There is no greater confusion about Islam than the doctrine of Jihad. While Prophet Muhammed was authorized by the White Lodge to defend himself against the Quraysh―who were the Arabic black magicians who sought to physically kill him―many people today miss the point of what striving in the spiritual path really is. Sadly today, the doctrine of Jihad has degenerated because people fail to recognize the psychological work and the appropriate context of this knowledge.
The word جهاد jihad come from Arabic مُجَاهِدَة mujahidah, and, more strictly speaking, it means “to strive,” “to make effort” in the spiritual path. It is about the work against the ego. This is the esoteric significance of this knowledge.
There are many nuances to this term “striving,” of which we are going to elaborate. What it means is to really work, effectively, upon our defects, upon our desires. We are going to relate some scriptural context, the original sources in which this wisdom is given, so that there is no confusion, so that there is no room for misinterpretation.
We have to remember that إسلام Islam, in Arabic, is submission to divine will. How do we submit to divinity? We do so by working against our ego, our own errors, our defects, our نَفْس nafs. This is how we achieve سلام salam: “peace,” and if you’ve heard this term سلام salam, it is often recited in many common greetings: أس سلام عليكم As-salamu Alaykum, “peace unto you!” Or as we say in the Gnostic tradition: “Inverential peace”―peace unto your innermost Being.
Through Islam, by practically working on ourselves, by submitting to divinity through our works, our meditations, we achieve serenity: سلام salam, peace.
It is to the great credit of Sufism that the esoteric teachings of striving have been preserved, despite the fact that it is very much contested today. I would like to read a quote for you from Rumi about this:
The time for the Greater Holy War has come!
Very clear. Holy war is against sensuality, how the egos of our psyche, our نَفْس nafs, constantly seek to gratify their desires through impressions, through different experiences. How do you enter holy war, striving against desire, according to Rumi? Fast to the ego. Stop feeding your desires. Stop giving your mind, your pride, your envy, your anger, your vanity, what it wants. It is a choice. It is a decision we make, moment by moment, instant by instant. If you do not believe that this path is really a path of warfare, simply try to stop giving a certain defect the object of its attractions, of its desires. Stop feeding your ego what it wants and examine your mind. Observe. Look.
Anyone who seriously approaches meditation realizes very quickly that, truly, it is a great effort to change, because when you stop giving anger, pride, fear, laziness, gluttony, and especially lust, what they want, those desires fight for their survival. They exert their pressure upon our consciousness, our Essence, in order to steal the energies of divinity, the beauty of our soul, through wrong action, through wrong feeling, through wrong thinking.
Or sit to meditate. Concentrate your will upon an object of focus. What does your mind do? In reality, it wanders. It chases after distractions.
So, striving, while it has to do with renouncing our egotism―no longer investing our actions, our energy, our will into the mind, into thoughts, into feelings, into cravings, into aversions, into sensations―striving really also has to do with concentrating our will, our efforts, our willpower, so that it is effective, profound, intentional.
Examine your practice. Do you think of other things when you sit to meditate? If you do, if your mind is lost in reverie, in projections, in anticipations, in daydreams, in resentments of earlier moments in the day when we were gossiped about or lied to or criticized, if we are investing all of our energy into just a muddled state, a churning in the mud, a dullness of mind, it means that we are not really concentrated at all.
So, we explained previously how concentration is intentional. Awareness, continuity of perception, is something that we direct at will. It is not passive. It is a profoundly active state, cognizant, marked by a vivid intensity, a clarified awareness, a sharp and pristine perception that is able to be directed at will, without wavering.
Honestly, if we sit to meditate, we can find in the beginning that we try to focus on one thing, but the mind is scattered. It thinks of other things, conceptualizes, and gets lost in a chain of associative thinking. But how do we remedy this, is the question?
Of course, we have concentration exercises, some of which we have mentioned before: by taking an object and focusing on it, and not letting the mind think or wander about other things. A basic one we explained was the breath―working with the energies of our vitality through our lungs, through our concentration, and through our prayer. More importantly, those exercises are only fruitful if we have ethics, control of mind and profound discipline of our three brains: our mind, our heart and our body, the different centers of our human machine, those parts of us that constantly react to life, to the impressions of existence in every single instant of our life.
