Spiritual retreat holds a very special place within every single tradition of meditation, whether in Sufism through the lodges, khanqahs or khaniqahs, monasteries within the Christian tradition, the temples of the Jews, the Buddhists, the Hindus. Meditation retreat signifies the abandonment of the world, to dedicate more time, more effort, more energy, more seriousness, more study, to the spiritual path that leads to the liberation of the soul.
Retreats are a wonderful reprieve. They allow us to abandon the hustle and bustle, the chaos of our modern society, the world. While this was true even in the times of the prophets, it is even more pertinent today in our modern world through the advent of the internet, smartphones, social media, Facebook, exponentially improving technology. This has made life in the West (and it is now spreading into the East) even more accelerated, hyperactive―we could say―distracted from, really, the point of life, the purpose of existence.
In our world, we believe that our bank account, our job, our career, our television shows, our entertainment, our media, constitute the reality of who we are and what is of value. Obviously, if we are studying meditation and spirituality, we understand that this type of lifestyle has flaws. In essence, it is superficial. There is not much depth in a life of games, of sitcoms, of jobs that do not really fulfill our deepest sentiments, our greatest uneasiness and longing. Because people do not like to introspect, to be serious, to analyze the causes of suffering inside, people look to the external world for their panacea, their healing, their drug.
In the history of humanity, it is never been more difficult to really develop a spiritual life than today, because there has been a fundamental shift in the psychology, the pace, the momentum of modern living. Gnosis or Sufism, Buddhism, Judaism, the meditative traditions, the contemplative sciences, teach us that we need to slow down. Our life is hectic. We have many responsibilities and duties, obligations in life, and we are constantly running around, pulled in so many directions that, really, it is very difficult to get a hold of and a grasp on our existence, with the Essence, with the consciousness, which knows how to live life intensely, with rectitude and with love for humanity.
The Essence is the most beautiful part of us that can really blossom into a profound, deep, penetrative wisdom. Our Essence knows how to live fully without distraction, to be aware, to be attentive. But as we mentioned in the previous lecture, to do that we have to renounce a lot of superfluous activities, things that over engage and distract the mind.
Our culture is very much hypnotizing, seductive, manipulative. It is based upon drawing and stealing our energy into avenues that really are a dead end. This is why every spiritual tradition emphasizes so much the need for retreat, to leave behind all the temptations, all the seductions, all the illusions of society, the world, even if but for a very brief time. This is so that we can really dedicate our efforts to really create the soul, enliven it, to empower it.
While it is been very difficult to practice retreat due to this pandemic, we can, if so willing, fulfill our own meditation retreat in our home. It really does not involve much. We are going to provide you some parameters, some guidelines, and some suggestions that can help you if you are able and willing to perform retreat, and hopefully if this pandemic clears, sooner rather than later, we would love to have another retreat as provided on our websites, so that we can really cultivate spiritual force in our efforts and practices, to awaken the consciousness. But of course, if this is not possible, we still have the exercises and the teachings.
We can gain a lot of inspiration, a lot of profound changes by applying the principles of meditation and of retreat, and so we are going to outline what some of those are according to the Sufi tradition, the Gnostic traditions.
The Purpose of Retreat
Why emphasize retreat in this course? It is because life wants to swallow us alive. We have obligations. We have duties, responsibilities, work events, family gatherings, engagements that really lull us to sleep, which, while a necessary part of living in society, tend to put us on autopilot. They also prevent us from really deepening our awareness of the present, our quest of the consciousness to reach the divine.
It is important that we really feed that spark of inquietude in the heart, that dissatisfaction, that uneasiness we feel in our moment-to-moment life in relation to a problem, in relation to our trajectory―perhaps a career change, our existence, our family, our marriage. We feel a hunch in our core being that something must change. This is really the essence of why we begin meditation and spirituality.
It is also the reason why we enter retreat, because we need to comprehend something more. It is the intuitions of the soul, the language of divinity, the intimate silence of our inner God. We receive that impulse through our heart, through hunches, and because that is usually very weakened in us, or better said, we feel that flame in the heart and yet we have so many distractions outside of us, that candle flame tends to get snuffed out. But again, and again, if we are really persistent in this path, we find that we continue to feel that inquietude, that yearning for something more. This is why Samael Aun Weor stated in The Great Rebellion in the chapter called “Inquietudes”:
Trivialities and nonsense, while having no particular transcendence, still have the power at any given moment to extinguish that first spiritual disquietude, that intimate longing, that insignificant spark of light, that hunch which unsettles us for a moment without our knowing why.
Retreats really give strength when we are with like-minded people. When we practice retreat, when we meet other aspirants of this teaching who are really sincere and are working effectively in themselves, we gain strength for our own path.
Retreat is like a chorus in a musical performance. The instructors are the conductor. The composer is the guru of our tradition: Samael Aun Weor. His music are the writings and teachings that we have, and the mighty chorus, that resounds like Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, is the voices of the initiates who work together in harmony, who create that synthesis, that profound alchemy in which forces mix, commune, and work like a conduit, in order to receive divine aid at a greater magnitude, profundity, impact.
Also, it is important that when we have retreats, we can study some essential principles that help us to take advantage of the small time that we have. Obviously in our past retreats we only have so much time, and really by the time people get used to the exercises and the lectures and the practices and are really ready to go deeper, it is already time to leave. So what's important is that we gain knowledge and inspiration, but also we go home into the world, back to society, in order to practice these principles, deeply, with greater momentum, so that whatever hardships we face, we conquer them with intelligence and wisdom.
While renunciation teaches the student to abandon psychological attachments to life, retreat is the method and the medium for perfecting and enlivening the flames of our spiritual longing. This is why Al-Junayd stated the following:
Sufism is sitting for a few moments without cares and worries with God. ―Junayd
Principles of Retreat and Seclusion
Let us examine the principles of retreat and seclusion:
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
Retreat is a means of purifying the Essence. For those of you who have attended Gnostic retreats, we have many exercises to work with energy, to work with concentration, to work with imagination. These are our faculties that we develop in ourselves so that we can gain knowledge of the causes of our suffering, and so that we can gain intimate wisdom, experiential knowledge of our Innermost Being. As beginners, we work to develop purity, level by level, degree by degree, and it is important that if we have the time and opportunity, that we make the sacrifice in order to meet others, to learn from others, to share our own knowledge, our experiences, because this is a very beneficial influence upon the psyche. It can really give us a lot of strength to help us understand what purity is.
In the beginning of Sufism, many initiates practice retreat, but also the great masters, the prophets, learn to withdraw from the world. These are the people of union―very high levels of initiates. And while it is easy to read this verse as something physical, in a profound sense, as we have been reiterating again and again in relation to hermetic silence, this has to do more with a psychological separation, a distance from oneself with the illusions of the world.
The masters of meditation prepare for union with divinity through the heights of initiation. Who are examples of the masters of union? What does that involve?
Prophet Muhammad was in the habit of traveling to جَبَل ٱلنُّوْر Jabal al-Nur, the “mountain of light” in Arabic, where he would perform meditation retreat. He would leave for extended periods of time in order to really deeply practice introspection. While this is a physical and a literal history, which is very commonly known in Islamic circles, Sufi circles, more importantly for us, this is a symbolic teaching.
