A History of the Utopian Tradition: A guide for our times

  • A History of the Utopian Tradition

By Carlijn kingma  CARTOGRAPHY OF SOCIETY

Chinese Ink and dip pen on paper Size original drawing: 1189mm x 841mm
April 2016 -For more information about the prints, please send an email to: carlijnkingma@gmail.com.

Below you can read the introduction of the story:

The urge to transcend and push life ‘as it is’ in order to move towards life ‘as it should be’, is a defining feature of humanity. Utopia is a way of articulating of this urge – a project or vision which provides us with a clear view on an alternative present or future world, through which, although sometimes just for one little moment, we can believe in something extraordinary. Utopia has long been the name for the unreal and the impossible. We have set utopia over against the world as the world of dreams, fantasies and ideas. Thus, sometimes, we seem to forget, that, like Lewis Mumford used to say, the choice we have is not between reasonable proposals and an unreasonable utopianism. Utopian thinking does not under- mine or discount real reforms. Indeed, it is almost the opposite: practical reforms depend on utopian dreaming. It encourages us in our efforts, and sets a beacon in the uncharted seas of the distant future, and in doing so drives to incremental improvements. The world needs utopia, as the cities and mansions that people dream of are those in which they finally live.

For as long as we exist, we have imagined the things that ought to be. The Greeks knew such wise men as philosophers, they allowed them great freedom and rejoiced in the mathematical precision with which their intellectual leaders mapped out those theoretical roads which were to lead mankind from chaos to an ordered state of society. The Old Tes tament used to call such people prophets, insisting with narrow persistence upon the King dom of Heaven as the only possible standard for a decent Christian Utopia. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries fought many bitter wars to decide the exact nature of a white- washed Paradise, erected upon the crumbling ruins of the medieval church. The eighteenth century saw the Promised Land lying just across the terrible bulwark of stupidity and super stition, which a thousand years of clerical selfishness had erected for its own protection and safety. There followed a mighty battle to crush the infamy of ignorance and bring about an era of well-balanced reason. Unfortunately, a few enthusiasts carried the matter a trifle too far. Napoleon, realist-in-chief of all time, brought the world back to the common ground of solid facts. In response, the twentieth century grew a counter-culture of everything fixed and finite, and presented utopia with its twin brother, the anti-utopia, which by opposing utopia also made her stronger. But in recent decades something has changed. Many observe utopia and their sympathizers as foolhardy dreamers at best and murderous totalitarians at worst. If the utopian spirit has proved to be a tool to trigger progress and improvements, then the recent growing suspicion towards utopia and the growing anti-utopian library is worrisome. Over the last century Utopia has gained a historic record of “anti-utopian” novels and instead of worrying how we can get to the good place we now think about how we can prevent the ‘utopian project’ from being realized. How did this happen? And as the will-to- transcend will always remain, how can we make the utopian project, our beacon leading us to conscious progress and change, legitimate and valuable again?

Understanding where utopia stands today is to understand its past, where it comes from and what ideas it carried. The first part of this thesis is an attempt to set out, mainly in drawing, supported by text, the general pattern of utopian writing in the West. Setting out the history of utopian writing is not meant principally as an historiographical exercise, but is necessary for understanding and thinking about the fate of utopia in our own times, and its possibilities for the future. Through history we learn how utopia always emerges and exists under specific circumstances. At the same time, the content and articulation of utopia has always been bonded to a set of attributes such as the organization of knowledge; power; the interpretation of territory; and time, resulting in the question of finality. Understanding the changing utopian tradition as a result of the changing attributes of the material world in the past, can help us understand the recently emerged suspicion of the utopia today, and hand us the tools to resonate on the possibility of a post-modern utopia tomorrow.

