Passing From the ‘Self-Other’ Relationship to ‘Us’ in the Context of Belief in the Angels
Dr. Mustafa Ulusoy
In his consulting-room, a therapist often works with people who complain of emptiness, meaninglessness, and loneliness.(1) They describe the feeling of emptiness as a subjective experience that is painful and discomforting. People who say they suffer from loneliness, often speak of feelings of emptiness. One out of every four Americans say they are “chronically lonely.” While in France, the same percentage of people say they frequently feel lonely, and 54% say they have suffered from loneliness at some time in their lives.(2) Zeldin states that this is not a modern sickness, but that loneliness pre-dates this era.(3)
“The subjective experience of emptiness represents a temporary or permanent loss of normal relations of the self with object-representations, that is, with the world of inner objects that fixates intrapsychically the significant experiences with others and constitutes a basic ego identity and, therefore, a stable integrated self and a stable integrated world of internal objects.”(4) Existential psychotherapists define the feeling of emptiness as “existential isolation.”(5) “Existential isolation refers to an unbridgeable gulf between oneself and any other being.” “It refers too to an isolation even more fundamental-a separation from the world.” Yalom asserts that even if a person has most satisfying relationships with other people, complete self-knowledge, and a sense of wholeness, existential isolation is still something he cannot overcome.
E. Fromm agrees with the existential therapists who consider existential isolation to be unavoidable and inevitable. He says: “The awareness of his aloneness and separateness, of his helplessness before the forces of nature and of society, all this makes his separate disunited existence an unbearable prison.”(6) “The experience of separateness arouses anxiety; it is indeed the source of all anxiety. To be separate means to be helpless, unable to grasp the world -thing and people- actively; it means that the world can invade me without my ability to react.”(7)
“A defamiliarization occurs when meanings are wrenched from objects, symbols disintegrate, and one is torn from one’s moorings of ‘at homeness.'”(8) These sentences express perfectly the sense of emptiness. The two concepts most closely related to the sense of emptiness and existential isolation are meaninglessness and alienation.
A person can only know himself and other things when they have meaning. He can only have relations with the things around him when he learns of their meaning and gets to know them. Kurt Reinhardt describes as follows the alienation caused by the loss of meaning:
“Something utterly mysterious intervenes between him and the familiar objects of his world, between him and his fellowmen, between him and all his ‘values.’ Everything which he had called his own pales and sinks away, so that there is nothing left to which he might cling. What threatens is ‘nothing,’ and he finds himself and lost in the void.”(9)
Even if he sees this as inevitable and unavoidable, Yalom still asks: “How does one shield oneself from the dread of ultimate isolation?” In his view: “One may take a portion of the isolation into oneself and bear it courageously or resolutely.” The second solution Yalom proposes is relationship. Relationship does not dispel the sense of loneliness and basic isolation, but it alleviates it.
It is precisely on this point that the schools of psychology, like Yalom, have come to an impasse. Is man condemned to existential isolation and loneliness? Can he not be saved from the subjective experience of loneliness? What I shall attempt in this paper is to seek the answer to these questions. For reference I shall use the Risale-i Nur, in which I shall search for hints of the answers.
The subjective experience of emptiness was a feeling Said Nursi was familiar with. The Sixth Letter is a good example of this.(10) He experiences several sorts of exile or separation one within the other. Separation from his friends and relations, separation from the place he was born, separation from the beings who abandoned him and departed, separation from all beings lost in the darkness of the night, and finally the separation of beings on their deaths. The separations all produce a sense of exile or strangeness, which in my view expresses very aptly the sense of not belonging anywhere. Not belonging to a place means being alienated from the other beings there.
Just as Said Nursi himself experienced a sense of emptiness or futility, so he frequently uses it when comparing the points of view of belief and unbelief. In many places in the Risale-i Nur one encounters expressions like “… since he imagines the pages of beings to be confused and meaningless…”(11)
I shall leave the solutions Said Nursi offered for the subjective experience of emptiness to the second and third categorizations of human beings that attempted below, for at this point I think one has to ask the following: what is it that a person loses due to the subjective experience of emptiness? If it describes the awareness of a sense of emptiness, there must have been something that previously disappeared from within him. The most useful clue to this is found in Kernberg psychiatry, which provides the best definition of emptiness: “The subjective experience of emptiness represents a temporary or permanent loss of the normal relations of the self with object-representations.”(12) This is an excellent definition. What are the self-representations and object-representations in man? Seeking the answer to this question will assist us greatly in gaining a good understanding of the sense of emptiness.
