Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge & Truth
by Mirza Tahir Ahmad
WHEN THE SUN of secular enlightenment finally set upon Andalusia, its radiant face rose from the horizon of France to smile upon what lay of Europe beyond. It lit up the entire Continent from South to North, and from East to West. A glorious day of knowledge broke which was to dominate Europe for centuries to come. The age of the Renaissance had begun.
But few in Europe realize today how much they owe to Muslim Spain for that great dawn of enlightenment called the Renaissance. Many outstanding philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, astronomers and physicians from Andalusia are but obliterated memories for Europe, buried in the forlorn graveyards of oblivion.
With the dawn of the Renaissance as the darkness was dispelled, reason and rationality began to dispossess the blind faith of the territories which it had long held under its mighty sway. To keep a balance between the secular philosophies on the one hand, and faith and belief on the other was not an easy task. It was no trivial challenge for the priest-ridden society of that age to defend their faith against the new philosophical invasion by reason and rationality. They had inherited an image of Christianity which largely under Pauline influence had disintegrated into mythical dogmas. It was no longer the same Divine light which had illuminated Christ.
Even before the Renaissance, some European intellectuals had attempted to maintain a balance between reason and faith. E.J. Scotus in the ninth century AD had set the noble example of bringing about a measure of truce between faith and reason. He maintained that truth cannot be reached through reason alone, but reason and faith had a part to play together. He suggested that in the beginning religious beliefs were founded on rational grounds. Convictions cannot be born out of mere conjectures. There has to be some logical basis for the building of convictions. Whether it is done advertently or inadvertently, for every conviction, as it is born, there has to be some rational basis. In short, Scotus believed that true faith should not be equated with myth. It should be understood to have been founded on some solid, rational platform. In the beginning when faith took root in the human mind, it could not have happened without some reason and logic to support it, he assumed. Yet with the passage of time, that link must have faded out and was no longer observable. From then on faith appeared to be suspended in mid-air without the pillars of reason to support it. Yet its firmness and tenacity which have stood the test of time are indicative that it could not have reached this high level of conviction altogether without reason or logic.
In conclusion, Scotus advises that the validity of one’s faith should be examined from time to time according to the dictates of rationality. If the two appear to be conflicting then one must follow reason. Thus reason will always hold an edge over faith.
This attitude is best illustrated in Newton’s (1642–1727) treatment of the Trinity. As long as he did not consciously and scientifically examine his inherited religious views, he continued to remain a devotee of the doctrine. But when at a later stage he decided to put his faith to the test of reason and rationality, he was left with no option but to reject the dogma of Trinity which in his view had failed the test of reason.
Thus he became the all-time greatest victim of the prejudices of the Christian church sacrificed at the altar of the cross. As a tribute to the genius of Newton, he was elected as a Fellow of the “College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity”, University of Cambridge, a post which he held for many years. In 1675 however, he was given the choice to either vacate his seat and keep his convictions, or to compromise his convictions and assert his orthodoxy under oath one last time in ordination.
But the “Holy and Undivided Trinity” itself stood in his way. His stubborn refusal to subscribe to the doctrine of Trinity cost him not only his fellowship, but also the handsome stipend of £60 a year. No small amount indeed, judging by the value of money in those days. He was dispossessed of his fellowship and chair from the university on the charge of heresy. The charge of heresy was levelled against him only because in Newton’s eyes worshipping Christ was idolatry, to him a fundamental sin. R.S. Westfall writes on Newton:
‘He recognized Christ as a divine mediator between God and humankind, who was subordinate to the Father Who created him.’1
‘The conviction began to possess him that a massive fraud, which began in the fourth and fifth centuries, had perverted the legacy of the early church. Central to the fraud were the Scriptures, which Newton began to believe had been corrupted to support trinitarianism. It is impossible to say exactly when the conviction fastened upon him. The original notes themselves testify to earlier doubts. Far from silencing the doubts, he let them possess him.’2
Hence, his faith in the Unity of God and rejection of the Trinity was based on his unbiased, honest investigation into the validity of Christian beliefs. There is many a note written in his own hand on the margins of his personal Bible:
‘Therefore the Father is God of the Son (when the Son is considered) as God.’3
Thus concludes Westfall:
‘… almost the first fruit of Newton’s theological study was doubt about the status of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity.’ 3
WHEN during the Renaissance interest was renewed in this age-old question of faith versus rationality on a wider basis, it fell to the lot of Rene Descartes (1596–1650) to keep the flag of belief held high. The issue with him was not Christianity versus reason, it was a more straightforward issue of belief in the existence of God in an age of philosophical wanderings of the mind.
An exceptionally clear-headed logician as he was, he not only believed in God but was the first amongst the philosophers to boldly take up the issue of reason, leading to God. Fortunately for him, he refused to be drawn into a debate on the rationale of Trinity. What he proved was simply the existence of one Supreme Being. Perhaps it was this rejection on his part of the then prevalent Christian dogma, which lost him an honourable place among the believing intellectuals of that age. J. Gutman explains this situation in his book Philosophy.4 Here Descartes is not mentioned as a revelational theist, which he was, but he is merely spoken of as one who is purported to be a revelational theist. This treatment was meted out to him entirely because of his rationalistic disregard for Christianity’s distinctiveness.
Unfortunately, a rebellion against God, as such, did not hurt the sensibility of the Christian priests as much as the public denouncement of Christianity. It is a great tragedy that a philosopher and a mathematician of such an exceptionally high status as Descartes was not paid the homage due to him. It should be remembered that he was not merely a theoretical philosopher, he was also an outstanding geometrist who took the work of Pythagoras (c. 580–500 BC) on geometry to such heights as it had never scaled before. His solid contribution to geometry which comprised many pioneering works will always be remembered with heads bowed to his greatness.
