THE DANING OF LIGHT ON THE PATH OF SUFISM
Laurence Galian. All rights reserved.
Just to hear talk of you we became enamored and
And now you throw off the veil,
So of course we perish.
While I thought that I was learning to live; I have been learning how to die.
~ Leonardo daVinci
All praise is due to Allah. Allah is the One Reality, and that Reality is Love. We humans are love
returning to Love. Sufis have taught great wisdom to humanity regarding the clearest ways to make that “return.”
The finest way is through remembering (dhikr) Allah at all times, and knowing that
Allah alone exists. The author wishes to thank all his teachers, especially Arthur Smith, who have generously shared
their wisdom with him, and it is his humble wish to transmit what he has learned to the reader. All mistakes are the fault
of the author alone. Allah knows best.
From the lips of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)
came the saying, “Mutu qabla an tamutu (Die before you die)”. That was not some kind of poetry, but states
that some have managed to do as the Prophet directed and that his directions were clear and do not mean the various interpretations
offered by those who guess. Sheikh Ahmad al-‘Alawi writes, “The Gnostics have a death before the general death.”
An emotional experience, in a sense, is a precursor to illumination, but it is not the experience
itself. This misconception leads many astray. Though they are very often imagined to be the same, emotions and spirituality
are not the same (no matter how "lofty" the emotion may be). Strong emotions may be experienced just prior to illumination;
terror most readily comes to mind. In addition, amazement may be experienced. Sayyid Idris al-Hashimi (Sayyid Idries Shah) (June 16, 1924–23 - November 1996) wrote often about the fact that emotions and spirituality
are not the same.
Emotion is often used to develop or increase certain brain chemicals that are needed. That is the
purpose of situations that develop "longing" and "love.” These situations are necessary, but not sufficient for illumination.
Thus, emotions have a role in illumination, but it is not what is commonly imagined.
Some intelligent people are aware of the human spiritual situation; a few of those that are talented
in symbol manipulation can describe it to others. Rare is it that one can do more than describe and hint at solutions. Better
to admit to not having that information, unless the goal is to get attention needs met or make money.
There is a Law of Synchronicity (in the Jungian sense) involved in the Sufi Path of Illumination.
The Sufis say that there is no coincidence, and that coincidences are merely Allah’s orders. An important teaching story
is the tale of Majnun and Layla. The tale of Majnun and Layla is of course about many things, but like Rumi's relationship
with Shams, it demonstrates a specific technique, that is, the technique of an uncompleted love that created and intensified
The Troubadours attempted the same technique on a somewhat large scale. Foreseeing the future, and
anticipating a time when humanity would go through a very difficult phase, the troubadours created the “impossible romantic
ideal” that would set to motion, in a very few people, one of the initial processes or steps to illumination.
The future time they anticipated is our present time. Through the yearning that this impossible
romantic ideal created, a chemical correlation was produce in the brain.
As we know, bears hibernate in caves. They appear almost lifeless. This is an analog to the practices
of ancient shamans, and to Sufis who practice the forty-day halvet (retreat), in
which the Shaman would enter a cave, have an experience of dying, explore the spiritual realms, and then is reborn as the
Initiate or Master (just as the bear is reborn each spring as it “wakes up” and leaves its cave).
Zahir Karbani writes, “The Bear has many myths and legends surrounding it. They have played an enormous
role in the Native American Indian culture and their skins were often used for protection from the cold in the form of coats
and blankets; their claws were used for making jewelry and necklaces and their heads provided masks for Shaman. Native
Americans believe that the Bear has strong medicine magic and many tribes consider bears to be Shaman themselves. They
are known to American Indian tribes and their Shamans as ‘Keeper of Medicine’ because they keep all the ancient
healing secrets of the Indians and the spirits of the Earth. Bears are said to possess Lunar magic and many myths and legends
depict the Bears special relationship to the moon. They are devoted mothers, raising and protecting their young from
danger, teaching them to forage for food and fish in streams and providing them with all that they need until they are able
to care for themselves properly. Mother Bears will fiercely protect her offspring from any harm or threat of harm.”
