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Is Scientific Knowledge Grounded in Faith?

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The act of faith consists essentially in knowledge and there we find its formal and specific perfection.” -Thomas Aquinas

Beginning with the Cartesian rationalistic, dualistic paradigm of perceiving reality there is within Western Civilization an unfortunate tendency to see science and religion in adversary relationship to each other, but that is a false dichotomy. It is basically false because the two phenomena have a common origin. I would submit that the inability to discern a common origin has done irreparable intellectual damage to Western culture and, in as much as its thinking and praxis have spread globally.

If Thomas Aquinas has taught us anything, it is the notion that faith is the very mode of rationality adopted by reason in its fidelity to what it seeks to understand. This is to say that faith and not “clear and distinct ideas” is the most basic form of knowledge in which rational inquiry may be grounded. Vico too never tires of reminding us that before there can be a reflective philosophical knowledge, there is an informal kind of knowledge directly grounded in experience and the senses and formed through the adaptation of the mind to the nature of things.

Our most basic beliefs will arise during this primordial phenomenological, as well as chronological, process. Admittedly this may appear strange to a culture steeped in materialistic empiricism and scientific positivism, but the notion that knowledge is grounded in faith has always been an intrinsic part of the genuine Judeo-Christian tradition.

A philosopher of the stature of Kant and, closer to us, a scientist of the stature of Einstein, were acutely aware that behind scientific activity there is an intuitive faith in the significant nature and meaning of things in the universe. Aquinas for one surely grasped that human rationality stands or falls at the service of faith in reason, or better, faith in truth. Einstein too was aware that without ultimate beliefs, which are by their nature unverifiable, science cannot exist; that those beliefs rather than a formal rationalistic reasoning process, advance knowledge and understanding through the human mind’s fundamental commitment to reality.

To briefly elaborate on this issue let us take a look at Thomas Kuhn’s philosophy of science. Perhaps more than any other modern scholar Kuhn has gone a long way in convincing the open-minded members of the scientific community that science is nothing but an affirmation of our basic beliefs. In his classical The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago Press, 1962), Kuhn points out that the ultimate beliefs of a scientist exercise a directive function in the way we formulate questions, interpret observations and weighs the evidence; that within a Cartesian paradigm of reality the writing of a history of science will invariably end up with the setting up of a false dichotomy between science and religion.

This notion of science as underpinned by basic beliefs was ridiculed and even caricaturized by some prominent scientists when Kuhn published it. It is still being fought forty years later, but one can confidently predict that, as ideas go, following the natural trajectory of all radically new ideas, it will eventually be accepted and become integral part of a new paradigm.

The dilemma is that after three hundred years of “enlightened” rationalism we, as a civilization, have almost run out of time. In 1992, five hundred years after Columbus’ discovery of a new continent, we seem to be at the crossroads in Western Civilization, lost in a vast see surrounding the small island of scientific knowledge, much as Columbus was lost in the Atlantic in 1492.

It is indeed intriguing to follow the controversy among cultural anthropologists regarding Columbus’ legacy. Certainly today Columbus does not look as good as he looked in 1882. What happened meanwhile? Could it be that Columbus has in fact always been projected as the archetype of Western man’s penchant for spreading his alleged superior civilization to the rest of the globe; a sort of duty called “the white man’s burden”?

A civilization this that only one hundred years ago celebrated Columbus’ discovery for two whole years, to then go on to proclaim technology and its push-button solutions as the key to its superiority over other cultures and civilizations. It now finds itself responsible for a polluted earth, a brutal history of exploitation and colonization, a less than secure political milieu, the threat of nuclear weapons still hanging over it despite the demise of the “Evil Empire,” the executions of a variety of genocidal holocausts, two devastating World Wars, not to speak of the other fifty or so minor conflicts, the so called ethnic conflicts going on even in Europe’s Balkans, an economically exhausting Cold War, two thirds of its former colonial world at the margins of economic prosperity, and close to two million dollars a minute spend on arms while two children die of malnutrition within the same time. This is hardly the Utopia envisioned by the scientists of 1892.

That Utopia was perhaps no longer feasible even in 1892 when the new inhabitants of this continent had already exhibited little desire to prepare for the coming global village by learning some valuable lessons on ecology and social justice from Native Americans. To the contrary, in 1892 America’s propensity was for Jack London’s brand of social Darwinism; a philosophy more consonant with unbridled capitalism and still very much alive today when Ayn Rand has returned with a vengeance.

This rather nightmarish scenario is the direct brain-child of nineteenth century scientists insisting all along that scientific theories and ultimately technology itself are value-free, convenient arrangements of operational “clear and distinct” ideas for purely pragmatic ends with no bearing on Being. It is that kind of mind-set which, when it operates in the world, reduces it to relations of ideas with one another while eliminating the very ground upon which ultimate beliefs arise.

To become more cognizant of this malignant cultural phenomenon, it would suffice to open any of the history texts written in the last one hundred years or so. If ultimate beliefs are even mentioned there, they are usually regarded as nothing more than arbitrary personal manifestations to be discarded in the name of “objectivity” and scientific detachment. That this intellectual stance may itself be a belief system, a paradigm, a myth of reality if you will, is never contemplated because this mind-set is capable of doubting everything except itself.

Indeed the Enlightenment remains to be enlightened about itself. Vico’s insight consists in perceiving that within such a paradigm, conceiving of abstract rational operations as somehow cognitively superior to other intellectual operations of the human mind, the origins of Man’s culture cannot possibly be recaptured. He also intuited that the inability to recapture our origins will doom us to the vision of a less than humane future wherein Man ends up conceiving of himself as nothing more than a mechanically complicated, soulless, and mindless machine. Vico calls the phenomenon “the barbarism of the intellect.”

Some of the latest movies on war exhibit this dehumanizing process. In them violence has no face, suffering has no purpose and ethical considerations have no place. Homer’s Iliad they are not. Efficiency and effectiveness is the name of the game in those movies; nothing less than a prescription for insanity. In his book Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton points out that poets rarely if ever go mad, but chess players (to which I would add military and political strategists) quite often do. He further points out that of all the English poets only Cowper went mad, and that was not because of his imagination but because of his logic of predestination.

The discovery of Vico in our modern age is providential and due to the fact that there is a great need for an integrative scientific approach, capable of bypassing the object/subject dichotomy of a rationalistic materialistic and mechanistic approach to reality, to take its cue from the fundamental relations of the mind to the nature of the world around us. This requires nothing less than a profound synthesis of human thought, the kind of synthesis Vico advocated to his contemporaries as an antidote to the dehumanization of a purely casual account of everything in the universe devoid of a human consciousness.

In this regard the reader should consult Roger Penrose’s The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds and the Laws of Physics (Oxford University Press, 1989), or William Barrett’s Death of the Soul: From Descartes to the Computer. Those two scholars point out that by concentrating exclusively on mechanistic logico-casual connections; the Cartesian paradigm has deprived Man of the rational ground for his convictions and actions. The end result is scientific activity devoid of responsible ethical judgments and decisions.

