بِسْم الله الرحمن الرحيم
All praise is due to the One God, our Lord, Who created mankind in this temporal life that we may utilize it to prepare for the eternal life to come. May the best benedictions and peace be upon the best of creation, Muhammad, who was sent as an example of what it means to achieve the pinnacle of one’s humanity. To proceed:
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote his essay on self-reliance acknowledging the uniqueness of every individual and our need to take responsibility for our own states and situations. In that essay he called men to be manly saying such great and meaningful things as, “God will not have His work made manifest by cowards,” “Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age,” and, “…attend your own work and already the evil begins to be repaired.” Indeed, it is one of the great essays on the ideal of American individualism.
At the same time, there is his essay, “Spiritual Laws.” In this essay we find Mr. Emerson reminding of two fundamental principles that we, as believers, should never forget, especially as Americans in this day and age. The first is that the world around us is but manifestations of internal realities and the choices we make, our intentions, affect our environment, our experiences and the world in which we live. The second is that despite our individualism, we do live within families, communities and societies and as such, all that we do is seen as expressions of who we are, and on this basis we are judged.
There is much benefit in reading and reflecting upon these essays as they are pregnant with beneficial meanings. In an attempt to keep these articles from being too wordy we will limit our quotes but there is indeed great points made that deserve our reflection. One such point is His saying, “As a man thinketh, so he is, and as a man choosing, so he is and so is nature.” this reminds one immediately of the words of Allah’s messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), “Indeed actions are but by intentions and every person will have that which they intend.” These prophetic words themselves will arise again and again as they hold within them an encyclopedia of meanings. From those meanings one is reflected in the quote by Emerson, the way our thoughts are patterned influences the choices we make in life as well as the intentions behind those choices. In this way, our words and deeds are but the outward manifestation of our inward natures. What is more, our inner natures will also reflect back on us in the forms by which we perceive others and the world around us. What we see is often simply a reflection of our own states and not realities. It is in this light that we view Mr. Emerson’s words, “”You will never see anything worse than yourselves.”
In this essay, he went on to say, “The world is full of judgement days, and into every assembly that a man enters, in every action that he attempts, he is gauged and stamped.” There is an amazing interplay that goes on between human beings. Other people see us, our actions and our words, in light of their current states and so we are but mirrors to themselves also. However, we also emanate from ourselves projections of our inner natures. In this way, if we perceive the world as constricted and constricting, we will find constriction and others will see that in us. If we see the world in a state of gratitude, overflowing with the bounties of our Lord, we will find abundance and others will see that in us. In this way, we are constantly judged in two lights. The light of our own inner nature which we manifest in our words and deeds and also the light of the state of the observer reflecting back upon themselves. This is the nature of every human interaction.
If we but understood this, we would seek to be sincere and congruent with our principles. So often we simply conform due to the comforts conformity bestows. Unfortunately, it is then we see the realities of Mr. Emerson’s words, “We foolishly think, in our days of sin, that we must court friends by compliance to the customs of society, to its dress, its breeding and its estimates. But later, if we are happy, we learn that only that soul can be my friend which I encounter on the line of my own march, the soul to which I do not decline, and which does not decline to me, but , native of the same celestial latitude, repeats in its own all my experience.” Ultimately, due to our own compromise and conformities we reach a state when we no longer appreciate “others” in their “other-ness” and can only find happiness with those who are like ourselves, believing, perceiving and imitating as we ourselves do. I believe this is why we find it said in the Bible, in Matthew 10:33,35, “For I have come to set a man at variance against his father and the daughter against her mother.”…and a man’s foes shall be of his own household.” And again in Luke 12:51-53 we find, “”Suppose He that I come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother.” Of course the Messiah (peace be upon him) came to bring a state of peace. But that peace was the peace of heart and mind; a tranquility in the soul that comes with aligning one’s self with Truth. It is not an apparent peace manifested on the earth bu, rather, I t is so often manifested in division by those who refuse it and continue to conform to the old ways and traditions which they have clung so heavily to, placing their very self value upon. Due to their reality, they can only be pleased with those who continue to conform and are ever displeased with those who differ, displaying animosity even if they recognize goodness.
If we seek to utilize the life of this world, investing the commodity of time, using the capitol of all we own, and all that we truly own is our choices and intentions, then we must strive to be true to ourselves before God. When we do that, rather than seeking the acceptance of others, in light of our sincerity and uprightness we shall ultimately be judged. Emerson said, “Real action is in silent moments.” It is in our silence that we come to know ourselves. It is in moments of silence we determine our choices. It is in our moments of silence we intend. It is in our silence that we should be remembering, reflecting upon and in communion with our Lord. Then we manifest that in ways expressed beautifully by Emerson in this essay, “The way to speak and write what shall not go out of fashion, is to speak and write sincerely,” and, “Let us, if we must have great actions, make our own so.” We manifest the realities of our truly silent moments by speaking sincerely and acting in magnanimity and greatness. This is as we read in the speech of our Lord,
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ
وَقُولُوا قَوْلًا سَدِيدًا
يُصْلِحْ لَكُمْ أَعْمَالَكُمْ
وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ
وَمَن يُطِعِ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ
فَقَدْ فَازَ فَوْزًا عَظِيمًا
“O’ you who believe! Be mindful of Allah
And speak a word straightforward;
He will rectify for you your affairs
And forgive you your faults.
Whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger,
Indeed they have achieved the greatest of victories”
We pray that each reader finds benefit and is able to reflect and act upon what we have shared; we pray this knowing full well that success is with Allah alone. So we then conclude with a closing quote from Emerson’s wonderful essay entitled “Spiritual Laws”:
“The lessons which all these observations convey is, Be and not seem.”
Wm. Halim Breiannis
Baltimore, Md. U.S.