What motivates terrorists? One study argues that the main aspect motivating them is "what they have in their hearts," that is, their spiritual feelings. In the West, given the prevalent materialistic view, this dimension and its influence on human actions was underestimated. As beings with the same spiritual essence we should empathically connect in that dimension to understand and avoid violence.
On September 4, 2017, the CNN news network echoed a study of ISIS prisoners interviewed at Kirkurk, in northern Iraq, by Scott Atran and colleagues (published in Nature Human Behavior). It shows the close relationship between terrorism and spirituality. The study will also reveal that the Kurdish soldiers, who were fighting them, had a commitment to sacred values, a readiness to leave the family for those values, and strength for belonging to the group or community they represented.
Understanding this phenomenon is essential to establish some kind of connection and understanding, because people can be killed, but ideas, values and spiritual principles cannot be killed. The only possibility is to present superior ideas, values and spiritual principles to elevate them and transform those individuals into superior human beings. At the same time, accept with humility that, in this process of empathy and understanding, we can rise and strengthen ourselves too.
After the attack on the Twin Towers in New York, the common reactions were of revenge and persecution to the culprits. Very few attempted (such as Arum Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and others) to understand the motivation of those who sacrificed their lives to perform such an extreme act. Why did they do it? Would it have been avoided if they had been listened and spoken to heart to heart? Few perceived that it was related to their spirituality. Scott Atram understood them as feelings and inner values so intense that he allowed them to die for them without caring about their family, their friends, or the suffering of their fellow human beings. This is not new; some two thousand years ago there were Christians who accepted to die devoured by the lions, in some Roman circus, convinced of their spirituality. During the Vietnam War, there were also Buddhist monks who burned themselves alive as acts of protest.
According to Atran and his colleagues, the first face-to-face interviews were not helpful, the prisoners were irritated. When they developed a new line of inquiry with questions related to their spiritual values, the terrorists began to open up to dialogue. Scott Atran's idea was that knowing their way of thinking could be useful in determining common anti-terrorist policies.
"The Art of War", written by Sun Tzu (or Sunzi) 544-496 BCE, considers war as the art of persuasion, a battle to win minds and hearts. For this purpose the best general has to be an enlightened Taoist teacher. This text was appreciated throughout history by strategists from around the world. Some basic concepts are: 1) Understanding the enemy's mind to know how to deal with it; 2) to avoid direct confrontation, instead organize the engagement through an indirect strategy. Finally a philosophical approach: "The best victory is the one achieved without fighting"; simple concepts reflecting the action of inaction. In the West, it seems that people are moved more by passion than by understanding, and that revenge guides the actions of the majority, despite being condemned by so-called "sacred" books. While protecting ourselves, we have to penetrate the hard core of passions with transforming ideas. Water, doesn’t fight, but moves forward avoiding obstacles. Do we have to remember that water pierces the stone? The best victory is the one obtained without fighting. How to do it?
My experience tells me that terrorism begins with negative feelings. We always see and are offended by what bothers or hurts us. We rarely see what damages or hurts other people, especially in distant places. That which generates indignation, anger or resentment for what some considers an injustice, discrimination, mistreatment, aggression, non-acceptance, etc., whether real or imagined. These feelings remain like seeds latent in many minds, and a fact, or a message by internet or other means, awakens and causes them to germinate. This latent state is used by those who "fish" or recruit young people, to use them for their own purposes. Once indoctrinated, they can exert a "spontaneous" violence to frighten, hurt, or kill in schools, a marathon, a cinema, outside a dance place, means of transportation, music recitals, mostly in places where there are innocent, carefree and helpless people.
A characteristic of terrorism is that it presents itself without the traditional logical meaning. It does not follow the thought process of cause and effect. Massimo Teodorani (Astrophysicist) in his book entitled " Cincronicità , tries to demonstrate the relationship between physics and the psyche. He argues that studies at the level of elementary particles undoubtedly demonstrate the phenomenal reality, which we normally expect to be linear from cause to effect, has at its base a matrix in which the principle of causality ceases to exist”. This astrophysicist coincides with other thinkers from the field of science. He says: “The matrix of our reality is spiritual ... for the moment the same synchronous events seem to remind us that we are not passive observers of a cold universe of watchmaking, but also actors of creation”. (Sincronicitá, Il legame tra physical and psiche, da Pauli and Jung a Chopra, Gruppo Macro, 2017, Cesena (FC) Italy).
This is fundamental because as active actors of creation our thoughts, our prayers, our intentions and meditations have influence on what happens in the matrix of reality.
In turn, a theory proposed by the Frenchman Jean-Pierre Garnier-Malet, argues that according to quantum theory, we are wave and particle, and as such we inhabit two times: one conscious and perceptible, and another unconscious and imperceptible. In imperceptible time we can make millions of things, which we then pass into perceptible time. This is the information presented synthesized as intuition. That is the explanation, for this theoretician, of the way in which it is possible to see dangers before they hurt and to erase them. This is certainly a new explanation for a very old phenomenon. The vision of the solution to the dream of the pharaoh, on the part of Joseph, and to understand years of abundant harvests; followed by droughts, allowed the solution to be programmed and hunger avoided.
