Mission of a Free Thinker

Developing Just Leadership

Ali Shariati

Sha'ban 11, 1426 2005-09-15

Occasional Paper

by Ali Shariati

Question: Assuming we are the real free-thinkers, what must our relationship be with the society? What route should we choose?

Answer: I think before we talk about the relationship between free-thinkers and people, we must first start with the free-thinker himself. That is, we must understand the free-thinking in its true sense. Can we be sure that we can let our hair down with the free-thinkers of our society and share with them what we have?

I believe we have not yet reached the second stage (the relationship between free-thinkers and people). But assuming that we have, when we get together with the masses, do we know how to talk to them? What have we got to share with them? What message have we for them? This is a difficult problem indeed. Should we, considering the fact that our society is a religious one, reject the opinions and the thoughts of the masses? Must we dictate to the masses? If so, are we not strengthening and making the masses the more determined in their religious stupor? If we denied their thoughts, have we not become estranged from them and relegated them into the lap of the reactionaries who are fighting us? We notice that in both cases the problem has remained unsolved. On the other hand, we arc essentially still feeding upon the European intellectuals' thoughts of the last couple of centuries. To what extent can such thoughts, designs, and ideas illuminate our atmosphere as well as our responsibilities?

First, the European intellectual is dealing with a worker who has gone through three centuries of the Middle Ages and two centuries of Renaissance. Second, this worker lives in an atmosphere not dominated by a religious spirit. Third, he has reached the industrial proletariat stage. Fourth, he lives in a well-developed industrial bourgeois system in which the relationships are of an industrial type, and finally, the worker has attained a higher stage of growth, and self-consciousness. More important, the European intellectual listeners (the industrial proletariat), have formed a layer a distinct and independent class in society which has developed a special cultures concession, and form in the foundation of the Western European economy. Now suppose as a free-thinker, (who wants to imitate the ideas of the 19th century intellectuals). I try to speak to an Iranian worker who does not have any of the characteristics of the 19th century intellectual listener. I live in a society in which the bourgeoisie, except in big cities, is in its nascent stage The comprador bourgeoisie is a middle-man, not a bourgeoisie of the genuine producing system. Apart from this we still do not have a workers' class in our society. What we have are just groups.

There are groups of workers in the most primitive as well as corrupt societies. For instance, in Saudi Arabia (where there are industrial resources and western production), about 500-2000 workers live in the top echelon, but the country as a whole lacks the workers' foundation; it has a tribal, agricultural, or feudalistic base.

Further, we are not living in the 19th century. When we compare the characteristics of our societies in Asia and Africa with a European society we notice that we are living in the thirteenth century. Therefore, we must first discover in what century we live, and then understand our own ideas and teach them. To use 19th century ideas on a 13th century society not only leaves us hanging in the air, but it is also useless when we are unable to find any listener the same things that our free-thinkers are faced with now.

Our free-thinkers are living in the 13th century but their words, thoughts, and ideas are borrowed from the Western European intellectuals of the 19th and 20th Centuries. And as such, they cannot find any listener. Our listeners are "classic" bourgeoisie who have nothing in common with the European bourgeoisie. Our bazaars bourgeoisie is 100 % religious, while the European one is 100 % non-religious. The European bourgeoisie is so progressive that it created the French revolution while ours just huddle in the bazaars a base for seeking tradition.

From our masses' point of view, the average citizenry is a villager. They are our listeners and you cannot talk to them the same way. John Moore talked to the British workers in 1864. And so, it is a mistake to think that we are living in the 19th or 20th century, as well as it is a mistake to follow the European intellectuals of these two centuries as our models. Therefore, we must first throw the 10th century European "contents" out of our heads and for the first time discover our own century.

There are nations in the world now which are living in a pre-historic stage, namely, they have not entered the historic period yet. Therefore, to be in the 20th century is different than living in it. Accordingly, we must first discover our own century, and then learn from identical free-thinkers of Europe who are sympathetic to our ideas of our centuries. We are now living in the 13th or 14th centuries (the end of the Middle Ages, or the onset of the modern age). In Europe, these were the periods of transition from feudalism and traditional religion to a bourgeoisie which signifies an open world-vision, revolutionary bourgeoisie, and protest against religion. At the present we have all these conditions in our society. However, we have to find out what Europe did in the 13th and 14th centuries. And what were the reasons that European free-thinkers played their role so well that they changed the frozen and the stagnant Middle Ages to a new Europe?

