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The Universal Mystery
Part 1: Philosophy Book


The Universal Mystery
Philosophy Book in 3 Parts and 10 Chapters
Part One

Anwar Shaikh
March 25, 2023

The Universal Mystery Mysticism - Anwar Shaikh Philosophy Book


Master Anwar Shaikh is one of the greatest critics of Islam. Anwar Shaikh is an author, philosopher, historian, Islamic scholar and an exposer of Islam. His books are mostly out of print or banned in various countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and many other Islamic nations.

Master Anwar Shaikh’s writings are gold to the seekers of truth and students of philosophy. The greatest selection of Anwar Shaikh’s books, papers, articles and interviews are published in IPC and ongoingly evolving. We try to publish the unpublished and the banned!

The Universal Mystery is an unpublished book of master Anwar Shaikh. The book has been put together form various articles on Mysticism. Anwar Shaikh had never found the time to actually organize and publish this book, so for the first time, this book is being published as a tribute to the master Anwar Shaikh. We shall keep the legend alive. He was the enlightener of the masses. May his great spirit rest in peace.

Anwar Shaikh Critic of Islam, Author, Philosopher, Historian and Islamic Scholar (1928 – 2006) at Cardiff 1990

IPC Library consists of 3 sections: Multimedia, Persian and English libraries. IPC Largest Iranian Online Library presents Universal Mystery by Anwar Shaikh. Enjoy the book:


The Universal Mystery Chapters Index

Part One
Chapter 1. The Mystery
Chapter 2. Free Will
Chapter 3. Origin of Mysticism

Part Two
Chapter 4. Mysticism - The Universal Mystery
Chapter 5. Buddhist Mysticism
Chapter 6. Greek Mysticism
Chapter 7. Semitic Mysticism
Chapter 8. Christian Mysticism

Chapter 9. Mysticism, the Vedic Legacy - Part 1
Part Three
Chapter 10. Mysticism, the Vedic Legacy - Part 2


The Universal Mystery: Part One

Chapter 1. The Mystery

Secrecy runs throughout the texture of this universe, though it looks open, bright and self-revealing. This view is confirmed by the fact that every atom is an ambassador of mystery, marvel and majesty, thus making understanding of the cosmos extremely puzzling, pervicacious and even punitive. However, value of human life depends on comprehending the underlying universal mystery because it is only then that one can assess whether existence, individual or otherwise, is real or just an illusory phenomenon around us.

Why is the universe based on the principle of mystery? The answer is simple, indeed: it makes existence exciting through curiosity, which creates a goal, leading to planning and action for achieving it.

Besides curiosity, inspiration of awe through bafflement and amazement, appears to be another object of the mystery. As we know, it is the same stuff, usually called "atoms," which appear as a mountain, the moon or mars as inanimate things, and also constitute the life of a mouse, monkey or man. Yet there is a difference between the non-living and living. He could the same thing appear in myriads of forms to create stunning diversity without suffering a change in its basic unity? However, all these forms are not ephemeral processes; some do last millions of years as mountains, star- and planets. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to assume that an intelligent being such as man, who is also composed of atoms, and dreams of an everlasting life, can enjoy an unrestricted span of life.

Even more stunning than the range of existence is the mathematical accuracy of behavior that heavenly bodies epic: waning and waxing of the moon, the exact symmetry of the spiral nebulas and planetary movements, are simply marvelous. Remembering the size of rivers, mountains, planets and stars, one ought to expect a devastating awe only, but this is not the case: everything is imbued with beauty and radiance. Even a straw when burnt, exhibits its hidden glow.

The word "mystery" usually refers to a secret doctrine, which is considered beyond knowledge to explain, though it also applies to anything artfully made difficult. No mystery is greater than the universal mystery that underlies the universe. Sages of all ages have tried to uncover it but the more they have tried, the less they have succeeded. In our time, it is the scientist who has led in this field. Though he has not been able to pinpoint the underlying principle, he has certainly proved that mystery is the fundamental law of existence. However, he describes it differently; he calls it uncertainty; it means the same thing because one is uncertain for lack of knowledge, which is another description of mystery.

It is clear that the universe has a mystical nature. As human life is the apex of this universal mystery, it has a hidden meaning which must be discovered because without it one cannot realize whether life has a purpose or it is just a mechanical phase. This is what makes Mysticism the right way of life because this is a search for the hidden meaning which happens to be the Truth.

In view of the significance of this statement, I am inclined to give a fuller account of the scientific investigations which testify to the fact that our universe has evolved on the principle of uncertainty or mystery:

1. The German physicist Max Planck (1858-1947) discovered that a hot body gives out energy in the form of discrete pallets, or quanta and not as continuous waves. This is what led to the formation of the world-famous quantum theory, giving rise to the concept of photon i.e., a particle of radiation, which was later developed by Einstein.

Quantum mechanics or physics has established the truth that it is impossible to determine with complete accuracy what an observed quantity really is. This difficulty is caused oy the fact that it is not possible to assess exactly both the precise velocity and location of a thing e.g., an electron. The quantities, location and velocity (impulse) are considered mutually complementary. Heisenberg was the first to recognize the significance of the complementarity of two physical quantities. He asserted that there is a definite relationship between the levels of certainty and uncertainty of measurable physical quantities. He termed it as the uncertainty relationship. It was Max Planck who later discovered a constant to determine the uncertainties of physical quantities. So, uncertainty is not just a hypothesis but a concrete fact. It has assumed a high significance in the field of physics by providing insight to establish the size of atoms. In fact, without quantum mechanics it is futile to think of life itself. The stability of the genetic structure is based on this principle.

Since uncertainty principle reveals that it is impossible to know at the same time the exact location and velocity of an object, it is not likely that one can tell the exact state of a physical system such as the universe at a particular moment. It also implies the impossibility of predicting its future behavior with precision. Thus, the concept of determinism loses its validity. Instead, it gives rise to the idea of probability, meaning that an electron may be located at a particular site at a given moment, though it is still uncertain where it will be a little later. Professor Stephen Hawking has described this uncertainty principle of Werner Heisenberg as "a fundamental inescapable property of the world."

The essence of quantum mechanics is that it does not predict one definite result, but forecasts a number of possible situations, and how likely they are to arise. It shows lack of determinism in the evolution of the universe and states that natural laws are quantum laws. Thus, atoms and molecules can exist only because the action is quantized. Therefore, the fundamental principle of existence is not determinism but indeterminacy, which puts a restriction on man's ability to make precise measurements, thus rendering him incapable of having the exact knowledge of the world, and foretelling future. It surely exposes the myth that certain divines are equipped with the virtue of prophecy. This restriction or indeterminacy is also built into the laws of nature. Therefore, nobody, no matter how divine, can predict all future events precisely. Mystery or uncertainty is the natural sequence of the quantum indeterminacy. This is the essence of the universe.

2. Equally baffling is the vastness of this universe. There is no way one can imagine its spaciousness, which is absolutely essential for comprehending its mysterious nature. Of course, our telescopes can reveal billions of stars which may be several hundred times bigger than our sun and a thousand times more luminous than it, yet their distance serves as a blinker on our observational power. Astronomical distances are measured in terms of the time it takes light to cross them. For example, it takes light one second to reach the moon, and requires eight minutes to travel to the sun. So, we say that moon is one light second away and sun is at a distance of eight light minutes. It has been established that in the night sky, there is not a single star which is less than three light years away. It means a distance of 30 billion L(3x10-13) kilometers. This is the minimal astronomical distance. Human mind cannot grasp its intensity. Thirty billion kilometers is simply a colossal distance. It may be helpful to describe that we live at the edge of the Milky Way. This galaxy alone contains more than a hundred billion stars which exist in the form of a disk, having a diameter of 100,000 light years whereas its thickness is 5000 light years. Do these distances make any sense to you?

Light travels at a speed of 300,000 kilometers or 186,000 miles per second, which is a million times faster than the speed of sound in air. Yet, it is no more than the crawling of a tortoise on the astronomical scale. Why? It is all because of the fantastic size of the universe which involves unimaginable distances. To illustrate this point further, I may add that some quasars, which are special galaxies and whose cores emit energy estimated to be about 10,000 times more than our entire galaxy, are as far away as twelve billion light years. It follows that light has been travelling towards us for twelve billion years, which is 80 per cent of the age of the universe. This mystery is intensified by the fact that even the fossil glow enables us to look back to a million years after the beginning of this universe. One million years is certainly a very long time especially when it is right at the beginning holding the basic formative secrets of the universe. Again, as during that period temperature stood at several billion degrees, heat may have destroyed all the information. It is like a record office whose data has been turned into ashes by fire.