How do we climb the mountain of light: جَبَل ٱلنُّوْر Jabal Nur (because in Arabic, نور nur means “light,” or, the Hebrew אור aur)? And what is that light? It is cognizance. It is awakened perception within the superior worlds. It is intelligence. It is the awakening of the consciousness.
It is referenced many times how Prophet Muhammad was meditating on جَبَل ٱلنُّوْر Jabal Nur when he received his first teaching from the Angel Gabriel. Gabriel spoke to him in what we can say is an internal experience, an astral, a prophetic, superior experience of the consciousness. The Angel Gabriel taught Prophet Muhammad the Qur’an.
If you know the tradition of Islam, Prophet Mohammad was reportedly illiterate. He didn't know how to read and write Arabic, but historically there are some scholars who state that this is inaccurate, primarily because Prophet Muhammad was a merchant, and to make trade deals, he would need to know how to read and write.
But symbolically for us, what does it mean that the Prophet was illiterate? This is a very famous teaching within Islam, how an illiterate man became an illuminated initiate who was able to provide the miracle of the Qur’an القرآن, that beautiful scripture, “The Recitation” in Arabic. What is interesting is that in a spiritual sense, what this represents for us, is that we are all illiterate. We do not have the principles of divinity inscribed within our soul, which is represented through Kabbalah, the science of numerology, of numbers, of the Hebrew, but also the Arabic letters, because Arabic and Hebrew are Semitic languages that share the same roots. They have the same meanings, esoterically speaking, archetypically speaking.
Prophet Muhammad was able to speak the Qur’an as a miracle, to recite the teachings of divinity within him. But he only did that because he climbed the mountain of light. This is a symbol of what we call initiation, of the mystical, internal Gnostic work. To climb a mountain in the astral plane signifies that we are entering initiation, degrees, higher levels of consciousness. But of course, how does one achieve this?
This is beautifully allegorized in many of the names of this story. For example the word nur spelled in Arabic: ن nun, و waw, ر ra. Or, נ nun, ו vav, ר reish in Hebrew. It is a beautiful teaching, how the light of our consciousness emerges from נ nun. In Arabic and in Hebrew, this letter signifies a fish. Or better said, in Aramaic, the word nun is a “fish”: a symbol of the sperm and ovum within our sexual creative waters. That is where the light emerges. When you conserve that energy and transform it, you raise it up the mountain of your spinal column so that it illuminates your head. You can receive wisdom from Gabriel, or in Arabic, جِبْرِيل Jibril.
In the Nordic language, the runes, which have a profound relationship to these names, you find within the named גַבְרִיאֵל Gabriel, Gibur-ra-el. The Rune Gibor is a swastika, a symbol of a cross in motion that unfortunately was misappropriated by some very mistaken people during World War II and before. That is a symbol of the creative sexual power that circulates within the initiate as they are learning to work with these exercises: mantras, prayer, runes, sacred rites for rejuvenation, imagination exercises, concentration exercises, retrospection meditation―many practices that we use in this tradition and on our retreats in order to develop the soul.
Symbolically speaking, we receive the Word, the Verb, the divine, the Qur’an, the recitation, the perfect expression of God in us, when we learn to raise the light from our sexual organs up to our head. That is how we climb the mountain. That is how we overcome adversities, because if you study this symbol and this extended metaphor deeply, you find that climbing a mountain is very difficult, especially when it is very high―and the mountain of initiation is extremely high, very arduous, very difficult. But we achieve those heights when we are working with energy, with chastity, with introspection, with visualization, with serenity, with the Essence.
Prophet Muhammad was an alchemist. He knew the science of الخيمياء Alchemy: Allah-Kemia. He was married to his first wife Khadijah, whom he worked with sexual magic, his priestess, so that he could raise that light up his spine in order to receive what we call the Venustic Initiation within our tradition. He received the Intimate Christ in Gnostic terms. Divinity entered in his soul and it is symbolized by the Annunciation of Gabriel: how Gibur-Ra-El, the power of the divine, or we could say the Holy Spirit in Christian terms, inflamed his consciousness. It is the force of Ra, the solar fire within Egyptian mysticism and אל El in Hebrew, the Spirit, the Innermost, the Merciful: ٱلرَّحِيمِ al-Rahim. We can all receive our own wisdom, our own particular Verb, when we climb the mountain of initiation, which is something inside, internal.
We have to remember that in the Muslim mythology, the Muslim narrative, Prophet Muhammad was commanded by Gabriel to recite and he said, “I cannot.” Gabriel said again, “Recite!” And Prophet Muhammad replied again, “I cannot. I do not know how.” And finally a third time, “Recite!” And the Prophet said, "What shall I say my Lord? What shall I recite?"
This is a beautiful teaching of the three brains. We have an intellectual brain, an emotional brain, and a motor-instinctive-sexual brain. We may be familiar with the story of Peter denying Christ. It is very difficult to really develop these forces in ourselves consistently, practically, in order to really affirm divinity in ourselves. The mind fights, the heart fights, but in the third brain, the brain of action, if we are transmuting the sexual energy, working upon جَبَل ٱلنُّوْر Jabal al-Nur, the mountain of light, we achieve the synthesis and the real work of the path. It is how we learn to recite the Word of God, which is to really reflect the Spirit inside. Beautiful symbology, alchemical-Kabbalistic wisdom.
Retreats are helpful for deepening this knowledge, for learning the different meditative traditions, but also really defining ourselves, really practicing deeply.
Traditionally, many schools of Buddhism and many Sufis would abandon the world for months or even years. In our retreats, we spend a week. We have sometimes done more. The important thing is whatever time we can dedicate, the deeper our results will be, obviously. Very beautiful practice. It is for masters. It is for beginning disciples. It is for all students who really wish to deepen their knowledge. But of course, retreat as we've said, is a way to really confirm our intimacy with divinity.
Intentions for Retreat
When we enter retreat, it is important to really reflect on our intentions. Many misconceptions about retreat exist. People often want to get away from the world. We want to avoid the negativity of our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends, our spouse, or whomever. While true, we really carry the seeds of discord within our ego. Let us read a quote in relation to this from Al-Qushayri's Principles of Sufism:
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
So it is arrogant to think that we have to protect ourselves from the evils of other people as if we are saints, like we are martyrs, people who should not dirty their hands in society.
So what does it mean to be humble? To really think little of ourselves. To realize that with the ego alive, we are dangerous, negative, people, and learning to associate with other spiritually like-minded people can give us humility. It can give us faith, because we learn from the experiences of others. We share. We break bread together. We study together. We inspire one another, and we receive knowledge of a superior type, because there is a lot of energy being channeled there if the practitioners are really serious, are really dedicated, because everyone is like a part of a concert, really. Everyone has their own instruments that they play, and when they play in harmony, they create a beautiful, profound wisdom.
So, let's also remember that we should enter retreat because we want to become better people, not because we want to avoid others. The reality is that to think in this way is to proceed mistakenly. We have to learn how to protect other people from our own ego. That is why we enter retreat. We enter retreat because we want to sacrifice better for humanity. We want to become better suited for our Being, to purify ourselves so that we can prevent our own lower, carnal soul, nafs al-ammara, “the soul that inclines to evil,” from inflicting damage, from influencing others negatively.
The Rules of Retreat
So, retreat has basic rules. Let's read some.