Another mark of his greatness lies in the fact that he was the first to introduce the trend of mathematical argumentation into philosophy. His concept of truth and absoluteness begins with his journey of self-consciousness. His test of truth is related to the first impression one receives after hearing or observing something. He asserted that anything which fails to pass the criterion of truth immediately is worthy of doubt. In other words, anything one could believe to be true without any dialectical argumentation was acceptable as evident truth. Applying this logic to self-consciousness, the following is a paraphrase of his argument: because I think I am—and I accept this simple statement without supporting it with any logical deduction—so most certainly I am.
As such this becomes the first and the prime evident truth. A simple and charming phrase he coined in this regard was Cogito, ergo sum meaning ‘I think, therefore I am.’5 The second truth which he recognized after the first truth was the truth of the existence of God. He mathematically calculated that the very idea of such an existence was enough evidence of His existence just as the sum of the three angles of a triangle are most certainly equal to the sum of two right angles.
Whether his philosophical proof of the existence of God was acceptable or not to the generations of philosophers who followed him, at least they were all profoundly influenced by him. Thus, in the subsequent generations of thinkers, logic was freely employed for or against the belief in the existence of God. Dialectical materialism was also born as a subsequent development of the same trend.
This line of thinking continued into the seventeenth century when John Locke, Berkeley and Hume demarcated the boundary of phenomenon and reason as having no common borders with faith and belief. While subscribing to this philosophy, Locke did not specifically rule out the validity of faith and belief but left them alone for the believers to have faith in whatever way they chose. It was left to a later generation of European philosophers to deny the existence of God on the basis of logic—Rousseau and Nietzsche being most prominent among them.
NIETZSCHE declared God to be dead in his own dramatic style. Rousseau, on his part, advocated the synthesis of a new religion in place of revealed religions. He stressed the need for a religion based on a study of human nature and human experiences. He proposed that the human mind itself should create a civic code or rule of life. Rousseau seems to be among the first of the European philosophers who openly rebelled against the philosophy to have anything to do with the belief in God. It was an age when religion was profoundly and advertently affected by the rationalist movement.
This generation of philosophers was followed by Utilitarians like Mill and Sidgwick. Essentially they believed in the choice of advantage. Whatever was to one’s advantage, one should have free unrestrained access to it. But when it came to a clash between egoism and altruism they advised recourse to reason for arbitration between them.
This means that during the pursuit of pleasure when it comes to making a choice between extreme selfishness and selfless sacrifice of one’s own interest, reason should arbitrate between the two. A verbose philosophy indeed, meaning nothing in substance. Those given to pleasure would hardly need advice from Bentham, Mill, Sidgwick etc. to stop short at the border of moderation and desist from leaping into the domain of utter selfishness. For them the choice between egoism and altruism would be out of the question. Who would stand in need of arbitration of reason in the area of his sensual desires? A person given to lustful and carnal pleasures needs no counsel. He pursues this course knowing full well the pros and cons of it.
THE UTILITARIANS were followed by a generation of philosophers, who left a deep mark on the history of European philosophy. Locke, Berkeley and Hume known as Empiricists stand at the head of the movement. Many a generation of philosophers was to be influenced by them. Their philosophy can be summed up in the simple statement: one should believe only in the conclusion drawn from experimental observation which is demonstrable. They believed that only pure reason and signs gave birth to ideas which were worthy of acceptance—the ideas which could be retried through scientific experimentation with unfailing consistency. A better definition of science cannot be visualized.
Hume was followed by Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) who was deeply stirred and influenced by Hume’s realistic philosophy. Hence the realism of Kant owes much to the empiricism of Hume. Agnostic as he was, he was wise enough to realize the indispensability of morality. He was perhaps the pioneer in the suggestion that morality should be deduced from reason alone. He divided reality into phenomenal reality and noumenal reality. He believed that scientific investigation cannot go beyond phenomenon. As such he ruled out that the existence of God could be proved through the instrument of phenomenal investigation. His system is usually referred to as a transcendental idealism.
This in turn gave birth to Hegel’s absolute idealism. Many a new phrase was coined during this prolific period of the growth of his philosophy, such as the logical positivism, existentialism and objectivism. Yet no new dramatic chapter was added to the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, who reigned supreme as the undisputed masters till the end of time. Even the smart clichés of dialectical materialism and scientific socialism were but other names for what we find freely discussed in the works of Aristotle. It should not be forgotten however, that the European philosophers were no less indebted to their Muslim forerunners of Andalusia and Baghdad, than they were to their Greek masters. This was the period when Hegel’s absolute idealism ruled supreme. Yet most of the Europeans little realised the fact that it was no more than the continuity of the idealism of Plato. If we understand Hegel correctly, for him subjectivism was inseparably related to the outside realities. This means that he did not deny objective realities altogether, but laid emphasis on the supremacy of ideas.
In the Islamic school of thought, the objectivist Sufis were a different tale altogether. They carried their subjectivism to such dizzy heights as the European philosophers could not have dreamt of. These Sufis could as well be referred to as illusionists.
AS FAR AS the issue of revelation leading to knowledge is concerned, no such discussion is found in the works of European philosophers of any generations. Among the believers in the existence of God, Descartes continued to hold fast to his belief that reason must be placed before faith. He believed in God because his reason supported his belief, hence there was no contradiction in him. Voltaire and Thomas Paine maintained that in the development of human civilization, reason had played a far more significant role than faith. In metaphysical philosophy, abstract forms of existence beyond the material world have been the subject of discussion, but the question of revelation has never been examined with any seriousness.