Exact knowledge is not possible for yet another reason. There are many things which we cannot see as they are, but as they were in the distant past. For example, many stars which we study today with telescopes, are no longer there owing to explosion or cooling off. We observe that is left of them as light travelling towards us through intergalactic space. When we look, say, at star "A," we are not viewing it as it appears today but watch it when it sent out the light which is reaching us now. We ought to remember that it takes light some 30,000 years to reach us from the center of the Milky Way, which happens to be our own galaxy. And when we cast our gaze at the Andromeda Nebula, we see light which left that galaxy some two million years ago when man was not even born on the earth. We are simply helpless in assessing as how the Andromeda galaxy looks today. To know the present state of this galaxy, one will have to wait for about two million years when the light emitted today will reach the earth.

Of course, it is baffling to know that there are roughly over one hundred thousand million galaxies, each containing some hundred thousand million stars. Yet in human terms, one can imagine the mystery of the universe as a hide-and-seek game of lovers, who hide only to be sought, and for this purpose, give clues to the seeker in signs, signals and speeches which may be cryptic yet capable of conveying a meaningful message. Thanks to the English genius, Sir Isaac Newton, who discovered that when light from the sun passes through a triangular-shaped piece of glass, known as a prism, it breaks up into its component colors or spectrum, as is the case in a rainbow. In exactly the same way, it is possible to observe the spectrum of light from a star or galaxy through a telescope. Though different stars have different spectra, the relative brightness of the different colors is always the same as the light emitted by an object glowing red hot. What human eye sees as different colors, is actually the different frequencies of light, which are extremely high and range from four to seven hundred million waves per second. The lowest frequencies appear at the red end of the spectrum and the highest frequencies at the blue end. This spectrum of a star is said to be like the signature of a person which can tell a good deal about his character.

Though the vastness of the universe is mysterious, through the brilliance of stars and their color, it seeks to imbue man with reverence and makes him curious about knowing more and more about itself. Emotionally speaking, it is tinged with flirtation and carries a message of love; it encourages the seeker to keep looking constantly for a reward, which may be much greater than one's expectations.

3. Though man is an integral part or the universe - undoubtedly the test and the most reverential, there is a veil between the two. This illusion is certainly not permanent, and breaks down when he has developed sufficient vision to see through it. It is like standing at the bank of a shallow murky pond and keep wondering about its depth, for having no courage to fathom it. But, when one becomes sufficiently interested and feels inclined to take a plunge into it one find, the truth about it with amazing ease.

Many a time is greater the pleasure, which accrues from mounting a search for something than the delight of chance-finding it. It is so, simply to maintain the dignity and value of effort. Apart from the factors already mentioned, nature makes sure that exact certainty and predictability form no part of the universal make-up. When we look afar in our own galaxy, we find large masses of clouds, which restrict our power of observation. This difficulty becomes quite insurmountable especially in relation to the regions outside our galaxy, though it is not to say that it does not apply to itself. It is obviously not possible to pierce through the clouds of Magellan which are 200,000 light years away from us or the Andromeda Nebula lying at a distance of two million light years. One ought to remember that these nebulae are galaxies of the same general nature as our own Milky Way.

In fact, what makes our cosmos so mysterious is the process of birth and death. The Hindu tradition in this connection is highly respectable. It states that it is the nature of the universe to evolve, devolve and re-evolve after an interval called a Kalpa. This mathematical fact was also described in a parable by Lord Buddha of India; he said: "every century there comes an old man to polish, with a handkerchief of the test Benares silk, a mountain that is higher and more concrete than the Himalayas. After one Kalpa the mountain will be worn down to the level of the sea."

According to the scientific calculation, the time required for this devolutionary process is 10/32 years. Thus Kalpa is broadly compatible with modern investigation about the durability of atoms, estimated to have a half-life of 13/32 i.e. 1 00, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 years. However, the concept of half-life is rather puzzling. It applies; to the life of atoms, which last for a while and then change into other types of atoms. The usual example to explain this fact is that of carbon - 14 atoms which have a life of about 6,000 years. If we place 1000 atoms of this kind in a container, after 6,000 years, there will be left only 500 atoms; the number will decrease to 250 atoms after another 6,000 years and at the end of 18,000 years, there will be found only 125 atoms in the pot, and so on. Though we know the meaning of half-life, we are not aware of what atoms will perish within the next thousand years. Even, it is likely that some of these atoms may dissolve within the next few hours instead of their projected life of 6,000 years.

Today, scientists have discovered that there are more than a thousand kinds of unstable atoms. Some of these have a half-life of only a thousandth of a second or less, whereas others may last for several billion years; for example, Rhenium - 187 lasts for fifty billion years and Samarium - 132 sixty, billion years.

This uncertainty of duration is further compounded by the uncertainty of behaviour of things. It is brought about by the element of indeterminacy which clearly exhibits that the overall nature of the physical laws is not absolute because they do have a factor of tolerance as a carpenter allows a margin when hanging a door. For example, take the behaviour of electric charges of the same polarity. According to the classical law they are required to repel each other. Of course, this is true usually but not always because it has been noticed that sometimes when a positive charge is fired, it keeps moving towards a sister charge, that is, another positive charge, completely ignoring its presence, though by law the similar charges must repel each other. Again, there is no certainty that at what distance will they start repelling each other. Once this factor is taken into account in relation to the countless charges in the universe, the concept of determinism begins to look hollow and the probability-view of the quantum mechanics emerges as the truth. Of course, it is still possible to make e prediction but the scientific prediction is a probable event which takes place within certain limits, and cannot be a matter of exactitude. It implies that no matter how advanced the field of physics and the allied sciences may be, they cannot explain the reality on their own, though it also remains a fact that the truth cannot be discovered without the active assistance of science. Any article of faith or opinion which contradicts the natural law and scientific discoveries is just a flight of imagination.

The laws of physics must be respected because they are based neither on guesswork nor wishful thinking: they are neutral laws because they describe how events occur if certain conditions are met. Since they have no control over these conditions termed as initial or limiting conditions, they cannot ascertain reality or predict what really will happen.

One major source of mystery lies in the fact that reality is relevant to the seeker, or in scientific terms, it is relevant to the observer. Einstein's theory of relativity has established this fact beyond a shadow of doubt. He states that time and space are intimately interconnected. So, it is necessary to take into account the speed of the observer regarding the object of observation. Both time and space are influenced by speed. One may feel the same thing situated on the right-hand side whereas another person may feel it on the left hand.

It is in fact a matter of individual perception of time and space. Everyone is right because one feels as one sees according to one's own perceptive power. This condition is brought about by the fact that there is no such thing as absolute time or absolute space. What exists is a "space-time complex," and its understanding depends on the speed of the observer. Since perception is physically individualistic, the level of understanding may vary from person to person. Therefore, what appears real to one may not look so to another.

This fact exposes the approach of the religion-mongers who claim that those who do not believe in their creed, will go to hell. To start with, the God who is dying to be worshipped, is himself unstable, and therefore, unworthy of devotion. How can He punish people for holding different opinions when everybody does not possess the ability to perceive and act in exactly the same way. It is a natural sequence of mystery that people must differ in their appreciation of reality.

4. Of all mysteries, life itself is the greatest. It is amazing that rocks, despite being made of atoms, cannot move or communicate, but man, who is also composed of atoms, can walk, talk, think, will, argue and invent. Thus, stone is considered lifeless but man is classed alive. What is the secret of life! How can inanimate things like atoms act as the fountain of life? Life is obviously dormant in atoms though one cannot trace any sign of life in the behaviour or chemical properties of the constituting atoms. The higher the intelligent life rises the greater becomes the mystery.

If various bodies were governed by different physical laws, one could ascribe the emergence of life to this difference but the fact is that forms of matter from moon to mars and mouse to man are governed exactly by the same laws. One should not think that there is something different inherent in the behaviour of atoms in an organic body compared to the ones in inanimate matter. They are exactly the same: the difference appears in the past history of these atoms and the way they have been organised in a specific structure. Both coal and diamond are made of carbon atoms yet they look different and command different values for the different arrangement of these atoms in them.

Possibly, the dormant tendency of atoms to become alive started when certain structures of atoms were able to make limited choices for themselves. A crystal could be taken as an example. This inanimate object acquired the property of selectivity through the juxtaposition of its constituent atoms as they reached a certain state of organ station. To feed itself, it incorporates the matter it chooses, and not anything that comes its way. The criterion is obviously what helps best to preserve its identity. For example, an ice or salt crystal grows by collecting a small group of atoms or molecules from its surroundings until it becomes a definite structure through a repetition of this process. Thus, its existence is brought about by the principle of replication.

