Vous êtes ici : Accueil / Littérature / Entretiens et Textes inédits / Pluralism and Tolerance: Philosophers, Mystics and Religions

Pluralism and Tolerance: Philosophers, Mystics and Religions

Par Souleymane Bachir Diagne : Professeur de français et de philosophie - Columbia University (USA)
Publié par Clifford Armion le 12/01/2015
The belief in certain supernatural realities is an essential dimension of faith. And, by definition, they are that because we do not comprehend them in the same way as we comprehend objects and beings which we are capable of experiencing with our senses or those mathematic idealities that we understand. Faith therefore allows us to perceive the realities of God, His attributes, His angels and other entities and qualities of the same kind. It equally convinces us that, as human beings, we have the capacity for reaching these truths of a different kind than those of our senses or of our reason in the conventional sense within ourselves, and therefore posses an aptitude for the supernatural or the absolutely comprehensible.
The belief in certain supernatural realities is an essential dimension of faith. And, by definition, they are that because we do not comprehend them in the same way as we comprehend objects and beings which we are capable of experiencing with our senses or those mathematic idealities that we understand. Faith therefore allows us to perceive the realities of God, His attributes, His angels and other entities and qualities of the same kind. It equally convinces us that, as human beings, we have the capacity for reaching these truths of a different kind than those of our senses or of our reason in the conventional sense within ourselves, and therefore posses an aptitude for the supernatural or the absolutely comprehensible. However, the theological and philosophical literature sometimes describes this by terms that are used for perceptible objects such as “heart” or “eye” while clearly specifying that it is actually a different kind of “heart” or an inner or spiritual “eye” that is therefore capable of seeing what lies outside of the realm of manifest experience. This faculty is called “prophetic” because it reaches perfection in those extraordinary humans who are the prophets. Moslem philosophers such as Al Fârâbî (9th century), Avicenna (10th century) and their successors identified this facility that the philosophy of Aristotle refers to as the “agent intellect” and is immortal and eternal in us just like the truths that it aims to help us understand.

This is how Avicenna continues – in what could be described as a philosophical translation – the Islamic story of the prophetic ascension which saw the Messenger of Islam travelling across the heavens on a mythical steed, guided by the angel Gabriel, to his meeting with God. In fact, in Avicenna’s interpretation, the angel can be interpreted as the agent intellect that illuminates and guides our human intellect along the path to make it the same as his own. Therefore, the prophetic voyage across the heavens is understood as the voyage undertaken by the perfect, complete human being (homo perfectus) to reach the most distant point of his most elevated faculty that then reveals the essential truths face to face with the Divine.

But, while the mystic’s ascension towards the world of intelligible realities is only of significance for the him or herself, the Prophet (who is therefore the model for what Henri Bergson called the true mystic whose experience is not simple contemplation but translates itself into a transformation of the world) has – himself – the mission and responsibility of returning the realities and the effect they should have on our lifestyles to humanity. He should therefore translate that which is beyond all expression – because, by definition, the intelligible cannot enter into the perceptible, the eternal into the temporal, the infinite into the finite – into all languages spoken by human beings. However, it is simultaneously impossible and essential that the “descent” of the message proceeds and it is religion that has its origin in this descent. The prophetic faculty, which reached perfection in the Messenger, is also doubled in his case by an extraordinary imaginative capacity because of the necessity for putting what is purely intelligible into tangible words, images and stories.

One consequence clearly revealed by philosophers like Al Fârâbî and the Andalusian Ibn Tufayl (12th century) is that, although essential truths are the same, their translation into positive religions will inevitably be different, pluralist. Therefore, in his philosophical fable Hayy Ibn Yaqzan, Ibn Tufayl recounts how the eponymous hero of the book combats the lack of understanding and hostility of the established, positive religion by trying to make the people rediscover the sense of truth that the “letter of the religion” strives to translate. Thus, the philosophers consider that, in their pluralism, positive religions aim at all the essential truths that make up their transcendental unity and therefore call for a spirit of openness and tolerance signifying an authentic respect for the different manners in which these truths manifest themselves. Philosophers and mystics, because they are involved in metaphysics, are more inclined to understand that pluralism is not relativism and that tolerance is not the simple acceptance of the translation/tradition of the other but an interest in, and genuine respect for, the manner in which the essential truths manifest themselves in this tolerance.

Does this mean that only philosophers and mystics are capable of tolerance because they think and live with the aim of attaining these truths whose traditional forms, the religions, are so many translations? In other words: remaining solely on the level of positive religions, it becomes necessary to ask the question of whether they are naturally closed and incapable of accepting the truth of pluralism as a consequence of their own exclusive definition of salvation? These questions boil down to what is addressed to each religion individually: how much room does it give to pluralism deep down? It is thus not only a matter of a given religion committing itself, for it is certain that it itself is the only true one in a theology of (other) religions regardless of the sympathy that might be felt with them, but of examining its openness to the acceptance of others and to the acceptance that difference and divergence are in the natural order of things. It is therefore about understanding that, as stated in the Quran (5:48), if God did not to make a single community of you, it was to test you by the difference, that you rival each other in good deeds knowing that ultimately, when you return to Him, He will inform you of where you differ.

 

Pour citer cette ressource :

Souleymane Bachir Diagne, "Pluralism and Tolerance: Philosophers, Mystics and Religions", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), janvier 2015. Consulté le 13/11/2018. URL: http://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/litterature/entretiens-et-textes-inedits/pluralism-and-tolerance-philosophers-mystics-and-religions

A lire

Comment philosopher en Islam ?

de Souleymane Bachir Diagne

(Philippe Rey, 2013)

En partenariat avec

logovilla_1417531980912-png

Institution incontournable de la scène culturelle à Lyon, la Villa Gillet rassemble artistes, écrivains et chercheurs du monde entier pour nourrir une réflexion publique autour des questions de notre temps à l'occasion de conférences, débats, tables rondes, et lectures.
modedemploilogoweb_1357808113332-jpg
Du 17 au 30 novembre, penseurs, chercheurs, décideurs, entrepreneurs, acteurs de la vie publique et artistes iront à la rencontre du public, à Lyon, Saint-Etienne, Chambéry ou Grenoble, pour nous inviter à interroger le monde d’aujourd’hui en replaçant les sciences humaines au cœur du débat citoyen.

Mots-Clés