Terrorist attacks are not the classic attacks of one army against another, or of one nation or faction against another. The first objective is not to conquer a territory, but it is to conquer idle or weak mental fields. Those minds, resembling the quantum world, express reactions in which the logical order, ceased to exist. For this reason they appear almost spontaneously in individuals moved by a dogmatic idea, imposed fanatically, to force a vision or ideology on others. Terrorism as well as terrifying aims install hate and violence where there is peace and harmony. Some time ago, I heard a philosopher maintain that all struggle is spiritual, because all wars are struggles of ideas, and ideas come from the spirit. Fighting ideas through cannons, airplanes, tanks, aircraft carriers or bombs is a waste of time and resources, because no bomb or gun ever killed an idea.
Capturing the person who placed a bomb or knowing who committed suicide does not terrorism or violence in our communities and the world. It is necessary to go to the source where the seeds of the disease of hatred and violence are hidden, so that they do not germinate or disperse like a plague. We have to create the antibodies to stop and heal the plague. This is a spiritual struggle. A concept shared by many traditions says "As man thinks he is". What we think is what defines us and determines actions and consequences. Ernest Holmes said "Thoughts are things". If someone throws at us a thing, a stone, or a thought, we will not be hurt if we have an inviolable shield. We will not need to throw another stone, an eye for an eye or, a tooth for a tooth. Developing the immune system against violence is a responsibility of all. We have to come out clothed with the shield of the spirit and compassion.
Thoughts, bad or good, flattery or insults come and are perceived. It is our mission to know how to perceive what to sow. Gandhi's triumph was to oppose non-violence to guns. Every human being is redeemable, as was Nelson Mandela, who wanted to put bombs. Path which took him to prison, there with meditation acquired a new understanding and learned about nonviolence, which led indirectly to triumph. The psychologist Marshal B. Rosemberg tells his story, of how he was beaten as a child over and over again, without even understanding why. In time he understood that they did it for being Jewish. So he dedicated his life to developing empathy and nonviolent communication. In his book Speak Peace in a World of Conflict (Marshall B. Rosenberg, Puddle Dancer Press, 2005, Encinitas, CA), he says: "What you say next will change your world”. Jesus simply expressed it: what you sow, you reap. It represents the moral law of karma. It is a remarkable law of cause and effect. In the Gaza Strip, confronting, empathically, those considered themselves his enemies, Rosemberg demonstrated that his system works, transforming those enemies into friends inviting him to dine to their home.
Hatred is not healed with more violence or more hatred, nor searching for its cause; for it is very difficult to know where to stop going back in the past. Hatred arises from what is believed to be a great injustice against the intimate way of thinking, being bombed, or economic suffocation to defenseless people. It is true that at the moment the greatest violence worldwide comes from Muslim sectors, but the case known in the United States as the "Unabomber", was not; the Beatles suffered tremendous violence by Christian radical groups, because of them he said they were more famous than Jesus Christ. They burned their records and songs; they had to move with special security guard by the threats. Hate can arise in the mind of a basketball, rugby or football fan because someone else used a chant from the opposing team and beat it.
How to win without fighting? If there are those who sow seeds of hatred, millions can sow seeds of love, understanding, kindness, respect, compassion, affection, joy and friendship. This is a practical spirituality. Sending mental messages, by means of communication such as the Internet, can fill the minds with good feelings, is not innocuous to show compassion. It is a necessity! We need compassion for our survival, said the Dalai Lama. The work of sowing seeds of love and mercy is the work of every human being, regardless of the spiritual approach he practices.
I hold that every human being has the right to defend himself against aggression, but for spiritual warfare we must fight with spiritual ideas. We should not think about converting or convincing, it is enough to inform and share messages to inspire and be inspired, like these of Rumi. I give as an example some brief poems by Rumi.
From Moses and the Shepherd: Within the Kaaba / it does not matter in which direction you orient / your prayer mat! / Ocean Diver does not need snow shoes! / The Religion of Love has no code or doctrine. / Only God.
The Religion of Love: The sect of lovers is different from all others. / Lovers have a religion and a faith of their own. / Although ruby does not have a seal, what does it matter? / Love is not afraid in the middle of the sea of fear. (Poetry of the Spirit, E: Alan Jacobs, Barnes & Noble, 2005, New York).
Recall the wisdom of Chief Seattle: "Man did not weave the web of life. It is only a strand in it. Whatever you do to the fabric or to the web, do it to yourself. All things are connected”. "That is, all who exercise violence, do it to themselves. For this reason all forms of violence end up defeated. Spiritually best victory is the one transforming an enemy into a friend.
We must recognize that what we think is important and has consequences; the law of karma is that, every thought has its consequence. We can think and do what we want, but we will never avoid the consequences of our thoughts and actions. We can all think, and it would be very useful to take responsibility for thinking based on high and healing principles, principles of love, peace, justice and harmony. They will have their consequence. Let us not abandon ourselves to oblivion. If terrorism depends on others, harmony depends on us. Let us keep the harmony in our daily thought, for on this depends the future of being. Our being.
©Pietro Grieco 2017