The same principle of replication is at the root of a cell, which is the basic unit of life. However, there is a difference: in a crystal the endless replication is the exact reproduction of a single pattern but in cells it leads to hundreds of variegated patterns. Again, a cell maintains its identity by extracting its needs from many different kinds of atoms, including live and inorganic molecules, which may be totally different from itself but a crystal can use only one kind of atom or molecule for its growth.

Complexity of a cell is so stunning that it is impossible to gain its full understanding or describe it with complete accuracy. This is what enhances the mystery of life. A human body which is an assemblage of cells, on average contains more than one hundred thousand billion cells (10/14). Though life starts with a single fertilized cell, it swells to this incredible size through division, which is a form of replicating, changing itself into over two hundred kinds, each having a different function. They have different shapes, which can be spherical, cylindrical or like branches. An average cell contains about one thousand billion (10/12) atoms. The full structure that comes into being is simply so marvellous that man himself cannot fathom his physical existence. The understanding of his purpose and destination, make the mystery of living even more complex and baffling.

One ought to realise the mystery of harmonious working of such an assemblage i.e., a human body, which is far more complex than a planetary system. Even more mysterious is the fact that the basic principle of reproduction involves the same process of bonding and evolutionary processes, which the universe itself went through, thus marking the unity of existence from a particle to a patriarch.

It is obviously, the universe itself which creates life. It has been attested that life, was first confined to the ocean; about 350 million years ago, it came ashore when the ozone layer came into being to protect the atmosphere from the lethal rays which came from space. Where did the ozone layer come from? It is a product of the respiration of aquatic vegetation in earlier times. In fact, one thing leads to the creation of another. Reproduction is also a peculiarity of the living matter.

The universe is a variegated whole because the same creative principle pervades through it. The realization that the millions of forms from flowers to fowl and dust to damsel are organised on the same precept, makes it incredibly mysterious, marvellous and magical. Take the act of love- making. On the outside, it is a serene, sweet and satisfying affair but inside the woman, the same state or chaos and strife prevails as it did at the time or the Big Bang. Spermatozoa in their billions rise to fertilize the single egg to secure self-reproduction. So terrific is the competition for survival that only one or two may achieve their goal, and the rest perish in this battle. Yet, this is not the whole story: under the cell membrane of each of these spermatozoa is boiling a cauldron of chemical reactions which produce proteins; atoms go through the same process of association and disassociation, and electrons dash around to form molecular combinations the same way as did elementary particles at the time of the Big Bang to form nucleons, and gradually changed into nuclei and atoms. It has been stated authoritatively that the genetic code which is inscribed into sex cells, was built up in the beginning of the universe. It simply confirms the unity of man and the cosmos.

To the untrained mind, matter is inanimate, yet everything comes out of it. Therefore, matter is the source or life though it may look inorganic. This is where the mystery of life deepens still further. How can a lifeless object make a live delivery?

The viruses, which are the smallest disease-inducing organisms, are the closest live things to inanimate matter. Though nobody knows the precise mechanism for turning the inanimate into animate, it is understood to be the result of chemical reactions. Tobacco mosaic virus may help to understand this mystery. In its crystalline phase, it does not portray any traits of life, whatsoever. It is just a dead matter, but when these virus crystals are dissolved in water and sprinkled on a tobacco leaf, they immediately become alive and multiply themselves quickly. It looks that being and non-being share the same threshold, and it does not involve a big effort to push the dead over to the live side and vice versa. It is only a matter of knowing how.

Knowledge is the opposite of mystery. Since life is the greatest mystery, one must know what it is all about; otherwise, it is not worth living. The magnitude of life is evidence to the fact that it is more than a mechanical phase. Mysticism is the only solution to this puzzle.


Chapter 2. Free Will

Of all mysteries, free will is the greatest. It simply means man's power to choose or refuse, yet behind the facade of simplicity, there lurks one of the greatest complexities that the human mind has encountered.

To understand the philosophical nature of this problem, one ought to delve into its background.

Imagine the intellectual state of the primitive man at the dawn of culture. The rustling winds, the majestic motion of streams and rivers, the dignity of lofty mountains, the twinkling stars, the silvery moon and the blazing sun - all must have filled him with a supernatural awe, leading him to believe that there is a deity which has created this colossal universe and manages it actively. Since everything else is controlled by the supernatural being, the primitive man must have thought, that his own breathing including his actions and their causes are also determined by the Almighty. Thus, man has no power over himself or the environment, and it is God's will which prevails over everything.

Add to this, man's tendency to laziness and his enthusiasm to blame others for his sorrows. All his grief by way of hunger, poverty, disease, social degradation and ill-health are someone else's doing. It is because man does not like blame; he prefers to blame the causes outside his jurisdiction.

Man's fear of the natural phenomena and his reluctance to accept blame for his inaptitude and follies, gave birth to the concept of determinism. It is the opposite of free will, and means that all events including moral choices are completely determined by the already existing causes, and there is nothing that man can do himself. However, there is an element of truth in this view; there are certain things over which man has no control such as parentage, colour, nationality, language, cultural inheritance, upbringing, and numerous factors of this nature. They do influence man's intellectual attitudes, moral values and behaviour, yet they do not deprive him of free choice. Free will means the will to select or reject and not the ability to act, though it may form a part of free will yet its absence does not negate the validity of free will; choosing to travel by boat is an act of free will but having no boat is no contradiction of free will. Similarly, man's desire to fly like a bird, is no part of free will; it is a fantasy; free will concerns reality and not sheer imagination. However, when imagination is brought within the bounds of reality, it becomes the subject of free will: manufacturing an aircraft to fly in the air is an example of this fact.

Religion is yet another advocate of determinism because it assumes the pre-existence of a procreator or a creator God who assembles or creates the universe and administers it. The priestly interest has a good deal to do with this theory. The priest, who projects himself as the Vicar of God, becomes the source of grace or intercession to the devotees and thus enjoys a good deal of benefit from the superstitious minds of his followers who believe in determinism, yet expect him to alter the course of predestined events by invoking the grace of God!

Predestination is another word for determinism but it is usually used by the religious scholars; it refers to the principle that God has already chosen those people whom he intends to save. However, in the field of the Semitic religions, especially Christianity, predestination is based on the power of God to foreknow everything. This is a way around the objection that God's actions are arbitrary: He saves some and condemns others willfully. On the ground of foreknowledge, it is claimed that as God knows who will be righteous, His determination is based on merits. However, this is only one of the opinions and the argument of good deeds which can be carried to its logical conclusion. The Christian thinkers like Augustine, Luther and Thomas Aquinas ascribe salvation to God's unmerited grace, and it is well known that God's grace is not available to everyone. Thus, predestination becomes a tale of arbitration.

Confining predestination to salvation only does not appear to the correct Christian view. It is used in the same sense as the word: "determinism," meaning that the causes for everything have already been fixed by the Maker eternally, and therefore, whatever is or will be, has been predestined. There is ample evidence for this theory in chapter 26 of St. Matthew. During the Last Supper, Jesus told Peter that he would deny him (Jesus) three times "Before the cock crow" (26:34). Despite Peter's assertions of total faith and obedience, this is exactly what happened. According to the Bible, he did deny Jesus thrice as he had prophesied:

"And Peter remembered the word of Jesus .... before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice." (26: 75).
As it happened, Peter wept bitterly.

Having the common Semitic origin, Islam has the same approach towards determinism as Christianity. However, the situation has been made somewhat dubious by the sectarian interpretation. Moslem scholars started indulging in philosophic expression c.757. It became fashionable to discuss whether the Koran was eternal or created. The school known as the "Mutazilites" (the Seceders) denied the eternity of the Koran because it implied predestination. The Caliph Al-Mamun championed this interpretation. However, Abul Hasan Al-Ashari (873-945) preached that Allah is the supreme sovereign and He does what He wills. He has determined every movement and event, and is the primary cause of everything that is, or may happen.

In practice, Al-Ashari was right. The Mutazilites were a philosophical- group and wanted to give a rational understanding to the Koran. Such people being intellectuals usually see in their Scriptures what is really not there. It is an attempt to rationalize faith to satisfy one's conscience but the faith and reason are usually diametrically opposed to each other. The Islamic doctrine is strictly deterministic:

"He (Allah) chooses for His mercy whom He will
(The House of Imran: 25)

"Whomsoever God will, He leads astray, and whomsoever He will, He sets him on a right path"
(Cattle: 35 and 125)

" It is not given to any soul to die, except by the leave of God, at an appointed time"
(The House of Imran: 135)

In this context, the Ajivikas of India, also deserve a mention. They were a heretical sect of India which emerged at the same time when Buddhism was rising in the subcontinent. They believed that there is no cause for the purity or depravity of things; they become good or bad without any cause or reason. Effort, whether personal or external has nothing to do with the state of things; they are what they are, and become what they become owing to their destiny and nature. Man has no power to shape his future. This is yet another explanation of determinism.