Despite the philosophical interest of that age, in judging the comparative merits of faith versus rationality, they somehow remained silent on the issue of revelation having played any part in leading man to truth and knowledge. At best, their interest remained revolving around the existence of God, only philosophically. No quest was ever made to find out any traces of evidence in the universe which could lead to the proof of His existence. The validity of revelation from on high was never examined seriously. By comparison, the modern attempts to trace messages from aliens are taken far more seriously. Such attempts are already institutionalized and funded by great world powers.
As we get closer to the modern period, from the time of Bentham, Mill and Sidgwick we find an ever increasing reliance on rationality, while faith is gradually waived to a position of lesser significance. The ultimate victim of this emphasis on rationality has been the belief in God. Thus, rationality gained dominance slowly and gradually, like the appearance of a long, northerly dawn interrupted only by an occasional flurry of aurora.
The rationalists gave preference to reason over all other means of attaining knowledge and truth. Yet among the rationalists too, we find both believers in Christianity as well as non-believers. It was the latter, however, who consistently gained the upper hand. During the age of rationalism, the Church had to defend Christianity somehow with whatever logical arguments it could muster. But this proved a strategic mistake on its part, to be lured into the battleground of reason and rationality.
The most prominent theists of this period were Kierkegaard, Jaspers and Marcel. Of them, it was Kierkegaard who first rang the bell of alarm warning the Church not to commit suicide by entering the arena of logical debate between faith and reason. Referring to Kierkegaard’s efforts to salvage faith from the onslaught of reason, Coppleston writes in ‘Contemporary Philosophy’:
‘For Kierkegaard, however, this procedure was simply a dishonest betrayal of Christianity. The Hegelian dialectic is an enemy within the gates; and it is not the business of any Christian writer or preacher to dilute Christianity to suit the general educated public. The doctrine of the Incarnation was to the Jews a stumbling-block and to the Greeks foolishness, and so will it always be. For the doctrine not only transcends reason but is repugnant to reason: it is the Paradox par excellence, and it can be affirmed only by faith, with passionate inwardness and interest. The substitution of reason for faith means the death of Christianity.’6
What Kierkegaard did not further elaborate was that the converse was also true. It nearly implied that the Christian faith was completely empty of reason and rationality. It could be adhered to only if one withdraws into the shell of obstinate rejection of reason. The moment the tortoise dares to stick his neck out, his head would be plucked by rationality, waiting for just such an opportunity. Yet Kierkegaard believed that he could keep both his Christianity and reason simultaneously. Perhaps he knew how to have his cake and eat it too!
Berkeley and Hegel remained consistently adamant that reason must be given preference over sensory experience. God to them was mainly a description invented to fill a void for a logical gap. Thus the debate continued to rage among the believing European philosophers and the non-believing ones. It raged on, until its fire was extinguished by burning itself out. All that was left, were the ashes of faith in caskets of agnosticism and atheism.
As for the believing Jewish philosophers, their strategy was much less vulnerable. They believed in the historicity of their faith. The victorious past of Judaism over its Gentile antagonists was sufficient for them to keep their cinders alive. To debate the issue between faith on the one side and reason on the other, was just irrelevant.
Among the atheists Nietzsche, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Camus and Marx were a category in themselves. None believed in generalizations. As such, it was not possible for them to universalize subjectivity. The subjective experience of each person has a uniqueness about it which cannot be exactly shared by others.
We believe that here it is important to devote a sub-section to Marxism. However much we may differ with this philosophy, it cannot be denied that it has universally earned for itself a permanent place which will always be treated with respect by an enormously large number of people all over the world.
MARX (1818–1883), among the atheist philosophers of the ninteenth century, should be treated separately in his own right. To him the denial of God is not merely incidental, it is an integral component of his philosophy, with which religion is absolutely incompatible. With him, humans are like elements interacting with each other under the socio-economic laws which govern them. They must be set free from the religious interference which distracts their natural course. To Marx, revelation and inspiration lie beyond the vocabulary of philosophical thought.
Next to him is Nietzsche, with his own special domineering personality. His sabre-like pen impales God as his prime victim, until he pronounces Him dead; or, so he thought. In fact he knew no God, other than the God of the Christian dogma and it was Him that his sword of reason had murdered. Thus, Kierkegaard is proved so right in his warning to the priests to maintain a sullen silence about the divine mystery of Trinity; rather than invite trouble by venturing to defend it with instruments of reason.
Most of the atheist European philosophers of that age were, in fact, driven to the denial of God largely by the Christian Church, which had mystified God’s image to the extent of absurdity. Among other atheist philosophers, Sartre (1905–1980) is perhaps the most interesting and playful. He knows how to coin simple phrases with profound ideas. At the helplessness of man in his freedom to shift for himself in a Godless universe, he exclaims:
‘… man is condemned to be free.’7
By this he means that the responsibility to make choices for himself, which lies on every human shoulder, is a challenge extremely difficult to meet. There is no one else to help him or guide his steps in the dreary wilderness of existence. Commenting on the episode of Abrahamas, he explains the presence of angels as a psychic phenomenon. To him, that Divine revelation which the angels brought to Abrahamas was no more than the anguish of his soul. Wrong as we may consider Sartre’s explanation, we must pay homage to his fiery outburst of desperation and vengefulness. This applies far more befittingly to Sartre himself who may have suffered pangs of anguish and exasperation in the emptiness of his Godless philosophy. Revelation is the anguish of the soul, is indeed a profoundly revealing statement from the vantage point of an atheist—if atheists ever admit to possessing souls. Bernard Shaw is close to Sartre, but not quite, when he defines revelation as ‘inner voices’—at best, a smart remark of a dramatist lacking the depth and force of Sartre’s reflection! All said and done, Sartre fails to distinguish between inspiration and revelation, terms that simply do not exist in his philosophy; what does exist is the agony of soul—a tongue of fire that leaps out in occasional outbursts of desperation. No revelation descends from on high, whatever rises, rises from the depth of human frustration.