The moral relativism of our society points to the above mentioned disaster. Many today have opinions (supposedly all valid as any other), precious few have convictions and principles to which they are willing to commit themselves, even die for. That sorry ethical outcome ought to have been apparent the moment Descartes took away from human knowledge the ground of ultimate beliefs, thus discounting the fundamental relationship between thought and being, understanding and reality; notions that any science, in as much as it is made by Man’s mind, should always presuppose.

In education this leads to the privileging of the means over and above the authentic goals of education, the emphasizing of the “real” over and above the “ideal,” the ignoring of the ethical-spiritual component of man’s life, the prostituting of education to mere training for successful manipulation of the “real.”

A rock bottom belief of modern science is that the visible and the tangible have primacy, i.e., are more real than the invisible and the intangible. This is a premise never openly stated but pervading the scientific world which seeks the quantifiable, what can be materially observed while questioning the very existence of the invisible and the intangible. Invariably, it ends up with a purely casual interpretation of human existence devoid of the concept of human freedom. It is all deterministic.

To the medieval mind this view of reality would have appeared quite squalid, especially if one considers that even in the material realm some 90% of matter is invisible to the naked eye and even to the telescope. So it appears that any fair minded scientist has to acknowledge that his standard “scientific” approach is no longer viable after the discovery of the metrical field which is invisible and yet controls all the observable objects in our experience. He would also have to admit that science operates within a hierarchy of levels of meaning and explanations which are open upward but not reducible downward. The organismic relations of living beings, while presupposing the laws of physics and chemistry, are not explainable in terms of these laws. In other words, the higher we go up the scale of levels, the richer the meaning we seem to encounter. The paradox is this: the medieval view was much more “realistic.”

Atoms in motion hardly explain the varied complex meaning of one’s humanity. Humans reading books in a library must appear pretty incomprehensible from a dog’s viewpoint of reality or perhaps to a barbarian who has no inkling of what reading and writing are all about. Indeed, all meaning in science is to be discerned in higher levels of reality and it is not reducible to the laws controlling the ultimate particulars of the universe. Human beings, in as much as they are inherently free, cannot be explained but only understood.

Once this fundamental notion of ultimate beliefs as the foundation of science is accepted, a reverse of the customary Cartesian paradigm begins to occur and we begin to acknowledge, with the medieval mind, that in fact what is most tangible (the substratum) in the universe has least meaning and that moreover the tangible cannot be identified with the real. On the contrary, the deeper the reality of a thing, the less tangible it seems to be. If the substratum is our ultimate reality, then all things are pretty much meaningless. Aquinas was correct: angels are higher beings because they are less tangible in what the scholastics call the chain of being. It appears that the more meaningful the reality, the more spiritual.

That is not to imply that we need to understand angels before the scope of Western scientific development undergoes a transformation. All we need to do is understand Vico. One of his most significant insights, ultimately derived from the Judeo-Christian tradition, is that there is only one creative Source of order and rationality in the universe. That order in turn is creative of the contingent order of nature and our own understanding of it.

As John was inspired to render it: “In the beginning was the Word.” In the interrelation of creation and incarnation within time and space lies the ultimate ground of order. In more traditional Christian thought the self is to be understood only in terms of its relation to God. It is created by God (creation), alienated from him (original sin), visited by him (incarnation), called to spiritual health by him (redemption), destined to be in communion with him forever (resurrection).

Indeed, this is Immanuel, the God who enters into history with us, and therefore to know God is to also know this history with us. Conversely, to detach humanity from the relation to its ultimate underpinning is to miss the very purpose of human existence. And since God cannot be demonstrated empirically or scientifically, man’s worth, his intrinsic dignity, cannot be demonstrated empirically either. All we can do is believe in humanity, just as one believes in God who sustains human nature. Only thus one may hope to reach the very essence of humanity: human personhood. Human personhood and dignity, freedom itself, cannot be proven scientifically (since science functions with deterministic necessary laws) but it can be intuited and one can live by such an intuition.

It is unfortunately true that religion and science, since the Enlightenment have been presented as estranged from each other, but they are now beginning to come around full circle to their common origin where they can meet again as Vico aptly described some three hundred years ago. For as Eliot best rendered it: “The end of all our exploring/will be to arrive where we started/and know the place for the first time.”

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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Custodians of Islam, changing their Avatar

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If we peek into the historical traces, it could be seen that the world has fought more wars on religion or for their state’s dignity and integrity than any other reason. It is mainly because accepting others ideologies either its religious or national, it’s hard to accept and this is at present the prevailing issue if someone looks deeper into the complex picture of geo-politics.

United Arab Emirates has passed new laws that have shocked the entire Muslim world. The Arab World has also been perceived as the “custodians of Islam” and other Muslim countries have look towards for the perfect implementation of misinterpreted “Islamic values”, ignoring the fact that mainly the values followed in the Arab world are Arabic not Islamic. There is huge difference among two interpretations.

UAE has recently relaxed its social constraints. These constraints that served as a shield from adopting the un-Islamic practices and pro-western values. UAE has allowed couples to cohabit; it has allowed drinking without fear of punishment. Lastly it has also it put off the honor crime from its menu means; they have criminalized the act of honor killing. The decision of UAE to revamp its policies depicts that UAE has chosen a “new” avatar, a more pro-western avatar, leaving the Islamic values behind.  The broadening of personal freedoms reflects that UAE is on its new journey to change its society at home.

After the announcement of new laws it seems as if United Arab Emirates is more focus on shifting their oil dependent economy or other industries. This includes inviting the high-flow of Israel and Western investments into their country at the cost of anything. They are aiming to boost UAE is the skyscraper tourist destination for Western tourists and fortune seekers, businesses regardless of its “legal hard-line Islamic System.”

Moreover, the major revamps came particularly right after the historic U.S brokered deal to normalize relations between UAE and Israel. The future will reveal but it can be foreseen that the days of monarchy are coming to end. It won’t happen in few years; it will take time but is surely going to happen. The decades old filthy rich monarchy will be replaced by “Democracy” for sure.

Other than the UAE, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is also on the same journey. The new monarch King Muhammad Bin Salman is also tilted towards “Western culture” and more “Liberalist thoughts and values”. He is also more inclined to bring on more liberal structures in their country, for examples recently Saudi Arabia has given more freedom to women for driving and is allowed to work with men at offices or any other workplaces. These drastic changes were considered as an impossible task to do but things are changing rapidly.

The question to ask is, now where would Pakistan tilt? Whose society would Pakistan look upon as the guardian and custodians of Islam and its Islamic values? The Arab countries have also had massive influence upon the Pakistani society particularly in religious terms. Pakistan has to bear the cost of “Wahabbism” clashing with “Shiaism” and other Islamic sects that were mainly brought by the Arabs into the country.

Many Pakistanis have considered the Arabs as their ideal and the Arabian society as an ideal society to live in. I have also heard people giving examples of “Islamic system of Saudi Arabia” and how loyal they are to the “Islamic values”. They are also perceived as the “Guardians” and “Custodians” of Islamic values. But now as they are inclined or totally moving towards Western system, would Pakistan also opt for liberalism in their country?

As there has always been an environment of confusion in the Pakistani society. This confusion is, wither to opt for democracy or go for an Islamic system. This has created a sharp separation in the Pakistani society, the one struggling to go totally Western (far-left), and the others trying to preserve the Islamic system (far-right).

