of life. Jesus's statement to give Ceaser his due has been gloriously misread.Secularism is a modern hersy which is even incompatible with Marxism because the latter attempts to mould all aspects of life in accordance with its vision, its beliefs. Secularism is a stooge to capitalist ruling classas as it keeps religion at bay and will not allow a Jesus to preach against riches, a Tolstoy to preach against feudal lords and plead for distributing all our belongings, a St. Francis or or Abu Zarr to criticize wealtrhy rulers and landowners, a Marx to attack the State based on the worship of desiring self or the Mammon of money. Marxism can't be seculer in this sense. It imposes belief on all institutions of society as do different traditional religions. Secualism is an exclusivist ideology that is incompatible with all those States that attempt to interfere in the lifestyle of the upper/rich classe which is to enjoy comforts of life, unbridled desires, lust, diversions in decadent and artificial art, to kill time not by labour but by many vanities against which Both religious critics such as Tolstoy and Marxist critics have reacted. Of course if secularism is tolerence for religions or different beliefs, a rejection of fundamentalism, and a form of humanitarianism religions have no quarrel with it and plead for it.Marxists have too readily and simplistically embraced secularism that historically arose at a time when imperialism saw moral content of religions as a threat. Of course the Church was a hurdle in itself against human freedom and tolerance and secularism did a positive work in countering it. Modern capitalism is incompatible with the sermon of the Mount, with Islam, with any talk that speaks in the name of the other (what are commandments of different religions but care for the other - sin n guilt arise only when one fails to encounter the other with infinite care, in almost Levinasian sense.) Modernist critics of commandments speak ultimately for the unbridled desire of the self-centric ego principle. Religions have never been against enjoyments in life. they define God as Joy or ananda. All things are lawful if enjoyed within God, i.e., in a way that respects the rights of the Other, the whole, the environment. Sex is sacred to most traditions and even a road to nirvana in tantra and kashmir shaivism. Biblical prophets were great celebrators of the body and its urges (David is a typical example) So were legendry Krishna and the Prophet of Islam
Perhaps marxists need to see modernist rejection of religion also as another move of capitalism rather than a liberating thing in the service of forces of progress. I don't deny that historically priests of all traditions have stood against the working class and for the ruling class but priests are , generally speaking, a business class in the eyes of founders of religion. Jesus fulmninated against them and the prophet of islam intended to abolished all clericalism and priestrocracy. Budddhism is antipriest by its very definition.....
All religions are agreed that individual immortality is illusion! Yes soul is an individual thing and doesn't suvive and must be killed according to Jesus and others if we are to reach Father's kingdom. What survives is supraindividual Spirit/Intellect. Our dreams, hopes, illusions, delusions, aspirations all are noughted. Truth alone survives. All religions ask us to die before death, to pass through the illusion of individuality, little i which injures, appropriates, kills, exploits, hates. In deep love we are in contact with our supraindividul dimension as in enjoyment of great poetry or art, music etc and when we privilege the other over ourselvers. In great joy, in all experiences of ecstasy, in tears of gratitude and joy, in selfless work, in contemplation, in all great things that move us we access the supraindividula centre in us (which is not ours but is in us). Everytime u smile, u love, u appreciate beauty and Galib and Kashmir and are m,oved by thew suffering of of all underdogs or havenots u r have been at the centre of values
Love saves the world n not religion but the question is what is love and wherefrom does it come. Jesus's n Sufism's definition of God is that God is love. Love flowers into compassion to become the central tenet of Buddha. religion talks about nothing but charity and love as Augustine said. The thing is to differentiate between love that God is and idolatrous identifications of love with any limited thing such as the self, the nation, the particuler religion.
No religion has talked about remote transcendental ideality. Buddha brethes God so does Jesus. Ask zen masters n Sufis of what remote territory they speak. Only the unenlightened ( they are in majority unfiortunately) posit such a remote terroain for God. For mystics God is in this very mioment, the vitality and mystery and beauty of every moment. He is the food also as Indian scriptures assert. (Vedic religion easily betrays its earthly connection in its prayers- In fact religion is earthly. Heaven is the dimensuion of the earth, so to speak. Belivers in Islam, in Christianity pray for daily bread and not heavenly manna. Prayers are not addressed to anyone in heaven but to our own creative founts which can move mountains. A lay believer is of course too simplistic to understand that real prayer is monologue ratrher than a dialogue, there being none but the Self really existent or the real Doer). He is the rain when the earth thirsts for it. He is the bosom of the beloved, the lap of the mother though he is much more than that as well. He is also the cry of the person in pain. He is Life in all its hues. Matter is Spirit in space-time embodiment. Without God there is death or enormously impoversihed sense of life. Love prepares millions of breakfasts every morning. We owe our everything from food to love to something which is not ours but the Other, Nature. This Great Other which subsumes nature's laws, its fecundity, its vitality, its bounuty is called God.
It is unfortunate that dialogue between the two worldviews which converge at many points and could easily complement each other has become difficult due to predecided rigid positions. Marxism professes to be scientific and thuis open to change, to accomodate any rational-empirical consideration. I can't understand its fear of the vision that has built all the civilizations of the world, almost all the great works of art and architecture and most of the institutions in whose shelter we have been working and must work in future as well.
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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Marxism and Religion

By Muhammad Maroof Shah

The spirit of Islamic law, best implemented in Sufi ethics, is anticapitalist and Marxists are yet to approach it from that perspective. Islam doesn’t abolish private property but it does abolish the will to hoard or accumulate riches and the psychological basis of whole capitalist economy and provides an antidote to the sin of sloth or evasion of work which afflicts Marxist states. To each according to his need – the Sufis volunteer to tell u that they have lesser and lesser needs. From each according to his ability – from only a karma yogi or a Sufi can u extract maximum of work with minimum demand for wages.

It seems that Marxism has committed an ideological blunder by linking its theory of capital to materialist metaphysics. Marxism need not be antireligious; in fact religion could prove its greatest ally and let it be noted that none of the religions is compatible with capitalist view of man and its desire-centric, self-centric other-negating perspective. Historically it is religion that has been the source of protest against social and economic injustice. It is religion’s new prophets, who stood against the corruptions of older religions under the class of priests/Pharisees/ Brahmans. What is Buddhism if not the rejection of Brahaminstic hegemony? What is Christianity if not the rejection of legalistic moralism and suffocating ritualism to which Judaism had degenerated in the hands of its exoteric authorities? Christianity is protest of Christ against the rich class, against everything that stifles human spirit/freedom and degrades him. What is Islam if not a revolutionary social democratic movement against all clericalism, world denying asceticism, abuse of power by feudal lords/kings and dictatorships. What is Jihad if not the use of force against all oppression that is going anywhere against anyone. It is jihadi spirit in us which inspires us to take arms against capitalists. Ideally all religions are against all kind of greed, hoarding, exploitation of any kind at any level and thus against the root of capitalist mindset. All religions seek transcendence of self or ego because all problems – from existential to socioeconomic that have bedeviled man are ultimately traceable to the delusion of self which isolates us from non-self or other and defines one’s universe from a very constricted, separating and limiting viewpoint of egoistic individuality. Annata, rightly interpreted, is the fundamental doctrine of all religions and traditional philosophies as perennialists have pointed out. And this doctrine alone cuts at the root of all capitalism. Capitalism is ultimately traceable to a wrong view of the self.

If we take mysticism as the heart of all religions as has in fact been done historically or traditionally – name any great traditional authority in any religion who is not a mystic or mystically minded (and also philosophically oriented as well – Nagarjuna, Sankara, Augustine, Ghazali, Ibn Arabi, Aquinas, Maimonedes, Lao Tzu) we can exonerate it from the charges of complicity vis-à-vis exploiting class. All religions are visions based on the centrality of love and transcendence of ego. Ibn Arabi expresses the insight of all religious/mystical traditions when he says “I follow the religion of love/wherever the camels of love take me I go.” Sufism is one of the most forceful expressions of the religion of love. One wonders how superficially Marxist critics of religion have usually read central moral (which, in one sentence, amounts to denial of self with its empire of desires that capitalist worships) aesthetic, ( which is identification of the Good with the Beautiful and celebration of beauty as divine in whatever mode – in nature, in women, in art etc.) and cognitive or intellectual ( which posits truth as the only God and identifies love with truth and goodness – the Platonic triad of goodness, beauty and truth is everywhere at the heart of religious/mystical view of God) dimensions. It is in the names of this God that religions identify with the pursuit of values – truth (and this implies science, logic and pursuit of “right view” of things to which philosophy aspires) beauty and goodness and justice that all revolutionaries including Marx speak. There are no dogmas in any religion if we read deep enough into the heart of different theologies. For instance Islam’s central thesis la illah illallah translates itself in deeper mystical (Sufistic) metaphysical terms as there is no truth but Truth, no beauty but Beauty, no reality but Reality, which implies a rejection of all (human, conceptual, rational metaphysical) absolutes as idolatry and identifies God with what is, the reality itself. What theology calls God, Sufis call Reality. All religions declare that it is truth/knowledge which makes man free and God is identified with intellect (nous)/knowledge/truth in all traditions. Marxism too fights in the name of truth it thinks it has access to. Religion doesn’t define the truth it advocates. It simply stands for truth (sat). Wherever truth is, God is. Truth is God. And it implies that truth is above everything, above every god that humans could imagine. It means truth is God and whosoever pursues truth is worshipping God. Normal humans are always worshipping truth, beauty, perfection, goodness in different guises though it is always a danger that they misplace and misjudge true loci of values ( Capitalism identifies truth and salvation with the life of desiring self which is a case of misplaced absolute).

Religion is not a propositional discourse at all. Faith for mystics/Sufis is nothing but heroic attitude towards life and the universe, an attitude of affirmation, a great Yes-saying stance in Nietzsche’s terms. For all religions God is Life, all life is manifestation or self disclosure of God. All forms express the Supraformal Vitality. God is expressly identified with Life in all religions. Religion aims at the grand celebration of life, richer life, larger life, life eternal. Asceticism is never an end in itself; it is only a means to the end of celebrating/enjoying life in all its grandeur, beauty and sublime depths and heights. Ecstasy, experience of happiness/bliss is the fruit of all ascetic exercizes/disciplines. Humans seek happiness and in fact the end of life is happiness as the Chinese explicitly believe. Religion is nothing if not the art of realizing this end. In fact all religions identify their goal with the pursuit of conquest of misery/pain/alienation and celebration of the joy (ANAND) that it names God. God, in one mystic’s phrase, is the juice (rasa) of existence. God is the principle of enjoyment/bliss. Any experience that is enjoyable in true sense is, in religious terminology, experiencing/worshipping of the divine. Whenever we enjoy anything we are praying in religious terminology. Samsara is nirvana not only for Nagarjuna and Zen but for Sufis as well and in fact for the mystics of all traditions (Baal mystics, primitive dancers, dancing dervishes etc. to name a few). Eternity is here and now. This very garden is the Garden of Eden if one looks at it with the eyes of love as Dostoevsky’s Father Zossima says. God is love as Jesus put it. Religion is “orgasm with the whole universe” as one modern mystic has put it. Religion proposes itself the end of beautification of life and as far as it fails to achieve this end (as has happened especially in Christianity) it fails to live upto its own ideal. It is no wonder that we owe most beautiful art, architecture, poetry, music to religion. Modern art is ugliest in the history of art as Coomaraswamy alleged because it no longer worships the God that stood for and grounded beauty (Plato’s God, like Sufism’s God, is Beauty. Sufism is base on a prophetic tradition that identifies perfection in religion with ahsan, which means to do beautiful) Faith is not an assent to an abstract proposition that you can prove or disprove by other means but in Iqbalian terms “vital appropriation of the whole universe.” It is not belief but that thing which sustains all great tragic heroes in the face of suffering, which shows fist to the world’s absurdity and makes possible to affirm the world. That is why it can move mountains. Ultimately mysticism aims at knowledge, realization and transcends mere believing posture. Atheists too have a tawhid, though a truncated one, as Ibn Arabi notes. God is a manifest truth according to the Quran. No doubt can possibly be entertained regarding him. Only the fool has said in his heart that there is no God. God is the Light of the World. God is the Seer when we see anything; He is the Hearer when we hear anything. He is the Hidden and the Manifest, the Alpha and the Omega. All these statements, that come from world scriptures, imply that God is not a proposition but living experience, in fact the ground of all experience. God, in Ibn Arabi’s phrase, is a percept rather the concept. God of mystics is not the personal anthropomorphic God of exoteric religion. He is, in simple terms, Existence/ Life/ Sat/ Beauty or Value experience. Religion is to eat when hungry and sleep when one feels the need for it as one Zen mystic said. God is three pounds of flex as another Zen master put it. Ultimately no dualism such as sacred/profane, earth/heaven, samsara/nirvana is warranted for consistent Unitarianism or nondualism. Everything speaks of the beloved or is the beloved, so to speak, for a Sufi. All things are wonderful, Infinite or portals to the Infinite and can be tasted and give us a joy that is too deep for tears. If religion is faith, it is faith in the sacred mystery of existence, in its goodness and this faith is absolutely needed for our odyssey of life. It is this faith which propels science and prevents us from committing suicide or choosing not to be.