The basic factors that helped to bring about the new civilization in Europe were economical and intellectual in nature. Economically feudalism changed to bourgeoisie. In place of the reactionary and lowly aristocrats, bourgeoisie emerged. This was due to East-West relations, the crusaders, the discovery of America and Australia, mercantilism, and the exploitation of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and even North America. Intellectually, the change was from Catholicism to Protestantism. The 14th century free-thinker did not negate religion, he transformed his inclination from the hereafter to this world; from tendency towards spirit, nature, ethics, and ascetism to work and effort; from sufism to objection and from self-centeredness to society-centeredness. In short, the same powerful cultural and religious resources which lay dormant in the heart of Europe were changed to moving, emerging, creative, and constructive forces by the free-thinkers.

Therefore, we must depend upon this fact, rather than what Sartre, Marx, and Rousseau say. What these people say has to do with our next two centuries. We must work for the society in which we live now rather than for our own sole mental and physical satisfaction. What is important to us now are Luther's and Calvin's works, since they transformed the Catholic ethics (which had imprisoned Europe in tradition from centuries) to a moving and creative force. For instance, Max Weber discussed the relationship between capitalism to the Protestant ethic. He argued that those predominantly Catholic Countries such as Spain, France, and Italy were less progressive than England, Germany, and the United States which were predominantly Protestant. Namely Weber maintained that there was a direct relationship between Protestant ethic and capitalism.

We notice that those countries which have changed the Catholic religion from its reactionary form to a creative and protesting force have made headway. On the other hand, those countries which have kept Catholicism have remained in the condition of the Middle Ages. Geographically, Spain and historically, Italy were in a position to have been the most progressive countries in Europe. First, Spain had the brightest past in Europe and Rome was the center of Christian civilization (before Islam). Second, the Renaissance movement of the 15th and the 16th centuries originated in Italy with such great artists and thinkers as De Vinci, Michelangelo, and Galileo.
Although in the past Spain was not like Rome, from the 8th to 12th centuries she had the greatest Islamic civilization, and thereafter she played the role of transmitter of Islamic Culture to Europe. Ironically, these two vanguards of civilization are the two most backwards in Europe now. While America, England, and Germany, which were the last ones caught up with civilization, are the most advanced. In these, civilization, industry, capitalism, and material strength are explainable only in light of religious factors and religious differences. And so, at this point we reach the conclusion that the flee-thinkers of the 14th through 17th centuries found their new destiny by destroying their old faith, and transforming traditional Catholicism to a protesting, world-minded, political, and materialist Protestantism.

Such a mission is also available to the religious East which is living at the end of the Medieval period. But it is not fitting that we mimic the European flee-thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries and reject religion. In a society like Iran, whose foundation is a religious one, we must not turn ourselves into a so-called free-thinker cadre (that gathers in coffee houses, cabarets, and parties to "talk big," and show off by reciting new personalities), while our average citizens are still living in the Middle Ages, having no access to our talents, religion, ideology, and writing.

Any school which is not based upon the cultural foundations of a society looks like a good book in a library which is used only by a small group of students and professors. Even if thousands of such books are printed, they will have no effect upon the masses. The greatest danger, however, is self-separation of the free-thinker from the society's context. If a free-thinker separates himself from his society, no matter where he goes or what he does, his society will remain in everlasting corruption. For example, in the 5th and 6th centuries A.H., thinkers such as Avicenna, Ghazali (two of history's great teachers) died in a society which was wallowing in the corruption in the Seljuk and Ghaznavi periods. Why? Because these free-thinkers stayed away from the society (consequently, we would have been better off if, in place of Avicenna, Ghazali, Fakhr, and Zakaria Razi, we had one Abu Zar; all the Islamic societies would have been saved from the grips of Seljuk, Ghaznavi, and the Mongols.