Concentration and willpower become very strong when we strive against the ego. If our mind starts to wander and think of something else while we are washing dishes, we gently bring our attention back to where we are at and what we are doing, what we are thinking, what we are feeling, and how we are behaving. We have to always bring ourselves back to the moment. This is presence. This is willfulness, to really see what is going on here and now, and if the mind continues to get distracted (and it will), we always return to this discipline―not in a rigid way where we are beating ourselves up for being distracted all day or feeling morbid. Instead, it is the conscious presence, the clarity of remembering, and thinking to ourselves, “I was distracted here! Let me be vigilant and remember who my Being is, where I am, what I am doing, at all times…”
Concentration and willpower are strengthened when we do this, when we learn to pay attention all day and especially when we act ethically, when we stop feeding so much energy into desire. Stop feeding anger. Stop feeding lust. Stop feeding hatred and pride and vanity. It is inevitable that when you save energy, as you are not feeding the beast, so to speak, you have a lot more force by which to be.
However, as you starve a wild animal, it fights, and this is precisely why we study this principle within meditation―striving―the work against ourselves, that precise conflict that any meditator faces as they are starving the “animal,” when they are no longer giving desire what it wants, the نَفْس nafs.
However, as Rumi taught us, “Fret not over stew!” Do not worry that your mind is agitated, that it is fighting to get its desires, because this is precisely how egos win.
We see that our mind is conflicted. Our desires are precisely fighting us to act. They want to feed, but rather than repressing what we see, pushing it away or hiding it, saying, “This is bad!” or feeding it and just giving in, we have to comprehend every single impulse within our interior. This is precisely what striving is. It is the path of serenity.
It might sound counterintuitive. We think of holy war as something violent, exertive, and stressful, but in real meditation, the path of striving is the path of equanimity. Those of you who have studied Buddhism, especially, are very familiar with the nine stages of meditative concentration that can be found as murals on the walls of every single Tibetan Buddhist monastery. It is a map that we have explained in other courses.
Precisely, the path that leads to perfect equanimity and equipoise gradually takes less and less effort the higher you ascend. When you are concentrating upon your object, you gradually diminish the time in which you forget what you are doing and remember and gain greater clarity on what you are focusing upon. At the heights of concentration, there is no effort, and the Sufis elaborate this as well, especially within the writings of Al-Qushayri.
So real striving―real concentration―has to be built. It takes a lot of energy in the beginning, because we invested so much in wrong ways of behaving, but if you are saving energy, you are going to have the strength you need to work.
Many people see the mind is a beast, a monster, and rather than confronting it with serenity and calm, they end up being devoured by their own monster inside, because they are afraid to resist it, to comprehend it in its depth.
We will explain all these nuances with striving. Here we are giving a brief overview in the beginning because real concentration, in the heights of its development, does not take effort when it is perfected. This is beautifully allegorized in many cultures, such as the samurai. I believe we have previously mentioned this example, how before the tradition of 武士道 Bushido had degenerated―“the way of the warrior” in Japan―these great fighters would meditate before battle, before they had to defend their home, their families, their loved ones, because they knew that any lack of attention or concentration could end their life, and so, they learned how to fight without effort within the consciousness. So, this is an allegory of something very profoundly spiritual and internal.
Serenity is what works upon the mind, not repression, not exertion, not resistance, but merely perceiving and understanding, so that, internally, the dust settles. The waters settle. If you thrash against the waters in a lake as you are fighting to stay on the surface after being exhausted, then the waters will continue to churn. But if you merely lay back, breathing deeply, letting your body float upon the surface, the waters will calm, and the surface will begin to reflect images of the heavens. This is our situation.
Strive by learning to be present. It is a very subtle thing, a very nuanced perception, but something that you can only learn through experience.
Let us talk about what beautiful action is. Serenity does not exist in us when our psychology is chaotic. There is a type of effort involved in self-remembrance, inner accounting (in Arabic, محاسبة Muhasabah) or self-observation in our tradition. There is effort involved in order to calm the mind in the beginning, where we have to exert a lot of energy to pay attention, and as we said, when the lake (or surface of a lake) is serene, it can reflect the starry heavens, the dawn, the beauty of the skies.