Fear of the forces of nature and the uncertainty of future, are some of the major factors which arouse superstition, making humans prefer determinism to free will. Astrology is an example to this effect. It is considered a science or a pseudoscience, and is used in the forecasting of earthly and human events through the observation of stars such as the Sun, the Moon and the planets. Some people believe that there exists special relations between the heavenly bodies, their motions and configurations with one another. Man's destiny is considered closely knit with the astrological movements, thus rendering the universe totally mechanistic in nature. The Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle also made their contributions to these attitudes. The mechanistic working of the cosmos is believed to represent the will or God; it is made manifest by various omens which warn humans of the impending dangers so that they can take necessary steps to ward off the disaster. This is the idea that lay behind the old Mesopotamian collections of celestial omens. The royal court was provided with such information to be in a ready state for encountering the imminent hazards of the mechanistic order of the universe.

The Stoics of Greece advocated the concept or rate which closely resembled determinism but without excluding free will altogether. Their doctrine of fate was founded on their distinction between the basic and initiating causes. They viewed man as a small part in the overall pattern of the world. Hence, the famous Stoic saying that a man is like dog tied behind a cart which he must follow willy-nilly.

Man has paid a heavy price for believing in determinism. This view imposes the volition of a super being on the universe which acts as a machine without having a will of its own. Man being a part of the cosmos, is required to act likewise. It is on this principle that men who claimed to be the messiahs and prophets commanded obedience of fellow men by projecting themselves as the envoys of God, who is claimed to be the master of the world. The inter religious hatred and carnage has become the destiny of every believer for this reason. The evils which man would not have accepted otherwise, were thrust on him as the will of God, the true source of determinism. Slavery, the greatest human abomination was projected as the will of God!

Most despots and authoritarian social movements owe their success to the concept of determinism. All Semitic rulers i.e., Jewish, Christian and Moslem, claimed to have been appointed by God and given the divine rights. Hegel, the German philosopher believed in the deterministic nature of history. He advocated that the ordinary folks followed the path chosen for them by history. They did not understand the nature of the social advancement, and were like actors who enacted the roles allotted to them. Hegelian dialectical materialism based on the mutual reactions of contradictory social forces, which was adopted by Karl Marx, represents a deterministic government, desirous of controlling every aspect of an individual's life.

The philosophical doctrine of determinism, having projected the universe as a vast machine bound to operate on a strictly causal basis, has equally affected the scientific thinking. This attitude is rooted in the Newtonian model of mechanics; it means that all future positions and velocities of a particle are determined completely by the forces acting on it.

The Newtonian or classical mechanics is fully deterministic in its outlook: it can facilitate exact predictions of future (as well as of past) if we have the exact masses and the forces, their basic positions and velocities. However, this view is applicable to the working of the large systems only: predicting the orbital motions and return journey from the earth to the moon, are some of the examples. The French mathematician, Pierre Simon de Laplace is considered the major proponent of the deterministic character of the universe. He held:

The present state of the universe is due to its previous state which is also the cause of the state that is to follow. An intelligent being who knows at a given time, all forces acting on the physical phenomena and the momentary positions of all things of the universe, will be able to translate the motions of all things, large and small, into a single formula, yielding a complete understanding of the universe; thus, nothing will remain uncertain, and it will be quite possible to see both past and future with clarity.

This scientific attitude makes the universe a machine which runs exactly according to the intended design of the maker and has no capacity or taste for changing its operation of behaviour.

However, this classical view or determinism has been successfully challenged by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. It should be remembered that the classical or deterministic theory depends on precisely knowing the initial positions and velocities of all the particles in a system. While this procedure is operative in respect of large bodies, it does not work at atomic and subatomic level; the study of motions of electrons within atoms and molecules, is an example to this effect. This difficulty is caused by what is called diffraction. It is a blurring agent, and is not accidental in a measurement but an inherent and inescapable feature associated with the wave nature of light. This blurring or diffraction leads to a corresponding uncertainty in the measurement of an object. Diffraction occurs when the light from a point source is not brought to a point focus in the image plane of a telescope or microscope.

This uncertainty principle is also known as Indeterminacy principle. The reason is simple: what cannot be measured exactly cannot be operated and predicted precisely. Therefore, it is not subject to determinism, and must have some control over its behaviour. This indeterminacy springs from the fact that one can observe accurately only the momentum of an electron or its position. They both cannot be done at the same time. The truth depicted by the Uncertainty principle is confirmed by the fact that the Newtonian mechanics cannot be applied to atoms, the building blocks of the universe. Thus, it is not the Newtonian laws, the advocates of determinism, which govern the essence and operation of the universe but the quantum mechanics, which does not describe exactitudes but possible happenings; they are of statistical nature for being the ambassadors of probabilities of alternative occurrences. They compare with the actuarial tables of insurance companies, which give the probable death rate within a certain age-range and cannot tell the exact life span of a particular person.

Teleology is yet another angle for probing into the nature or this issue. It means "end, " that is, an explanation is given with reference to some end or purpose. Aristotle, was the first person who gave the most effective account of teleology. He believed that the best explanation of something is achieved not only by considering its material form and efficient causes, but it also requires the inclusion of the final cause i.e., the purpose for which the thing exists or has been produced. He thought of form as the determining agent in the universe but form does not take place through a conscious process; things assume form by what they have in them through a general operation rather than through the working of a constant efficient cause. In simple language, things assume forms according to what they are destined to be; things become what they become according to their potential to be. Therefore, becoming or assumption of form, is dictated by its inherent potential. According to the Aristotelian teleology, everything has a purpose in the universe, but the things are not striving to achieve their ends consciously; they work like the organs of a body which have their functions to perform but they do so without knowing this fact yet they move in the direction which fulfils their allotted roles.

The modern biological thinking in some quarters is also deterministic. It is said, and quite rightly, that parts of an organism have a purpose with respect to the whole. They even go further and claim that life itself is inherently purposive, but without defining "purpose" or man's purpose as a biological entity. This is an extension of the Lamarckian view of evolution based on the inheritance of acquired characteristics. The fact that offsprings inherit traits of their parents is a deterministic feature, yet evolution is a process of natural selection, which is random i.e., it is not a phenomenon subject to the control of a particular being, and is affected by many factors which are brought about by the elements of chance and unpredictability such as mutation and environmental vicissitudes. Therefore, it is not possible to predict what kind of species the biological changes may produce. Thus, biology is cited as an example of an "after- the-fact exploratory science." It means that biological facts take place before they can be subjected to an examination. The reason is simple: the cause of evolution cannot be determined.

What I have said so far is a brief history of the debate which has centered around the subject of determinism versus free will. It shows its significance but does not solve the problem. This is a fundamental issue and points of this nature seldom admit absolute solution, yet one has to ponder over them in search of clarification.

Is free will a reality? And if so, what is its relation to determinism?

To start with, teleology or purpose does not prove that whatever exists, has a maker. If this were true, one would be entitled to ask how the maker himself came into existence. Thus, the question of becoming could not be answered solely with reference to the ancient principle of cause-and-effect. Assumption of an "unmoved-mover" as Aristotle made, is just an intellectual luxury because a mover himself has to be moved by something else. Similarly, a maker who has a purpose, must be dependent on it for his own fulfilment, and therefore, cannot be absolute in himself. Though purpose is a reality in terms of a function and daily business of life, in a metaphysical sense it does not hold good. Teleology, contrary to popular belief, is completely destructive to the concept of creation. The God who is dependent on the fulfilment of his purpose, cannot be absolute, and therefore lacks the power and knowledge to create such a vast universe requiring immense intelligence and control. Since teleologically, this is not a possibility, the universe has got to be self - perpetuating, and self-perpetuation is possible through the dominance of a creative principle only. This universe and whatever is in it, is a manifestation of the Creative principle. While I may not indulge in explaining the Creative principle here, I ought to describe my idea of principle.

A principle is an underlying formula or doctrine which is responsible for the existence of a thing, and it also imparts a purpose or function to whatever it forms. Take for example, the scientific principle H20. It refers to two parts of hydrogen and one part of oxygen. It means that when these elements mix in the stated ratio, they do so for the purpose of bringing water into existence. So, the purpose is not associated with the maker but the make itself, which is governed by the underlying principle.