To the Priory of Sion, the
secret organization described in the novel “The DaVinci Code,” the Bear was an animal of the Goddess Diana. The
Merovingian kings, from their founder Merovee to Clovis (who converted to Christianity in 496) were kings who worshipped the
Bees are a recurring symbol
of the Merovingians and the humming or buzzing sound of bees is likened to supersensible “sounds” experienced
by many Sufis as they enter spirit realms.
There are eleven bees on the
Merovingian Coat of Arms because eleven is the number of the sephirah on the Tree
of Life, called Daath, which provides an opening into the Abyss or Void.
has always had a relationship with the bees. Moore writes, “The beehive is found in Masonry as a reminder that in diligence
and labor for a common good true happiness and prosperity are found. The bee is a symbol of wisdom, for as this tiny insect
collects pollen from the flowers, so men may extract wisdom from the experiences of daily life. The bee is sacred to the goddess
Venus and, according to mystics, it is one of several forms of life that came to the earth from the planet Venus millions
of years ago. Wheat and bananas are said to be of similar origin. This is the reason why the origin of these three forms of
life cannot be traced. The fact that bees are ruled by queens is one reason why this insect is considered a sacred feminine
symbol. In India the god Prana–the personification of the universal life force–is sometimes shown surrounded by
a circle of bees. Because of its importance in pollinating flowers, the bee is the accepted symbol of the generative power.
At one time, the bee was the emblem of the French kings. The rulers of France wore robes embroidered with bees, and the canopies
of their thrones were decorated with gigantic figures of these insects.” Of course another "symbol" used by Napoleon
is the bee.
All initiatory truths are veiled. While almost every reader of Sufism and metaphysics in general,
is very familiar with the fact that Allah does not gaze at His friends (awliya)
directly but cloaks His gaze with a veil (hijab), very few students will pause
to consider of what these veils may consist. One reads the word “veil,” and then just as quickly forgets it, or
just dismisses the concept of “veiling” with the thought that Allah hides the Mysteries in various ways.
However, very little thought, or for that matter, information, is given as to how Allah veils His
Truths. One way that the Truth is veiled is through the veil of: the fear of appearing or becoming insane or “crazy.”
Other veils include: becoming or appearing a fool, the veil of obviousness, the veil of shame, the veil of no longer being
concerned with “stations” on the path, the veil of behaving contrary to Shariah, the veil of heresy, and the veil
of leaving the Path.
God is called by many names. She is all the same. However, it does
matter in this particular age what name human beings use in addressing or thinking of Her. The knowing of Her Name is related
to an individual’s special relationship to Her.
Absolutely nothing can happen without Her Mercy, without Her Grace. The most advanced spiritual
techniques in the world are powerless to transform us, unless first She wills it. There are some writers today who want us
to believe that if a certain sequence of practices is followed, then enlightenment is guaranteed, somewhat like following
a sequence of driving instructions to arrive at a destination. Some of these writers forget completely the necessary ingredients
of awe, devotion and love, without which it is not possible to complete the Great Work. The Goddess is not a machine, astagfirullah.
Nor is She a Woman that can be raped and forced to yield Her Secrets.
It is only through Her Mercy that She may come to you. If She reaches Her hand out to you, do not
let go, no matter what. Hold on as if your whole life depended on it, for it does. She may appear to you in forms familiar
and sometimes frightening.
Let us consider the concept of the “twin” for a moment. Upon some investigation, we
discover that the entire metaphysical concept of the “twin” is very complex, multi-layered, and profound. We find
the “twin” appearing in The Gospel of Thomas, where Thomas himself is referred to as “The Twin.” We
find the “twin” appearing in the life of the Prophet Mani, when a special angel appears, known as “The Twin”,
that informs Mani he is a Prophet and also reappears to inform Mani that he is to begin his Prophetic mission.
In the most profound of Sufi teachings, we discover that the goal of Sufi practice is to create
a kind of twin. In other words, for every apparently living human being, through profound exercises, the Sufi creates a spiritual
counterpart (a twin) in the spirit realms. In addition, for every spirit dwelling in the spiritual realms, there exists a
physical counterpart in the apparent world. This is precisely why Sufis pray at the Shrines (tombs) of Sufi saints who have
made the transition, because these saints are very much alive and puissant in the physical or apparent world.