MAN’S INTERNALIZATION OF HIMSELF AND OF THE UNIVERSE: THE FORMATION OF SELF-REPRESENTATIONS AND OBJECT-REPRESENTATIONS
Man does not begin life as a ‘tabula rasa.'(13) “The infant is equipped with basic feelings, as well as the basic ability to communicate them through expressive-motor mechanisms that are mainly concentrated in the face system.”(14)
Although babies are equipped with numerous senses, they have to develop them in many respects. The Risale-i Nur emphasizes the great difference between the ways men and animals are sent to this world: “… when animals come into the world, they come complete in all points in accordance with their abilities as though having been perfected in another world; that is, they are sent.”(15) “As for man, he needs to learn everything when he comes into the world; he is ignorant, and cannot even learn completely the conditions of life in twenty years. Indeed, he needs to go on learning till the end of his life. Also he is sent to the world in a most weak and impotent form, and can only rise to his feet in one or two years. Only in fifteen years can he distinguish between harm and benefit.”(16) Said Nursi explains the reason for this as follows: “This means that man’s innate duty is to be perfected through learning and to proclaim his worship of God and servitude to Him through supplication.”
Thus, the human being begins life in “undifferentiated” form.(17) The chief characteristic of this is the fact that the ‘I’ is not developed. Since particularly in the first six months of life, he is not aware of his “self,” he is not aware of “the other.”
One who is not conscious of his own being, will not differentiate between himself and “the other,” that is, beings outside himself. But this does not mean that the infant is in a passive position. It can perceive various stimulants and respond to them. These stimulants are perceived and responded to within the sense of “we,” rather than differentiating between the self and the other.
The infant lives with an “us” system, formed with its mother, without being aware of any distinction between the self and the other. This gives a strong sense of security to the child, who is created absolutely helpless. He feels like a drop in the ocean (ocean feeling). He perceives himself and all beings outside himself, particularly his mother, as not completely distinct from each other, and as beings closely tied to each other within a single system.(18) This close interconnection is to a large extent biological.
At around two years of age, as the infant’s awareness develops, it becomes more aware of itself, and so its world begins to be divided into two. The first thing it encounters with its unfolding consciousness is his “self.” With his developing “I,” it is as though he starts slowly to emerge, becoming aware of himself. And becoming aware of himself, he becomes more aware of “the other” outside himself. The world has then become divided into “the self” and “the other.”
Another very important mechanism starts to function with the development of the infant’s consciousness: internalization and the formation of self and object-representations. The child experiences innumerable interactions with the other, especially with his mother. He introjects the representation of the self in interaction with that object, the representation of an object, and the affective colouring of both the object-image and the self-image at the time of the interaction.(19) When he reaches around two and a half years of age, he internalizes his own function, the function of the other with whom he is interacting, and the feelings he experiences in this interaction. This stage is the “identification” stage. What the child internalizes is his own image, the other’s image, and his own function and that of the other.(20) “Just as the world settles in the child’s inner world, so the child’s inner world starts to become established in the world.”(21)
On reaching puberty, a person has completed his development from the point of view of internalization. Being created animate, man has consciousness as well as life. “Life is the summit and foundation of everything.”(22) “Life is the light of existence.” If something is without life, “it is a stranger, alone.”(23) A lifeless being, for example, a stone, has no relations with other things. When life enters a body, it causes it to have relations with others. Since birds, bees, and trees have life, they have their own web of relations. However, they are unaware of these. Life is “illuminated” through consciousness.(24) A living being becomes aware of his own being and that of others through consciousness. The sentence “a human being is able to move through the rooms of his house through his consciousness and mind, which are the light of life,”(25) explains that man can as though internalize himself. Man becomes aware of himself through consciousness and mind. He gains awareness of all the branches of his own house-of all existence, and he comes to know his spirit, consciousness, body, intellect, and various senses and feelings. He conceptualizes himself. He reaches conclusions about himself and values. Through consciousness and mind, man has a “self.” He encompasses his “self” and includes it. The image (temess?l) of himself is reflected in the mirror of his spirit, forming a representation (temsil) of himself in his own spirit. Man’s perfect creation does not remain at this; “that conscious and animate being may go in spirit as though as a guest to those worlds.”(26) On this journey, he interests himself with the beings and worlds of the outer world. Moreover, “those worlds too come as guests to his mirror-like spirit by being reflected and depicted there.”(27) His consciousness and intellect convey the things with which he has formed relations to the mirror of his spirit.They are reflected in the mirror of his spirit, and their representations formed. In this way, a man is constructed who is “a universal within particularity, and a world within … insignificance,”(28) and who internalizes everything. “One man’s spirit is worth the whole cosmos.”(29) The aim is “to make man understand all His names and experience all the varieties of His bounty…” Man was first of all given life, then consciousness, and thus he gained “comprehensivness.” “For with the comprehensiveness of his nature, man can understand and take pleasure in all the divine names.”(30) By virtue of this, man has relations with all the universe, in both its inner and outward aspects. “… by reason of his comprehensiveness, man is like a tiny index and miniature specimen of the universe and so displays the embroideries of all the names.”(31)
The representations of beings taking form in the mirror of his spirit disposes man to reflect the manifestation of divine oneness and be vicegerent on the earth. The manifestation of divine oneness is the simultaneous manifestation in one thing of the Creator’s endless names, which are manifested in all things; it includes the duties of beings, which constitute representations by forming images in the mirror of man’s spirit.(32) The universe, which is ‘established,’ is also established in man through the consciousness that has been given him. For man is the divine vicegerent on earth.(33) Man’s representation of the glorifications and worship of God performed by all beings is realized primarily on the inner level. For man to be able to represent their worship and glorifications, he has to know them, and be aware of them, and not only that, must internalize them. In order to be able to establish the outside world within himself, man has been given the ability to internalize the representations of all the things with which he has relations.
