Jihad in America!

About two years ago I had the immense pleasure of traveling in Greece and vicinity. My wife and I departed from Athens and took a cruise on the Aegean up to the Bosporus, down the coast of Asia Minor, to Santorini, and back to Athens. We spent a day and a half in the lovely city of Istanbul in April when the tulips were blooming in abundance. There were seas of tulips, and seas of beautiful people, beautiful buildings, delicious food, and marvelous Efes beer. Even in that brief time the culture captivated me and I basked in the experience of  “difference”. I’ve always loved “difference” and travel has permitted to cater to that whim occasionally.  And with the blog-o-sphere, and with reading I can also meet people of different cultures and appreciate the diversity which I feel is so vital in life.   As a result of the delightful, though brief, stay in Istanbul, I have since read novels by two Turkish novelists, Orhan Pamuk (my favorite of his being The Museum of Innocence) and two novels by Elif Shafak.

I am currently reading Shafak’s novel, The Forty Rules of Love, which is a fictionalized account of the life of the Persian poet Rumi. And early in the book she makes an observation about Rumi’s perspective of jihad which is very relevant to world culture today and even to my country’s own “jihadists.” She noted of Rumi, “In an age of deeply embedded bigotries and clashes, he stood for a universal spirituality, opening his doors to people of all backgrounds. Instead of an outer-oriented jihad—defined as “the war against the infidels” and carried out by many in those days just as in the present—Rumi stood up for an inner-oriented jihad where the aim was to struggle against and ultimately prevail over one’s own ego, nafs.”

This resonates with an old refrain of mine, borrowed from W. H. Auden, “We wage the war we are” and relevant to Charlie Brown’s observation, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Though we must never withdraw and live in isolation, we must be engaged with the world and take purposeful action in this world, we must always remember that our primary enemy is always within. When the Apostle Paul lamented, “I will to do good, but evil is present with me,” I do not think he was talking about “them” out there in the world. He recognized that though he was a child of God, he still fought a daily battle with his inner haunts. Failure to recognize those haunts risks self-destruction and great harm to those around us. In my country, we have “jihadists” who are presently in paranoid fury with our government and even intimate taking up arms against this government. I really think they, and those who egg them on, should take a peak within.

I’d like to share another bit of Rumi relevant to this matter that Shafak quotes:

The whole universe is contained within a single human being–you.  Everything that you see around, including the things you might not be fond of and even the people you despise or abhor, is present within you and in varying degrees.  Therefore, do not look for Sheitan outside of yourself either.  The devil is not an extraordinary force that attacks from without.  It is an ordinary voice within.  If you get to know yourself fully, facing with honesty and hardness both your dark and bright sides, you will arrive at a supreme form of consciousness.  When a person know himself or herself, he or she knows God.





13 thoughts on “Jihad in America!

  1. Sandeep Bhalla

    Problem is that we read the above passage, make a quick search and say ‘oh, nothing so far.’ and get on. This vision of inside has to be there at all times to work. Rumi really was an enlightened seer.
    As regards ‘Crusaders’ and ‘Jihadis’ they are the worst kind of mirage chasers. Following an Utopia which shall be built upon deaths, misery and pain yet they think, it will be peaceful heaven. Same mindset for continuing for million years.


  2. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

    From your post: This resonates with an old refrain of mine, borrowed from W. H. Auden, “We wage the war we are” and relevant to Charlie Brown’s observation, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” I do not think he was talking about “them” out there in the world. He recognized that though he was a child of God, he still fought a daily battle with his inner haunts. Failure to recognize those haunts risks self-destruction and great harm to those around us.”


    Lew, I have so much to say about this and hardly know where to begin, but I apologize in advance that this post will most likely turn out to be long because of the complexities of said subject. First, let me start out with a form of brain damage to the prefrontal cortex, and I quote:

    “Children who experience early damage in the prefrontal cortex never completely develop social or moral reasoning. As adults, even on an intellectual level, they cannot refer to such behavior because they have little concept of it. In contrast, individuals with adult-acquired damage are usually aware of proper social and moral conduct, but are unable to apply such behaviors.”

    Some patients had problems with violence and resembled “psychopathic individuals, who are characterized by high levels of aggression and antisocial behavior performed without guilt or empathy for their victims,”

    Researchers at the University of Sweden have found the prefrontal cortex to be precisely the area of the brain that is impaired in murderers and other violent criminals who repeatedly re-offend. Source: http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/head.html

    Keep in mind that every 15 seconds, someone in America suffers a brain injury, and the prefrontal cortex is the area most vulnerable to injury. Also keep in mind that brain injuries are under diagnosed, and a connection between behavioral changes and brain injuries are often overlooked. Tossing a toddler into the air, while playing, can cause brain injuries (often undiagnosed).

