Soulaiman continued, and shifted the subject a bit from the Dajjal, to his audience – you and I out there.
“Now with the example of a name, you have a situation in which certain Muslims would automatically trust the authority of someone bearing a type of name or title. In other words, they would trust the image he brought to bear in from of them, and the name or title is part of the image.
The problem with a lot of this is summarized by that old statement about there being two kinds of souls. There are many other ways to distinguish people, but one of the most productive ways to understand humanity is along the following way of dividing and categorizing people, when you are looking at their heart of hearts, their mind of minds if you will.
On The Two Types of Souls: the Appearance of Authority, and the Reality of Truth.
This adage is famous in different ways, but I am going to restate it in my own way. I’ve come up with a pithy adage based on this old traditional saying that summarizes its essential idea; it is this, basically:
‘It is a misery to take authority as your truth, instead of truth as your authority.'”
He paused, let me think about it for a moment, and then he re-stated it, slightly changed.
“It is a miserable soul that takes authority as its truth, instead of the opposite – Truth as its final authority.”
He paused again, and continued. “This is simply a nice, useful, and simple way of saying the following: for some people, a figure of authority is their truth. When a president speaks, or when the king, imam, or priest speaks, this automatically deserves such people’s respect. For them the mere act of someone with that authoritative title speaking conveys truth.
On the other hand, for some people, indeed for a few, and unfortunately only a few, the Truth itself is their authority. For this second group of people, it wouldn’t matter if the Pope himself, the Sheikh el-Islam, the Khalifa or Mufti, said something. If what is said doesn’t measure up to the truth then it is absolutely of no relevance to them, any more than if it had been spoken, or brayed, by a Jackass. Such people, however, are very far and few between. Extremely few, in fact.
The point is that the vast majority of humanity mistake authority for truth. In other words, they act as if just because you have a title, are a type of expert, like a doctor, or father, or priest, or imam, that this somehow confers truth upon your words. Do you understand what I am saying?”
“I think I’m getting it..”
“The second group of people, those who see truth as their authority seem different from the others, those who see authority as truth. People make this basic mistake all the time, every day. Let’s say that I am a so-called expert in something – a doctor in this or that field – and I happen to get on television to talk about some issue, the people in the audience with switch off their brains.
People – most of the people anyway – automatically believe whatever a person is saying in such a situation. In this example, most people in the audience will automatically believe what such an expert has to say.
But when you really think about it, this expert is just a normal average human being, like anybody else. He is a vulnerable, fallible, mere mortal like any other person. A person’s expertise should be measured against the truth, not the opposite – that the truth itself is measured against a person’s expertise and title. It’s a simple game, really.”
I interrupted him, blurting out “That is exactly what happened with the Bahais, in the early Babi Movement!”
“Yes, that is exactly right.” He said. “This guy, the so-called Bab, when the people around him looked at him, so overwhelming was the appearance he presented before them, so earth shakingly overwhelming it was, that they assumed he was clearly a figure or truth and authority.”
“Soulaiman, I have read that even some of the early enemies of the Babi and Bahai sects, indeed some of the Bab’s own jailers, actually felt horrible over imprisoning him. These people saw the turban, and the beard, and more than this, they saw his apparent saintliness. It affected them greatly. They saw that he was always fasting, always in prayer, and all these sort of things, and they would say to themselves ‘such a person could not lie.‘”
Soulaiman nodded and stroked his beard.
“This is what I am speaking of. Those people mistook authority for truth; the title and appearance of authority for the Truth. Yet the truth is not a matter of appearance. The truth is ultimately a matter of reasoning..” He said, drawing out and emphasizing the word ‘reasoning’, and letting it linger for a few moments, before continuing.
“Consider this; a lie can be garbed in just about anything you want to dress it in. You can dress-up a lie like the Queen herself. You can dress a lie in the garb of the King of the World. In both cases, it is still a goddamn lie.
The Truth; it can come to you from the lips of a babe, a child, and it can come to you from the lips of a pauper. The truth can be found spoke even by a Bush. However the majority of humans would not recognize it, because they do not expect the truth to be associated with such … un-authoritative states, or situations or individuals.
So, to recap or restate the dramatic words I used in the beginning; there are two kinds of souls on this earth.
1. Those who recognize the truth even if it came dressed in the garb of a pauper.
2. Those would wouldn’t recognize the truth, unless it came to them dressed in kingly habits.
And those are the two kinds of people there are on this earth.”
“Or in today’s world, instead of kingly habit, a scientist’s white coat or a president’s suit?” I asked.
“Yeah, Whatever.” He said. “Basically, if the truth came to them with the right dress, if it came dressed correctly, whatever this dress happened to be. This has always been the case. Throughout human history, through the broad sweep of mankind’s history, it has always been the case that there are these two kinds of souls. Now, I used the word ‘souls’ carefully, because it is such a deep issue.
When you actually try to explain all of this to a person, like when you try to ask a person, ‘wait a minute, why is it that you believe this person, even though he’s lying’ you come up against tremendous opposition. Why, for example, do you believe the goddamn president even though countless times he’s lied, lied and lied again? Yet there you sit, in front of your TV, and you make two or three hours of your time just to listen to his State of the Union address, even when you know that he’s actually a goddamn liar.
You wouldn’t do this for a liar who came up to you dressed in homeless clothing. You wouldn’t assign this much room and time in your life if the liar came to you, dressed in a garb that doesn’t confer authority upon its wearer. And yet, people do this all the time for experts. People of expertise and authority, kings, and presidents, will lie to people, over and over again, yet people always go back to these ‘experts’, sit before them, and listen to their lies silently and attentively.
However, there are other people. There is a small group of people, indeed a special group of people, that wouldn’t care even if they were told the lie was spoken by God – Allah forbid.
Now the way I worded this is a far fetched and extreme, but very real example. For this small group of people, even if you told them that God himself had spoken a lie, these extremely few and special people, even if you told them ‘God said this’, and you could actually show them in – obviously false – scripture, that the God of such false scripture spoke a lie, they would recognize the lie, and they would not give it any authority, because it is simply not worthy of that authority.
All false religion works like this, in fact. This how all false propaganda works. This is how all political manipulation works. It works by conferring the image of authority to a lie. In the case of false religion, the ultimate image of authority is by assigning it to God almighty himself, who is beyond such falsehoods.”
“What is a good example of this?”
“For example, to pick on one group of people, take Hinduism.” Soulaiman said.”Their gods, their final figures of authority, supposedly have told them that a monkey, or a cow, to pick a cheap and easier illustration of the point, is more worthy of respect than a human being. This is because god, or their god, told them so. Or rather, because their divine writ said so.
That is why you find 1.2 billion Hindus, over a billion human beings, falling into the first category of the miserable souls that we talked about before, those who confuse truth with authority.
Now, of course, I am sure that amongst Hindus, or people born in that religion, there are a few who would not be deceived thus at any cost. It doesn’t matter what their forefathers or elders told them, about a cow being more divine, or being more worthy of respect and status than a human being, these few people would not believe it. This is because their reasoning, their soul, indeed their heart of hearts, would tell them ‘this is not true, this is not so, this is false, I don’t care who said it.’
So again, to restate for the third time this statement, because it deserves not only to be said again, but to be memorized;
It is misery to take truth as authority, instead of authority as truth.“
We finished our coffee and then took leave of each other, and his words remained at the forefront of my mind.
Which type of person are you? Who are your authorities, and what do you take as the Truth?