SPLIT WITH THE OTHER AND AGAIN LONELINESS
With the development of consciousness up to the age of puberty, man gradually becomes aware of his “self.” The more he becomes aware of it, the more he is differentiated from “the other.” “Consciousness is an aspect of existence according to which beings are distinct from one another.”(34) The “ocean feeling” of infancy disappears, as though the ocean separated into millions of droplets. “To extent to which the child emerges from that world it becomes aware of being alone, of being an entity separate from all others. This separation from a world, which in comparison with one’s own individual existence is overwhelmingly strong and powerful, and often threatening and dangerous, creates a feeling of powerlessness and anxiety.”(35)
There is no separation for beings without consciousness. Because a stone or a tree has no self-perception, it cannot experience a sense of separation from “the other.” However, although consciousness gains an individuality for beings, so it recaptures things that have become separated, and ties things together that are far apart.” Consciousness and intellect want to establish relations between everything. “The realms of beings in the universe are so interwoven they have made the universe into a totality.”(36) Man therefore wants to be reunited within a framework of meaningful ties between his self and the other, and to live as part of the universe’s system. “Bringing forth a coherent world is the first and last condition for having a consistent self-identity.”(37) Man always searches for that “ocean feeling” he has lost. He wants to establish relations both with himself and with all the other things from the ocean. However, now he wants to belong to the ocean not biologically, but within the framework of meaningful ties.
Kernberg and other pyschiatrists do not go beyond saying that man’s inner world is filled with the object-representations of the universe and self-representations. How do the two basic points of view of belief and misguidance, one of the matters most emphasized in the Risale-i Nur, determine the structure and contents of the object-representations that are formed in the mirror of man’s spirit? What sort of connection is there between belief in the angels and self-representations and object-representations? What is the connection between the points of view of belief and misguidance and the feeling of emptiness? From now on I shall focus on these questions? The method I want to follow is this: firstly I shall describe the categorization of representation (reflection) (temess?l) in the Risale-i Nur. Then, imagining how three different people observe the same tree, I shall investigate how the tree is represented differently in each of the people.
ONE TREE, THREE PEOPLE, THREE DIFFERENT SORTS OF REPRESENTATION
Said Nursi says that there are three sorts of representation or reflection.(38, 39) The first of these is how the tree in the example is reflected and represented in a person who looks from the point of view of misguidance; the second sort is how it is reflected and represented from the point of view of belief; and in the third sort it is seen how, from the point of view of a profounder belief and with the addition of the dimension of belief in the angels, the representation of the same tree differs.
The First Sort of Representation (temess?l): This is the reflection of dense, physical objects. An example of this would be the reflection of a tree in a mirror, or water, or on a shining surface. Said Nursi says that reflections of this sort are “are … other than the thing reflected; they are not the same, and they are dead, without life. They possess no quality other than their apparent identity.” I want to stress here that the reflection is both other than thing itself, and not the same, and dead. The image of a tree reflected in a shining object is certainly not the same as the tree itself. It is completely different to it. The tree’s image is dead. All they have in common are the visible characteristics.
This sort of reflection may explain how the tree is reflected and its representation formed in the mirror of the spirit of a person who looks at himself and the tree from the point of view of misguidance. The representation formed in accordance with the view of misguidance is lifeless and dead like the representation in the mirror. There is no relation between the image of the tree and tree outside, except an apparent similarity. The image of the tree in the spirit of a person who holds this view, is dead.
He sees the ‘I’ as ‘I’, and says “I own myself.”(40) He accords himself a meaning as he thinks fit. He gives himself and everything outside of himself meaning in accordance with his own wishes. He denies creation. The ‘I’ is something that functions in its own name and whose sole duty is to satisfy its own physical wishes and desires. Such an ‘I’ will not form a connection with the Creator and does not want to do so. The person with such an ‘I’ does not want to accept that he was brought into existence. He thinks he exists of himself. He imagines he possesses power. He wants to realize his own existence, and receives a narcissistic pleasure from this. He attributes his existence to himself and to causes. In reality his existence does not belong to himself, he is the work and art of his Creator. According to this idea, the person’s “self,” whose representation is formed in the mirror of his spirit, has no relation with his “self” as it is in reality. Like the image of the tree in the mirror. Whatever apparently exists in the ‘I’ was given it by the Creator, so an ‘I’ness that perceives the ‘I’ as ‘I’, in reality is broken off from its own “self.”