The performance of a function is also called purpose. It is inherent and self-directed. The organs of a living body do whatever they have to do without knowing what they are doing. It is done for self-fulfillment, which is usually a successful operation for survival i.e., the continuance of existence. Since existence is an evolutionary process, it is a spontaneous phenomenon, and therefore, its own purpose, and is self-directed.

With a view to carrying the point to its logical conclusion, I ought to refer to the old hypothesis that existence comes out of nothingness. Thus, nothingness is the womb of existence. However, as a tree comes out of a seed and a baby springs from semen, the conditions prevailing in the beginning of existence must have been very basic and chaotic to resemble nothingness. It is claimed that initially the universe was an aggregate of dust and gases. To understand the dignity of man, the possessor of free will, it may not be out of place to add a few words how the world came about as we know it:

Nobody knows exactly what happened during the first second of the Big Bang, the starting point of the universe. Quarks are said to have played a major role in the first millionth of a second. It was just an ocean of heat during the first second. It consisted of five elementary particles, namely, protons, neutrons, electrons, photons and neutrinos. These particles which at temperatures about 10 28 degrees lose their individuality, wandered at will without recognizing each other. (Here two points should be noted about the reality of the universe:

1. The fact that the elementary particles become one and the same thing over temperatures of 10 28 degrees, vouches for their basic unity. This proves the old mystical principle of unity in diversity.
2. Since these particles do have their individuality as protons, neutrons, electrons, photons and neutrons, it means that it is quite natural for the basic unity to emerge as diversity through a process of attaining individuality.)

However, in some cases, the wandering protons and neutrons did combine to form the simplest nuclear system known as the deuteron i.e. heavy hydrogen nucleus.
This is a brief account of what happened during the first second. Instead of indulging in further details which is bound to fill several pages, I ought to curtail the narrative and add that protons have positive electric charge and electrons are negatively charged. As temperatures fell to about 3000 degrees, each proton united with an electron to mark the birth of atoms, the building blocks of the universe. We are told that the evolution has been going on for the last fourteen billion years.

Free will is the trait of higher life and nature has gone a very long to way to create it. Take for instance, the planet earth, the only known source of life. To create life, the earth is exactly at the right distance from the sun to receive the correct amount of sunlight; otherwise, it would be too hot or too cold as the cradle of life. The magnetic field of the earth is also made to measure for deflecting back to space the lethal radiation of the sun whose severity would otherwise destroy life. Its miraculous engineering is vouched for by the spin of its axis at just the right speed which enables the day- time side to warm in sunshine and the night-time side to cool. The precise gravity of the earth assured by its calculated mass enables the molecules to hold together, otherwise, they would drift off into space. With this description, we should also remember that the planet earth, in the beginning was just a rocky and barren place. The earth had to pass through many stages to develop an environment suitable for producing life. Man is the highest stage of this process, and evolution of man is not possible without endowing him with free will.

Life begins with the emergence of free will. A stone is a stone because it does not have free will but a cell such as amoeba is live because it has the will to move about despite the fact that they both are made of atoms. Obviously, free will lies dormant in atoms and increases in intensity as the ladder of evolution extends higher. At subhuman stage, it is passive but at human level, it becomes active and pines for taking over the conduct of one's ego or self. Its emergence is the greatest wonder for two reasons: firstly fancy, the inorganic state of the universe; its passage through a labor of 14 billion years for the sheer joy of producing man endowed with free will. Secondly, the libertarian nature of free will because it nearly eliminates the dominance of the physical law as applicable to human life and enables man to conduct his affairs as he pleases. This point is better understood if we realise that the human body is governed by exactly the same laws of physics and chemistry as all other bodies. For example, my walk is activated by what is called the law of reactions, that is actions and reactions are equal and opposite. Unless my body observes this law, my legs cannot move but this law does not tell my legs where to go. Obviously, something has emerged inside me, and this something is not only over and above the confines of physics and chemistry, but also their goal. This something is free will, my own power of choosing which decides whether my legs should carry me to a temple or a tavern, a rose-garden or a race-course.

Free will bestows on me the freedom of choice. Thus, I am at liberty to indulge in vice or virtue and become a deuce or deus. It means freedom is the purpose of life and man has the right to demand the elimination of all those barriers which restrict his freedom of action, bearing in mind that everyone is entitled to freedom and therefore, one's own free will must not become a source of denying freedom to one's fellow-beings.

It should be borne in mind that free will is imperceptibly interwoven with individuality. The particles constituting the universe are basically the same but they acquire individuality as protons and neutron through the process of evolution. Therefore, the purpose of evolution is to create individuality, which implies one's innate right to maintain one's identity. Thus, the extension of the evolutionary ladder from particles to man clearly shows that the cosmos is marching towards freedom. In fact, it is an attempt to arouse the dormancy of atoms to the state of consciousness for creating free will.

However, this universe is subject to the law of polarity, that is, hot cannot exist without cold and light is meaningless without dark. This is the reason that free will has its opposite, determinism, mentioned previously. Existence is a form of determinism because it cannot take place unless the underlying principle is observed strictly and lasts as long as the underlying principle is adhered to vigorously. However, existence is not for the sake of existence; everything that exists has a function; a function can be mechanical which is accomplished like a machine and thus free will is not required, but at human level, the situation is almost reversed. Firstly, man is a freedom loving individual, and secondly, his functional magnitude is so great and varied that it cannot be accomplished without free will. Thus, in human terms, free will has a precedence over determinism. In other words, determinism is an organizational principle whereas free will is an operative doctrine.

A closer examination of the issue discloses that free will is not possible without determinism, which is the fountain of individuality or identity of something. A thing has to exist before it can exercise its options i.e., free will, but the purpose of distinguished existence i.e. as an individual, especially as a human is to discharge certain functions which require free will to choose and refuse for carrying out the functional tasks. Thus, free will is the more evolved and advanced form of determinism. In fact, free will is the purpose of determinism.

When this fact is borne in mind, the friction between the two disappears because they emerge as two aspects of the same thing as positive and negative poles are of electricity. The relationship between the two can be viewed with reference to one's genetic pool: one inherits genes from one's parents. They determine not only one's potential to be but also endow upon one the capacity to break away from the constraints of the DNA through individual choice such as learning and also act as the source of enabling one to improve oneself by securing a better adjustment with the environment. Again, for the purpose of existence, it is determined that action must have a reaction but the free will gives one the ability not only to choose the stimulus but also the method of reacting to it. For example, one can forgive or retaliate. Thus, the incidence of determinism becomes subject to a vast number of choices. It is determined that only a bird can fly, and man cannot, but he can make this deficiency good through an aircraft.

In fact, further evolution of humanity is not possible without the proper use of free will. Humanity does not mean just intelligence and power of speech; morality is its most significant and greatest ingredient. It implies exercising one's options responsibly and judicially because these are the factors which entitle a mammal to be called a human.

Morality or ethics is man's concern as how to act voluntarily in relation to others and also maintain his dignity as a human. Man's actions and responses spring from his bodily movements and reflexes which are determined by his physical make-up. However, the truth is that though man as a structure is a symbol of determinism, his actions are not stereotype. He may not have absolute control over his body but he has sufficient command over it to mold its behavior. This is the reason that human life is not mechanical like that of the heavenly bodies, and he largely does what he chooses to do. This power of choosing is free will. Without it development of morality, the essence of humanity is not possible.

Greater mystery is associated with free will than anything else. Change of dust into atoms, atoms into cells and cells into humans, clearly indicates that the universe is involved in a struggle for self-improvement. Man seems to be its highest peak, and it is denoted by his free will. Is man really the apex of the universal improvement? It cannot be; man is still imperfect. Therefore, the process of universal improvement must go beyond man. There must be a higher plane of existence which is perfect for being free from disease, decline and death. Thus, free will, the mystery, leads even to a greater mystery. This is the state of eternity, brimming with hope, hilarity and happiness. One may call it godhead. What is it? One must probe into the mystery, which is posed by the mystery of free will.

The proper enquiry into this problem requires that we should acknowledge the reality of free will instead of wailing about determinism, which is the fountain of free will. The concept of free will and its force vouch for the fact that man is born to be free, and therefore, all hurdles such as superstition, poverty, ignorance, injustice, tyranny, despotism, etc., which impede the course of free will and freedom, must be cleared with dare, dignity and dedication.

Free will is the virtue which must be exercised with a sense of responsibility. A free man's life expresses the greatness of free will, and it is this state of living, which deserves to be called liberty.


