“There are those who do not look beyond this world and its appearances, who are attached to its fortunes, however fleeting, and who insist, either on account of their personal conviction or under the influence of some dominant ideology, on a materialistic outlook. They are to be found in every age, country and culture. They constitute one community however they are distributed into various conflicting identities.
There are those who call themselves religious but are strongly attached to the outward forms of their beliefs and practices. They seem to have substituted religious forms for the material forms, and as they are fanatic about them, they bring about a far greater degree of discrimination and conflict in the world than their materialistic counterparts. They too constitute one community. Though they may belong to totally conflicting religious interests and traditions, they are still like mirror images of one another. When their fanaticism for the outward forms of their religion is combined with their material interests, they create havoc both for themselves and for the rest of the world.
Therefore, let us not be deceived by how these two groups identify themselves, whether as materialists or religious people. Ignore the names they give themselves after some ideology or religion. Beware of the trap: imperceptibly without the slightest awareness on your part, you may be dragged by them into giving yourself a collective name or belief. All of them, as you will often notice, feel uneasy before an unidentified or nameless mode of self-understanding. Unless you are careful, you will soon be a part and parcel of their discourse even when you think you are disagreeing with them. It is how most of the reformers end up as greater fanatics than their opponents. So beware of the outward forms, and those who adore them. At best these outward forms have a value for the species in its collective discipline, but they are a hindrance to the individual.
There are those who look beyond the outer forms of this world and of their religion and culture. They look at their inner meanings and correspondences. They are the individuals. They are not many. They are to be found in every age, country and religion. They are the ones who embody the one indivisible humanity. They are the true humanists. They are one community on account of their inwardness, their interconnection across religious, cultural and historical boundaries. They reflect a deep positive patience. They may stand in one or another house of worship or they may constitute one unbroken fellowship of the spirit. They are the salt of the earth. They are the peacemakers.
And there are those who have gone beyond both the outward and the inward. They have gone beyond themselves. Though they appear as present, they are in reality absent. They are very few, some known and others hidden, even from themselves. They are past even human identification, neither man nor woman, they are a being, pure and transparent. They are the elect. They are the horizon towards which the people of the inward look.
Between the outward looking and the inward looking there is an abysmal gulf. Between the inward and the elect there is a bridge. They are both communities, and also modes of awareness and being*.
“Alone to Alone – From Awareness to Vision” by Hasan Askari *For a detailed discussion about these four modes you may refer to “Towards a Trans-Religious Dimension” in Spiritual Quest: An Inter-Religious Dimension by Hasan Askari.