The consequence of the person perceiving himself in this way is that a dead image in the mirror of his spirit, the representation of which is also dead, takes on the form of a dead representation. There is no true relation or connection between his self which is reflected in the mirror of his spirit, and his actual self.
The person who sees his ‘I’ as ‘I’, will see the tree as only a tree. “For the man who says ‘I own myself’ must believe and say: ‘Everything owns itself.'”(41) “It imagines books and meaningful missives to be common, meaningless inscriptions.”(42) The tree has no meaning, it is only something that produces fruit. It has no connection with the Creator. There can be no ties between a tree and other beings if it is not situated within a particular framework of meaning. Everything is separate and independent. There are no meaningful relations between them. The others are perceived in this way because the ‘I’ is perceived thus.
Now, the person’s consciousness and intellect will convey both his own self and other beings (the other) to the mirror of his spirit, and there, being reflected in the mirror of the spirit, representations and images will form. In his view, the tree is something without meaning, whose functions look to itself, is broken off from other things in the universe, and bears no meaning. The tree’s reflection in this person, and its representation, are entirely divorced from its reality, and are completely different to it. The tree’s representation, its reflection in the mirror of the spirit, and the form it has acquired there are lifeless and dead. Since the tree reflected in this way has not conveyed any meaning to the person’s spirit, his spirit cannot establish communication with the tree. In reality the tree is meaningful and has functions, and in this respect it is living. But here the only connection between the tree itself and its reflection in the mirror of his spirit is the similarity in appearance. Such a conception of a tree and a tree reflected in the spirit cannot nourish or sustain the spirit. For the person has not penetrated to the fact that the tree is created. The tree reflected in the mirror of the spirit by means of consciousness and intellect is not the tree as it is in actuality in the outside world. The tree is reflected in a way unrelated to the tree as it is in reality.
The tree’s being completely different to the image of it that takes form in the person’s spirit, and his not having penetrated to the tree’s reality, give rise in him to a sense of alienation. He is a stranger to the tree, he is not acquainted with it. The tree he has internalized is not the tree as it was created by its Creator, it is a tree that has taken on the colour of his own ‘I’ness, and has become meaningless. He thus never gets to know the tree. He is alienated from all other things, which are exemplified by the tree. ‘I’ and the other are two separate beings. They do not recognize or know one another. The sense of alienation towards the other, or to put it another way, not knowing it, is a source of serious anxiety and fear. The unknown other frightens and alarms man, so he is in permanent expectation of danger.
The person becomes alienated from his own internalized being. For the self that has been internalized and reflected inwardly in the mirror of his spirit, is not his true self as shaped by the Creator. While it should be he himself who is closest to man, he becomes the one most alien to himself. This is a significant cause of pain. If the ‘I’ sees itself as meaningless, the self that it has internalized and reflected becomes meaningless. Having loaded this alienation on himself, he then adds to it the alienation of the other. The internalized other also becomes lifeless, dead, and meaningless.
Even if the person lives amid boundless existence, the object-representations he has internalized and have accumulated in his spirit are lifeless, soulless, and as though dead. In this case, there are also no ties between the object-representations reflected in his spirit. They have no total meaning. The absence of relations between them causes his spirit pain. The representations also continuously disappear. The image of a withered tree in the mirror of the person’s spirit causes his spirit pain and distress. The tree withered up and died, and like the tree disappeared, so does its representation. In this respect, since the person anyway considered the tree to be meaningless, or because he did not arrive at a meaning that conformed to the reality of its createdness (we could also call this an imaginary meaning), the dead tree together with its role representation (the tree’s meaning that should be reflected in the person’s spirit) vanish from his spirit.
This point of view completely ’empties out’ a person, filling his world with utter loneliness and emptiness. For his internalized self and the inward representations of the beings of the outside world have no shared point other than an apparent similarity. To put it another way, because there is no relation between the inner representations of the outer things and himself, he experiences a sort of nothingness. There is nothing within him that is related to the things outside him. Nothingness means existential emptiness. The representations of things in the mirror of his spirit being without life, spirit, and meaning, means that his spirit is unnourished. An unnourished spirit continuously experiences a sense of existential emptiness. The spirit of such a person suffers constant distress. This “chronic meaninglessness” leads him to look on himself as though he had nothing within him at all. His spirit suffers distress because the representations reflected in his mirror are without life and meaning and are dead. He is filled with dead things. The self within him is dead and without life. Like a dead child in the womb. Just like the psychological distress suffered by a woman carrying within her a dead child, the person who bears within himself his dead self and the dead other, experiences terrible suffering.
For the person who thinks his existence is from himself and denies that he is created, relations are severed with the other and he is completely separate from them. There is no link whatsoever between ‘I’ and the other. The ‘I’ who is alien to his self is alien to the other. The ‘I’ and “the other” are two unconnected beings.