Chapter 3. Origin of Mysticism

Mysticism or the quest for the hidden truth that pervades the fabric of nature, is aroused by the mysterious projection of the universe. It is a labyrinth where lovers are lost and the real pleasure of existence lies in search for the beloved, which grows deeper and more interesting with rising hope and intensified desire.

As stated previously, it is always for the lover to look for the beloved and do all the wooing. When a beloved becomes a wooer, he or she loses the status of the beloved. The true zest of love lies in the search which multiplies with the degree of sincerity, sobriety and strain involved in the exploration. Those who have had an experience of true love, know the value of sighs, sorrows and supplications suffused with selflessness, no matter how suffocating, suppressing and stifling the experience.

In the world of mysticism, it is the language of love that prevails, irrespective of, whether we indulge in the Indian Christian or Islamic mysticism. It is poetic in nature and packed with an emotional appeal bursting with desire, which appears erotic and demanding, yet in reality, it is pure and perfect carrying the pomp and prestige of ardent love which is ingenious, ingenuous and irrepressible. When we apply this list to the origin of mysticism, India stands out as the true home of mysticism because in the Vedas, the Indian scriptures, it is man who woos God being inspired by the fear, reverence and wonder of nature. The other religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam have exactly the opposite approach. In these faiths, it is God who contacts man. An Indian mystic believes that the natural phenomenon i.e., the world of appearance is a veil between the Reality and man, the seeker, who must initiate a probe for Brahmin, the Reality, and he can trace Him through acquired and intuitive knowledge only. On the contrary, the Semitic religions hold that it is God who reveals Himself to man because He wants to be worshipped and desires to guide man; people who believe in Him are guided and saved but the unbelievers are thrown into hell. This philosophy clearly shows that:

a. Relationship between God and man is not that of love because He forces himself on man through revelation.

b. Man is not a lover but a slave who is required by divine command to obey and worship the Almighty.

c. The fact that God reveals Himself and does not observe a veil cheapens Himself and thus divests Himself of the adoration that true love deserves.

d. Again, as God destroys those who do not worship Him, the entire purpose of revelation and creation is the glorification of God, and man is just a pawn in the phenomenal game.

1. Exodus 3:4 clearly states about Moses that an angel of God appeared before him from a burning bush. It was an act of God's revelation, and He wanted to impress man (Moses) with His Divine power. Therefore, though the bush burnt, it was not consumed.

Exodus 4: 10-14 narrates yet another episode which states that Moses was reluctant to carry the burden of prophethood owing to not being eloquent because of defective speech. God argues with him to accept the responsibility as His prophet: "Now, therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say." But when Moses still dithers, he does so at the risk of kindling God's wrath!

2. Though there is no mention of Trinity in the New Testament, this happens to be the basic belief of the Christians. Most Christians believe in Jesus not as God, the Son, but as God incarnate, meaning that he was God in the form of man.

The mere fact of his birth, growing and preaching constitutes an act of revelation. The desire of Jesus to be acknowledged as God was so strong that he was crucified on the charge of blasphemy though the faithful put on it an entirely different interpretation, which seeks to portray it as an act of salvation for the human race.

Jesus wanted to be loved by mankind: like Yahweh, the Jewish God, he appears as a jealous God because he does not 1ike the idea of people loving anybody else including one's father, mother, sons and daughters (Matt. 10: 37). In fact, he goes even further, and demands that one must prove one's love for him by hating one's father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters and even one's life (Luke 14: 26).

It is rather strange: love is a natural trait and function of the lover, if he/she does not show an intense desire for the beloved voluntarily, one can assume with certainty that there is no spark of affection. Of course; it is unnatural, and even vulgar, to demand to be treated as a beloved along with the compliments that a true love deserves. Once God has revealed Himself, He has lost the status of a beloved. In fact, revelation is an act of a beloved chasing the "lover." I need not say what people think of such a beloved.

3. Islam also advocates the same divine approach, which clearly shows that God imposes Himself on man through revelation. Page 640 of the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1971, describes an event in the life of the Prophet Muhammad, which has not been challenged by anyone in the Muslim world. It states that, according to Muhammad, the Word or God was revealed to him by the Archangel Gabriel. This luminous figure caught him by the throat and commanded him to repeat the sacred words but he tried to flee. Muhammad suspected the genuineness of his message and was afraid that the revelation resembled the claims of the visionary poets of his time who frequented the streets of Mecca with their pretense of being divinely illuminated.

However, this episode is more authoritatively stated on page 97 of the Hadith: Sahih Muslim (vol. one):

There came to him (Muhammad) the angel and said: Recite, to which he replied: I am not lettered. He took hold of me (the apostle said) and pressed me, till I was hard-pressed; thereafter, he let me off and said: Recite, to which I replied: I am not lettered. He took hold of me and pressed me for the third time, till I was hard pressed and then let me go and said: Recite in the name of your Lord who created you from a clot of blood. Recite. And your most bountiful Lord is He who taught the use of pen - taught what you knew not. Then the Prophet returned therewith, his heart was trembling, and he went to Khadija and said: Wrap me up, wrap me up. So, they wrapped him till the fear had left him.

This is an extraordinary event: God sends the archangel who uses violence on a human to act as his prophet for conveying His message to the people so that they should supplicate and prostrate before Him. Allah, like the Jewish and Christian Gods, not only wants the obedience of people but desperately desires to be worshipped. Though He repeatedly calls Himself kind and merciful, His extravagant threats of revenge, retribution and retaliation render His promises of care, clemency and compassion rather fragile. He always seems angry, threatening and even reviling the unbelievers. And when He is not indulging in the expression of fury, He seems to be bribing the faithful with the glorious comforts of paradise and the appetizing sexual bounties of the most beautiful virgins who dwell here.

One an easily see that this approach is divorced from the basic concept of mysticism.

4. Though the Vedas are considered as the Holy Scriptures of the Hindus, I am reluctant to call them as such. To my mind, they are the sacred books of India and form an integral part of the cultural heritage of people of the Indian descent irrespective of their faith.

There are four Vedas, the oldest being the Rigveda, which also happens to be the root of the Vedic religion leading to its latest form known as Hinduism. The Veda is considered eternal. It is not subject to revelation; all god or gods had to do was to promote the intuition of the pious and gifted men known as Rishi or seers who were able to see the eternal truth directly without the help of any medium including sense perception. They expressed this truth in a human language called Sanskrit.

This is the claim of the Hindu faithful, and one may be willing to admire it without acknowledging its divine origin or supernatural element. Since there is a repeated mention of the Eternal Law in the Rigveda, one comes to the conclusion that the Vedic seers were deeply interested in the natural phenomena, and thought of the universe as an organised whole. Not only the SAT or the systematic cosmos was governed by order and truth called RTA but man himself was an integral part of the universe which was likely to suffer chaos (ASAT) through the interference of the demoniac powers or antigods (ASURAS). Man had thus an obligation to make a contribution towards the maintenance of the world, and he could do so by performing sacrifices and offering gods SOMA drink. The purpose of sacrifices, Soma and many complex rituals was to secure the propitiation of the hidden forces of nature, which influenced the quality of human life through their effect and intensity. As humans and animals have shapes and attributes which give them power to act and be nice or nasty, these forces of nature which had the ability to peel and heel, sadden and gladden and elevate and devastate, must also possess certain forms and characteristics. So, they gave these natural forces particular shapes usually human and sometimes animalic such as elephant, bull and monkey. One should also applaud the vision of the Vedic man who knew that the cosmic order is hierarchical. So, they stratified these forces of nature, creating gods and goddesses of various ranks having different powers and prestige. The greatest of them was Dyasuh-Pitar, Heavenly Father or the sky. Then there were Indra, the god of Indu or rain and dew, Agni, the god of fire, Surya, the Sun, Usha the goddess of the dawn, and many more. So, these hidden forces ascended the human mind with mystical attributes and powers.

One ought to remember that these forces are part of the universe which is mysterious and arouses fear in man's heart. Thus, he seeks protection against this natural consternation through a set of rituals, supplications and sacrifices, which eventually emerge as a religion; it seeks to protect the human mind from fear of the cosmic vastness, mystery and uncertainty the same way as the ozone layer shields the earth from the lethal effects of the sun's ultraviolet rays. Because of its survival value, religion comes to be associated with man's instinct and almost all his actions become reflexive in relation to the next world and he usually defies reason to protect the faith, which is, in fact, a form of make-believe; he does not want to be shaken out of his daydreaming to face the reality of life which is harsh, hazardous and even horrendous, though capable of molding into hilarity, happiness and even a halo, but it requires a lot of effort, which he is reluctant to put in. Why? It is because religion offers him the earth just for having faith in a certain guru, prophet or messiah. Why should he suffer pain for what he call get gratis?