After United Arab Emirates new laws, this question is becoming more complex. The transformation of United Arab Emirates adoption of Westernized values shows that it is only the Muslim world leaving its values behind and moving towards a borrowed baggage of cultures and values. The future will disclose that who will sit on the throne of “Custodian of Islam”. Till now the changing geo-political situation shows that it is Turkey that is striving to go for this throne.

On the current politics of Arab powers I would say, “A tree’s beauty lies in its branches, but its strength lies in its roots,” rightly said by Matshona Dhliwayo.

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Death of a Living Goddess and an Unfair verdict

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Image source: mandalas.life

The Living Goddess of Nepal (Kumari), a prepubescent girl child, possessing divinity is a well established and widely held belief. She is worshipped so long as her virginity remains intact and dismissed when she starts to menstruate.  By all accounts, the reason she is highly revered has much to do with her virginity as the loss of holy status is inevitable after the first menstrual blood. Strong voices regarding child and human rights raised so far have brought remarkable reforms in Kumari practice; yet the elephant in the room, her dethronement after puberty, undeniably a serious problem, is often downplayed. The supposed divinity of the Goddess and it’s connection with pubescence, as outrageous as it sounds, triggers a couple of very important questions. Does the Living Goddess really possess divinity? More importantly, must not we ponder and assess the eventual end of her divinity?

The 19th century famous German philosopher  Friedrich Nietzche declared– God is dead — a metaphor used to describe the gradual decline of faith in God. The philosopher attributes the advent of Scientific revolution and Age of reason in bringing an end to the existence of God, thanks to rational arguments and modern inventions or discoveries. Unlike the death of Western God,  the Living Goddess of Nepal, or her holiness to be precise, meets a surprising death(end), figuratively speaking, at the hands of first menstruation. Sadly, just a few drops of innocent and natural blood, with rosy prospects of procreation and motherhood, is believed to have committed a grave crime that a verdict was passed against it long ago — puberty ends divinity.

Moreover, proclaiming divinity’s end, as soon as Kumari reaches adolescence, she is replaced by another “virgin” child. Even though blood oozing from any part of the body due to cuts or wounds leads to Goddess’ dismissal,  the menstrual blood in every occasion has turned out to be most fatal. To confirm this we can check the numbers of all former Kumaris, and should not get startled if considerable cases are associated with their first period. Matina Shakya(2008-2017) was replaced in 2017 by  Trishna Shakya (2017-present), after puberty ended her nine-year reign. When the same phenomenon hit Preeti Shakya (2001-2008) in 2008, she was shown the door to an anonymous life in the suburbs. Likewise, in 2010 the divine life for Chanira Bajracharya finished abruptly  at 15, on the day she first menstruated and Samita Bajracharya(2010-2014) was appointed the new Kumari of Patan City in her place. It is a pity that once highly hailed all-powerful Goddess, sooner or later becomes a “nobody”, useless and mere mortal. Devotees accustomed to bow down before the deity in the hope of blessings are certainly baffled when simple biological blood brings her supreme divinity to its knees.

What would be the general frame of her mind and psychological state when the child realizes that fending off the imminent demotion is far from possible? Gripped by trepidation, she would definitely not want the undesirable menstruation, the antagonist, to come and take away her most cherished goddess status. Samita was in total shock and emotional at her dismissal following the start of her first period. Similarly, Preeti couldn’t help shedding tears when her term ended at 12 ,and  banished out of the paradise, because of approaching menstruation, which is considered as flawed. This is highly likely to leave a false impression in the mind of a demoted child and the collective consciousness of people. To them puberty or “supposed” impure blood must appear a nemesis of Kumari, a nasty thing that ends her holiness.

God/Goddess’ existence is an unsolved riddle, yet lives of many great sages and mystics throughout the history of Indian subcontinent — Gautam Buddha, Mahavira, Shivapuri Baba, Meera Bai, Lalleshwari, Anandamayi Ma and so on —  convince godliness being a possible phenomenon. With no single exception these humans share two things in common; years of spiritual endeavours and eventual mystical/godliness experience. On the contrary, a girl child is expected to fulfill 32 physical qualities, before worshipped as a Living Goddess. Whether the girl child reaches the same transcendental state as the other divine beings shall always remain a debatable issue. Giving a benefit of doubt, for argument’s sake, we can assume that Kumari’s divinity is no lesser than those of highly revered personages. But would it be judicious to believe that a temporary biological phenomenon is capable of  ending divinity permanently?

In fact, literature on religion, spirituality and mysticism show that divinity is imperishable once obtained, which can be attested by the lives of human-turned holy beings. Thus what fizzles out at puberty’s touch, as in the case of Kumari, must be undeniably spurious and impotent . Above all, it is one thing to enjoy the prerogative of a goddess on chastity grounds but quite another to embark upon a spiritual journey and thereby attain godliness. Maybe the holiness does not exist inside the Living Goddess as believed and claimed, not at all, hence skepticism justified. Or perhaps it was there in profusion, but insofar as Nepalese society is accustomed to find coexistence of divinity and impure blood unbearable, it must have convinced us of the latter’s seemingly antagonistic role.

Challenging the popular yet pernicious existing belief that first menstruation ends divine power, I emphatically advocate that it is high time puberty is acquitted from a crime it “never” committed. Needless to say, since the inception of Kumari custom and up until the 21st century, Nepalese society’s fervent endorsement of such belief coupled with their reluctance to point fingers against the traditional practice certainly consolidated the superstition for many centuries. It “might” be our rights to continue long held old traditions and worship girl children in the form of goddesses, regardless of some compromises with their child and human rights. But we are not in the least entitled to mercilessly dethrone them under a completely false or trifle pretext. More importantly, we are not at liberty to dub a harmless biological phenomenon with an undeserved ugly reputation, on account of our illogical blood(menstrual) phobia. How many years or decades more it will take before we realize that menstruation is by no means impure, inauspicious and unholy?  Although the divinity of the Living Goddess appears disputable, one thing seems as clear as crystal, that the verdict passed against innocent pubescence to date was downright unfair. Unfortunately, the apotheosis of a girl child(woman) to a Living Goddess status is undermined by the fact that the Kumari practice explicitly condemns menses, an integral aspect of womanhood.

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From Islamism to Transcendentalism

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Thomas Carlyle’s political philosophy can be applied to inform Islamism and the construction of a post-Islamist political doctrine. This is because Carlyle’s conception of transcendentalism in Sartor Resartus is itself a philosophical/theological construct in the Platonic lineage that is a successor to Islam. Carlyle satirically conceptualized transcendentalism in the 19th century in Sartor Resartus, a work of fiction. F.A. Lea, reflecting on and arguing on behalf of the merits of Carlyle’s forecasts of the future during the midst of World War II in his book Carlyle: Prophet of To-day, calls Sartor Resartus the “highest achievement of the Romantic movement in Europe.” “Romanticism” is a nebulous construct but it connotes the European reaction to Enlightenment rationalism and empirical science by seeking to prioritize what it took to be beyond the scope of both rigid scientific positivism and dogmatic theology/ideology such as intuition, nature, spirituality, and aesthetics.

