Humanity is in an unprecedented era of change. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens from every walk of life are forced to confront the terrible reality of their existence and the constitution of their moral caliber. Through the reduction and constraints of their regular commitments, individuals are compelled, under threat of possible infection, to examine the quality, foundations, and substance of their life. One's unconscious assumptions of "how things should be" in times of crisis belie a deeper, consummate reality and concern: whether or not a life of ignorance and adherence to the desiderata of life's banality is better than questioning the genuine causes and perpetrators of affliction. Contrary to biased logic of mass hysteria, people from every religious or secular tradition, under quarantine, are given a wonderful opportunity to evaluate and elevate their particular level of being.
Throughout many spiritual traditions, retreat has been practiced to establish, deepen, and maintain the greatest meditative disciplines and the actualization of divine experience. Disciples of every religion would take time in seclusion, ignoring the influence of mundane obligations, anxieties, stress, and worries, to focus on the more important matter of awakening and developing the soul. Free from worldly conditions, engagements, and pursuits, meditators introspect within the depths of their own consciousness in order to contemplate the source of sorrow and discover its remedy: profound comprehension and elimination of psychological defects, including the driver of all social hierarchies, institutions, and economies: fear.
Negative emotions have infected the entire globe as COVID-19 rapidly spreads. Fear, despair, and pessimism, rather than infect the body, are true diseases that infect the heart and mind. Anger, terror, and morbidity are far more contagious and dangerous than any virus, since negative emotions incapacitate the ability to reason, analyze, and solve problems, obscuring the discovery of relevant, practical solutions. Fear pushes countries to war, since they mistakenly believe that security and comfort comes through invasions, colonialism, and violence. This is why Samael Aun Weor, the founder of the modern Gnostic Tradition, stated:
"Everyone is being dragged down by negative emotions, and this is very grave. There is nothing more harmful for profound internal development than negative emotions... Everyone is being shaken up by negative emotions and nothing could be more contagious than these emotions...
"A negative person can infect other negative people, and if this person dictates a lecture, then he infects thousands of people. They are more dangerous, thousand of times more dangerous, than viruses and bacteria...
"If a person goes everywhere from instant to instant with negative emotions, this person infects the whole world." ―Samael Aun Weor, Alcyone and Negative Emotions
This is why the most venerated spiritual traditions have always emphasized and practiced meditation retreats: to confront in oneself the possibilities and motives of conflict, egotism, and misery. By separating from the world, meditators learn to perceive the psychological causes that engender painful circumstances and therefore remove them with intelligence and understanding.
While every religion has a contemplative tradition, Sufism offers valuable wisdom and particular insightful regarding the parameters of meditation retreat.
Traditionally, Sufi masters would diagnose the needs of their disciples and determine whether they would benefit from entering retreat, due to the level of rigor, skill, and quality of internal work expected from them. This strict and conservative stipulation is a marked characteristic of the Piscean influence, since a codified adherence to a physical master was needed at the time, not only to determine the inner remedies for a student's deficiencies in temperament and character, but to qualify the spiritual worth of the candidate for the most elevated mystical knowledge.
Since the 1960's, our world has operated under the Aquarian influence, an Era defined by the dissemination and free exchange of mystical knowledge that was once forbidden and inaccessible to the public, but reserved for an elite through a secretive oral tradition between master and disciple. The secret teachings of all ages are now available, for the first time, to the public, because humanity no longer has time to abandon the world and study under the tutelage of a master for many decades. This is due to the impending cataclysms and calamities that mark the end and beginning of new cosmic ages.
In the Piscean Era, the master was found in a physical institution. In the Aquarian Era, the master is found within the internal worlds: the mysterious Tree of Life accessible only to practical meditators and internal experience.
Piscean knowledge demands obedience. Aquarian wisdom embodies independence.
What is old clings to life, and what is new cries for the death of the antiquated.
Due to quarantine, individuals are free to enter into spiritual retreat for the sake of their spirituality and the edification of their hearts without outward restrictions, impositions, or Piscean dogma.
The Principles of Retreat
Meditation retreat is a means of internal purification of conditioned states of mind and has been recommended, practiced, and upheld by the prophets of all great religious traditions:
"Khalwah, retreat, belongs to the purified, while uzlah, withdrawal from the world, marks the people of union. The seeker needs to withdraw from his own kind in the beginning stages. Then, in the last stages, he needs to retreat in order to confirm himself in intimacy with God." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Khalwah, meditation retreat, can be practiced in the solitude of one's own home. At the end of this article you will find recommendations for how to initiate and maintain a tentative meditation retreat schedule alongside different activities you can select from in accordance with your needs.
Withdrawal from the world is not only a form of self-reflection for masters of meditation, but a psychological state of detachment from mundane afflictions. Meditation becomes a means by which to achieve intimacy with divinity through mystical experiences and awakened consciousness during meditation and the normal hours of sleep.
Intentions for Retreat
Contrary to popular belief, meditators do not enter retreat to avoid the negativities of the world, but to protect humanity from their own negative, egotistical psychological states.
"If the servant chooses to withdraw, his intention must be to separate himself from people so that they will be safe from his evil—he must not be looking to protect himself from their evil. For the first of these attitudes come from thinking little of one’s own ego, while the second comes from making oneself out to be better than other people. A person who thinks little of himself is humble, while a person who sees himself as better than anybody else is arrogant." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
These are essential principles to consider. Given the realities of quarantine, students have the wonderful opportunity to work on their own defects so that, once external circumstances change, the disciple is psychologically prepared to face whatever hardships, extremities, or novelties emerge in relation to the global pandemic.
Rules of Retreat
"One of the rules of withdrawal is that whoever goes into seclusion must acquire the knowledge that makes his commitment to unity (tawhid) firm, so that satan (the "me, myself, and I," the animal ego) cannot seduce him through the (conditioned or negative) imagination (fantasy or delusional perceptions). Then he should acquire enough knowledge of the divine law (ethical conduct) that he is able to fulfill his religious duties so that his undertaking maybe built on definite and sure foundations." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Retreats are based upon one's commitment to unity, which, as a prominent theological point within Islam, has nuanced implications within the esoteric interpretations of Sufism.
Divinity is a perfect unity, a defined quality of Being, yet due to our own multiplicity of defects, vices, and errors―the pluralistic ego which traps the full potentiality of our consciousness―we are fractured beings lacking integration. To know the unity of divinity, the perfected states of the Being, requires that we integrate the consciousness through fulfilling divine law: the ethical discipline of internal meditation.
The consciousness, heart, or soul can serve as a mirror to reflect divine realities, yet it must be polished daily through the ethical conduct of self-observation, self-remembrance, meditation, runes, sacred rites of rejuvenation, mantras, prayers, alchemy, and through many other esoteric exercises within the Gnostic Tradition of Samael Aun Weor.
Through fulfilling the laws of requisites of religion, the consciousness that was trapped within the ego can be liberated and integrated, producing illumination or enlightenment.
"There is an organ in the body that, if it is righteous, ensures that the whole system will be righteous; and if it is corrupt, the whole body will become corrupt. This organ is the heart. There is a polish for everything that takes away rust; and the polish for the heart is dhikr, the remembrance of Allah." ―Prophet Muhammad, Hadith
A Recommended Schedule for Spiritual Retreat
The following is a meditation retreat schedule you can follow and adapt in accordance with your needs:
Recommended Sources for Meditation and Spiritual Practices
Alchemy Techniques for Married Couples
Dream Yoga Exercises
Mantras and Prayers for Protection
Pranayama for Single Practitioners
Sacred Rites of Rejuvenation
As a writer on various spiritual subjects and religions, Samael Aun Weor discussed the beauty and depth of Sufism throughout his writings, particularly The Perfect Matrimony: The Door to Enter into Initiation, as well as The Aquarian Message and The Narrow Way. We have included some excerpts from these texts in order to elucidate the essential knowledge at the heart of Sufism, the mystical doctrine of Islam.
If you are interested in learning more about the gnostic teachings within Sufism, you can listen to the following courses from the Gnostic Academy of Chicago:
The most ineffable part of Mohammedan mysticism is Persian Sufism. It has the merit of struggling against materialism and fanaticism and against the literal interpretation of the Koran. The Sufis interpret the Koran from the esoteric point of view as we, the Gnostics, interpret the New Testament.
What is most disconcerting to Westerners is the strange and mysterious mixture of the erotic with the mystical in the oriental religions and Sufi mysticism. Christian theology considers the flesh to be hostile to the Spirit. However, in the Muslim religion, the flesh and the Spirit are two substances of the same energy, two substances that must help each other. This subject-matter is only understood by those who practice positive sexual magic. In the East, religion, science, art, and philosophy are taught in an erotic and exquisite sexual language. “Mohammed fell in love with God,” state the mystic Arabs. “Select a new wife for yourself each spring of the new year, because last year’s calendar is no good,” says a Persian poet and philosopher.
Those who have carefully studied the Song of Songs by the sage Solomon find that delicate mixture of the mystical and the erotic, which scandalizes infrasexual people a great deal.
A true religion cannot renounce the erotic because it would be its death. Many myths and ancient legends are based on the erotic. In fact, love and death form the base of every authentic religion.
The Sufis, Persian poets, wrote about the love of God in expressions applicable to beautiful women. These scandalize the infrasexual fanatic people. The idea of Sufism is the amorous union of the soul with God.
Indeed, nothing can better explain the amorous union of the Soul with God than the delectable sexual union of man and woman. That is the brilliant idea of Sufism. If we want to talk about the union of God with the Soul, we must do so in the erotic language of love and sex. Only in this way can we express what we have to say.
The symbolic language of the Sufis has marvelous expressions. Among them, sleep signifies meditation.
Actually, meditation without sleep damages the mind. This is known by every true initiate. One must combine sleep with meditation. This is known by the Sufis. The word ‘perfume’ symbolizes the hope of divine favor; ‘kisses’ and ‘embraces’ amongst other things, signify the rapture of piety; ‘wine’ means spiritual knowledge, etc.
The Sufi poets sang of love, of women, of roses and of wine, and nonetheless many of them lived the lives of hermits.
The seven mystical states described by the Sufis are something extraordinary. There are certain chemical substances closely related with these mystical states. Nitrous oxide and ether (especially nitrous oxide when it is dissolved sufficiently in air) stimulate the mystical consciousness to an extraordinary degree.
We have to acknowledge that this present humanity is subconscious. People like this are incapable of knowing the superior dimensions of space. Therefore, it is urgent to awaken the consciousness and this is only possible during ecstasy. If we analyze ecstasy with dialectic logic, we discover that it is sexual. The same sexual energies that are expressed in erotic pleasure, when transmuted and sublimated, awaken the consciousness and then produce ecstasy.