An inevitable part of the utopian tradition is the art of storytelling, and therefor, this elab- oration on the changing tradition of the utopia of the west is done mainly through image and illustrated with words. Image 1. History of the Utopian tradition, shows an overview of the whole story. Our journey begins in ancient Greece, with the Republic of Plato, as we work ourselves up to the utopian visions of the 20th century. A sequence of fragments, taken from the main image, will guide us through the story, handing us the possibility to not only understand each utopia as a separate entity or a product of its time, but also to understand each story as a part of a changing utopian tradition.

[…] Ch. 1 – Ch. 7 are left out but are available in print.

  • Al-Farabi’s Humanistic Principles and “Virtuous City”

by Anar Tanabayeva

In our time of globalization humanistic principles should be fundamental to the people around the world, otherwise we can not solve the global problems of mankind. At the present time, when the world globalization processes put before mankind new issues and identified the main problem, the study of the works of such thinker as Al-Farabi becomes extremely important. To study Al-Farabi’s philosophy is becoming more relevant in today’s context of increasing democratic reforms, creation of a legal, secular state and approval of harmony in society. In this respect, the study of political philosophy of Al-Farabi, especially his teachings on politics, freedom, happiness, and the need to mutual assistance between people, his appeal to science, intellectual and moral perfection of man and society, over-actualized. Particularly relevant today a thinker’s concept on political leadership, his ideas about the virtuous society, justice, equality, preserving peace, preventing war, condemnation of wars. In this regard, political philosophy and ideas of the thinker can be a valuable source for the education of the younger generation. Read more here

  • Utopian Literature of the Ideal Society:  A Study in Al-Farabi’s Virtuous City & More’s Utopia

Utopian literature in its broadest meaning deals with the idealistic conceptions and themes that are not applicative in real human life. This type of literature and thinking,
though we regard it as imaginative and may be fanciful, yet it embodies great themes, and aiming at noble human goals and purposes.
Al-Farabi in his work the Virtuous City and More in his Utopia present to the humanity through these two magnificent works, under discussion in this research, an example of the virtuous and idealistic community they aspire, as philosophers, to be achieved in real human life, if virtue and goodness guide mankind to its perfection and happiness.
This research discusses these two works as Utopian literature, irrespective to the profound philosophical thoughts they comprise. Read more here

  • AL-FARABI ON THE DEMOCRATIC CITY

This essay will explore some of al-Farabı’s paradoxical remarks on the nature and status of the democratic city (al-madı¯nah al-jamaıyyah). In describing this type of non-virtuous city, Farabı departs significantly from Plato, according the democratic city a superior standing and casting it in a more positive light. Even though at one point Farabı¯ follows Plato in considering the timocratic city to be the best of the imperfect cities, at
another point he implies that the democratic city occupies this position.
Since Farabı’s discussion of imperfect cities is derived from Plato’s Republic and follows it in many important respects, I will argue that his departure from Plato in this context is significant and points to some revealing differences between the two philosophers. In order to demonstrate this, I will first set up a comparison between Plato’s conception of the democratic city and Farabı’s. Then I will propose three explanations for the greater appreciation that Farabı seems to have for democracy, as well as for the apparent contradiction in Farabı’s verdict concerning the second best city. Read more here

  • Al-Farabi’s doctrin: virtuous people and a model of the «perfect man»

On the basis of reasonable activity of a man as his natural prop- erties Al-Farabi made a
number of conclusions about the humanistic equality of all people as a result of the overall reasonable nature of the autonomy of the human being, the creative activity of the person, freedom of the human will, independent of the value of human life. This issue Al-Farabi considered in his «Treatise on the views of the residents of the virtuous city».
Perfect society of Al-Farabi divides into three types: the great, medium and small. Great Society – a collection of companies of all people living in the land, the average – an association of people in some parts of the land, small-a small association of residents.
The greatest good and the highest perfection can be achieved, according to al-Farabi,
primarily the city, but not society, standing on the lower level of perfection. The latter AlFarabi considers the village, district, street and house. This system is a perfect society, drawn by Al-Farabi with strict logical sequence is the result of logical thinking scientist coming from the relationship between the concepts of general and private.
So, the most perfect form of society, by Al-Farabi, is the city. He uses the term city not only represents the city in the modern sense, as a unit of administrative-territorial division, but also to refer to the state and social groups.
An important place in the social and ethical teachings of Al- Farabi is the idea of a
virtuous city. Virtue, according to Al-Farabi, – this is the best moral qualities.  Read More here