Hegel (1770–1831) is another agnostic whose interest in denial is not as strong and committed. His philosophy is not directly related to religious issues. Among his outstanding contributions is his attempt to create a bridge between subjectivity and objectivity.
It was he who first presented the dialectical conflict between the ideas of one generation and the ideas of the following generation. This is the well-known Hegelian theory of dialectical struggle between thesis and anti-thesis. He simply believed in contrariety of ideas. This means that ideas which are contrary to each other, but not contradictory, are constantly locked in a dialectical struggle for supremacy.
This results in his thesis that superior ideas are inevitably born out of the preceding dialectical processes. This in turn results in the birth of another anti-thesis born out of the preceding theses. Thus it goes on and on until a stabilized thesis is ultimately reached which demonstrates a positive and lasting understanding of the nature of objective reality.
He used this method to establish the role of logic for attaining knowledge. However, this dialectical method of reaching truth is only possible within systems that are factual and not abstract. The final outcome of this struggle of ideas is what he referred to as the absolute idea. This was Hegel’s concept of ultimate reality on universal truth. To him history is nothing but the movement of thought, the integration of theses and anti-theses into syntheses. In Lenin’s words Hegel believed that:
‘Life gives rise to the brain. Nature is reflected in the human brain. By checking and applying the correctness of these reflections in his practice and technique, man arrives at objective truth.’8
For him any ideological theory that was not related to the realm of physical experience was not worthy of serious consideration. Thus, any discussion of its significance was only of academic interest.
Implementing Hegel’s philosophy, it was Marx who experimented on giving man a new code of life based purely on man’s reasoning. A purely secular exercise to begin with, it soon began to demand respect from society. A sort of man-made politico-economic religion was born, founded on the denial of God. Marxist scholars were in basic agreement with the Hegelian point of view, and rejected the notion of eternal truth. They did not accept the objective truth to be absolute. It was always relative to a particular time and circumstance.
Among the socialist thinkers, Engels accepted the idea of absolute truth, and thus met with Bogdanov’s disapproval. By and large, to the Communist philosophers, truth is the name of knowledge obtained by objective study, subject to a given time and state of affairs. Within these specifics, truth is knowledge, and knowledge is truth. As such, knowledge could be defined as a constantly changing objective truth, corresponding to ever-changing environments.
It did not take long before this materialist philosophy turned into an ordained way of life. Marx became the chief apostle of this Godless religion as well as its oracle. To him we must turn now for an in-depth study because it was the stupendous power of his idea and not the mere mechanism of dialectical materialism which was to change the face of the earth.
In the spectrum of conflict of human ideas and beliefs, religion stands at one extreme, with its emphasis on the role of revelation as the most valid guiding principle. Marxism stands at the other end with its total denial of revealed truth. Between these two occur various philosophies—some closer to one, some to the other. But negation of all that religion stands for is never found so total and absolute anywhere except in the Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism and scientific socialism.
Marx, among all the European philosophers, seems to be the most clear-headed, matter-of-fact, yet idealistic without confessing his idealism—extremely cunning in his philosophical strategy against God and religion. To him neither God nor revelation mean anything, so also, inspiration has no place in his philosophy. He would not agree with Hegel’s idealism which precedes objective realities and participates in their activation.
In Hegel’s philosophy, the idea is born first and material changes are brought about later under its influence. Thus, when they grow to a certain stage of maturity and become pregnant with new ideas, they in their turn are subjected to new trials of verification. Thus they move on, wave after wave, transferring the subjective realities into observable, demonstrable objective truths.
Marx is clever enough to suspect the tiger in the bush. If the subjective ideas turn into objective realities as Hegelian philosophy would require, then the subjective ideas must precede the objective reality. This would create a dangerous cause and effect chain. Ideas must require a preceding consciousness which cannot be conceived without life. As such, this would ultimately lead to God, as the Prime Mover, who can bring about objective changes with the instrument of idea. Perhaps it is for this reason that Marx does not openly subscribe to the Hegelian idealism. Yet, with a subtle twist in the sequence of cause and effect, he transforms Hegelian philosophy into that of his own. He puts matter before the idea. This dialectical struggle does not begin with ideas, but with matter which is governed by autonomous natural laws. As such, dialectical materialism must reach its logical conclusion, with or without the help of ideas. Sheer matter will carve its own course by working upon life and shaping its destiny. This philosophy preconceives the non-existence of God, Who has to be dislodged from the driving seat of human affairs. It is only man who is entitled to take command of his own affairs with full responsibility.
Thus Marx’s dependence on reason and logic is as total as his rejection of God and Divine revelation. Absolute idealism versus dialectical materialism are but questions of arrangement. Which precedes which, is the only issue to be determined.
