“If you are bent on proving that your own tradition alone is correct, and pour scorn on all other points of view, you are interjecting self and egotism into your study, and the texts will remain closed. I found this idea beautifully expressed by the influential twelfth-century Muslim mystic and philosopher Ibn al-Arabi:
Do not attach yourself to any particular creed exclusively, so that you may disbelieve all the rest; otherwise you will lose much good, nay, you will fail to recognize the real truth of the matter. God, the omnipresent and omnipotent, is not confined to any one creed, for, he says, “Wheresoever ye turn, there is the face of Allah.” Everyone praises what he believes; his god is his own creation, and in praising it he praises himself. Consequently he blames the beliefs of others, which he would not do if he were just, but his dislike is based on ignorance.
This was becoming my own experience. I was writing about the three Abrahamic faiths, but could not see any of one of them as superior to any of the others. Indeed, I was constantly struck by their profound similarity. I was equally delighted by the insights of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian thinkers: none of them had a monopoly of truth. Working in isolation from one another, and often in a state of deadly hostility, they had come up with remarkably similar conclusions. The unanimity seemed to suggest that they were onto something real about the human condition.”
The Spiral Staircase, P. 288-289
“In the words of the Old French text of The Quest of the Holy Grail, if he wants to succeed, he must enter the forest “at a point that he, himself, had chosen, where it was darkest and there was no path.” The wasteland in the grail legend is a place where people live inauthentic lives, blindly following the norms of their society and doing only what other people expect.”
The Spiral Staircase, P. 268
The violent upheavals of the twentieth century have made millions of people homeless in one traumatic uprooting after another. Exile, is of course, not simply a change of address. It is also spiritual dislocation. Anthropologists and psychologists tell us that displaced people feel lost in a universe that has suddenly become alien. Once the fixed point of home is gone, there is fundamental lack of orientation that makes everything seem relative and aimless. Cut off from the roots of their culture and identity, migrants and refugees can feel that they are somehow withering away and becoming insubstantial. Their world – inextricably linked with their unique place in the cosmos – has literally come to an end.”
– The Spiral Staircase, P.23-24.