Reveal: Display or show; allow to appear.The Oxford American Dictionary and Language Guide
Revelation: The act or an instance of revealing, esp the supposed disclosure of knowledge to humankind by a divine or supernatural agency.The Oxford American Dictionary and Language Guide
When you consider how Al Ghazzali and St. Augustine came by their own truths, both searched, had revelation, and found what they were searching for. Islam, like Christianity, is a religion of revelation as well as search. They searched and they found: they didn’t find without searching first.
But what about the rest of us? Your average Christian or Muslim is not a mystic. Nor a saint. Your average person in the 21st century is less religious than their forbears were as little as 20 years ago.
If we look at definitions for “reveal” and “revelation” we learn that both are about finding knowledge that was previously hidden. Of course, revelation has always had a spiritual or religious context to the definition, the Book of Revelations no doubt being the one of primary significance.
Revelation Vs. Search
Depending on your life and temperament, your search could have either revelation or search first.
Some of you may realize you want something other than a 9 to 5 job, or you don ‘t want marriage and children. Perhaps you are the opposite of both of these and want something with reliable hours and the proverbial 2.5 children and a house in the suburbs. You may even just realize you want to escape from everything–even your own mind.
Realizing you want more, or want something different is its own revelation–no supernatural force necessary.
But what if you do not know what you’re searching for? What if you are searching without knowing what you need ?
Many of us fall into this category. We go to college for a degree I one thing and then find we don’t like it. Or we don’t like the field we’re in, or the job, or find we can’t get a job anywhere we really want to work. Some of us start families only to find we really don’t like children. Some of us find we can’t have children or that we don’t like dating.
This is where the search comes before the revelation.
Recognizing the Need: An Intertwined Search and Revelation
Most of our life’s searches come from recognizing a need. We eat because we are hungry. We marry because we feel loneliness and love. We get an education because we realize we need to be able to provide for ourselves.
The revelation is in discovering a need that must be met. Whatever that need is.
The search comes in finding what will meet that need we’ve had revealed. What will meet our need for quiet? A vacation? A daily meditation practice? A time for religious devotion?
This is primarily what both Al Gazzali and Augustine deal with in their confessions. Al Ghazzali is seeking for the truth of the world which correlates to the Q’ran and Augustine is seeking for the truth which will allows him peace from his restlessness. Both recognize a need.
Al Ghazzali recognizes the Aristotelian influences are not all suited to the practice of Sunni Islam and so spends a great deal breaking down what the sophist and the philosophers have to say and reconciling it with what he knows to be true from the Q’ran.
Augustine, trained in both the Christian scripture and in Latin philosophy, is seeking for peace from the world. His Confessions are mostly about his own mental state, his futile search for meaning in a world which was slowly falling apart.
The search for both men ends in yet another revelation. For Al Ghazzali, it was the revelation of Sufism and the clarity it brings.
For Augustine, it was Roman Christianity and the order that theology brings.
Where there is a search, there is a choice involved.
Both Al Ghazzli and Augustine made conciencious choices in their searches. Al Ghazzli chose a very systematic search through philosophy and logic. It’s systematic thoroughness is something to be admired and it remarkably like H.G. Wells’ First and Last Things.
Gotta love orderly thinking!
Searching for something, whether that’s truth, justice, or that missing sock from the laundry, implies a choice. You can choose to pursue than missing sock to the bottom of every laundry basket, underneath every bed, or to the bowels of every washing machine (not something I would recommend) or you can choose to let it go.
Top Tip: When you knit your own socks, they are less likely to go missing. Seriously. I’ve never lost a single sock from a pair I’ve knitted.
Where there is a revelation, well…
Revelation of any kind has very little to do with choice. Last week, for instance, the Western Church celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation which is when Gabriel revealed to Mary she would bear the Christ child.
Mary did not choose to have an angel appear to her. It happened. There wasn’t an American Idol style audition for future mother’s of Jesus Christ. Mary was chosen. Plain and simple. At least, if that is your religion.
To bring this into the 21st century, I”m sure most people don’t choose to get bored at a job they once loved. Most people don’t choose to get fed up with their lives, or choose to wish for more than what they have.
It happens whether we want it to or not.
We recognize hunger but we don’t necessarily choose to get hungry between lunch and dinner. Or again between dinner and breakfast.
Truth for Your Average Human
In the end, your own search for truth is going to depend on your own choices, your own life, and your own experiences. That is not something that can be dictate to you, or covered in a “how to” manual.
It starts with knowing yourself. St. Augustine knew himself to be corrupt. Al Ghazzali knew himself to be relentless in pursuing truth.
How will your own search turn out? Well, that depends on your choices, your self-talk, your ability to forgive yourself, and your ability to learn.
This does little justice, but the way, to either Al Ghazzali or St. Augustine’s works. To get the full effect, you will have to read both for yourself.
There may be one more post–completely dedicated to St. Augustine. The reason will be clear on Friday, April 1…..
April is a big month for The Eftsoons Writer. For one, we have Easter and Shakespeare’s birthday. Shakespeare’s birthday will more than likely be a two-week celebration of sorts. Hey, we give a whole month to Christmas!
There are also a surprising number literary references to April. I’m not going to cover all of them, but I will be going through two of the most famous: T.S. Eliot and Chaucer.
Just a note, there is a major Easter project for the blog: I am going to attempt something which I’ve always wanted to do. So, posts may be sparse at the beginning of the month.
But be prepared, we’re going to take a little trip to Hell….
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