Fatality is the loss of ecstasy, it is the fall again into subconsciousness. This happens when we spill the Cup of Hermes.
A great Master stated: “With the sexual impulse, the human being finds himself in the most personal relationship with Nature. The comparison of the sensation which a man experiences with a woman or vice versa, with the consent of Nature, is indeed the same sensation as that offered by the forest, the prairie, the sea, the mountains; save that in this case it is even more intense, since it awakens more internal voices, provokes the sound of more intimate chords.” This is how we reach ecstasy.
Ecstasy, the mystical experience, has its principles based on dialectic logic. This logic can never be violated. Let us reflect for example on the unity of experience. This principle exists among the mystics of the east as well as those of the west, among the hierophants of Egypt, as well as the Sufi sages, or among the Aztec magicians. During ecstasy, the mystics speak in the same universal language, use the same words and feel united with all creation. The sacred scriptures of all religions show the same principles. This is dialectic logic, superior logic. This proves that the mystics of all countries of the world drink from the same fountain of life. The conditions of the causes of the world (another of the principles of dialectic logic) show with exactitude, precision, and complete agreement of facts the reality and truth of ecstasy. The mystics of all religions of the world totally agree in their affirmations about the conditions of the causes of the world; the concordance is therefore perfect. —Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony, "Fatality"
The seven degrees of ecstasy through which the mystic reaches the perfect state of the soul are described in the school of Sufism. The school of Sufism teaches about ecstasy. The state and secret of our level is revealed in Sufism, because this is the interior state of life in God.
While on the path of interior peace we must perform the will of God “on earth as it is in heaven.” This conformity to “the mild yoke” takes us through the narrow stretch and difficult path that leads us towards the light.
Everyone who works in the magisterium of fire must learn how to meditate on the seven churches. The mystic must profoundly focus his concentration on the Immolated Lamb. The mystic must pray, beseeching the beloved to awaken the longed for chakra, disc, wheel, or faculty. Afterwards, when the supplication is done, the mystic must then search for refuge in the nothingness. His mind must remain silent and serene.
Illumination and ecstasy come when the mind is silent, when the mind is quiet.
Drowsiness in combination with meditation produces ecstasy.
God searches the nothingness in order to fill it.
Ecstasy has seven degrees of power:
The first is the fire that instructs and teaches us.
The second is the gnostic unction, which is a soft, solar liquor, that when diffused throughout the soul, teaches, corroborates, and prepares us in order to incarnate the truth.
The third is the mystical exaltation of the humble and sincere disciple.
The fourth is illumination.
The fifth is the internal joy of divine sweetness that emanates from the precious fountain of the Holy Spirit. This joy is for those who have “continuous consciousness.”
The sixth is the decapitation of the “I.”
The seventh is the Venustic Initiation, the incarnation of the Son of Man within us.
There are other degrees of contemplation and ecstasy, such as: rapture, liquefaction, bliss, jubilation, osculation, embracement, transformation, etc.
When our mind becomes submerged within the nothingness, then the Lamb enters the soul in order to sup with her. Therefore, the nothingness is the medium utilized by the beloved in order to work within our soul, awakening centers and performing marvels. The divine spouse comes in order to betroth his soul through this nothingness, within the nuptial bridal bed of paradise.
Thus, this is the path for returning into the innocence of paradise. While submerged within the nothingness, the soul will successfully experience the spiritual martyrdoms and the interior torments. God searches the nothingness in order to fill it.
Internal meditation produces changes in our internal bodies. Through it, the awakening of the consciousness arrives.
All human beings live within the supra-sensible worlds with the consciousness asleep. Meditation provokes the solemn awakening of the consciousness.
This awakening is like lightning in the night. This awakening of the consciousness occurs during the normal sleep of our physical body. When this body sleeps we move ourselves in our internal vehicles.
When the body sleeps, the soul travels throughout the superior worlds. When the consciousness awakens we stop dreaming. Then we live in the internal worlds in a state of intensified awareness. This is what is called “continuous consciousness.”
Whosoever has awakened the consciousness lives awake in the superior worlds.
While in the supra-sensible worlds we feel the mystical beatitude of the ineffable light. Then, the past, the present, and the future harmonize within an eternal now.
There is no better pleasure than feeling one's soul detached. Then we taste the divine nectar of eternity, and we enter through the doors of the temples filled with joy and amidst the ineffable melodies of the great mysteries. ―Samael Aun Weor, The Aquarian Message
The Passion of Al-Hallaj
The omnicosmic and most holy Al-Hallaj was born in Madina al-Bayda, a little village in the ancient province of Fars, in southern Persia, in the year 224 A.H. / 857 C.E., and was the grandson of a devotee of the great Master Zoroaster.
Al-Hallaj was initiated into the great mysteries of Sufism. Arabian traditions tell us that when he was forty years old, he disagreed with the jurists and orthodox traditional, religious scholars; thus, he went to the streets to directly teach the multitudes the sublime principles of spiritual life.
It is written that Al-Hallaj, the great Sufi master, taught with his word and with his example. Indefatigably, he travelled throughout Iran, India, Turkey, etc., reaching even the very borders of ancient China.
The great Master Al-Hallaj was without a doubt a tremendous revolutionary. Jealous and envious politicians accused him of being a dangerous agitator. Religious scholars of the law accused him of being a heretic when he mixed the human with the divine. When divulging the esoteric mysteries amidst the people, the masters of Sufism themselves did not have any difficulty in accusing him of breaking the discipline of that which is arcane. Thus, as is natural in those cases, judges were willing to condemn him for many supposed crimes, for example: being a fraud, impostor, black magician, warlock, sorcerer, profaner of mysteries, people’s agitator, ignorant preacher, enemy of the government, etc.
Al-Hallaj, the mystical Sufi, was imprisoned in an infamous jail for nine years, and afterwards vilely mutilated and executed on March 27, 922, in the year 309 of Hejira.
Sacred Islamic traditions tell us that when the terrible night came, the night in which he was taken from his dungeon in order to be executed at dawn, he stood and uttered the ritualistic prayer and prostrated himself two times.
Those who saw him said that when his prayer was concluded, he persistently repeated, “Deceitfulness, deceitfulness…” through the long and dark night, and after a long and profound silence, he exclaimed, “Truthfulness, truthfulness,” and raised up again. He tied a veil on his head, covered himself with his blessed shroud, extended his sacred Christified hands, turned his divine countenance towards the Kaaba, entered into ecstasy, and spoke with his internal God.
At daylight, when he left the prison, the multitudes saw him happily dancing in a complete, joyful ecstasy under the weight of his irons.
The merciless executioners took him to the public square, where, after flagellating him five hundred times, they cut off his hands and feet.
Ancient traditions from the Arabian world state that after having been flagellated and mutilated, Al-Hallaj was crucified. Many people heard him talking in ecstasy to his Father who is in secret from his own Golgotha: “Oh God of mine! I am going to enter into the abode of my wishes; there I will contemplate thy marvels. Oh God of mine! If you manifest thy love even to him that wounds Thee, how then would Thou not give thy love to the one who is wounded because of Thee?”
After this prayer sprouted from the most holy heart of Al-Hallaj, the people who watched the torture saw Abu Bakr Al-Shibli, while advancing towards the scaffold of tortures, shout very strongly the following verse, “Did we not prohibit thee to receive guests, whether man or angel?”
Then Abu Bakr asked, “What is mysticism?”
Al-Hallaj answered, “Behold, his minor degree before thee.”
Abu Bakr asked again, “And where is his supreme degree?”
Al-Hallaj answered, “Thou cannot have access unto it; nonetheless, tomorrow thou shall see what shall come. I testify it in the Divine Mystery within which it exists, albeit it is hidden for thee.”
At the evening hour, the hour of prayer, came the order of the cruel sanguinary Caliph, authorizing the beheading of the victim; yet, his executioners said, “It is too late; let him be decapitated tomorrow.”
Very early in the morning, the Caliph’s command was fulfilled, and Al-Hallaj, still alive, was brought down from the cross and carried away in order to have his throat slit. Then, a certain witness heard Al-Hallaj uttering in a loud voice, “What the Ecstatic One wants is the Unique, and no-one else but Himself.” Thereafter, filled with ecstasy he recited the following sacred verse, “Those who do not believe in the last hour are dragged with haste towards it; however, the believers wait for it with a reverential fear, since they know it is the Truth.”
Thus, this is how with these solemn words the life of the omnicosmic and most holy Al-Hallaj concluded. Hence, his venerable, bleeding, blessed head fell under the edge of the sword as a sanguinary holocaust on the altar of supreme sacrifice for humanity.
The poisonous hatred of his executioners was so great that they did not even authorize his cadaver to be shrouded or have a burial service.
Ancient traditions of Islam tell us that the sacred ashes of the old Sufi Al-Hallaj were dispersed in the winds from the heights of the Manarah.
Ancient Arabic legends state that instead of a white blanket, this saint’s cadaver was rolled up in a filthy rug formerly damped in petroleum.
When the holy body burned, consumed by the fire of the holocaust, the whole of nature shook filled with infinite terror.
The great hierophant Sufi Al-Hallaj, by means of chisel and hammer, transformed the brute stone and gave a perfect cubic shape onto it.
Before physically dying, the great, immolated Al-Hallaj was already absolutely dead psychologically.
The resplendent diamond soul of Mansur Al-Hallaj is treading upon the heavenly path heading towards the Absolute.
The great Sufi initiate Al-Hallaj was born, died, and sacrificed himself completely for humanity.
Now it is worthwhile to conclude this chapter with that ineffable prayer written with infinite love by the Mohammedan Christ Mansur Al-Hallaj entitled:
"Oh Thou, Wholeness of My Wholeness…"
Lo and behold, here I am, here I am, oh my secret, oh my confidence!
Lo and behold, here I am, here I am, oh Thou my aspiration, oh Thou my consequence!
I call upon Thee… No, Thou art the one who calls me towards Thee!
How could I have talked to Thee, if Thou would not have talked to me?
Oh Thou, essence of the essence of my existence, oh Thou, end result of my design,
Thou who makest me talk, oh Thou, my enunciations, Thou my blinks!
Oh Thou, wholeness of my wholeness, oh my ear, oh my sight!
Oh my totality, my constitution, and my parts!
Oh Thou, wholeness of my wholeness, wholeness of everything, equivocal enigma,
I darken the wholeness of thy wholeness when wanting to express thy being!
