Victory Of The Spirit
Human life in this world is a composite of two distinct powers, the spirit and the flesh. Although it is sometimes the case that these two powers act in harmony, conflict between them is more usual, and conflict of a kind in which the victory of one results in the defeat of the other. In an individual in whom bodily lusts are vigorously indulged, the spirit grows more powerless as it becomes more obedient to those lusts; while in another individual, one who has given the spirit dominance over the flesh, in whom the heart (the seat of spiritual intellect) has power over reason, and the bodily lusts are vigorously opposed, it attains to eternity.
Every part of a spiritually bankrupt country can be likened to a graveyard, no matter how many hundreds of triumphal arches and statues adorn its thoroughfares. The mass of people living in such a country are in reality blind and unfortunate, and a world not built on the breath of the spirit is nothing but the plaything of human violence. A culture which has not developed an ethos that encourages virtue is like an evil sorceress who has ambushed humanity. However, it may never be possible to persuade coarse, insensitive people of this, people who pay no attention to anything except their own pleasures, who have become incapable of considering their lives as connected with the well-being and happiness of others. If only such people had had some perception of the mystery of their own deaths, they might yet have attained to the eternal life of the spirit.
Only those who have filled their hearts with the most sublime ideals and love of humanity will lead a spiritual life so as to attain to eternity in their very selves. They are the fortunate ones who have transcended their carnal desires, who have grown spiritually alert, and led those who heed them to victory over the commands of self.
Only he who overcomes his self can rightly be called powerful and victorious. The miserable individuals who have not been able to release themselves from captivity to the self are liable to defeat even if they had conquered the entire world. Moreover, we would not give to their conquest of the world the name of ‘victory’, since their permanent presence in the lands they invaded is an impossibility
Napoleon, in the madness of esteeming himself sole ruler of the world, slapped knowledge and virtue in the person of the philosopher, Molmey. I wonder whether he was able to grasp that this failure in spirit was more bitter and humiliating than his defeat at Waterloo. Mustafa Pasha of Merzifon had been inwardly defeated before his army was put to flight at Vienna. This first defeat in Ottoman history showed itself in the spirit of the commander-in-chief, then spread far and wide among his forces and not only caused him to lose his head, but allowed the greatest army of conquest the world had yet known to experience flight. Yildirim Khan, Bayazed I, was not defeated in Jubuk, but on the day when he belittled his opponent and hailed himself sole ruler of the world. And there have been many others like these…
But we have positive examples also. Tariq was victorious, not when he defeated the Spaniards’ army of ninety thousand men with a handful of self-sacrificing valiants, but when he stood before the wealth and treasures of the king and said:
‘Be careful, Tariq. You were a slave yesterday. Today you are a victorious commander. And tomorrow you will he under the earth.’
Selim I regarded the world as too small for two rulers. He was truly victorious, not when he crowned some kings and dethroned others, but when he entered the capital in silence while its people were asleep so as to avoid their enthusiastic welcome and applause for his victories. He was also victorious when he ordered that the robe which had been soiled by the mud from the horse of his teacher be draped over his coffin because of its holiness. Cato, the Roman commander, was victorious and made a place for himself in the remembrance of his people, not when he defeated the Carthaginians, but when he handed his horse and command over to the Roman Emperor, saying:
‘I fought to serve my nation. Now my duty is fulfilled, I am going back to my village’.
And all the while his army was entering Carthage, the capital city of Rome’s enemy and rival, in triumph.
To sacrifice one’s enjoyment of worldly pleasures has the same significance for human progress as the roots of a tree have for its growth. Just as a tree grows sound and strong in direct relation to the soundness and strength of its roots, so too a human being grows to perfection while striving to free himself from selfishness, and, to live instead only for others.
These are the words of a sacred hymn signifying the victory of the spirit:
‘I have known nothing of worldly pleasures in my life of over eighty years. All my life has passed on battlefields, in prisons and in various places of suffering. There is no torment which I have not experienced and no oppression which I have not suffered. I neither care for Paradise, nor fear Hell. If I thereby witness that the faith of my people has been secured, I will not object to burning in the flames of Hell, for my heart will change into a rose and a rose garden even as my body is being burnt.’
The crowned heads of the future will be those fortunate ones who have attained to felicity through victories of the spirit.
As it is vain to expect a harvest without first sowing the land, so it is impossible to obtain our objectives without the sacrifices needed to raise the young generations to rank of true humanity. We should know how to ‘give’ before ‘receiving’, so that we will be able to receive doubled and re-doubled in the season of harvest.
A gardener who takes proper care of his garden tends the whole of it, not leaving out even a square inch, and plants it with fruit trees and different varieties of vegetables and flowers. Then, he waters them and feeds them, and prunes them. All these together are what an ideal gardening requires.
Now, I ask myself whether we can take the same care of the young generations in order to protect them from all kinds of deviation. Can we shelter them from continuous ‘attacks’ from within and without? In the efforts we exert in this cause, can we exhibit a sufficient degree of conviction, resolution and will-power? Indeed, it is not impossible for us, if we are willing to, to build up our life anew in different, greater dimensions and gain a new view of things and events, strengthening our will-power and gaining greater constancy. However, there is a single way or condition to accomplish this: we should direct our will-power in a way deserving of the aid and blessings of the Truth.
If we can perceive the world we live in and set up the balance-wheels of our hope and will-power according to the standards established by the Infinite One, we will be able to breast the waves of life and overcome all kinds of difficulties and obstacles. Nothing will be able to hinder us from reaching our goal, and, without being influenced by the passage of seasons and changing of circumstances, we will remain ever-fresh and ever-shining in our climate of belief, hope and resolution.
By M. Fethullah Gulen