An analytical treatment of transcendentalism in the context of the global political climate in 2020 demonstrates it can be applied in the context of political development as a cosmopolitan post-Islamism. By casting Carlyle’s transcendentalism as “cosmopolitan,” I argue that it is a post-Islamism that belongs to all the world and is applicable to be “at home” all over the world. As such, Carlyle’s transcendentalism is not a post-Islamism for the Middle East solely but could initially be most applicable in the context of Islamic Middle Eastern countries. Subscribers to liberalism, communism, and Islamism promote each ideology as global and cosmopolitan. Like Islam, Carlyle’s transcendentalism is a philosophy/theology that can be cast as a political doctrine to serve a political purpose. In Sartor Resartus, Carlyle offers a comprehensive philosophy that is simultaneously a moral, social, and political philosophy in much the same fashion as how Islam has been converted into the political ideology of Islamism.

               Carlyle’s transcendentalism is not a widely practiced philosophy and it has not, heretofore, been recognized as a political doctrine. Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus was a chief inspiration for American Transcendentalism as a 19th century intellectual and social movement led by perhaps the two most iconic American philosophers on the world stage—Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Emerson and Thoreau were also inspired by Hinduism and Indian philosophy to elevate the mysticism of nature/spirituality as a primary focal point of their attention. Like Islamism, transcendentalism has yet to be constructed as a coherent doctrine that is accepted universally by those who identify with the respective doctrines. For example, both Islamism and transcendentalism are much less theoretically dogmatic than Marxism as a political doctrine.

Carlyle describes the tenets of the “philosophy of clothes”—a term synonymous with transcendentalism–through the voice of Professor Diogenes Teufelsdrӧckh, the protagonist in Sartor Resartus:

‘Whatsoever sensibly exists, whatsoever represents Spirit to Spirit, is properly a Clothing, a suit of Raiment, put on for a season, and to be laid off. Thus in this one pregnant subject of CLOTHES, rightly understood, is included all that men have thought, dreamed, done, and been: the whole external Universe and what it holds is but Clothing; and the essence of all Science lies in the PHILOSOPHY OF CLOTHES.’

Carlyle’s philosophy of clothes culminates in attaining transcendentalism. Carlyle defines transcendentalism succinctly as the view that matter is spirit and as such is the manifestation of spirit. In other words, transcendentalism views the entirety of the universe (and all that comprises it) as enchanted with spiritual divinity rather than entirely bereft of spiritual divinity. As such, transcendentalism is a minimalist and nominal theological dogma that offers no theological narrative beyond such a simple theism. Carlyle thus defines transcendentalism as the view that all that is material and immaterial in the entirety of the universe (and thus in the entirety of human history) is ephemeral and cannot be accounted for without considering it as symbolic of a divine spiritual order. Carlyle concludes that all science seeks to account for what comprises the universe and thus transcendentalism rests at the apex of all scientific deliberations. The role of a transcendentalist is to ponder the universe in its entirety as a manifestation of spirit.

Transcendentalism is relevant to politics as a prospective political doctrine in that it offers a means to achieve consensus and yield social solidarity in the context of local and national political communities and in the context of the global political community. Carlyle derives conceptions of social solidarity and renunciation (of antagonism and economic consumption) as corollaries of his conception of transcendentalism. At this juncture, it should be acknowledged that the New Age and counterculture that defined much of the West (and the world) in the 1960s and 1970s was an unconscious, incoherent, and non-mainstream reincarnation of American Transcendentalism as a descendant of American Transcendentalism. The elements of the New Age and counterculture—non-dogmatic spirituality, social solidarity, and renunciation of economic consumption—were once coherently constructed and deemed a superior philosophy relative to dogmatic theology and dogmatic materialism (aka capitalism and communism) by Thomas Carlyle, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau as modern Platonic philosophers.

Carlyle frames transcendentalism in another manner by asking, through the voice of Teufelsdrӧckh, “‘what is Nature? Ha! why do I not name thee GOD? Art thou not the ‘Living Garment of God?’ O Heavens, is it, in very deed, He, then, that ever speaks through thee; that lives and loves in thee, that lives and loves in me?’” It is in this context that Carlyle is “transcendental” in concluding that all matter embodies divine spirit. It is on this basis that Carlyle delivers what is perhaps the climactic thesis of Sartor Resartus, which is also a succinct definition of what he coins the “Everlasting Yea” as a concept that informs transcendentalism: “‘The Universe is not dead and demoniacal, a charnel-house with spectres; but god-like, and my Father’s!’” Upon attaining this perspective, Teufelsdrӧckh reflects on its social application and its implications to achieve social solidarity:

‘With other eyes too could I now look upon my fellow man; with an infinite Love, an infinite Pity. Poor, wandering, wayward man! Art thou not tried, and beaten with stripes, even as I am? Ever, whether thou bear the Royal mantle or the Beggar’s gabardine, art thou not so weary, so heavy-laden; and thy Bed of Rest is but a Grave. O my Brother, my Brother! why cannot I shelter thee in my bosom, and wipe away all tears from thy eyes.—Truly, the din of many-voiced Life, which, in this solitude, with the mind’s organ, I could hear, was no longer a maddening discord, but a melting one: like inarticulate cries…which in the ear of Heaven are prayers. The poor Earth, with her poor joys, was now my needy Mother, not my cruel Stepdame; Man, with his so mad Wants and so mean Endeavours, had become the dearer to me; and even for his sufferings and his sins, I now first named him Brother.’

The non-dogmatic (i.e. not Christian or Islamic but simultaneously post-Christian, post-Islamic, and post-dogmatic) view of humanity as an embodiment of spiritual divinity yields the legitimacy and validity of social solidarity and the corresponding renunciation of antagonism.

Carlyle theorizes of the primacy of human spiritual interests relative to and as a function of the insatiability of human material appetites. In this context, renunciation can be defended and legitimized as rational through Teufelsdrӧckh’s philosophical construction:

‘Man’s Unhappiness, as I construe, comes of his Greatness; it is because there is an Infinite in him, which with all his cunning he cannot quite bury under the Finite. Will the whole Finance Ministers and Upholsterers and Confectioners of modern Europe undertake, in joint-stock company, to make one Shoeblack HAPPY? They cannot accomplish it, above an hour or two; for the Shoeblack also has a Soul quite other than his Stomach; and would require, if you consider it, for his permanent satisfaction and saturation, simply this allotment, no more, and no less: God’s infinite Universe altogether to himself, therein to enjoy infinitely, and fill every wish as fast as it rose…So true is it, what I then said, that the Fraction of Life can be increased in value not so much by increasing your Numerator, as by lessening your Denominator. Nay, unless my Algebra deceive me, Unity itself divided by Zero will give Infinity. Make thy claim of wages a zero, then; thou hast the world under thy feet. Well did the Wisest of our time write: ‘It is only with Renunciation (Entsagen) that Life, properly speaking, can be said to begin.’’