This leads us to another important question which, when properly resolved, will help us better understand Marx’s hidden intentions. How could he ever envision the smooth and flawless working of any system without morality? He was far too intelligent to miss the point, but he was also intelligent enough to be able to perceive the link between morality and God. Man by nature is not a moral animal. On the contrary he is the most corrupt animal under the firmament of heaven. All attempts to make man moral emanate from a belief in God, but Marx knew full well that belief in God was incompatible with his philosophy. Everything that leads or may lead to God was taboo. He had to choose between the two options: either to promote morality within Communism to safeguard its interest and run the risk of leading the Communist world back to God, or to shun the risk and accept instead the possible threat to the system itself. Perhaps he hoped that the impending terror of punishment would adequately offset the absence of moral training among the custodians of Communist rule.
In this, however, he has been proved utterly wrong. Man is a corrupt animal, corrupt indeed even beyond the reach of the merciless retribution of a totalitarian regime to straighten him.
The Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism leaves no room for God. It was for the same reason that Lenin launched a fierce campaign against those who dared to plead the cause of morality albeit within the framework of Communism.
So in Marxism there is neither room for revelation from on high, nor for any code of ethics based on revelation. Marx must have deemed it essential to banish morality from human affairs because of its implied potential to lead to God.
Another potent reason why he may have rejected morality could be the fear that morality would stand in the way of uninhibited proletarian revolution. The proletariat were tied to their bourgeois masters, in the name of moral obligation. Such ties must be shattered and the masses must be set free to do whatever they could to rebel against their despotic usurpers. No moral obligation must be permitted to stand in the way. They should feel free to kill, murder, rob, burn and destroy to annihilate the bourgeois order of economic and political domination. Thus he perceived morality as an arch-enemy of his Godless system.
Despite this matter-of-fact level-headedness of Marx, he is still full of inconsistencies. He lays the foundation for his projected ideas so soundly and firmly on reason and analysis, that it is hard indeed to suspect him of the crime of inherent contradictions. Yet contradictions run deep in Marxism. The total rejection of morality on the one hand, and the launching of a revolutionary movement founded entirely on the moral phenomenon of sympathy, on the other, is one such example of inconsistency.
But that is not all. The sympathy for the cause of the miserable, if carried beyond all boundaries of justice and fair play leading to cruelty to others, is where the contradiction becomes more glaring. If there is no justice in human affairs and you start a movement in the name of justice to rehabilitate it, you cannot violate the very principle upon which your movement is resting. It would be like severing the very bough upon which one is perched.
Again, an advocate of a system which holds no brief for sentiments and moral considerations, seems at odds with himself when he expects total commitment of loyalty to a system which is essentially amoral. There is another contradiction in Marx which lies in his well-calculated and well-planned scheme to help the proletariat topple the despotic domination of the bourgeoisie. Call it scientific socialism or dialectical materialism, if this philosophy is correct then it should not require any outside assistance of humans manipulating and guiding its steps.
Another important point to be observed is that Marx’s dialectical materialism was clearly influenced by Darwin’s monumental work The Origin of Species. In fact, a deeper study reveals that dialectical materialism is merely another name for Darwin’s struggle for existence, extended into human affairs.
The supply of food and means of sustenance continue to dominate the life of Homo sapiens as they had ever dominated the earlier animal species before man. The same principle of the survival of the fittest continues to operate as it ever operated before. There is no choice or option for life to take a different course, other than the one dictated by this law. This is scientific. If Marxist philosophy does not possess this equality of finality and precision, then his doctrine cannot be entitled as scientific. Dialectical materialism would lose its significance as an inevitable natural phenomenon.
EXAMINE now how different the case of Darwinian evolution is from that of dialectical materialism. The Darwinian principle of evolution predominates everything else in shaping life and carving its path. It needs no ideological campaign in its favour or external assistance to advance its cause. On the contrary, it has the potential to frustrate and destroy any outside attempt to obstruct its passage. If Darwin had not been born, if none had unravelled the mystery of evolution, the reality of evolution would have remained unchanged. The absence of Darwin could not make the smallest dent upon its inevitability.
The laws of nature do not depend upon the human understanding of their implementation. The perception of man has no part to play in the reality of their existence. Whether anyone understands them or not, the gigantic wheel of nature would continue to roll on.
How different is the case of dialectical materialism! Had Marx and Lenin not been born, a Communist revolution in Russia or anywhere else in the world could not have taken place. At that point in Russian history, She was ripe for revolution with or without Lenin. The only difference that Lenin made was to ride the crest of the imminent storm when it broke loose and exploited it to the advantage of scientific socialism. In the case of the Darwinian precept of evolution however, no advocate is ever needed to further its cause, no designer is required to assist the process of natural history.
When we compare Hegel’s philosophy with that of Marx, the central question which emerges is this: Do ideas precede objective changes in the material world, or is it the objective changes themselves which give birth to ideas as they roll on? If Marx is right, then he need not have launched an intellectual and idealistic campaign to bring about a Communist revolution. Anything contrary to the inevitable scientific conclusion could not have taken place.
If Communism were indeed a law unto itself like the law of evolution, then even the most powerful ideas together would not have impeded the advance of Communism even if they had colluded to do so. Here is the case of another contradiction in Marx. Apparently he pleads in the precedence of dialectical materialism over the idea, but in practice he leans entirely upon the power of idea to make it work.
If his vision were based on sound scientific principles, then it would bring about the inevitable transfer of economic and political power from the hands of a few to the hands of the numerous, as its logical conclusion. But the circumstances which created Marx and which created Lenin have no inevitability about them. For Marx to have been born with just the right faculties of head and heart and to win the support of a highly intellectual, influential and wealthy friend like Engels was not a natural outcome of dialectical materialism.
