The Search For Myself: How I Began Questioning Everything
I first began comparing scriptures from the Bible and the Quran aged just nine. No, that’s not an exaggeration. There are two websites I was reading: answeringchristianity.com and answeringislam.com. Both of them were convinced they were the absolute infallible truth.
And apparently, so was everybody else. This made me wary: it’s not possible that everyone was right. But, actually, in a way, I’ve found that everyone is. That’s because beliefs tend to be subjective, though I would not classify myself as a moral relativist.
I’ve always felt an inner drive to discover the truth about life, and have been asking the big questions for as long as I remember. Coming from an orthodox Muslim family, this tendency raised a lot of problems. My parents could not understand why I couldn’t just believe. And really, neither could I.
The spiritual quest is one that has been a driving force and a part of my core being for as long as I remember. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s my defining trait.
To me, we are incorporeal souls inhabiting human bodies, and my experience with reprogramming my subconscious mind has shown me that we are essentially a computer that is programmable and that physical reality and our experiences are created and dictated by the subconscious mind, which serves as both servant and master of the conscious mind.
I found the way that religion was taught to me in my upbringing to be restrictive: no music, reading the ingredients of everything in case something haram was slipped in there (I had a little book of E-numbers), and rules surrounding what I could and couldn’t wear. My parents would slip dawa leaflets to pizza delivery guys, much to my mortification.
I found so many similarities in the Bible and the Quran that I knew that they had to come from the same source, and as I read more and more religious texts, iI found that there are overwhelming similarities in the stories that humankind has told itself for millennia.
I was troubled by the conflicts in the world and convinced that humanity was not fulfilling it’s highest potential because it was stuck in the minutiae of difference. I immersed myself in different belief systems, visiting churches, Buddhist wats (temples) in Thailand and Hindu temples in Bali, Indonesia. I read about the Jewish Kabbalah, about pre-Islamic Arabia, and origin myths from different parts of the world.
The history and existence of our species has been a cacophony of strife, characterised by periods of progress and sometimes progress through strife. And yet, I have a vision of a thriving and peaceful planet in which humanity can live in harmony with nature, understanding that we are not a governing force to exploit it but a part of the ebb and flow of the natural world.
I spent some time volunteering in conservation in Madagascar and I gravitate toward beautiful lush scenery of beaches and forests, although I grew up in the bustling city of London. As long as humanity sees itself as distinct from nature, we will continue to alienate it and eventually alienate ourselves from the very forces which allow us to exist within it.
That is because through the exploitation of the natural world, we are denying the very same forces in our subconscious over which we have no control and which we therefore fear and wish to tame, mirroring the internal conflict, instead of simply accepting, acknowledging and being at peace with them (in the words of Jung, whom everyone knows I love to quote: “what you resist persists”).
This resistance allows them to grow stronger so that eventually they overtake us, which is what is happening as the planet is destroyed at an alarming rate which is rendering life itself unsustainable. Almost everything that happens within the subconscious mind is reflected outwardly in both our physical reality, from biological processes to our experiences in life.
I have learned to reprogram the subconscious mind through tools such as self-hypnosis, in order to reaffirm newer realities to myself in which I am healthy, happy and free from past traumas. I know that so many people feel that they are a product of their upbringing, but this need not be the case.
The tools for personal happiness exist within us all. Most importantly, I have learned to acknowledge the vast extent of the potential for both good and bad that exists both within me and others, and to sit at the table with both monsters and angels. And not to see me as distinctly one or the other, but to nonetheless, always try to choose to do good. This is something I learned from Taoism: in the good, there is bad and in the bad, there is good.
But most importantly, to understand that they all have a place in the dance. I spent a long time trying to ‘save’ and change people, trying to make people see things from my perspective, but eventually, I learned to be at peace with everything and it has made all the difference (Robert Frost reference, anyone?). I figured, ultimately, that if I could not save the world, the least I could do was figure out how not to hurt it further, possibly by not imposing my own morality rather forcefully on others.
To me, this is the most valuable perspective: to see the horrors of the world and yet, not be blind to it’s beauty. To every idealist out there, I promise you there’s a way to live that does not put you at odds with the world. And that’s the path I’m on.