INTERFACE OF CULTURAL
Technology, Man and Spirituality
Sanctifying technology Through Sacrifice
Mohammed Reza Rikhtegaran
Is it possible to bring technology and spirituality together? Usually technology is referred to as an instrument of mass production related to profit and loss. But is technology merely an instrument? Regarding technology as mere instrument is correct but it keeps us from understanding the essence of technology and its relation with truth.
Unconcealedness and concealedness of Being are always together, and every stage of unconcealedness is related to its corresponding concealedness. The Greeks call this unconcealedness Aletheia, that is, Truth.1 It is quite strange that contemplation about the essence of technology brings us to considering and understanding the unconcealedness and concealedness of the truth. In other words the essence of technology is nothing technical, just as the essence of a tree is not itself a tree which can be seen among other trees.
The truth or essence of technology, is the disposing and dispossession of raw material for consumption through which mastery over the universe is achieved. In other words in the realm of technology, man is confronted with a sort of unconcealedness, based on which he uses things for the mere purpose of consumption and thereafter achieving the mastery. With this dispossession the relationality of man with things goes through a transformation and things turn into fixed stock. Dispossession is the essence of technology.2
The question is, how is it possible that technology — the basis of which is Western, and, worldly and is rooted in the left (wrong) dimension of human existence and the preoccupation of which is the domination of, and mastery over the material universe, be brought under the domination of the right dimension of the human existence? How to make it spiritually oriented and Eastern, while preserving it, and thereby sanctify it? It was mentioned that technology is based on a particular unconcealedness and a special relationality with Being. In other words, technology is itself a culture and considering its etymology culture is a kind of interpretation of earth. Thus, the very issue may be put in a different way, i.e., how is it possible to bring forth a union between the culture of technology and the culture of spirituality and at the same time retain both. The crux of the problem, therefore, is as to which cultural aspect we are to transfer the culture of technology, in other words, in which culture is it to be included. It is the question of the confrontation of the two cultures. It is the confrontation between the left (wrong) dimension and the right dimension of human existence. Therefore, there emerges the well-known confrontation between the East and the West. However, the very essence of the West and its culture which is the basis of technology, is earthly, whereas the essence of the East and its culture is the renunciation of this world. If technology is to be adopted by Eastern culture and knowledge, there shall be contradiction between the two. Thus a union between the two is not possible and the desire to have technology along with Eastern spirituality is wishful thinking.
On the other hand, if we accept that Being always keeps the world balance through its unconcealedness and concealedness, and that today the onslaught of the army of the left (wrong) dimension of the human existence calls for a sort of spirituality through which the balance of the world is won, and if we believe that the Eastern spirituality cannot unite with Western culture, we have to admit that to attain this essential balance the world today requires the emergence of a different kind of spirituality which is not purely Eastern. In modern age, mastery of technology has taken such a shape that Being has unconcealed a totally different kind of spirituality. The historicity of the confrontation of technology with spirituality reveals that this confrontation could have emerged only in this period of history. This is because in every period of history only one sort of unconcealedness and objective relationality has got the chance to have mastery. "Every age is the time for emergence and dominion of a truth (unhiddenness of Being), and when (the predestinate) time of its dominion is expired, it (i.e., the truth) will be concealed under the reign of another truth that is to emerge".3 The same thing was mentioned by the thirteenth century Sufi Nuruddin Abdur-Raman Jami: "This world is the world of form-worshipping in each cycle (stage) of which, someone plays the drum of Being. Thus, the Truth is manifested through different forms. Had the world been always the same, so many rays of light would have kept themselves hidden."
The ontological basis of history is man’s time and presence which is based on the openness of Being. The manifestation of truth and its unconcealedness and concealedness in the microcosms and in other words man’s relationality with the Being is the ontological basis of history in the macrocosms. History is nothing but the objectivization and externalization of this interior relationality of human beings with Being itself. History is the objectivization of man’s spiritual journey in the various stages of Being. The nature of man makes this journey possible. It is only a human being who dwells in two houses, the house of God and the house of Satan. There are so many paradises in his heart and so many hells in his earthly aspect. It is only the human being which is the interface of these two dimensions. His station is where two seas meet. Now, the major point is which dimension he may be inclined towards to attain either a sacred, or a profane history. In this get-together we talk about "The Interface of the Cultural Identity and Development", and, therefore, we should remember that this interface is the man. ‘Interface’ is the essence of man.
