YUNUS & CONTEMPORARY HUMANIST

Are you hungry? Did I eat your ration?
Did I deprive you, cause your starvation?

Humanism, conflict resolution, non-violence, peace and reconciliation groups and many other political and non-political groups have flourished throughout the world in the last few decades. The Sixties in particular were known years of rebellion against taboos and the decade of love, peace and friendship. Many of these ideas have been collected together in beautiful simplicity by radical humanist associations. One could imagine Yunus Emre as a prominent member of such a group had he lived in our time. Imagine a dialog of Yunus Emre with a Humanist:


YUNUS EMRE
CONTEMPORARY HUMANIST

" If you mean to wipe off 
all the rust that covers the hearts, 
Be sure to utter this 
word which is life's true summary;

The man who doesn't see 
the nations of worlds as one
Is a rebel even 
if the pious claim he's holy.

Listen to my comment 
on the strictures of the canon:
Orthodox faith is a ship, 
its sea is Reality.

No matter how impregnable 
are the planks of the ship,
They are bound to crack and shatter 
when waves rage in that sea.

Listen, my loved one, 
let me give you a fact beyond this:
The rebel against Truth 
is the saint of orthodoxy.
"[5]

"
My madness is love for the Friend,
Lover know what my hopes portend,
For me duality must end:
God and I must not live apart.
"[5]

"
God permeates the whole wide world,
Yet his truth is revealed to none.
You better seek Him in yourself,
You and He aren't apart - you're one.
"[5]

"
We regard no one's religion 
as contrary to ours,
True love is born 
when all faiths are united as a whole.
"[5]

"
Mystic is what they call me.  
Hate is my only enemy;
I harbor a grudge against none.
To me the whole wide world is one.
"[5]

"
The man who feels 
the marvels of true love
Abandons his religion and nation.
" [5]<

"You keep trying to use it to entice
 The faithful, but what you call Paradise
 Cannot boast of more than a few houris
 And I don't hanker after their caress.
"[9]

"God almighty, 
 why all this talk, 
 why must we prattle about 
 a handful of dust?
"[9]
" RELIGION FIRST: ... We believe however, that traditional dogmatic or authoritarian religions that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human needs and experience do a disservice to human species... As nontheists, we begin with humans not God, nature, not deity... Some humanists believe we should reinterpret traditional religions and reinvest them with meanings appropriate to the current situation... But we reject those features of traditional religious morality that deny humans a full appreciation of their own potentialities and responsibilities. "[13]

" ETHICS FOURTH: ...But reason must be tempered by humility, since no group has monopoly of wisdom or virtue... we believe in the cultivation of feeling and love... " [13]

" HUMANITY AS A WHOLE IN CLOSING: ...We urge recognition of the common humanity of all people... we want a world in which peace, prosperity, freedom, and happiness are widely shared. "[13]

" Only a humanist can suggest that, even if there be a god, it is OK to disagree with him, her or it. "[17]

" When I became convinced that the universe is natural, that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom... "[17]

"Humanity perse cannot be aggressive. Only would-be humans can be. As a whole, humanity cannot aggress against itself or indeed against other species. Humanity is a complex, holistic system that has, by dint of intelligence, finally realized its universal mission. But unrealized humans are not yet parts of that whole. " [14]

"...a being in itself, which have congregated into exclusive tribal units called 'nations', many with religious overtones, have continually fought amongst themselves and even now are preparing to annihilate the species itself by means of nuclear power....[snip]They have not even recognized that they are indeed, a species, the fundamental sign of intelligence! "[14]

"Apparently, certain of humanity's more advanced members ally themselves to the concept of humanity, if not to it itself, using adjectives such as 'kind', 'benevolet' , 'good' and 'humane' to describe the collective species. Once the unit, 'humanity' actually comes into being, tribal units will disappear or be merged, the result being peace between species members -- an organic whole! But more -- and what only a gifted few realize -- the being called 'humanity' will add a new cosmic dimension to the very existence of all its 'cells' or humans. "[14]

The similarities are striking if we allow that loose definition of God (loose in the sense that it does not fit into fundamentalist ideas) in Yunus Emre parallels the non-theism of the humanists. Both question religious authority and orthodoxy. They value human beings as the most important of all -- Yunus Emre makes humans "Godly" whereas the humanists get rid of God totally in favor of human beings. The important knowledge or the Truth of Yunus Emre should be saught within an individual. Good and evil both go together; they are creations of God (or part of nature, as humanists seem to imply). All humans beings , just like good and evil, are also creations of God (or co-exist with universe, similar to Neo-Platonist ideas among the Sufis). Therefore they should all be equal, regardless of "nation" , religion or any philosophy.

There are some differences between Emre and the humanist; after all, one is contemporary, and the other is from seven centuries ago. As much as religious humanism sounds radical, or "heretical" in today's world, Yunus Emre's Sufism sounded the same way in thirteenth century Moslem Anatolia. Emre is part of a religious tradition, whereas humanism is seeks to replace religious ideas with an alternative way of life; Kurtz [12] calls it "eupraxophy" (good conduct and wisdom in living, derived from Greek roots "eu" [good], praxis [practice], and sophia [philosophical and scientific wisdom]). Humanist eupraxophy attempts to apply the philosophical implications of science to the life of man. It seeks to develop a cosmic perspective, based on the most reliable findings encountered on the frontiers of science. It does not focus on one particular area; rather it focuses on understanding the effects of science as a whole on the self, and the self itself in relation to its environment.

Contemporary humanism is closely related to what is in general referred to as the "left" in today's world. Yunus Emre inspired another great Turkish poet, Nazim Hikmet. Hikmet was a prominent Marxist exiled from Turkey who ended up in Moscow right by the side of Lenin and Stalin. Nazim Hikmet wrote of Yunus Emre:

I have a different appreciation of Yunus
Through him the Turkish peasant gave voice to a whole age
Of his concerns not for the world to come
But for this world
[5]

He refers particularly to Yunus' ideas of shared property and equality between races, classes, and the whole humanity.

These ideas bear a striking resemblace to the popular movements among conflict resolution and peace-building groups like Moral Re-Armament (MRA) [18] and the Institute of Multi Track Diplomacy (IMTD) [19], as well as world-wide organizations like the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Movement. The Moral Re-Armament movement bases much of its work on the ecumenical ideas above, reaching to thousands of people in healing the sufferings of war, and conflict all over the world. Today many countries adopt essentially secular administrative systems allowing free practice of religion and respect for all kinds of religious ideas. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement similarly described humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality as its basic principles.

Yumue Emre promoted these ideals seven centuries ago when fundamental religious differences were leading to bloody crusades!

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Written by Turgut Durduran , durduran@force.stwing.upenn.edu.
All Rights Reserved. Please refer to Bibliography section for sources used here.
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