In ancient Greece too, there were free-thinkers like Aristotle. But throughout Aristotle's lifetime, the Athenian people were suffering from corruption, aristocracy, and slavery. On the other hand, there was not one single philosopher in Sparta, but here people were sportsmen and brave. In Athens, hundreds of writers, philosophers and so forth could not change and organize the society, their presence and absence did not make a bit of difference.

Our problem in the East, (e.g. Iran), is that we have created a platonic garden out of our countries. For example, if you go to Tehran and visit a few cafes you will meet many free-thinkers, socialists, existentialists, and so forth. They have a super market of ideas along with their own special publications. But unfortunately, the average man in the street does not know who these "idealists" are and what they are doing,

Q: In order to be able to talk to peoples is it sufficient to know their language ?

It is quite obvious. Suppose I go to one of the villages and visit a mosque. A mullah is preaching something incomprehensible and vague. If I can take his place and talk to people so they could see the preacher's flaws and perhaps misleading statements, then I know my mission as a free-thinker. However, if I cringe in a corner and shun talking to the villager, thinking that he is stupid or because of fear or being accused by the mullah of "uncleanliness," then I would be ignorant and a fool. I must observe what the mullah does and how he deals with people. Why are people listening to him? Is it his talk that has attracted people or some other kind of tradition and heritage? If we find our answers not only can we talk to villagers more effectively and sincerely, but consequently, we can occupy the mullah's position and find a base for the free-thinker in the society. Otherwise, we are going to get nowhere by sitting and philosophizing.

Q: Can you impose yourself upon people as you are or is it enough to talk their language? For instance, if I wanted to be a free-thinker and talk to them, is it necessary to wear the same outfit as they do?

It is not necessary to wear their type of outfit. These types of procedures or mannerisms belong to American sociologists. It is not necessary to either change my clothes or face and mimic foreigners. If I go to a mosque and explain a more appealing and logical Hossein to the masses than what the mullah does, they will listen to me more. However, as long as the mullah is dominating the villagers' mentality and I (as a free-thinker) am yakking on the peripheries, no matter how modern my yammering are, they are not worth a farthing. There is no difference between the yammering of the existentialists and those of the socialists. My job is to influence the villagers' minds.

Once I was reading an article by the Iranian movie director who made, When The Storks Fly. He said, "If a director wants to know a villager, he must become a friend to one in order to find out what he says and feels as well as what kinds of problems, ideals, and pains he has. We must learn how to talk and live with him so we can discover his style." Therefore, a free-thinker must be the director of his society; that is, he must constantly feel and be the designer of his society. Suppose a couple of us free-thinkers drop inside a coffee shop in which ordinary men chat around and drink tea. All of a sudden the shop will become dead silent everyone will stop joking, talking, and working! They will stare at us as though we are from Mars, wishing to see us out of there as soon as possible. We free-thinkers are out of context in this atmosphere, since we come to this coffee shop to speak rather than to listen. The point is, we must go in the heart of the masses not with an arrogant attitude.

Once Jalal told me, "When I was coming out of the holy shrine in Mashhad, I started to amble along with my coat hanging over my shoulder. A villager approached me and said, 'Hey, man, how much are you selling this coat for?' I said, 'My man, it is not for sale.' Jalal was very elated about the whole incident since the villager had mistaken him for one of his own kind, so much so that he wanted to buy his coat. He thought this was a remarkable achievement for a Tehrani to be mistaken for a villager. I told Jalal, "Yes, it was a great achievement but the man had a better insight than you did, since he treated you properly while you answered him badly. 'My man, it is not for sale' was not the proper response of a free-thinker, since you forced him to figure out that he had made a mistake. Thus, he reproached himself for having mistaken you for someone else. You should not have chased him away since he would have ultimately figured out that a man with a top coat on his shoulder would not say, 'My man....' since this utterance communicated to the villager that you were a stranger and you belonged to a different class!

Q: What you are proposing takes a long time to accomplish. How can we accomplish them all?

In solving social problems, we must not think of the shortest way, rather, we must think of the most correct way. The reason why most of our free-thinkers have not been able to get anywhere is because they have been waiting to discover several ways. And when they realized that they could not do much, they became desperate and resorted to writing modern poetry: for instance, "For the past eighteen years, a few times we made some catcalls in the streets. Alas! to no avail! So we became desperate. Ah! we have no right to become desperate!"