What is the meaning of drawing the sword from the stone? The meanings are several. It is the same
message and symbol as Mithra coming from the cave or Jesus rising from the cave after death. The stone - cave represents the
body - the apparent world - the nafs – the commanding self. Pulling the Sword
from the Stone, in short means, pulling the light from "matter,” extracting essence from base. See it in an alchemical
sense. In other words, it is the story of illumination. Thus, it is the moment of “Kingship.”
A deity is worshipped and adored with intense devotion and faith not only throughout South India
and Sri Lanka but also in places such as Mauritius and Malaysia where there is a high population of Tamil people. The deity
carries a sword of Light. This deity’s name is Lord Muruga. Muruga is the powerful son of Shiva and Shakti, the Mother
and Father of the universe. They created Him from the elements of divine fire and holy water. He is the embodiment of bravery,
wielder of spear of tremendous shining light, called the vel. This sacred spear
destroys all negativity and fear in an instant.
There is a great deal of significance to the fact that the Lord Muruga was conceived through the
merging and coming together (alchemy) of Shiva and Shakti. Additionally, the fact that this being wields a spear of brilliant
shining light, similar to the sword of light, Excalibur, the metal hidden in the rock, is no mere coincidence.
Swords and Spears of Light
appear in the Irish and Welsh belief systems. Many of these Gods and Goddesses belonged to a family called the “Tuatha
De Danaan.” Their name means “Family of the Goddess Danu.” They arrived in Ireland in ships that floated
in the air. Ogma, known as the “Splendor of the Sun,” brought the Sword of Light from Findrias. Findrias is the
cloud-fair city that is in the east of the Tuatha De Danaan world.
Nuada of the Silver Hand brought
Claiomh Solais (The Sword of Light), from Gorias the flame-bright city that is
in the south of the Tuatha De Danaan world. He was the leader of the Tuatha De Danann and King of Ireland. In legend, the
sword glowed with a bright light, hence its name. It was irresistible in battle.
Spear Lúin (Glowing), was the “Lighning Spear”
of the God Lugh. This
spear was sometimes represented as being the Sun's rays at Mid-Summer. Another name for the Spear of Lugh is the grain and
corn of the Harvest itself (which also safely harnesses the power of the Sun). The Sun is the source of energy and power,
yet it can only be used by those that are many-skilled.
When one begins to notice that this world has reflections of the Real and contemplates on that idea
or uses that reality map often, it seems to create an attraction where the sacred becomes more apparent. Noticing the Sacred
makes the Sacred more noticeable as it were. It even influences the content of the other dream world.
The place that cannot be named, may be hinted at, however. The vesica
piscis is not just a place of conjunction between spirit and matter. It is not just a place of conjunction of the four
elements: earth, air, fire, and water. However, it has a direct connection with the human body. Some may call the vesica piscis
the “Great Name Unspoken.” The greatest mysteries of Sufis, the most well guarded secrets, are in fact, that which
is most obvious. Just as Ocam’s Razor applies to science, so does it apply to the science of the Sufis. For the most
elegant solution to the Sufis, is the same as that of the scientists, in other words, the simplest one. Ancient deities were
represented in pictorial form as being inside the vesica piscis.
Clearly, we must examine the notion of a spiritual portal or “star gate,” or an opening
through which spiritual forces may enter our “world.” Harmonious balance is the key to this symbol of divinity.
This symbol is called by Tantric practitioners as the “Yoni.” It is the “Gate” we spiritually orient
ourselves towards when we make salat in the mosque or masjid, in other words, the
Mihrab. The human being, who has established its home in the fetus, makes his or
her entrance into the physical world through the yoni. The yoni is the way the Divine Spark enters into the fabric of material
existence. Indeed, the “Gods” must pass through this gate to incarnate into this place of transition called the
As you journey along with Sufi Way, you will experience the knowledge that the apparent world is
indeed just that: apparent. The Traveler will reach a stage in which the apparent world is temporarily dissolved or seen through.
However, the stage where this is experienced is an area where many seekers of Truth are stuck. As the apparent world is experienced
to be an illusion, other explanations, reality-maps, entities, and worlds rush in to fill the void and present themselves
as how things actually are. These alternative explanations and so forth, are no more The Real (and no less more, that matter)
than is the apparent world that they help to expose as illusion.