    Another quote:

    “He was a schoolteacher, a husband, a father. Then he became a pedophile preoccupied with sex. Doctors who treated him at the University of Virginia hospital in 2000 believe that the man’s powerful sex addiction was caused by an egg-sized tumor in his brain.

    “It turned out he was a guy who had made it into his 40s without having any problem with this,” said Dr. Russell Swerdlow, a UVa associate professor of neurology. “He had a brain tumor that was damaging the part of the brain that controls impulse.” Once the tumor was removed, the man’s sexual obsession disappeared. Swerdlow believes this is the first known case to link damage of the frontal lobe with pedophilia. “The most interesting part of this is getting into the hardwiring of morality and free will,” Swerdlow said. “It raises the question, how free is free will?”

    Swerdlow said the man was relieved that the tumor provided an explanation for his sociopathic behavior. “He’s grateful that he was properly diagnosed and properly treated,” Swerdlow said. “He’s relieved to know that he isn’t the ‘evil’ person that he thought he was destined to be.”
    Source: http://www.rifters.com/real/articles/brainontrial.htm

    This is not to say, for example, that all the priests in the Catholic church had tumors, but to say that sometimes people think they are the enemy, or evil, when in fact there are organic causes. Also, we know that pedophilia is also a psychiatric disorder, not self-inflicted..

    Another quote:

    “Sudden pedophilia illustrates that hidden drives and desires can lurk undetected behind the neural machinery of socialization. When the frontal lobes are compromised, people become disinhibited, and startling behaviors can emerge.” http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/the-brain-on-trial/308520/

    In that article you will find another story about Charles Whitman. You may remember him. In the mid 60’s he climbed a tower at the University of Texas and killed and wounded many. The night before, he killed his mother and his wife. He was killed during the ordeal. He had been keeping a diary and said that he didn’t know what was wrong with him, but he had these ‘thoughts’. He sought therapy, to no avail. In his will, he requested an autopsy. Two things to note, he was terribly abused as a child by his father, (same as Hitler and Stalin) and during the autopsy. Quote:

    “Whitman’s skull was put under the bone saw, and the medical examiner lifted the brain from its vault. He discovered that Whitman’s brain harbored a tumor the diameter of a nickel. This tumor, called a glioblastoma, had blossomed from beneath a structure called the thalamus, impinged on the hypothalamus, and compressed a third region called the amygdala. The amygdala is involved in emotional regulation, especially of fear and aggression.”


    The “amygdala” is a pair of small almond-shaped structures situated between the cerebral cortex and the limbic/emotional center of the brain. When this neural circuit for processing emotional information is damaged, the prefrontal cortex cannot interpret feedback from the limbic system.

    One last thing I’d like to address, although I could continue to show you more examples, but I’ve rambled on enough. The Apostle Paul. He was sometimes a tormented man. He struggled with his thoughts, and didn’t understand them. He thought that ‘he’ was the enemy. There is evidence to suggest that Paul had temporal lobe epilepsy.

    With some, temporal lobe epilepsy (non-convulsive seizures) can cause behaviors that are not prosocial. They can have thoughts that are not their own. They can become aggressive. As I’m sure you are aware, Paul had issues with aggression and committed murder. They can have intense religious experiences. They can have hormonal imbalance, such as too much dopamine. Paul may have also been suffering from a brain injury or childhood abuse. when things go wrong with the brain, it can have a profound effect on the individual and society.

    In America alone, at least 100,000 people are diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy each year. One of the causes is brain injuries. Then there’s mental illness (in America). As you are aware, 1 in 5 have a form of mental illness. 1 in 17 have a severe form of mental illness; many with paranoid behaviors.

    So my point is, can a person ever really know themselves in the manner in which Rumi speaks? Yes, we have the capacity, via neuroplasticity, to change behavior, but it’s not always the case, as noted above. Rumi said to know yourself is to know God. IMO, to acknowledge that we are human, organic beings influenced by our environment (including culture), is to know God (wisdom). Some have the capacity to change, some don’t. This is not to excuse antisocial behavior, but to understand it.

    I’ll again quote Anne Frank who had wisdom beyond her years:

    “In spite of everything, I believe that people are really good at heart”. ♥


    1. literary lew Post author

      Really so interesting and thanks so much. Neurochemistry is an incredibly important part of reality and cannot be dismissed as an element in any part of our experience…INCLUDING EVEN THIS! There is always more to what is going on than what we realize though we are insistent on believing that we do…and yes, probably even that “dishonesty” is hardwired into us! But beneath the level of biochemistry, and beyond other levels that we might posit, there is ultimate nothing which I like to think of as “No-thing.” And out of that nothingness came something (even “Something) and we are all part of that. Now that something…or “Something”…we captured with the word “god” or “gods” but as you certainly know, some things cannot be captured with words. Our Source is one of them. And I am given to this sort of speculation, ad nauseum even, but by the grace of god…ahem, ahem…wired well enough into common-sense reality that I busy myself most of the time with “chopping wood, carrying water.” I speculate about what “is not” but try to focus largely on “what is”—taking care of house and home, wife, friends, & family, my beloved doggies, the birds that graciously visit me each day, and now to an important extent to lovely friends like you that I have met on the blog-o-sphere.! More later….I’m sure. “My belly is full of words, like a full wineskin, about to burst.” (Book of Job)


