At the core and at the heart of international politics and international relations is the infamous “Great Game.” The stated objective of “The Great Game” is control of Central Asia, with a focus on Afghanistan. The man who coined the phrase “Great Game” was a young 19th century British intelligence officer named Arthur Conolly, whose mission and life purpose was to bring Central Asia and Afghanistan under British cultural hegemony and under the sway of Christianity. Conolly is the one British official who set the stage for “Great Game” activities for future generations. Conolly himself failed at his mission, and ended up headless after the Emir of Bukhara ordered that his head be chopped off.
Thus, at the heart of “The Great Game” is a “Sacred Game” if you will. Economics, politics, geopolitics, and espionage are tangential to the core issue pertaining to “The Great Game.” At the core – and at its heart – “The Great Game” is evangelical and proselytical. Moreover, there is a rift between East and West as to what constitutes the core organizing principle of the universe, and it is this particular rift that perhaps underlies the evangelical and proselytical aspect of the divide between East and West. One’s worldview depends on the scope of one’s cosmological view, and one’s cosmological view determines and shapes everything else.
In books and in school, we are taught that international relations is a “zero-sum game.” But why is this the case? The answer is that the cosmological views of the two competing blocs are bifurcated between “multi-theism” on one hand and monotheism on the other hand, according to the late Franco-Iranian philosopher Ali Shariati. This bifurcation between “multi-theism” and monotheism has existed since the beginning of human history, according to the teachings of Shariati.
Both sides can agree and compromise on issues such as security arrangements and trade quotas. But they cannot agree on the nature and the ordering of the cosmos, which in turn manifests into world order and the nature of the international system. Moreover, the cosmological views underlie all other issues that are discussed as part of international relations. Thus, the zero-sum nature of international relations.
Another thing to note is that the cosmological view of the East is a major source of power. We should consider that if a militia group (Taliban) were able to take Afghanistan from an American-backed government in ten days, China can take Taiwan in perhaps one or two days down the road when America’s power diminishes even further as a consequence of squandering energy and power for decades in Afghanistan and the Middle East.
The dispute over what constitutes the core organizational principle of the universe spills over into tangential disputes such as “Democracy versus Authoritarianism” and so on. For some individuals – including myself – it is difficult to just relax and settle with either atheism, duality, or polytheism as the core organizational principle of the universe. Thus, we stumble upon Islam, along with Islam’s core concept and principle, known as “Tawhid” (“Oneness”). There are multiple dimensions to “Tawhid” (“Oneness”), which according to Islamic belief is the core organizational principle of the universe.
For one, there is a spiritual dimension of “Tawhid” which integrates all of humanity based on a pantheistic outlook of the universe and its contents. But there are also economic, political, and social dimensions of “Tawhid” which many Islamic scholars — both past and present — have studied and have suggested. The core organizational principle of the universe in Islam (“Tawhid”) implies that the universe and its contents are integrated and brought together by a basic essence that cannot be subdivided. In Western secular terms, the integration of everything with one another based on an indivisible essence or substance is known as “Quantum Entanglement.”
Based on esoteric Islamic thought — and perhaps in contrast to those who emphasize the exoteric aspect of Islam — “Tawhid” (which is the core organizational principle of the universe in Islam) and the concept known as “Wahdat al-Wujud” (“Unity of Being”) are interchangeable and synonymous. “Wahdat al-Wujud” (“Unity of Being”) is a term coined by the Andalusian Islamic mystic and scholar Muhiyudin Ibn Arabi. By most accounts — and based on the most credible accounts — Muhiyudin Ibn Arabi is the greatest scholar in Islamic history, alongside the Persian Islamic scholar Abdul Qadir Jilani, who founded the esoteric order which I was initiated into a few years ago.
Thinkers (philosophers, scientists, researchers, writers, journalists, professors, etc.) try to make sense of everything that exists. Thus, thinkers try to make sense of reality. In essence, everything comes down to the following logical sequence: Information shapes perception, and in turn perception shapes reality – with reality being the totality of everything that exists. Thus:
Information -> Perception -> Reality
At the most basic and fundamental level of cognition and perception is an espousal of either “logical atomism” or “logical holism” as our basic perception or view of facts, information, the universe, and reality. “Logical atomism” — prevalent in Anglo-America — perceives facts, information, the universe, and reality as a chaotic, dissonant, and fragmented mess. On the other hand, “logical holism” — prevalent in the Eurasian landmass — perceives facts, information, the universe, and reality as an integrated, interconnected, and synchronized whole. In turn, these two cognitive and perceptive states shape our eschatological state and social reality, even on a global level. The chasm between these two cognitive states explains the turbulence and social strife that is pervasive in the international system. The debate over “logical atomism” versus “logical holism” comes in the modern period and thus later on in the history of the Western philosophical tradition. The forerunner to this debate arises from the very basic origins of Western civilization, in antiquity.
The origins of the “logical atomism” versus “logical holism” debate arise from perhaps the most basic question of Western philosophy that was pondered upon by the likes of Plato and Epicurus: How does the “self” relate to “external reality”? Does “external reality” act on the “self”? Or does the “self” act upon “external reality”? Language is another important factor in the relationship between self and external reality. Ludwig Wittgenstein is a 20th century Austrian philosopher who specialized in the study of language and its role in conveying and describing both individual experience and external reality and where language stood amidst these two different phenomena. Wittgenstein concluded that at best, language is a bridge between and for individual experience and external reality, but it does not suffice in conveying either individual experience or external reality.
The entire purpose of knowledge and information — philosophical, scientific, and religious — is to develop mystical wisdom and intuition. Our guide to certainty and truth is ultimately mysticism and intuition. Empiricism and reason are tools to confirm or verify inferences and conclusions that are derived from mysticism and intuition, with mysticism and intuition being front and center in the Platonic and Aristotelian tradition. One should ask: what is it that makes research credible and viable? There has to be something credible and viable that undergirds qualitative and quantitative research. Otherwise, you lose credibility and legitimacy, and credibility and legitimacy are everything in the international community. At the moment, America is in a credibility and legitimacy deficit because its state policies lack the mystical wisdom and intuition that are supposed to undergird state policies. Thus, the debacles and failures of the last two decades.
As a result, empiricism and reason bend to the will of mysticism and intuition. And when you belong to a rich and powerful intellectual and spiritual tradition that has produced some of the world’s greatest mystics and scholars, it would be a fool’s errand to sell yourself and your tradition for a cheap and flimsy price. Not to mention the headache and the misery that comes with selling yourself and your tradition for what is ultimately bad luck and misfortune.