Essentially, without pursuing renunciation humanity (at the level of the collective and at the level of the individual) is either consciously or unconsciously pursuing the satisfaction of an insatiable appetite for materialist consumption. Renunciation of materialist consumption is thus the only means for humanity (at the level of the collective and level of the individual) to not be dissatisfied and makes primary humanity’s non-materialist spirituality. The conclusion that can be drawn from this is that humanity needs to achieve a decent material standard of living that crosses a minimal threshold and then renounce any additional materialist consumption (which is bound to entail the pursuit of infinite consumption). The current unprecedented and unsustainable nature of increasing consumer and national debt in the context of the United States provides an exemplary lens to view Carlyle’s conception of renunciation.

An inference that can be drawn from Sartor Resartus is that humanity must attain the “Everlasting Yea” at the level of the individual so that social solidarity could then be yielded at the collective level. A corollary inference could be made that human conflict in all its forms will persist and replicate itself indefinitely until every individual reaches the “Everlasting Yea.” Essentially, one must consciously come to the conclusion that not only oneself is the embodiment of divine spirit but all of one’s fellows embody divine spirit in the same non-dogmatic sense so as to renounce antagonism and achieve social solidarity. Dogmatic theologies, by contrast, facilitate dis-unity and conflict about their incommensurable theological doctrines.

Conflict, more generally, takes place because the antagonistic parties are unconscious of the notion that their disparate and highly dogmatic ideologies/theologies are individually and collectively “dream-theorems” and such a realization would unify them, ostensibly, into becoming transcendentalists. Carlyle asks, through the voice of Teufelsdrӧckh, “‘what are all your national Wars, with their Moscow Retreats, and sanguinary hate-filled Revolutions, but the Somnambulism of uneasy Sleepers?’” Carlyle implies that those who are sleeping to “dream-theorems” (i.e. ideologies/theologies themselves not transcendentalism), and thus not awake to transcendentalism, engage in wars and revolutions as a form of “sleep-walking” to their “dream-theorems.” Such wars and revolutions take place as a function of humanity collectively being unawake to and not subscribing to transcendentalism. Carlyle’s discussion of being unawake to transcendentalism is analogous to Plato’s allegory of the cave in the sense that non-transcendentalists are akin to those in the cave who think the shadows on the wall are the truth. By analogy, non-transcendentalists believe their dogmatic ideologies and/or theologies are truth when, from the vantage point of transcendentalism, they are arbitrary, mutually incommensurable, and thus fodder for mutually interminable conflict.

The inference can thus be made that Carlyle offers a gateway for humanity to achieve mutual accord rather than discord if hypothetically humanity were to universally attain to the “Everlasting Yea.” This is because the “Everlasting Yea” provides a communitarian model to attain communal existence through the transcendental rather than through divisive material attributes such as race, economic class, incommensurable dogmatic theological traditions, etc. Carlyle’s transcendentalism embodies a rationale for collective renunciation rather than collective antagonism.

The exposition of Carlyle’s transcendentalism and his derivative philosophical conclusions with respect to renunciation and social solidarity provides a foundation for the political application of transcendentalism as a prospective political doctrine. Transcendentalism’s relevance to politics is that the consideration of its prospective hegemony as an ideology itself provides a prospective telos for a populace to attain, a telos that has been hidden and has gone unrecognized in the analysis of Sartor Resartus and in the history of political thought.The universal popular consciousness of universal spiritual divinity (with the absence of dogma)could potentially facilitate renunciation and social solidarity popularly in much the same manner it did for Teufelsdrӧckh personally. The prospective phenomenon of transcendentalism’s political application could hypothetically connote a new stage of human political development. Carlyle’s transcendentalism supplies a coherent doctrine that could potentially be instrumental in achieving a material or political end. Transcendentalism is an anti-ideology in that it does not seek to proselytize converts to a strict dogma and is “immaterial” on economic matters in that it promotes renunciation rather than insatiable economic consumption. Carlyle makes known, through the voice of the narrator, that “wild as it looks, this Philosophy of Clothes, can we ever reach its real meaning, promises to reveal new-coming Eras, the first dim rudiments and already-budding germs of a nobler Era, in Universal History.”

Transcendentalism, Christianity, Islam, and Islamism

Transcendentalism can be cast as a successor philosophy/theology to Islam (and Islamism) because Carlyle and American Transcendentalism is recognized as post-Christian and Carlyle, Emerson, and Thoreau themselves consciously identified as post-Christian. As Islam was an evolution from Christianity subsequent to Christianity’s inauguration, transcendentalism was an evolution from both Christianity and Islam subsequent to Islam’s inauguration. Like Islam’s inherent recognition of the inadequacy of Christianity, transcendentalism was incarnated with the inherent view that the Christian and Islamic theological traditions needed to be built upon (and could be preserved as a function of being re-tailored) with an innovation.

Transcendentalism, as an evolution from Christianity and Islam, embodies a much different standing than a rejection of Christianity and Islam. Carlyle both praises and critiques Christianity and Islam and provides an argument in defense of transcendentalism as a doctrine on a higher plane. Such praise of Christianity and Islam alongside recognizing their inadequacies is literally not a popular track to take and leaves nearly the entire universe of the public uncomfortable in that transcendentalism is inherently a third-way to dogmatic theological tradition on the one hand and secular atheism on the other. Transcendentalism, by leaving Christians, Muslims, adherents to all other dogmatic theologies, and agnostics/atheists uneasy, can be cast and perceived as a type of Hegelian synthesis of theological dogmatism and atheism. As a synthesis, it too embodies a type of hybrid and moderation between the polar and comparatively extreme positions of theological dogmatism on the one end and the dogmatic faith in atheism on the other end. This is another lens to be able to cast and construct transcendentalism as a type of cosmopolitan consensus in the context of global religiosity.

               Carlyle is perhaps the most recognizable and most ardent European Islamo-phile in modern European intellectual history. He lectured publicly and courageously on Muhammad (and not Christ) as the embodiment of “Hero as Prophet” before a London audience (in the heart of Christendom) in 1840 and published his lecture in On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History. Although himself not a Muslim, Carlyle’s praise of Muhammad on multiple occasions makes possible the inference that Carlyle’s transcendentalism can be cast as and situated as an evolutionary development within the context of the Islamic tradition. Carlyle’s affinity toward Islam demonstrates a consensus between himself and Islam with respect to valuing the spiritual and divine over the material, earthly, and utilitarian. For example, Carlyle chastises Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism by drawing on Muhammad in On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History:

Benthamee Utility, virtue by Profit and Loss; reducing this God’s world to a dead brute Steam engine, the infinite celestial Soul of Man to a kind of Hay-balance for weighing hay and thistles on, pleasures and pains on:–If you ask me which gives, Mahomet or they, the beggarlier and falser view of Man and his Destinies in this Universe, I will answer, It is not Mahomet!

According to Carlyle, the “advance to a very different epoch of religion” from paganism to Islam is a “great change” and Carlyle remarks “what a change and progress is indicated here, in the universal condition and thoughts of men!” Casting Islam as a “change and progress” inherently casts it as a milestone in the continuous evolution of how humanity theorizes with respect to the divine. In this context of continuous theological evolution from paganism to Christianity to Islam, Carlyle characterizes Muhammad, perhaps coyly, as “by no means the truest of Prophets; but I do esteem him a true one.” In Sartor Resartus, Teufelsdrӧckh defines theology, what he calls “Church Clothes,” as “the Forms, the Vestures, under which men have at various periods embodied and represented for themselves the Religious Principle; that is to say, invested the Divine Idea of the World with a sensible and practically active Body, so that it might dwell among them as a living and life-giving WORD.” Such a characterization underscores Carlyle’s conception of the variability, evolution, and perhaps a level of arbitrariness of dogmatic theologies that naturally occurs in the context of history.