This new reality can of course be presented as many things, and since it has to do with discovering
the illusionary, these many things often shift and change. Traditionally this area presents itself as elves and so forth.
In our time, this area presents itself often as aliens. Access to this process often begins with mushrooms or sexual abuse.
Among other things, sexual abuse distorts the Kundalini process especially when done in a religious
context, e.g. abuse by a priest. This area also is rich with conspiracy, government conspiracies, alien abduction, and so
forth. Its shadow/reflection in the apparent world can be physically dangerous.
This danger (and other reasons) is the reason Jesus said love your enemies and that Hindu Kundalini
schools teach Yama and Niyama (Sanskrit)
"Restraints-observances.” That is, it is very important that you do no harm to others no matter how it is packaged.
Presentations that others are the real enemy or that some harm helps in the spiritual battle is part of this labyrinth. Avoid
all that kind of thinking.
This beginning to awaken from illusion is good, but the danger is the desire for premature conclusions.
Remember: that “intermediate” world is both real/unreal like the apparent world, but with a slightly different
set of rules. Like the apparent world, it is not the Real.
The intellect is a two edged sword in this work. When used to solve problems (one purpose it has)
it is of some use. When used to feed the ego, it is less than useful. Some people have artistic talent; they can make music,
paint pictures, take photographs, write poetry, and so forth. Sometimes that talent shows some connection with the Real, but
artistic talent also carries an ego problem. The key question is, "Why did you come into the apparent world?"
Time is not as you imagine. There really is no before or after with regard to your experiences with
your Sheikh. It all happens at once.
Mother Goose is one symbol of Female God in the esoteric tradition of many cultures (northern Europe,
Zen, Taoism, have a goose symbol) and She is often called "Bigfoot" for the large size of her feet. This is also in the western
Jewish/Templar tradition with Lilith.
The Prophet Khidr (a.s.) is the One who helps us to announce to ourselves our True identity. He assists and
instructs us in the precise method, just as he assisted and instructed the Prophet Musa (a.s.). We are, as it were, Prophets
sent by ourselves to ourselves. Khidr
(a.s.) is the very force in nature, the Kundalini, that when awakened, helps us to manifest as the Living Fatiha. The secret of the Fatiha is that the Fatiha is
the Human Being, the Insan Kamil.
Compassion in times and places of confusion is usually a good idea. Frequently, new
dervishes will become upset by what they see happening in the apparent world. For example, if their tesbih (Sufi prayer beads) breaks, they take this as a sign that Allah is angry with them. There is no evil that
their tesbih broke. What is important is how the dervish mends it or replaces it. Just as that in life, when other "things"
break, what is important is our reaction and how we mend or replace them. In addition, assuming that Allah is angry with them,
is typical for the new dervish in that new dervishes tend to react in extreme ways. Everything becomes a matter of blown out
of proportion. As one matures on the Path, one develops a sense of proportion and perspective, and does not run off as a chicken
with its head cut off, when an inconvenience occurs in life.
Science is beginning to catch
up in some areas with the ancient techniques of Sufism. Rocking motion has a direct healing impact on the brain. Neuropsychologists
are beginning to explore this connection. “Rocking” makes one think of certain Sufic exercises of course. Stuart
Sovatsky writes, “Kundalini awakening or pranic awakening and its cross-tradition
similars - the spontaneous spinal rockings known in Judaism as davening and in Sufism as zikr; the ‘taken-over’
gyrations of gospel ‘holy ghost’ shaking and dancing and charismatic/pentecostal ‘manifestations’;
the Dionysian ‘revel’; Quakerism’s and Shakerism's autonomic quaking and shaking; Tai Chi guided by chi
itself; the shamanic trance-dance; Buddhism’s and Raja-Yoga’s effortless ‘straight back’ (uju-kaya)
meditation; the yogically derived ecstatic belly-dance and Flamenco; and even the full-bodied, spontaneous Reichian ‘reflex’-
literally embody the spiritual path.”