The point is we must choose the best and the most logical way that leads us to our objective. What do we want to do? If we are after superficial jobs, they have been done myriads of times, and each time disillusioned we have returned to our starting point.

A free-thinker's function is not to lead the society. This is one of the most serious mistakes that free-thinkers around the world commit. The most worthless elements for leading people are free-thinkers. In all the African and Asian uprisings you will never see free-thinkers' faces. Rather the revolutionary leaders are from among the masses and the common people. Free-thinkers have always been the worst disaster to revolutions.

In 1960, in a conference which was held in Northern Africa, it was decided that in the event that the Northern African revolution became successful and Africa free, the leadership positions (ministry of education, economics, etc) should be given to free-thinkers rather than to revolutionaries and guerillas. But who were the free-thinkers? Those who were overseas working on their doctorates while the revolutionaries were fighting in the trenches. And so, the revolutionary must leave his gun, go about his business so the engineer and the doctor (who were abroad) could lead. Unfortunately, those societies which have had successful revolutions became conservative and corrupt when intellectuals and the educated wrested the leadership from the revolutionaries. Tunis is a typical example. Therefore, the function of free-thinkers is not the political leadership of a society, rather, their sole job is to bestow awareness on the masses, that's all. lf a free-thinker earn awaken his society, the product of his mission will be heroes who can lead the free-thinkers themselves. And as long as there are no heroes, the mission of the free-thinker is not yet over. Religion, art, how to communicate with people, poetry, and theatre are all important factors with which free-thinkers can work; trying to handle more than these is useless. That is, the mission of a free-thinker is confined to returning the alienated society (by Europeans) to her real self, restoring her character and her "usurped" human sentiment and bestowing class consciousness, faith, and national history upon her. In accomplishing such a mission, the most logical way (rather than the shortest) must be chosen.

Unlike free-thinkers who expect more and sacrifice less, we must sacrifice more and expect less. I would rather see two to three generations work before they get any results. For instance, if we reach our goals within ten years, we are apt to fall behind a hundred years. We have always had a strange experience in Africa and Asia. Those countries which have reached their objectives quickly, have lost their former concessions as well. This is why I denounce all "quick" and immature revolutions.

Q: In your opinion who must make us, ourselves or someone else?

No one. Only ourselves. The same way African free-thinkers did it. Who made them? An African used to be denounced in France, thrown out of restaurants in the U.S., and was not heeded as a human being in England. However, he has gained self-consciousness now even though some of them still do not know how to write.

Once I came across a vendor in France. He was Muslim, and the verses of the Qur'an he had memorized were the ones that were beneficial to his social struggle. The same thing was true about the personalities he knew and the history he had read. All these were giving him consciousness. He was so familiar with each country and was analyzing the world's problem's to such a degree that I was stunned. Who had trained this man? Had he been trained by a UNESCO expert, a prophet, Sorbonne leftist professors, or himself ?

Q: In case of the African thinker, he was despised so much that it helped him to gain consciousness. But being despised is not so true in our case. Is it?

It is not true that we are not being despised. The fact is that we are not aware that we are being despised. Today's blackman is the same man who was being despised in the 17th and 18th centuries in Paris. In the 15th and 16th centuries they were stowed away in ships (like cucumbers) destined for America. They were bought at insignificant prices and sold at much higher prices in the U.S. and Australia. At the time these slaves did not realize that they were being despised, but they do now.

However, the nature of the contempt and the existence of contradiction by themselves are not responsible factors for gaining consciousness. As long as man's volition has not discovered the contradiction, it will remain in societal context for a thousand years. A blackman must feel the contempt in order to become a factor in awakening others. I must recognize and feel my enemy. But as long as I have not felt him, I go to him blindfolded, and even take pride in going close to him so he would not be my enemy anymore. The Iranian man who is proud of working under a European (who has destroyed his country and history), no longer has an enemy but a boss. And the boss does not create consciousness in the servant. An enemy is anti-thesis who can create consciousness but only if it is "realized" that such a contradiction exists.