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 cannot seduce him through the imagination. Then he should acquire enough knowledge of the divine law that he is able to fulfill his religious duties so that his undertaking may be built on definite and sure foundations. ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
The doctrine of unity is central to Islam. It is very profound, subtle, and sophisticated, and beautiful. This is a topic that is very misunderstood and confused by theologians and skeptics alike.
What is unity? In a perfect sense, the Being is unity. Our ego is a multiplicity. We know from Gnosis that our consciousness is trapped in multiple, conflicting, competing desires. We have to free the consciousness and liberate it from desire, from the ego, so that it can reunite with divinity when it is pure.
The quality of the Essence is very unique and is a very specific flavor that can only be experienced again and again through repeated trial and error. We are not going to be perfect in learning how to discriminate our true nature from our false nature, because our desires are many, vast, and are constantly competing and fighting to steal our energy.
The Essence is beautiful action, as we have emphasized again and again. It has infinite virtuous qualities, like altruism, compassion, conscious love, chastity, happiness for others, inspiration, motivation, diligence, patience, endurance of suffering and ordeals, sacrifice for others at one's own expense, one's own pride, humility, and also, the severity and justice of the consciousness that knows how to weigh a situation with mercy and equilibrium, with splendor. There are infinite virtuous qualities, but they are all united by a single thread which is the continuity of perception, of consciousness.
This is very different from our desires, from our ego. Our ego in its multiplicity, is a fracturing, a dissonance, a sour taste within the mind. If we are really dedicating ourselves to separating from the ego, we begin to see more and more how egotistical states are very problematic. They produce problems. This is the multiplicity of the mind that is the obstacle and the enemy, and why we enter retreat, primarily because the ego in itself, again, conditions our potential.
In Islam, the ego and its multiplicity are the polytheists mentioned in the Qur’an. Or, الْكافِرُون al-Kafirun, the unbelievers, the infidels. All of our cravings, aversions, fears, wants, desires, etc., do not obey or believe in the will of divinity in us.
So how do we understand this dynamic?
We may read and learn and study how altruism, how giving is a very profound virtue, and yet, when we have the opportunity to do so, we examine our mind and we find that we don't want to donate, perhaps in a certain situation, to give of our time and energy. We feel resistance. These are the unbelievers. Or, we learn about compassion, empathy, conscious love in a situation in which someone is really criticizing us. We start to see that constant fluctuation and dynamic of anger, of resentment, of hatred, of pride, with all of its cacophony of thoughts and desires and impulses pulling in multiple directions. When you observe that in yourself, you really understand that we don't have any unitary will.
We may direct our efforts to promoting and fulfilling these precepts, and yet we find that our desires fight against us. This means that we are not really spiritual people. It means that we are infidels, because we have so much desire within, conditioning, egos, نَفْس nafs in Arabic.
If you really want to be sincere, we have to learn and understand what unity is. When you taste it, you will know it. It is a very clear, cognizant, vivid intense state of clarity, of perception, of altruism, of giving. It is intuitive action. It is right action. It dissipates discord. It brings harmony within situations and conflicts. It knows how to understand the solution to a difficult issue through the heart, not the intellect, not through debating or theorizing or intellectualizing what one must do, but simply knowing it and acting for the welfare of others.
Unity is a profound teaching. It is really the heights of realization. There are levels to understanding what unity is, the integration of the soul. But in order to really understand that particular state and quality on a consistent, experiential basis, we learn to work with the practices of our tradition, specifically by having knowledge of the divine law. This is the ethical conduct of the initiates, but also our religious duties, which is our exercises: the practices that we fulfill, such as works with concentration, serenity, or imagination.
It would seem that the Sufis are speaking badly about imagination, that Satan seduces one through visualization, because we have to remember that imagination is dual. It can be conditioned or it can be liberated. It could be negative or it could be positive, liberated, free. Our desires project through imagery onto the senses, seeking to fulfill their desires. But visualization practice, working with positive imagination: the ability to hold non-physical imagery in one's concentration with vivid intensity, is an essential skill we learn to master, because that quality of consciousness allows us to access the internal worlds.
This capacity to perceive non-physical imagery has to be done at will, not mechanically, not through associative thinking or daydreaming, mind-wandering, in which we have no control over what we see. The imagination that we speak of is very specific. By learning those practices we could really go deep in our work.
So as we have emphasized again and again, the practical foundations of meditation include شريعة Shari’ah, ethical conduct. This is something that we can learn. We read about it. We listen to lectures. We read scriptures. We do book studies. We talk about the teachings. We learn them. We gain an intellectual understanding and appreciation of the different precepts of religion as we have emphasized again and again, such as non-violence, non-stealing, sexual purity, charity, pilgrimage, such as in the Muslim faith.
There are even five pillars within Islam that constitute the divine law, practices that can help develop our potential, our compassion, our ethics, our kindness. This is different in different religions, but they all share the same root, which is how to work with liberated consciousness, how to curtail negative behaviors so that we don't infect our heart, our conscience. We don't make ourselves sick, spiritually, because people who are filled with hate, who live within an atmosphere of wrath, are very depleted of energy, and they suffer incredibly. They make others suffer, which is worse.
Silence and Insight
So divine law helps to curtail all of that. This is so that we can enter silence or صـَمت samt, equanimity, serenity. When you learn to act ethically with precepts, you calm your mind, naturally. Through the work of self-observation and learning to respond to life consciously, to transform the impressions of life as they enter our consciousness, our mind naturally begins to settle, to become serene, to become calm. But this only happens when we separate from the mind. We look at it for what it is. We don't try to label anything we see, to justify it, or to hide from it. Simply look. Perceive what is in your heart, your three brains, your thoughts, your feelings, your will. This is how we gain insight, فرصه firasah in Arabic. This is clear perception. This is the faculty of imagination, visualization. It is the ability to see not with physical eyes, but with psychological and spiritual senses.
If I tell you to imagine an apple, you can see it. It appears in your mind. That is visualization. Now, insight or imagination, comprehension born from seeing, occurs when we learn to develop that capacity intentionally, not mechanically by hearing about some associative word like an apple and then you see it in your mind, but instead learning to cultivate the capacity to perceive with imagination, with different exercises, such as taking a candle, imagining the flame. Observe it. Look at the colors and the fluctuation of the flame, the wax, and then imagine it with clarity, in detail.
You can only learn silence and insight through practice. You can learn about the concepts, but it won't have any substance unless you have experienced it.
When you really develop silence and insight, serenity, and visualization or, concentration and imagination, the ability to focus serenely and to perceive it clearly in your consciousness, that is how you witness unity. This is التوحيد al-tawhid. This is witnessing the truth. This is samadhi, ecstasy, mystical experience. This is the unity and integrity of the soul, the integration of the consciousness. Literally, it is when the soul abandons illusion, the ego, even if for a few moments, in different levels of nature.
This can occur physically, but also in the internal planes, in the Tree of Life, in the different dimensions. We could be sitting to meditate and suddenly we start perceiving an experience, not with physical senses, but with the consciousness, in which we receive symbols and messages and understandings and dramas of which we are both witness and spectator. We receive insight, or better said, symbols through our Being, through living dramas, allegories, that have to be interpreted with the consciousness.
When we learn to understand these messages, we really march in the path towards unity, unifying our consciousness. We do so through one-pointed will. We learn not to be distracted. Whatever you sit to practice meditation upon, whatever you focus your concentration on, don't think of other things. Don't get distracted. Renounce distractions, whether they are physical, energetic, through sensations or lights and sounds and mystical experiences, things that are really captivating and interesting but really are just temporary. Let them go. Don't be fascinated by what you perceive.
