Monday, February 12, 2018



D. R. Khashaba

God and I have had a lifelong unstable and uneven relationship. More than once I have described my philosophy as a continued wrestling with God, though along its extended course God has not remained the same but has undergone a radical transformation.

As a child I was taught that the world has been made by a mighty being, all-knowing and all-powerful. The term ‘created’ was introduced at a later stage along with a mass of dogmatic teachings originating, as I in time learned, from a book referred to collectively (in Arabic) as the Holy Book although it consists of two groups of assorted books – the Old Testament and the New Testament – differing widely in content and tone. Though, impelled by a number of abhorrent tales especially in the Old Testament, I shed off most of the dogmatic teachings in my early teens, the concept of a mighty being out there who created the world and continues to oversee and to rule the world — this concept hanged on somewhat longer.

When I began to philosophize – before I knew there was such a thing as philosophy – two questions ignited the aporia, the painful unrest that is the origin of all philosophy, possessed my mind, one after the other. The first question was moral. World War II was raging with the news of killing and destruction pouring in day and night. I found it puzzling that humans were so stupid as not to know that peace and goodwill would bring them gains far exceeding anything they can obtain by slaughtering one another.

The second question was metaphysical. How did this world come about? Indeed how could there be anything at all? How could anything that is not perfect, that does not have the self-sufficiency of perfect being, be? As soon as the question presented itself to my mind in this form, the concept of a God outside the world, creating the world out of nothing, was seen to be evidently absurd, for the being of God was itself problematic, as problematic as the being of any particular thing in the world.

Somehow I formed for myself the view that the origin of all being, the ultimately real, must be good and intelligent. What was the nature of that ultimate reality? When I posed the question to myself in that form I was convinced that the origin of all things must be Will. Will, I saw, is of its own nature purposive. Will is thus affirmative of being and as such is good, is Love. That good and intelligent Will displaced the god of my childhood.

I had reached that far before I began to read philosophy. As far as I can remember my earliest philosophy schooling was in the Encyclopedia Britannica Eleventh Edition. I read the articles about the major philosophers and about the main philosophy departments and themes. Then, as I remember, I discovered Plato and was captivated. Also at a very early stage (late teens to early twenties) I had the good fortune of reading Spinoza’s Ethics, Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, Bradley’s Appearance and Reality. Spinoza’s Pantheism fitted well with the convictions I came with.

In Plato’s early dialogues I found the answer, in principle, to the moral question. I saw that Socrates found that what constituted our specific character as human beings was that our action was governed by ideas, ideals, purposes, formed in and by the mind. Our good is in the wholesomeness of our mind (soul, nous, psuchê) and our misery is in the unwholesomeness of our mind. The early and middle dialogues also gave me my epistemology. All knowledge and all understanding come from the ideas born in and by the mind.

In the Republic I found everything. In the Form of the Good I found confirmation for my conception of ultimate Reality as intelligent and good and creative. But I also learned that while that conception is the vision of Reality that satisfies our mind, there are two most important qualifications. (1) That vision and the insight that gives birth to that vision cannot be captured by any formulation of language or thought and that is why any such formulation can be nothing but a myth intimating the insight. The various conceptions of ultimate Reality produced by different philosophers can be nothing but myths intimating the various philosophers’ vision of Reality. (2) We find our vision of Reality in our mind and nowhere but in our mind. The vision of Reality we offer is nothing but our insight into our own inner Reality.

Where does that leave God? We have no access to any reality other than our own inner reality. No empirical experience and no reasoning can give us access to any reality other than our own reality. Therefore I do not say that my vision of ultimate Reality is true of the actual world nor do I say that it is a true representation of God. If my vision of ultimate Reality is equated with my vision of God, then that God is nowhere but in my mind.

Hence I say that all philosophers, with the sole exception of Plato, are deluded when they maintain that their visions are true of the actual world. What is the use of philosophy then? Our struggle with the insistent, persistent questionings about the All and the Whole is what gives us our wholeness and integrity. Our wrestling with the idea of God is what gives us the god within us.

I wrestled for a lifetime with God to find at last that the only God I know of certainly and lucidly is the God I create for myself within myself.

D. R. Khashaba

February 12, 2018

Posted to xnd


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