Almost all the critics of religion have affirmed the mystical core which is the heart of religion with which neither humanism (of any variety) nor Marxism as such could have any serious disagreement.

I believe that Marxism needs, for its own interests, interrogate its dogmatic metaphysics and dogmatic rejection of spirituality. Mystics and prophets have always been critical of that kind of religion which modernity and humanism found problematic on many accounts. Even Nietzsche, the deadliest critic of religion, found little to critique in the person of Jesus (it is another matter that he gloriously misunderstood Paul). Annanda Coomaraswamy has little difficulty in seeing Nietzsche (and personally I find not much difficulty in extending this comparison to Marx if we grant mystical understanding of religion and delink his metaphysics from his economics which I think could be done without much difficulty) in the world fraternity of mystics and demonstrating superman to be an adaptation of eastern idea of arhat or jivan mukta. There is no proposition (name it if there is) which religion dogmatically asserts and asks us to deglutinate mechanically or forcibly. For the mystics God is to be tasted, drunk rather than merely believed in. Rumi has said that if kings knew what we have they will leave their palaces without a moment’s hesitation. Eckhart has said that there is a still centre in our heart, accessible in principle to everyone, accessing which one forgives nature all the pain that it brings us in life and one is instantly in the kingdom of heaven. Eternity is not an abstraction for these adventurers of consciousness. Appeal of sex, music, nature contemplation, great poetry and art is because in all these experiences one transcends the narrow centre of individuality or earthly ego. The most abused and mocked word in Marxist view – transcendence – is at the heart of all these uplifting, soothing experiences. All joy is derived from this self transcendence in every experience. If religions speak of transcendence it is of this joy, great joy in things phenomenal that is available or experinciable for everyone to some extent that it hints. We don’t live by bread alone – no Marxist will contradict the Bible on this point. We live for happiness, for joy and these things are fundamentally important and it is for these things that people toil for bread. Religion as spirituality carters to this hunger for larger life, more fulfilled life, more celebratory life, life where love blooms in this very world (Jesus’ name for transcendence is love and Buddha’s term is karuna, compassion). Religion is the bread of the soul. Our instincts compel us to seek beauty, happiness, fulfillment, transcendence. And God is the conventional name of these things. There is no personal God conceived in anthropomorphic humanized terms in any religion! Semitic religions posit a God who is Being of being, rather than a being among other things, a superbeing or supermind separate from the world. An abstraction or remote being which is irrelevant (Sartre and Camus) and that could become incredible or die in a particular epoch (Nietzsche) or be absent (Heidegger) or on leave (Kafka) or to be sought by denying the world is not the living God of religions/mystical traditions. Modernity has chosen not to be fully open to the other, non-self, love and worshipped individuality and that is why it has been led to pessimistic nihilism and absurdism. If one is happy, full of love, ever busy helping the needy and all kinds of victims and fights for justice on all planes and realization of beauty and contemplation of mystery of the world one is on the right path according to all religions.

There can be no suppression which is not self defeating. Orthodox Marxism has been suppressing freer expression and fulfillment of our poetic or aesthetic self, our meaning-seeking metaphysical self, our appetite for intangible things. Religion is ultimate luxury, the wine that is irresistible – ask Sufis what this pain of love is, what joy is in the Beloved’s embrace. As long as people will love each other they will not be prepared to relinquish their right to love and demand love, love that exceeds all bounds and approaches Infinite. All love is holy and life giving. And God is love. As opposed to every romantic and dualistic understanding of love, mystics envision love as lying at the centre of reality. Love is at the centre of reality in Plato, in world mystical traditions and in fact in all religions. Love and self-denial go hand in hand. The denial of the self is the cornerstone of all religions. This allows the higher self, the Spirit, the Inner man in us to take reigns and the triad of values, Goodness, Beauty, Truth are then realized and life becomes transformed from its otherwise alienated, fragmentary, fear ridden, sorrowful, restless state to Life Divine, which is integrated, blissful life that radiates peace and love. The attributes of divinity are appropriated by the traveler on the path. Religions build on this transformed vision of life and worship God as Love, Beauty, Goodness and whatever beautiful names or aspects that there are.

Religion, one could well assert, teaches nothing. If one lived life without alienation, in thanksgiving, in gratitude, gaily, joyfully there would have been no need of religion. Religion seems to exhort, to issue commandments, to assert propositions because we are so far from Life. Buddha doesn’t talk. Neither does a Taoist, nor a Zen mystic. The story that relates how Zen Buddhism was born when Buddha took a flower in his hands and said that his message stands delivered is illustrative in this regard. Another story of a Zen mystic whose sermon was about to begin that a songbird alighted and started singing. The Zen mystic listened to the song and went off saying that the sermon stands delivered. Experiencing God or enlightenment for mystics is not a goal in future, a search for some metaphysical abstraction, a superterrestrial Being out there, a vision of something, an experience as distinct from other “ordinary” experiences, a secret journey or adventure into the higher realms or the next world. It is simply conscious experiencing of the world of phenomena. The vision that is not egocentric but simply a pure witnessing, a pure observance where no desire is projected into the observed, a perception unhindered by conceptual construction of the mind or desires is experiencing God. It isn’t achieved; it happens. Rather it is. It is not a cognitive encounter with the objects, this worldly or otherworldly. It is not a state, a special ecstatic state distinguishable from the normal conscious state. The mystic is extraordinarily ordinary person. Enlightenment is dropping of all seeking, all future oriented enterprises. It is simply to be as one is in pristine innocence. It is just to be oneself without all conditionings. Experiencing God is experiencing world with open eyes, the eyes unburdened by the past memories or future dreams. It is like looking at the world with fresh eyes of the child. It is to experience the world without experiencer. It is pure experiencing where experiencer and experienced have dissolved as distinct entities. It is pure knowing as distinguished from ordinary knowledge that presupposes the subject-object or knower-known duality. It is seeing with a still mind.

A few comments on what Islamic understanding of Prophet or the institution of messengership really means for Muslims (these I have excerpted from my paper I recently presented in a seminar in Kashmir University where I argued, quoting mystical sources of Islam, for universal understanding of prophetic station in existential terms)

The Prophet stands for all that is noble, sublime, grand and great in life. He is the voice of freedom against all man-made shackles, against everything that enslaves man, his thought and his imagination. Every flower that blooms, every bird that chips, every child that smiles, every blade of grass that grows proclaim the grandeur of the Prophet. Life is a supreme value and so is freedom and the Prophet is the metaphysical ground of life and its essential transcendence, its freedom. All our endeavors, whether we know it or not, are ultimately directed to affirm and promote life and thus praise the Prophet who is understood as the Pole of existence. Our breathing, despite us, goes on and thus we go on blessing the Prophet. Wherever and in whatever form life dances and smiles there the Prophet is blessed. The prophet can’t be really mocked. Can the sun, the light, be mocked except by the blind? “The more they blaspheme against God, the more they praise God” said Meister Eckhart. The same can be said about the blasphemers. The Prophet symbolizes life, larger life, richer life, life glorified (that is deeper import of his name Muhammed which means the praised one). Who can condemn life without condemning himself at the very moment? Only the fools spit at the sun; it returns on their own faces. The Prophet, existentially interpreted, is the ideal pole of man, the principle of transcendence and freedom of Spirit that makes authentic life possible. The Prophet is the positivity of manifestation as he is the principle of Manifestation. This is the import of traditional understanding of the phenomenon of Muhammad or Noori Muhammadi. For Islam it is the Light of Muhammad that is the principle of existence, otherwise things would never come from their archetypal abyss to the world of forms. Durood is a means of reenchanting the deserted garden of the world. Durood, understood at its deepest spiritual/metaphysical level, is a means of integration, individuation and dealienation. It connects us to the depths of larger life, to the ground of our being. Life of care that is open to Being, to use Heideggerian terminology, is what durood aims at. Iqbal has expressed metaphysical understanding of the Prophet in his poem Zouq-o-Shouq and especially in the verse Aaya Kaiyanat ka mainie dareyab tu/Niklae teri talash mai kafla haay rang-o- bu that appears to me his best couplet in his entire na’t corpus. All endeavours are for realizing the station of Muhammad, all seeking is seeking of Muhammad, all roads lead to Mecca. History is moving prophetword. The electron, the earth, the sun, the galaxies all revolve round the centre called Muhammad. This is something which Gnostics and lovers can understand. We need to have nigahi isq-o-masti. One could possibly deny transcendent invisible God but who could deny Muhammad because esoterically and metaphysically understood he is the principle of manifestation or existence and thus our very breathing. ‘I see none but zulfi yaar everywhere’ exclaims a Sufi. Who is not moved by beauty and it is Muhammad, the Sahibal Jamal that is attracting us in a beautiful object. That is why beauty has saving or liberating power and why God loves beauty. The Prophet is life’s sweetness, its music, its rasa, its bliss and its celebration. Being that which manifests or unveils Essence is the green in the trees red in the roses and gold in the rays of the sun. He is this life in its positivity, in its totality. And he is the silence of the darkness. And he is the joy of light abounding life of the world. “In the rapturous vitality of the birds, in their splendid glancing flight: in the swelling of buds and the sacrificial beauty of the flowers: in the great and solemn rhythms of the sea” – there is the Muhammedan Light for the Gnostic or Aarif, for those who see with the eyes of God, who see their Beloved everywhere, those who have found eternity here and now. What ordinary people call life or existence or beauty the lovers of God call Muhammad. And let it be clear life is lived only by lovers in its fullness. God is love. God is ever blessing Muhammad according to the Quran. Understood in its deepest metaphysical sense this means God is blessing existence or life. That is why everything is said to be ever busy in glorifying God and in praising/blessing Muhammad. To be is to bless existence by very definition. So who can afford to deny Muhammad? Someone (such as atheists) could afford to be incredulous towards transcendent invisible Divinity but there can be no escape from the very air we breathe, the very sun that illumines our darkness, which are there because of God’s immanence in the world or because there is Muhammad, the Principle of Manifestation. The same applies to other traditions and their understanding of Christ/ Buddha etc.

Philosophy has interpreted the world (though this too needs qualification – it is only modern Western philosophy which is only interested in interpreting the world - , traditional philosophies everywhere have been disciplines of the self, ways of life, instruments for changing the world and always inextricably bound with religion) but religion has ever been for changing the world which it effects by transformation of will or self which is sought to be transcended.
Religion for the sages and the prophets (who alone are really qualified to speak for it or tell us what it is) has not been a sigh, a matter of consolation. Truth needs not be consoling. It is only human weakness and fear which seeks palliatives, and sighs for consolation. Mystics have been the daring souls, the boldest adventurers of consciousness. They had no need of sighs. Most great names in the history of mysticism have been from a background where neither poverty nor oppression would have decisively conditioned their outlook.