Therefore, the ontological basis of man’s problem lies in the fact that he is the interface between light and darkness, and also the left (wrong) and the right dimensions of Being as well as the East and the West; and that, the solution to this problem is the reconciliation of the two. Thus, if we accept that the onslaught of the army of the left (wrong) dimension of Being and the happening of profane history is something entirely human, and if we accept that the happening of the sacred history and the realization of the right dimension of Being is also human to the same degree, the reconciliation between the two necessitates the fact that man should not merely be the symbol of one of the two dimensions of his existence but he should emerge as the universality of his exterior and interior dimensions — a status which puts the left (wrong) dimension of the human existence at the service of his enlightened and sacred dimension, the status of spirituality in which the rules of heavens are extended to the present world. This new kind of spirituality, which is quite different from the purely Eastern spirituality, is called the station of Jamoljam, i.e., the United Union, or Itlaq, i.e., absoluteness, or Farg-i-badal-jam, i.e., dispersion after Union. This kind of spirituality is beyond East and West. It is neither Eastern nor Western but it is Westernized East and Easternized West. With this sort of spirituality a new epoch has emerged.
But are we in a position to undergo such a transformation? Can we cease our existence in this earthly life and be reborn in a spiritual life and thereafter live in absolute timelessness and return to the world and technology, and build our relationship with technology on the basis of this new sort of life? Is it possible entirely to bring the left (wrong) dimension of our existence to the service of the high and right dimension of our existence? Do we have the power to eliminate the gap between the earthly-life and the after-life and make the earthly-life identified with the after-life? As human beings, are we united with the spiritual station of the Jamoljam : the United Union? Are we that unique person "whose both hands are Right?"
Obviously the answer to all these questions is negative. Why, it is because achieving this ideal requires cessation of the earthly life and a new birth. As the holy Prophet suggested the solution is Maut towa Kabl Aan Tmewo towa, i.e,"Let your Ego die, before you enter the realm of death" which in fact is the elimination of illusions (Mho-su-hum) and the collapse of the reign and majesty of the earthly life, culminating in a new sobriety which is based upon the after-life (Shahu maslum). Extinction in God (Fana-Fi Allah) along with subsistence with God (Baya-Ballh) is the solution. In a nutshell the solution lies in sacrifice. Something should be sacrificed to achieve something else. Sacrifice is the remedy and the only possible way of salvation.
The word sacrifice has been derived from the Latin word "Sacrificium" which means "to make holy". By itself, this word does hold religious significance. In the course of its history, which can be traced through several millennia, the idea of sacrifice has undergone many changes, and the basis of this in all its aspects has been "the self-giving of human being to the divinity", without which the external rite has no religious value.