Also, do not be hypnotized by emotions, especially negative emotions, because we have a lot of that. We have to renounce negative feeling, but also the churning of thought, intellect. And by concentrating our willpower, and letting it rest in equanimity, with meditative equipoise, we can receive the light of unity. This is how you proclaim the Shahadah (الشهادة), “There is no God but God, and Muhammad” or any Prophet “is the Messenger of Allah,” the divine.
So unity is something that occurs in levels. That perfect unity of the Being has many qualities and virtues. It is infinite. We study the Tree of Life to understand all those dynamics in detail, the relationships between those principles, the ten sephiroth, the lower seven bodies, the trinities. Everything is a unity that expresses a multiplicity. So therefore, the bridge between monotheism and polytheism should be understood, because sadly, the exoteric public doctrine of Islam rejects many religions because they are interpreted to be polytheist. Many of them do not understand what Kabbalah is, that it is a map and structure of the soul, the unity of God, how divinity expresses in levels. Or as the Qur’an teaches, “Light upon light!” (24:35)―level upon level of being. There are more rarefied levels of being and more manifest, concrete levels of being.
So, the Being is a unit, is perfected, is divine. We are multiplicity because we have egos. We are polytheists, whether we consider ourselves Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or whatever, Gnostic. We are infidels because we have the ego. We are fractured. We have no integrity, no unity of will. We have a multiplicity of wills. So, comprehend what unity is. Learn about that state of being, the perfection of your Innermost through experiences. Through that vision of the consciousness, you can see that, really, in the depths of all traditions, they are all the same. They teach the same principles. Those are different archetypes and qualities of divinity expressed amongst the cultures and religions of the world. They all share the same roots.
The Essence of Seclusion
It is also important to remember that the essence of seclusion is more than just leaving society behind. It is an internal psychological work. It means to hermetically seal our energy.
People who waste energy never awaken. The question is, how do we waste energy? Let us seriously investigate our life.
What types of activities drain us? What relationships, events, cyclical occurrences, behaviors, mechanical habits, tend to take away our vitality, our ability to really dedicate to spiritual practice? We have to learn to answer that question, personally, through reflection.
The question also becomes: how do we learn to seal ourselves, our psyche, from losing energy, whether it be mental, emotional, sexual, especially? How do we lose energy? How do we save energy? Let's examine some quotes that can help us understand this, from Al-Qushayri's Principles of Sufism:
Withdrawing from the world does not mean going away from inhabited places. The essence of seclusion is to isolate blameworthy traits in order to substitute the divine names for them. Thus it was asked, "Who is the gnostic (arif)?" and they replied, "A creature distinguished," that is, someone who appears to be together with people, but is inwardly separated from them. ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Separation is key. Do not be attached to your actions, to your desires, to what anger wants, to what vanity desires, to what greed clutches on to. Non-attachment does not mean dysphoria, in which we don't have a sense of orientation or self, meaning: one is disassociated in a clouded, obscured, amorphous state. That is not what we are talking about.
Non-attachment is clarity. It is vivid attention. It is expansive awareness. It is the identity of our Essence with its virtuous qualities, the ability to act ethically with precision and with compassion. That is non-attachment.
We give. We act for the benefit of others, not being attached to what may happen. We give from the qualities and the treasures of our heart. This is how we save energy. This is how we transmute energy.
You take the sexual energy; you conserve it. But also we have to learn how to direct it with the Essence. When you empower your consciousness through pranayama and runes, especially alchemy, you learn to direct that force in an intelligent way. But if we do not save energy, we invest ourselves within desire, within nafs.
We have to separate from the ego in order to see it. This is what it means “to substitute blameworthy traits with divine names.” In Hebrew, we have a name called hashim, which relates to השם Hashem, “the names,” and you find this even in Arabic. They have the same pronunciation even. Hashim, Samael Aun Weor mentions, are the igneous particles of the consciousness, the energies of the psyche. When we perceive and not act upon negative states, egos, we learn to transform hashim within us, the names, the particles of the soul, which usually are trapped in ego, in desire.
So in Muslim mysticism, they emphasize that there are beautiful names of Allah, and this can be graphed in different ways upon the Tree of Life, which we have mentioned some correlations before, specifically such as with ٱلرَّحِيمِ Al-Rahim, the Merciful, which is Chesed, the Spirit of Kabbalah. The Compassionate, الرحمان Al-Rahman, can relate to Chokmah, Wisdom.
These divine names relate to principles and forces in us that we have to understand. When we learn to not invest ourselves within desire, we learn to substitute blameworthy traits with the divine names, with the hashim, the forces of God, so that you are cultivating a space in yourself that allows for meditation to exist, because when the mind is chaotic, you cannot meditate. If you are burning with hatred all day and you sit down to introspect, you are not going to attain anything.
Instead, curtail your negative habits. Seclude your psyche from attachments. The seclusion that we seek is internal. That is the beginning.
Inner Seclusion and Intimacy with God
Real seclusion, retreat, is internal. It is dependent upon our level of being. Our heart has to be secluded. It has to be separate from any ego, any naf, any desire. You cannot look to externals to know the truth, whether from teachers, from lectures, from scriptures even, from books, but from your own consciousness. That is how we really develop, and that is how seclusion, retreat, becomes fruitful, is with this basis, with hermetic sealing, with hermetic silence.
Let's read some quotes from Revelation of the Mystery, Kashf al-Mahjub by Al-Hujwiri that relate to these principles.
It is related that [Al-Qarani] said, "Safety lies in solitude," because the heart of the solitary is free from thought of ‘other,’ and in no circumstances does he hope for anything from mankind. Let none imagine, however, that solitude (wahdat) merely consists in living alone. So long as the Devil associates with a man’s heart, and sensual passion holds sway in his breast, and any thought of this world or the next occurs to him in such a way as to make him conscious of mankind, he is not truly in solitude; since it is all one whether he takes pleasure in the thing itself or in the thought of it. ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery
So we can be in retreat but occupied mentally with other things. We have to avoid associating anything with Allah.
It is a very beautiful teaching with Islam. The Qur’an teaches we should not associate with anything other than God, but how do we associate with anything other than divinity? That is when we are distracted. Remember that Al-Wasiti said, "The greatest form of worship is watchfulness in the moments," primarily because we don't learn to associate with anything other than Him. Meaning, don't get lost in thought, with thinking. Do not be distracted. Instead, enter silence, concentrated.
Accordingly, the true solitary is not disturbed by society, but he who is preoccupied seeks in vain to acquire freedom from thought by secluding himself. In order to be cut off from mankind one must become intimate with God, and those who have become intimate with God are not hurt by intercourse with mankind. ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery
So we can be solitary or unitary in our consciousness but involved in the world. We cannot enter real retreat if our mind is always preoccupied with other things, and where we are at or what we are doing.
Intimacy with God occurs in levels. We gain intimacy with divinity in accordance with our level of being, through our efforts, our practices. These are different experiences we can have and levels upon the Tree of Life. These are levels of remembrance, levels of witnessing, whether in dreams or in meditation.