Marxism has fortunately learnt to be self critical and relinquished its dogmatism of strict determinism in base-superstructure. It needs to question its understanding of spirituality. It has mostly constructed an image of religion that has nothing to do with the religion of the heart as understood by mystical traditions. Marxism must enter into a dialogue with spirituality. It must acknowledge that scientism is riddled with great problems, that without spirituality of some kind we cease to be proper humans. What is the ultimate objective of Marxist struggle against class oppression if not the freedom of spirit, freedom to pursue higher values of life – knowledge (truth), beauty, love, creativity, happiness etc.? Marxism doesn’t believe that a well fed belly is the end of man. All humans are essentially one and essentially pursue (or should be pursuing) similar ends in life. Authentic life is the life of care for the other, life of love and compassion for all the underprivileged. Organic intellectual is concerned for the intellectual needs as well. And in fact intellectual and spiritual needs are one according to all mystical traditions. (How many know that in Islam it is intelligence which saves and Prophet is metaphysically universal intellect. This is true for Buddhism, Vedanta and Taoism as well.)
Marxist critique of religion has primarily been directed on some of its social manifestations or practices. It has yet to seriously engage with intellectual dimension of religion and mysticism as it had decided to reject everything smacking of religion and spirituality lock, stock and barrel. Religion is not to be identified with this or that social practice or theological dogma. In fact Marxism is itself highly vulnerable to criticisms on its metaphysical position. Its contribution in highlighting the all pervasive exploiting machinery of capitalism is to of immense value. But what sustains Marxism is its faith in the values of justice, equality and human fraternity, in the possibility of heaven here and now though it has an impoverished view of human potential for perfection and only imagines a poor heaven in secular terms. Marxism has found it easy to dub everything that it fails to understand or accommodate in the narrowly conceived dogmatic metaphysical system of dialectical materialism (life is a dialectical movement of matter and spirit though we don’t need to have a nebulous/essentialist/abstract view of spirit and then be compelled to deny it in the name of empiricism and positivism). A very problematic and vulnerable philosophy of science is presupposed by Marxism. As a metanarrative that explains everything in reductionist ideological terms Marxism faces serious critique. Nothing can explain away the element of mystery from the universe. Nothing can force men to surrender their instinct to be more than humans, to transcend the given, to adventure in higher, more fulfilling and ecstatic modes of consciousness, to dream of the perfection of heaven realizable here and now, to achieve lasting victory against the forces of pain and disequilibrium. As long as men seek happiness, love, peace, beauty and truth so long will religion as mysticism live. Religion is what we do with our solitude as Whitehead said. And ideally religion would be the greatest business in a classless society. Capitalism smothers human spirit and man will bloom only and god born in him (God is the ideal pole of man in Sufism and other mystical traditions) when he is free to pursue his higher needs that Maslow has so well classified. A classless society, it is hoped, will allow man to pursue this dream better. We are all mystics, rather privileged (or condemned) to be mystics. “The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss” as Carlyle said. And the only reason that I think that religion to be respectfully heard by a humanist or seculer Marxist is that we miss much if we miss God and that is tragic. Hell is not physical fire but painful realization that we have missed so much. Religion is only an invitation, an open invitation to all of us to Freedom, to Heaven here and now, to Eternity of this Moment. If these things are illusions we must remember that mankind in all climes and ages has entertained these illusions and we owe some of the most beautiful things to these illusions. The greatest thinkers, artists, philosophers, sages and prophets of all civilizations have been cherishing these delusions and have attributed everything grand and noble to them. If delusions, the products of “false” consciousness can be so fruitful for the betterment of man, why opt for reality that produces nausea, despair and horror (which mark modern literature)? Life without transcendence is like atheist’ version of tawhid – truncated view of the grandeur and joys of life as God is Life, Larger Life, Richer Life, Life sublime and grand, Life of perpetual wonder, creativity and joy. Life resists all attempts at its devaluation and negation by those who deem it to be futile and without any significance or meaning. Did Christ ask for anything more than choosing life and are religions commandments amounting to anything more than not harming life? Esoteric commentaries of scriptural commandments show that in the last analysis all these boil down to affirming and celebrating life. Man is condemned to choose life. Choosing death is relinquishing human status. And man is not prepared to be a stone as otherwise he would not proceed to scan God and judge his creation as absurd. I reproduce a quote from Attar, a Sufi poet, that sums up the essence of all mystical traditions and presents the inner meaning of all dogmas. Mysticism would invite Marxism for appropriating and sharing this treasure of love of which Marxism knows only an impoverished version.
“The whole world is a marketplace for Love,
For naught that is, from Love remains remote.
The Eternal Wisdom made all things in Love.
On Love they all depend, to Love all turn.
The earth, the heavens, the sun, the moon, the stars
The center of their orbit find in Love.
By Love are all bewildered, stupefied,
Intoxicated by the Wine of Love.

From each, Love demands a mystic silence.
What do all seek so earnestly? ‘Tis Love.
Love is the subject of their inmost thoughts,
In Love no longer “Thou” and “I” exist,
For self has passed away in the Beloved.
Now will I draw aside the veil from Love,
And in the temple of mine inmost soul
Behold the Friend, Incomparable Love.
He who would know the secret of both worlds
Will find that the secret of them both is Love.”
~ Farid Ud Din Attar

It is asserted by some Marxist critics of religion that Marxism and Mysticism should not be compared. Mysticism is ahistorical and it is concerned only with the individual salvation and it ignores injustice and oppression in the world. All these assertions don’t bear close scrutiny. To have a historical sense implies to be concerned with the present reality, to be concerned with transforming it, to be aware of material or temporal factors affecting our present reality. Mysticism has deep historical sense in all these senses. Prophets have originated civilizations and mystics have embellished it, beautified it, developed it. All great thinkers, with few exceptions, in all traditional civilizations have been either mystics or influenced significantly by mysticism. Most of great revolutionaries in history have mystical training or orientation. Great traditional art and architecture has been moulded by mystical impulse. Great literature in traditional civilizations is essentially mystical. hardly any great epic is not mystical. Great literature, even great tragedy, can’t be written except under the inspiration of mysticism. Nothing in traditional civilizations makes sense except in light of tradition to the making of which religion/mysticism fundamentally contribute. It is religion/mysticism which until the rise of Marxism made people aware of injustice and exploitation at the earthly plane. Buddha, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad were all critics of the establishment and spoke for the oppressed. Without resort to violence religious impulse has been able to feed countless people, to arrange their shelter and even work towards the freedom of the slaves. Islam has prohibited begging because its economy ensures that no one needs to beg. Even today most donors give in the name of God. It is another matter how the wealth to be donated has been acquired.

Sources of Marxism are mystical and its ends ape the end of mysticism. Hegel is an idealist and mystical philosopher. The prophetic revolutionary spirit of Marxism is an appropriation of Judaic inheritance. It is parasitic on mysticism for its appeal to the oppressed and it has won converts in the name of mysticism.

If Marxism wishes to be a humanism it must appropriate mysticism positively. Humanism affirms the value of man, his dignity and freedom. It speaks in the name of the values that Plato identified with God– though impoverishing all of them by severing ties with transcendence. Mysticism gives Marxism warmth and human touch otherwise it has no room, in its materialism and economic determinism, for anything that can accommodate love, compassion, goodness, beauty, justice, truth and nobility. The Darwinian-Hobessian-Nietzschean-Freudian worldview that is compatible with Marxism but not mysticism and that has been so influential in the modern world has little room for anything that makes life truly human as all truly human values are realizable only by love which is transcendence of the individual, the ego on which the former worldview is erected.

Marxism is utopian in thinking that the evil in man can be finally overcome by ameliorating economic discrepancy. It is also wishful thinking on the part of Marxism that classless state will make all people happy and that man does not need anything else than satisfaction of his biological needs (though it recognizes psychological and spiritual needs and thinks thatr it amply provides for them). Man has psychological needs which can’t be fulfilled in any system that vetoes transcendence as the painful tone of modern literature shows. Nihilism is a huge problem for any worldview that seeks all answers on purely rational and human plane. Absurdism is unavoidable and one really defenceless against the argument of why not opt for suicide in all purely rational and human centred worldviews as Camus has argued (rather shown how arguments asserting the contrary are so unconvincing). Man has spiritual needs – the most important component of his needs – and for millennia these needs have been fulfilled by religions as channels of transcendence. Now either we have to deny that these needs are real or assert that we can provide substitutes for transcendence. Both the options have been tried and have failed. That man will be a casualty in any worldview that puts ends above the means, that believes its metaphysics to be not only true but exclusively so and bans other views, that asserts that mankind has been mostly, throughout history, cherishing illusions is not difficult to see. Marxism asserts that mankind’s great thinkers have been duped by ruling class, that prophets too have been naïve in important matters. It asserts that almost all the people all the time throughout history have been fools or badly mistaken regarding an important matter of life and that all the institutions that civilizations have maintained have been primarily forms of exploitation. It writes off history of civilization as an effect of brutal struggle for power. It is also disputable to it that art has anything to do with truth, truth of a higher kind. It says that art, religion, philosophy are wholly understandable with reference to material conditions of the time. It denies real creativity and freedom to think. Even self reflection is ultimately not possible as consciousness can’t really detach itself from its determining conditions. Mystics have not found anything worthwhile. Poets are basically dreamers. Scriptures are neither holy nor true nor beneficial. Perhaps they are better burnt to ashes. Countless monuments of art and architecture have been built not by visions but by alienated unhappy men. Now all these positions that follow from a materialist metaphysics and absolute determinism based on material forces of production (granting relative autonomy of superstructures doesn’t mean much as ultimate determining force of the base is not denied) are difficult to accept for anyone who wishes to account for countless facets of history of civilization and culture. Marxism provides invaluable insight into the structures of society. It makes us aware that we are being exploited and it rightly identifies the key culprit. But it unfortunately too is a product of history, conceived by fallible men. It is wedded to a metaphysics and set of ideas that have a stamp of human thinking and therefore questionable or fallible thinking. Marxism besides being a science in political economy is also a speculation which can go wild and an exercise of imagination that may know no bounds. On purely scientific terms it made many erroneous assertions as has been amply demonstrated. It attempted to conceive of science in strictly Marxist terms and made big mistakes. Its attempt at Marxization of whole knowledge is an enterprise that doesn’t fulfill, at many points, strictly scientific criteria. It puts ideology before truth as it declares all ideas as unscientific which don’t corroborate the doctrines of dialectical materialism. Some Marxist thinkers have already shown flexibility in modifying the received dogma, in reconstructing Marxism and opening it up to many contemporary thought currents. I think the time has come that Marxism revaluate its reading of religion and be prepared to have a dialogue with spiritual traditions of the world. Hitherto it has been throwing the baby of mysticism with the bathwater of what is ordinarily identified with religion. Marxism has had phenomenal success, at least at theoretical plane, because it presented itself as religion or alternative to religion. Religions degenerate and exclude necessarily. So does Marxism. (One important authority on religion has written a book on world religions discussing all of them under the same headings or concepts and includes Marxism also in his account.) Russell called Marxism the religion of the twentieth century. Marxism will never die because it has elements of permanent value. So will not religion. The rise of religion and proliferation of spiritual cults has proved all those critics wrong who were confidant that religion will die very soon. Marxists have misread religion on almost all important points. They have rightly noted that religion is vulnerable to be appropriated by the exploiter. Religion as understood by the greatest prophets and sages in all traditions is neither consolation, nor a system of ideas, nor an attempt at representation of our relationship to reality nor a talk about this world or the otherworld. It is not a picture of the world. It is not a metanarrative. It is not a perspective or a view that could possibly be refuted. It is too existential an affair to be discredited. Science can, in no way, show it exit. Religion is four noble truths (not ideas or views) that Buddha who had a better sense of empirical reality than even Hume or positivists. It is not an idea, a concept, a view. The four noble truths can be put in the following way

1 There is suffering in the world. The suffering constituted by alienation, unfulfilled intention, bereavements, death, lack of knowledge, pain, misery etc. There is a malady of alienation, an alienation much deeper than that which separates a labourer from his work. The alienation of a labourer is an aspect of this alienation. Suffering is at the
2 Desire is the root of it. Craving to see things from the viewpoint of a self or ego, to construct a world according to our heart’s liking, to wish for inexistent or impossible things, to wish objective reality bend in the one’s service, to dictate terms to reality, to laws of nature, to be spared encounter with the other that humbles oneself or demands sacrifice, to grab other’s wealth, a wish to be consoled or fulfilled or exalted or praised or in other’s shoe, to possess this or that thing or object of love, to live long and to be spared encounter with death, with the other that seems to be hill, to wish to opt for suicide and so on.
3 There is an end to suffering. If there is no end then all those ideologies which claim to redress the wrong and bring justice are false. Those who believe that philosophy must also change the world believe that the problem has a solution. There is an end to suffering.
4 There is a way to end the suffering. Right view, right effort and right action are needed for that. All salvific schemes, this worldly and otherworldly prescribe paths to end the suffering. All religions prescribe essentially similar path. More precisely they don’t prescribe a path but describe a path which has resulted in ending suffering. One can try one’s own path but one may not reach the other end of the road. One is free to experiment at the cost of possibility of error.

For mysticism and many religions theology is dispensable. Metaphysics that reason constructs is dispensable. Theories about truth or reality are not necessarily relevant. Existential problems that knock too strongly to be ignored by anyone demand resolution or response and resolution. It is not the question of spiritual needs but pressing problems that we encounter all the time with which religion concerns itself. Religion is a human concern – nay the ultimate concern. Whatever constitutes our ultimate concern constitutes our religion. Sex, power, possessions, better foods are not our ultimate concerns. If they become they destroy us as they are self defeating.

