From Chaos To Order
For several centuries, with respect to our understanding of morality, virtue, science, and knowledge, our society has had the appearance of a wreck. It has been searching for an alternative system of order and thought in education, art, and morality. In fact, we need genius minds with iron wills that are able to carry the title of vicegerent of God on Earth, and which are able to intervene in events and challenge the orphan spirit and puny thought which attach no importance to the consciousness of responsibility, humane values, knowledge, morality, true contemplation, virtue, and art in such a vast territory, we need refined minds and an iron will which will embrace and interpret creation in its depth and entirety and humanity in all its worldly and other-worldly vastness.
Recent gusts of change and transformation in the world tore the masks from the faces of many and revealed their true identities; they also momentarily lifted the veil from our eyes, and thus the true essence of everybody and everything became clear to our view. Nowadays, we can observe events taking place around us more clearly and draw sounder, more reliable conclusions. Consequently, we have now deduced and realized that it is not only our external appearance and attire, our way of thinking and our philosophy of life that were subjected to the mishap of being exiled, forsaken and obliterated from memory, but also our national culture, the consciousness of history, the system of morality, acceptance, and the interpretation of virtue, the understanding of art and the roots of spiritual essence—these were no less subject to erosion. In fact, they suffered rather more. All our spiritual bonds were shredded, the sources of virtue dried up, and in their place impassable cliffs and abysses were thrown between us and our past.
In this blessed world of ours, we have experienced periods in which the intellectuals were silenced; the fount of thought was sealed; those who represented might and authority reinforced the deviation and degeneration; the poor, unfortunate generations were always trapped “in the most lifeless, hopeless, and darkest feelings, within a groaning chaos, like the dead.”
In this “red” period, when everywhere was pervaded by the thick dust and smoke of hopelessness, eyes shed tears of helplessness, hearts sighed when looking toward the faces that did not know shame, lamenting their feelings with a voice from their deepest self, bemoaning: “What else could you expect from those confused, who sailed forth into atheism; from those unthinking people, who praise and applaud everybody and everything; from those victims of their deeply sullied conscience, who are accustomed to bowing to that power?” However, not a single one of all those things that were shaken and demolished, which perished and disappeared has been replaced. And now, witnessing the unease, the discomfiture that we have started to feel recently in all of our hearts, even deep in the hearts of the so-called realists, who know nothing but the pursuit of their own pleasure, it has become crystal clear that nothing has been built or established in place of what was demolished, what perished and disappeared; the values of society have been left inverted.
Now let me ask you earnestly,
how and with what should we overcome this moral misery, which has turned life into a burden and an enigma, and how should we overcome the crises which form an ever stronger and deeper whirlpool in ourselves as the days pass?
How can we tackle, surmount, and extricate ourselves from these individual, familial, and social crises? How can we walk confidently toward the future? With a few imported fantasies and fancy ideologies?
Or with the limited reasoning of this age on which they try to build everything?
No! Neither those illegitimate thoughts and ideologies nor that dark logic are able to rise from under such a heavy burden.
All the efforts of reformation in our world remain nothing but artifice; they have never successfully pursued an objective nor reached even the smallest target. Those at the top, paintbrush in hand, have assumed that it was a skill, or perhaps even revolutionary, to daub paint over the wounds that appeared on the national and social body; yet they have been blind to the internal bleeding in the major blood vessels of the vital organs and the complications caused by that bleeding. Since the turn of the century, with the exception of some success in the private sphere and the achievements of the heroes of our National War, everything has continued on this way. Furthermore, it is impossible even to claim that the blessed effort of our heroes has been continued with a purity and strength comparable to that shown at its origin. Today, it is not impossible, but it is very difficult, to talk of unity on such a scale and to imagine such a rising and revival.
Although different groups have separated and distanced themselves more and more from others, they do not acknowledge clearly the substantial differences among them concerning their intellectual lives, spirit, and essence. They have become alienated from one another to an extraordinary extent and behave like beasts attacking each other. This has reached such a level that if one says something is black, the other contradicts him and claims that it is white; if one puts forward an idea, the other opposes and refutes it; one considers the alternative ideas of the other as being treacherous; and one sees the firmness of the other as bigotry and fanaticism. Apart from all this contrariness, now imagine the dimensions of this fight, or rather, brawl, where there are no criteria commonly or mutually acknowledged by all. Try now to discover on which side the truth is to be found.
That is why, more than anything else today, we need a way of thinking which is undeceiving and criteria which are not misleading on the way that carries us to truth and virtue. While our conscience and our moral and ethical values could once have been considered to be a source of light sufficient to resolve many problems, unfortunately today that conscience has been wounded and those moral values are scattered in confusion; both of these important dynamics have been uprooted and, like ancient fountains in museums, their source or spring has dried up. In the words of M. Akif Ersoy:
What elevates morality is neither knowledge nor conscience,
Fear of God is the real source of all virtue and excellence.