A word of advice to Sheikhs and Teachers who are reading this: Do not worry if all your students
leave. In fact, this may well be the best thing that could happen to you. It is always up to Allah as to who comes and who
goes in the group. Our understanding of what may be “good” or “bad” is not the same understanding
as that of the average person. If an egotist or bully sets up a school, that is great. Like attracts like and we can be less
bothered with distracted people. Your responsibility as Sheikh is just to do your best, and leave the comings and goings of
students in Allah’s capable hands. A great Sufi once said (when asked about the qualities of a sheikh) that the
only thing necessary is that the sheikh has what is needed by the students (needed to further the student’s evolution).
The behavior of highly visible sheikhs, sheikhs who seem to crave the public’s attention and spotlight, is often learned
behavior that false teachers use to sell themselves, as they have no real connection with a living tradition and know nothing
(have no experience) with illumination. The true teachers appear different in each age because the needs of each age are different.
Moreover, each individual teacher may appear different to each individual student because the needs of the students are different.
Some of you may have been studying Sufism, and traveling the Path for many years, and imagine that
you have made little progress. Remember: Mercy enables the crossing. Rather than placing your trust in finding the most arcane
or the most difficult practice in the dervish repertoire, you should be regularly beseeching Allah to bestow Her Mercy upon
you! Pray for Allah’s Rahmat (Mercy)! Your knowledge will not purchase for
you a ticket to illumination. Your years of service will not purchase for you a ticket to illumination. Whom you know will
not purchase for you a ticket to illumination. Mercy enables the crossing. Pray always for Allah’s Mercy. Other than
praying for forgiveness, this prayer for Mercy is the most important prayer. Moreover, in fact, Allah’s forgiveness
is based in Allah’s Mercy. Pray that Allah, through Her expression as Ar-Rahim,
The Merciful, will grant you direct experience of mystical Truth (Haqq). Know that
direct experience melts fear.
Mystic truth is guarded by a “Guardian at the Threshold.” You always must discover the
key to unlock the Reality. As Muhammad (pbuh) said, “I am the city of knowledge, and Ali is its gate.”
The reader may be feeling frustration lately about how long illumination seems to take for him or
her. It reminds this writer of Hafiz. His illumination took place forty years after he found his teacher in the apparent world,
the famed Khwajagan Master Muhammad Attar. After his spiritual consecration of forty years, during which he wrote 5,000 poems,
Khwajagan Master Attar served him wine and the Work was completed.
If a certain Teacher’s approach to Sufism is that he sees less use for Sufi
titles in the West, that is not for another to judge. What is being transmitted is still Sufism; however, these Teachers,
out of a Malamati sense of complete effacement, refuse to introduce themselves
in any way as a Sheikh.
It is not an easy thing for certain men and women to remain hidden. However, they accomplish this
in a variety of ways. Remember the story of the Sufi Master who deliberately passed wind to rid himself of students who were
not there out of a love of Essence? Many stories such as this have been told.
Another great Sufi Master, Bayazid Bistami, deliberately picked up and ate a piece of food, breaking
his fast, during Ramadan (the month of fasting), in order to scandalize his students, and cause the unworthy to leave him
alone. Very many well-read students of Sufism are highly familiar with stories such as this, but when they come across a Master
who acts in unexpected and surprising ways, they run away. This is precisely the opposite of what all their reading taught
them is the correct course of action in such situations.
Fakhruddin ‘Iraqi produced one of the most exquisite commentaries on Ibn ‘Arabi’s
doctrine of Love. This great poet-scholar had initially been associated with wondering qalandars, a group of outsiders who disregarded social norms and incurred
the wrath of the orthodox community.
Most students have very little patience when it comes to the Sheikh. As soon as they observe behavior
that they “believe” is improper they start saying all sorts of nasty things in public about the Sheikh and run
away. All Sheikhs will “appear” to fail you . . . however, this criticism of the Sheikh is due to your nafs seeking an “easy way out.” Very, very few people are truly willing to do the work necessary to
rid themselves of egoic pride. Moreover, as we know, egoic pride can infect the dervish at any point on the path.
The only reasons to leave a Sheikh is if he or she makes outrageous claims, such as claiming he
is some “special” being such as the Mahdi, Qutub or Pir or some reincarnation of a great soul. Imam Ali (a.s.) said, “The worst man is the one who sees himself as the best.” Other valid reasons
to leave a Sheikh would include if he abuses alcohol and/or mind altering drugs, consistently breaks promises, is lazy and
not working with all his strength to help humanity, and becomes defensive and abusive whenever you question his behavior.