  • THE ISLAMIC CONCEPT OF HUMAN PERFECTION*

William C. Chittick

The name `Islam’ refers to the religion and civilization based upon the Qur’án, a Scripture revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in the years AD 610-32. About one billion human beings are at least nominally Muslim, or followers of the religion of Islam. The modern West, for a wide variety of historical and cultural reasons, has usually been far less interested in the religious dimension of Islamic civilization than in, for example, that of Buddhistn or Hinduism. Recent political events have brought Islam into contemporary consciousness, but more as a demon to be feared than a religion to be respected for its sophisticated understanding of the human predicament.

Those few Westerners who have looked beyond the political situation of the countries where Islam is dominant have usually devoted most of their attention to Islamic legai and social teachings. They quickly discover that Islam, like Judaism, is based upon a Revealed Law, called in Arabic the Shari’a or wide road. Observance of this Law — which covers such domains as ritual practices, marriage relationships, inheritance, diet and commerce —is incumbent upon every Muslirn. But western scholars have shown far less interest in two other, more inward and hidden dimensions of the Islamic religion, mainly because these have had few repercussions on the contem-porary scene. Even in past centuries, when Islam was a healthy and flourishing civilization, only a relatively smalt number of Muslims made these dimensions their tentral concern.

The more hidden dimensions of Islam can be called `intellectuality’ and `spirituality’. The first deals mainly with the conceptual understanding of the human situation and the second with the practical means whereby a full flowering of human potentialities can be achieved. They are important in the present context because they provide clear descriptions of human perfection and set down detailed guidelines for reaching it. If we want to discover how Islam has understood the concept of perfection without reading our own theories into the Queán or imposing alien categories on the beliefs and practices of traditional Muslims, we have to pose our question to the intellectual and spiritual traditions of Islam itself. Read more Here

  • An Analysis of Ibn al-‘Arabi’s al-Insan al-Kamil, the Perfect Individual,

with a Brief Comparison to the Thought of Sir Muhammad Iqbal by Rebekah Zwanzig,

This thesis analyzes four philosophical questions surrounding Ibn al-‘Arabi’s concept of the al-insan al-kamil, the Perfect Individual. The Introduction provides a definition of Sufism, and it situates Ibn al-‘Arabi’s thought within the broader context of the philosophy of perfection. Chapter One discusses the transformative knowledge of the Perfect Individual. It analyzes the relationship between reason, revelation, and intuition, and the different roles they play within Islam, Islamic philosophy, and Sufism. Chapter Two discusses the ontological and metaphysical importance of the Perfect Individual, exploring the importance of perfection within existence by looking at the relationship the Perfect Individual has with God and the world, the eternal and non-eternal. In Chapter Three the physical manifestations of the Perfect Individual and their relationship to the Prophet Muhammad are analyzed. It explores the Perfect Individual’s roles as Prophet, Saint, and Seal. The final chapter compares Ibn al-‘Arabi’s Perfect Individual to Sir Muhammad Iqbal’s in order to analyze the different ways perfect action can be conceptualized. It analyzes the relationship between freedom and action.