The juxtaposition of Sayyid Qutb’s Milestones with Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus is valuable in illustrating the prospective political application that can be made of Carlyle’s transcendentalism. Qutb can be cast as a type of “default” representative of Islamism, as there is no official representative of Islamism. Islamism can be defined as a pluralistic movement to revive Islam’s political application as a doctrine for governance in the 20th century since the end of the Caliphate of Constantinople in 1924. The political tactics associated with Islamism are diverse, ranging from grassroots political organizing in the context of political parties and electoral politics all the way to violent terrorism associated with terrorist groups. President Erdogan’s recent reversion of Hagia Sophia to an Islamic religious institution can be perceived as a mildly Islamist policy compared to the violent extremism of groups such as Taliban and ISIS.

Qutb’s Milestones is perhaps the most influential source of modern Islamic political theory and a chief intellectual inspiration for Islamism. The book’s influence on Islamism can be analogized to the influence of Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” on communism. In other words, Milestones is a call to action to implement Islamism as the sole hegemonic political doctrine and seeks to provide an intellectual defense of the supremacy of Islamism. Qutb is considered a spiritual and intellectual father of Islamism in general and the radical Islamist group al Qaeda, in particular.

An analytical and literal interpretation of Qutb leaves an opening to consider the possibility of the evolution of Islamism into transcendentalism. Qutb cryptically calls on “the establishment of Islamic society” on the basis of a “movement” that takes the “form of an evolutionary system.” Islam’s preservation in transcendentalism and transcendentalism’s capacity to be a universal, cosmopolitan, and non-dogmatic doctrine to achieve consensus in recognition of the divine order (alongside its commitments to renunciation of economic, racial, and national antagonisms) demonstrates the theoretical pathway by which Islamism could evolve and embrace transcendentalism as a new stage of political development. After all, it is the unyielding devotion to Islam as a singular, particularistic, ossified, and branded theological dogmatism on the part of Islamists that prevents the realization of what may be called the spirit of “Islamic society.” Moreover, the realization of the spirit of Islamism is prevented from taking place given that Islamists themselves each adhere to plural particularistic versions of Islam and themselves cannot agree with respect to the theology of Islam.

Carlyle’s conception of religion is in profound tension with Qutb’s commitment to Islam as the only valid religion. Qutb is adamant that Islam is the final doctrine to serve all of humanity’s needs both at the level of the individual and the collective and is the only viable totalizing doctrine to guide humanity both in the public and private spheres. He thus offers a basis as to why we should reverse course from being engulfed in jahiliyyah, a state in which God’s laws are rejected, to embrace Islam for every need in personal and social life.

Jahiliyyah is a term taken from the Koran and is usually translated as the “age of ignorance,” in reference to the pre-Islamic era on the Arabian peninsula. According to Qutb, Jahiliyyah in its modern incarnation “owes its existence to the putrid element of lordship of man over man, and which separates man from the all-embracing system of the universe.” Qutb writes that the extermination of Jahiliyyah has been humanity’s grand project and that modern Jahiliyyah has been the condition of humanity’s existence since the dawn of civilization, in both the pre-Islamic and post-Islamic eras. Elementally, Jahiliyyah as the hegemonic social order has persisted largely unchanged throughout the entirety of human history.All hegemonic non-Islamic political systems ranging from democracy to aristocracy to communism can be cast as Jahiliyyah since they perpetuate the rule of man over man and thus humanity’s oppression at the hands of humanity. Qutb theorizes on the prospects of a compromise with Jahiliyyah:

Islam does not accept any half-way compromise with Jahiliyyah. Whether it is the question of its concepts and ideology or the laws of life based on this concept, either Islam shall exist or Jahiliyyah. No third course is acceptable or agreeable to Islam in which Jahiliyyah and Islam share equally. Islam’s point of view in this regard is quite clear and bright. It says that Truth is a unit which cannot be analysed. If there will be no Truth, it shall be falsehood. Mutual intermixing and intermingling of Truth and Falsehood and their co-existence is impossible. Either the command of Allah will prevail or that of Jahiliyyah. Either the Divine code will operate or the desire of self-will rule.

Qutb describes the dynamics of the relationship between Islam and Jahiliyyah:

There is a wide yawning valley between Islam and Jahiliyyah which cannot be bridged for the purpose that both should be able to meet midway. If at all such a bridge could be built it could be for the purpose that the folk of Jahiliyyah should cross over and take refuge in the lap of Islam, whether they are the so-called Islam-professing residents of Islamic country or those residing outside it.

Qutb defines religion as “the system and way of life which brings under its fold the human life with all its details.” Qutb contends that the problem religion confronts is “to banish all the fabricated gods through the establishment of the rule of God, Most High.” Qutb, it can be inferred, vindicates Carlyle’s transcendentalism with his claim that all previous theological conceptions of god were “fabricated” while not suggesting precisely the rationale behind why he thinks all other gods were “fabricated” yet the Islamic god is an exception to the rule. Islam itself is a re-fabrication and evolution from Judaism and Christianity and is premised on the failure of these religions. Yet, Qutb calls on all “fabricated” gods to be banished and labels all Jewish and Christian societies as “Jahili” societies. Such a contradiction can be resolved by subscribing to Carlyle’s transcendentalism as a non-dogmatic and non-particularistic theism that can be positioned as post-Islamism.

Carlyle’s transcendentalism can be theorized and constructed as embodying and preserving Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in a non-denominational and non-dogmatic modern theism. As such, transcendentalism can be cast as a theism that is suitable for modern, cosmopolitan, and universal subscription. Transcendentalism is the opposite of atheism in that it is purely theism without the theology. It is a construct that can be applied to achieve an ideal social order. Just as Marxism is dogmatic atheist materialism and Islamism is a dogmatic political theology, transcendentalism is a non-dogmatic philosophical/theological construct. The application of an analytical and political lens to transcendentalism allows one to consider how the political and social orders on any scale (from a local community to the global community) could change if a simple and non-dogmatic theism reigned hegemonic.

Carlyle’s transcendentalism shows itself to embody what Qutb sought to argue is embodied by Islam, namely that Islam is “different in respect of its nature and reality from all concepts which have been rampant in the world so far.”According to Qutb, humanity must achieve a perfect harmony with the nature of the universe and such a harmony would naturally connote the “end” of human political development:

When man evolves an atmosphere of coordination and uniformity with nature, it results in the establishment of a state of concordance between the mutual relationship of man and the general struggle of life, for when man adopts an attitude of cooperation with nature it consequently follows in the birth of complete agreement between human life and the universe, and only one system prevails in the human life and the universe. Thus the collective side of mans’ life becomes free from mutual clash and discord, and mankind is benefitted with total goodness. Thereafter various (mysteries) of the universe do not remain secret any more. Man becomes the knower of natures’ secrets. Hidden powers of the universe become apparent to him, and he gets the trace of the hidden treasures in the spacious universe. He harnesses all those powers and treasures under the direction of God’s laws for the total well-being and prosperity of mankind, leaving no room for any clash or conflict between man and the nature. Otherwise there is a constant struggle between them and the desires and carnal passions are raising their head against the Divine code.