Two Kinds of Seclusion
There are some points emphasized by Ibn ‘Arabi in The Adornment of the Spiritually Transformed which reiterate the points we have made. There are two types of seclusion: internal and external. These are both very valuable to know and it is important to know the relationship between them. Ibn ‘Arabi states:
Seclusion leads to silence for man, since one who withdraws from human company has no-one to talk to, and that naturally leads to silence of the tongue. There are two kinds of seclusion: firstly, the seclusion of the aspirants (murīdūn), which consists of not associating physically with others; and secondly, the seclusion of the verifiers (muhaqqiqūn), which consists of having no contact with created things in one’s heart: their hearts have no room for anything other than the knowledge of God, exalted is He, which is the witness of the Truth in the heart that results from contemplation (mushāhada). ―Ibn ‘Arabi, The Adornment of the Spiritually Transformed
So the seclusion of the aspirants has to do with not being around a lot of people. It is even good on retreats to practice silence physically. On some of our retreats, but also in many others that I have attended amongst different Gnostic groups, have beautifully implemented silence of the tongue. So we could be surrounded by other students or teachers in this tradition eating and dining with people, but not talking physically.
Of course, this is very difficult because, obviously, when you are with a group of Gnostics, you want to share and learn and commune with your brothers and sisters in this path, but there is something very valuable about learning not to talk physically. You begin to understand and perceive in yourself your different egos, which want to socialize or be funny or be impressive, to look really spiritual amongst others, to really show off. These are things that we can see in ourselves if we practice this, and this is the value of physical silence, the seclusion of the aspirants.
But what is even more beautiful than that is the seclusion of the verifiers (muhaqqiqūn). What does it mean to verify? It means to know from experience those mystical states in which we don't have any contact with created things in our heart. Our heart is not focused on anything else but their quality of remembrance of the Being. There is no other room except knowledge of God, and this results from مشاهدة mushahada, which means “contemplation, witnessing, meditation.”
Examine your heart when you sit to practice. Be sincere. Is your mind thinking of other things? Is your heart churning with emotion? Is your impulse to do anything else but meditate? Are you preoccupied with anything other than the knowledge of your Being? It is something only you can evaluate. Only you can really know.
Three Motives for Seclusion
In synthesis, Ibn ‘Arabi states that there are three motives for seclusion. Let's examine these in depth:
The people of seclusion have three motives: (1) the fear of the evil of other people affecting oneself; (2) the fear of one’s own evil affecting others―this is a higher perception than the first, as in the first case one thinks badly of others, while in the second one thinks badly of oneself, and thinking badly of oneself is better since you are more knowledgeable of yourself… ―Ibn ‘Arabi, The Adornment of the Spiritually Transformed
Al-Hujwiri made the same points that Ibn ‘Arabi is emphasizing. This is very common knowledge among Sufis.
(3) the preference for the company of the Master from the Sublime Assembly―the most elevated of men is one who parts from himself out of preference for the company of his Lord. ―Ibn ‘Arabi, The Adornment of the Spiritually Transformed
Seek company of the divine prophets through your experiences. Specifically, learn to project into the astral plane. Awaken your consciousness from dreams. Learn to consult with your inner God, who has all the knowledge that you need to rectify any issue.
Divinity is wise. We can go upon the [Glorian Publishing] forum and ask for help for certain issues. Really, the most that instructors can do is really teach how to practice, primarily so that people learn to become independent.
Learn how to receive help inside, to seek company of God. Divinity is a much more profound intelligence and wisdom, really, than any physical person can provide, so learn to practically experience this for yourself. Verify for yourself through dream yoga.
One who prefers seclusion to the company of others prefers his Lord to that which is other than Him. And no-one can know what gifts and mysteries God showers upon the one who prefers his Lord. ―Ibn ‘Arabi, The Adornment of the Spiritually Transformed
So what are these gifts? These are samadhis, dream experiences, astral consciousness, wisdom from the mental world, from the Buddhic world, from the Nirvanic worlds, from the heavenly world, the جنّة Jannah, the superior dimensions. No one could really measure their infinite profundity, their expansiveness.
Seclusion never happens in the heart unless the heart feels an estrangement from that which one is separating from, and an intimacy with the One with whom one is secluding oneself, which is what drives one into seclusion. ―Ibn ‘Arabi, The Adornment of the Spiritually Transformed
So the question is, what is our قِبْلَة qiblah?
We have mentioned before that in mosques, they have a niche within the walls pointing towards the Middle East, towards Mecca, towards the Kaaba, the holy stone. One prays in that direction, قِبْلَة qiblah, when one is in deep prayer within the tradition of Islam.
Esoterically speaking, قِبْلَة qiblah has to do with your concentration.
Upon what do you concentrate?
What is the quality of your concentration?
Is it sustained for long periods of time, or is it spotty? Sometimes attentive, sometimes not?
Are there more degrees of attention or less degrees?
Are we more inattentive than we are attentive?
قِبْلَة qiblah really has to do with the quality of our concentration in our prayer. The more sincere we are and analyzing our level of being and focusing on the object of our concentration, of our dedication, will determine what we are focused on, will determine our trajectory.
For most people their قِبْلَة qiblah is in television, movies, TV shows, violence, extortion, crime, etc. Therefore, what is our قِبْلَة qiblah? What is our motive? What is our center of gravity? Because Samael Aun Weor mentions that we have a psychological center of gravity, which is typically in the ego. We have to develop a permanent center of gravity within the Essence. This is our قِبْلَة qiblah. So, examine that. Meditate on that. What are you more focused on in life? What do you contemplate more than other things? What is your focus, whether physically or in your mental states, especially? Examine the relationship.
What is real silence?
Spiritual retreats have often been silent with the exception of instructions and directions during meditation. This helps us to curtail negative internal chatter, to force the practitioner to be aware of oneself in relationship with the world or with others. Many people enter retreat and while silent with the tongue, continue to chat very loudly in the mind, commenting on everything one sees.
Let's look at what Ibn ‘Arabi has to say about this in his Adornment of the Spiritually Transformed:
Seclusion has no need of the extra condition of silence, as silence is necessarily included within it, insofar as it is silence of the tongue. As for silence of the heart, seclusion does not necessarily lead to it, since one could converse with oneself about other than God and with other than God, exalted is He. This is why we have considered silence to be one of the pillars (arkān) on the Way in its own right. ―Ibn ‘Arabi, The Adornment of the Spiritually Transformed
So how often does our mind wander? This is something we should evaluate and examine. Reflect on this quality of being, how attentive you are, because our internal chatter tends to be very focused on specific psychological songs.
Many people, when they drive their cars or listen to the radio do so by listening to music or favorite songs. Some people even have a very specific unchanging order. They have a music playlist, whether on their iPhone, iPod, whatever it may be. And so, while we may listen to music or not, everybody has a psychological song.
What is a psychological song? It is our narrative that we tell ourselves. It is our life story. It is our epic Mahabharata, our own tale in which we are the great center, the protagonist, the hero, the martyr, upon which all of our circumstances gravitate. We tend to tell ourselves that we are wronged, victimized, blamed, whatever our particular idiosyncrasy may be. We are the great hero, while everyone else is the villain. We were right, but we were wronged, etc.
We tend to repeat our own song like a broken record, and of course it is going to be different for each person. For some people, it may be self-pity, feeling inadequate that they can succeed in life, that they have always been cheated, lied to, abused, etc.
Some people sing songs of vanity that they are always great, they are wonderful, and that people don't appreciate their integrity or compassion or altruism, whatever it may be.