Again, his failure to bring about such a revolution in Germany, which according to his philosophy was an ideal arena with all the factors present to bring about a proletariat revolution, is proof enough that dialectical materialism by itself was not sufficient to change the political and economic face of the world.
The success of Lenin on the other hand, in a comparatively much less industrialised country than Germany, is yet another proof to support the proposition that the Russian revolution was merely coincidental and not a direct consequence of Marxism. It was a misfortune of Russian history that Lenin was available during that critical period when reaction to the Tsar’s despotic, selfish and evil rule, coupled with the frustration of defeat in the First World War, created the opportune moment for Lenin to pounce upon.
RUSSIA was ripe for revolution anyway. Indeed, Russia was ripe for any revolution. Had it not been the Communist revolution, it could have been any other. All that was needed was a leader of Lenin’s status. It was a mere accident that in Lenin, Russia found the revolutionary leader who happened to be a scientific socialist pupil of Marx. He, who condemns exploitation in severest terms emerges himself as the worst exploiter of Russian History. It was Lenin who dictated history in Russia and not dialectical materialism.
Apart from contradictions, Marx can also be blamed for at least one gross omission—his science of socialism completely ignores the factor of the mind from its computations.
Mind is the seat of ideas which has its own distinct identity apart from that of the brain. The brain is the material abode of mind, but the mind which occupies and dwells in the abode is not material. If the brain can be likened unto a computer, then the mind could be conceived as its operator. A clever idea is born when the mind manipulates the computeral brain. Even if any two material brains were to be one hundred per cent alike, if different minds operated them, the ideas thus born out of them will not be identical.
All the human scientific, social, economic and political progress is taking shape under the sway of the mind. The powerful nations of the world exercise their authority over the weaker nations merely because of their accumulated superior power of the mind. It is the same resources of the mind at the disposal of the bourgeoisie which make them most formidable in their absolute command of power. The doctrine of dialectical materialism however, does not take this most powerful factor into account.
It was a mistake on the part of Marx to believe that the accumulated wealth in a capitalist system is the sum total of conserved labour which the capitalists exploited. This conserved energy, he believed, comes from the unpaid dues of the exploited labour and the interest accrued from the idle capital deposited in the banks. Thus the proletariat majority is robbed by the bourgeois few. But sheer labour in itself cannot accumulate wealth without being wedded to the superior power of the mind. This in fact is conveniently ignored by Marx. The progressive scientific inventions which have revolutionised the input-output ratio of labour versus production are essentially the product of mind.
The labour in many a third world country continues to toil and sweat, yet their output is nothing compared to that of the labour in the highly developed industrial countries. Superior tools and highly mechanised productive units and modern technology, when wedded to labour, make all the difference. It is this superior potential achieved with the faculty of the mind which enhances productivity. Otherwise, labour is labour, whether in England or in Bangladesh, in the Pacific Islands or the African jungles; why then is some labour rewarded far more than the labour employed elsewhere? Evidently, it is the mind which plays a decisive role in this unequal reward. It should be remembered here that the power of the mind is a natural factor which can be played for good or evil depending on who employs it.
As labour aided by the mind becomes far more productive, so also is the case of capitalism which when rightly aided by superior mind becomes formidable. This power of capitalism does not flow automatically from the accumulation of wealth into fewer hands. The accumulation of wealth in fewer hands can only be made possible if the power of the mind is working on its side. If the power of the mind is evil Mafias will begin to be created. Against such Mafias the entire might of the proletariat will stand no chance of succeeding.
The number of such Mafias, once begun, forever multiplies extending their domain over every territory of human interests. In due time, they become ever more powerful, dictating terms to the high and low alike. In finance, in commerce, in politics, in business, in the pleasure industry, in health and in sickness, in the progressively expanding travel industry, in computers and electronics, everywhere, these Mafias will cast their evergrowing and deepening ominous shadows.
Hence it is the power of the mind, good or bad which ultimately governs the material world. The mechanism of dialectical materialism has no dominant role to play in shaping the destiny of man. Alas, the mind which has emerged to control world affairs is evil—an inevitable consequence of the rejection of God.
It is not a distinctive feature of Marxism alone that morality is denied any role in human affairs. That which Communists do openly, the capitalists do with a masterly hypocrisy. Their politics, trade and economics are no less devoid of morality, rendering them equal partners in crime with their counterparts across the border. The chance, that the proletariat in Communist states stand against their oppressors is as little as the one enjoyed by the multitudes in the capitalist world.
The Mafias created by power of evil minds in capitalism are no less horrendous than the ones operating among the Communist world when the helpless have-nots cross the path of their ruling class. It is this factor upon which we must concentrate now. Why should the erstwhile have-nots of a Communist hierarchy suddenly forget about all their miseries and suffering of the past, and begin to command the destiny of the masses with stony hearts and iron claws? What morals would govern them? What pangs of conscience would reproach them? When there is no morality, there are no pangs of conscience. It is this heartless mechanism of a merciless system in operation which is responsible for the ultimate failure of Communism.
A deep, careful examination of all absolute regimes would reveal a strange inherent paradox. It makes no difference whether they are built around a totalitarian philosophy of Communism or Fascism, or emerge as a dictatorial expression of power by a capitalist despot. They all have one thing in common: they cannot afford to be moral, because without merciless oppression they cannot survive, and morality cannot coexist with cruelty. Thus they thrive on the absence of morality, yet it is the very same absence of morality which brings about their ultimate downfall.