Oh Thou, from whom my spirit was suspended before now when dying of ecstasy,
Ah… thy pledge continues being my misfortune!...
Oh supreme objective that I request and wait, oh my guest,
Oh nourishment of my Spirit! Oh my life in this world and in the other!
Let my heart be thy ransom! Oh my ear, oh my sight!
Why so much delay in my seclusion, so distant?
Ah, albeit, thy presence, before my eyes, is hidden within the invisible,
My heart by now contemplates Thee, from my remoteness, yes, from my exile!
—Samael Aun Weor, The Narrow Way, "The Passion of Al-Hallaj"
Excerpted from "Principles of Sufism" by Al-Qushayri. Published by Mizan Press (1990), translated from the Arabic by B.R. Von Schlegell
God says, "Turn all together toward God [in repentance], O Believers, that you may attain bliss" (24:31).
It is reported on the authority of Anas b. Malik that the Messenger of God (may God's blessing and peace be upon him and his family) said, "The one who repents from sin is like one without sin, and if God loves a servant, sin does not adhere to him." Then he recited, "Verily God loves those who turn unto Him [in repentance], and He loves those who purify themselves" (2:222). It was asked, "O Messenger of God, what is the sign of repentance?" He replied, "Remorse."
On the authority of Anas b. Malik, the Messenger of God (may God's blessing and peace be upon him and his family) is reported to have said, "There is nothing more loved by God than the youth who repents."
Therefore repentance is the first degree among the degrees of the wayfarers and the first station among the stations of the seekers. The inner meaning of repentance in Arabic is "return." It is said, "He repented," meaning, "He returned." So repentance is to return from what is blameworthy in the law of Islam to what is praiseworthy in it.
The Prophet (may God's blessing and peace be upon him) said, "Remorse is an act of repentance." Therefore, those well versed in the fundamentals of religion among the people of the Sunna have said, "There are three conditions of repentance [which must be present] in order that it be sound: remorse for the violations that have been committed, immediate abandonment of the lapse, and firm resolve not to return to similar acts of disobedience." One must apply these principles to make repentance effective.
Someone has stated, "By the saying 'Remorse is an act of repentance' he meant that the major portion of repentance is remorse, just as he (may God's blessing and peace be upon him) said, "Pilgrimage is 'Arafat.'" That is, the greatest part of its elements is the standing at 'Arafat, not that there are no other elements in pilgrimage. So his saying, "Remorse is an act of repentance" means that the greatest part of the elements of repentance is remorse.
One among the people of realization has said, "Remorse is sufficient in fulfillment of that because it has as its consequence the other two conditions, for it is impossible one should be remorseful for an act in which he persists or the like of which he intends to commit." This is the meaning of repentance by way of summary definition.
By way of elucidation and explanation, we may say that repentance has causes, an order, an arrangement, and divisions. The first cause is the awakening of the heart from the slumber of heedlessness and the servant's becoming aware of his evil state. He attains this by means of the divine favor of attentiveness to the restraints imposed by God (may He be exalted). that come to his mind. This is by means of the audition of his heart, for it has come in the report, "The warner of God in the heart of every person is a Muslim." The tradition "There is a piece of flesh in the body which if it be healthy, the whole body is healthy and if it be corrupt, the whole body is corrupt. Truly, it is the heart." also speaks to this matter. If his heart reflects on the evil of his deeds, he perceives the despicable actions he commits, and the desire for repentance comes to his heart, along with refraining from repugnant doings. Then God (may He be exalted) supports him in correcting his firm intention, in embarking on the path to a goodly return, and in becoming receptive to the means of repentance.
The first of these means is to part company with brothers in evil, for they prompt him to deny this goal and cause him to doubt the correctness of this firm intention. And that is not complete except by perseverance in witnessing, which increases his longing for repentance, and by the presence of motives impelling him to fulfill his resolve, from which he strengthens his fear and hope. Then the despicable actions that form a knot of insistence on his heart are loosened, he ceases the practice of forbidden things, and the rein of his self (nafs) is held back from pursuing passions. Then he immediately abandons his sin and concludes a firm resolve not to return to similar sins in the future. If he continues in accordance with his goal and acts in conformity with his firm will, this means that he has been granted true sincerity.
If repentance diminishes once or twice and his desire causes him to renew the lapse―which may happen quite frequently―one should continue to hope for the repentance of such a person, for "Verily, to each period is a decree established" (13:38). Abu Sulayman ad-Darani said, "I frequented the gathering fo a preacher, for his words made an impression on my heart. But when I departed, nothing remained in my heart of his words. So I returned a second time. That time there did remain a trace of his words in my heart until I returned to my house. Then I broken the instruments of sin and I adhered to the path." Yahya b. Mu'adh commented on this tale, "A sparrow catches a crane." By the sparrow he intended that preacher and, by the crane, Abu Sulayman ad-Darani.
Abu Hafs al-Haddad remarked, "I abandoned a certain [reprehensible] deed and returned to it. Then the deed abandoned me, and I did not return to it after that."
Abu 'Amr b. Nujayd, in the beginning of his wayfaring, frequented the gathering of Abu 'Uthman. His words made an impression on his heart, and he repented. Then a trial came upon him. Abu 'Amr began to flee Abu 'Uthman when he saw him, and he absented himself from his gathering. One day when Abu 'Uthman met him, Abu 'Amr turned away and went down another path. So Abu 'Uthman followed him. He continued with him, following his tracks until he overtook him and declared, "O my son, do not be a companion to one who does not love you unless it be one who is sinless. It is only Abu 'Uthman who will help you in your present condition." Then Abu 'Amr b. Nujayd repented and returned to muridship and remained faithful to it." [Note: Murid, the one who "wills," i.e., wills to attain the goal of the Path precisely by submitting his will to that of the spiritual guide.]
Sheikh Abu 'Ali ad-Daqqaq (may God grant him mercy) said, "One of the murids repented, and then there came upon him a trial. He was wondering, 'If I return to repentance, how will it be?'"
"Then an invisible caller said to him, 'You obeyed Us, so We thanked you; then you abandoned Us, so We granted you respite. If you return to Us, We will accept you.' So the youth returned to muridship and remained faithful to it."
When a man abandons major sin, loosens from his heart the bond of persistence, and firmly intends not to return to sin, at that moment true remorse comes to his heart. He regrets what he has done and reproaches himself for the repugnant acts he has committed. Then his repentance is complete, his striving is true, and he exchanges the comradeship of evil companions he previously kept for isolation and for aversion to them. He works day and night in sorrow, and he embraces sincerity of regret in all of his states, erasing by the flood of his tears the traces of his stumbling and treats the wounds of his sin with the goodness of his repentance. He is known among his peers by his debility, and his emaciation testifies to the soundness of his state.
None of this will ever be complete except after satisfying the just grievances of his adversaries and putting aside the acts of oppression in which he persisted. The first stage of repentance is satisfaction of adversaries as much as possible. If what he has is sufficient for restoring their rights or if they consent to abandon their claim and pronounce him innocent, so be it. If not, then he should firmly resolve in his heart to fulfill their claim whenever possible to God (may He be exalted) with sound supplication and prayer for them.
There are qualities and states for those who repent. They are characteristics of the penitent which belong to repentance without its being conditional upon them. This is indicated in the sayings of the masters on the meaning of repentance.
The master Abu 'Ali ad-Daqqaq (may God grant him mercy) said, "Repentance is divided into three parts. The first is tawba [repentance], the middle is inaba [to turn to God], and the last is awba [return]." He placed tawba at the beginning, awba at the end, and inaba between the two. Whoever repents out of desire for [divine] reward is in the state of inaba. Whoever repents for the sake of obeying the divine command, neither for the desire of reward nor for the fear of punishment, is in the state of awba.
It is also said, "Tawba is the quality of the Believers." As God Most High says, " Turn [tubu] all together toward God in repentance, O Believers" (24:31). Inaba is the quality of the saints and those drawn nigh unto God. God Most High says, "And those who brought a heart turned in devotion [munib] [to Him]" (50:33). Awba is the quality of the prophets and messengers. God Most High says, "How excellent a slave. Ever did he [Solomon] turn [awwab] [to Us]" (38:30 and 38:44).
Al-Junayd stated, "Repentance has three senses. The first is remorse; the second is the resolve to give up reverting to what God has forbidden; and the third is the righting of grievances."
Sahl b. 'Abdallah declared, "Repentance is giving up procrastination." Al-Harith asserted, "I never say, 'O God, I ask You for repentance.' I say, 'I ask You for the longing for repentance.'"
Al-Junayd went to see as-Sari one day and found him distraught. He asked, "What has happened to you?" As-Sari replied, "I encountered a youth, and he asked me about repentance. I told him, "Repentance is that you not forget your sins." Then he contradicted me, saying that repentance is that you do forget your sins." Al-Junayd said that in his opinion what the youth said was correct, and as-Sari asked him why he held that opinion. Al-Junayd replied, "Because if I were in a state of infidelity and then He delivered me into a state of fidelity, remembrance of infidelity in a state of purity would be infidelity." Then as-Sari fell silent.
Abu Nasr as-Sarraj is reported to have said that, when Sahl was asked about repentance, he answered, "It is that you not forget you sins." Al-Junayd was asked, and he said, "It is that you do forget your sins." Abu Nasr as-Sarraj related, "Sahl was indicating the states of the murids and novices [muta'arridun], which are constantly changing. Al-Junayd alluded to the repentance of those who have attained the truth; for they do not remember their sins because of the majesty of God Most High, which has granted mastery over their hearts, and their constant remembrance of Him." He also observed that this is like what Ruwaym said about repentance: "It is repentance from repentance." Dhu'n-Nun al-Misri commented, "Repentance of the common people is from sin, and for the elect, it is from forgetfulness."
Abu'l-Hussayn an-Nuri said, "Repentance is that you turn away from everything other than God [may He be exalted and glorified]." 'Abdallah b. 'Ali Muhammad at-Tamimi declared, "How great a difference there is between a repenter who repents from sins, one who repents from forgetfulness, and one who repents from the awareness of his own good deeds." Al-Wasiti said, "True repentance is that there not remain a single trace of sin, hidden or open. One whose repentance is true does not concern himself, morning and evening, with what state he is in."
Yahya b. Mu'adh stated, "O my Lord, I do not say, 'I have repented.' I do not return to You because of what I know to be my disposition, I do not swear that I will not sin again, for I know my own frailty. I do not say that I return [to You] because I might die before [truly] returning." Dhu'n-Nun noted, "The plea for forgiveness made without abstaining is the repentance of liars."