Striving, to be very clear, is not repression or violence against the mind. It is not gagging the mind, distorting it, smothering it. Striving is the effort of the consciousness to remain awake, equanimous, serene, perceptive, clear, unconditioned, calm, amplified, and penetrative. We learn to develop conscious will―conscious efforts, concentration―throughout the entire day. The day is our gymnasium. This is where we learn to observe ourselves, to observe our actions from the perspective of a filmmaker watching an actor. The actor is the ego within our three brains. The filmmaker, or director, is our conscience, our consciousness.
We observe. We gather data. Look at the facts. Do not distort any details that you see. Simply look. Of course, in the beginning, it is very frightening because we look at ourselves and we see so much madness inside. It is very overwhelming, and it should be, because this is the reality of our daily state. However, as you are learning to observe yourself and learning to fulfill that inquietude in your heart, the conscience in your heart, we learn to transform situations and enact beautiful actions, beautiful ways of behaving. This is something that Essence knows how to do with fidelity, with perfection. We follow our intuitions in the moment, but also we meditate on our actions throughout the day, so that we can gather insight and clarity about which behaviors were right and which behaviors were wrong.
Let us talk about what this beautiful action is, because this is so essential to Sufism and Islam, and especially for our gnostic studies.
תִּפְאֶרֶת Tiphereth in Kabbalah is the Hebrew term for “beauty.” It is the human soul, where we get our fraction of consciousness known as the Essence―the real essence of who we are, which emanates from the divine.
In Islam, in Arabic, beautiful action, relating to human willpower, is known as إحسان Ihsan, which is where you get names like Hassan, Hussein meaning “beautified will.” It is generosity. It is diligence, the ability to work hard and to endure. It is compassion, love for others, even when one is suffering intensely. It is inner strength, the ability to face hardships that seem insurmountable, to have the patience to endure great hardships, and it is inner peace, which is the ability to perceive, like in this image, the clarity of heavenly states, to which we direct ourselves in prayer.
Astrologically in the Kabbalah, the sun and Venus relate to תִּפְאֶרֶת Tiphereth. Venus is the star of love, and it is the symbol of Islam. You have, the crescent moon and the star of Venus, the symbol of that religion, which is very compelling and beautiful, especially within the context of this lecture. יסוד Yesod, in Hebrew, the foundation of our spiritual work―for יסוד Yesod means “Foundation”―is symbolized by the moon, and within Islam, we know that we must transform the moon into a sun. We have to transform our lunar mechanicity into the creative genius of a sun, of the solar logos, of a god.
Why is the moon a symbol of the ego, our defects? The moon is mechanical. It basically governs many processes on our planet that belong to nature. It does not take any effort to do it. It simply is. The moon governs ocean tides, flux, plant and animal life, even menstruation within women.
The moon also represents our egotistical behaviors, precisely because it belongs to nature, or better said, animal nature. Animals obey the moon. You have seen nature shows or have walked in the woods at night. Many creatures exist because of the lunar influence. They obey it. Likewise, our ego obeys mechanical action. It is in itself mechanical ways of behaving. If somebody insults you, anger mechanically emerges. It wants to react. There is no consciousness there. It is simply an impulse, instinct, a desire.
That has to be transformed, and also, basically the moon has no light of its own, if you really look at this allegory. The moon is a cadaver. It basically receives its illumination from the sun. In the same way, our ego has no life of its own, except through the Essence, because each defect, each ego like anger, pride, resentment, vanity, laziness, lust, traps the Essence. It is the Essence that is conditioned within that desire, that processes in accordance with its own function, its own mechanical conditioning. This is why we have to free the soul trapped within desire. This is the meaning of holy war, to cease being a mechanical puppet of nature, to stop reacting like an animal, to stop chasing after so many desires that get nowhere. But unfortunately, this is what humanity loves and worships, but here we are choosing to study something different, to be different.