1) what type/s of knowledge are necessary to gain a complete understanding of the eternal and non-eternal, and how this transformative knowledge leads to perfection;

2) The Perfect Individual as a level of existence, and how the individual fits into the dichotomy of eternal and non-eternal;

3) The Perfect Individual as a reflection of the Divine in the cosmos, or what the transformation and embodiment of perfection entails;

4) the Perfect Individual as an active agent in the world, and how this individual, after reaching perfection, interacts with the world. Some of the problems that will arise in the proceeding chapters and the proposed solutions are outlined below. Read more here

  • On the Relation of City and Soul in Plato and Alfarabi

Abu Nasr Muhammad Alfarabi, the medieval Muslim philosopher and the founder of Islamic Neoplatonism, is best known for his political treatise, Mabadi ara ahl al-madina al- fadhila (Principles of the Opinions of the Inhabitants of the Virtuous City), in which he proposes a theory of utopian virtuous city. Prominent scholars argue for the Platonic nature of Alfarabi’s political philosophy and relate the political treatise to Plato’s Republic. One of the most striking similarities between Alfarabi’s Mabadi ara ahl al-madina al- fadhila and Plato’s Republic is that in both works the theory of virtuous city is accompanied by a theory of soul. It is true that Alfarabi’s theory of soul differ considerably from that of Plato’s Republic. However, we propose that notwithstanding the differences, the two theories of soul do play an identically important role in the respective theory of virtuous city. The present article explores the relationship between the soul and the city in Plato’s Republic and Alfarabi’s Mabadi ara ahl al-madina al- fadhila, and intends to show that in both works the coexistence of the theory of soul and the city is neither coincidental nor a casual concurrence of two themes. Rather, the
concept of soul serves as a foundation on which Plato and Alfarabi erect their respective theory of perfect association. Thus, Alfarabi’s treatise resembles Plato’s Republic not only in the coexistence of the theory of soul and the city, but also in the important role of the concept of soul in the theory of virtuous city. Read more here

  • SEVEN LEVELS OF BEING

The secularity of the society in which we live must share considerable blame in the erosion of spiritual powers of all traditions, since our society has become a parody of social interaction lacking even an aspect of civility. Believing in nothing, we have preempted the role of the higher spiritual forces by acknowledging no greater good than what we can feel and touch.” Vine Deloria Jr

The perspective of modernity where Western Man as the egolatrous being is placed at the top of existence for all others to look towards for recognition.

1-HB4iHuvHa-ABmwikmBp9Zg

The pyramidal construction of Man from an Islamic perspective shifts our understanding of the seriousness of placing the egolatrous Man above God in constructing reality, while simultaneously allowing us to imagine what would be necessary in creating a transmodern critique in constructing the Human.

1-gF8BR2CfUsOr7oD0SqTHWg

THE ISLAMIC CONCEPT OF HUMAN PERFECTION:

Those dimensions of Islam dedicated to providing the guidelines for the development of the full possibilities of human nature came to be institutionalized in various forms. Many of these can be grouped under the name `Sufism’, while others can better be designated by names such as `philosophy’ or `Shiite gnosis’. In general, these schools of thought and practice share certain teachings about human perfection, though they also differ on many points. Here we can suggest a few of the ideas that can be found in most of these approaches.

Look also: Polishing your heart, Virtues Ethic for a modern Devotion in our times

Current decadence, greed, evil, falsehood, corruption, violence, injustice, exploitation, thus have a Cosmic undertone. It is a “Cosmic Law” that civilizations which have become megalomaniacal will inevitably collapse. Because all levels of existence are corroded – including the religious realm – only a Dimension that is beyond  can redeem us.

One of the many disastrous consequences of an ongoing repression of this trans-personal Ground of Being – and the mistaken assumption of the Absolute by a relative entity or self – is epitomized in our techno-industrial pursuit to convert the earth into one large global factory – reinforced by multinational monopoly. Herein, nature is viewed simply as exploitable “raw material” for a “manufacturing” process aimed at churning out “products” for the “consumer.” This apparent narrowing of human perspective is the logical result of paradigmatic trends linking back to the so-called Age of Enlightenment.