If you add to all this the fact that willpower has slackened as far as possible, that reasoning has become as shameless as possible, and that human feelings are as wicked and ferocious as fiends, the depth and vastness of the nightmare we have been experiencing will be self-evident.
It is therefore essential to start by revising once more all the fundamentals of our reasoning, finding the line of logical thinking, giving our willpower its due, and raising resolute generations. As we are living in a universe besieged by causes, we cannot ignore them. Negligence of causes in a world of causes is absolute determinism and deviation. To become responsible and accountable does not demand that we ignore causes, but rather renders our observance of the principle of causes (tanasub al illiyat) as an indispensable requirement.
Departing from this point, if we do not, with serious intent, analyze today the fundamentals of those particular harmful thoughts, ideologies, and movements, and if we do not take the necessary measures against them, it is inevitable that we will again live through similar miserable morality, social disasters, deviations, and corruptions, all in their different scales and dimensions. It is not commendable that we know the consequences of a disaster after it has already taken place. The merit is to foresee and predict which causes and factors produce what effect. It is even difficult to show such hindsight or wisdom concerning our recent history; we can never claim that we gave our willpower its due at any time. Quite the contrary, within that twilight period our people were suspicious of their own thought, willpower, and resolution and thus always sought some superior and extraordinary willpower to govern them. Moreover, by means of the thought of such and such a “scholar,” “scientist,” “country,” or “state” lack of character was inculcated into the pure consciousnesses and innocent consciences of our people, and thus their resolution and perseverance were shackled. In time, the dominance and rule of these people over our thoughts and acts caused a variety of deviations of personality, dizziness, deviations of reasoning, distortions and contradictions in our thinking, our acceptance of ideas and interpretations. This then brought about some terrible deformations in those who surrendered, without terms and conditions, such people and thought. However, none but the Divine Will ought to be believed in and accepted without inspection and criticism.
Descartes said, “Thought which is not free cannot be considered thought.” Are we not at least able to think as Descartes in order to save ourselves from the scholasticism of today which is already rotten and outmoded in many respects? Alas, it seems not . . .
In coming years, the generations who can see the bright horizons of this world and the next will revise the thoughts, formulas, and systems which were imported to us and formed inside us, they will purify society from alienating and filthy things and affairs, and connect it with its own spiritual roots, so that it can protect and preserve its essence, its personality, and walk its own line to its own future. Yet while walking it will remain so intimate with the world that it will be able to read and study yesterday together with today, one within the other, so that it does not merely discard the past because it is old and blindly accept the things it considers new and fresh. The most obvious characteristic of this enlightened generation will be to know everything related to the past and present, to realize that what is commonly assumed to be known is not at all what we know to be true, and, in one way or another, to try to understand the truth along with the findings of laboratories by sieving all through the filter of mind, logic, and reason and by heeding the currents of inspiration.
To achieve such an improvement and change it is vitally important to know our near past, its heroes, and historic personalities: in the formation of our history, who were the most influential persons, and what were the most influential factors, motives and reasons? Who are the people who have most recently revived the love and enthusiasm of our people? Who composed and performed the works which reflect our national, social, and spiritual beauties? Once we know all this, I think we may understand better what we need to envision and how to present our plans for the future clearly. Thus we may attain the happiness of walking in the footsteps of the heroes who kept safe and sound in their hearts their thought, cause, love, and tolerant morality.
The biggest gift of today’s generations to the world of tomorrow is the act of revising our idea of order, of renewing the belief that the Divine harmony within creation will be carried to the world of humanity by means of our willpower, and of pulling the balance of nations into this axis.
The harmony between creation and natural phenomena is predestined; the order among men is voluntary or by free will and to a great extent has its origins in love and fear. Order is another name for peace, satisfaction, and societal harmony, as well as a promising future. As there is no peace and harmony in chaos, it is not possible to talk about the future or efficiency in anarchic circumstances.
At first sight, order seems to be the product of simple willpower and mind isolated from belief; yet the mind which is not under the control of the soul, and the willpower which is not able to cut the roots of evil tendencies and incite inclinations for good are considered to be more on the side of anarchy than with order.
All creation, apart from humanity, has always maintained order since the world came into existence. An enthralling order prevails over everything and everywhere, from the harmonious movements of electrons and atoms to the splendid design of flowers, from the balance and harmony between the living and non-living to the stars, which twinkle and wink at us and flow like a poem and emotion from deep space into our hearts, from the meanings represented in the flowers, leaves, and branches of the plants and trees to the life that breathes vitality in and out.