Reductionism no longer works. Demythologization has exhausted itself and must squarely face the phenomenon called religion and the Mystery that eludes all conceptualization and rationalization. Science has learnt to be humbler and acknowledged that it misses much and can’t but miss it because of its methodology and limited concern. The question is don’t we need peace, contentment, equilibrium, harmony, beauty, knowledge. If Marxism can provide all these to everybody’s satisfaction and establish a State where individuals no longer have any appetite for intangible things, for transcendence all religions will find their fulfillment. If Marxism can’t provide, hasn’t provided and doesn’t promise to provide all these things to the superlative degree to which man demands and religions acknowledge it can’t substitute religion.
Religion is the most misunderstood thing in history. It is neither moralism nor a system of ideas or doctrines. It is neither otherworldly nor ascetic. It is neither ahistorical nor ignorant of social treality. It talks of man and not of the God of exoteric theology. It is no argument against religion that it has been misused and misappropriated. More people have been killed in the name of Marxism than in 50 years than in the history of religion in 1000years but that is no argument against Marx either. Religion is not what religion does. Neither is Marxism what Marxism does or is done in its name. Religion has, in the deepest sense, nothing to do with doing. Lao Tzu puts it so well. Nonaction accomplishes all actions and is the hardest “action” as Taoism says. Modernity is all action and that is why much sound and fury. Religion in its esoteric view concerns with being rather than doing. Religion is quality and Marxism is all quantity. Marxism is collectivism and religion neither individualistic like Capitalism nor collectivist but supraindividual. History is ample witness that both individualism acollelectivism have been dangerous.
Religion answers a different problem than to which Marxism and collectivism could be extremely dangerou though Marxism thinks that it dissolves the problem which religion seeks to address. Man is a complex creature with a complex set of needs. Man doesn’t live by bread alone and surely not for bread. He earns bread for something else and it is to that something to which religion concerns itself. Marxism concerns with man’s social self while as the individual to the individual self. Marxism limits itself to the temporal and the contingent though it thinks that there is nothing that transcends them but religion has its eye on the eternal and even grants that people know better about the worldly matters and should resolve them by collective effort. The spirit in man transcends history but Marxism refuses to look beyond history and asserts that what is not manifested in history is for all purposes unreal.
We need not defend mysticism against Marxism or pit them against each other. They cater to different domains of life and if we subtract the purely speculative or doctrinal material from Marxism it nicely complements the mystical side of our life. Marx is a mystic, albeit a secular one and not fortunate enough to have been vouchsafed the vision that makes man love life and bless it and conquer all the hardships besides purely material ones. Without bitterness of heart or resentment. A mystic is pure compassion while as Marx stops at concern for the other only. Marx makes it possible to feed and clothe millions – if it were not for Marx capitalism would not have accepted such compromises as welfare state and state regulations to certain extent in certain matters. Marx compelled the world to increase wages and take other measures for the welfare of labourers. Most of us need to be thankful to Marx for challenging capitalism so forcefully that proletariat have won some part of the looted booty back. Marxism has made a great difference to the labourer even in noncommunist countries. History has few benefactors greater than Marx. But lest we forgot the contribution of mystics and prophets. Most sciences, arts, crafts and much poetry cultivated in traditional cultures owe their origin and even development to mystical impulse. Coomaraswamy’s account of history of art and Guenon’s account of history of sciences which attributes all that is great and noble and enduring to the discoveries of intellectual intuition can’t be dismissed even if one accepts much of Marxist explanation.

Why is religion perceived as enemy of a socialist or communist state? It is an opium. It lulls workers to sleep. It is thus antirevolutionary. It is complicit with capitalism. It too exploits in the name of God when it extracts wealth from gullible masses. It creates false substitutes like the goods of the otherworld so that people don’t take the problems of this world very seriously. It encourages detachment that conflicts with the spirit of active involvement needed for changing the order of the world. It reconciles people to present ills by attributing them to fate or karma. It says resist not evil and believes that change of heart in the capitalist will do the needful. It is false consciousness or inverted view of the world. It merely provides consolation and not real help. It is not against private property per se. Brief comments on all these points are in order.
First of all let it be made clear that we need to distinguish between religion and mysticism and it is the later which is here defended and it is also assumed (but not argued as that is a separate issue) that it represents the core of religion. We also need to distinguish between sentimental mysticism and intellectual mysticism. Guenon has remarked that there is no mysticism in the
traditional East. Sentimentalism is modern phenomenon and associated with exoteric Christianity. Mysticism is based on Intellect as distinguished from reason and its discoveries are absolutely certain as there is no role of individual, his feelings and psychical processes in intellectual intuition. Ideally one shouldn’t talk of mysticism but of metaphysics – not the post-Aristotelian and Cartesean one but the one that concerns itself with the supraphenomenal but not the abstract by means of a supraindividual suprarational faculty called Nous or Intellect, is not speculation but experience and is as precise a science as mathematics with as concrete an applications as physics in all the domains of life feom arts and crafts to sciences and cultural expressions. Schuon’s Survey of Esoterism and Metaphysics is a representative work and must be read before one comments on mysticism and metaphysics. The West has no metaphysics or incomplete metaphysics and modern thought has substituted pseudometaphysics for traditional metaphysics. It is rational metaphysics rather than intellectual counterpart that has been a subject of study and critique in western philosophy. In traditionalist perennialist revaluation of Western philosophy Kant hardly derves the name of a philosopher and Descartes is an ignoramus arrogant man, Bergson a sopjesperson of subrational rather than intellectual or suprarational intuition. Theology should be autology otherwise it is wide off the mark. Theism is far from the pure truth of metaphysics. The existence of personal God is hardly an issue. Buddha is the metaphysician. The Supreme Principle is not Being but something that transcends being or existence.

There are other differences between (exoteric) religion and mysticism Where religion posits a beyond or the otherworld mysticism focuses on the present moment. For it heaven and hell also are now or never. Where exoteric religion posits a God removed from life mysticism posits no God other than Life and ever changing and newer manifestations of Reality. Where religion divides mysticism unites, where religion kills people or kill in the name of it mysticism spreads smiles. Nietzsche fulminated against the instinct for the beyond even if he himself died a martyr seeking that beyond vainly. The beyond of which the religion talks mysticism brings here and now, in history. It is the whisperings of the Holy Ghost or Spirit that make all of us worshippers of beauty, truth, love and justice.


1 History refutes the assertion that religion lulls people to sleep. Perhaps all great revolutions in history could be traced to the influence of religion. Prophets have been, generally speaking, social rebels, politically dangerous and that is why mostly mocked if not executed. They have challenge the establishment and existing socio-political-economic set up while standing for the oppressed, the sinners, the masses. The same is the case with mystics. They have been persecuted by both the paid officials of exoteric religion and the State. They have denounced riches and in many cases taken arms against the State. They have preached if not fought against the haves, the ruling class. Of course religion degenerates soon and as Stalin replaces Marx so a pope replaces Christ and Yazeed replaces Umer. Religion is hardly anywhere in sight today. In a generation only one or two live it in its true spirit as Simone Weil observed. In the degenerated populist form of Marxism Marx would not have counted as a Marxist as Christ is imprisoned rather than welcome when he arrives on earth in Dostoevsky’s novel. It is in the name of religion that people have dethroned many regimes. Jihad is an instrument to forcefully implement revolutionary spirit of religion. By definition it is directed against oppressors regardless of creed or colour or region. Any struggle carried for the sake of justice and freedom from oppression without any selfish motive can qualify as Jihad.
2 Religions have tolerated limited private property as Marxism has practically done though ideally both are against the possessive, hoarding, grabbing mentality. It is impossible to outlaw all personal possessions. Man has a distinct individuality or tastes and all men are not created with the same capacities and differ. Some must excel in one field and some in others. Psychologically people are not made to live in eternity but need to take serial time seriously. If genetics has a role and environment has a role in development of personality one can’t expect uniformitarianism. Given equal opportunities people will exert differently and differences will result. All labour is not equally productive or equally important for society. So wages will differ. Religion’s toleration of private property as that of Marxism is to be understood in light of these realities. Competition extracts the best from man. Industrial and scientific advancement of the erstwhile USSR are attributable to a great extent to its taking seriously the challenge from the capitalist world and wishing to excel or compete against them. The world would be terribly dull and boring where man’s sense of individuality and nature’s love for diversity is loathed. There will be little progress if the instinct to excel is suppressed in the name of collectivism. Healthy progressive society is an organism rather than a collection of individuals mechanically and uniformly made one. The differences are important and without them no social life is possible. If thinkers like Marx and writers like Premchand and artists like Picasso were not provided freedom by society the world including the world of proletariat would be much poorer. Thinking too is a labour and mankind has made great progress because of thinking class. Workers would be condemned to more degrading drudgery and their work will look more suffocating if thinking class, artistic class and mystics were not there. Monks are not parasites but safeguard the health of society by demonstrating the treasures of solitude and other vitalizing powers of spirit. Those who reject the institution of monkery are advised to provide alternatives to it. What the life of contemplation means may be gleaned from reading Merton. Japan would look much poorer without its Zen monasteries. The highest joys are accessible in contemplative life. Marxists would resent closing of theatre and entertainment industry but they don’t recognize the intellectual pleasures which even Epicurus rated higher than merely somatic pleasures are available to humans in contemplative life institutionalized by religion in monasteries and that too without many side effects which other forms of entertainment and pleasure seeking may have. God is Anand and denying man this supreme pleasure is like castrating men and deny them the orgasmic joy. Those who have not tasted the pleasures of contemplation are impotent men according to mystics. But mystical ecstasies are hallucinations according to its critics. For mystics who have often been exceptionally smart intellectually the world of form and colour that ordinarily is taken to be real or the reality is made of the stuff of dreams. I think we shall agree that the blind are no judge of colours. Those who have not had mystical visions can’t condemn those who had them. Of course one can criticize the attitude that overemphasis on life of contemplation that may harm social life but that doesn’t mean one can outlaw mysticism. But Marxist states have been so hostile to all expressions of religion and mysticism. Those who have not seen God have not seen anything as one mystic has said. God is a percept rather than a concept. Those who have cleansed the doors of perception or who have escaped the conditioning of the ordinary modes of perception and opened wide the eye of the heart have seen or experienced God, tasted God. Mystics would pity their Marxist critics for their blindness. Marxists would pity them for their incurable defects of perception and imagination. Let us tolerate both and not outlaw mystical activities in the Marxist State.
3 Mysticism has actively struggled against the self that seeks private property. Mystics have been reported to sell everything for society even when society in turn made bno commitment to share its wealth with him. Jesus rejected private property as did his Russian disciple Tolstoy. Prophet’s companions shared everything with their brothers. Augustine identified charity as the essence of scripture. Buddhism prefers begging to hoarding.
4 Priestly class has often been complicit with exploiting ruling class. That is why prophets like Jesus denounced them. Both mystics and Marxists have common enemy to fight and Marxist mode of fighting is more effective.
5 Of course mystics have been pacifists and have not advocated violence in meeting enemies. Marxism is more effective in meeting an enemy which understands no language other than violence. But mysticism can act as a counterforce against indiscriminate use of violence. If Lenin and Stalin were mystics as well they would not have allowed so much violence to be unleashed. Mystics do well to make us remember that it is after all life which should count above everything. If politicians cared about purity of means as well the world would have been a different place. Violence achieves only short term results. The change of heart achieves great results. Ashoka’s change of heart meant much for many people. Marxism imagines only war but mysticism believes that peace too can be an option sometimes to achieve the result. Psychology tells us that violence breeds reaction and thus more violence. If the world can’t be converted in the name of love it can’t be ever peaceful. Peace can’t endure there. We must war against capitalism with full force but we must work for transformation of the culprit self that ultimately makes capitalist a capitalist. That people could be transformed on large scale and make the world a better place is evidenced in history. This is what the Prophet of Islam achieved though Marxist reading would see only immoral calculative business mentality everywhere even in the self denying martyrs and mystics and prophets.
6 Marxist critics have straight away dismissed what they call as Oriental indifference or detachment towards social concerns. But how can they explain that Krishna urges Arjuna to fight, Rama is a great warrior, karma yoga and hatha yoga have been Oriental inventions. The life of action is not incompatible with the life of detachment at spiritual plane. Witnessing consciousness or spirit is not involved in action but transcend action. But efficient self is the agent of action and efficient and appreciative selves, to use the terminology used by Iqbal, are one self really. The famous parable of two birds from the Upanisads and other traditions makes the point of two selves admirably well. Detachment in spirit is not incompatible with involvement of body and soul in the world of action. Salvation itself needs great effort or involvement. Nothing is unreal or unimportant for a struggling soul. Buddha is actively involved in making his vision realizable for others. His nirvana doesn’t make him uncritical regarding oppression of Brahmins etc. Some mystics have led active military life. Vivekananda, Aurobindo and many other great names in contemporary Indian mysticism were all action centric. Reform movements have been launched by mystics. Many active resistance movements in history have been spearheaded or masterminded by mystics.
7 The doctrine of fate has been gloriously misunderstood by Caudwell and other Marxist critics. Far from reconciling people to their present sorry state it presupposes freedom to transform one’s condition for the better. It is scientific statement of the law of action and reaction at moral plane. It is largely verifiable by recourse to insights of psychology. There is no permanent soul or personality named So and so that could reincarnate in Oriental religions. Lord is the only transmigrant as Shankara says according to orthodox belief. Animistic conception of rebirth is foreign to traditional religion. Nondualism clearly implies that there can be no real bondage to karma. It is all illusory when seen from the perspective of a liberated soul. Even if karma is understood in populist sense it can be read to goad one to action as it asserts importance of action, either good or bad. Higher fatalism is there even in Nietzsche and Marxism in a way. The thing to affirm life despite perception of economic determinism and this is what Marxism preaches. Fate understood in metaphysical terms is the inward reach of a thing, a designation for latent or potential possibilities. It is realization of inner riches. It is unfolding of spirit in history in accordance with a law of its own development. Fatalism cannot be an excuse for sloth or indifference. Consistent nondualism sees neither sin nor karma nor fate. It is extremely subtle position that mystical traditions maintain which even scholars trained in traditional thought may miss not to speak of Marxist critics who have prior assurance that all doctrines are at the service of ruling class or capitalist or pious fraud or invented to console one’s felt impotence at the face of hostile reality. How casual one can be in understanding the other is illustrated in Marxist dismissal of religion. Marx was not so casual and so unsympathetic as his later followers.
8
Religion has no need to be apologetic about its key claims. It asserts them with absolute certitude and conviction. The Quran asserts that God is irresistible. None can resist him, not even an atheist Nietzsche or a Marx. God can’t possibly be doubted. God is manifest truth. The problem is that few people understand what stands for and why to be a skeptic is to be as fool. Either we have to state that the Bible and the Quran are stating a plain lie or attempt to understand what they mean by the term God. In simple terms God is the witnessing consciousness, the elusive thing inside us that asserts “I.” God is also synonymous with Reality/ Truth. The problem is that, as Coomaraswamy states:

Religion has been offered to modern men in nauseatingly sentimental terms (“Be good, sweet child,” etc.), and no longer as an intellectual challenge that so many have been revolted, thinking that that “is all there is to” religion. Such an emphasis on ethics (and, incidentally, forgetfulness that Christian doctrine has as much to do with art, i.e. manufacture, making, what and how, as it has to do with behavior) plays into the skeptic’s hands; for the desirability and convenience of the social virtues is such and so evident that it is felt that if that is all that religion means, why bring in a God to sanction forms of conduct of which no one denies the propriety? Why indeed? At the same time this excessive emphasis upon the moral, and neglect of the intellectual virtues (which last alone, in orthodox Christian teaching, are held to survive our dissolution) invite the retorts of the rationalists who maintain that religion has never been anything but a means of drugging the lower classes and keeping them quiet.