When Ibn Yazdanyar was asked about the principles underlying a servant's setting out toward God, he replied, "They are that he not return to that which he left behind, not heed anyone other than the One to Whom he goes, and preserve his innermost heart from perception of that from which he has dissociated himself." It was said to him, "This is the rule for one who has departed from existence. How will it be for one who has departed from non-existence?" He replied, "The experience of sweetness in the future in exchange for bitterness in the past."
Al-Bushanji was asked about repentance, and he answered, "If you remember sin, and find no sweetness in it when remembering it, that is repentance." And Dhu'n-Nun observed, "The essence of repentance is that the earth be too confined for you, for all its spaciousness, so that there is no rest for you. Then your soul will be too confined for you as God Most High has told in His Book by His saying, "And their souls seemed straightened to them, and they saw that there is no fleeing from God, except to Him. Then He turned to them that they might repent (9:118). Ibn 'Ata' declared, "Repentance is of two kinds: repentance of inaba [return] and repentance of istijaba [answering or fulfillment'. The repentance of inaba is that the servant repent out of fear for his punishment. Repentance of istijaba is that he repent out of shame due to His generosity."
Abu Hafs was asked, "Why does the repenter loathe the world?" He answered, "Because it is a dwelling where sins are pursued." And it was said to him, "But it is also a dwelling that God has honored with repentance." He said, "The sinner has certainty from his sin, but danger from acceptance of his repentance." Al-Wasiti stated, "The joy of David (peace be upon him) and the sweetness of submissiveness he enjoyed caused him to plunge into lifting breaths [lasting sorrow]. While he was in the second state [of sorrow] he was more complete than the time when the matter was hidden from him." One of them remarked, "The liars' repentance is on the tips of their tongues." That is, the saying "Astaghfiru'llah [I ask forgiveness of God]." Abu Hafs said, "The servant has nothing to do with repentance. Repentance comes to him (from God), not from him."
It is said that God (may He be exalted) revealed to Adam, "O Adam, I have bequeathed to your descendants burdens and hardship. I have also bequeathed to them repentance. I respond to the one among them who implores Me as you have implored me [just] as I respond to you. O Adam, I will raise up the penitent from their graves cheerful and laughing, and their supplication will be answered."
A man asked Rabi'a, "I have sinned much and been exceedingly disobedient. But if I repent, will He forgive me?" She replied, "No. But if He forgives you, then you will repent."
Know that God Most High says, "Verily God loves those who turn unto Him [in repentance] and He loves those who purify themselves" (2:222). One who allows himself to yield to error is certain as to the slip. But if he repents, he is in doubt as to the acceptance of his repentance, particularly because God's love for him is a condition of that acceptance, and it will be some time before the sinner comes to a point where he finds marks of God's love for him in his character. The duty of the servant, when he knows that he has committed an act calling for repentance, is that he be consistently contrite, persevering in renunciation and asking forgiveness, as in the saying, "The awareness of dread until the time of death." And as it is said in God's words, "Say, if you love God, follow me, that God may love you" (3:31).
It was the practice of the Prophet (may God's blessing and peace be upon him) to ask for forgiveness constantly. He said, "My heart is clouded, so I ask forgiveness of God seventy times a day."
Yahya b. Mu'adh stated, "One single lapse after repentance is more dreadful than seventy before it." Abu 'Uthman observed, "As to the meaning of His saying, 'Lo, unto Us is their return' (78:25), it indicates 'Unto Us is their return, even if they roam freely in the commission of sin.'"
'Ali b. 'Isa the vizier rode in a great procession, and strangers began asking, "Who is this? Who is this?" A woman who was standing by the side of the road inquired, "How long will you say, 'Who is this? Who is this?' This is a servant who has fallen from God's protection. So He has afflicted him in the way that you see." When 'Ali b. 'Isa heard her, he returned to his house, resigned from the vizierate, went to Mecca, and never left it again.
The following is an excerpt from Al-Hujwiri's seminal Persian Sufi manual, Khasf al-Mahjub, Revelation of the Mystery, translated by Reynold A. Nicholson, with Gnostic commentary [in brackets].
You must know that, according to the opinion of some, passion is a term applied to the attributes of the lower soul [constituted by nafs, egos], but according to others, a term denoting the natural volition (irádat-i ṭab') [iradah signifies conscious willpower, Tiphereth] whereby the lower soul is controlled and directed, just as the spirit [Chesed] is controlled by the intelligence [Binah]. Every spirit [Monad] that is devoid of the faculty of intelligence [which has not fully assimilated the Holy Spirit] is imperfect [absolute perfection of the Innermost is achieved through Resurrection on the Second Mountain], and similarly every lower soul [naf, Nephesh: animal soul or Consciousness] that is devoid of the faculty of [Christic] passion is imperfect. Man [Tiphereth] is continually being called by intelligence [Binah, the Holy Spirit] and passion [Arcanum 15, Lucifer, the tempter] into contrary ways [through Arcanum 6: Indecision]. If he obeys the call of intelligence he attains to faith [through direct experience], but if he obeys the call of passion he arrives at error and infidelity. Therefore passion is a veil and a false guide, and man is commanded to resist it [through self-observation and Meditation]. Passion is of two kinds: (1) desire of pleasure and lust, and (2) desire of worldly honor and authority. He who follows pleasure and lust haunts taverns, and mankind are safe from his mischief, but he who desires honor and authority lives in cells (ṣawámi') and monasteries, and not only has lost the right way himself but also leads others into error. One whose every act depends on passion, and who finds satisfaction in following it, is far from God although he be with you in a mosque [Gnostic Institution or Monastery], but one who has renounced and abandoned it is near to God although he be in a church [foreign, non-Gnostic institution or religion]. Ibráhím Khawwáṣ relates this anecdote: "Once I heard that in Rúm there was a monk who had been seventy years in a monastery. I said to myself: 'Wonderful! Forty years is the term of monastic vows: what is the state of this man that he has remained there for seventy years?' I went to see him. When I approached, he opened a window and said to me: 'O Ibráhím, I know why you have come. I have not stayed here for seventy years because of monastic vows, but I have a dog foul with passion, and I have taken my abode in this monastery for the purpose of guarding the dog (sagbání), and preventing it from doing harm to others.' On hearing him say this I exclaimed: 'O Lord, Thou art able to bestow righteousness on a man even though he be involved in sheer error.' He said to me: 'O Ibráhím, how long will you seek men? Go and seek yourself, and when you have found yourself keep watch over yourself, for this passion clothes itself every day in three hundred and sixty diverse garments of godhead and leads men astray.'"
In short, the devil cannot enter a man's heart until he desires to commit a sin: but when a certain quantity of passion appears, the devil [or black magician] takes it and decks it out and displays it to the man's heart; and this is called diabolic suggestion (waswás). It begins from passion, and in reference to this fact God said to Iblís [Satan] when he threatened to seduce all mankind: "Verily, thou hast no power over My servants" (Qur'an XV, 42), for the devil in reality is a man's lower soul (ego) and passion (Fornication). Hence the Apostle [Prophet Muhammad] said: "There is no one whom this devil (i.e. his passion) has not subdued except 'Umar, for he has subdued his devil [in Sexual Magic]." Passion is mingled as an ingredient in the clay of Adam; whoever renounces it becomes a prince [a Malik, Melech, or King of Tiphereth] and whoever follows it [through Fornication] becomes a captive [of Klipoth]. Junayd was asked: "What is union with God [religion, religare, Yoga]?" He replied: "To renounce passion [Fornication]," for of all of the acts of devotion by which God's favor is sought none has greater value than resistance to passion, because it is easier for a man to destroy a mountain with his nails than to resist passion [Fornication]. I have read in the Anecdotes that Dhu 'l-Nún the Egyptian said: "I saw a man flying through the air [through Jinn science], and asked him how he had attained to this degree. He answered: 'I set my feet on passion (hawá) in order that I might ascend into the air (hawá).'" It is related that Muḥammad b. Faḍl al-Balkhí said: "I marvel at one who goes with his [Christic, volitional] passion into God's House and visits Him [in the superior worlds]: why does he not trample on his [sensual, egotistical] passion that he may attain to Him [through self-realization]?"
The most manifest attribute of the lower soul is lust (shahwat). Lust is a thing that is dispersed in different parts of the human body, and is served by the senses. Man is bound to guard all his members from it [particularly the sexual organs, to train the body not to fornicate], and he shall be questioned concerning the acts of each. The lust of the eye is sight, that of the ear is hearing, that of the nose is smell, that of the tongue is speech, that of the palate is taste, that of the body (jasad) is touch, and that of the mind is thought (andíshídan). It behoves the seeker of God to spend his whole life day and night, in ridding himself of these incitements to passion which show themselves through the senses [by correctly transforming impressions], and to pray God to make him such that this desire will be removed from his inward nature [through contemplation, mushahadah, witnessing within Meditation], since whoever is afflicted with lust is veiled from all spiritual things. If anyone should repel it by his own exertions [without divine help], his task would be long and painful. The right way is resignation (taslím). It is related that Abú 'Alí Siyáh of Merv said: "I had gone to the bath and in accordance with the custom of the Prophet I was using a razor (pubis tondendæ causá). I said to myself: 'O Abú 'Alí, amputate this member which is the source of all lusts and keeps thee afflicted with so much evil.' A voice in my heart whispered: 'O Abú 'Alí, wilt thou interfere in My kingdom [since scientific chastity is fundamental, for "He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD." -Deuteronomy 23:1]. Are not all thy limbs equally at My disposal [especially the sexual organs, which are the foundation stone of Allah-Khemia, Alchemy]? If thou do this, I swear by My glory that I will put a hundredfold lust and passion in every hair in that place [for just as Klingsor thought to subdue his animal passion in Wagner's Parsifal, his self-castration did not remove the lust in his mind. In fact, it only increased it]."
Although a man has no power over what is vicious in his constitution, he can get an attribute [defect] changed by Divine aid [in psychoanalytical meditation] and by resigning himself to God's will [through islam, submission to divinity through mystical death] and by divesting himself of his own power and strength [for "The Gnostic places all of his longings into the hands of his Innermost." -Samael Aun Weor]. In reality, when he resigns himself [through Meditation and comprehension], God protects him; and through God's protection he comes nearer to annihilating the evil than he does through self-mortification [striving, mujahadah, jihad, holy war against one's ego through self-observation] since flies are more easily driven away with an umbrella (mikanna) than with a fly-whisk (midhabba). Unless Divine protection is predestined to a man [if the Being does not will it] he cannot abstain from anything by his own exertion [willpower divorced from the Spirit], and unless God exerts Himself towards a man, that man's exertion is of no use [because the Being is the one who performs the Great Work through His human soul, Tiphereth, iradah or willpower]. All acts of [selfish] exertion [whereby the soul does not follow the will of divinity] fall under two heads: their object is either to avert the predestination of God or to acquire something in spite of predestination; and both of these objects are impossible. It is related that when Shiblí was ill, the physician advised him to be abstinent. "From what shall I abstain?" said he, "from what which God bestows upon me, or from that which He does not bestow? It is impossible to abstain from the former, and the latter is not in my hands."