We repeat our songs, even if no one wants to hear it, because in honesty, everybody else has their own psychological song. Everybody sings their own tune, so to speak.
Internal chatter, this psychological repetition of mental verbiage, has to be curtailed and ended. You don't do it by pushing the mind away or telling the mind to shut up. When you learn to observe and separate from the mind, it starts to calm. When you observe the mind and it is talking at you and chattering, but you are not giving into it, you are not feeding it, you are learning to enter silence and seclusion―real retreat.
So you could be physically at your job but learning to really enter, psychologically, an attitude and a space of meditation and retreat. This is really the foundation and the key. Separate from the mind. Self-observe your thoughts, your feelings and your actions. Stop giving your energy into desires, conditions of mind. This is because in solitude even, we have a lot of negative egos, a lot of painful temptations. When we are alone, we are by ourselves, oftentimes the worst egos emerge. This is why Samael Aun Weor stated the following in Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology:
It is indispensable to observe oneself when alone in the same manner as when associated with people.
I am pretty sure that most people, after a while, get very tired of listening to the same tune. But ironically, in our life experience, this is not true.
We sing our songs of how we are victimized and harmed and blamed and betrayed, whatever it may be, whatever our tendency is, whatever egos we like to feed most of all. We have to examine what that chatter is, what that language is, what the results are, because if you invest your energy in defeatism or vanity or whatever it may be, we don't change the situation.
We have to learn to sacrifice our own sufferings. Give up pain. Give up our attachments to pain, to egotistical states. Let's not express our suffering so much. Obviously, if there's something really traumatic and difficult, it is good sometimes to talk with people, especially when we need guidance, but that is something you have to evaluate on your own.
So it is important to remember that, like animals, our culture has us domesticated, very well-trained. We are taught to adopt behaviors and beliefs and ideologies that are contrary to our spiritual nature. These are simply beliefs, attitudes or perceptions of how life is that really don't have any basis. This is the reason why our society and our world is such a mess, because people believe reality to be a certain way. However, they don't really have any basis in experience of the consciousness.
Because we have different beliefs that conflict with reality, with our experiences, with each other, we suffer. This is because the egos of different people sing their psychological song. Everybody thinks that they are the victim. Simply look at different conflicts throughout the world where everyone, both sides of different issues, say that they are the victim, not the perpetrator. So they justify their behaviors, and likewise, we too justify everything we do, and this is the problem. We sing our songs articulately or inarticulately to ourselves. This is something that keeps us very asleep. So, it’s something to consider.
The Witnessing of Unity
What is the witnessing of unity? Some profound teachings from Ibn ‘Arabi, al-Sheikh al-Akbar, who is considered the greatest of Sufi teachers, he emphasizes some points that we have mentioned already, but which I'd like to emphasize here:
One who makes seclusion their practice grasps the mystery of the Divine Unity (wahdāniyya). In terms of knowledges and mysteries, this brings to him the secrets of the Uniqueness (ahadiyya) insofar as it is a quality. The true spiritual state of seclusion, whether it be that of the seeker or the verifier, is to be transcendent of all attributes. ―Ibn ‘Arabi, The Adornment of the Spiritually Transformed
So what is the uniqueness? This is الأحد al-ahad in Arabic, the unity. Or this is where we get the Shahadah (الشهادة), where we declare the unity of God:
لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا ٱللَّٰهُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ ٱللَّٰهِ
This is paralleled within the Jewish tradition by the Shema.
שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד׃,
…الأحد Ahad in Arabic or אֶחָֽד Echad in Hebrew, unity.
What does it mean when we are a verifier or seeker to experience the spiritual state of seclusion? It means to be transcendent of all attributes, meaning: egotistical qualities. We have to give up our identity as an ego. To experience the clarity of the Essence, we have to be selfless. Again, not from a state of dysphoria, of obscuration, of mental dullness, of confusion, but a state of awareness and attention and the identity of the consciousness.
Let us continue:
The highest state of seclusion is retreat (khalwa), for it is a seclusion within seclusion, and its fruit is stronger than that of ordinary seclusion. One who makes seclusion his practice must have certainty regarding God, exalted is He, until he has no thought that will distract him and take him beyond the confines of his seclusion. If he lacks certainty, then let him prepare himself to be strong enough for seclusion, in order that his certainty may be strengthened by what is revealed to him in his seclusion. ―Ibn ‘Arabi, The Adornment of the Spiritually Transformed
So we have talked previously about what certainty is: اليقين Al-Yaqin.
There are three forms of certainty within Islam or Sufism:
Knowledge of certainty means we understand the teachings and the scriptures, the doctrine, the wisdom, from the intellect. But the seeing of certainty has to do with when we experience these truths for ourselves, through personal, living knowledge, not through belief or from reading a book, from listening to a lecture, from reading a scripture. It is what we know through experience, through facts.
The truth of certainty has to do with when we really receive wisdom from God. We receive visions and insights from divinity that are indisputable, that are factual, without illusion, without question.
This is how we really make use of seclusion. We have to have certainty of the practices. Obviously, if we don't really understand what these teachings are about and we try to enter retreat, it can be very difficult; obviously, learning it for the first time. So we need to have some kind of development or understanding of the teaching so that we can really go deeper.
By understanding the science and the method of the practices of meditation, we have no thought that will distract us and take us beyond the confines of our seclusion. Meaning, we don't really get lost in the practices. If we lack certainty, then let us prepare ourselves to be strong enough, meaning, in this case, some meditation retreats practiced by the Sufis were very extensive, very long, very arduous, not really recommended for beginners. If you come to one of our retreats, you'll find that we have it pretty easy compared to many of the traditions, especially.
There is no other way. This is one of the firm preconditions governing seclusion. Seclusion bequeaths knowledge of this world (dunyā). ―Ibn ‘Arabi, The Adornment of the Spiritually Transformed
So, we gain knowledge of the world, our ego, through meditation, as we have explained in relation to retrospection meditation especially.
So in synthesis, I'd like to relate to you and provide to you a resource: a retreat schedule that you can adopt. You don't have to use it strictly in this manner. It is simply a guideline that you can use, that you can modify at will to help really deepen your spiritual life.
It is divided into morning, noon, and evening practices―some simple time frames that you can use if you have the time and the energy and the dedication to do so.
If you look at these links, you'll find different books or practices, references, resources that you can study in relation to these exercises, whether from our own Gnostic Meditation course or Meditation Essentials, the Nordic Runes, working with energy, the seven vowels, recitations at dawn, specifically, when we invoke energies of divinity, of Christ, through mantralizing, performing prayers through the Nordic yoga. Also, there is time for lectures and scriptural study―free time, of course, but also sacred rites of rejuvenation, dream yoga, Jinn practices, etc. I won't go through all of this in detail, but you can use this resource to help you if you are willing.
Recommended Sources for Meditation and Spiritual Practices
Alchemy Techniques for Married Couples
Dream Yoga Exercises
Mantras and Prayers for Protection
Meditation Courses and Resources
Pranayama for Single Practitioners
Sacred Rites of Rejuvenation
So in synthesis, it is important to understand what seclusion is. To synthesize everything we have stated, the most important principle is that if you want any type of meditation or retreat to be effective for you, learn to cultivate a space of serenity and insight. This is something that you can only do through daily consistent discipline, moment to moment awareness.