The free-thinker's and artist's functions are to remove the contradictions and discrepancies that exist in the heart of a society and enter them into the feeling and consciousness of the society. As long as such contradictions exist in objectivity they will not cause any movement. In the twentieth century we still witness societies that live in feudalism; something that belongs to the second and third epochs of man's history. Or, there are still societies which have not entered the historical period; that is, they possess no clothing and no handwriting. Therefore, contradiction must enter subjectivity in order to cause movement. This is why poverty does not cause movement, it is the feeling of poverty that does. Isn't that so? Often times poverty is even accepted and once this happens, there is no more contradiction. The poor must develop consciousness of poverty.

One of the ways to enter the contradiction and positive realities into the consciousness of the present generation is to seek help from those who have covered this route already. That is, instead of studying Marx, Sartre, Heiddeger, and so forth (which have nothing to do with our condition anyway) we need to find out what Fanon, Mawloud, Yassin, Radhakrishnan, the thinkers of Chad, the Congo, and so forth have said. These people who are like ourselves and have an identical mission as ours which they have accomplished. We must learn from these people and countries, rather than imitate them. This is mere translation and duplication. And duplicating Aime Cesaire is no different than imitating Sartre. We must utilize them in our teaching, research, and methodology.

Q: Assuming we are living in the cultural atmosphere of the 13th and 14th centuries, must we also accept that the 20th century European ideas are for our use six hundred years from now ?

You asked a very good question. Yes. However, you must note that sometimes we can cover five centuries in twenty years. We now have societies in Asia and Africa which have through correct planning covered a few centuries in thirty years. Basically, the problem of intellectual revolution and social movement is not subject to calendrical measurement criteria. Sometimes a society covers an epoch in a thousand years, at other times in a much shorter period of time. I believe that if a free-thinker lives in a primitive society he must not wait for that society to change to feudalism, bourgeoisie, capitalism, imperialism, socialism, and so forth. One can bypass these stages if one is familiar with his society. This is why a free-thinker can employ historical determinism, cut it short, omit it, or change it.

If we recognize that we are in the 14th century and subsequently work with our society with 14th century methods, we will reach the 20th century in less than half a century. I don't mean copying the 20th century. As Fanon states, "We never want to make another Europe or America out of Africa." What was meant to be accomplished in the U.S.? A different Europe, but they ended up with the U.S. of A! If we try to turn Africa into Europe we will have two Americas. Is it worth it?

We neither want to make a Europe, nor another America, but a human society. Europe and America tried to create a human society. They talked and bluffed, but they did just the opposite and ironically they have always killed all the humans they could find. We absolutely do not want to catch up with England, the U.S., and France. Never!

Q: What is a free-thinker's mission in building up a society?

If a free-thinker has a mission, it is leaping forward, otherwise he must wait for historical determinism. In that case man will be subject to determinism rather than having a responsibility and a mission. What is the difference between providential determinism and historical determinism? One claims that God has made us the way we are, while the other relates man's fate to historical determinism. In my opinion it is better that man be made by God than by the latter.

Q: In order to be able to gain independence of thinking so that we can make a leap, must we first possess technology?

How can a society which lacks identity possess technology and become independent of Western technology? Which society has ever done so? Japan has technology since she has identity. A society which lacks spiritual character will always remain a consumer. Even if she can produce she will still remain a tool in the hands of the Capitalist.

Q: Can we create technology and go our own way rather than dance to their tune?

In order to reach economic production, we must first accomplish cultural production. We cannot "culturally" remain a colony of the West and industrially become independent; this is impossible. How can an individual who cannot choose a simple thing gain his technological independence in front of the West?

A servant must first gain his human independence in order to find his economic independence. Mentally and morally he must first find his human independence; leave the boss's house, and go after a different job.

And so, we must first start cultural production so we can have economic production, otherwise we will remain a consumer forever. Have you ever seen a man behind a 1970 Buick in Tehran? He acts so puffed up, it's as though he has invented it! Even a rat can save its money and buy one! The Westerners announce that they have reached the moon and we become excited here! What does this have to do with us?

Q: Should not cultural production and economic production go hand in hand?

As long as man has not gained self-consciousness, he cannot have economic consciousness. He must become a human being first; think, choose, create, quit regurgitating European talks, and instead talk about himself. In order to become independent of the West, I must get to know her and reach a stage of 'mental independence.'