The Sheikh’s compassion for human beings knows no bounds, and you will always find him or her on the “front lines”
serving humanity. Real Sheikhs do not hide on the top of mountains, nor hide from their dervishes. Real Sheikhs do not “come
and go,” disappearing for weeks and months, then making mystical sounding or self-justifying rationales for their absence.
Real Sheikhs do not repeatedly lie by telling you that they will call or write, and then repeatedly break these promises.
Imam Ali (a.s.) said, "Keep away from friendship with a liar. Surely he will show you as near what is far from you, and will
show you as far what is near you." The real Sheikh is adorned by Allah with beautiful manners.
Dive right into the Heart of Blame and leave your titles, your imagined “position” in
the tekke, your sense of being “special,” and other subtle ways that try to communicate to people that you are
“spiritual”. Serving humanity is the priority of the real dervish, not serving in some overly sentimental sense
of being charitable to those “less fortunate” than we are, but through recognizing the Divine Light in all human
beings, and acting accordingly. Think of all the numerous ways that our Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon
him) would constantly suggest to his community to help those who were poor, sick, widowed, orphaned, and some way in need.
Spend your time thinking how you can help your neighbor, rather than worrying about tekke politics. As a dervish, you only
exist to serve; forget about sleights to your ego. We are only dust under the feet of Muhammad (s.a.w.s.).
Sheikha Fariha al-Jerrahi writes, “Awareness of the open space of our being brings deep peace.
Letting go of all ownership of self and aspects of self, whether 'beautiful' or not, all claims of being someone, of having
any personal knowledge or identity beyond open-heart space, brings us peace. This is the state of pure submission, pure receptivity
toward the One, in the One.”
The moment one names something, that living experience tends to die and become the definition. The
moment a Teacher calls his or her Teaching by a certain name, then in a sense, the teaching immediately congeals, freezes
and condenses from a fluid reality, into a kind of frozen structure.
In the noble work to keep the Teaching “alive”, today’s Teachers in the West,
allow the Waters of Life to flow freely where and as they will, and do not attempt to “push the river.”
It is beyond the learning of most psychotherapists to understand that suffering is how God turns
some peoples’ minds toward Her. Some therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists reading this, may have been feeling
a particular despair and/or frustration in working with certain patients, because they cannot seem to help them with their
pain. These are often special cases in which the patient is being treated by Allah; and the treatment sometimes is quite severe.
This is because it is easier to awaken from a nightmare than a pleasant dream. In fact, one of the functions of nightmares
is to awaken us if we have a stomachache or other physical problem, or there is something in the environment that needs our
attention. So too, the nightmare “world” that we believe to be our everyday, ordinary, waking world, serves to
jolt us awake serves to enlighten us, and makes us realize that what we mistook for the real world, was in fact, only a dream!
The Doctor of All Our Souls, the Mercy to Humankind, Muhammad Mustafa (s.a.w.s.) said, “You
are asleep, and when you die, you awake.” The sages have told us, “Sleep is unconscious meditation, meditation
is conscious sleep.”
There are some sheikhs in the world today, one could call them “public sheikhs,” who
have hundreds of thousands of students. These public sheikhs often have a large presence on the internet. Then there are True
Sheikhs, who often have a handful of students, and who practice in a humble and quiet way. Frequently they do not even call
themselves “Sheikhs” to avoid undue attention, and will even deny that they are Teachers. Yet, other individuals
are making all sorts of claims to their own secret “identity.” False claims carry dark consequences to the spirit.
During the Illumination process, some will see what is called “The Otherness of God,”
or the non-human aspect. This is quite terrifying. However, the terror goes away when one knows it is as much God as
Her human form. Still, this Way is not for the timid.
The Initiatory Way of the Sufis requires two prerequisites. The first prerequisite is the obsession
to illumination. One historic Sufi described the initiatory process when he said he learned about it from a man addicted to
gambling. In addition, indeed it is the willingness to gamble and loose everything for the sake of illumination, including,
but not limited to previously held beliefs. Signs of this trait are often seen in childhood by odd dreams that have little
understood "spiritual symbolism.” Those who have experienced this know it as a blessing and a curse.