I would like to open up the floor to questions.
Questions and Answers
Question: What does it mean to sacrifice our own sufferings if you want to transform ourselves?
Instructor: Oftentimes, “our pain is self-chosen,” to quote Khalil Gibran in his poem The Prophet. We like to waste energy. Oftentimes we have a problem in life, a situation, and it becomes very difficult to resolve. We don't see a solution. We see that we are in darkness. We have a lot of uncertainty, a lot of pain. But stewing in the filth of our mind, by letting ourselves boil in the heat of our own negative emotions, it is not going to resolve the problem. When you give your energy unnecessarily into wrong mental states, we deepen our suffering.
Instead, it is better to step away from the problem, to separate from it, to separate from the mind, to not give your energy to negative emotion, because in reality, negative emotions are very infectious. They make ourselves sick. They make other people sick.
So you have to consider that if you are very upset with a problem, it is not going to be easy to resolve it if your mind is clouded. Therefore, we must sacrifice our sufferings. Meaning, if you're in a lot of pain and you feel like you want to just vegetate, to vacillate, to not act in a situation, to not respond in any way, to not really introspect in yourself, it can be really useful to spend that time to practice.
Sometimes, if we are in a negative emotional state, it can be very difficult to meditate. Therefore, we could do something like runes, prayer, pranayama, walks in nature, some exercise to distract our mind from the problem, and we can learn to invest our attention in a worthy cause, which is the transformation of our pain.
When I have been in very difficult, moral, ethical suffering in relation to different problems in my life, I have deepened and intensified my practice. I remember I worked at one job that was very difficult. I had a very hard time transforming the negative emotions of my clients, and I was suffering a lot because I felt inadequate to really help them. So what I would do is, when I was in a lot of pain, I would do hours of runes. I mean literally, one to two hours, sometimes even more. I would really dedicate myself to spiritual practices so that I can stop or cease my own suffering. By providing good energy into my psyche, I was able to calm down and to face my problem with equity, with clarity. This is just one method we can use.
Use the practices in our tradition that can help you, whatever is going to resonate most with you that helps you ease your pain so that you can really focus on what's important. If there is something you can't change that you are suffering about, then why suffer about it? There is no solution. But if there is a solution, then you can act effectively to change it. This is how we sacrifice our pain, because pain is not necessary. We don't have to churn in the mud, so to speak.
Question: When I am doing a concentration imagination exercise, is it okay to mantralize at the same time to clear the mental chatter, like AUM?
Instructor: Yes, it takes some skill. You know, obviously a mantra like Aum is very useful for charging our psyche with good energy. Now, if you are concentrating on the mantra, that's really good. But also, you can visualize light and energy in your heart, especially. So those can go hand-in-hand.
There are different dynamics to different practices, different mantras. Some mantras are provided with certain visualization exercises. So I recommend that whatever practices you are doing that, you know, you really fulfill them with fidelity, whatever those stipulations are in the writings of Samael Aun Weor, but if you do the mantra AUM or OM, you can visualize light in your heart, concentrate on the vibration of that mantra.
So when you perform a mantra, it is not merely just saying or reciting some sounds, but it is concentrating on the energy. It is visualizing that force in you. It is developing your focus, your perception. It is a very dynamic thing.
Question: The next question is, I try to imagine my inner Father or my Monad as a tremendous light that descends from the heavens above. Is there a more accurate vision like the light descending from the crown of the head?
Instructor: There are different visualizations. The best visualization practice is going to be any state or experience you have had internally. For example, in many cases I have meditated on my Innermost, mantralizing while imagining my Being, remembering my inner God as I perceived Him in the astral plane, even beyond.
You can visualize the Father as a light in the heart. You can even visualize that energy descending from your crown to your body. In certain runes like the runes Tyr and Bar, work like that. You are invoking the Divine Father to enter your head as you are bringing your hands downward, mantralizing the vowels Tyr, and then Bar.
So different practices have different orientations, but the important thing is that follow your intuition, what you need to work with. You can imagine a light in your heart, the mantras like O or Om, etc., but also you can imagine the light descending from the crown of the head, especially with certain mantras like INRI or the practice with Ares, if you studied the book Practical Astrology [Editor's Note: See also the mantras INRI, ENRE, ONRO, UNRU, ANRA for developing the chakras].
Question: One of my biggest temptations has been my ego constantly pushing me astray when it comes to furthering and deepening my practices. What is the best way to supplicate the higher forces to help develop will? Sometimes, conjurations work well for me, but sometimes I feel that I fall and allow my intellect to remove me from it and I fall back again into not intensifying my work and developing my will.
Instructor: I find some of the best practices for developing willpower are the runes, especially the Rune Dorn. You can stand facing towards the east when facing the sunrise or early morning hours are good for this. Place your heels together, left hand on your left side, right hand on your right hip. Pray to your inner Being to grant you the will of Christ.
Do the mantras: TA TE TI TO TU. You prolong them. Feel the vibration of those forces in you. Pray to your Divine Mother Kundalini and the Holy Spirit to empower your Essence so that it can fulfill the will of Christ.
Remember, in the story of Prophet Muhammad when Gabriel said, “Recite!” and Prophet Muhammad said, “I can’. I don't know basically how to read and write,” and Gabriel said again, “Recite!” and he says, “I do not know how,” and then the third time, Gabriel said, “Recite!” and then Prophet Muhammad said, “What shall I recite my Lord?” This is precisely a symbol of what you are talking about: how in the path we struggle to really fulfill divine will. We struggle in our practices. We feel that we are disconnected.
You can work at the Rune Dorn, especially. That is how we recite the word of divinity so that we can receive blessings from divinity above, from Gabriel, Gibur-Ra-El: our own Spirit.
You can work with the vowels or any of the seven runes, especially, for as long as you need. An hour or more if you need to. That is a very great way to energize your practice, to give you a lot of force to do other things as well, to meditate profoundly.
Question: Do you believe people can pull energy from one person to another?
Instructor: Personally, I don't believe that. It is something that I know from experience. We call those people witches, sorcerers, black magicians. They steal energy from people because they cannot create on their own. They reject the Holy Spirit, the creative power of divinity within sex. They don't learn how to cultivate their own energy, and because they are vampiric, they need to thrive off the psychic energy of others. And there are many ways that they steal vital energy from people. This is why we learn practices of conjurations and prayers to protect ourselves. You can study our lecture called Basics of Spiritual Defense on our website, especially the course Spiritual Self-Defense to learn how to protect yourself.
Question: Sometimes one feels strong when around worldly activities, such as dealing with problems and traffic, but sometimes it all seems unbearable and one feels an urgent need of solitude. Do you find this fluctuations to be normal on the path to total inner silence?
Instructor: Yes. Obviously, you have to gauge your own level of being and your needs. It can be very difficult to be around the cities for a long period of time or to be in difficult situations. This is why people enter retreat in different traditions. When we are depleted of our energy, we feel like we need to recharge. It is good to go out in nature and enter retreats or practice with like-minded people so that we can gain more force. So yes, there are periods in which it is very difficult to walk this path. It is very normal. The important thing is that we are consistent with our practices and that we can make sacrifices so that we can practice more effectively, but also get out of the world, or better said, get out of the hustle and bustle of our modern society.
