In this world, it is not similarities or regularities that take us a step forward, but blunt opposites. And all the opposites in the universe are present within each and every one of us. Therefore the believer needs to meet the unbeliever residing within. And the unbeliever should get to know the silent faithful in him. Until the day one reaches the stage of being the perfect human being, faith is a gradual process and one that necessitates its seeming opposite: disbelief.
Similarities and regularities are qualities of nature. There is no flower like the other, yet they all bear similarities. No spring is like the other, yet it comes every year with great reliability. In nature, there is no either/or but change from one state to the next. Gradually the weather changes from sunshine to thunderstorm, stageless the day glides into the night.
Opposites are qualities of human thinking. Probably this way of thinking is based on the deep rooted duality of fight or flight in case of danger, which can be found in any living organism. In an instant, a decision between two possibilities has to be made and then all power has to be invested in the chosen alternative. So this way of thinking can be an outcome of fear and is steered by it.
Anyway, by thinking we have the opportunity to find an opposite to everything and anyone. We only need to use the word “not” or the prefix “un-“ to turn something into its opposite. With the help of this key, we can cause thoughts to appear and to disappear, just as we like. It also helps us to radicalize our thinking and thus preparing radical action: “If you do not want to be my brother, I will split your skull.” Or: “Those who are not for me, are against me.” From the terror regime of the Jacobins during the French Revolution to the axis of evil according to an US-warlord president, we can find a simple operator in our thinking as the root of many atrocities and destructive actions.
Also and specifically in the matters of faith and religion, this operator has been used with great zeal. People believe that they need to proceed in the area of faith with extra radicalism, because the basic conditions of our lives are at stake. It depends on the faith whether my life has sense or not, whether it ends with death, whether there is a transcendent world etc. When someone favors another belief, my belief is questioned, and a simple and often practiced possibility in handling such irritations is to split the skull of the opposing believer. Then the problem is out of the way.
Interestingly, most founders of religion, most saints and wise people, that is most of the experts in faith are peaceful and friendly persons. Most of them radically denounced violence or allowed it only under restricted circumstances, but never made it the central points of their teaching. Yet their devotees shed countless amounts of blood, obviously neglecting their own principles, which should be defended by their atrocities.
The mystics, that is the experts in spirituality (as which I understand the central insights of all religions without their historical, moral and social attachments) demonstrate ways to control our tendency to spread our beliefs with fire and sword. Again, the royal road is introspection. When we look inside ourselves and observe our thinking, we will notice that our head is so busy in uploading and downloading all sorts of crap and nonsense. So we can state anything about ourselves – that we are atheists and strict believers, materialists and spiritists, esoterics and pragmatics, and more and more, and almost everything. The most peaceful person ought to find the rascal inside of him/herself when taking enough time to find it, the thriftiest the most lavish, the most benevolent the most begrudging etc.
And we do not have to be appalled by all this contradictions inside of us. Rather we can ungrudgingly concede that our head contains a whole universe, exactly the same universe we share with all the other heads. In life, we only display those parts which we and our surroundings got used to, the roles we easily perform. When we fall out of our roles we immediately attract attention: “Oh really, you can be funny?” “Oh really, you can be earnest?”
So it is in our nature as thinking beings steered by mighty emotional patterns that we construct oppositions for explaining the world again and again, and especially when we feel threatened and fearful. Reasonably we can use this design to enlarge our potential and to lighten up our inner world. When we have found a shadow part of our personality (a trait of our character we do not know so well and we tend to reject and criticize in others), the danger falls away, which we had projected into this possibilities. We gain a piece of ourselves and more freedom. Then we can act differently in the world, as we can include this piece rather than rejecting it – till finally, in the stage of perfection, we embrace the whole world with all its oppositions and contradictions, with all its chaos and order.
The rules are taken from Elif Shafak's novel “The Forty Rules of Love” (Viking 2010). They are inspired by the Sufi tradition and worded by the autor's imagination. www.elifshafak.com