Qutb prescribes the ideal society as being a society not “in a condition that some are driven by greed while others burning with envy; that all of the affairs of the society are decided by the baton and sword, by threat, duress and violence; that the hearts of the population are desolate and their spirits broken, as is happening under the systems which are based on the authority of others than Allah’s.” For Qutb, Islamic society suppresses “all the frivolous prejudices and weak associations of race, colour, language, country, material considerations and geographical boundaries.”

According to Qutb:

[Communism] claimed to demolish all the walls which were raised by colour and race, nation and country and geography. But the foundations of this society were also not erected on the all-embracing base of “human friendship” rather “class conflict” was made the basis of this society. Viewing from this angle, the communist society is another facet of the ancient Roman society. While the Roman society conferred distinction on the “nobility” the communist society imparts this status to the “Proletariate”, and the underlying emotion is the feeling of hatred, malice and envy. Such a degraded and malicious society cannot bear any other fruit except exciting the base human feelings.

Carlyle concludes in a manner largely synonymous with Sayyid Qutb’s 20th century advocacy of Islamism: “for only in looking heavenward, take it in what sense you may, not in looking earthward, does what we can call Union, mutual Love, Society, begin to be possible.” Carlyle describes the teachings of Islam and how Islam’s core philosophical precepts are shared by Christianity and are thus not exclusive to a particularistic and ecclesiastical theological tradition but offer a universal, non-dogmatic, and non-branded application to philosophy/theology writ-large:

[God] made us at first, sustains us yet; we and all things are but the shadow of Him; a transitory garment veiling the Eternal Splendour. ‘allahakbar, God is great;’—and then also ‘Islam,’ That we must submit to God. That our whole strength lies in resigned submission to Him, whatsoever, He do to us. For this world, and for the other! The thing He sends to us, were it death and worse than death, shall be good, shall be best; we resign ourselves to God.—‘If this be Islam,’ says Goethe, ‘do we not all live in Islam?’ Yes, all of us that have any moral life; we all live so….I say, this is yet the only true morality known. A man is right and invincible, virtuous and on the road towards sure conquest, precisely while he joins himself to the great deep Law of the World, in spite of all superficial laws, temporary appearances, profit-and-loss calculations; he is victorious while he cooperates with that great central Law, not victorious otherwise:–and surely his first chance of cooperating with it, or getting into the course of it, is to know with his whole soul that it is; that it is good, and alone good! This is the soul of Islam; it is properly the soul of Christianity;–for Islam is definable as a confused form of Christianity; had Christianity not been, neither had it been. Christianity also commands us, before all, to be resigned to God….

Carlyle, in his lecture on Muhammad, remarks that “Islam means in its way Denial of Self, Annihilation of Self [and] this is yet the highest Wisdom that Heaven has revealed to our Earth.” In Sartor Resartus, Carlyle similarly comments that “Annihilation of Self [is] the first preliminary moral Act” to attaining the “Everlasting Yea,” which he casts as the highest philosophical perspective. Carlyle, in discussing Muhammad’s inspiration for the concept of annihilation of self, de-emphasizes the importance of Islam’s theological narrative and underscores Islam as a contribution to philosophy: “[Muhammad] called it revelation and the angel Gabriel;–who of us yet can know what to call it?  It is the ‘inspiration of the Almighty’ that giveth us understanding. To know; to get into the truth of anything, is ever a mystic act,–of which the best Logics can but babble on the surface.” In this quote, Carlyle sounds as if synonymous with Plato in his endorsement of the concept of intellectual and mystical intuition as a means of retrieving and realizing the Platonic Forms on Earth.

Carlyle too theorizes of what he takes to be the inadequacy of Christianity when he writes, as a question Teufelsdrӧckh would hypothetically pose to Voltaire:

“‘Sufficiently hast thou demonstrated this proposition, considerable or otherwise: That the Mythus of the Christian Religion looks not in the eighteenth century as it did in the eighth…But what next? Wilt thou help us to embody the divine Spirit of that Religion in a new Mythus, in a new vehicle and vesture, that our Souls, otherwise too like perishing, may live? What! thou hast no faculty in that kind?’”

The inference can be made while synthesizing Carlyle’s commentary on Christianity and Islam with Carlyle’s conceptualization of transcendentalism in Sartor Resartus that transcendentalism as a post-Christian and post-Islamic philosophy/theology has compatibility with Christianity and Islam and is a legitimate successor in their lineage. Essentially, Christianity and Islam can be viewed as milestones on the road to the incarnation of transcendentalism as a non-dogmatic and non-particularistic account of spiritual divinity. As such, the inference can also be made that Carlyle’s semi-endorsements of Christianity and Islam implies their preservation and embodiment in transcendentalism. An inference from this is, as a function of such compatibility among transcendentalism, Islam, and Christianity, Muslims and Christians can retain their theological beliefs in Islam and Christianity as creeds while also mutually adopting transcendentalism as a type of theological/philosophical consensus. Such a consensus would embody a means of being able to simultaneously retain one’s theological beliefs while avoiding hostile antagonism toward others that subscribe to disparate theological beliefs. On a larger scale, transcendentalism could provide the means to attain such a consensus among the adherents to the universe of non-transcendentalist ideologies and theologies that are incommensurable and thus naturally antagonistic toward one another. For example, in the Indian case, the religious conflict between Hinduism and Islam provides a context for the prospective application and inauguration of transcendentalism as a means to attain conflict resolution. 

John Rawls set about theorizing a prospective “overlapping consensus” to ensure the stability of liberalism since he articulated the problem of liberalism as follows: “How is it possible that there may exist over time a stable and just society of free and equal citizens profoundly divided by reasonable though incompatible religious, philosophical, and moral doctrines?” Carlyle’s transcendentalism offers such a prospective consensus, but on a larger scale beyond merely the scope of liberalism in the context of a nation-state. Transcendentalism also potentially can foster consensus among nation-states in the context of international relations by embodying simultaneously a post-ideological and non-nationalist doctrine.

Just as Islam has been appropriated for political purposes by Islamism, transcendentalism can be cast as a political doctrine to achieve what Islamism could not. Islamism could not achieve its aims to unite humanity in submission to the divine as a means to resolve economic, racial, and nationalist conflict (and all forms of conflict) because Islam is a dogmatic and particularistic theology that is mired in interminable conflict with competing dogmatic and particularistic theologies. Since Islam is in competition on the plane of dogmatic and particularistic theologies, such competition is incommensurable. There is no empirical means to establish the superiority of either Christianity or Islam (or any of the other dogmatic and particularistic theologies) over its counterparts in the realm of theology. As a function of this, there is no philosophical means to establish the superiority of Islamism in the realm of political ideology (that includes liberalism, Marxism, and fascism), which has necessarily resulted in jihad being the primary mechanism to establish Islamism as a hegemonic doctrine for governance.