Mere ruthlessness is not sufficient to protect any totalitarian or despotic regimes. The power of cunning, scheming, plotting, conspiring minds is no less essential for their survival than ruthlessness is. It is the unholy wedlock between corrupt minds and merciless hearts which gives birth to all dictatorial regimes. It helps them to survive for a while but always deserts them in the end. The same factors of conspiracy and moral destitution become the ultimate cause of their downfall. In fact nothing good or bad happens in human affairs as a result of an inevitable inbred system. The two most important factors which shape human destiny are the factor of mind and the factor of morality. Their strength or weakness, their virtue or vice, decide the fate of every man-made plan. Hence, Marx is wrong on both counts. Remove the factors of mind and morality from scientific socialism and what is left is neither scientific nor social. The proletariat, however massive they may swell, are no match whatsoever when confronted with the united might of evil minds. Woe for the age when the might of evil mind colludes with his ego to rule the world. Hence little difference would it make whether the world were ruled by the mindless, amoral mechanism of materialism, or by the evil-minded immoral Mafia of capitalism. Yet there is a difference, and a vast difference for that matter which exposes the inadequacies and inherent flaws of Marxism. In capitalism there is always a measure of freedom which every individual of the society enjoys. It is this freedom which promotes the ultimate cause of the whole society as such. There is no freedom in Communism. An ever-increasing depression of gloominess continues to grow and penetrates every fibre of Communist society. It depresses all their potentials except in the areas where the state itself is compelled to promote them.
ANOTHER DILEMMA which Marxism faces is that morality cannot be defined in partisan terms. A society which is taught and trained in rejecting all moral obligations with respect to others, is very unlikely to fulfil its obligations to itself. Once given to immorality, always given to immorality, is the general pattern of human behaviour. The same applies to the Communist command system. Immorality seems to strengthen the grip of the corrupt upon the system which they operate. The more corrupt they become, the more callous and merciless they must grow to perpetuate their command.
Morality and immorality cannot be channelled exclusively in any single direction. It is not possible for the Communist hierarchy to treat the Communist world with morality, even if they so decide, while they are trained to treat the non-Communist world and non-Communist interests without the least moral obligations. This single factor was sufficient and powerful enough to bring about the downfall of the Communist dictatorship in the long run.
The popular cliché that ‘Dictatorship corrupts and absolute dictatorship corrupts absolutely’ applies perfectly to the Communist command. The immoral cannot survive without having recourse to cruelty, oppression and a blatant disregard of justice. As hatred begets hatred, so does immorality breed immorality. This state of progressive disregard of moral values at the highest level of Communist hierarchy is bound to end up in an absolutely immoral dictatorship. The absolute immoral dictatorship cannot remain confined for long within a small selective circle of their command. For their group survival, it is essential that corruption must also prevail in all adjacent levels of decision making. Thus the arid patches of immorality begin to grow bigger and wider, spreading in all planes.
However, the case of the absolute authority of a prophet of God, is vitally different from that of the mundane authorities. The prophet’s authority is confined by a strict moral religious code which even he cannot violate otherwise the very edifice of his authority would crumble. It should also be noted here that the Divinely revealed moral code is always consistent and possesses the quality of making its adherents consistent in their conduct. Hence, it is the revealed truth alone which has the potential to cure man of his intrinsic ills. No man-made code of conduct based purely on human reason can work this miracle, even when aided with merciless coercion. The main difference between secular dictators and the absolute authority of a prophet, is that while secular dictators are entirely free from any obligation to a legislative code, the prophets are strictly governed by a Divine Book of moral teachings which simultaneously and equally applies to all their followers. It is this difference which sets their roles poles apart.
Any Communist regime brought to power can never be unsaddled by the revolt of the proletariat. The power they command is total and merciless. Mercy or mere moral jargon has no place in the dictionary of Marxism. Stalin was a paragon of the Marxist amoral code of conduct. Mass murders of the proletariat themselves at the altar of Marxism, during the absolute dictatorial regime of Stalin, can be pronounced as pride of performance only from the vantage point of Communist philosophy.
Alas the genius of Marx failed to identify the inherent weakness of his dialectical materialism. The hand of Communism even if it were mightier than the furies of a desert would still not have succeeded in levelling the highs and lows of the human society.
Every stormy sea is returned to calm after the turbulent elements of nature have run their course, presenting a picture of rippleless stability. So does a vast duneless desert of sand create the illusion of perfect peace and tranquillity. The Marxists’ concept of stability and peace in the human society is closest to the scenario just presented. But little do the Marxists realize that such scenes of tranquillity in nature present no more than a picture of death. Where there is absolute levelling there is no interplay between the forces of nature, but what the Marxists also forget is the fact that the perfectly calm sea or a deathly still desert, do not share the human freedom of choice to cheat or to defraud and to create artificial ups and downs when there are no natural ups and downs left. Moreover, it is impossible for man to propose a system which can remove every element of high and low from human society. Drops of water may look alike and particles of sand may also be shaped as perfect facsimiles of each other, but humans are not made like that.
In Marxist philosophy, it is the human particles which make the Communist utopia of tranquillity. If each citizen of a Communist state is provided equal economic opportunities, each is fed with the same quantity of bread, butter and meat; if all that man lives for or desires is made available to him, exactly in accordance with his requirements, then no human vice born out of greed should ever germinate. In such an economically levelled society there seems no need left for anyone to rob, steal or cheat, or to even attempt to accommodate wealth, which would not be able to buy him anything beyond the provisions made by the state. Such a society should ultimately be rid of all crimes because greed, the most powerful causative factor of crime, would seem to have been uprooted.