If the conscience observes and evaluates the book of creation for an instant, it observes and perceives the order and harmony that emanates everywhere, the fascinating beauty and awe-inspiring richness of essence in everything. It does not require a very profound sensitivity; a heart even with very little, or limited, sensitivity can feel, sense, perceive a poem—chanting and reciting in the tones and tunes of infinity—in every form, pattern, color, voice, and sound, from the harmonious, pleasant warbling of the birds to the terrifying, awe-inspiring, thunder of lightning flashes, from the colorful, delicate, vibrant patterns of flowers to the mysterious lights of the stars and sky. And those who are one step ahead of the others, those who know, observe what is performed by means of physics, chemistry, biology, and astrophysics. From the awe inspiring depths of the sea, from its tumultuous waves to the cool tranquility of the paradisaical glades in the woods, from the dignified standing of the hills to the unreachable, insurmountable majestic peaks of the mountains, from the continuous flow and ripple of water to the depths of the sky stretching to infinitude, everything says order and harmony, and cries out the vast meanings in the spirit of the creation.
So, if order is imbued in everything and everywhere, where did this chaos, which we will call disorder, irregularity, and illegality, come from? The world came to know chaos and the immorality behind it through human beings: the human beings who did not surrender their minds to God, who were unable to slam on the brakes of their willpower and to stimulate their feelings for the good. Humans are creatures vulnerable to a great variety of ambitions and they have a greater number and variety of weaknesses than other creatures. The emotions of destruction, feelings of anarchy, and eddies of disorder are manifest in different frequencies in almost all our weaknesses, such as greed, ambition, anger, hatred, malice, violence, and lust. It is impossible for humanity to save itself from the negative consequences of these without taking control of all the evil feelings; this can only be done by virtue of being cultivated, well-mannered, and well-educated. We cannot save ourselves until we invigorate and consolidate our humane feelings, until we say yes to a tacit social contract in our conscience by taking into consideration the existence of others in our wishes and desires, our joys and sorrows, and our freedoms and rights.
The education which will raise humans from potential humanity to true humanity must be directed toward the Divine and by the Divine, and it must be based around the gifts and talents that have been bestowed by God. Our culture should be fed on the roses grown in our own ground and on the nectar that emanates from our roots of spirit and essence; thus it will not create any adverse reaction or criticism from the collective conscience or the verdict of history. The social contract should be realized according to the conditions and requirements of the age and within a framework of the most advanced rights and freedom, so that the different sections and circles of society do not lose their power, authority, respect, credit, self-esteem, or nominal value within a tangle of opposition, nor be caught up within the vicious circle of neutralizing one another with contradictions. What we mean by the contract here is not a collective contract on paper with so many people’s signatures adorning the foot of the page, but a contract which is related to and limited by respect for the concept of rights and freedom and by love for the truth, on the part of people who have awakened to the humane values in their consciences.
The limit and the framework of this contract is defined by the structure of the individual’s heart, the vastness of their spirit and the realization that their faith and what they believe in constitute one part of their nature or disposition. That is why the contract of each person’s conscience corresponds to their level of humane feeling. A community which is composed of mature individuals, who have overcome corporeality with respect to their heart and spiritual lives, is one which is in exemplary order. Such order in the world of humanity is permanent and promising for the future, as it is a dimension of the universal harmony that encompasses the whole of creation.
In our world, the state is like the captain on the bridge of the ship, whose crew is made of merits, virtues, and morality. This captain’s duty is to employ and make the best of the crew under his authority, to establish harmony and concord among them and with the order of the universe, and thus make them reach the destination and attain their goals without having them collide with the crushing waves of events. As it is impossible to produce a healthy society and a perfect state from a community whose members are deprived of virtues and who wallow in the abysses of immorality, so too is it misleading and self-deluding to expect the masses of disorder and chaos, which is attacked on all sides by some disease, to be promising for the future. Therefore, to expect something worthwhile or tangible in the form of state administration or security, from the masses who wait in bleak desolation is an unfounded consolation, no matter what name you give it or what form it takes. Both authority and state can only be well-established through targeting a high ideal which will give life to and maintain it within the society, planning everything according to that ideal and if every effort and action can be referred, ascribed and reduced to “One.”
Every individual and every vital unit should be prepared and should plan to carry or raise all the people to the summit so that small interests, schemes, and accounts within individual plans cannot spoil the general harmony, and so that different circles or groups cannot be born, swell, clash, and dissolve within and at the expense of one another, like the waves of the sea. Once, as the spirit of Islam prevailed over the whole of life, this objective was defined and established so well that the members and units which constituted society were each made a pillar of order, and thus the walk to the summits was achieved as if within the natural course of life.
The biggest gift of today’s generations to the world of tomorrow is the act of revising our idea of order, of renewing the belief that the Divine harmony within creation will be carried to the world of humanity by means of our willpower, and of pulling the balance of nations into this axis. For such an important mission it will be enough, I believe, to review once more our own willpower, to establish and ascertain our place in the eye of God, to set the targets for our people and nation, to consolidate sound, logically consistent, strategies and policies, and to realize or bring to life the dynamics we already possess.
By M. Fethullah Gulen