      1. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

        You said: “and now to an important extent to lovely friends like you that I have met on the blog-o-sphere.! ”

        Thank you, Lew. I feel truly blessed that our paths have crossed. You inspire me. You are like taking a breath of fresh air.


    2. literary lew Post author

      an afterthought….no doubt, the Apostle Paul had his psychopathology. His Damascus Road experience suggests as much. A modern day “spiritual teacher” Eckhart Tolle had a similar break down at age 29 and is certainly “nuts” but most people’s estimation. But I see him as a gifted teacher, whose wisdom comes to us refracted through his personal experience, including his biochemistry and neurophysiology. Now I am very new to Rumi, but I suspect he felt we could “see” God as I feel we can—we can “see” and “feel” our finitude before, and feel we are gripped by the profound mystery of life, of Being itself. Most people immediately slap the term “god” to this experience but I would encourage them to do so only after a meaningful pause.

      Anyway, we are on the same page. We just approach the matter through our unique viewpoints.


      1. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

        You said ” A modern day “spiritual teacher” Eckhart Tolle had a similar break down at age 29 and is certainly “nuts” but most people’s estimation. But I see him as a gifted teacher, whose wisdom comes to us refracted through his personal experience, including his biochemistry and neurophysiology.”

        I read his book A New Earth and two others. They were beautifully written. Some things I truly resonate with, while others are based on conjecture that, in my opinion, are culturally influenced. As I’m sure you are aware, Tolle had a breakdown because his beloved professor committed suicide and left him in a state of utter confusion. I agree he’s had some unique and inspiring insights since that time.

        His experiences were similar to others considered enlightened. The Buddha was tortured by the demons of Mara the night before his enlightenment. Jesus emerged from the desert after a meeting with Satan. Ramakrishna’s moment happened following an episode of extreme dysphoria that left him convinced he was about to die.

        From the paper “Enlightenment and the Brain”, Todd Murphy, a neuroscientist and practicing Buddhist states:

        “An interhemispheric intrusion can precipitate an event called ‘synaptic dropout’. This is when synapses (connections between nerve cells) actually drop out of service after excess input. “Burn out” might be a better term. What follows next made perfect sense to me and helps explain the neurological workings behind enlightenment experiences – a rewiring follows. Neurotechnology can also have the same effect ‘ a spiritual type awakening’ without having to go through synaptic dropout (having a profoundly negative experience). I’ll share the studies on that another time.

        I think you will like this article. Quite educational ‘and’ enlightening, in my opinion. It also got a ‘thumbs up’ approval by the Dalai Lama, who is now actively involved at MIT. ;D



  3. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

    In reference to Sandeep’s comment ” ‘Crusaders’ and ‘Jihadis’..” as well as your comments about Jihadis and war against the infidels, I think you will find this link interesting. Take special note of “Religious Experiences” — ‘Temporal Lobe Lability’ and “I Would Kill In God’s Name”.


    Also,George W. Bush said “This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while”.

    For many years, GWB had a serious alcohol problem. On his 40th birthday he had a ‘drunken weekend’. After having this drunken weekend, he had “a religious awakening” and quit drinking. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/laura-bush-reveals-george-stopped-drinking/story?id=10552148

    It is likely that years of alcohol abuse caused limbic lability (temporal lobe lability), as noted in the link above.

    Bush told Palestinian ministers that god told him to go to war.

    Just one man who was an alcoholic (for what ever reason he became self-destructive), which changed his brain, profoundly, and also changed the world and at the cost of many lives.


  4. brahmntobe

    Maybe Eckhart Tolle had a kundalini awakening? Just like U Krishnamurthy? But their philosophies are different. One speaks through love and the other through cynicism. Rumi was full of it. I also believe that whatever your upbringing or mental condition, true non carnal love can make you peaceful and happy. I have no experience with patients who suffer from mental illness but I definitely know about thick skinned and hardened prisoners/ terrorists who have changed completely after receiving love and guidance. Who knows….. maybe every one is capable of experiencing what Rumi says. I have seen many cases and so I believe.


      1. brahmntobe

        U krishnamurti was the cynic. The one who didn’t really believe in divinity. However, his contemporary, J krishnamurti (the more famous one) was completely opposite :). I think Tolle is a very lovable guy and speaks out of love 🙂


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