Dr. Ali Shariati
The Infrastructure and Supra-structure of a Belief System
When I refer to infrastructure, I am referring to the foundation of a belief system or the attitudes developed from principles of that belief system which have a causal relationship with the supra-structure. By supra-structure, I mean the ideas or effects developed through three pillars which form the 'ideology' and are based in the infrastructure of a belief system.
Each ideological school should have an infrastructure or a basic support system from which all its ideas develop. This consists of a 'world view' which each and every school of thought, without exception, has whether it be divinely oriented, materialistic, naturalistic, idealistic, fascist, Marxist, etc....
A person who does not have a world view is like a person who has an abundance of furniture and is continuously moving it from house to house. Nothing is ever fully unpacked or put in its right place so proper use can be made of it....
Having a great deal of compartmentalized knowledge without having a definite world view is like having all the materials needed to build a building but lacking a design as to what should be built It would be better for a person to lack the materials than the design. Here lies the real difference between Abu -Dharr and Avicenna, between a faithful struggler upon the way of God (mujahid) and an expert scholar, between a committed intellectual and an explorer scientist, between an aware, responsible and oriented person and an unfaithful, undirected expert, between an idea and a science, and, finally, between an ideology and a culture.
Science, art, literature, philosophy, industry, human beings, life, ethics and even existence itself will find meaning, spirit and orientation when fixed to a faith and the ideological system of a school of thought. This is only possible when all of these are based in a world view and when interpreted by its standards.
Every thinker who has a school of thought must design such a form and then answer the question: "What is your world view?" A person who has a world view can reply that his world view is materialistic, realistic, skeptic, taoistic, multi-theistic, dualistic, monotheistic, pantheistic, aesthetic, existentialistic, etc.
A world view is the comprehension that a person has about 'being or 'existence'. The difference between Hafiz and Umar Khayyam is their world views. Khayyam says: "As no one has ever returned from the other world to bring news of that world (his world view), we must enjoy the present (his ideology)." Hafiz says: "As our fate has been determined in our absence (his world view), if it is not according to our liking, do not complain (his ideology)." Thus, an ideology develops out of the total context of a world view and these two have a relationship of cause and effect.
A person who believes that the world has a Creator Who is Conscious and has Will-power and that from the accurate accounts and reckonings which are kept, he will have the rewards of his acts or he will be punished for them is a person who has a religious world view. It is based upon this very world view whereby one says: "My way of life should be such and such. This or that must be done." It explains the meaning of life, society, ethics, beauty and ugliness, truth and falsity. This is to have a religious ideology. Thus, the idealism of Hegel, the dialectic materialism of Marx, the existentialism of Heidegger, Jaspers and Sartre, the absurdity of the futilism of Albert Camus and Beckett, the religion of Catholicism and/or Islam, the Taoism of Lao-Tzu, the 'karma' of Hinduism, the pain and 'nirvana' of Buddha, the unity of being of Hallaj, the pessimistic determinism of Khayyam, Schopenhauer and Metter-nich, are all world views.
This consists of the kind of attitude which any school of thought has about a human being which forms its world view, such as: "What is a human being"?", "What must a human being be?" What I mean here is the kind of knowledge that exists in a school of thought about a human being, not the particular scientific terminology of anthropology nor the general meaning of humanism. What I am referring to is the real value, mission and meaning which a school of thought has in regard to a human being, not in the opposite sense of it. Human authenticity is a phrase used by the ancient Greeks, the Renaissance or the Schools of Radicalism at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century or the meaning existentialism gave it in the 20th century.
It is clear that a person is known according to his world view and every school of thought designates or defines 'human being' in a different way. One school calls the human being, 'a materialistic animal'. Another calls him/her 'divine animal'. Every school defines or describes the human being with another adjective such as: creator of the ideal, rational, economic, a producer of tools, free, decision-maker, lacking in substance, hesitating, prejudiced, similar to God, natural, social, creator of culture, civilized, conscious, etc.
It should be mentioned here that when a school of thought speaks about a human being, it is referring to the meaning and truth of a human being from the philosophical and ideological point of view, not the real creature described or discussed in the sciences of physiology, psychology, biology, theology, anthropology, sociology, morphology, etc. What I mean is the truth of human kind in his/her ideology, his/her school of thought and ideological attitudes and not in a strictly scientific way.
It is the truth of the human being which is described, not his/ her reality. It is as philosophy, religion and art speak about the human being, the way Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, Plato, Rousseau, Hegel, Marx, Tolstoy, Sartre or Abraham, Jesus Christ, the Prophet of Islam, Ali or Homer, Goethe, Hafiz, Rumi, Tagore, George Sands and Van Gogh describe, explain and paint the human being not as Claude Bernard, Darwin and Freud speak about the human being.
The same is true of history. By philosophy of history, I mean the concept, truth, movement and aim that philosophers or Prophets have about history. It is the view of history as a single reality which has its own special meaning and orientation as Ibn Khaldun, Virgo, Hegel, Marx, Emerson and Toynbee understood and described it and not as great historians and historiographers such as Herodutus, Gibbon, Tabbari and Bihaqi mention.
The same is true of sociology. It is what sociology means as a school of thought and not as a science in the sense of how a professor of sociology at the university describes it.
It is my belief that these three form the basic pillars of a school of thought view of the human being, history and society. These three have been shown in the Fig. 1. All of them rise from a world view and have a logical cause and effect relationship with it. These are the three columns which build a school of thought, the foundation of which is the world view.
All of the ideological supra-structure is built upon them. It is like an individual who is carrying the weight of a trust for someone. Every individual who has reached the stage of 'consciousness' and senses within himself the burden of a mission for humanity, finds himself like Atlas who bore the weight of the world upon his shoulders.
This concept is a concept of an ideological school of thought. It is a form which carries the truth of a human being because a human being is, in fact, nothing more than belief and struggle.