The cost of rejecting religion is too high to invite second thought from all those who care about mankind. Man is a religious animal. Modern anthropology is convinced of this though modernity has attempted various reductive interpretative maneuvers to explain away the undeniable. Man needs God more than he needs food. He can live for days without food but he can’t live a moment without having faith in life, in some meaning of it, in love. The moment one feels life is worse than death one despairs and that despair is hell. Consenting to live life and live it meaningfully, vibrantly, creatively is what faith signifies. Faith is not that you can dream of rejecting. Rejecting faith is rejecting life. There are degrees of this faith and an atheist and mystic differ only in degree. To man is not an option given to hide fully from God; he can imagine sometimes that he has hidden.


The spirit of Islamic law, best implemented in Sufi ethics, is anticapitalist and Marxists are yet to approach it from that perspective. Islam doesn’t abolish private property but it does abolish the will to hoard or accumulate riches and the psychological basis of whole capitalist economy and provides an antidote to the sin of sloth or evasion of work which afflicts Marxist states. To each according to his need – the Sufis volunteer to tell u that they have lesser and lesser needs. From each according to his ability – from only a karma yogi or a Sufi can u extract maximum of work with minimum demand for wages.

It seems that Marxism has committed an ideological blunder by linking its theory of capital to materialist metaphysics. Marxism need not be antireligious; in fact religion could prove its greatest ally and let it be noted that none of the religions is compatible with capitalist view of man and its desire-centric, self-centric other-negating perspective. Historically it is religion that has been the source of protest against social and economic injustice. It is religion’s new prophets, who stood against the corruptions of older religions under the class of priests/Pharisees/ Brahmans. What is Buddhism if not the rejection of Brahaminstic hegemony? What is Christianity if not the rejection of legalistic moralism and suffocating ritualism to which Judaism had degenerated in the hands of its exoteric authorities? Christianity is protest of Christ against the rich class, against everything that stifles human spirit/freedom and degrades him. What is Islam if not a revolutionary social democratic movement against all clericalism, world denying asceticism, abuse of power by feudal lords/kings and dictatorships. What is Jihad if not the use of force against all oppression that is going anywhere against anyone. It is jihadi spirit in us which inspires us to take arms against capitalists. Ideally all religions are against all kind of greed, hoarding, exploitation of any kind at any level and thus against the root of capitalist mindset. All religions seek transcendence of self or ego because all problems – from existential to socioeconomic that have bedeviled man are ultimately traceable to the delusion of self which isolates us from non-self or other and defines one’s universe from a very constricted, separating and limiting viewpoint of egoistic individuality. Annata, rightly interpreted, is the fundamental doctrine of all religions and traditional philosophies as perennialists have pointed out. And this doctrine alone cuts at the root of all capitalism. Capitalism is ultimately traceable to a wrong view of the self.

If we take mysticism as the heart of all religions as has in fact been done historically or traditionally – name any great traditional authority in any religion who is not a mystic or mystically minded (and also philosophically oriented as well – Nagarjuna, Sankara, Augustine, Ghazali, Ibn Arabi, Aquinas, Maimonedes, Lao Tzu) we can exonerate it from the charges of complicity vis-à-vis exploiting class. All religions are visions based on the centrality of love and transcendence of ego. Ibn Arabi expresses the insight of all religious/mystical traditions when he says “I follow the religion of love/wherever the camels of love take me I go.” Sufism is one of the most forceful expressions of the religion of love. One wonders how superficially Marxist critics of religion have usually read central moral (which, in one sentence, amounts to denial of self with its empire of desires that capitalist worships) aesthetic, ( which is identification of the Good with the Beautiful and celebration of beauty as divine in whatever mode – in nature, in women, in art etc.) and cognitive or intellectual ( which posits truth as the only God and identifies love with truth and goodness – the Platonic triad of goodness, beauty and truth is everywhere at the heart of religious/mystical view of God) dimensions. It is in the names of this God that religions identify with the pursuit of values – truth (and this implies science, logic and pursuit of “right view” of things to which philosophy aspires) beauty and goodness and justice that all revolutionaries including Marx speak. There are no dogmas in any religion if we read deep enough into the heart of different theologies. For instance Islam’s central thesis la illah illallah translates itself in deeper mystical (Sufistic) metaphysical terms as there is no truth but Truth, no beauty but Beauty, no reality but Reality, which implies a rejection of all (human, conceptual, rational metaphysical) absolutes as idolatry and identifies God with what is, the reality itself. What theology calls God, Sufis call Reality. All religions declare that it is truth/knowledge which makes man free and God is identified with intellect (nous)/knowledge/truth in all traditions. Marxism too fights in the name of truth it thinks it has access to. Religion doesn’t define the truth it advocates. It simply stands for truth (sat). Wherever truth is, God is. Truth is God. And it implies that truth is above everything, above every god that humans could imagine. It means truth is God and whosoever pursues truth is worshipping God. Normal humans are always worshipping truth, beauty, perfection, goodness in different guises though it is always a danger that they misplace and misjudge true loci of values ( Capitalism identifies truth and salvation with the life of desiring self which is a case of misplaced absolute).

Religion is not a propositional discourse at all. Faith for mystics/Sufis is nothing but heroic attitude towards life and the universe, an attitude of affirmation, a great Yes-saying stance in Nietzsche’s terms. For all religions God is Life, all life is manifestation or self disclosure of God. All forms express the Supraformal Vitality. God is expressly identified with Life in all religions. Religion aims at the grand celebration of life, richer life, larger life, life eternal. Asceticism is never an end in itself; it is only a means to the end of celebrating/enjoying life in all its grandeur, beauty and sublime depths and heights. Ecstasy, experience of happiness/bliss is the fruit of all ascetic exercizes/disciplines. Humans seek happiness and in fact the end of life is happiness as the Chinese explicitly believe. Religion is nothing if not the art of realizing this end. In fact all religions identify their goal with the pursuit of conquest of misery/pain/alienation and celebration of the joy (ANAND) that it names God. God, in one mystic’s phrase, is the juice (rasa) of existence. God is the principle of enjoyment/bliss. Any experience that is enjoyable in true sense is, in religious terminology, experiencing/worshipping of the divine. Whenever we enjoy anything we are praying in religious terminology. Samsara is nirvana not only for Nagarjuna and Zen but for Sufis as well and in fact for the mystics of all traditions (Baal mystics, primitive dancers, dancing dervishes etc. to name a few). Eternity is here and now. This very garden is the Garden of Eden if one looks at it with the eyes of love as Dostoevsky’s Father Zossima says. God is love as Jesus put it. Religion is “orgasm with the whole universe” as one modern mystic has put it. Religion proposes itself the end of beautification of life and as far as it fails to achieve this end (as has happened especially in Christianity) it fails to live upto its own ideal. It is no wonder that we owe most beautiful art, architecture, poetry, music to religion. Modern art is ugliest in the history of art as Coomaraswamy alleged because it no longer worships the God that stood for and grounded beauty (Plato’s God, like Sufism’s God, is Beauty. Sufism is base on a prophetic tradition that identifies perfection in religion with ahsan, which means to do beautiful) Faith is not an assent to an abstract proposition that you can prove or disprove by other means but in Iqbalian terms “vital appropriation of the whole universe.” It is not belief but that thing which sustains all great tragic heroes in the face of suffering, which shows fist to the world’s absurdity and makes possible to affirm the world. That is why it can move mountains. Ultimately mysticism aims at knowledge, realization and transcends mere believing posture. Atheists too have a tawhid, though a truncated one, as Ibn Arabi notes. God is a manifest truth according to the Quran. No doubt can possibly be entertained regarding him. Only the fool has said in his heart that there is no God. God is the Light of the World. God is the Seer when we see anything; He is the Hearer when we hear anything. He is the Hidden and the Manifest, the Alpha and the Omega. All these statements, that come from world scriptures, imply that God is not a proposition but living experience, in fact the ground of all experience. God, in Ibn Arabi’s phrase, is a percept rather the concept. God of mystics is not the personal anthropomorphic God of exoteric religion. He is, in simple terms, Existence/ Life/ Sat/ Beauty or Value experience. Religion is to eat when hungry and sleep when one feels the need for it as one Zen mystic said. God is three pounds of flex as another Zen master put it. Ultimately no dualism such as sacred/profane, earth/heaven, samsara/nirvana is warranted for consistent Unitarianism or nondualism. Everything speaks of the beloved or is the beloved, so to speak, for a Sufi. All things are wonderful, Infinite or portals to the Infinite and can be tasted and give us a joy that is too deep for tears. If religion is faith, it is faith in the sacred mystery of existence, in its goodness and this faith is absolutely needed for our odyssey of life. It is this faith which propels science and prevents us from committing suicide or choosing not to be.

Almost all the critics of religion have affirmed the mystical core which is the heart of religion with which neither humanism (of any variety) nor Marxism as such could have any serious disagreement.

I believe that Marxism needs, for its own interests, interrogate its dogmatic metaphysics and dogmatic rejection of spirituality. Mystics and prophets have always been critical of that kind of religion which modernity and humanism found problematic on many accounts. Even Nietzsche, the deadliest critic of religion, found little to critique in the person of Jesus (it is another matter that he gloriously misunderstood Paul). Annanda Coomaraswamy has little difficulty in seeing Nietzsche (and personally I find not much difficulty in extending this comparison to Marx if we grant mystical understanding of religion and delink his metaphysics from his economics which I think could be done without much difficulty) in the world fraternity of mystics and demonstrating superman to be an adaptation of eastern idea of arhat or jivan mukta. There is no proposition (name it if there is) which religion dogmatically asserts and asks us to deglutinate mechanically or forcibly. For the mystics God is to be tasted, drunk rather than merely believed in. Rumi has said that if kings knew what we have they will leave their palaces without a moment’s hesitation. Eckhart has said that there is a still centre in our heart, accessible in principle to everyone, accessing which one forgives nature all the pain that it brings us in life and one is instantly in the kingdom of heaven. Eternity is not an abstraction for these adventurers of consciousness. Appeal of sex, music, nature contemplation, great poetry and art is because in all these experiences one transcends the narrow centre of individuality or earthly ego. The most abused and mocked word in Marxist view – transcendence – is at the heart of all these uplifting, soothing experiences. All joy is derived from this self transcendence in every experience. If religions speak of transcendence it is of this joy, great joy in things phenomenal that is available or experinciable for everyone to some extent that it hints. We don’t live by bread alone – no Marxist will contradict the Bible on this point. We live for happiness, for joy and these things are fundamentally important and it is for these things that people toil for bread. Religion as spirituality carters to this hunger for larger life, more fulfilled life, more celebratory life, life where love blooms in this very world (Jesus’ name for transcendence is love and Buddha’s term is karuna, compassion). Religion is the bread of the soul. Our instincts compel us to seek beauty, happiness, fulfillment, transcendence. And God is the conventional name of these things. There is no personal God conceived in anthropomorphic humanized terms in any religion! Semitic religions posit a God who is Being of being, rather than a being among other things, a superbeing or supermind separate from the world. An abstraction or remote being which is irrelevant (Sartre and Camus) and that could become incredible or die in a particular epoch (Nietzsche) or be absent (Heidegger) or on leave (Kafka) or to be sought by denying the world is not the living God of religions/mystical traditions. Modernity has chosen not to be fully open to the other, non-self, love and worshipped individuality and that is why it has been led to pessimistic nihilism and absurdism. If one is happy, full of love, ever busy helping the needy and all kinds of victims and fights for justice on all planes and realization of beauty and contemplation of mystery of the world one is on the right path according to all religions.

