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CONTENTS

Home Preface Knowledge and Religious Experience The Philosophical Test of the Revelations of Religious Experience The Conception of God and the Meaning of Prayer The Human Ego - His Freedom and Immortality The Spirit of Muslim Culture The Principle of Movement in the Structure of Islam Is Religion Possible? Allama Iqbal's Home Page

THE PHILOSOPHIC TEST OF THE REVELATIONS OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE


Scholastic philosophy has put forward thre e argume nts for the e xiste nce of God. The se argume nts, known as the Cosmological, the Te le ological, and the Ontological, e mbody a re al move me nt of thought in its que st afte r the Absolute . But re garde d as logical proofs, I am afraid; the y are ope n to se rious criticism and furthe r be tray a rathe r supe rficial inte rpre tation of e xpe rie nce . The cosmological argume nt vie ws the world as a finite e ffe ct, and passing through a se rie s of de pe nde nt se que nce s, re late d as cause s and e ffe cts, stops at an uncause d first cause , be cause of the unthinkability of an infinite re gre ss. It is, howe ve r, obvious that a finite e ffe ct can give only a finite cause , or at most an infinite se rie s of such cause s. To finish the se rie s at a ce rtain point, and to e le vate one me mbe r of the se rie s to the dignity of an uncause d first cause , is to se t at naught the ve ry law of causation on which the whole argume nt proce e ds. Furthe r, the first cause re ache d by the argume nt ne ce ssarily e xclude s its e ffe ct. And this me ans that the e ffe ct, constituting a limit to its own cause , re duce s it to some thing finite . Again, the cause re ache d by the argume nt cannot be re garde d as a ne ce ssary be ing for the obvious re ason that in the re lation of cause and e ffe ct the two te rms of the re lation are e qually ne ce ssary to e ach othe r. Nor is the ne ce ssity of e xiste nce ide ntical with the conce ptual ne ce ssity of causation which is the utmost that this argume nt can prove . The argume nt re ally trie s to re ach the infinite by me re ly ne gating the finite . But the infinite re ache d by contradicting the finite is a false infinite , which ne ithe r e xplains itse lf nor the finite which is thus made to stand in opposition to the infinite . The true infinite doe s not e xclude the finite ; it e mbrace s the finite without e ffacing its finitude , and e xplains and justifie s its be ing. Logically spe aking, the n, the move me nt from the finite to the infinite as e mbodie d in the cosmological argume nt is quite ille gitimate ; and the argume nt fails in toto. The te le ological argume nt is no be tte r. It scrutinize s the e ffe ct with a vie w to discove r the characte r of its cause . From the trace s of fore sight, purpose , and adaptation in nature , it infe rs the e xiste nce of a se lf-conscious be ing of infinite inte llige nce and powe r. At be st, it give s, us a skilful e xte rnal contrive r working on a pre -e xisting de ad and intractable mate rial the e le me nts of which are , by the ir own nature , incapable of orde rly structure s and combinations. The argume nt give s us a contrive r only and not a cre ator; and e ve n if we suppose him to be also the cre ator of his mate rial, it doe s no cre dit to his wisdom to cre ate his own difficultie s by first cre ating intractable mate rial, and the n ove rcoming its re sistance by the application of me thods alie n to its original nature . The de signe r re garde d as e xte rnal to his mate rial must always re main limite d by his mate rial, and he nce a finite de signe r whose limite d re source s compe l him to ove rcome his difficultie s afte r the fashion of a human me chanician. The truth is that the analogy on which the argume nt proce e ds is of no value at all. The re is re ally no analogy be twe e n the work of the human artifice r and the phe nome na of Nature . The human artifice r cannot work out his plan e xce pt by se le cting and isolating his mate rials from the ir natural re lations and situations. Nature ,