The Second Sort of Representation: The second sort of representation in Said Nursi’s categorization is “the reflection of physical luminous objects.”(43) By way of example, he cites the sun’s reflection in shining objects. Here, the sun’s reflection in the mirror is not identical with the sun outside, but it is not completely different either. Said Nursi says that the sun reflected in the mirror does not resemble the actual sun in essence, but that it possesses most of its characteristics and may be thought of as living. Light and the seven colours in light, which are attributes of the sun, are found in its reflection in the mirror. Also, heat radiates from the sun which is reflected in the mirror. The actual sun however is not present in the mirror, only some of its characteristics are found in it.
This sort of representation is a good analogy for helping us to understand how the tree may be represented in a person who looks at his “self” and the tree (the other) with “the consciousness of belief.”
The Second Person
The person’s ‘I’ accepts that he was given existence. He says: “I am the creature and artefact of the All-Glorious Maker. I manifest His mercy and munificence.”(44) He sees himself as a work of art of his Creator. His existence is not from himself but from the Creator. The reason for his existence is to recognize the Creator and know Him, and to serve Him as a mirror to the manifestation of His names. The representation of an ‘I’ that perceives himself thus in the mirror of his “self’s” spirit will be like the representation of the sun in the mirror. The reflection and representative of his “self” in the mirror of his spirit are fairly close to his own reality.
An ‘I’ such as this sees the tree not as a tree but as a means of communication bearing its Creator’s message. “When he obtains information about the universe, he sees that his ‘I’ confirms it. This knowledge will remain as light and wisdom for him…”(45) In his mind, the tree is something meaningful. Accepting the fact it is created, he forms a relation with its Creator. This relation leads him to ‘read’ the tree (the other) in the light of his tie and relation with the Creator. The tree is saved from the darkness of meaninglessness by being related to the Creator. It is the Creator’s work of art, and is read as a mirror reflecting His names. Being read in this way the tree becomes related to all other beings. Its reality is its being its Creator’s work, art, and a mirror to His names. Because this sort of reading draws close to its reality, the tree is transformed into something living and charged with duties. The intellect and consciousness of a person holding this view convey the tree to mirror of his spirit. The representation and reflection of the tree perceived in this way are like the reflection of the sun. The tree’s reflection is not the tree itself, and it is not different to it. The tree’s representation in the person’s spirit is living. It constantly speaks with him. For him, the tree is a living missive by which he may communicate with his Creator. It informs him about its Creator’s attributes, and makes Him known.
Since, thanks to this point of view and knowledge of God, the tree outside becomes luminous like the sun, the tree’s representation in the person’s spirit also gains luminosity. And that luminous, living tree nourishes the person’s spirit.
The representations of things in the mirror of the person’s spirit are related to one another, each of them (all the others) is a mirror to the works, art, and names of his own Creator.
Here, the thing whose representation is formed is the tree’s meaning within itself, its function (role representations). If the tree dies, it will cause no pain to the person’s spirit. For when that happens, its representation remains in the mirror of the spirit, and is living. For the tree is not independent or something that exists in its own name. It exists through its Creator and in His name. The tree may die, but just as the message contained in a torn up letter does not have to be erased from the reader’s memory; so the role representation-function representation in the person’s spirit persists. This prevents the person’s object-representations in the universe being lost. He does not suffer from such a problem. If the Creator exists, everything exists. If the Creator exists, everything has meaning and everything exists as representations and role representations in the mirror of his spirit.
The person’s personal universe is full of living representations of the things in the universe. These living representations nourish the spirit. The representations of things in the mirror of his spirit are not identical to the things ‘outside’ but they are not different to them either. This prevents the person suffering from an existential emptiness. His inner world is full of the representations of beings and these are living. In his spirit are innumerable living representations of things with which he can form relations. Man cannot be nourished with the image of fruit on the tree in the mirror, but just as a person may be warmed and illuminated by the sun reflected in the mirror, so too the spirit and heart may be nourished by the object-representations, which are living and meaningful. A nourished heart and spirit are saved from chronic existential emptiness and a feeling of meaninglessness, and the distress they cause.
Having the same Creator makes man the friend and companion of other beings. He sees himself and the others all together within a totality created by the same Creator. For man, who with his consciousness has been given the opportunity to know the other, is equal to it both in respect of createdness, and in the inability to be a god or object of worship. This awakens in man a warm feeling of belonging to one. All beings are transformed into things he knows. He is filled with the sense of living in a stable world, “like his own home,” in which all beings and things are bound to one another many times over. He lives in a friendly environment that might be described in terms of “All other things are letters carrying messages to me from my Creator.”
The state of this second person resembles that of a woman bearing within her a living child. The child is alive, not dead like with the first person, and it has ceased being a danger to the mother. He is not an “alien” who has to be saved from himself. Promising hope to the mother, the child expresses a meaning in her spirit. In one respect it is still not a human being who lives outside, on the planet. The mother still has not established full relations with it. She knows it partially. The child does not have the consciousness to be addressed fully. There are still some things missing.
