In sum, while other countries have well-defined national interests and have already gone through the natural process of generation and decline, the actions and rhetoric out of Washington amount to what Greta Thunberg called “blah blah blah.” And at the heart of the decline is the paradox of material wealth amidst spiritual poverty. The world in general – but especially the United States – is experiencing its highest levels of material wealth compared to any other time in human history. But on the other hand, spirituality is on the decline.
Microsoft – which is just one American company – is valued higher in monetary terms than the entire economy of Morocco. But if we flipped the switch and put a value on cultural and spiritual wealth in Morocco in comparison to the value of cultural and spiritual wealth in the United States, the distinction and the line between “rich” and “poor” would be blurred. Nevertheless, the contrast between Microsoft and Morocco goes to show the leaps and bounds by which America has gone in terms of generating material wealth over the course of many decades.
But as mentioned before, with great material wealth comes spiritual decline and spiritual poverty. Gallup showed that the percentage of Americans belonging to a church, mosque, or synagogue has gone down from 70 percent in 1999 to about 50 percent in 2019. Membership in a church, mosque, or synagogue has also gone down by 20 percentage points since 1999. Also, the percentage of Americans who consider themselves atheists has gone up from 2 percent in 2009 to 4 percent in 2019, according to Pew Research. Inflation, shortages, as well as the conflict between the West and Russia over Ukraine are very much physical manifestations of spiritual decline and spiritual poverty.
In turn, spiritual decline and spiritual poverty are replaced with the business model of addiction and manipulation on the part of mainstream and social media. And as a result, a number of individuals and firms see the phenomenon of spiritual decline and spiritual poverty as a business opportunity. Psychiatrists and therapists are perhaps capitalizing and are seeing a boom in business as of late.
The combination of material wealth and spiritual poverty is very much a segue for America into the “nihilism” which gripped Europe before World War I and World War II. Nietzsche defined “nihilism” as “the view that we have not the smallest right to assume the existence of transcendental objects or things in themselves, which would either be divine or morally incarnate.” In turn, the socioeconomic and sociopolitical conditions of “nihilism” produce “frenzied material progress minus emancipation.”
Also, these socioeconomic and sociopolitical conditions are very much the impetus for Western-style populism. Regular people’s involvement in government affairs and thus Western-style populism stem from the anger and frustration borne out of a nihilistic state, and thus anger and frustration stem from spiritual decline and spiritual poverty. Realists – who in turn are most perceptive of the ontological state stemming from the nihilistic conditions which are largely responsible for both hedonism and war – are quicker at making peace than liberals, given the hollowness and superficiality of liberal discourse and ontology.
Moreover, one must also identify the source of one’s intellect and wit. It is worth noting that the intellect and wit do not stem from the rigidity of the mind. Intellect and wit stem from the development and growth of the soul and spirit. Without developing the actual source of intellect and wit, intellectualization and armchair philosophizing amount to “stacking books on top of a donkey.”
Intellect and wit are embodied in the Faqir, or the “Deprived One.” Faqir comes from the Arabic root word Faqr, which stands for “deprivation.” The Faqir is considered “The Master of Both Worlds” as a result of a tradeoff that the Faqir makes, which amounts to depriving oneself of luxury and material comfort in order to gain intellectual and spiritual wealth. Everything amounts to a tradeoff in life, and Faqr is “The Mother of All Tradeoffs.” When the Pentagon develops “The Mother of All Bombs” or when the Department of Treasury wields “The Mother of All Sanctions,” the Faqir makes “The Mother of All Tradeoffs” and in turn receives “The Best of Both Worlds.” Thus, the Quran states: “Trade the life of this world for the next one.”
Love is the epitome of intellectual and spiritual wealth, and love requires the annihilation of the ego in order to create the capacity to receive love. As Rumi said: “Would you become a pilgrim on the road of love? The first condition is that you make yourself humble as dust and ashes.” And the culmination of love is “Divine Union,” the metaphor for which is the union between man and woman. As Muhiyuddin Ibn Arabi wrote in “The Ringstones of Wisdom” (Fusus al-Hikam), man represents spirit, and woman represents the soul. In turn, the soul (woman) needs spirit (man) in order to become animated. On the other hand, spirit (man) needs soul (woman) in order to find a resting place and thus attain inner peace.
Ibn Arabi, who was Moroccan in origin, is considered to be “The Last of the Spiritual Poles” in the Islamic tradition, whereas Abdul Qadir Jilani – who is the founder of the esoteric order to which I belong and was Persian in origin – is considered to be “The First of the Spiritual Poles” in the Islamic tradition. Thus, without question, one’s saving grace is to belong to a rich intellectual and spiritual tradition amidst a nihilistic state that is defined by spiritual decline and spiritual poverty.