  • SEVEN LEVELS OF BEING(NAFS)

mohammed_kaaba_1315

The first verses regarding Jihad were revealed in Makkah before the Hijra to Medina. These verses reference “Jihad al-Nafs” or the struggle against the self (ego/ base desires)

 

  • Al GHAZALI ON JIHAD AL-NAFS [FIGHTING THE EGO] )

Meaning of nafs: It has two meanings.

First, it means the powers of anger and sexual appetite in a human being… and this is the usage mostly found among the people of tasawwuf [sufis], who take “nafs” as the comprehensive word for all the evil attributes of a person. That is why they say: one must certainly do battle with the ego and break it (la budda min mujahadat al-nafs wa kasriha), as is referred to in the hadith: A`da `aduwwuka nafsuka al-lati bayna janibayk [Your worst enemy is your nafs which lies between your flanks. Al-`Iraqi says it is in Bayhaqi on the authority of Ibn `Abbas and its chain of transmission contains Muhammad ibn Abd al-Rahman ibn Ghazwan, one of the forgers].

The second meaning of nafs is the soul, the human being in reality, his self and his person. However, it is described differently according to its different states. If it assumes calmness under command and has removed from itself the disturbance caused by the onslaught of passion, it is called “the satisfied soul” (al-nafs al-mutma’inna)… In its first meaning the nafs does not envisage its return to God because it has kept itself far from Him: such a nafs is from the party of shaytan. However, when it does not achieve calmness, yet sets itself against the love of passions and objects to it, it is called “the self-accusing soul” (al-nafs al-lawwama), because it rebukes its owner for his neglect in the worship of his master… If it gives up all protest and surrenders itself in total obedience to the call of passions and shaytan, it is named “the soul that enjoins evil” (al-nafs al-ammara bi al-su’)… which could be taken to refer to the ego in its first meaning.

7-fereydun

From the beginning of our entrance into the school of Sufism, we have been taught about the seven levels of being. These seven levels are like grades in any educational system which one must pass through in order to graduate. In our system, however, evaluations are made by a Higher Authority than the teacher.

Passing and failing grades are made known through real dreams, through the interpretation of which the teacher gives new responsibilities and duties to the seeker. But what is most important is that the seeker himself should be able to realize his own states so that he can live up to the next level to which he aspires. Obviously, first it is necessary that he be conscious, aware of his character and actions, and be sincere in looking at himself. But it is also necessary to thoroughly know the characteristics of each level, especially the level in which he is presumed to be, and the next level, in which he hopes to be. Read more here

  • To See Yourself within It: Bruegel’s Festival of Fools

by Todd Marlin Richardson

Bruegel’s Festival of Fools

The topics of blindness and self-awareness I discussed in relation to the
Peasant and Nest Robber bring me to the focus of my fourth and final chapter,
Bruegel’s Festival of Fools . In addition, the practices of making and viewing
works of art I have described for all of Bruegel’s later peasant paintings are also
helpful in thinking about this particular design. Nadine Orenstein argues for a late
dating of the print, after the now lost drawing by Bruegel, based on the words Aux
quatre Vents inscribed at the bottom center. This is the form of the publisher’s address
used by the widow of the print’s publisher, Hieronymus Cock, following his death in
1570. Orenstein speculates the drawing was completed in the last years of Bruegel’s
life, during the same time he painted the peasant panels, and the print produced after
his death.

Although fairly subtle, the composition of the Festival of Fools stages a
procession similar to a wagon play. (Wagon plays were processional dramas that took place during Ommegangen (devotional processions) in the 1550s and 1560s. Rhetoricians conceived of wagon plays as didactic episodes that could morally
edify and educate their audience. The plays utilized overt metaphors and personifications to create allegorical productions that focused on collective civic identity. Read more here

  • The Choice for Spiritual Ethics,Virtues and Uprightness in our times

The bivium of Pythagoras, this sign which leaves us free to choose the path of good or the path of evil.