Excerpted from "Principles of Sufism" by Al-Qushayri. Published by Mizan Press (1990), translated from the Arabic by B.R. Von Schlegell
God Most High says, "They have not estimated God as He deserves to be estimated" (6:91). It is written in commentaries on this verse that it means "They have not known God as He deserves to be known."
On the authority of 'A'isha (may God be pleased with her), the Prophet (may God's blessing and peace be upon him) is reported to have stated, "The support of a house is its foundation. The support of religion is direct knowledge of God, certainty, and intelligence that safeguards against error." At this 'A'isha asked, "May my father and mother be ransomed for you, what is intelligence that safeguards against error?" He replied, "Refraining from disobedience to God and being eager to obey Him."
In the usage of the scholars, ma'rifa is 'ilm (knowledge). Thus in their opinion all 'ilm is ma'rifa, all ma'rifa is 'ilm, and everyone who is 'alim (knowledgeable) with respect to God is an 'arif (gnostic) and vice versa. But among the Sufis, ma'rifa is the attribute of one who knows God (may He be exalted) by His names and attributes and is truthful toward God by his deeds, who then purifies himself of base qualities and defects, who stands long at the door, and who withdraws his heart continually (from worldly matters). Then he enjoys a goodly nearness to God, who verifies him as true in all his states. The temptations of his soul stop, and he does not incline his heart to any thought that would incite him to other-than-God for, when he becomes a stranger to men and is free of the calamities of his soul, when he is purified of joy in, and concern for, other-than-God, when his intimate prayers with God Most High in secret are constant, when he is sure in every glance of Him of his return to Him, and when God inspires him by making him aware of His secrets concerning his destiny, he is, at that time, called a "gnostic" ('arif) and his state is called "gnosis" (ma'rifa). In short, the degree of gnosis he will reach is determined by the degree to which he is estranged from his self.
When the sheikhs spoke on gnosis, each spoke of his own experience and indicated what came to him at a given moment. The master Abu 'Ali ad-Daqqaq (may God grant him mercy) said, "One of the signs of gnosis is the attainment of awe. For one whose gnosis increases, awe of God increases." He also stated, "Gnosis brings about utter tranquility to the heart, just as knowledge brings about peacefulness. So for one whose gnosis increases, tranquility increases." Al-Shibli commented, "For the gnostic there is no attachment, for the lover there is no grievance, for the servant there is no claim, for the one who fears God there is no rest, and for no one is there escape from God." When al-Shibli was asked about gnosis, he answered, "The first of it is God Most High and its last has no end."
Abu Hafs said, "Since I have attained gnosis, neither truth nor falsehood has entered my heart." This expression of Abu Hafs is not easily understood. He indicates, most probably, that in the Sufi's view gnosis causes the servant to be absent from his self because he is overwhelmed by His remembrance and so does not see other-than-God (Glorious and Majestic), nor does he have recourse to other-than-Him. Just as the intelligent man has recourse to his heart and his reflective and retentive faculties concerning thoughts that come to his mind or states he encounters, the gnostic's recourse is to his Lord. If a person is occupied with his Lord alone, he has no recourse to his heart. Furthermore, how might the matter enter the heart of one who has no heart? There is a difference between the one who lives by means of his hearty and the one who lives by means of his Lord. When asked about gnosis, Abu Yazid replied, "Kings, when they enter a country, corrupt it and make the noblest of its people its meanest" (27:34). This is the meaning Abu Hafs intends.
Abu Yazid observed, "Mankind has states, but the gnostic has none. His human traits are effaced, and his essence has passed away into the essence of another. His traits are gone because the traits of another have taken their place." Al-Wasiti said, "Gnosis is not sound while there remain in the servant satisfaction with God and need of Him." By this al-Wasiti intends that need and satisfaction are signs of sobriety in the servant and of the abiding of his traits, need and satisfaction being among his traits, but the gnostic is effaced in the object of his gnosis. How might his gnosis be sound, while he is consumed in His existence or immersed in witnessing Him, but has not totally attained existence and is still separated by awareness of whatever attributes he may have? For this reason al-Wasiti also said, "Whoever has direct knowledge of God is cut off; he is rendered mute and impotent." The Prophet (may God's blessing and peace be upon him) declared, "I cannot praise You enough." This refers to those whose goal is far away. As for those who are content with something more easily attainable, they have spoken about gnosis at greater or lesser length.
Ahmad b. 'Asim al-Antaki said, "The more one knows God, the more one fears Him." One of the Sufis stated, "Whoever knows God Most High is pained by his [own] existence, and the earth, for all its spaciousness, becomes confining for him." It is said, "Whoever knows God, living is joyous for him and life is pleasant for him; all things stand in awe of him, he fears nothing among created beings, and he becomes intimate with God Most High." It is said, "Whoever knows God, desire for things leaves him, and he is neither detached from them nor attached to them." It is also said, "Gnosis brings about shame and glorification of God, just as asserting the divine unity brings about satisfaction and submission to God."
Ruwaym commented, "Gnosis is the gnostic's mirror. When he gazes in it, his Master is shown." Dhu'n-Nun al-Misri related, "The spirits of all the prophets raced in the plain of gnosis, and the spirit of our Prophet [may God's blessing and peace be upon him] led them all [peace be upon them] to the meadow of union." He also said, "The conduct of the gnostic [toward others] is like the conduct of God Most High―he endures you and is forebearing with you because he imitates the characteristics of God." Ibn Yazdanyar was asked, "When does the gnostic witness God [may He be exalted]?" He answered, "When the Witness is manifested, the means of witnessing pass away, the senses depart, and sincerity dissolves."
Al-Husayn b. Mansur said, "When the servant reaches the station of gnosis, God makes even his stray thoughts a means of inspiration, and He guards his innermost being lest thoughts of other-than-Him occur there." He also observed, "The sign of the gnostic is that he is empty both of this world and of the Hereafter." Sahl b. 'Abdallah declared, "The utmost degree of gnosis is dismay and perplexity." Dhu'n-Nun al-Misri asserted, "The ones who know God the most are those whose bewilderment concerning Him is greatest."
A man told al-Junayd, "There are some among the gnostics who say, 'Abandonment of any kind of activity is a part of righteousness and piety.'" Al-Junayd replied, "These are the ones who profound suspension of [all] works, which is a serious error in my opinion. The thief and the adulterer have better states than they, for the gnostics obtain the works from God Most High and they return by means of them to God. If I were to live a thousand years, I would never reduce performing works of righteousness by one atom."
It was asked of Abu Yazid, "By what means did you attain this gnosis?" He responded, "By a hungry stomach and a naked body." Abu Ya'qub an-Nahrajuri related, "I inquired of Abu Ya'qub as-Susi, 'Does the gnostic grieve over anything other than God [Glorious and Majestic]?' He retorted, 'And does he perceive anything other than Him over which he might grieve?' So I asked, 'Then with what eye does he see things?' He answered, 'With the eye of passing away and extinction.'"
Abu Yazid said, "The gnostic flies and the ascetic travels afoot." It is said, "The gnostic's eye weeps, but his heart laughs." Al-Junayd declared, "A man will not be a gnostic until he is like the earth―both the righteous and the sinner tread on it―and until he is like the rain―it waters all things, whether it loves them or not." Yahya b. Mu'adh stated, "The gnostic leaves the world without having fulfilled his aim in two things: weeping over himself and praising his Lord [Glorious and Majestic]."
Abu Zayd said, "They attain gnosis only by forfeiting what they have and remaining with what He has." Yusuf b. 'Ali asserted, "A man will not be a true gnostic until, if he were given Solomon's kingdom [peace be upon him], it would not take his attention away from God for one instant." Ibn 'Ata' explained, "Gnosis is built on three pillars: awe, shame, and intimacy." Dhu'n-Nun al-Misri was asked, "By what means do you know your Lord?" He replied, "I know my Lord by my Lord. If it were not for my Lord, I would not know my Lord." It is said, "The scholar is a source of imitation, an the gnostic is a source of guidance." Ash-Shibli observed, "The gnostic does not look to anything other than Him, does not speak by the speech of anything other than Him, and does not perceive any protector for himself other than God Most High."
It is said, "The gnostic gains intimacy with His remembrance, and flees in terror from His creation. He is in need of God, and God makes him independent of His creation. He is humble toward God, He ennobles him among His creation." Abu't-Tayyib as-Samarri stated, "Gnosis is the rising of the Truth [like the sun] over the innermost being by means of a continuous effusion of light."
It is said, "The gnostic is more than what he says, and the scholar is less than what he says." Abu Sulayman ad-Darani observed, "God Most High reveals for the gnostic in his bed what He does not reveal for another who stands in prayer." Al-Junayd declared, "God speaks out of the innermost being of the gnostic while he is silent." Dhu'n-Nun stated, "For everyone there is a [certain form] of punishment, and the punishment of the gnostic is being cut off from His remembrance." Ruwaym said, "The hypocrisy of the gnostic is better than the sincerity of the seekers." Abu Bakr al-Warraq commented, "The silence of the gnostic is most beneficial, and his speech is best and most pleasant." Dhu'n-Nun asserted, "Even though ascetics are kings in the Hereafter, in comparison to the gnostics, they are beggars."
When al-Junayd was asked about the gnostic, he replied, "The color of the water is the color of its container." That is, the nature of the gnostic is always determined by the nature of his state at a given moment. Abu Yazid was asked about the gnostic. He said, "He sees nothing other than God in his sleep and nothing other than God in his waking hours. He does not conform to other-than-God, and he does not look to other-than-God."
One of the sheikhs was asked, "By what means do you know God Most High?" He answered, "By a burst of light that flashes through the tongue of one who is taken away from normal modes of discernment and by a word that flows on the tongue of one who is destined to perish and be lost. This speaker points to a clear ecstasy and relates an obscure secret; he is himself by virtue of what he reveals, and other than himself by virtue of what he leaves obscure." Then the sheikh recited:
"You spoke without speech. This is the true speech.