Although the second person has formed a relation and connection with the Creator and his relationship with the tree is within the framework of this, there is still something deficient in the dimension of the relationship. What is it that is missing?
Man is a conscious being, and consciousness forms relations with consciousness. In this second point of view, man formed conscious relations with his Creator. This gave rise in him to a ‘belief consciousnessness.’ The consciousness afforded by belief saved “the other” from meaninglessness, allowed him the opportunity of reading the Creator’s art on the other. Reading things by virtue of the relation of knowledge of God established with the Creator, Who is absolute consciousness, secured an important leap forward. However, there are still some things missing in the other.
If the things with which man has relations are also conscious, it adds an important dimension to the relationship. Just as man reads the other with his consciousness, and is aware of it, and discovers it; so too he wants to be read by the other, and discovered, and known by it. Man reads the tree (the other) with the consciousness that springs from belief in the Creator, but there is still something missing in the tree.
The third sort of representation: This is the reflection of luminous spirits. The reflection of spirit beings, the creatures of the unseen worlds like the angels, is identical to the beings themselves.(46) That is to say, if the angels and other spirit beings are represented somewhere, they are present as they are in actuality. Said Nursi also emphasizes that the reflection in representations of this sort is living. However, since the representation appears in relation to the capacity of the mirror, he points out that there is a difference between the spirit being and the representation, and that the reflection is not the same in essence.
Who can be included among these? Said Nursi puts the angels in this group, the other beings of the unseen world and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This is the reason Said Nursi uses the expression “whose essence is light and selfhood, luminous.”
This sort of representation may explain how the representations of things will change when belief in the angels is articulated, in the spirit of a person if he and other beings are addressed with knowledge of God.
The Third Person
The third man is articulation of the second. What is deficient in the second man’s relationship with the tree is the tree’s lack of consciousness. Man is aware of the other (the tree) through his consciousness. He recognizes its existence. He establishes a relation with it. He internalizes the other by way of consciousness.
If beings have no consciousness, two major problems emerge. The First Problem: The function of all beings is to act as mirrors to the Creator’s infinite names. But if with his consciousness man is not aware of the Creator’s endless names, or they cannot be understood by man’s consciousness, or if although he is aware of them he cannot read them properly, the manifestation appears to us as unnecessary. For the decorations, beauty, and inscriptions of beings “self-evidently require the gazes of thoughtful admirers and wondering, appreciative lovers; it demands their existence.”(47) The Second Problem: Man’s perceiving with his consciousness that the tree is unconscious and is unaware of him, reduces the relationship to a single dimension. A relationship is communication between two beings. For a full relationship to be established between man and the tree, the tree also has to be conscious, and it has to be able to recognize and know man. If in respect of createdness, man sees himself as equal with the tree, and is friendly and familiar with it, he will want to be known consciously by “the other” in the dialogue he has set up with it.
If the attributes such as art, beauty, order, perfection, knowledge, power, intention, and care that are to be observed on the tree are not perceived by anyone, or even if they are perceived, are met with the sort of attitude of the first person above, they lose all meaning. If they are not recognized by consciousness and read as they should be, it is meaningless that they should be on the tree. “… creatures exist for conscious beings, and find their perfection though conscious beings, and rejoice through conscious beings, and are saved from futility through conscious beings…”(48) “Although external beings are outwardly inanimate and unconscious…”(49) However, the attributes observed on the tree demonstrate certainly an intention and purpose. The tree is raised most consciously in most purposive form, it is taken from stage to stage. “…they all perform extremely vital, living, and conscious duties and glorification.” If the tree’s passing from stage to stage occurs consciously, there must be a conscious being who will read it (the other) with his consciousness, and understand the names manifested on it, and study them.
It is here that the impossibility becomes clear of explaining beings without the angels. If the purpose of the existence of an unconscious being like a tree is not known by a conscious being, the being becomes meaningless, as though a non-thing. It is the angels who understand the duties of worship that unconscious beings perform and the glorifications they offer, and state them and represent them in the inner worlds, and offer them to the divine court. “Just as the angels are their representatives expressing their glorifications in the world of the inner dimension of things, so are they the counterparts, dwellings, and mosques of those angels in the external and manifest world.”(50) Like men, the angels are “spectators of the palace of the universe, the observers of the book of creation, and the heralds of the sovereignty of dominicality.”(51) In this way, through the angels, unconscious beings are saved from being meaningless, as would be the case if there was no one to observe and study them or to proclaim the duties they perform. Since the angels have undertaken the task of presenting the duties of beings “knowingly at the divine court,”(52) all beings perform their functions consciously and with awareness.