The second stage is "longing," and it is related to the first. Most apparent in this stage is the
emotional component. This component is almost a manifestation of the first, fueled by strong emotion and seemingly based in
the material world. It is through this emotion that Allah awakens the urge, in the sleeping human, to undertake the “return.”
The emotional fuel is love. This is a rose with thorns. Examples of this stage are widespread in Sufi teaching literature.
Layla and Majnun, Rumi and Shams, Lancelot and Guinevere are some of the well-known cases, but there are numerous other examples.
This delicious holy misery occurred in the author’s life and for our purposes hopefully in
yours. This "cooking" in its simplest terms involves an all-consuming love, and being in love with someone with whom you cannot
consummate that love, for example if you are physically separated from the person you love. The “cooking” works
best if that person loves you, but paradoxically wishes the separation. Periodic contact helps, as does a sexual energy if
Without the intervention of the Khwajagan “The Masters of Wisdom” into the Western World,
the opportunities to experience this “holy misery,” also known as “love sickness” would be few.
The experience of longing causes certain chemical changes. The best-known example of this chance
for inner work is the Troubadour movement in old Europe. This movement, engineered by the Khwajagan, the “Masters of
Wisdom,” set up the ideal of "romantic love" for future generations in the west. This was done to create situations
where "longing" would occur by circumstance, thus enabling some to experience the second stage as part of their natural life.
Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi has a story about cooking chickpeas that highlights this very point about
A chickpea leaps almost over the rim of the pot
where it's being boiled.
'Why are you doing this to me?'
They cook knocks it down with the ladle.
'Don't try to jump out.
You think I'm torturing you,
I'm giving you flavor, so you can mix with spices and rice
and be the lovely vitality of a human being.
Remember when you drank rain in the garden.
That was for this.'
Grace first. Sexual pleasure,
then a boiling new life begins,
and the Friend has something to eat.'
selection is taken from Rumi's masterpiece, the "Mathnawi.” This particular version can be found in the book “RUMI
We Are Three,” version by Coleman Barks.
Unusual events should sometimes be interpreted in a manner similar to interpretations one would
use when one examines the "dream world.”
You may be suffering. You may be worried right now, afraid, grief stricken, angry, and so forth. The apparent world
is filled with things to cause rage, grief, doubt, happiness, entertainment, boredom, fear, and many other emotions. Those
things are meant to distract you from why you were born. Those things are meant to help make sure you do not recall where
you are from and where you are going.
Shamans used to meditate toward
the North Star. In ancient times, human beings looked at the night sky and saw how all the stars would move in a circular
pattern except for one, the North Star. One point in the night sky stays the same, stays in one place, the central point,
the North Star. All the other stars spin around the North Star, also called the Axis
Mundi (World Alignment or Pole). Because of the circular pattern of stars, the ancients believed the exoteric teaching
that the earth was eaten by a snake, in other words, that the earth was in a long tube. As the shamans meditated toward
the North Star, they knew they could exit by that point and return through that "gate.”
Khidr is an unusual Islamic and Sufi figure, inhabiting the grey area between mythic folk-hero and
supernatural spirit. One tale relates that, as a mortal human, he accompanied Iskandar Akbar (Alexander the Great) on his
search for the Fountain of Life. Separated from Iskandar, he accidentally discovered the Fountain, fell into it, and thereby
Other tales, however, accord Khidr a status resembling that of a major archangel. In these traditions,
he is Allah's deputy in regards to the seas and oceans, and His regent upon the Earth. He is said to have revealed occult
wisdom to various sages and worthy humans. Most notable among these is the Prophet Musa (Moses), May Allah's peace and blessing
be upon him, to whom al-Khidr is related to have instructed, in a thinly disguised initiatory sequence in the Qur’an.
As Khidr represents all things green, we can conclude that Khidr is the totality of the Etheric
(or Life) Force in the world. The Etheric Force is most clearly seen and observed in the plant world. This force is what gives
a body life. It can never be seen under a microscope or discovered using a scalpel, but nevertheless, without this force,
no human, animal, bird, insect, or plant, can be said to be “alive.”
