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The Dogmatic Mind 4/5

There are various ways of appropriating the universal, claiming to have a monopoly on it and then establishing a hierarchy of values, civilizations and cultures. This sometimes involves forcing it on others without further ado . . . ‘for their own good’, of course. In the realm of the universal, the most natural, if not the least dangerous, attitude consists in reducing the range of possibilities to one’s own point of view: my truth is everyone’s Truth, and the truth for everyone, and the values that derive from it are, a fortiori, universal. In that case, order is imposed from on high and man adopts, for himself and with confidence, the viewpoint of God or the absolute. All religions or spiritualities run the risk of being distorted in this way: because we look down the mountain from the summit, we deny the very existence of the many slopes that constitute its very essence and give it its human perspective. If we attempt to use the common faculty of reason to elaborate a universal, the phenomenon is markedly different, but the outcome is the same. As we make our way to the common good of men, we accept, by definition, the existence of a multiplicity of viewpoints, the need for postulates, doubts and even the paradoxical contradictions of analytical reason, irrespective of whether or not we believe in the existence of a truth or meaning. We can establish the principles of immutability and change in the same way as Socrates or Aristotle, or establish a framework of reference and hierarchies of truth as we go in search of the first Reality, like al-Kindî (ninth century) and then Ibn Sîna (Avicenna: 980–1037). We can, like Descartes, determine a strictly rational method and maxims, or begin by observing the truths empiricists like Berkeley and Hume derive from what they call sense-data. We can in fact start out from a thousand philosophical postulates and theses, and construct so many truth-systems that their very number signals their relativity. When we are climbing a mountain, we accept that only one side of it can be observed. There is still a danger that we will think that, whilst we accept that the mountain has many slopes, only one path actually leads to the summit . . . the path we are taking. Even though we accept, in theory, that there are many hypotheses and many truths, there is a danger that, in practice, we will assume that our certainties and truths are exclusive. Or that we will pass a final judgement on those who seem to have taken a different path: they are ‘alienated’, to use Feuerbach’s categories, or what Sartre describes as minds that have been colonized by ‘bad faith’, or even as ‘cowards’ or ‘bastards’. Given that we alone can reach the summit, even though we are armed with the faculty of a reason that is shared by all, it therefore seems almost logical to think that the values that we discover or elaborate are naturally those of everyone. The terms of the equation are perfectly clear: the universal of reason quite naturally has to be accepted by all rational beings. If that is not immediately obvious, the passage of time will make it so. That is the meaning of Auguste Comte’s theory of the three stages (theology, metaphysics and positivism). According to Comte, there is ultimately only one path, and not several, and some civilizations are simply ahead of others. For Comte, positivism is the ultimate realization of philosophy. Fukuyama translates this idea into political terms when he announces the ‘end of history’ and claims that the West is showing the way. This is not, then, a matter of diversity, but of temporality and historicity. It is quite simple: some are seen to have gone further down the road of human progress’s linear evolution and will reach the universal before others. We cannot criticize those who support this approach for appropriating anything, for having established illegitimate property rights or for claiming to have a monopoly on the universal: like Rousseau, they accept that the fruits belong to all, and the earth and the summit to no one . . . the only problem being that only their path leads to the earth, the fruits and the summit. And that they got there first . . . This is a matter of point of view.

It has often been said that religious minds or people of firm convictions are the most likely to surrender to the temptation to appropriate the universal and to assert that they have a monopoly on it. That is quite true: if we believe in one God or in the one Path that leads to truth and fulfilment, there is a real temptation to speak for or in the place of the God in whom we believe or in the name of the spiritual Truth we support; the history of religions and civilizations is adequate proof of that. And yet we have often seen people taking a very different stance. There are religious and spiritual thinkers who are so acutely aware of the danger of becoming inquisitorial and totalitarian that they have always striven to emphasize the values of diversity and of listening to others, who have firmly rejected the need for coercion and respected the multiplicity of religions, paths and points of view. At the opposite extreme, we have seen rationalist, sceptical, agnostic or atheist thinkers claiming to be open-minded and then coming around to the view that the very idea of their own open-mindedness gives their status and their values a natural superiority. The cult of Reason that emerged from the French Revolution had its moments of terror too. Because they confuse self-doubt with open-mindedness towards others, some rationalists and sceptics succumbed to the same temptations of exclusivism, not in terms of the universal in itself, but in terms of the one path that leads to it. That is the paradox of those who believe that there is only one way to have an open mind.