Conclusions

Alasdair MacIntyre’s conceptualization of incommensurability informs Islamism’s status of being incapable of establishing its hegemony through mechanisms other than jihad.In After Virtue, MacIntyre asserts that, in the context of liberalism, it is impossible to achieve consensus of any form because political disagreements are incommensurable and thus interminable. MacIntyre conceives of incommensurability as taking place when divergent arguments with respect to a political, philosophical, and/or moral problem are logically valid, the conclusions follow from the premises, yet “the rival premises are such that we possess no rational way of weighing the claims of one as against another.” MacIntyre theorizes on the bleak nature of contemporary moral and political debates:

Moral philosophy, as it is dominantly understood, reflects the debates and disagreements of the culture so faithfully that its controversies turn out to be unsettlable in just the way that the political and moral debates themselves are. It follows that our society cannot hope to achieve moral consensus.

MacIntyre’s conceptualization of incommensurability provides a foundation to be able to assert that, as a function of there being no rational means of weighing the claims of Islam against the claims of Christianity (or any other dogmatic theology), there is no rational means of weighing the claims of Islamism against the claims of any other highly dogmatic political doctrine.

Transcendentalism, as a non-dogmatic and non-particularistic doctrine, has the means to achieve the aims of Islamism, namely universal world peace. Carlyle’s conception of transcendentalism was informed and influenced by Kant and Hegel, and it could be a fulfilment of their mutually-antagonistic doctrines. In the context of Hegel, Carlyle’s transcendentalism was conceptualized in Sartor Resartus ironically largely as a satirical parody (and refutation) of Hegelian philosophy. That Carlyle’s conception of transcendentalism itself could represent the synthesis of Hegelian dialectics to achieve the “end of history” in a political climate favorable to its inauguration as a practical ideology almost two centuries after the publication of Sartor Resartus should definitely be entertained. Transcendentalism has a favorable climate because we have witnessed the dissolution of Marxism (with the exception of China and a few other states) and fascism, leaving liberalism and Islamism as the remaining hegemonic ideologies. Liberalism is vulnerable to dissolution as a function of the COVID-19 pandemic dissolving the liberal dream of the pursuit of insatiable economic consumption as the “end of history” and the concurrent increasingly transgressive (i. e. violent) political contention in Europe and the United States with no long-term liberal resolution on the horizon. Carlyle’s transcendentalism could be a vehicle to secure Kant’s theory of a global“perpetual peace”by concurrently taking up the mantle of post-liberalism and post-Islamism.

The recognition of transcendentalism as such would leave only atheism/nihilism as a competitor doctrine. The elevation of the hegemony of atheism/nihilism promises only an elevation of perpetual discord in the context of every individual going down Nietzsche’s path of becoming an Übermensch and seeking to dominate all other individuals in the absence of any shared social doctrine. With the decline of Platonism and Christianity (and religiosity generally)in the West, we have in fact been witnessing atheist materialism wreak havoc in the form of Marxism on the left and fascism on the right as partners that engage in a mutual self-cancellation. Those elements that date from the 20th century have increasingly re-emerged in Europe and the United States in the 21st century under such guises as “anti-fascism” and populism and are bound only to lead to a similar conflagration as World War II.

Thoreau equated Carlyle with Muhammad as a means of underscoring what he took to be the magnitude of Carlyle’s influence: “[Carlyle] has the earnestness of a prophet. In an age of pedantry and dilettantism, he has no grain of these in his composition. There is no where else, surely, in recent readable English, or other books, such direct and effectual teaching, reproving, encouraging, stimulating, earnestly, vehemently, almost like Mahomet, like Luther.” Emerson comments, with respect to Carlyle, “He is a man of the world. He does not belong to this or that country only, but by his broad genius and talent of satire, which he throws about him, he is cosmopolitan; but his aims are as good as can be.”

That Carlyle wrote Sartor Resartus as a work of satirical fiction and a parody of Hegel’s historicism should not prevent an analytical treatment of Sartor Resartus. Carlyle’s cryptic verbosity, hyperbole, and satirical tone in Sartor Resartus has blinded readers from acknowledging the practical applications of Carlyle’s philosophical conclusions. To put it as a metaphor, Sartor Resartus is perceived as just another bookcase when in actuality it is a magic bookcase that embodies and conceals a passageway toward transcendentalism as a new doctrine. Transcendentalism can be constructed as a viable political doctrine as a function of being situated in the context of other doctrines. By doing such, the vulnerabilities of other doctrines can be seen through the “lens” of transcendentalism.

Carlyle’s transcendentalism is an alternative to all other ideologies and theologies, which are necessarily and inherently dogmatic, particularistic, and mutually incommensurable since they are themselves not transcendentalism. Carlyle chastises dogma when he writes, “Which of your Philosophical Systems is other than a dream-theorem; a net quotient, confidently given out, where divisor and dividend are both unknown?” Such dogmatic ideological and/or theological “dream-theorems” would not be so bad if they did not serve as fodder for non-violent and violent conflict between needlessly antagonized parties. Wars and revolutions continuously replicate because the world is unawake to and unconscious of transcendentalism as the means to put them  to an end. Ostensibly, dogma will fight dogma, identity will fight identity, nation will fight nation, and scarce resources will be antagonized over until there is a universal acceptance of transcendentalism as an anti-dogma and acceptance of renunciation as a rational social virtue that is a corollary (and derivative of transcendentalism).

The analogy to Plato’s allegory of the cave is valuable in this context because the philosopher descending back into the cave to bring wisdom to the cave-dwellers is analogous to a transcendentalist informing the uneasy sleepers of their somnambulism. As Plato wrote in The Republic:

You must go down, then, each in his turn, to live with the rest and let your eyes grow accustomed to the darkness. You will then see a thousand times better than those who live there always; you will recognize every image for what it is and know what it represents, because you have seen justice, beauty, and goodness in their reality; and so you and we shall find life in our commonwealth no mere dream, as it is in most existing states, where men live fighting one another about shadows and quarrelling for power, as if that were a great prize; whereas in truth government can be at its best and free from dissension only where the destined rulers are least desirous of holding office.

Carlyle himself never promoted transcendentalism, likely because the economic, political, and social climates would not have even facilitated his contemplation of transcendentalism as a viable hegemonic doctrine for governance in the context of what was then only the advent of the hegemony of industrial liberal capitalism in partnership with the longstanding and still-potent hegemony of Christianity.  

Teufelsdrӧckh speaks of “‘Religion, in unnoticed nooks, weaving for herself new Vestures’” and it is on such a basis the narrator in Sartor Resartusasks the question, “Teufelsdrӧckh himself being one of the loom-treaddles?” Carlyle follows up this question immediately with the following remark from the narrator of Sartor Resartus: “Elsewhere [Teufelsdrӧckh] quotes without censure that strange aphorism of Saint-Simon’s, concerning which and whom so much were to be said: L’age d’or qu’une aveugle tradition a place jusqu’ici dans le passé est devant nous; The golden age which a blind tradition has hitherto placed in the Past is Before us.” It is at this particular place in Sartor Resartus where the inference can be made that Carlyle prophesies that transcendentalism will become a viable doctrine in the future because transcendentalism is precisely the “new Vesture” that Teufelsdrӧckh “loom-treaddles” and such a vesture would inaugurate the new “golden age.”

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