There can be no suppression which is not self defeating. Orthodox Marxism has been suppressing freer expression and fulfillment of our poetic or aesthetic self, our meaning-seeking metaphysical self, our appetite for intangible things. Religion is ultimate luxury, the wine that is irresistible – ask Sufis what this pain of love is, what joy is in the Beloved’s embrace. As long as people will love each other they will not be prepared to relinquish their right to love and demand love, love that exceeds all bounds and approaches Infinite. All love is holy and life giving. And God is love. As opposed to every romantic and dualistic understanding of love, mystics envision love as lying at the centre of reality. Love is at the centre of reality in Plato, in world mystical traditions and in fact in all religions. Love and self-denial go hand in hand. The denial of the self is the cornerstone of all religions. This allows the higher self, the Spirit, the Inner man in us to take reigns and the triad of values, Goodness, Beauty, Truth are then realized and life becomes transformed from its otherwise alienated, fragmentary, fear ridden, sorrowful, restless state to Life Divine, which is integrated, blissful life that radiates peace and love. The attributes of divinity are appropriated by the traveler on the path. Religions build on this transformed vision of life and worship God as Love, Beauty, Goodness and whatever beautiful names or aspects that there are.

Religion, one could well assert, teaches nothing. If one lived life without alienation, in thanksgiving, in gratitude, gaily, joyfully there would have been no need of religion. Religion seems to exhort, to issue commandments, to assert propositions because we are so far from Life. Buddha doesn’t talk. Neither does a Taoist, nor a Zen mystic. The story that relates how Zen Buddhism was born when Buddha took a flower in his hands and said that his message stands delivered is illustrative in this regard. Another story of a Zen mystic whose sermon was about to begin that a songbird alighted and started singing. The Zen mystic listened to the song and went off saying that the sermon stands delivered. Experiencing God or enlightenment for mystics is not a goal in future, a search for some metaphysical abstraction, a superterrestrial Being out there, a vision of something, an experience as distinct from other “ordinary” experiences, a secret journey or adventure into the higher realms or the next world. It is simply conscious experiencing of the world of phenomena. The vision that is not egocentric but simply a pure witnessing, a pure observance where no desire is projected into the observed, a perception unhindered by conceptual construction of the mind or desires is experiencing God. It isn’t achieved; it happens. Rather it is. It is not a cognitive encounter with the objects, this worldly or otherworldly. It is not a state, a special ecstatic state distinguishable from the normal conscious state. The mystic is extraordinarily ordinary person. Enlightenment is dropping of all seeking, all future oriented enterprises. It is simply to be as one is in pristine innocence. It is just to be oneself without all conditionings. Experiencing God is experiencing world with open eyes, the eyes unburdened by the past memories or future dreams. It is like looking at the world with fresh eyes of the child. It is to experience the world without experiencer. It is pure experiencing where experiencer and experienced have dissolved as distinct entities. It is pure knowing as distinguished from ordinary knowledge that presupposes the subject-object or knower-known duality. It is seeing with a still mind.

A few comments on what Islamic understanding of Prophet or the institution of messengership really means for Muslims (these I have excerpted from my paper I recently presented in a seminar in Kashmir University where I argued, quoting mystical sources of Islam, for universal understanding of prophetic station in existential terms)

The Prophet stands for all that is noble, sublime, grand and great in life. He is the voice of freedom against all man-made shackles, against everything that enslaves man, his thought and his imagination. Every flower that blooms, every bird that chips, every child that smiles, every blade of grass that grows proclaim the grandeur of the Prophet. Life is a supreme value and so is freedom and the Prophet is the metaphysical ground of life and its essential transcendence, its freedom. All our endeavors, whether we know it or not, are ultimately directed to affirm and promote life and thus praise the Prophet who is understood as the Pole of existence. Our breathing, despite us, goes on and thus we go on blessing the Prophet. Wherever and in whatever form life dances and smiles there the Prophet is blessed. The prophet can’t be really mocked. Can the sun, the light, be mocked except by the blind? “The more they blaspheme against God, the more they praise God” said Meister Eckhart. The same can be said about the blasphemers. The Prophet symbolizes life, larger life, richer life, life glorified (that is deeper import of his name Muhammed which means the praised one). Who can condemn life without condemning himself at the very moment? Only the fools spit at the sun; it returns on their own faces. The Prophet, existentially interpreted, is the ideal pole of man, the principle of transcendence and freedom of Spirit that makes authentic life possible. The Prophet is the positivity of manifestation as he is the principle of Manifestation. This is the import of traditional understanding of the phenomenon of Muhammad or Noori Muhammadi. For Islam it is the Light of Muhammad that is the principle of existence, otherwise things would never come from their archetypal abyss to the world of forms. Durood is a means of reenchanting the deserted garden of the world. Durood, understood at its deepest spiritual/metaphysical level, is a means of integration, individuation and dealienation. It connects us to the depths of larger life, to the ground of our being. Life of care that is open to Being, to use Heideggerian terminology, is what durood aims at. Iqbal has expressed metaphysical understanding of the Prophet in his poem Zouq-o-Shouq and especially in the verse Aaya Kaiyanat ka mainie dareyab tu/Niklae teri talash mai kafla haay rang-o- bu that appears to me his best couplet in his entire na’t corpus. All endeavours are for realizing the station of Muhammad, all seeking is seeking of Muhammad, all roads lead to Mecca. History is moving prophetword. The electron, the earth, the sun, the galaxies all revolve round the centre called Muhammad. This is something which Gnostics and lovers can understand. We need to have nigahi isq-o-masti. One could possibly deny transcendent invisible God but who could deny Muhammad because esoterically and metaphysically understood he is the principle of manifestation or existence and thus our very breathing. ‘I see none but zulfi yaar everywhere’ exclaims a Sufi. Who is not moved by beauty and it is Muhammad, the Sahibal Jamal that is attracting us in a beautiful object. That is why beauty has saving or liberating power and why God loves beauty. The Prophet is life’s sweetness, its music, its rasa, its bliss and its celebration. Being that which manifests or unveils Essence is the green in the trees red in the roses and gold in the rays of the sun. He is this life in its positivity, in its totality. And he is the silence of the darkness. And he is the joy of light abounding life of the world. “In the rapturous vitality of the birds, in their splendid glancing flight: in the swelling of buds and the sacrificial beauty of the flowers: in the great and solemn rhythms of the sea” – there is the Muhammedan Light for the Gnostic or Aarif, for those who see with the eyes of God, who see their Beloved everywhere, those who have found eternity here and now. What ordinary people call life or existence or beauty the lovers of God call Muhammad. And let it be clear life is lived only by lovers in its fullness. God is love. God is ever blessing Muhammad according to the Quran. Understood in its deepest metaphysical sense this means God is blessing existence or life. That is why everything is said to be ever busy in glorifying God and in praising/blessing Muhammad. To be is to bless existence by very definition. So who can afford to deny Muhammad? Someone (such as atheists) could afford to be incredulous towards transcendent invisible Divinity but there can be no escape from the very air we breathe, the very sun that illumines our darkness, which are there because of God’s immanence in the world or because there is Muhammad, the Principle of Manifestation. The same applies to other traditions and their understanding of Christ/ Buddha etc.

Philosophy has interpreted the world (though this too needs qualification – it is only modern Western philosophy which is only interested in interpreting the world - , traditional philosophies everywhere have been disciplines of the self, ways of life, instruments for changing the world and always inextricably bound with religion) but religion has ever been for changing the world which it effects by transformation of will or self which is sought to be transcended.

Religion for the sages and the prophets (who alone are really qualified to speak for it or tell us what it is) has not been a sigh, a matter of consolation. Truth needs not be consoling. It is only human weakness and fear which seeks palliatives, and sighs for consolation. Mystics have been the daring souls, the boldest adventurers of consciousness. They had no need of sighs. Most great names in the history of mysticism have been from a background where neither poverty nor oppression would have decisively conditioned their outlook.

Marxism has fortunately learnt to be self critical and relinquished its dogmatism of strict determinism in base-superstructure. It needs to question its understanding of spirituality. It has mostly constructed an image of religion that has nothing to do with the religion of the heart as understood by mystical traditions. Marxism must enter into a dialogue with spirituality. It must acknowledge that scientism is riddled with great problems, that without spirituality of some kind we cease to be proper humans. What is the ultimate objective of Marxist struggle against class oppression if not the freedom of spirit, freedom to pursue higher values of life – knowledge (truth), beauty, love, creativity, happiness etc.? Marxism doesn’t believe that a well fed belly is the end of man. All humans are essentially one and essentially pursue (or should be pursuing) similar ends in life. Authentic life is the life of care for the other, life of love and compassion for all the underprivileged. Organic intellectual is concerned for the intellectual needs as well. And in fact intellectual and spiritual needs are one according to all mystical traditions. (How many know that in Islam it is intelligence which saves and Prophet is metaphysically universal intellect. This is true for Buddhism, Vedanta and Taoism as well.)

Marxist critique of religion has primarily been directed on some of its social manifestations or practices. It has yet to seriously engage with intellectual dimension of religion and mysticism as it had decided to reject everything smacking of religion and spirituality lock, stock and barrel. Religion is not to be identified with this or that social practice or theological dogma. In fact Marxism is itself highly vulnerable to criticisms on its metaphysical position. Its contribution in highlighting the all pervasive exploiting machinery of capitalism is to of immense value. But what sustains Marxism is its faith in the values of justice, equality and human fraternity, in the possibility of heaven here and now though it has an impoverished view of human potential for perfection and only imagines a poor heaven in secular terms. Marxism has found it easy to dub everything that it fails to understand or accommodate in the narrowly conceived dogmatic metaphysical system of dialectical materialism (life is a dialectical movement of matter and spirit though we don’t need to have a nebulous/essentialist/abstract view of spirit and then be compelled to deny it in the name of empiricism and positivism). A very problematic and vulnerable philosophy of science is presupposed by Marxism. As a metanarrative that explains everything in reductionist ideological terms Marxism faces serious critique. Nothing can explain away the element of mystery from the universe. Nothing can force men to surrender their instinct to be more than humans, to transcend the given, to adventure in higher, more fulfilling and ecstatic modes of consciousness, to dream of the perfection of heaven realizable here and now, to achieve lasting victory against the forces of pain and disequilibrium. As long as men seek happiness, love, peace, beauty and truth so long will religion as mysticism live. Religion is what we do with our solitude as Whitehead said. And ideally religion would be the greatest business in a classless society. Capitalism smothers human spirit and man will bloom only and god born in him (God is the ideal pole of man in Sufism and other mystical traditions) when he is free to pursue his higher needs that Maslow has so well classified. A classless society, it is hoped, will allow man to pursue this dream better. We are all mystics, rather privileged (or condemned) to be mystics. “The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss” as Carlyle said. And the only reason that I think that religion to be respectfully heard by a humanist or seculer Marxist is that we miss much if we miss God and that is tragic. Hell is not physical fire but painful realization that we have missed so much. Religion is only an invitation, an open invitation to all of us to Freedom, to Heaven here and now, to Eternity of this Moment. If these things are illusions we must remember that mankind in all climes and ages has entertained these illusions and we owe some of the most beautiful things to these illusions. The greatest thinkers, artists, philosophers, sages and prophets of all civilizations have been cherishing these delusions and have attributed everything grand and noble to them. If delusions, the products of “false” consciousness can be so fruitful for the betterment of man, why opt for reality that produces nausea, despair and horror (which mark modern literature)? Life without transcendence is like atheist’ version of tawhid – truncated view of the grandeur and joys of life as God is Life, Larger Life, Richer Life, Life sublime and grand, Life of perpetual wonder, creativity and joy. Life resists all attempts at its devaluation and negation by those who deem it to be futile and without any significance or meaning. Did Christ ask for anything more than choosing life and are religions commandments amounting to anything more than not harming life? Esoteric commentaries of scriptural commandments show that in the last analysis all these boil down to affirming and celebrating life. Man is condemned to choose life. Choosing death is relinquishing human status. And man is not prepared to be a stone as otherwise he would not proceed to scan God and judge his creation as absurd. I reproduce a quote from Attar, a Sufi poet, that sums up the essence of all mystical traditions and presents the inner meaning of all dogmas. Mysticism would invite Marxism for appropriating and sharing this treasure of love of which Marxism knows only an impoverished version.