Since the Veda is inspired by the mystical fear of the universe seeking peace of mind through appeasing the forces of nature including the supreme God, it represents man's spontaneous desire, and not dictated by a super-being. to mount a search for the hidden truth through meditation and rituals. This is the reason that throughout the hymns of the Rigveda, one cannot trace a single stanza where a god tells man to supplicate him, bow, bend or prostrate before him, worship him. Whatever rituals or forms or worship man adopts, he does so of his own free will, without any divine coercion, whatever. The Veda, thus, represents man's natural curiosity to find the Reality with a view to becoming a part of it. Of course, this situation changes with the emergence of the Orthodox Hinduism because Lord Krishna wants to be worshipped by his devotees but I am concerned here with Vedism though Hinduism still preserves some of its original traits.

Since the Vedic quest for reality is initiated by man of his own free will, it gives him the status of a lover and bestows on God the honor of being the beloved, seeking union with Him. And this has been the fundamental principle of mysticism since inception of civilization. On the contrary, the approach of the Semitic religions, as already described, is entirely the opposite: it is God who threatens man with hell or coaxes him with the offer of paradise to seek Him and thus loses the status of a beloved which constitutes the core of mysticism. This is the reason that the Biblical and Koranic messages commence with a command such as "say..," that is, God orders a man called "prophet," in a vision or through an angel to say this or that to the people as the Will of God. Thus, their approach is revelatory because God comes to man so that he should love and obey Him; it disqualifies Him as the beloved, the object of search. Therefore, it is only Hinduism which rises as the source of mysticism whereby it is man who seeks God voluntarily.

Yet another reason why mysticism cannot form part of Judaism, Christianity or Islam is the fact that these religions believe in a creator God, whose relationship with man is that of his Maker. Therefore, man is nothing but God's servant or slave, whose destiny it is to cry, creep and crawl before Him as a worshipper, begging His mercy.

Again, the Semitic religion such as Islam declares that the ultimate goal of man is to enter paradise to enjoy physical delights such as beautiful surroundings, delicious food, wine and women. Similarly, Judaism and Christianity have their ideas of salvation; they treat man as God's creature, dependent on His grace forever. It is only the Vedic attitude incorporated by Hinduism, which seeks union with God.

Before I narrate the basic points of mysticism, which are an integral part of Hinduism, I ought to say a few words about the composition of the Vedas:

Though Western scholars agree to accord the Vedas an antiquity stretching back to 1500 B.C., it is somewhat a begrudging assessment, and emanates from the fact that the Hindu culture has lost its dominant aspect over the last 1000 years. The antiquity of the Vedas can be stretched back another thousand years, if not more.

Besides the Rig. Veda, which is the original work, there are other three volumes known as Yajur, Sama and Atharva. The Rig. Veda was composed in the Punjab where Sanskrit was developed as the sacred language of the Vedas as well as the vehicle of the literary expression. It is in Sanskrit that the roots and shoots of such languages as Greek, Latin, Kelt, Tuton and Slavonian lie. Even the deities of these lands their myths, religious beliefs and practices have a good deal in common with the Vedic traditions of thought and action.

This point is so significant that not only comparative religious but also cultural history of the world, and especially the West, cannot be understood without them. Though there is a host of evidence to show that Sanskrit has a precedence over the classical languages of the West, such as Greek and Latin, the western scholars do not acknowledge it as the mother of these tongues, and claim that Sanskrit was a sister of the language they term as the ''Indo-European." It is strange that Sanskrit is as live and kicking even today as it ever was, but there is no trace of the Indo-European. The same remarks apply to the original homeland of the Aryans who developed the Sanskrit language. The Rig. Veda does not mention a word about the foreign origin of the Aryans but repeatedly narrates the glory of the Punjab, their true home. When we consider that it is the Punjab that has the honor to populate most of the Indian sub-continent and to bless these provinces with its Vedic culture, it is not difficult to imagine that the Europeans emigrated from those parts of Asia, once called the Punjab, and not the Russian Steppe.

Mysticism as depicted by the Rig. Veda, unmistakably shows the following features:

1. Mysticism is not a revealed religion but inspired by the mysterious nature of the universe. This fact is described in hymn CXXXIX of creation:

This hymn clearly states that originally there was neither being nor nonbeing; nor air, nor sky. There was total darkness, and this All was concealed in chaos.

There was only a void and formlessness, and it was the great power of Warmth which led to the birth of unit (i.e., primitive order).

The existent comes out of the nonexistent, and this is the relationship between being and non being, and was motivated by Desire.

There were mighty forces and their action on "the energy up yonder" which brought order to chaos and gave it form.

One ought to realise that the sage who composed this hymn starts it with speculative questions: what was air and sky covered in? What gave shelter, and was water there and was it unfathomed?

Considering that this hymn was written 1500 - 2500 B.C., it is marvellous to be scientific in all proportions: it clearly states:

a. All was covered in darkness, that is, entire natural phenomenon is of the same origin, hence the principle of monism;

b. the second stunning corollary of the speculative hymn is that existence comes out of nothingness;

c. the third point is that existence is brought about by the action of natural forces on matter i.e. "the energy beyond up yonder;"

d. in the beginning, there is chaos, which is turned into the natural phenomenon that presents order, and

e. behind all this was the great power of warmth, which one may interpret as heat.

However, the kernel of this discussion is that the sage does not pretend that what he says is the revealed message; it is inspired by the wonder and mystery of this universe, and as in the beginning of the hymn, he remains equally astonished in the end:

".. who knows then whence it (the universe) came into being?

He the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it, whose eye controls this cosmos in the loftiest heaven, he truly knows it, or perhaps he knows not."

2. It is man's instinctive search for the truth, hidden behind the universe, which has been incorporated by Hinduism in its original philosophy. This Indian religion propounds that behind the natural phenomenon, is a principle which is uncreated, eternal, infinite, transcendent and all-embracing. It comprises both being and non-being. This is the sole reality which is not only the ultimate cause and source of all existence but also its final goal. This reality is called Brahman; He is the all, that is, the occult and the visible, over and under; He is not the creator but causes the universe and all that is in it to emanate from Himself.

a. Thus Brahman is in all things and is the self (Atman) of all living things. Brahman who creates everything out of Himself, also is the preserver, transformer and absorber of everything.

b. The fact that the First Principle, Brahman or God is in everything and everything comes out of Him, gave birth to the famous Indian philosophy described as the "One in All, and All in One." which the Greeks, the Jews and the Arabs adopted as: "Unity in diversity and diversity in unity." This is monism which is considered as the universal principle of mysticism.

3. As everything comes out of God and goes back into Him in alternate cycles of evolution and devolution, man's true goal is to seek union with God. This has also become a major doctrine of mysticism.
Communion with God is also an Indian innovation of a later date which emerged with the Bhagavad Gita, requiring man to love and worship God and seek nearness of Him. Though this has also become an integral part of mysticism, it is not compatible with the Vedic spirit, which happens to be union with God i.e. becoming a part of Him.

4. The hymn XCI of book 10, known as Purusasukta is a further statement of the fact that the world is monistic in nature and emphasizes that the cosmos is not a machine but an organism. If it were not so, man and matter could not form a part of God to make the universe various aspects of the Reality.

Everything on the earth, the sky, the moon, the sun, and even the gods such as Indra, Agni, and Vayu, came into being from the sacrifice of a person called Purusa, having a thousand heads, a thousand eyes and thousand feet.

Delightful though it is to note that this hymn is based on a scientific observation of the universe which diagnoses the oneness of existence, thus enabling man to reach the highest possible point of development, that is, to become a part of Godhead through union with the suprerne, deplorable it equally is because it lays down the foundation of Caste System, treating certain people such as Brahmin and Ksatriya as superior just by virtue of birth, and other such as Vaisya and Sudra as inferior, and even unclean, just by nativity.

Though the Hindus have treated Samsara or transmigration of souls through Caste System as the vehicle of salvation i.e. the union of man with God, one can ignore it completely; the oneness of the universe is a sufficiently strong medium to unite man with God.

5. Another major point of the Vedic mysticism is the fact that though God is man's superior, the relationship between the two is not that of a master and a slave. The hymn LXXXIX known as Visvadevas clearly states:

"The friendship of the Gods have we devoutly sought."

This Vedic approach is taken much further in verses 3 to 6 of hymn LXXXVIII, dedicated to VARUNA. It says that the worshipper has lost the old favor that he once had of the god, yet he is bold enough to remind the deity:

"What hath become of those our ancient friendships, which without ... we walked together."

