There are two basic worldviews, two languages in the world: one is the language of the Eastern civilization with Sanskrit roots, and the other is the language of the Western civilization with Ancient Egyptian roots. Further divisions are within these two basic worldviews. The term Indo-European languages points both to the connections between the two civilizations due to Alexander’s conquests and the Silk Road, and the differences between them.
Egypt had a Hermetic-esoteric and closed system that revealed knowledge, attitudes, states, and experiences to its students and followers only, through initiation, but concealed it from the outside. We can assume that some people were sent out to educate the world either because they lost power and emigration started, or because they reached a certain level of maturity. Each would explain a certain fact. There have been two branches to the Egyptian-based thought: Greek and Canaan.
The Greek branch was the visual civilization. This is why this visual civilization is symbolized by an eye within a triangle: it is the civilization of the eye, of the eye of reason.
The civilization in the land of Canaan, on the other hand, is a “semitic” [related to hearing] or verbal civilization; a “civilization of the word.”
When we look at the Torah verse “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord,” it is about “hearing,” or “shema” in Hebrew: “Shema yisrael adonai eloheinu adonai echad.” Noah’s son is named Shem, which means “hearer of the word” in Hebrew. “Shem” is “sem” in Arabic, and “shema” is “semi.” Therefore, it should be understood that this tribe is a tribe that listens to the word of the Lord. Of course, hearing a word and listening to the word are two different things. Giving one’s word is “covenant,” and keeping one’s word is “keeping the covenant.”
Reason opens up to the outside world through senses, and regulates the outside world. Reason is connected to “time” and “space” both conceptually and institutionally, and operates in time and space. As an environment for the body, space ultimately takes the form of a “city.” The Western civilization, as the Greco-Roman civilization, created beautiful and rational solutions for the outside world through Greek rationalism and Roman law.
The verbal civilization, on the other hand, is based on mahal (locus), not mekan (space). Based on Hermes Thoth, it is also called the “civilization of the word”; humans are taught with the word.
In the verbal civilization, mekan (space) is replaced with mahal (locus) because the internal worlds of people contain mahal but no mekan. People live in mekan with their bodies, and live in mahal with their souls. Mekan is the site of reason, and mahal is the site of the soul.
The Arabic word hal is translated into Turkish as “durum,” but durum refers to an external situation. For example, joy is a hal (state), and in the absence of a mahal (locus), it cannot be anchored. When a mahal emerges, an attraction also forms; what creates the mahal is “fermentation”, a product of the “ferment of love,” which is created by muhabbah (love). One who is born out of this process is called a “child of the heart” (veled-i qalb). One who is born out of reason, on the other hand, is called a “child of the reason.”
When these two civilizations do not understand one another and exclude one another, there can be no peace or order in the world, and chaos reigns. When they make peace, they make peace on the basis of the dominance of one, which also leads to problems. Another, more straightforward term that helps explain the issue of mahal (locus) is vicdan (conscience). A civilization of conscience! Accordingly, we can call one the civilization of reason, and the other the civilization of conscience.
At this point, we face a problem: which one should rule the other, reason or conscience? A Torah verse says the following about Noah’s sons Shem and Japheth: “Japheth shall dwell in the tents of Shem.” (Genesis 9/27) Kabbalists interpret Japheth’s children as the Greek civilization, and Shem’s children as the land of Canaan, that is to say the Hebrew culture or religion. This means conscience should rule over reason; something to think about.
When language is the language of reason, thought is based on “causes”; in the case of conscience, on the other hand, it is based on “wisdom.” Science works with causes and causality. In other words, science looks at efficient causes, that is to say causes that determine the effect, and works with them. This is the only way we can regulate the outside world; if we were to overlook efficient causes, we could not function in the outside world. Conscience, on the other hand, is not about efficient causes, it is about final causes; it is about our aims, and the aims that shape conscience are intentional and characterized by wisdom.
Philosophy, namely ancient philosophy, asks the question of “Why?”, whereas science asks that of “How?”. Where is the answer to come from? Not from nature. Reason (which is causal) cannot answer that, nor can ratio (which is comparative). What can answer this question is the intellect, which is intentional, and has an aim. Therefore, minds and societies that use a language are dynamic to the extent that the language they use contains future designs, or designs about the future, and society needs an awareness of history to that extent.
Societies that live day to day, with no future designs, have no awareness of history either. They use history to feed their vanity, always searching for things to brag about and feel powerful. This is hollow power! People with future designs spot obstacles on the way from the first moment they intent to take action to reach their goals and aims and realize their designs. Because they perceive the obstacles, they look back at history starting from these obstacles, which are problems of the present time. History can provide two things: power and lessons. How did they succeed? How did they overcome certain obstacles? How did they make certain mistakes? When we face problems, studying history is the only recourse we have in order to avoid or overcome obstacles to our future plans and have future dynamism. This is how we can derive lessons and power from history and make historical experience part of our lives, instead of using history to feed our vanity.
The genius of the semitic tribe or the verbal tribe –the genius that they introduced to the world and offered to other societies– stems from writing their history from the very beginning, turning it into a holy book, repeating it, and thus keeping their awareness of history alive and drawing lessons all the time. The Jewish custom (torah) made it possible to establish a state after two thousand years of stateless existence, living as “diasporas” within other societies. The rights and wrongs of the state thus established is a different matter. What is notable here is their success in surviving all this time. And this success should be attributed to their turning experience and experimental knowledge into a motherland. When asked “What should we understand from the Promised Land?”, a Zohar teacher –a Jewish sufi– once said, “The land that was promised to us and that we were asked not to desert is our custom; the name of our holy book, Torah, literally means custom!”
The Greek civilization, on the other hand, represents the genius of reason and of philosophy. This is “theory”. When observation turns into theoretical knowledge, it becomes universal and becomes the common property of humanity, not of a specific tribe; it can be adopted by others. The adoption of a language by other societies, then, depends on the universality of the values created in that language. The Roman genius was a legal genius and was the source of their power to create and maintain a state, the power called Pax Romana, which made it possible to establish peace with multiple cultures. The society that bequeathed legal genius to history may have disappeared today as a state form, but there are efforts all over the world to establish order on the basis of an advanced version of their legal approach. This shows that when a legal genius becomes universalized, it can establish order all over the world not through universalism but through its universality. This applies to philosophical genius as well.
What, then, is the nature of the Turkish genius that allowed it to encounter and fight with many tribes for thousands of years but never be enslaved? This genius is a passion for freedom, a genius of courage and heroism.
What keeps a society together is the ideals to which its members are committed. Societies that are passionately committed to an ideal with courage and heroism are bound to achieve victory. They are so committed that the ideal to which they are committed keeps them alive. However, the comfort brought about by sovereignty and prosperity results in relaxation, and people lose their ideals and passion for life. Societies not committed to a higher ideal fail to reproduce themselves, and over time, disappear from history. Courage and heroism devoid of ideals are a waste of power.
* Published in Düşünüyorum, no.29, 2012. Translated by Dr. Emre Eren Korkmaz, and revised by the editorial board.