Question: Thank you for this series of lectures on Sufism. Would you please introduce a few books that I can fundamentally learn more about Islam, Sufism, and contemplate and understand the link between Gnosis and Sufism? As a Muslim, I know that there is a root. All mysticism should direct to the same point. Any recommendations or suggestions would be helpful in this regard.
Instructor: So probably the best book to understand the heart of every single religious tradition is The Perfect Matrimony by Samael Aun Weor. He explains some points in which the mysteries of alchemy and sexual magic that he teaches so openly, is represented within Islam and Sufism, especially. He makes some comments in certain chapters about the Muslim initiates, especially. That's the best book that I know of that really explains the secret key within every tradition, especially Islam and Sufism.
Once you know the writings of Samael Aun Weor very deeply, especially that book, as well as The Mystery of the Golden Flower, you can pick up Sufi manuals of retreat and spiritual practice and understand what they are talking about. Some Sufi texts that I really recommend besides the Qur’an, especially, are Revelation of the Mystery by Al-Hujwiri, Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri, and The Stations of the Sufi Path by Abdullah Ansari of Herat.
If you want, you can email us and we'll send you a link to those texts. But if you look at the PowerPoint presentations, the PDFs that we are going to upload to our website, you'll find that we have constant references to these three books, especially those three Sufi texts. They are Persian Sufism, the best of Sufism, especially. Samael Aun Weor states in The Perfect Matrimony that the best of Sufism comes from Persia. So it is a very deep statement. I recommend you study those texts, especially.
Question: I recently have been struggling with pranayama. When I do it for over five minutes, my body jitters. It feels very uncomfortable. Do you recommend walking for a while before pranayama?
Instructor: Yes. It could be really good to do that. You might want to get some exercise, especially, primarily because when you start to work with your creative energies, your whole chemistry changes, literally. Your body and processes fluctuate, change. Personally, since practicing transmutation, I have experienced many changes, even in my appetite, my ability to engage in heavy work, even manual labor―you know, getting a lot of strength from the creative impulse.
Sometimes, in the beginning, it can be very difficult to adapt to the vibrations of the sexual energy. They are very powerful. Sometimes with pranayama, we can feel very charged to the point that we become jittery, like you are drinking a very big cup of coffee or an espresso. So, I recommend do short practices. You know, get some physical exercise, especially. Maybe even walk in nature if you can. Ham-Sah is very good for when you are walking out in the middle of the woods, if you have the opportunity. I like to do that when I take a long hikes since it helps me to keep my body and blood circulating, but also circulate the energies as well. Or you can practice in more short spurts. If you feel that you are getting uncomfortable, take a break, but later jump back into the practice so that you can acculturate your body. Learn to make your body adapt to that inward and upward flow of force.
Question: Also, this person said that I feel the energy to be overwhelming. Do you recommend cutting down on meat?
Instructor: Yes, if you find that you have too much fire (the Tattva Tejas from The Panchatattva Ritual) and it is difficult to control, cut down on meat. Limit your meat intake. Sometimes a change in diet can help with that.
Question: When you are in a state of remembrance of the Being, do you put your attention on your heart, breath, or imagine something?
Instructor: Remembrance is a very profound and beautiful quality that is very dynamic. This is something that we are going to dedicate an entire lecture to in this course within the coming weeks.
When you are remembering your Being, when you are self-observing yourself throughout the day, you should be aware of your pineal gland, especially. This is the seat of the soul. This is where we look out into our external world, but also our internal world.
Remembrance of the Being is also a quality of the heart. You are observing from your third eye or the pineal gland, especially, introspecting within and perceiving within your internal states in relation to external events. So you are perceiving through the senses, but also you are exercising your internal senses, your psychological sense of understanding thought, feeling, and will.
Remembrance, more importantly, is a quality of your superior emotional center, and this has to do with emotions that are very subtle and pure. Obviously, in the beginning we struggle to understand or taste that state, but is something that you can learn to cultivate by doing pranayama, working with breath, in which your body settles. Your mind settles. Your imagination clarifies.
You can sit down in your practice of visualization, but also mantra, pranayama. You are concentrating on your breath and you are visualizing the energy flowing in you. In this way, you are remembering your Being. You are becoming aware of the energies of God in you and how they flow inside. So this is dynamic. This is a very integral process.
We sometimes teach these practices in different ways because people have different needs and also because the capacity of the consciousness is very broad and spatial. It is vast. When you get adept at imagination exercises and remembrance of divinity, you can learn to focus on your breath, your heart, your third eye, and your body at the same time. But in the beginning, it could be good to focus on one or the other, so that you have enough stable concentration to focus.
Sometimes focusing on the breath is enough. It is very easy to do that with practice and it is difficult in the beginning because we haven't been trained yet. So whatever exercise you adopt for concentration, it could be very good to simply focus on your breathing with pranayama or do an imagination exercise such as the candle, or mantralize the vowel O. Be aware of your breath, but also imagine a light in your heart. These are all states of remembrance.
When you are really focused, when you are really in prayer, you are obviously going to be engaging different practices throughout the day, but the most consistent practice in the state of remembrance is self-observation, self-remembrance. You do that by focusing on your pineal gland, but also learning to respond to life ethically. Remember your heart, your conscience.
Question: Regarding laziness, I sometimes feel I have so much energy to practice, to read, to contemplate, etc., etc., but some other time it happens that I have not much energy to do the practices, although deep inside I feel so much need to practice meditation. What is your opinion about this so much back and forth?
Instructor: It is the ego, the resistance of the mind. Our desires know that their life is threatened through this spiritual work, and so we face resistance of the mind. We know what is best. We know what we need to do. We feel the inquietude in our heart to practice deeply. However, because the ego knows that through these exercises it is going to be eliminated, it fights. We feel laziness. We feel depleted. We don't feel enthusiastic. We feel uninspired, etc. That is because the mind. Our own inner satan knows that its life is threatened, and so it challenges us at every step.
The solution is to comprehend where that laziness is coming from. Look within to see where it is in you and what activities your mind avoids. Sometimes not being inspired has to do with a lack of energy. This is why I like to do runes, especially. They give you a lot of force, a lot of power. They can push you to really meditate deeply, which is why we emphasize those practices again and again in this course, but also especially in our resources in this lecture, especially. You know, sometimes the way to resolve the problem is to put more fuel in your car. If you want to drive to a certain destination, you got to fuel up. You do that with working with the creative energies. That is how you are going to have the strength necessary to overcome obstacles.
Question: Must all runes be performed with a specific accompanying physical posture or can vocalizations be made like mantras while seated in a meditation posture?
Instructor: There are certain mantras that you can do on your own when you are seated, but the real benefit of the runes is that they are engaging forces in nature as a result of our physical position. They are a form of yoga, and when combined with prayer, concentration, awareness, attention, and remembrance, we learn to cultivate energy in our body, in our mind and heart.
Question: Also, where can I find the best description or perhaps video instruction about the runic postures and mantras? And also I am finding the runes that are paired with others?
Instructor: There is a video on Glorian Publishing’s website that show the seven vowels, especially. That is one of the primary practices we do, but perhaps in the future we will have other instructional videos that teach how to do all the runes. That would be something very useful for people, I think. The best way to perform the runes is as described in The Magic of the Runes by Samael Aun Weor. That book explains how the runes are paired, which practice has to do with what, and how to do them in very clear and simple directions.
The Gnostic Academy of Chicago
Free online courses, lectures, podcasts, and transcriptions.