Khidr not only has discovered
the Fountain of Youth (the Water of Life), but he has within himself the water of life. Thus, he is able to continuously refresh
himself from himself. In the Welsh belief system, Dylan was the God of the Sea. The Mabinogion story tells us he was
the son of Gwydion (Poet and Wizard) and Arianrhod (The Mother Goddess). As a newborn, Dylan took off for the sea where he
could swim like a fish immediately and was beloved of these creatures. No wave ever broke beneath him and so he was called
Dylan Eil Ton, "the son of the wave.” Certain parallels are observed here with the sea-dwelling Prophet Khidr.
Khidr also through his watery and fish symbolism points to him being the Master of the sexual sphere,
or the Kundalini. As Khidr is the Secret of the Fatiha, one may conclude that the
very secret of the Fatiha lies in learning to properly work with the Kundalini energies.
While “holy misery” and “yearning” are important stages in reawakening the
desire to “return home,” ultimately one must give up suffering. Pain generally is not optional, but suffering
is altogether different from pain. It is important to make this distinction. Suffering is intimately tied to the nafs, otherwise known as the “I” or “ego.” As soon as you attach “I” to pain,
it then becomes what you call suffering. Your preoccupation with your own suffering is incredibly self-indulgent. The Sufi
knows that it is the greatest sin to utter the word “I” in front of Allah, for Allah alone exists. Attar writes,
The Double only seems,
but The One is,
They-self to Self-annihilation give
That this false Two in that true One may live.
People’s experience of suffering is ultimately a dream of the ego because there is no other
reality except the Ultimate Reality. Obsession with your suffering is egoic and therefore Shaytanic. Give up your suffering.
Let go of your self-absorption with suffering. Resist the urging of your nafs to personalize your pain and turn it into suffering.
The nafs always want to attach the pain to your soul and make it personal. For example, people will say, “I am having a terrible day.” “My life is not worth living.”
“People are cruel to me.” “Allah has abandoned me.” Suffering is very egocentric. For some this is easier to do than for others. As one’s awareness
is focused on the One Living Reality, as one’s heart becomes a polished mirror, the question becomes, “Who is
Attar writes: One day Hasan of Basra and Malik son of Dinar and Shakik of Balk came to see Rabi’a
(al-‘Adawiya) when she was ill. Hasan said, ‘None is sincere in his claim (to love God) unless he patiently endures
the blows of his Lord.’ Rabi’a said, ‘This smells of egoism.’ Shakik said, ‘None is sincere
in his claim unless he give thanks for the blows of his Lord.’ Rabi’a said, ‘This must be bettered.’
Malik son of Dinar said, ‘None is sincere in his claim unless he delight in the blows of his Lord.’ Rabi’a
said, ‘This still needs to be improved.’ They said, ‘Do thou speak.’ She said, ‘None is sincere
in his claim unless he forgets the blows in beholding his Lord.’
The author suggests that you should not tolerate abusive situations, nor ignore the advice of your
doctor. Wise and responsible actions are reasonable in response to pain. However, stop cherishing and nursing your suffering
as if it was an old friend. It is really a monster that grows out of proportion and will consume your soul if left unchecked.
Let us consider joy. Joy arises from neither happiness nor sadness. Many of you reading this know
that you can feel joy in the midst of the most difficult circumstances. Allow joy to burst through the constant “back
and forth” play of pleasure and suffering. Ruysbroeck writes, “Of all this suffering and abandonment the man should
make an inward joy; and he should give himself into the hands of God, and should be glad because he is able to suffer for
the glory of God. And if he be true to this disposition, he shall taste such an inward joy as he never tasted before; for
nothing is more joyful to the lover of God, than to feel that he belongs wholly to his Beloved.” In addition, St. Teresa
of Lisieux writes, “O Lord, thou fillest me with joy in all that thou doest.”
The author does not ask the reader to dispense with emotions. The author does ask the reader to
dispense with obsessive indulging in suffering. This obsession emphasizes the ego; hence, it is a kind of idol worship.
Pleasure, too, is another recreation of the ego, as is suffering. Pleasure and suffering make up
the drama of the illusion of separate self-existence. Gradually put aside your preoccupations with pleasure and suffering
and enter into the pure joy of Allah. Rumi writes in his Divani Shamsi Tabriz,
“His joy admits no sorrow nor affliction.”