When this state of equal opportunities, equal needs and equal fulfilment of needs is guaranteed, provided of course, that each member of the society puts in his share of labour to his capacity, only then the Communist dream of perfect stability could possibly come true. Such a society will need no state to govern its affairs. This, in short, is the utopia of Marx’s materialism.
The latest trends of political and economic developments in the world, however, have already exploded this materialist myth. But no outside decree is needed to destroy Marx’s garden of Eden. The rejection of morality is in itself enough to guarantee its ultimate destruction.
There are other inherent flaws in Marx’s regimentational philosophy. Apart from the fact that it provides no moral code for guiding its members to discharge their responsibilities with honesty, an emphatic denial of God and the assertion that there will be no life after death hence no accountability, emboldens the functionaries of the party to absolute indiscipline and selfishness. An utter state of selfishness ensues where no holds are barred in pursuance of one’s personal desires and ambitions. One feels free to do whatever one may to satiate one’s greed. The corrupt always gang up to protect their class interest. They can always find means to escape exposure and consequent punishment, by joining hands with others of the same ilk. Perhaps it is this inbred propensity towards selfish behaviour in man which led Marx to conclude that man is an immoral animal. But little did he realize then, that it would be the same propensity which would ultimately bring about the demolition of the Communist empire.
The rejection of morality is not the only hurdle which prevents the realization of Marx’s dream of a stateless society. Equal access to opportunities is not enough to achieve the goal of a stateless society, nor are the greeds confined only to the fulfilment of economic requirements. Where is the answer to the greed for capturing the source of power which runs supreme in every dictatorial system? Again, where is the scientific guarantee in the system for blocking the passage of jealousies, hatred and revenge in relation to the capturing of power? Marx’s scientific philosophy does not even touch this issue.
To reach the utopia, one has to pass through the hazards of a society which knows no morals and no mercy. Long before a stage of perfect levelling of economic and political society is reached, the immorality in man would have demolished the very edifice of the Communist vision of life.
In the light of this, when we reinvestigate the problems leading to the collapse of the Communist empire, we cannot fail to identify the moral failure of its functionaries to be the main culprit. It was the corruption of the Communist world which is largely to be blamed for the downfall of the Communist empire of the U.S.S.R. Thus, the failure of the system was underwritten in the Communist charter when morality was banished from it.
On the one hand there is the revealed truth and on the other, the so-called truth reached entirely through the agency of human reason. The merits of the two philosophies are not too difficult to examine. The Divine proclamation invariably claims that justice and fair play in human affairs cannot be established without their absoluteness. Moral corruption and a code of ethics based on absolute justice cannot go hand in hand. Absolute truth is the essence of all morality, and absolute morality is the essence of all truth. Hence without the rehabilitation of absolute values in man, no dream of a heaven upon earth can be envisioned. This has always been the universal pronouncement of all ages.
Marx rose to defy this age-old philosophy founded on revelation. He rejected it outright and made the counterclaim that man stands in no need of Divine guidance—nor according to him, does any God exist. Hence it is for man to carve his own path to the ultimate realization of his dream of heaven upon earth. Thus, he carved a path guided entirely by his own intellect, completely devoid of Divine guidance.
Looking at the Marxist vision of a stateless society once again, another fundamental flaw which has already been hinted at comes to light. It is assumed without foundation that if the society is economically levelled, the root cause of crime will be destroyed; hence no state power will be needed to combat crime. The greed in man, however, is certainly not limited to the area of his economic activity. Even if the objectives of Marxism are entirely achieved there is much more to the greed of man than meets the Marxist eye.
Human psyche gives birth to so many desires and ambitions that any solution proposed to solve problems without taking them into account would be inadequate. Inequalities in man are not only economic. They may belong to his physical or mental aptitudes and other faculties of head and heart. His innate desire to rule, to conquer, to govern, to dominate, to love and to be loved, are but a few areas which provide a fertile soil for the seed of greed to take root in.
Beauty is one thing that cannot be shared equally by all men and women, nor can physical fitness and health be doled out to them in equal measures. The faculties of hearing and sight, of taste and touch; the likes and dislikes, cravings and aversions, even artistic aptitudes, the taste for music and passion for art, the literary pursuits and the lack of interest in what bookworms would relish and devour, are but a few examples of variants which nature has itself produced over a long course of evolution. No proponents of scientific socialism can ever do away with them. They have to be accepted as fait accompli. The problem is that it is this diversity itself which is the ultimate root cause of all the corruption in human society. All social maladies are born out of them. The only valid solution to discipline such tendencies lies in the Divinely revealed moral codes, which in turn cannot work without the belief in God. Remove God and revealed truth from human affairs and there will be no peace left whatsoever.
This in-depth comparison between the Godless philosophy of Marxism and the belief in revealed truth serves to clarify the case in point. On the one hand there is man’s reason alone, unaided by Divine guidance, striving to resolve all human problems by itself. On the other, there is the Divinely revealed truth which emphasizes the role of absolute moral measures to combat immorality in man.
A critical review of the former leads one to the only logical conclusion, that reason by itself is totally inadequate for guiding human steps to peace and tranquillity. A study of religious history reveals that peace and tranquillity were only achieved when Divine messengers fought heroic battles against the immorality in man. It was through a course of toil, sweat and blood, that islands of a near peaceful human society were ever created in the midst of the raging ocean of crime and sin. No doubt they were always reclaimed by the seas of temptation. But even so, the level of human morality was invariably raised a notch or two. Had it not been so, and had there been no Divinely generated movements for the moral rearmament of man, society would be a hundred times worse than it is today. There is no doubt left, therefore, in the indispensability of revelation and revealed truth.