Because of the angels, our concept of “the other” changes. All the beings (the other) in the manifest world have to have angels. The angels belong to the unseen worlds, and for the reasons I tried to set out above, their existence is necessary. If there is a tree, there has also to be an angel. If there are no trees without angels, there will be significant differences concerning this point in our definition of existence. In the Twenty-Ninth Word it is said: “… beings are not restricted to this manifest world.”(53) This is an important step forward for man and for his understanding of existence. In the continuation it says “existence is not limited to it.” That is, beings are not limited to the beings we see here in the manifest world. The definition of “the other” is thus greatly expanded. “There are numerous other levels of existence in relation to which the manifest world is an embroidered veil. Furthermore, since, just as the sea is appropriate for fish, and the world of the unseen and the world of meaning appropriate for spirits, and this necessitates their being filled with them; and since all commands testify to the existence of the meaning of the angels…” Thus, angels and other spirit beings are included in existence, expanding the concept. The angels are created beings, charged with the duties of conveying the divine names to the manifest world, who themselves have no power to create.
The concept of “the other” is not only expanded with the angels and other spirit beings; visible beings also gain consciousness with them. With the angels the tree (the other) takes on another meaning. It is saved from the meaninglessness of being unconscious, and its duties being unknown and unrecognized.
Our first problem is thus solved with the existence of the angels. Now, man is not the only conscious being. The angels and spirit beings are creatures that have been given consciousness in the inner world. All beings have an angel, and these angels observe and gaze on the divine names manifested on the beings, and represent their duties in the name of beings which appear to be unconscious when it is supposed there are no angels.
Now there are no beings without consciousness. All beings are conscious by virtue of their angels. Neither is there an unconscious “other.” All “others” are conscious. They now cease to be mere meaningful missives, and become conscious envoys. In the view of the second person, the tree was the Creator’s missive. It has now as though become by means of the angels a conscious, conversing addressee. The angels are living, conscious envoys who come as guests to our spirits. The angel envoy is not one who comes bringing a letter, and goes taking another. He is an envoy who himself speaks. The tree consists of the words in the manifest world of the conscious, speaking angel. “… the All-Wise Maker causes all the realms of beings in the universe to speak.”(54)
The tree and the angel being perceived together forms another link between the ‘I’ and “the other,” and this will solve our second problem as well. When inanimate beings are thought to be without angels, they are lifeless and unconscious. This gives rise to an absolute loneliness. Being unknown is to be completely alone. Now, with each being is an angel who knows it and recognizes it, who watches it performing its functions, and acts as the herald of these duties. Every part of the universe is inhabited, and it is inhabited with life and consciousness. A universe without life and consciousness is dead. The stars, which hang suspended in the skies, whose aloneness frightens man have now become the vehicles of the conscious angels. With their consciousness they ponder over the face of the earth and observes the duties of beings. “… the universe is seen to be full of angels, spirit beings, and intelligent beings.”(55)
Since through his consciousness, man can internalize the other, be aware of the other, and experience his relations with the other consciously, he wants also to be known by the other, and to be internalized by it. This is one of man’s basic needs. For he internalizes the relations he forms with the other as much as he internalizes the other itself. It is clear that the internalization of relations formed with a conscious other will be very different to internalization of relations formed with an other who is unconscious.
On man internalizing the other itself and his relations with it and internally representing them, he is in a sense making firm and stable the other and his relationship with it. On the other becoming conscious by means of the angel, man also is perceived and known by the angel. In this way the angel too makes man firm and constant, as well as the other’s relationship with man. The relationship continues also in further dimensions. The angels loves those men who are aware of them and have as their viewpoint that of the third person. They pray to their Compassionate Sustainer for them, seeking their forgiveness, and calling down blessings on them.(Qur’an: 33:56; 40:7, 8, 9.)
The tree has now ceased to be something with which man has formed a one-way relation. Apparently unconscious, by means of its angel it responds to the person who is its addressee. There is now two-way conscious communication. The relationship has become a two-way process and a true relationship.
The contact of a person who has feeling for the tree, makes contact with it, knows that it is affected, and knows that it knows it is recognized and felt through the angel, who is the tree’s consciousness. By means of the angel the tree also knows that contact has been made with it, and will understand and feel that it has been pondered over. By means of its angel the tree will even feel a gratification particular to angels.
The tree’s nature has now changed having gained consciousness through its angel. Its representation and reflection will also change in the mirror of the person’s spirit, who through belief in the angels sees the tree together with its angel. I stated above that in the third sort of reflection investigated in the Risale-i Nur, the representations of the angels and spirits are identical [with their actual beings]. Whatever the tree is, when perceived together with its angel its representation in the person’s spirit is the same. Through belief in the Creator in the second point of view the representation acquires life; then with belief in the angels another dimension is added to it, and it acquires consciousness as well. The tree represented in the mirror of the person’s spirit is identical with the external tree. The tree which is reflected inwardly in man, is now a tree that is a mirror to its Sustainer’s names, that glorifies Him, and has become conscious with its angel, which, being a conscious being perceives the manifested names and glorifications, represents them and offers them to the divine court. Now, by means of their angels, all external beings are conscious, and in all inwardly-reflected beings are conscious. The person’s spirit is now full of the reflections of conscious beings. He establishes conscious relations with all beings. He represents their duties, while their angels represent his reflections.