Q: But the West does not wait for us to reach her. Will their technological rate of advance be proportionate to our pace?

Yes. This theory was designed in the 'conference of the year 2000.' However, it was put forward by the tricky Western sociologists. They told us that thirty years from now the Asian GNP will advance 5 times, but that of the West will advance 30 times. That is, the gap between us will widen much more in the future than it is now. However, they are not taking into account the "leap" factor. How are they measuring? With their present rate of progress. Of course, if we keep the existing factors constant for thirty years they are right. But these factors do not remain constant. We now have societies in Asia which have had a constant production rate for the past thousand years. However, suddenly in the past ten years they have made a multiple leap. Due to a mental and social leap their GNP has made phenomenal advances. The Western sociologists do not take this "leap factor" into account (which the East brims with).

Q: If you do not accept the predictions of the year 2000 conference, how do you see the future?

I do not predict. Prediction belongs to Western sociologists. I study the present. However, I know that in the year 2000 consumerism will vanish. And I know that "ideology" has always been the victor in history. We now have ideology in Asia and Africa. I have been witnessing the Western decline ever since the Spengler period. The Asian graph is going up, and the Western graph is coming down. The victory belongs to the East.

Q: Can we ever reach an internationalism?

Internationalism is a big lie. It is used to universally exploit and deceive us. Assuming it can become a reality some day, then "sir" will be replaced by "Mr. proletariat."

I accept internationalism only when Asia and Africa can have a "free-choice" personality on par with the 500 million Westerners. In that case I will accept it as humanism, meaning equality of humanity. However, as long as I am not a human being, and I am accused of being a primitive, I cannot do anything. The Westerner's partnership with me will be like a slave-foreman relationship, or an empty-handed man with a Capitalist. The former should toil, so the latter could get all the profit. Internationalism is a big reason for creating a fake partnership between the East and the West. Is not the partnership of an empty-handed man with a rich man a lie? Can a rich man, based upon his own volition and money, accomplish this task? This is like a Hajji Bazzari, while he is exploiting everyone, he claims that he is everyone's religious brother and he goes to mosque to mourn Hossein! What does religious brotherhood mean here anyway!?

When a Proletariat is bourgeoisified, he is a bourgeoisie; I don't care about his background! Yea, Edward Heath was the son of a carpenter too; do we see him as a carpenter boy now? Thus, when a proletariat becomes a bourgeoisie, the society is a bourgeoisie. In this case we no longer have a bourgeois class, we have a bourgeois society which exploits everyone in order to step up his consumption.

I must think and be myself. Whenever I have turned into a human being, achieved an equal status with the international community, as well as the power of decision-making, then I would claim that all men are equal. But so long as internationalism does not recognize me as a human being, I have nothing to say to it. What is internationalism? Even the proletariat of the Western nations are ripping me off!

Q: Is it due to their technical progress that the Western countries have attained such an economic prosperity?

Do you think it is due to only eight hours of work that Europeans have a prosperous economy? A taxi driver in France works 6 hours and lays around for the remaining 18 hours, and in the meantime he is secure from financial anxiety. Is this due to his work or his country's looting of Africa? France buys a bottle of Vin Rose from Algiers for 10 cents, tomatoes from Africa for almost nothing, and rents Chad's coffee farms for free! She pays $9.00 a day to a few naked and poor Africans to harvest the coffee and in the meantime she boasts that Capitalism is nice because she pays a lot to workers. In the meantime she turns around and sells the same coffee for millions of dollars. France does not pay a penny out of her pocket, she steals them all!

Q: So, you are proposing a theory?

No. I am not a theory maker. Whoever makes up theory is only good for universities. What is a theory for anyway?

Q: Europeans have reached a progressive thinking stage, why are they behaving this way?

I think they are biased. They believe in their own superiority, and have created a type of thinking atmosphere, called, "egocentrism," which is self-centeredness. An egocentric individual does not count others as human beings. This philosophy has existed in the West ever since ancient Greece. Even humanists, anthropologists, and socialists are caught in the snare of egocentrism. Human relations to them is limited to the relations among their own classes. They do not discuss universal relations.