Speech belongs to You whether verbal or distinct from speech.
You appeared when before You had been hidden.
You made a lightning flash appear to me, making me speak."
When asked about the sign of the gnostic, Abu Turab explained, "He is not made impure by anything, and all things are by him made pure." Abu 'Uthman al-Maghribi said, "The lights of knowledge shine for the gnostic, so he sees by knowledge wondrous things of the unseen." The master Abu 'Ali ad-Daqqaq declared, "The gnostic is drowned in the seas of inner reality. As one of the Sufis has said, 'Gnosis is like the surging waves―they raise up and they set down." Yahya b. Mu'adh was asked about the gnostic, and he replied, "He is a man who is both with creation and separated from it." Another time he said, "First he was; then he separated." Dhu'n-Nun al-Misri observed, "There are three signs of the gnostic: the light of his gnosis does not block out the light of his abstemiousness; he does not believe in any inward knowledge that contradicts an outward ordinance; and the abundance of the blessings of God [Glorious and Majestic] upon him does not impel him to rend the veils that cover God's hidden sanctity."
It is said, "The one who speaks of gnosis in the presence of people attached to the Hereafter is not a gnostic, and he would be even less a gnostic if he were to speak about gnosis in the presence of people attached to this world." Abu Sa'id al-Kharraz stated, "Gnosis comes from an eye that weeps abundantly and from expending effort."
When asked about the words of Dhu'n-Nun al-Misri concerning the sign of the gnostic, "He was here but now he has gone," al-Junayd replied, "One state does not hold the gnostic back from another state and one station does not veil him from changing stations. Thus he is with the people of every place just as they are, he experiences whatever they experience, and he speaks their language so that they might benefit by his speech." Muhammad b. al-Fadl stated, "Gnosis is the heart's life with God." Abu Sa'id al-Kharraz was asked, "Does the gnostic end in a state wherein he never weeps?" He affirmed, "Yes. Weeping belongs to the time they are traveling to God. When they dismount and halt in the inner realities of nearness and experience the taste of attaining this favor, they no longer weep."
Excerpted from Chapter Six of Signs of the Unseen by Jalaluddin Rumi. Published by Threshold Books (1994), translated from the Arabic by W.M. Thackston, Jr.
Someone said, "We are imperfect."
The very fact that someone thinks this and reproaches himself, saying, "Alas, what am I about? Why do I act like this?" is a proof of God's love and favor. "Love persists as long as reproach persists," because one rebukes those one loves, not strangers. Now there are different kinds of reproof. To suffer pain while aware of it is a proof of God's love and favor. One the other hand, when a type of reproof is inflicted and the reproved does not experience pain, there is no proof of love (as when one beats a carpet to get the dust out), and such is not called rebuke by the intelligent. If, on the other hand, one rebukes one's child or beloved, a proof of love does arise in such a case. Therefore, so long as you experience pain and regret within yourself, it is proof of God's love and favor.
When you see a fault in your brother, the fault really lies in yourself but you see it reflected in him. Likewise, the world is a mirror in which you see your own image. "The believer is a mirror to the believer." Rid yourself of your own fault because what distastes you in another is really in yourself.
You are not offended by any bad qualities you have in yourself such as injustice, rancor, greed, envy, insensitivity, or pride. Yet when you see them in another, you shy away, offended. No one is revolted by a scab or abscess of his own; anyone will put his own sore finger into the stew, lick that finger, and not feel squeamish in the least. If, however, there is a minor abscess or cut on someone else's hand, you would never be able to stomach the stew that hand had been in. Bad moral qualities are just like those scabs and abscesses: no one is offended by his own; yet everyone suffers distress and is horrified at seeing only a bit in another. Just as you shy away from another, you must excuse him for shying away when offended by you. Your distress is his excuse because your distress comes from seeing something he also sees. The believer is a mirror to the believer. The Prophet did not say that the infidel is a mirror to the infidel―not because the infidel does not have the quality to be a mirror, but because he is unaware of the mirror of his own soul.
A king was sitting by a brook, dejected. The princes were terrified of him while he was in such a state, and no matter what they did they couldn't cheer him up. The king had a jester who was extremely privileged. The princes undertook to reward him if he would make the king laugh. The jester went to the king, but try as he might, the king would not even look up at him so that he could make a face and cause the king to laugh. All the king did was stare at the brook with his head down.
"What does the king see in the water?" asked the jester.
"I see a cuckold," said the king.
"Sire," the jester replied, "your servant is not blind either."
So it is when you see in another something that distresses you. That person is not blind. He sees the same thing you do.
With God there is no room for two egos. You say "I," and He says "I." In order for this duality to disappear, either you must die for Him or He for you. It is not possible, however, for Him to die―either phenomenally or conceptually―because "He is the Ever-living who dieth not." He is so gracious, however, that if it were possible He would die for you in order that the duality might disappear. Since it is not possible for Him to die, you must die that He may be manifested to you, thus eliminating the duality.
You can tie two birds together; but, although they may be of the same species and their two wings have become four, l they will not be able to fly because duality still pertains. If, however, you tie a dead bird to a live one, it will be able to fly since there is no duality.
The sun is so gracious that it would die for a bat if it were possible. "My dear bat," the sun would say, "my grace touches everything. I would like to do something of beneficence for you too. Since it is possible for you to die, die that you may enjoy the light of my splendor and, shedding your "bat-ness," become the phoenix of the Mount Qal of proximity to me."
One of God's servants was capable of annihilating himself for the sake of a beloved. He asked God to give him such a beloved, but this was not acceptable to Him. A voice came, saying, "I do not desire that you should see such a one."
The servant of God, however, insisted and would not cease his entreaty, saying, "O Lord, you have placed the desire for such a one within me, and it will not go away!"
Finally a voice came, saying, "If you want this to come about, then sacrifice yourself and become nought. Tarry not in departing from the world."
"O Lord," he said, "I am content." And thus he did, sacrificing his life for the sake of that beloved so that his desire was fulfilled.
If a servant of God can possess the grace to sacrifice his life, one day of which is worth more than the life of the whole world from beginning to end, could the Author of Grace be less gracious? That would be ludicrous. Since, however, His annihilation is not possible, you must be annihilated.
A dullard came and sat himself above a saint. The saint said, "What difference does it make whether one is above or below a lamp? If the lamp is inclined to be above, it does not do so for its own sake. Its only purpose is to benefit others so that they may enjoy its light. Otherwise, wherever the lamp may be, high or low, it is still a lamp. It is the eternal sun."
If the saints seek status and exalted position in this world, they do so because people are unable to perceive their exaltedness. They want to ensnare worldly people with their trap of this world so that they may find their way to that other exaltedness and fall into the snare of the next world. Similarly, the Prophet conquered Mecca and the surrounding countries, not because he needed them but in order to bestow life and light on all. "This hand is accustomed to give; it is not accustomed to take." The saints deceive men in order to give to them, not in order to take anything from them.
When someone traps little birds by means of trickery in order to eat them or sell them, that is called deception. When, however, a king lays a trap to catch a rough, worthless falcon that does not know its own essence and then trains it to his arm so that it becomes noble, tutored, and polished, that is not called deception. Although outwardly it appears to be fraudulent, it is considered the essence of straightforwardness and munificence. It is like reviving the dead, turning base stone into ruby, turning inanimate sperm into a living human being, and more. If the falcon knew why he was being captured, he would not need grain as an enticement but would search for the snare with all his heart and soul and fly to the arm of the king.
People look only at the literal meaning of the saints' words and say, "We've heard all this talk many times before. We've had enough of such words. Our hearts are uncircumcised: but God hath cursed them with their infidelity [2:88]. The infidels say, "Our hearts are full of such talk." God answers them thus: "Woe betid them that they be full of these words. They are full of temptations of the devil and vain imaginings. They are full of hypocrisy and doubt―nay, they are full of damnation." God hath cursed them with their infidelity. Would that they were free of those ravings, for then they would be capable of receiving these words. But they are not even capable of that. God has plugged up their ears and eyes and hearts so that they see the wrong color. They perceive Joseph as a wolf. Their ears hear the wrong sound. They heart wisdom as nonsense and raving. And their hearts, having become repositories for temptation and vain imaginings, perceive falsely. Having been knotted up with compounded imaginings, their hearts have frozen solid like ice in winter. God hath sealed up their hearts and their hearing; a dimness covereth their sight [2:7]. How then can they be full? In their whole lives neither they nor those on whom they pride themselves have ever sensed or perceived. They are not blessed by the jug that God gives to some full in order that they may drink to their fill. He gives it to some empty, and then why should they render thanks? The person who receives a full jug render thanks.
When God made Adam of clay and water, "He kneaded the clay of Adam for forty days." He completed Adam's shell and left it for a period of time on the earth. Iblis [Editor's Note: Satan] came down and went into Adam's shell. Going through and inspecting every vein, he saw that it was full of blood and humors. Adam said, "Ugh! It is a wonder if this be not the very Iblis who, at the foot of God's Throne, I saw would appear. If that Iblis exists, this must be he."
Peace be with you!
Excerpted from Chapter Eighteen of Signs of the Unseen by Jalaluddin Rumi. Published by Threshold Books (1994), translated from the Arabic by W.M. Thackston, Jr.
Ibn Muqri reads the Koran correctly. That is, he reads the form of the Koran correctly, but he hasn't a clue as to the meaning. The proof of this lies in the fact that when he does come across a meaning he rejects it. He reads without insight, blindly. He is like a man who holds a sable in his hand. If offered a better sable he rejects it. We realize therefore that he does not know sable. Someone has told him that what he has is sable, and so he holds onto it in blind imitation. It is like children playing with walnuts; if offered walnut oil or walnut kernels, they will reject them because for them a walnut is something that rolls and makes noise, and those other things do not roll or make noises.
God's treasure houses are many, and God's knowledge is vast. If a man reads one Koran knowledgeably, why should he reject any other Koran?
I once said to a Koran reader, "The Koran says so: Say, If the sea were ink to write the words of my Lord, verily the sea would fail, before the words of my Lord would fail [18:109]. Now for fifty drams of ink one can write out the whole Koran. This is but a symbol of God's knowledge; it is not the whole of his knowledge. If a druggist put a pinch of medicine in a piece of paper, would you be so foolish as to say that the whole of the drugstore is in this paper? In the time of Moses, Jesus, and others, the Koran existed; that is, God's Word existed; it simply wasn't in Arabic." This is what I tried to make that Koran reader understand, but when I saw that it was having no effect on him I left.