A sense of “us” is born from the equality of both the ‘I’ and the other being created; but this sense cannot be attained completely with an other that has no angel. The sense of “us” is a sense of shared belonging, with all beings on both sides knowing each other. It is a basic existential need for man.(56) Throughout his life man searches for the “ocean feeling,” which he lost when he grew out of babyhood. In order to say “us creatures,” all beings have to be able to say “we.” The tree (and inanimate beings) proclaim their createdness through the tongue of disposition only, but with the consciousness it gains through the angel, who by virtue of its consciousness is aware of the tree’s createdness and proclaims it, it becomes possible for it to consciously say “us.” Through this relationship, which is established between the ‘I’ and the other through createdness, mutual recognition, and knowledge of each other’s duties, the person acquires a sense of “us” without losing his own individuality.
To return to the analogy of the child in the womb: the child has now been born. Mother and child are now talking with one another and getting to know one another. Both are responding to each other, that is, they are able to establish full mutual communication.
For the person, all beings (the other) in the universe together with the angels are now not just acquaintances, they have founded a friendship between two conscious beings who know each other. It is not a one-sided familiarity and acquaintanceship with the beings in the universe, but a familiarity in which both sides know each other. The split between ‘I’ and the other resulting from the viewpoint with no Creator, was healed on one side with knowledge of God. Then, with belief in the angels, the split was completely healed, and the second side of the relationship, that of the other, was included. When the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Uhud is a mountain; we love it and it loves us,” he was pointing out this two-sided relationship.
At the same time, the universe is the scene of the constant renewal of all beings (the other), and their passing from state to state, and vanishing and new beings replacing them. For the third person, who faced a dead tree with knowledge of God and belief in the angels, the tree’s death will cause his spirit no pain. The tree’s leaves may wither up and fall, or even rot, but the tree’s angel continues its existence, without dying or rotting. The representation of the tree’s angel in the person’s spirit may persist, even if the tree dies and rots. It still represents the tree’s glorifications. It still may be light and sustenance for the person’s spirit through the glorifications it represents. Even if the tree dies, the representations of its duties continue in the spirit. In any event, this is the tree’s duty as far as man is concerned. Although beings pass from state to state, and flow on and depart, the angels hold in their hands the names manifested on them, and their duties and glorifications. Thus, the person understands that nothing at all goes to nothing.
Man’s companionship with the angels continues after death. Death is not a journey he makes alone. It is a journey made in the companionship of angels, who are familiar friends. Azra’il, the angel of death, who represents the glorifications man offers at the moment his spirit leaves his body, ceases to be an object of fear, and becomes a friend together with whom he makes the journey.(57)
* Psychotherapist and psychiatrist.
** The brackets are mine.
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3. Zeldin, ?nsanl???n Mahrem Tarihi, 68.
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13. V. F. Guidano, The Self in Process (The Guildford Press, 1991), 17.
14. Guidano, The Self in Process, 18.
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16. Nursi, The Words, 324.
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23. Nursi, The Words, 523.
24. Nursi, The Words, 523.
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26. Nursi, The Words, 524.
27. Nursi, The Words, 524.
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29. M. D. Unamuno, Ya?am?n Trajik Duygusu (Istanbul: ?nkilap Kitabevi, 1986).
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31. Nursi, The Flashes Collection, 458.
32. Nursi, The Words, 523-4.
33. Nursi, The Words, 115.
34. J. Kovel, Tarih ve Tin: Özg?rle?me Felsefesi ?zerine Bir ?nceleme (Ayr?nt? Yay?nlar?, 1991), 95.
35. E. Fromm, Escape From Freedom (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1941), 29.
36. Nursi, The Flashes Collection, 415.
37. Guidano, The Self in Process, 15.
38. Nursi, The Words, 210.
39. Bedi?zzaman Said Nursî, Mesnevi-i Nûriye [Turk. trans. Abd?lmecid Nursî] (Istanbul: S?zler Yay?nevi, 1977), 113.
40. Nursi, The Words, 560.41. Nursi, The Words, 560.
43. Nursi, The Words, 210.
44. Nursi, The Words, 320.
45. Nursi, The Words, 559.46. Nursi, The Words, 210.47. Nursi, The Words, 522.
48. Nursi, The Words, 98.
49. Nursi, The Words, 530.
50. Nursi, The Words, 530.
51. Nursi, The Words, 191.
52. Nursi, The Words, 531.
53. Nursi, The Words, 528.
54. Nursi, Letters, 339-40.
55. Nursi, Letters, 342.
56. Yalom, Existential Psychotheraphy, 362.57. Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, The Rays Collection [Eng. trans.] (Istanbul: S?zler Publications, 1998), 277.