I can never forget that in the 19th century the great socialists, humanists, and upholders of democracy and equality talked about everything (they even meticulously analyzed the minute relationships between the worker and the employer), but never mentioned exploitation!

I must point out to something here, and that is, in human and social problems we must not apply strict scientific methodology. For instance, when dealing with a scientific issue, we concentrate upon its validity or invalidity. However, in social problems we must not pay attention to the logic of the statement, rather, we must focus on the geography of the issue.

In the East, we are the victims of the same talks which bestowed life upon the West. For instance, sometimes an "ism" which saved the West from slavery and united her, found its way to the East in a particular historical epoch and caused disparity and dissension. Or, the same nationalism which was the cause of progress in the 16th and 17th centuries and built Australia, France, England, and Germany, it caused disparity and the consequent break-up of the Islamic power in the 19th century.

Thus, it is obvious that apart from the truth and falsity and logicality and illogicality of a social issue, one must take into consideration the geography of an issue. Suppose there is an orphan who has inherited some property. In the meantime I have my eyes on his riches and am thinking of a way to rip him off. What should I do so he can't read into my thought? I must create lots of sensitivities in him. For instance, I must tell him, "The best way to become a man is to resort to knowledge." I must keep poking into his head the usefulness of knowledge and send him away to London. I must force him to read scientific and philosophical books. Or, if the child has religious sentiments, I must order him to go after praying and so forth. The child if he were going to do the right thing he would grab my collar and say, "Hey, pass the money!"

Thus everything must be understood and placed in its proper context its geography. We must not concentrate on mere "talks and words," rather, we must evaluate the "talker" first.

Q: What sources do you suggest for awareness?

We must not think of a particular source which gives us awareness. For instance, when I was a university student I used to read many old books. These remained in my head as a collection of superstition and myths until I went to Europe and became a student of Berg. With the methodology I learned there, I transformed all those superstitions and myths to awareness producing elements. For instance, an untrue story about the seventh century would provide me with awareness since I would look for the context, the persons, and the purpose for which the story was written.

The point is when one has a methodology at hand, a lie will help him to recognize specific period in the past. In order to accomplish this, one must have a specific outlook, and look for particular things in history as well as look at history from a specific angle. We can, then, use a piece of information to find the necessary ingredients for building our present cultural foundations and awareness, as well as familiarize ourselves with the conditions of our today as well as our tomorrow.

For instance look at existentialism. The philosophical basis of existentialism is this: man has existence first, and he makes his own essence (characteristics and specifics) afterwards. We notice that our own Mulla-Sadra has talked about the same thing in the past. So, if we maintain a historical and philosophical connection with our past, we will have well-developed fresh mentalities and ideologies, rather than a Persian dubbing of what Westerners say. Existentialism our country is an immature Western imitation which is in need being enriched with our 3000 year old theosophical experience in order eligible to be called philosophy.

When I was in Europe, Radhakrishnan had come to Belgium. Since I like him I went to see him. In Belgium he delivered a lecture on the history of religions. I witnessed the great scientists from all over Europe who felt like children in his presence. That is, whenever Mr. Radhakrishnan expressed a viewpoint, he was so well-versed with his subject matter that European scientists felt like apostles around their prophet. And when they wanted to ask a question, they were cautious and timid. When a man like Krishnan (so familiar with the Eastern theosophical schools) talked, one became enchanted with all that beauty and depth. In those moments Europeans realized there was a new personality in Europe! Unfortunately we turn around and hash over European regurgitations, while a man like Kirshnan has offered humanity's dinner table a new and fresh dish.

In 1961, when Nehru came to France, the Indian embassy (unlike all others which try to imitate French dance and wine) served Indian dishes. When European dignitaries came to visit, they noticed things were different. This made the French feel inferior, since after two centuries of suffering under exploitation, the Indians were standing firm in their own tradition. This roused the European's respect.

This is what I mean by originality and free-thinking, rather than our Iranian free-thinker's hundred years of regurgitation of Marx's ideas which are of no use to anyone. Those individuals who have been successful in Africa and Asia have been the ones that have been able to teach European philosophies and forget them. They were able to get to know their societies, find and propose new solutions, based upon their existing cultural, historical, and social resources, and create a new foundation. We see that they have become successful too!

Courtesy: www.shariati.com

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