Fethullah Gülen's message to the conference entitled "Philosophy and science in the cultures of the West and the East"

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Messages

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Fethullah Gülen

Dear attendants, invaluable science and philosophy experts,

Even appreciating this organization that you have arranged is above my limits. I hope from your generosity that you will excuse this, not as a contribution, but only as an expression of my thoughts and feelings.

As you would appreciate, real life for mankind is only possible through science and insight, the most important object of mankind’s creation is nothing but seeing and knowing, researching and learning, and passing on to others what they have learnt. For this reason, a person’s humanity shows itself through learning, teaching and enlightening others. Those who ignore learning and teaching, even if they are alive, are considered dead; those who don’t consider learning even though they don’t know, and those who don’t renew themselves with what they learn and don’t set examples for others, it is hard to say that they have perceived humanity’s horizon.

Other than this value of science and its indispensable place in mankind’s life, there is another aspect of human’s existence and activity, that is the refinement and illumination, and even spiritualization of the mind in the bright skies of the spirit through knowledge, contemplation, judgment, wings of deduction, and the light of love, and on the other hand, when used with conscience, one of the most important light sources that makes the writing on the faces of life and events, and their inner meaning visible is wisdom, or philosophy in the meaning of wisdom. In exchange for science going round and round in the circle of mind and research, wisdom, or philosophy, sprouts and blossoms with rays of contemplation, knowledge, inspiration, perception and foresight in the atmosphere of spirituality. The mind that wanders within the boundaries of matter, and produces science is the sclera of the eye, wisdom, or philosophy, which travels beyond matter, is the pupil of the eye, with them both working together seeing, and penetrating the outer and inner meaning of life is possible. While science tries to discover life within cell walls, wisdom, from within these walls watches the universe and finally reaches eternity.

Just as a human is a human with material body, mind and spirit, and humanity is in simultaneously satisfying each of these three aspects of life, with appropriate amounts of suitable nutrients, the three most important duties of prophets, who were appointed to guide mankind, were showing people penetration methods of matter and events, physical and spiritual universal facts; teaching them necessary knowledge for their worldly and otherworldly happiness, and providing a suitable atmosphere for them to learn; and thirdly, purifying their minds from false perceptions and superstitions with science, and their hearts from sins with worshipping, boosting people up to the level of the perfect human being, fully equipped with all kinds of excellence. Science and philosophy experts who have adopted walking this road, in other words, scientists and philosophers, have been accepted successors of prophets. However, it hasn’t always been possible to approach humans and human life in this wholeness, once, in the West, backs were turned on science in favor of religion, later backs were turned on religion in favor of science, as the worldwide scientist of the 20th century evaluated; humans were being crippled or blinded, opposite to this, in the East, after long centuries of this wholeness that continued with its brightness, mekteb (school) where universal facts were studied and learned, were influenced by scholastic thought; medrese (theological school) where light of the heart religious sciences were studied and learned, closed itself to mind, science and thought, and lived a crippled life; tekye (Islamic monastery) where love and enthusiasm would be tasted, started to be satisfied with legends, instead of tasting, experiencing and living they would take comfort in talking and recounting.

Claiming that science and wisdom could actually belong to a certain part of the world, certain nations or civilizations, is at least, not knowing history. Even though, considered to be the first homeland of Western philosophy, that has developed in a secular field dependant on science and scientific progress, and modern science, the West has stood out in the last centuries, the East, due to it being especially interrelated with religion, has always shined as a productive field, or homeland for deep wisdom and philosophy that has always been in the metaphysical dimension. All of the great, comprehensive and widespread science, belief and wisdom systems shot up in the East, from Tao thoughts which appeared as a belief and metaphysical philosophy in the ancient times, to Confucius, to Brahma or Brahman belief and wisdom, which is claimed by important researchers to be the Indian version that shaped over time of Abraham the great prophet, to Buda metaphysics which is compared with Jesus, and finally to heavenly religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam which are originally based on the unity of God.

It is difficult to distinguish Renaissance, Enlightenment, and finally Antique Greek philosophy with its variations, which partly affected the development of modern thought, especially Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle’s trace from Eastern wisdom or philosophy. When it comes to science, in addition to the undeniable contributions of Far East, Middle and North Asia, the abundant Ganges or India and Nile basin, especially in its 3rd to 5th centuries, the shoot the Islamic world gave sciences is very important. In Introduction to the History of Science, the famous George Sarton divides the history of science into periods of 50 years, and names every 50 years by the name of the scientist that had the biggest effect on that period. Seven 50 years between 750 and 1100 are all named by Muslim scientists, the list is as follows; Jabir ibn Hayyan period, Muhammad ibn Musa Khwarizmi period, Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi period, Al-Masudi period, Abu al-Wafa Buzjani period, Abu Rayhan al-Biruni period, and Omar Khayyam period. Other than these, Sarton mentions many world renowned scientists’ names, such as Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Alhazen, Ibn Yunus, Al-Kindi, Al-Farghani.

When it comes to science and philosophy, of course we owe a lot to the West, but I believe our debt to the East is no less than it. However, we can't say that we know the science and wisdom of the East, as much as we know the West's. Nowadays when the world is going towards being one big village, and humanity a single family or people of the same village, even though, both for this reason, and also because science and wisdom is all humans common property, separating as East and West can seem a little naïve, reducing all civilizations and cultures into one civilization and culture is just as naïve. Besides, despite all convergence, the fact that civilizations and cultures can’t turn into, or dissolve in each other has been accepted since the great Russian philosopher, historian and ethnologist Nikolay Danilevsky. In this regard, nowadays when, as our life, our thoughts too have been over materialized; we can say that we need Eastern traditions, Eastern science and wisdom more than ever. These kind of organizations held by you invaluable science and philosophy experts does and will perform an important function in overcoming this need.

Keeping a distance with sciences, especially universal sciences, named positive sciences, and steering for ungrounded idealism and romanticism, in fear of them leading to denial of God is childish. Insofar, sciences are as useful and necessary as they guarantee our happiness and raise us to humanity. Therefore, due to using sciences as an excuse for denial of God and doing it being biased, it is definitely necessary that sciences are combined with belief, morality and wisdom; and mind and heart is married. And in my opinion, this is possible by inclining to Eastern science and wisdom.

In these thoughts and feelings with congratulating your activity, I offer my greetings and regards to each and every one of you, and with my entire heart wish for your continuation of these kinds of activities.

M. Fethullah Gülen