Sahih al-Bukhari: Volume 5, Book 58, Number 227
Narrated Abbas bin Malik:
Malik bin Sasaa said that Allah's Apostle described to them his Night Journey saying, "While I was lying in Al-Hatim or Al-Hijr, suddenly someone came to me and cut my body open from here to here." I asked Al-Jarud who was by my side, "What does he mean?" He said, "It means from his throat to his pubic area," or said, "From the top of the chest." The Prophet further said, "He then took out my heart. Then a gold tray of Belief was brought to me and my heart was washed and was filled (with Belief) and then returned to its original place. Then a white animal which was smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey was brought to me." (On this Al-Jarud asked, "Was it the Buraq, O Abu Hamza?" I (i.e. Anas) replied in the affirmative). The Prophet said, "The animal's step (was so wide that it) reached the farthest point within the reach of the animal's sight. I was carried on it, and Gabriel set out with me till we reached the nearest heaven.
When he asked for the gate to be opened, it was asked, 'Who is it?' Gabriel answered, 'Gabriel.' It was asked, 'Who is accompanying you?' Gabriel replied, 'Muhammad.' It was asked, 'Has Muhammad been called?' Gabriel replied in the affirmative. Then it was said, 'He is welcomed. What an excellent visit his is!' The gate was opened, and when I went over the first heaven, I saw Adam there. Gabriel said (to me). 'This is your father, Adam; pay him your greetings.' So I greeted him and he returned the greeting to me and said, 'You are welcomed, O pious son and pious Prophet.' Then Gabriel ascended with me till we reached the second heaven. Gabriel asked for the gate to be opened. It was asked, 'Who is it?' Gabriel answered, 'Gabriel.' It was asked, 'Who is accompanying you?' Gabriel replied, 'Muhammad.' It was asked, 'Has he been called?' Gabriel answered in the affirmative. Then it was said, 'He is welcomed. What an excellent visit his is!' The gate was opened.
When I went over the second heaven, there I saw Yahya (i.e. John) and 'Isa (i.e. Jesus) who were cousins of each other. Gabriel said (to me), 'These are John and Jesus; pay them your greetings.' So I greeted them and both of them returned my greetings to me and said, 'You are welcomed, O pious brother and pious Prophet.' Then Gabriel ascended with me to the third heaven and asked for its gate to be opened. It was asked, 'Who is it?' Gabriel replied, 'Gabriel.' It was asked, 'Who is accompanying you?' Gabriel replied, 'Muhammad.' It was asked, 'Has he been called?' Gabriel replied in the affirmative. Then it was said, 'He is welcomed, what an excellent visit his is!' The gate was opened, and when I went over the third heaven there I saw Joseph. Gabriel said (to me), 'This is Joseph; pay him your greetings.' So I greeted him and he returned the greeting to me and said, 'You are welcomed, O pious brother and pious Prophet.' Then Gabriel ascended with me to the fourth heaven and asked for its gate to be opened. It was asked, 'Who is it?' Gabriel replied, 'Gabriel' It was asked, 'Who is accompanying you?' Gabriel replied, 'Muhammad.' It was asked, 'Has he been called?' Gabriel replied in the affirmative. Then it was said, 'He is welcomed, what an excel lent visit his is!'
The gate was opened, and when I went over the fourth heaven, there I saw Idris. Gabriel said (to me), 'This is Idris; pay him your greetings.' So I greeted him and he returned the greeting to me and said, 'You are welcomed, O pious brother and pious Prophet.' Then Gabriel ascended with me to the fifth heaven and asked for its gate to be opened. It was asked, 'Who is it?' Gabriel replied, 'Gabriel.' It was asked. 'Who is accompanying you?' Gabriel replied, 'Muhammad.' It was asked, 'Has he been called?' Gabriel replied in the affirmative. Then it was said He is welcomed, what an excellent visit his is! So when I went over the fifth heaven, there I saw Harun (i.e. Aaron), Gabriel said, (to me). This is Aaron; pay him your greetings.' I greeted him and he returned the greeting to me and said, 'You are welcomed, O pious brother and pious Prophet.' Then Gabriel ascended with me to the sixth heaven and asked for its gate to be opened. It was asked. 'Who is it?' Gabriel replied, 'Gabriel.' It was asked, 'Who is accompanying you?' Gabriel replied, 'Muhammad.' It was asked, 'Has he been called?' Gabriel replied in the affirmative. It was said, 'He is welcomed. What an excellent visit his is!'
When I went (over the sixth heaven), there I saw Moses. Gabriel said (to me),' This is Moses; pay him your greeting. So I greeted him and he returned the greetings to me and said, 'You are welcomed, O pious brother and pious Prophet.' When I left him (i.e. Moses) he wept. Someone asked him, 'What makes you weep?' Moses said, 'I weep because after me there has been sent (as Prophet) a young man whose followers will enter Paradise in greater numbers than my followers.' Then Gabriel ascended with me to the seventh heaven and asked for its gate to be opened. It was asked, 'Who is it?' Gabriel replied, 'Gabriel.' It was asked,' Who is accompanying you?' Gabriel replied, 'Muhammad.' It was asked, 'Has he been called?' Gabriel replied in the affirmative. Then it was said, 'He is welcomed. What an excellent visit his is!'
So when I went (over the seventh heaven), there I saw Abraham. Gabriel said (to me), 'This is your father; pay your greetings to him.' So I greeted him and he returned the greetings to me and said, 'You are welcomed, O pious son and pious Prophet.' Then I was made to ascend to Sidrat-ul-Muntaha (i.e. the Lote Tree of the utmost boundary) Behold! Its fruits were like the jars of Hajr (i.e. a place near Medina) and its leaves were as big as the ears of elephants. Gabriel said, 'This is the Lote Tree of the utmost boundary) . Behold ! There ran four rivers, two were hidden and two were visible, I asked, 'What are these two kinds of rivers, O Gabriel?' He replied,' As for the hidden rivers, they are two rivers in Paradise and the visible rivers are the Nile and the Euphrates.'
Then Al-Bait-ul-Ma'mur (i.e. the Sacred House) was shown to me and a container full of wine and another full of milk and a third full of honey were brought to me. I took the milk. Gabriel remarked, 'This is the Islamic religion which you and your followers are following.' Then the prayers were enjoined on me: They were fifty prayers a day. When I returned, I passed by Moses who asked (me), 'What have you been ordered to do?' I replied, 'I have been ordered to offer fifty prayers a day.' Moses said, 'Your followers cannot bear fifty prayers a day, and by Allah, I have tested people before you, and I have tried my level best with Bani Israel (in vain). Go back to your Lord and ask for reduction to lessen your followers' burden.' So I went back, and Allah reduced ten prayers for me. Then again I came to Moses, but he repeated the same as he had said before. Then again I went back to Allah and He reduced ten more prayers. When I came back to Moses he said the same, I went back to Allah and He ordered me to observe ten prayers a day. When I came back to Moses, he repeated the same advice, so I went back to Allah and was ordered to observe five prayers a day.
When I came back to Moses, he said, 'What have you been ordered?' I replied, 'I have been ordered to observe five prayers a day.' He said, 'Your followers cannot bear five prayers a day, and no doubt, I have got an experience of the people before you, and I have tried my level best with Bani Israel, so go back to your Lord and ask for reduction to lessen your follower's burden.' I said, 'I have requested so much of my Lord that I feel ashamed, but I am satisfied now and surrender to Allah's Order.' When I left, I heard a voice saying, 'I have passed My Order and have lessened the burden of My Worshipers."
Excerpted from Journey to the Lord of Power: A Sufi Manual on Retreat by Ibn 'Arabi. Published by Inner Traditions International (1989), Commentary by 'Abdul-Karim Jili, translated by Rabia Terri Harris.
The Realms, although they are many [Editor's Note: as depicted and synthesized within Kalachakra and Kabbalah], are all derived from six. The first Realm is [the pre-existence in which we were asked the question] "Am I not your Lord?" Our physical existence has removed us from this Realm. The second Realm is the world we are now in. The third Realm is the Interval through which we travel after the lesser and greater deaths. The fourth Realm is the Resurrection on the awakening earth and the return to the original condition. The fifth Realm is the Garden and the Fire. The sixth Realm is the Sand Dune outside the Garden. And in each of these Realms are places which are Realms within Realms, and the realization of them in their multiplicity is not within human power.
Commentary: "The Interval" (al-barzakh, the third Realm) is the barrier between this world and the next. The shayk [Ibn 'Arabi] (may God be pleased with him) said:
Know that "interval" is an expression for something which separates two other things, like the diving line between sun and shade, and as He said—may He be exalted—concerning the mixture of the two seas, "Between them is a barrier (barzakh) which they cannot cross" [Koran 55:20]. The meaning of "they cannot cross" is that they cannot mix with one another because of this partition which divides them. The sense of sight does not discern it. When suddenly it is perceived, the barrier does not exist. And when the barrier is between the known and the unknown, the nonexistent and the existent, the negated and the affirmed, and the rational and the irrational, it is called Interval—and [this Interval] is the imagination.
For if you perceive it—and you are rational—you know that your vision has encountered an existent thing, while you know unequivocally that it is not a "thing" completely and fundamentally. And what is this whose "thingness" is affirmed and denied simultaneously? The imagination is not existent or nonexistent, not known or unknown, not negated and not affirmed. And the human being travels to this reality in his sleep and after his death, and he sees descriptive qualities as existing embodied forms, and there is no doubt of that. And the intuitive person sees in his waking state what the sleeper sees in the state of sleep and the deceased after death.
Excerpted from Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom by Ibn 'Arabi. Published by Fons Vitae (1997), interpreted by Shayk Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti.
When the Lord created His deputy, He also built a city for him where he could reside with his retinue and governing officials. He named the city Human Being. When the Lord finished the building of the city, He assigned a special place at its center for His deputy. All the speculations about it―whether the deputy really resides there or just uses it as headquarters, whether it is a throne room or a courtroom or a ministry, or merely a place where his voice is heard―are beside the point. The Lord called that place the heart.
The Lord built this city on a foundation of four walls made of earth, water, air, and fire. Some say that the place of the Lord's deputy is not the heart but the mind. I insist that it is the heart, although no one has evidence or proof. But for establishing stability and for heedfulness and remembrance, the heart is surely the center. Our Master related that his Lord said: "I do not fit into the heavens and the worlds which I created, but I fit into the heart of My faithful servant." Our Master, may God's peace and blessings be upon him, also said, "The Lord looks neither at you nor at your deeds, but at your heart." The Lord always remembers and is heedful, and looks upon His deputy at all times.