The relationship between God and man is that of friendship. Another point this hymn stresses is that man originally belonged to the realm of God, and has been separated from Him. It is this doctrine that appears as the focus of metempsychosis in the systems of Pythagoras, Plato Gnosticism, and Manechaeism.

6. Meditation through recitation of a particular word which has the mystical power to reform man's inner vision for making his union with God a possibility, is a peculiarity or the Vedic mysticism; to the Hindus and Sikhs it is "Japp," which is called Dhikr in Islam; people of other faiths have their own synonyms for this word, yet the basic principle is essentially Vedic.

"Simply, ye Mighty Ones, I ask the Gods of that wondrous oblation hallowed by the mystic word." (Hymn CXX - Asvins, Book One).

Again, hymn CLXIV says:

"upon what syllable of holy praise - song, as I were their highest heaven, the Gods repose them, who knows not this, what will he do with praise - song? But they who know it will sit here assembled."

Originally, "Vasat" was the mystical word in making an oblation to a god with fire. This word had to be used with the utmost accuracy. otherwise, the priest was sure to suffer the deadliest consequences of his error.

However, the greatest mystical word of the Hindus is OM, which is not only sacred to them but also discloses the nature of mysticism itself. It implies that as God is the self in everything, everything serves as the divine symbol which represents His power, pomp and prestige. Of course, a symbol is nothing in itself because its true significance lies in what it represents or stands behind it. It is like a word which has a meaning, it is a flower which has fragrance and it is a magnet which has hidden attractive power. This fact is well illustrated by "OM" itself. It is a Sanskrit word composed of three sounds: a-u-m. The vowels a and u merge into one another to become o. The mystical approach of Om represents several important articles of the Hindu faith such as the three major Hindu gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, the three Vedic scriptures, Rig. Yajur and Sama, the three worlds of earth, atmosphere and heaven, and so on. In fact, Om represents the mystical essence of the entire universe. This word is frequently used in the Buddhist and Jaina rituals as well as in the practice of yoga and the related techniques of auditory meditation.

The mystical representation by words and syllables is also found in the Koran, the Islamic scripture. It commences with the letters Alif, Lam, Mem which are supposed to have a mystical meaning. "Allah-Hoo" is as significant a word in Islam as Om is in Hinduism. Its frequent recitation or Dhikr is held as the key to salvation, and it is for this reason that it is considered: "Isme-Azam."

This symbolic approach of mysticism is at the root of arts and literature. For example, the written notes are not music but a set of musical cues for the creation of the tones to be produced by the various instruments. Similarly the medium of literature is words but not as abstract entities conceived in the mind but words as spoken or written.

The final stage in the tradition of the Veda is represented by what is called Vedanta i.e. conclusion of the Veda. This tradition is explained by a vast body of prose and verse rich in speculative elaborations. It is contained in the Upanishad and dates back to 800 B.C. or earlier. This is the fountain of the later Indian philosophy, which itself originated from the Rig. Veda.

Mystical speculation is the special concern of the Upanishads which though gave India a philosophical edge over the rest of mankind, arrested its secular march by creating an observation with the world-to-come and reducing man's role in making this life pleasant, prestigious and praiseworthy. The Hindu concern with the purification of self as a preparation for the other worldliness has imposed a heavy penalty on the Indian way of life.

The Indian wisdom, as it is quite clear from the study of these Upanishads, directed itself with complete devotion, dedication and a sacred sense of duty to the path of Reality; it developed:

a. the concept of a single, supreme being, and

b. emphasized that man needs knowledge to discover the Supreme Being and to be able to unite with Him.

c. Though monism had always been the message of the Vedas, through discussion, demonstration and dissemination, the Hindu seers made it a public knowledge that Brahman and self, or God and soul are one in essence. Since everything has a self which is an extension of God, the diversity of forms, constituting this universe, represents a single unity which gave birth to the universal principle: "One in all and all in One."

To a Hindu mystic, reality is one. The manifoldness of forms is just an appearance:

"There is on earthy no diversity. He gets death after death, who perceives here seeming diversity. As a unity only is it to be looked upon - This indemonstrable, endurable Being."
(Brih. 4.4.19-20)

Again Chand. 7.26.2. states:

" The seer sees not death, Nor sickness, nor any distress. The seer sees only the All, Obtains the All entirely."

The Indian philosophy of monism, that is, one in all and all in one, surely holds up the dignity of man. It attaches a negative value to worship or the acts of sacrifice:

"This that people say "Worship this god! Worship that god."
"And he himself is all the gods" (Brih. 1.4.6)
so whoever worships another divinity (than his self),
He is one and I another, "is not aware of the truth
"An individual man may become Brahma (God) by knowing
himself to be such" (Brih. 1.4.15)

As a matter of interest, I should also mention that Upanishads represent the opposite points of view as well, and thus show the independence and originality of the Indian thinking:

1. To a student of Upanishad, knowledge does not mean "much learning" but the comprehension of the cosmic truth. It is the sole vehicle of discovering the Reality and is directly opposed to the Semitic device of revelation which means that God approaches man to reveal Himself.

In fact, there exists in Upanishads the doctrine or Prasada or Grace, found in Katha 2.20 as well as Svet 3.20. It means that man needs God's grace to achieve salvation or immortality. Svet 1.6. states:

"In this Brahma - wheel (universe) the soul flutters about, thinking that itself and the Actuator (God) are different, when favored by Him, it (soul) attains immortality."

Katha 2.23 (= Mund 3.2.3) goes even further to negate the doctrine of knowledge and holds out the doctrine of election:
"This soul is not to be obtained by instructions,
not by intellect, nor by much learning.
He is to be obtained only by the One whom He chooses.
To such a one that Soul reveals his own person."

It is rather stunning that the concepts of Grace and Election which were to form the basic doctrines of Christianity and Islam centuries later, were developed in India as part of the mystical system.
Having said that I should emphasize that the doctrine of knowledge remains the true mystical Vedic approach. Though I have already propounded it in my own way, I may now explain it as Shankra, the celebrated Indian philosopher did, centuries earlier:

The concept of Maya is to be found in the Rig. Veda 6.47.18, where it means ''supernatural powers or artifices" which imply the antithesis of reality; this is the origin of the Vedic doctrine of Maya: it means that the real Brahma or God is the undifferenced unity but the natural phenomena which appear as self-subsistent entities, are unreal and result from a person's own ignorance or Avidya which projects the things or one's own sense as the ultimate being of the world. However, this ignorance can be remedied through knowledge. This is what gave birth to the celebrated Indian theory of Cosmic illusion which served as the basis of the Platonic theory of Forms and an essential pillar of the international mysticism.

Svet 4. 9-10 describes this fact which became the Maya doctrine of the Upanishads:

"This whole world the illusion-maker projects out of this
(Brahma). And in it by illusion the other is confined.
Now one should know that Nature is illusion.
And that the Mighty Lord is the illusion-maker."

Shankra stated the theory of Maya much more forcefully. He held the world does not exist of itself but is derived from Brahman (God) and depends on Him for its existence. Therefore, it is not an illusion but less real. It is a Maya, a phenomenal appearance, partly created by our own imagination; it expresses our inability to see the world without being an expression of cause and change. It shows man's innate limitation which is termed as Avidya or ignorance. Because of this Maya, the intellect assumes that it knows the real. The world is only one Being but through Maya (Avidya) appears as multiplicity of forms and a process of flux. Change is just a name for superficial fluctuation of forms. Behind this Maya, forms and vicissitudes, lies the Reality that can be reached not by sensation but through insight gained by knowledge. This ultimate Reality is Brahman (God).

Since God is in all, the Self or Atman (soul) or everything is a part of God. It is shared by us and everything else; the undivided Self of things, which happens to be omnipresent, is identical with Brahman, who is neuter and above all human attributes, desire and ends.

Shankra, a great mystic, set the goal of mysticism. He believed that destination of philosophy is to discover the secret behind the universe, and the ultimate goal of every seeker is to lose himself into this secret. This is what Moslems call "Fana-Fe-Allah" and other remember it as union with God. This is the stage of existence where there is no misery, no death. It is a state of Ananda, the blissful peace but it cannot be achieved unless a man not only renounces the world but also himself.

It is basically the Indian Mysticism which has been practiced in various forms throughout the world as:

1. Buddhist Mysticism,
2. Semitic (Jewish) Mysticism,
3. Christian Mysticism,
4. Islamic Mysticism, and
5. Greek Mysticism.

Mysticism is the product of India though this fact has not been acknowledged fully owing to ignorance and bigotry. The above-mentioned forms of mysticism are likely to establish their origin and also demonstrate that being a search for the hidden truth, mysticism is man's true religion.

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