The common feature of the various attitudes that gradually lead to monopolization of the path to the universal has less to do with the object of the quest than with the disposition of the intellect that goes on it. Points of view are determined by states of mind: all these attitudes have succumbed to the dogmatic temptation that colonizes the intellect. In that sense, the dogmatic mind is not necessarily a religious or a believer’s mind, and it is quite capable of influencing very rational intellects. The characteristic feature of the dogmatic mind is its tendency to see things from one exclusive angle, and to think in terms of absolutes: the dogmatic mind thinks that it is God and passes judgement from on high and in the name of eternity, just as it thinks that it is the absolute viewpoint (Bergson sees this as a contradiction in terms) and the only centre of what is seen and what there is to see. Exclusivity is its territory and its property, and the universal is its ideal: its truth alone is true, its reasons alone are rational, and only its doubts are certified.

The dogmatic mind displays, moreover, one further characteristic. It would be a mistake to think that it accepts the existence of only one point of view: the dogmatic mind is a binary mind. Whilst it states that its truth is the only truth, that its Way is exclusive and that its universal is the only universal, that is because it stipulates –at the same time—that anything that does not partake of that truth, that path and that universal is, at best, absolutely ‘other’ and, at worst, culpably mistaken. This simplistic state of mind can sometimes be astonishingly sophisticated; it is, to say the least, disturbing to observe, at the heart of postmodernity and globalization, the rise of mass movements that are, in varying degrees, intellectualized or emotive, that shape dogmatic and binary minds that are increasingly incapable of accepting the complex multiplicity of points of view, paths and ways. It is as though mass communications, with their colossal powers, their capacity to bring psychological pressures to bear and the uncontrolled complexity of their power to influence us, had shaped a new ordinary human being, in both the East and the West, the North and the South. This increasingly universal human being is, like his fellows, in danger of becoming simplified: we are seeing the global birth of a binary mind that is increasingly devoid of complex ideas and nuances, easily convinced of the truths it is told again and again, colonized by perceptions and impressions that are as intellectually vague as the way it judges others is cut and dried and final.

9 commentaires - “The Dogmatic Mind 4/5”

  1. It’s easier to manipulate the mind of the masses through simplistic ideas rather than through complex and realistic environmental factors which have to be navigated on a daily basis. In the kingdom of the blind the beholder of the seeing eye is king.

  2. If atheists had one shred of evidence for the existence of God they would be willing to change their minds.
    Religious people believe in God without evidence. That is what faith is: belief without evidence. They even reject what is demonstrably true in order for it to fit in with their beliefs.One example, and there are others, is the American geologist Kurt Wise who obtained degrees in geology and paleontology at Harvard University.His fundamentalist upbringing required him to believe that the Earth was less than 10 thousand years old, which his studies had shown him was not the case.He stated ‘…if all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God indicates.’
    That, in my view, is the dogmatic mind.

  3. Thank you so much Dr Tariq for your strength of conviction in belief and support to the concept of the universal truth, your time and energy in education and dissemination of these thoughts. Fascinating to note why executives walk on egg shells or are so apprehensive of handling the universal truth in a dignified manner, as you do, after enough time and substance has materialized that may warrant such a take. Indeed there are many view points, however there is a concept of best course of action that pays due respect to all angles of engagement and substance, and guides the tide to ensure there are no high-handed or undignified approaches in handling the universal, especially being cognizant of the type of water under the bridge. Who would want to be one among many, such is the thought of the supposed dogmatic mind? To complement the gaining monsoons with the style of a still pond or a puddle creates a loud vacuum of unease and unhealthy imbalance; maybe not for the solid walls, but maybe for the rain itself. Through the prism of maturity, sophistication and value of this water and bridge, respective harnesses could be provided. Because a mind is haunted by it’s own weaknesses or temptations, another cannot be made to pay the price or suffer substandard inequities which can clearly be alleviated. Or this is line of thinking faulty or dogmatic? Isn’t it a right to ask for by those who have rights? Perhaps turn the tables and experience the flow of the river. ..such a fervent river will never allow anything except for the survival of the universal truth. And we know this. “For your own good” is a high-handed weapon for manipulation, unjust and authoritarian rule. And in times of such maturity, experience, substance, trust, professionalism, it is disappointing to identify such lack of complementary acknowledgements. Or perhaps this is the folly of a simple yet sharp & sophisticated mind that thrives best when appropriating every tide it’s due place and sturdy shore. For it has the confidence and strength to steer the boat on these tides that has no room for error. Or maybe if one has the confidence in the flow, one should not be too trusting of the shore itself? And it is the generosity in respect and acknowledgement at the heart, that has enabled such a huge reservoir to be collected under the canopy of universal truth. Or perhaps the river should adjust it’s own course considering the type of reservoir it flows into. Perhaps this is the best of course of action after having presented the plausible. In the name of dogmatism, individual wants cannot be erased or silenced. It is more fair to say not now. A respectful visualization of engaging with these psychological barriers would be a neat and clear acknowledgement of the individual on professional terms as an individual, exchange of conceptual experiences for understanding, individual dialogue, direction and of course continuing on the discussions on matters as such on forums as such that are apt for proliferation of universal truth. The shaping, individual experiences, confirmations and provisioning of details are too much an indulgence for the general masses. As mentioned earlier, perhaps it’s a case of finding a place for two among thousands; perhaps there was a time for it, but now….. some fruits of the earth are beneficial to the people, not all. Enough has been said about this dimension, the universal truth is what is most important and the epicenter for the education and rock solid foundations of knowledge. The summit is what matters, the path we are taking is inevitably the most gratifying and fulfilling path of least resistance, and thus will ensure larger strides, larger gains with the provisioning of intersection with other paths that add more substance and value while getting to the summit, all under the canopy of the universal truth. It would be rather boring to be just on one path. Take the highway, take the coast line, take the forest drive, swirl swirl swirl around the mountain, take the edge to see the viestas, and all these paths with various rewards leading to the summit! What we don’t take is the path that is a nose dive in the dangerous opposite direction ))

  4. To continue on to think about our present uphill battle into the future creating a world that has good traffic management and civil engineering to navigate the masses to this summit )) the paths that individuals select and mode of travel, is personal, selected per what suits them the most, gratify them the most and reward them the most. It is a personal experience, has to be a personal experience which takes them to the summit. A personal experience is more rewarding than imposed, enforced experiences, to your point of “without further ado”. And within the bounds of the universal, these experiences lead to the summit. A dogmatic mind will not comprehend this aspect of a results driven individualistic, personal paths to reach the summit.

    So what type of a safety net is this? What is this summit that we so avidly, passionately talk about? Why do we want to get there? Should we/I be possessive of this summit? And when we reach the summit, what is our view? Sure there are so many paths that lead to the summit, each selected per personal choice, unanimous choice, who is to say one path is better than the other, or there is only one path to the summit? How do we measure this path to the summit? And in what context? Religious? Political? Spiritual? Civil? And if the path did not result in any casualties, or substandard quality with regards to ethics, morals, integrity etc, and the path leads to the supposed summit – then it’s a winning path (to define a measure of path). In context of religion, there are many paths that lead to our summit, Almighty, we just need to be on a linear path to get there, which we are, with a whole lot of unwanted crowd and baggage, like the world today. We have to go far in this journey, rough territory, so we need to travel as light as possible ))

    The same reflection of a dogmatic mind is such that influence or reason may last for a few hours or days (precious time of dawn lol) and then a relapse. And it could also be that another dogmatic mind is impermeable to any voice other than it’s own or it’s own type.

    From a holistic perspective, we should perhaps think of our world in the shape of a sphere rather than a summit, a sphere with many little summits, which we keep cycling through. There are many paths along the curve, peripheral or indepth. Each day is a chance to do better than what we did yesterday, each day is a chance to review our maps, our paths to have a more fulfilling, more perfect journey.

  5. our paths should always be linear with major milestones (this adds gratification), with occasional wistful checkpoints, however, there are many summits to get to, by selecting our customized path under the umbrella of the universal, for the universal summit. And the dogmatic will just have to be dragged along.

  6. A self-critical mind can sometimes create a trap for oneself in the presence of a dogmatic mind. The self-critical mind may decide not to take any path at all. One may just observe all the paths going to a summit, unaware that he/she is following a path in another reality by some Universal Being to reach that same summit. A terrifying reality is when the dogmatic mind gains authority, power and has the capability to manipulate, creating a “burial” for the self-critical mind by imposing and causing an implosion in its true sense of being. The “burial” is that quicksand may be created on the inside for the soul of the mind to drown in, and, a deep hole in the ground is dug for the self-critical mind to fall into, where it is rendered worthless. It may appear that the self-critical mind cannot ever get out and “uncoil”, let alone be on any path at all to reach a summit. However, Allah (S.B.T.) watches and may work out a mystery path. A question arises: How will the powerful dogmatic mind who is busy overriding other truths, or facets of truths, ever reach any summit at all considering that as a result its own path may lead to a dead end?
    In the equation of a true practicing Muslim, one asks Allah (S.B.T.) that he/she may follow the right path. One reads The Furqan, i.e., learning to distinguish between truth and unreality, dealt with in the Qur’an. Nature, knowing oneself truly in front of a Universal Being or The Divine, history and actuality set the course for the path(s) to the summit or Universal truth(s). As a true believer, when persuading/helping others to follow any path(s) at all, requires great appreciation and empathy for the unique true other.

  7. There may be one God but paths to reach him are as diverse as He created us. We need to be free to follow our hearts to that path ,only truly then can we achieve nirvana

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