The Lord made the soul responsible for the body.
"It is not their eyes which are blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts." (Hajj, 46)
Men wander upon the face of this world, and within the space of their lives they see what is being born and dying, what is being built and destroyed. They have eyes to see and ears to hear, and should take lessons. If they are not heedful it is because their hearts are blind. It is not the vegetal heart that is responsible here, nor what is vulgarly called mankind―a four-legged animal standing on its hind legs. God has not given His secret to the animal, but to His deputy the soul. Yet the vegetal heart is the palace of that deputy, the king.
Our Master, may God's peace and blessings be upon him, said: "There is a small piece of meat in the body of man: If it is clean and righteous, the whole being is clean. If that piece of meat is rotten, the whole being is rotten. That piece of meat is the heart." It is the palace of the deputy of God where the secrets are kept, and it must be proper and in order. It is a safe where the secret documents and rules and orders of the deputy are kept.
If the leader is right, the followers are right. If the leader has gone astray, his companions and followers will go astray.
When the Lord made the human soul master of the human city, He taught him the character, the behavior, the thoughts of the inhabitants of that city. Since he understood his people, his people recognized him and became his dependents and helpers. If God's deputy, whom He sent to govern, is disloyal and corrupt and betrays His trust, his people will be corrupt and disloyal to him as well. On the other hand, if he fears and respects the One who entrusted him with power, his companions will trust and respect him also.
So look at yourselves. If you are God-fearing, just, and righteous, so is your soul. You are the way you are because of it. First the ruler and the guide must be right; then the signs of righteousness appear in his dependents.
One sees so many things in oneself, without knowing why they are, whether they were there in the beginning or happened afterwards or will be the same tomorrow―for one does not know the procedures of the secret divine government within, or how to protect that little piece of meat, the heart, whose disorder can destroy us all. The Lord created a tower on the higher levels of the city of man. He built it with refined materials and set it to overlook the whole city, and called it Mind. He opened four large windows on the top of it, for the enjoyment of the four corners of the city, and called them Eyes, Ears, Mouth, and Nose.
In the center of the tower He built a vault to protect the treasure of inspiration, and in it He stacked the treasure, all arranged in perfect order. The directors of the senses could consult this Hall of Information, and add new data to it in turn. The dreams dreamt come from this vault. Here too is the wealth gathered by the collector of taxes within the city of man, the monies stacked separately as lawful and unlawful. The Lord built another vault within the tower of the mind which He called the Vault of Intellect. The goods in that vault are brought from the Vault of Inspiration. Here they are weighed and compared; what is right is kept in the second vault, and what is wrong is returned to the first.
In a corner of the mind He built yet another vault, where memories are kept. The keeper of memories is a high official called Intelligence.
There is another precinct in the city of man where the daughter of the deputy of God, Personality, lives. This place is known as Selfhood. Here there are contradictions, here both God's ordinances and what He ahs forbidden are kept. On special honored nights the commands of the All-Powerful are distributed here. The place is protected by God Himself, for it is under the Footstool where His holy Feet are set―just as the soul, the deputy of God, is under and protected by His Throne. Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali says: "The human being is that child whose father is the soul and whose mother is the self." He holds that the Lord of the soul keeps it on a high level under His Throne and our mother, the self, on a lower level under his Feet. As He is the Lord of the parents, so is He the Lord of our material existence, their child. The Sufis know that all states and actions of the self, whether right or wrong, are predestined by the Lord. The only part of man which is not bound by predestination is the soul, which they follow into the future. With precaution and insistence, they hope to rouse the deputy of God.
Even if the soul realizes the danger of the temptations of the commanding self, the human being is left in a difficult position. He is undecided between two powerful entities: the soul calls him unto hi, then the evil commanding self calls him unto him. But all this test is by the permission of God, for He says:
"All things are from God." (Nisa', 78)
He also says:
"Of the bounties of thy Lord, We bestow freely on these as well as on those." (Bani Isra'il, 20)
And He says to the soul:
"And the portion and order given to it and for its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right." (Shams, 7-8)
Selfhood is a place of order and enlightenment, but it is also inclined toward the Evil Commanding Self. If it is tempted, then it loses its purity. All things are from God―it is He who made the Commanding Self desirous of evil, and it is He who made human selfhood bent from time to time to evil as well as to good. When the self is rational and heedful, it is pure and in order. Then it is called the Self-Assured Self. That is its lawful state. Although God had created His deputy with the most perfect attributes, He saw that, on his own, he was nonetheless weak, powerless, and in need. God wanted His deputy to realize that he would only find strength in the help and support of his Lord. He created a strong opposition for him to provoke this realization. That is the secret of the two opposing possibilities for human selfhood.
The soul and the self are man and wife. When the man calls upon his wife and she does not respond, people say, "What is the matter that your wife does not come to you?"
The man asks his trusted companion, Intelligence, the reason for this unresponsiveness. Intellect tells the master, the soul, "O my gracious master, you are calling upon a being who has a station as high as your own. She is a master in her own right, with power, and under the orders of the All-Powerful. She is called Desire for the Worldly, the Commanding Self. It is not so easy to command her!" Then the soul sends his wife a letter by his adviser's hand, explaining his feelings about her. But the self takes the messenger of the soul prisoner. Intelligence submits to the self, under duress.
When Intelligence, now under the influence of the self, is permitted to return to his master the soul, he reports that not only has he lost his wife, but most of his administration and armies have gone over to her as well. Only a very few have remained loyal to him. The mind tells the soul that his enemy has already infiltrated the courtyard of his palace, and is ready to destroy his reign and capture his kingdom and sit upon his throne. He claims that it is his sacred duty to warn him before they are both destroyed. Now, with the warning of the mind, the soul realizes that he is reduced to total helplessness. He is powerless, unable to act. All he can do is throw himself upon the mercy of the Lord of all and everything. Turning to Him, he begs for help. He knows now that he cannot save himself. Only at his defeat does he know the value of his Lord, the All-Powerful. That indeed was the purpose of all that had happened. If a man lived all his life in complete comfort and safety and had all that he wished for, nothing he had would retain any value for him. It is only pain and trouble that make one realize the value of peace and safety.
When God's deputy, the soul, turns to his Lord for help, the Lord becomes a mediator between the soul and the self. And so the self abstains from taking total control of the realm of the human being.
The Lord addresses her "O Self-Assured Self, return to Me, pleased with Me; I am pleased with you. Enter My Paradise among My servants whom I love." Responding to this call both the self and the soul bow their heads in submission, satisfied by the divine approval. Now that all differences have disappeared, they come together again at last. The Self-Assured Self, whom the Lord addressed, is this joined existence of the soul and the self, harmonious and at peace, pleased by their Lord and their Lord pleased by them.
The Lord named it the Self-Assured Self because at this point the self has realized its true potential. When she was tempted by evil, it was against her nature, for the Lord Himself said, "all things are from God," and He also said "all His blessings are bestowed freely upon all, on these as well as on those." When He invites the soul and the self to Himself "well pleased themselves and well pleasing unto Him," it is implied that the two are pleased with each other and in harmony. When He invites them to His Paradise, He is inviting them to come to the safety of a secure place away from places unpleasing to the Lord. When they are asked to come into this Paradise together with His servants whom He loves, He includes them among those who have submitted to Him and have connected their heats to Him in obedience.
The lust of pleasures of this world is the paradise of the unfaithful. It is the true Fire whose exterior resembles the Garden―but beneath the surface is torture. Our Master (peace and blessings of God be upon him) warned his Companions, saying, "Paradise is beyond gates that appear displeasing and undesirable while the gates of Hell are, attractive and delicious. They will only reveal what is behind them at the end of the world, when Antichrist comes." He also described Hell thus: "There are two valleys there. In one there is a river of fire and in the other a river of water. Whoever in repentance, accepting his punishment, seeks the valley of fire, will find himself in the cool valley of water. Whoever, unrepentant, seeks the valley of water to save himself from punishment, will fall upon the fire."
The self responds to the one who uses his intelligence. To a certain extent they agree. A grave question: Why is the soul that God has created as His deputy subverted by the Evil-Commanding Self? There are two answers. One has already been explained. God wished to test the soul to make clear to it its total need of its Creator, provoking failure by making it respond to the temptations of the Evil-Commanding Self while deaf to the voice of Intellect. The second opinion is that the soul calls and invites the self to it. When the self responds, it responds in a language the soul does not understand. It is the excitement and ambition of learning something unknown that gets the soul in trouble, just as it was Eve's curiosity about the forbidden fruit that made her believe the devil. Thus, mischief, sedition and war continue within the realm of the human being, caused by the misunderstanding and disagreement between the soul and the Evil-Commanding Self. At times one conquers the other; at times the situation is reversed, Sometimes one reigns in deserts and the other in fertile gardens. This battle will continue until the Day of Judgment.
The faithful who believe in God but who at times fail and are disobedient lose the deserts of their realm in the battle with the Evil-Commanding Self. While it reigns in those deserts, the king of the mind captures its capital. Hypocrites lose their capital city to the Evil-Commanding Self and hold on to the deserts of their being. Nonbelievers are slaves of the Evil-Commanding Self, having lost all the kingdom of the human being.
On the Day of Judgment two groups will form. One will be bound for Paradise, the other bound for hellfire, where they will stay forever. When all are gathered together so that everyone can see, Death will be slain. Then all will live in their assigned places for eternity. Believers who have failed to obey God at all times, after being punished by the fear of Fire will be sent to join those who are bound for Paradise. Hypocrites will be sent to join the unfaithful bound to suffer in Hell.
Division is incidental. Unity is principal. If a hand does something against the principle of the whole being, the whole being responds to prevent it from its error. The sick branch either dries and falls, saving the tree, or the sap of the tree cures it. Such is the state of the faithful who are at times guilty of errors. However, if the whole body is sick, a healthy hand cannot cure it. If the whole tree is dead, the few last green leaves will not save it. Such is the case of the hypocrites.
In the kingdom of man, under the rule of the soul, the deputy of God, there are four kinds of citizens. There are pure faithful ones who obey the prescriptions of their Lord and have been able to protect themselves from all evil. Then there are those who are basically faithful, but at times are apt to revolt. There are hypocrites who try to appear faithful while they are not, and there are the unfaithful who take themselves to be God. That is how it is in the kingdom of man, amid the continuous mischief, sedition, and war between the soul, the mind, and the Evil-Commanding Self. This we shall try to relate, investigate and consider.
God the Truth tells the truth, and guides one to the straight path.
The Gnostic Academy of Chicago
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