Man has always been experiencing divinity in himself by sacrificing his egoism. This cast of mind could only be possible through sacrifice. In many religions this cast of mind had been the ultimate goal. In these religions the spiritual journey of man should amount to absolute extinction which is the end of journey. In the early Hebrew scriptures, however, the idea was expressed that obedience to God’s commandments is better than sacrifice. From the beginning, Christianity too emphasized not only the continuance of Cultic sacrifice in the celebration of the Eucharist but also the necessity of a self-surrender that finds external expression in other ways as well; thus, even in the New Testament, prayers, hymns of praise, good work, and especially love of neighbour are described as ‘sacrifice’.4 In Islam too obedience to God’s decrees, performance of religious duties, avoiding sins, purification of the self, invocation (Zikr) and meditation (Fikr) are the ways of achieving salvation. The Holy Quran puts it in these words: Sum Jasnak Ali Saryatin Minal Lamar Fabeyayaaha "Then we placed you on the path of the Divine Rule, to follow it" or Mad Falah Min Tajki wa gikrashm Rabi Fashli bil Law-saraun Alyahaladyaya-d-walad Karunn vaki. "He indeed shall be successful who purifies himself, and invokes the name of his Lord and prays. Nay! you prefer the life of this world, while the hereafter is better and more lasting." Also good deeds and obseervance of religious duties are vehicles to divinity Jamjeka yadjawaleka Rabbi Falyyamla Amlann Sallayyha. "Whoever hopes to meet his Lord, he should do good deeds." Therefore, in Semitic religions, sacrifice means observance of religious duties and sacraments, and sacrament itself is the vehicle to self-extinction and annihilation. In other words in Semitic religions sacrifice has given its place to sacrament. But what is the ontological basis of sacrament? How does sacrament come into being? In Semitic religions after self-annihilation and cast of mind and coming to the end of the majesty of the earthly life, and when the reign of time and temporal existence is over, the Prophet returns to the mankind, after his extinction along with subsistence. He returns to time in absolute timelessness, to the status of humanhood to guide his people.
But now he returns free from illusions, knowing how to look at the world and how to treat others. He knows how all human transactions and for that matter all aspects of human livelihood can be reconciled with lasting truth of his own existence and be spiritually oriented. Therefore, he brings a religion, and legislates laws, sets rules and regulations (Shariah) and establishes a spiritual society (Ummah). Since he attains the status of extinction along with subsistence, he always puts into consideration the harmony between rites and rules, and the lasting truth of his own existence. Therefore obedience to the Prophet and his decrees can result to gradual, and correct orientation. The earthly life focuses on the after-life and on this path, which is called Siratalmostigeem, i.e., the Right path voluntary death and self-annihilation is achieved and Maulawa Fabel An Awtuwa, i.e., "let your ego die, before you enter the realm of death" would be applicable to the situation.
However, self-annihilation is the solution. Sacrifice is the solution. The illusory being and the chaotic gap between the earthly-life and the after-life must be removed. But if this self-extinction is to be finished here and not followed by sobriety and awareness, the foundation of this world collapses. Therefore, although cessation of the earthly life is the solution, it should be alongside a completely different life to begin. It is being alive, and at the same time being dead. It proceeds through disillusion, along with enlightenment through sobriety and intuition, extinctions side by side with subsistence (Wa Al Fana Maubaka). This has resulted in the difference between the sacrifice in this sort of spirituality and the purely Eastern spirituality. In the Eastern form of sacrifice the earthly-life suddenly collapses and the spiritual traveller reaches the status of salvation. In this sort of sacrifice the traveller sacrifices the left (wrong) dimension of his existence entirely and reaches the angelic status. But in the sacrifice of the status of Jamoljam, that is, United Union, disillusionment and the collapse of the majesty and sovereignty of the earthly-life is not sudden. It is gradual, and along with bringing the left (wrong) dimension under training. The spirituality of the status of Jamoljam is the bringing together oneself between spiritual attraction and treatment, between compulsion and free will, between unity (oneness) and plurality and between dispersion and union.