“The letter” Y “represents the symbol of moral life. The question of good and evil arises before the free will of man: two roads open before him: the left, the thick branch of the “Y”, is wide and easy to access, but leads to the chasm from shame, that of the right, the thin branch, is a steep and painful path, but at the summit of which one finds repose in honor and glory. “

The letter “Y”, in antiquity, has often represented a “bivium” (a fork in the road); a point in life where we have to make a vital decision. According to Pythagoras, it represents the paths of virtue and vice. The letter Y is also symbolic of looking within, Inner contemplation, Meditation and inner wisdom.

Read more here

 

  • To Become a “Refugee”: Emigration to Sincerity or “uprightness” of Love

What the Emigration to Sincerity demands of us

Emigration: Historical Hijra

Starting from a narrow family-tribal environment Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) underwent 13 years of hardship and torment in Meccan society; with the immigration (Hijra) to Medina, a new stage began. This stage, if one takes into consideration the time that it took all religions to spread, is the starting point of one of the fastest religious developments in recorded history. In this sense, when one speaks of the Hijra one is not merely speaking of a journey from Mecca to Medina, or the starting point of a calendar; one is speaking of a new start for humanity.

The Hijra is symbolic of changing those conditions that cause problems and that clash with ideals and beliefs, as well as the search for new opportunities. ..

…The most important principle to learn from the Hijra is the constant observation of intention. In particular, Sufis consider the constant observation and control of intent to be a basic principle for attaining ikhlas (sincerity). From this aspect, Sufism can be considered to be a total investigation and interrogation of intention.

Goethe and his poem “Hegir” : Hijra

When one speaks of the Hijra one is not merely speaking of a journey from Mecca to Medina, or the starting point of a calendar;  but one is  also speaking of a new start for humanity. And Johann Wolfgang von Goethe make his Hijra, his emigration and take refuge in Islam. He became a “Refugee”.

The Hijra is symbolic of changing those conditions that cause problems and that clash with ideals and beliefs, as well as the search for new opportunities.

In this caravan poem, Goethe gives us a picture of the restless nomad existence which early Arabian poetry had enabled him to envision.

The whole “West-East Divan” is shot through with something of this nomadic restlessness. Already in the first great poem entitled “Hegir” the poet alludes to Arabian life and traditions. He is a True Pelgrim. He turns to the wisdom of the Sufis as Hafiz.

His own “Hedschra” is an inteliectual emigration to a simpler state of existence which seems to him to be purer and righter than his own immediate world. Thus he calls out to himself:

“Hegira”

North and South and West are quaking,

Thrones are cracking, empires shaking;

Let us free toward the East

Where as patriarchs we’ll feast:

There in loving, drinking, singing

Youth from Khidr’s well is springing.

His goal: to discover and reconcile in himself in a new, higher unity the multiplicity of monotheism’s divine expressions.  Such unity was always Goethe’s goal, for he well understood the alchemical truth that unity only divides in order to find itself again in a higher sense. As he wrote:

Anything that enters the world of phenomena must divide in order to appear at all. The separated parts seek one another again, and may find each other and be reunited: in the lower sense by each mixing with its opposite, that is, by simply coming together with it, in which case the phenomenon is nullified or at least becomes indifferent. But the union can also occur in the higher sense, whereby the separated parts are first developed and heightened, so that the combination of the two sides produces a third, higher being, of a new and unexpected kind. Read more here

Geef een reactie

Vul je gegevens in of klik op een icoon om in te loggen.

WordPress.com logo

Je reageert onder je WordPress.com account. Log uit /  Bijwerken )

Google photo

Je reageert onder je Google account. Log uit /  Bijwerken )

Twitter-afbeelding

Je reageert onder je Twitter account. Log uit /  Bijwerken )

Facebook foto

Je reageert onder je Facebook account. Log uit /  Bijwerken )

Verbinden met %s