“The whole world is a marketplace for Love,
For naught that is, from Love remains remote.
The Eternal Wisdom made all things in Love.
On Love they all depend, to Love all turn.
The earth, the heavens, the sun, the moon, the stars
The center of their orbit find in Love.
By Love are all bewildered, stupefied,
Intoxicated by the Wine of Love.


From each, Love demands a mystic silence.
What do all seek so earnestly? ‘Tis Love.
Love is the subject of their inmost thoughts,
In Love no longer “Thou” and “I” exist,
For self has passed away in the Beloved.
Now will I draw aside the veil from Love,
And in the temple of mine inmost soul
Behold the Friend, Incomparable Love.
He who would know the secret of both worlds
Will find that the secret of them both is Love.”

~ Farid Ud Din Attar

It is asserted by some Marxist critics of religion that Marxism and Mysticism should not be compared. Mysticism is ahistorical and it is concerned only with the individual salvation and it ignores injustice and oppression in the world. All these assertions don’t bear close scrutiny. To have a historical sense implies to be concerned with the present reality, to be concerned with transforming it, to be aware of material or temporal factors affecting our present reality. Mysticism has deep historical sense in all these senses. Prophets have originated civilizations and mystics have embellished it, beautified it, developed it. All great thinkers, with few exceptions, in all traditional civilizations have been either mystics or influenced significantly by mysticism. Most of great revolutionaries in history have mystical training or orientation. Great traditional art and architecture has been moulded by mystical impulse. Great literature in traditional civilizations is essentially mystical. hardly any great epic is not mystical. Great literature, even great tragedy, can’t be written except under the inspiration of mysticism. Nothing in traditional civilizations makes sense except in light of tradition to the making of which religion/mysticism fundamentally contribute. It is religion/mysticism which until the rise of Marxism made people aware of injustice and exploitation at the earthly plane. Buddha, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad were all critics of the establishment and spoke for the oppressed. Without resort to violence religious impulse has been able to feed countless people, to arrange their shelter and even work towards the freedom of the slaves. Islam has prohibited begging because its economy ensures that no one needs to beg. Even today most donors give in the name of God. It is another matter how the wealth to be donated has been acquired.

Sources of Marxism are mystical and its ends ape the end of mysticism. Hegel is an idealist and mystical philosopher. The prophetic revolutionary spirit of Marxism is an appropriation of Judaic inheritance. It is parasitic on mysticism for its appeal to the oppressed and it has won converts in the name of mysticism.

If Marxism wishes to be a humanism it must appropriate mysticism positively. Humanism affirms the value of man, his dignity and freedom. It speaks in the name of the values that Plato identified with God– though impoverishing all of them by severing ties with transcendence. Mysticism gives Marxism warmth and human touch otherwise it has no room, in its materialism and economic determinism, for anything that can accommodate love, compassion, goodness, beauty, justice, truth and nobility. The Darwinian-Hobessian-Nietzschean-Freudian worldview that is compatible with Marxism but not mysticism and that has been so influential in the modern world has little room for anything that makes life truly human as all truly human values are realizable only by love which is transcendence of the individual, the ego on which the former worldview is erected.

Marxism is utopian in thinking that the evil in man can be finally overcome by ameliorating economic discrepancy. It is also wishful thinking on the part of Marxism that classless state will make all people happy and that man does not need anything else than satisfaction of his biological needs (though it recognizes psychological and spiritual needs and thinks thatr it amply provides for them). Man has psychological needs which can’t be fulfilled in any system that vetoes transcendence as the painful tone of modern literature shows. Nihilism is a huge problem for any worldview that seeks all answers on purely rational and human plane. Absurdism is unavoidable and one really defenceless against the argument of why not opt for suicide in all purely rational and human centred worldviews as Camus has argued (rather shown how arguments asserting the contrary are so unconvincing). Man has spiritual needs – the most important component of his needs – and for millennia these needs have been fulfilled by religions as channels of transcendence. Now either we have to deny that these needs are real or assert that we can provide substitutes for transcendence. Both the options have been tried and have failed. That man will be a casualty in any worldview that puts ends above the means, that believes its metaphysics to be not only true but exclusively so and bans other views, that asserts that mankind has been mostly, throughout history, cherishing illusions is not difficult to see. Marxism asserts that mankind’s great thinkers have been duped by ruling class, that prophets too have been naïve in important matters. It asserts that almost all the people all the time throughout history have been fools or badly mistaken regarding an important matter of life and that all the institutions that civilizations have maintained have been primarily forms of exploitation. It writes off history of civilization as an effect of brutal struggle for power. It is also disputable to it that art has anything to do with truth, truth of a higher kind. It says that art, religion, philosophy are wholly understandable with reference to material conditions of the time. It denies real creativity and freedom to think. Even self reflection is ultimately not possible as consciousness can’t really detach itself from its determining conditions. Mystics have not found anything worthwhile. Poets are basically dreamers. Scriptures are neither holy nor true nor beneficial. Perhaps they are better burnt to ashes. Countless monuments of art and architecture have been built not by visions but by alienated unhappy men. Now all these positions that follow from a materialist metaphysics and absolute determinism based on material forces of production (granting relative autonomy of superstructures doesn’t mean much as ultimate determining force of the base is not denied) are difficult to accept for anyone who wishes to account for countless facets of history of civilization and culture. Marxism provides invaluable insight into the structures of society. It makes us aware that we are being exploited and it rightly identifies the key culprit. But it unfortunately too is a product of history, conceived by fallible men. It is wedded to a metaphysics and set of ideas that have a stamp of human thinking and therefore questionable or fallible thinking. Marxism besides being a science in political economy is also a speculation which can go wild and an exercise of imagination that may know no bounds. On purely scientific terms it made many erroneous assertions as has been amply demonstrated. It attempted to conceive of science in strictly Marxist terms and made big mistakes. Its attempt at Marxization of whole knowledge is an enterprise that doesn’t fulfill, at many points, strictly scientific criteria. It puts ideology before truth as it declares all ideas as unscientific which don’t corroborate the doctrines of dialectical materialism. Some Marxist thinkers have already shown flexibility in modifying the received dogma, in reconstructing Marxism and opening it up to many contemporary thought currents. I think the time has come that Marxism revaluate its reading of religion and be prepared to have a dialogue with spiritual traditions of the world. Hitherto it has been throwing the baby of mysticism with the bathwater of what is ordinarily identified with religion. Marxism has had phenomenal success, at least at theoretical plane, because it presented itself as religion or alternative to religion. Religions degenerate and exclude necessarily. So does Marxism. (One important authority on religion has written a book on world religions discussing all of them under the same headings or concepts and includes Marxism also in his account.) Russell called Marxism the religion of the twentieth century. Marxism will never die because it has elements of permanent value. So will not religion. The rise of religion and proliferation of spiritual cults has proved all those critics wrong who were confidant that religion will die very soon. Marxists have misread religion on almost all important points. They have rightly noted that religion is vulnerable to be appropriated by the exploiter. Religion as understood by the greatest prophets and sages in all traditions is neither consolation, nor a system of ideas, nor an attempt at representation of our relationship to reality nor a talk about this world or the otherworld. It is not a picture of the world. It is not a metanarrative. It is not a perspective or a view that could possibly be refuted. It is too existential an affair to be discredited. Science can, in no way, show it exit. Religion is four noble truths (not ideas or views) that Buddha who had a better sense of empirical reality than even Hume or positivists. It is not an idea, a concept, a view. The four noble truths can be put in the following way

1 There is suffering in the world. The suffering constituted by alienation, unfulfilled intention, bereavements, death, lack of knowledge, pain, misery etc. There is a malady of alienation, an alienation much deeper than that which separates a labourer from his work. The alienation of a labourer is an aspect of this alienation. Suffering is at the

2 Desire is the root of it. Craving to see things from the viewpoint of a self or ego, to construct a world according to our heart’s liking, to wish for inexistent or impossible things, to wish objective reality bend in the one’s service, to dictate terms to reality, to laws of nature, to be spared encounter with the other that humbles oneself or demands sacrifice, to grab other’s wealth, a wish to be consoled or fulfilled or exalted or praised or in other’s shoe, to possess this or that thing or object of love, to live long and to be spared encounter with death, with the other that seems to be hill, to wish to opt for suicide and so on.

3 There is an end to suffering. If there is no end then all those ideologies which claim to redress the wrong and bring justice are false. Those who believe that philosophy must also change the world believe that the problem has a solution. There is an end to suffering.

4 There is a way to end the suffering. Right view, right effort and right action are needed for that. All salvific schemes, this worldly and otherworldly prescribe paths to end the suffering. All religions prescribe essentially similar path. More precisely they don’t prescribe a path but describe a path which has resulted in ending suffering. One can try one’s own path but one may not reach the other end of the road. One is free to experiment at the cost of possibility of error.

For mysticism and many religions theology is dispensable. Metaphysics that reason constructs is dispensable. Theories about truth or reality are not necessarily relevant. Existential problems that knock too strongly to be ignored by anyone demand resolution or response and resolution. It is not the question of spiritual needs but pressing problems that we encounter all the time with which religion concerns itself. Religion is a human concern – nay the ultimate concern. Whatever constitutes our ultimate concern constitutes our religion. Sex, power, possessions, better foods are not our ultimate concerns. If they become they destroy us as they are self defeating.

Reductionism no longer works. Demythologization has exhausted itself and must squarely face the phenomenon called religion and the Mystery that eludes all conceptualization and rationalization. Science has learnt to be humbler and acknowledged that it misses much and can’t but miss it because of its methodology and limited concern. The question is don’t we need peace, contentment, equilibrium, harmony, beauty, knowledge. If Marxism can provide all these to everybody’s satisfaction and establish a State where individuals no longer have any appetite for intangible things, for transcendence all religions will find their fulfillment. If Marxism can’t provide, hasn’t provided and doesn’t promise to provide all these things to the superlative degree to which man demands and religions acknowledge it can’t substitute religion.

Religion is the most misunderstood thing in history. It is neither moralism nor a system of ideas or doctrines. It is neither otherworldly nor ascetic. It is neither ahistorical nor ignorant of social treality. It talks of man and not of the God of exoteric theology. It is no argument against religion that it has been misused and misappropriated. More people have been killed in the name of Marxism than in 50 years than in the history of religion in 1000years but that is no argument against Marx either. Religion is not what religion does. Neither is Marxism what Marxism does or is done in its name. Religion has, in the deepest sense, nothing to do with doing. Lao Tzu puts it so well. Nonaction accomplishes all actions and is the hardest “action” as Taoism says. Modernity is all action and that is why much sound and fury. Religion in its esoteric view concerns with being rather than doing. Religion is quality and Marxism is all quantity. Marxism is collectivism and religion neither individualistic like Capitalism nor collectivist but supraindividual. History is ample witness that both individualism acollelectivism have been dangerous.

Religion answers a different problem than to which Marxism and collectivism could be extremely dangerou though Marxism thinks that it dissolves the problem which religion seeks to address. Man is a complex creature with a complex set of needs. Man doesn’t live by bread alone and surely not for bread. He earns bread for something else and it is to that something to which religion concerns itself. Marxism concerns with man’s social self while as the individual to the individual self. Marxism limits itself to the temporal and the contingent though it thinks that there is nothing that transcends them but religion has its eye on the eternal and even grants that people know better about the worldly matters and should resolve them by collective effort. The spirit in man transcends history but Marxism refuses to look beyond history and asserts that what is not manifested in history is for all purposes unreal.

We need not defend mysticism against Marxism or pit them against each other. They cater to different domains of life and if we subtract the purely speculative or doctrinal material from Marxism it nicely complements the mystical side of our life. Marx is a mystic, albeit a secular one and not fortunate enough to have been vouchsafed the vision that makes man love life and bless it and conquer all the hardships besides purely material ones. Without bitterness of heart or resentment. A mystic is pure compassion while as Marx stops at concern for the other only. Marx makes it possible to feed and clothe millions – if it were not for Marx capitalism would not have accepted such compromises as welfare state and state regulations to certain extent in certain matters. Marx compelled the world to increase wages and take other measures for the welfare of labourers. Most of us need to be thankful to Marx for challenging capitalism so forcefully that proletariat have won some part of the looted booty back. Marxism has made a great difference to the labourer even in noncommunist countries. History has few benefactors greater than Marx. But lest we forgot the contribution of mystics and prophets. Most sciences, arts, crafts and much poetry cultivated in traditional cultures owe their origin and even development to mystical impulse. Coomaraswamy’s account of history of art and Guenon’s account of history of sciences which attributes all that is great and noble and enduring to the discoveries of intellectual intuition can’t be dismissed even if one accepts much of Marxist explanation.

Why is religion perceived as enemy of a socialist or communist state? It is an opium. It lulls workers to sleep. It is thus antirevolutionary. It is complicit with capitalism. It too exploits in the name of God when it extracts wealth from gullible masses. It creates false substitutes like the goods of the otherworld so that people don’t take the problems of this world very seriously. It encourages detachment that conflicts with the spirit of active involvement needed for changing the order of the world. It reconciles people to present ills by attributing them to fate or karma. It says resist not evil and believes that change of heart in the capitalist will do the needful. It is false consciousness or inverted view of the world. It merely provides consolation and not real help. It is not against private property per se. Brief comments on all these points are in order.

First of all let it be made clear that we need to distinguish between religion and mysticism and it is the later which is here defended and it is also assumed (but not argued as that is a separate issue) that it represents the core of religion. We also need to distinguish between sentimental mysticism and intellectual mysticism. Guenon has remarked that there is no mysticism in the

traditional East. Sentimentalism is modern phenomenon and associated with exoteric Christianity. Mysticism is based on Intellect as distinguished from reason and its discoveries are absolutely certain as there is no role of individual, his feelings and psychical processes in intellectual intuition. Ideally one shouldn’t talk of mysticism but of metaphysics – not the post-Aristotelian and Cartesean one but the one that concerns itself with the supraphenomenal but not the abstract by means of a supraindividual suprarational faculty called Nous or Intellect, is not speculation but experience and is as precise a science as mathematics with as concrete an applications as physics in all the domains of life feom arts and crafts to sciences and cultural expressions. Schuon’s Survey of Esoterism and Metaphysics is a representative work and must be read before one comments on mysticism and metaphysics. The West has no metaphysics or incomplete metaphysics and modern thought has substituted pseudometaphysics for traditional metaphysics. It is rational metaphysics rather than intellectual counterpart that has been a subject of study and critique in western philosophy. In traditionalist perennialist revaluation of Western philosophy Kant hardly derves the name of a philosopher and Descartes is an ignoramus arrogant man, Bergson a sopjesperson of subrational rather than intellectual or suprarational intuition. Theology should be autology otherwise it is wide off the mark. Theism is far from the pure truth of metaphysics. The existence of personal God is hardly an issue. Buddha is the metaphysician. The Supreme Principle is not Being but something that transcends being or existence.

There are other differences between (exoteric) religion and mysticism Where religion posits a beyond or the otherworld mysticism focuses on the present moment. For it heaven and hell also are now or never. Where exoteric religion posits a God removed from life mysticism posits no God other than Life and ever changing and newer manifestations of Reality. Where religion divides mysticism unites, where religion kills people or kill in the name of it mysticism spreads smiles. Nietzsche fulminated against the instinct for the beyond even if he himself died a martyr seeking that beyond vainly. The beyond of which the religion talks mysticism brings here and now, in history. It is the whisperings of the Holy Ghost or Spirit that make all of us worshippers of beauty, truth, love and justice.

1 History refutes the assertion that religion lulls people to sleep. Perhaps all great revolutions in history could be traced to the influence of religion. Prophets have been, generally speaking, social rebels, politically dangerous and that is why mostly mocked if not executed. They have challenge the establishment and existing socio-political-economic set up while standing for the oppressed, the sinners, the masses. The same is the case with mystics. They have been persecuted by both the paid officials of exoteric religion and the State. They have denounced riches and in many cases taken arms against the State. They have preached if not fought against the haves, the ruling class. Of course religion degenerates soon and as Stalin replaces Marx so a pope replaces Christ and Yazeed replaces Umer. Religion is hardly anywhere in sight today. In a generation only one or two live it in its true spirit as Simone Weil observed. In the degenerated populist form of Marxism Marx would not have counted as a Marxist as Christ is imprisoned rather than welcome when he arrives on earth in Dostoevsky’s novel. It is in the name of religion that people have dethroned many regimes. Jihad is an instrument to forcefully implement revolutionary spirit of religion. By definition it is directed against oppressors regardless of creed or colour or region. Any struggle carried for the sake of justice and freedom from oppression without any selfish motive can qualify as Jihad.

2 Religions have tolerated limited private property as Marxism has practically done though ideally both are against the possessive, hoarding, grabbing mentality. It is impossible to outlaw all personal possessions. Man has a distinct individuality or tastes and all men are not created with the same capacities and differ. Some must excel in one field and some in others. Psychologically people are not made to live in eternity but need to take serial time seriously. If genetics has a role and environment has a role in development of personality one can’t expect uniformitarianism. Given equal opportunities people will exert differently and differences will result. All labour is not equally productive or equally important for society. So wages will differ. Religion’s toleration of private property as that of Marxism is to be understood in light of these realities. Competition extracts the best from man. Industrial and scientific advancement of the erstwhile USSR are attributable to a great extent to its taking seriously the challenge from the capitalist world and wishing to excel or compete against them. The world would be terribly dull and boring where man’s sense of individuality and nature’s love for diversity is loathed. There will be little progress if the instinct to excel is suppressed in the name of collectivism. Healthy progressive society is an organism rather than a collection of individuals mechanically and uniformly made one. The differences are important and without them no social life is possible. If thinkers like Marx and writers like Premchand and artists like Picasso were not provided freedom by society the world including the world of proletariat would be much poorer. Thinking too is a labour and mankind has made great progress because of thinking class. Workers would be condemned to more degrading drudgery and their work will look more suffocating if thinking class, artistic class and mystics were not there. Monks are not parasites but safeguard the health of society by demonstrating the treasures of solitude and other vitalizing powers of spirit. Those who reject the institution of monkery are advised to provide alternatives to it. What the life of contemplation means may be gleaned from reading Merton. Japan would look much poorer without its Zen monasteries. The highest joys are accessible in contemplative life. Marxists would resent closing of theatre and entertainment industry but they don’t recognize the intellectual pleasures which even Epicurus rated higher than merely somatic pleasures are available to humans in contemplative life institutionalized by religion in monasteries and that too without many side effects which other forms of entertainment and pleasure seeking may have. God is Anand and denying man this supreme pleasure is like castrating men and deny them the orgasmic joy. Those who have not tasted the pleasures of contemplation are impotent men according to mystics. But mystical ecstasies are hallucinations according to its critics. For mystics who have often been exceptionally smart intellectually the world of form and colour that ordinarily is taken to be real or the reality is made of the stuff of dreams. I think we shall agree that the blind are no judge of colours. Those who have not had mystical visions can’t condemn those who had them. Of course one can criticize the attitude that overemphasis on life of contemplation that may harm social life but that doesn’t mean one can outlaw mysticism. But Marxist states have been so hostile to all expressions of religion and mysticism. Those who have not seen God have not seen anything as one mystic has said. God is a percept rather than a concept. Those who have cleansed the doors of perception or who have escaped the conditioning of the ordinary modes of perception and opened wide the eye of the heart have seen or experienced God, tasted God. Mystics would pity their Marxist critics for their blindness. Marxists would pity them for their incurable defects of perception and imagination. Let us tolerate both and not outlaw mystical activities in the Marxist State.

3 Mysticism has actively struggled against the self that seeks private property. Mystics have been reported to sell everything for society even when society in turn made bno commitment to share its wealth with him. Jesus rejected private property as did his Russian disciple Tolstoy. Prophet’s companions shared everything with their brothers. Augustine identified charity as the essence of scripture. Buddhism prefers begging to hoarding.

4 Priestly class has often been complicit with exploiting ruling class. That is why prophets like Jesus denounced them. Both mystics and Marxists have common enemy to fight and Marxist mode of fighting is more effective.

5 Of course mystics have been pacifists and have not advocated violence in meeting enemies. Marxism is more effective in meeting an enemy which understands no language other than violence. But mysticism can act as a counterforce against indiscriminate use of violence. If Lenin and Stalin were mystics as well they would not have allowed so much violence to be unleashed. Mystics do well to make us remember that it is after all life which should count above everything. If politicians cared about purity of means as well the world would have been a different place. Violence achieves only short term results. The change of heart achieves great results. Ashoka’s change of heart meant much for many people. Marxism imagines only war but mysticism believes that peace too can be an option sometimes to achieve the result. Psychology tells us that violence breeds reaction and thus more violence. If the world can’t be converted in the name of love it can’t be ever peaceful. Peace can’t endure there. We must war against capitalism with full force but we must work for transformation of the culprit self that ultimately makes capitalist a capitalist. That people could be transformed on large scale and make the world a better place is evidenced in history. This is what the Prophet of Islam achieved though Marxist reading would see only immoral calculative business mentality everywhere even in the self denying martyrs and mystics and prophets.

6 Marxist critics have straight away dismissed what they call as Oriental indifference or detachment towards social concerns. But how can they explain that Krishna urges Arjuna to fight, Rama is a great warrior, karma yoga and hatha yoga have been Oriental inventions. The life of action is not incompatible with the life of detachment at spiritual plane. Witnessing consciousness or spirit is not involved in action but transcend action. But efficient self is the agent of action and efficient and appreciative selves, to use the terminology used by Iqbal, are one self really. The famous parable of two birds from the Upanisads and other traditions makes the point of two selves admirably well. Detachment in spirit is not incompatible with involvement of body and soul in the world of action. Salvation itself needs great effort or involvement. Nothing is unreal or unimportant for a struggling soul. Buddha is actively involved in making his vision realizable for others. His nirvana doesn’t make him uncritical regarding oppression of Brahmins etc. Some mystics have led active military life. Vivekananda, Aurobindo and many other great names in contemporary Indian mysticism were all action centric. Reform movements have been launched by mystics. Many active resistance movements in history have been spearheaded or masterminded by mystics.

7 The doctrine of fate has been gloriously misunderstood by Caudwell and other Marxist critics. Far from reconciling people to their present sorry state it presupposes freedom to transform one’s condition for the better. It is scientific statement of the law of action and reaction at moral plane. It is largely verifiable by recourse to insights of psychology. There is no permanent soul or personality named So and so that could reincarnate in Oriental religions. Lord is the only transmigrant as Shankara says according to orthodox belief. Animistic conception of rebirth is foreign to traditional religion. Nondualism clearly implies that there can be no real bondage to karma. It is all illusory when seen from the perspective of a liberated soul. Even if karma is understood in populist sense it can be read to goad one to action as it asserts importance of action, either good or bad. Higher fatalism is there even in Nietzsche and Marxism in a way. The thing to affirm life despite perception of economic determinism and this is what Marxism preaches. Fate understood in metaphysical terms is the inward reach of a thing, a designation for latent or potential possibilities. It is realization of inner riches. It is unfolding of spirit in history in accordance with a law of its own development. Fatalism cannot be an excuse for sloth or indifference. Consistent nondualism sees neither sin nor karma nor fate. It is extremely subtle position that mystical traditions maintain which even scholars trained in traditional thought may miss not to speak of Marxist critics who have prior assurance that all doctrines are at the service of ruling class or capitalist or pious fraud or invented to console one’s felt impotence at the face of hostile reality. How casual one can be in understanding the other is illustrated in Marxist dismissal of religion. Marx was not so casual and so unsympathetic as his later followers.

8

Religion has no need to be apologetic about its key claims. It asserts them with absolute certitude and conviction. The Quran asserts that God is irresistible. None can resist him, not even an atheist Nietzsche or a Marx. God can’t possibly be doubted. God is manifest truth. The problem is that few people understand what stands for and why to be a skeptic is to be as fool. Either we have to state that the Bible and the Quran are stating a plain lie or attempt to understand what they mean by the term God. In simple terms God is the witnessing consciousness, the elusive thing inside us that asserts “I.” God is also synonymous with Reality/ Truth. The problem is that, as Coomaraswamy states:

Religion has been offered to modern men in nauseatingly sentimental terms (“Be good, sweet child,” etc.), and no longer as an intellectual challenge that so many have been revolted, thinking that that “is all there is to” religion. Such an emphasis on ethics (and, incidentally, forgetfulness that Christian doctrine has as much to do with art, i.e. manufacture, making, what and how, as it has to do with behavior) plays into the skeptic’s hands; for the desirability and convenience of the social virtues is such and so evident that it is felt that if that is all that religion means, why bring in a God to sanction forms of conduct of which no one denies the propriety? Why indeed? At the same time this excessive emphasis upon the moral, and neglect of the intellectual virtues (which last alone, in orthodox Christian teaching, are held to survive our dissolution) invite the retorts of the rationalists who maintain that religion has never been anything but a means of drugging the lower classes and keeping them quiet.

The cost of rejecting religion is too high to invite second thought from all those who care about mankind. Man is a religious animal. Modern anthropology is convinced of this though modernity has attempted various reductive interpretative maneuvers to explain away the undeniable. Man needs God more than he needs food. He can live for days without food but he can’t live a moment without having faith in life, in some meaning of it, in love. The moment one feels life is worse than death one despairs and that despair is hell. Consenting to live life and live it meaningfully, vibrantly, creatively is what faith signifies. Faith is not that you can dream of rejecting. Rejecting faith is rejecting life. There are degrees of this faith and an atheist and mystic differ only in degree. To man is not an option given to hide fully from God; he can imagine sometimes that he has hidden.