Jabes bistam Khayal Ku Tu sitam Ta Sharman
Tu Amadjhi jhi Rafta man Ahista-Ahista
In purely Eastern spirituality sacrifice negates the majesty of the earthly-life and ends the illusions and traveller will never return to the world. But in the sacrifice of the status of Jamoljam, while the traveller gradually does away with the illusions and by piecemeal, eliminates the majesty of this world, he also reaches sobriety and subsistence with God. It is for this reason that in this sort of spirituality divine legislation Tashri and attention to worldly affairs and establishment of a spiritual society has come to be possible. The purely Eastern spirituality is going to the heavens; whereas Spirituality of the status of Jamoljam, is bringing the heavens to the earth and taking the earth to the heavens. It is the status of Katayadih ymeen "His hands are both Right". It is the status of Jawal Feena, "one who has two spiritual eyes with one of which he can see the earthly-life and with the other the after-life; and can bring the two together". It is the status of universal inclusion. The rules and regulations of this sort of spirituality refer to both worldly affairs as well as the inner self, the heart, and spirituality. That is why, this station is the station of universal unconcealedness and the universality of the interior and the exterior dimensions of human existence. The Holy Quran describes this station in these words: Huwa Awwal Awaala Akir wa Jahir wa Babin "He is the First and the Last and the Manifest and the concealed Essence." (Holy Quran 57:3)
Today the bringing together of spirituality with technology, and the bringing together of spirituality with Western culture and development calls for such a spirituality. Therefore, spirituality is always historic and has historicity. In this sort of spirituality, sacrifice comes about by observance of the religious duties and sacraments and obedience to the Perfect Man (Insani-Kamil). (That is why the words sacrifice, sacred, sacrament, sanctify and saint are all from the same root). By observance of duties and sacrament the earthly dimension of human existence is trained while it is retained and its dependent technology which is the result of turning towards this earthly life becomes sanctified. In this way the earthly dimension of human existence becomes divine and technology, which is not inherently holy and is basically chaotic and advancing towards the earthly life and commensurate with the left (wrong) dimension of the human existence, is enlightened by the Eastern dimension of the human existence and comes to be at the service of the East. But such a transformation takes place only in those spiritual beings (Auliya), whose spirituality is that of the status of Jamoljam, those who have achieved authenticity. By following such men and by obeying their do’s and don’t’s, we can gradually benefit from their authenticity and be a true orientation towards technology and build a correct relationship with it. We can, therefore, achieve the courage to say ‘No’ to the left (wrong) dimension for our existence and its dependent technology to be free from its sovereignty and abandon it with our hearts. But this abandonment is not wiping out and negating the technology. It is freeing the heart from its bondage. Not having, it is not the issue; not having any attachment, is the issue. Once the heart is detached from it, its mastery and majesty comes to an end and we build a correct relationship with it. This change is not a sudden orientation. It is something gradual, and is accompanied by the union between the spiritual attraction, along with treating the others, which is the exclusive spirituality of the status of Jamoljam. Depending upon the level of spiritual journey, authenticity emerges and man in delivered from the sovereignty of time and the temporal existence and achieves the status of Varastegi, (Salvation). With this ‘Salvation’ we shall once again move towards technology. In this status we are no more the captives of technology; technology is our captive. In this status, the relationship has changed. This time our mind and soul is not after the technology but is after those "spiritual beings, Aulia" because of whom the pillars of the earth are erected. In this status, sacrifice is brought about by sacrament; technology is retained, and gradually sanctified, and the earth, free from the present chaotic state, once again becomes the "kind dwelling place" for man.
Admi Ra Alam Khaki Nami Aa Eeed ba sab
Aalami Raykar Babayad Shaht Dajnawa Admi
Today, the issue is not that no one is taking a serious step to save the earth by holding seminars, symposia etc. or the lack of adequate allocation of funds. The main issue is that we are avoiding the confrontation with ourselves. We are lost in ourselves and are captives ourselves. Therefore, how can we save ourselves and the earth? Until and unless we get to the bottom of the problem but remain engaged with superficial issues, we are not in a position to confront the main issue and "Save The Earth" remains merely a slogan. We are worried about the earth because we see our future in danger. We are scared that our happiness may come to an end and, therefore, we talk about "saving the earth" and joining "the friends of the earth". We want to save the earth to guarantee our future projects, so that we are in a position to exploit and destroy it further. But the only way to save the earth necessitates obedience to spiritual beings (Aulia), the observance of religious duties (sacrament) and treading the spiritual path, thereby sanctifying the left (wrong) dimension of our existence and its dependent technology. The whole issue depends upon the fact that we have to confront ourselves and it is only in this case that the earth and us can be delivered from the sovereignty of the left (wrong) dimension of our own existence.
Magar ba roi Ralorae ya mawrani
Bahija jah Dgarka rabrnami Aeed
©1996 Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi