Heightened Senses

Hello. I'm Imraan. This is the only thing I own outright; and yes, I'm wearing a T-shirt.

Month: January, 2014

“The Defeat of the Schools”

I’ve recently picked up my copy of Mortimer Adler’s great work – indeed, there are those that deride him for not being one of the great philosophers of the last century (and indeed he spanned almost the whole century), though he reached an audience, and actually said things of substance that most philosophers couldn’t dream to do – and he notes, very astutely, the failure of  teaching institutions to teach people to be good readers, lifelong-learners. I feel it is as true in the United Kingdom, as it was in the United States, over seventy years ago. I enjoyed the last of these paragraphs in particular:

“When I say that the arts are lost, I do not mean that the sciences of grammar and logic, for instance, are gone. There are still grammarians and logicians in the universities. The scientific study of grammar and logic is still pursued, and in some quarters and under certain auspices with renewed vigour. You have probably heard about the “new” discipline which had been advertised lately under the name “semantics.” It is not new, of course. It is as old as Plato and Aristotle. It is nothing but a new name for the scientific study of the principles of linguistic usage, combining grammatical and logical considerations. 

“The ancient and medieval grammarians, and an eighteenth-century writer such as John Locke, could teach the contemporary “semanticists” a lot of principles they do not know, principles they need not try to discover if they would and could read a few books. It is interesting that, just about the time when grammar has almost dropped out of the grammar school, and when logic is a course taken by few college students, these studies should be revived in the graduate school with a great fanfare of original discovery.

“The revival of the study of grammar and logic by the semanticists does not alter my point, however, about the loss of the arts. There is all the difference in the world between studying the science of something and practising the art of it. We would not not like to be served by a cook whose only merit was an ability to recite the cookbook. It is an old saw that some logicians are the least logical of men. When I saw that the linguistic arts have reached a new low in contemporary education and culture, I am referring to the practice of grammar and logic, not to acquaintance with these sciences. The evidence for my statement is simply that we cannot write and read as well as men of other ages could, and that we cannot teach the next generation how to do so, either.

“It is a well-known fact that those periods of European culture in which men were least skilful in reading and writing were periods in which the greatest hullabaloo was raised about the unintelligibility of everything that had been written before. This is what hap end in the decadent Hellenistic period and in the fifteenth century, and it is happening again today. When men are incompetent in reading and writing, their inadequacy seems to express itself in their being hypercritical about everybody else’s writing. A psychoanalyst would understand this as a pathological projection of one’s own inadequacies on to others. The less well we are able to use words intelligently, the more likely we are to blame others for their unintelligible speech. We may even make a fetish of our nightmares about language, and then we become semanticists for fair.”

Mortimer Adler in How to Read a Book: The Art of Getting a Liberal Education, (New York; Simon and Schuster: 1940), 85-7.

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“Is it a sign o…

“Is it a sign of getting older that you look up and can see your eyebrows?…God I hope not.”

‘The slave remains the slave’

“Universal man realises eternally in the Truth that he is nothing and yet He is Everything. But such realisation is beyond his human soul, and this is what is meant by the saying: ‘The slave remains the slave.’ The slave cannot become God, since he is either the slave, as in appearance, or nothing at all, as in Reality. Universal man cannot make his human soul divine; like the souls of all other men, but with an outstanding difference of quality, it implies the illusion of an existence apart from God. It differs from them not in kind, but in what might almost be called an organic consciousness that this separate existence is in Truth no more than an illusion. There is a saying that ‘Muhammad is a man, yet not as other men, but like a jewel among stones.’ Albeit the souls remains the soul just as night remains night, or else it vanishes and there is day. But though the soul of Universal Man cannot itself attain to the direct knowledge of the Truth of Certainty, yet unlike other souls it is touched in its centre by a ray of light proceeding from the sun of the Spirit of the Truth; for this perfect soul, represented in Islam by the soul of the Prophet, is none other than the Night of Power (lailatu ‘l-qadr), into which descend the Angels and the Spirit; and the Heart, that is, the point of this spiritual ray’s contact, is as a full moon in the unclouded night of the perfect soul making it better than a thousand months of other nights, that is peerless among all other souls. …

“Universal man with his two natures if figures in the Seal of Solomon, of which the upper and lower triangles represent respectively the Divine and the human nature. In virtue of this duality he is the mediator between Heaven and earth, and it is owing to this function that he is sometimes referred to as ‘the isthmus’ (al-barzakh) as in the Chapter of the Distinct Revelation:

And He it is Who hath let loose the two seas, one sweet and fresh, the other salt and bitter, and hath set between them as isthmus, an impassable barrier.    Qur’an, XXV:53

“In His Heart alone does the sweet sea of the next world meet the salt sea of this; and by reason of this meeting his human nature itself is the noblest and best of all earthly things as is affirmed in the Chapter of the Fig:

Verily We created man in the fairest rectitude. Qur’an, XCV:4

“The nearness of Heaven, by reason of his presence, even causes sometimes the laws of earth to cease perceptibly, just as the moon grows pale at the approach of the day; and it is at such moments that a miracle may take place, such as the changing of water into wine, or the step which leaves a print upon the rock and none upon the sand. As in the Seal of Solomon, his central function as mediator is also figured in the Cross, which is another symbols of Universal Man in that the horizontal line represents the fullness of his earthly nature, whereas the vertical line represents his heavenly exaltation; and yet another of his symbols is the Crescent, for like a cup it indicates his function of receiving Divine Grace, and at the same time, like the horns of the bull, it indicates his majesty, his function of administering this Grace throughout the whole Universe.
Blessed is He Who hath made the distinct revelation unto His servant, that he might be for all the worlds a warner. Qur’an XXV:1.”

Abu Bakr Siraj ad-Din, The Book of Certainty: The Sufi Doctrine of Faith, Vision and Gnosis, p 8-11

And now for something rather different…’How to Kill Mugabe’

Dear Friends,

So here’s something that I quite thoroughly enjoyed, that was put together by a classmate of mine from university (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London in case anyone is interested) and a couple of her friends.

Expletives aside (please take this as a warning!), I think the underlying message is rather cleverly (though certainly not subtly) conveyed. I don’t know if a SOAS education (and alas, a couple of drinks probably – NO, I don’t condone this) contributed to this particular piece; I quite enjoyed how they lampooned this liberal postcolonial idiocy of looking at ‘Africa’ as a project and a playground, in the most crude and overt of senses.

Mo’ammed was perhaps my favourite character. His sentiments seem to echo a certain ‘type’ (though I don’t like typecasting) of person who I’m fascinated by and cannot in the least understand.

This was a pilot episode. If you enjoyed it, please share. If you have any feedback, I’d be happy to forward it on. Please excuse the somewhat poor production value (at this point I wonder if the subdued laughter track of sorts was cleverly intended…)

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