The Essence is the seed of a solar creativity, a profound spiritual genius in life that knows how to create beautiful situations and circumstances with grace, without effort. It is the mirror that reflects الله Allah when it is polished through ذِكرْ dhikr: remembrance of the divine. Real profound, beautiful action is solar. It is creative. It generates new circumstances. It does not repeat the same comedies, tragedies, and dramas of life that end up in pain. Instead, beautiful action, the Essence, the soul, is a brilliant, luminous, perceptive clarity, which understands people, problems, situations, and knows how to change them, knows how to solve issues so that everybody benefits.
Unfortunately, our desires like to think that if we satisfy our pride and our hatred, our resentment, even at the cost of another person, it means that we are going to benefit, perhaps in the short term, but instead, that type of action creates problems within relationships and communities, which often surge and end up in violence, whether physically or mentally, emotionally.
I would like to relate a quote from the Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri that elaborates these points.
I heard Abu Ali al-Daqqaq say, “If someone beautifies his outer being by struggling against the passions of his ego, God will beautify his inner being with the vision of Him. God Most High said, “Those who struggle for Us We will certainly guide in Our ways” (29:69). ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is why ethics are essential in meditation. They cannot be skipped.
What does it mean to beautify our outer being? It means to act appropriately within any circumstance of life, to know how to adapt, to know how to be in a certain situation in the same way that water, filling a jug, matches the contours of its container, its shape. The water is the same. It is the same principle, the same Essence, but when you put it in certain containers or jugs, it takes on different shapes and qualities. It appears different, but in reality, in its profound insights, it is the same.
We have to beautify our inner being and beautify our outer being by learning to act in ways that are beneficial for humanity. This could be at our job, in our marriage, with our friends, with our students, with strangers. It depends. Wherever our karmic situation places us, wherever divinity has placed us, we must learn to beautify our behaviors, because as Prophet Muhammad taught in the Hadith:
God is beautiful and loves beauty. ―Essential Sufism, Chapter 7: “Hadith: The Words of the Prophet”
So let us be ethical. When you correct mistaken psychological states by behaving correctly in life, by acting for the benefit of others, divinity will beautify our inner being with the vision of Him. This is astral experiences, visions, meditative wisdom, flashes of insight, comprehension, symbols within dreams, intuitions. These are the very things we long for so much with Gnosis, but we cannot have that if we are not working on changing our outer behavior, if we do not want to be good people, because there are many people who have studied gnosis, any religion and they love these ideas, and yet they continue to behave in ways that are very harmful, justifying themselves. So, we have to be very honest.
God Most High said, “Those who struggle for Us We will certainly guide in Our ways” (29:69), meaning in meditation. If we are working and renouncing our own desires, we will receive those flashes of intuition in our meditations and learn the way of meditation.
There is a very beautiful teaching within the first Surah of the Qur’an I would like to sum up in relation to this. It is the first Surah of the Qur’an, the Most Recited. It is a prayer used within a canonical prayer within Islam, the public tradition. The fifth line says:
You do we worship, and Thine aid do we seek. ―Al-Fatihah: The Opening, verse 5
This is very beautiful. How do we worship divinity? By beautifying our outer behavior against the passions of our ego. We worship divinity when we renounce our desires, when we want to follow divine will, to act beautifully even when it compromises our deepest pains, once we have been slandered or insulted or hurt or betrayed. We still act uprightly. That is beautiful action for the benefit of others, at the sacrifice of our own self-esteem, our vanities, our arrogance.
Also, how do we worship divinity? We learn to concentrate. We concentrate upon an object so that we stop being distracted. This is one essence of that line, but also “Thine aid do we seek.” So, there are two components here, “You do we worship” and “Thine aid do we seek.” This has to do with the Sufi principles of striving and witnessing, or concentration and visualization. As we say in the Gnostic tradition, this is willpower and imagination.
We learn to concentrate our mind so that we can receive insights from divinity. “Thine aid do we seek.” How do we receive aid from God? It is when we are receiving images, perceptions, visions, experiences, within dreams or in our meditative practices. Those are types of wisdom and symbols and knowledge of the consciousness of God, that speaks to the very innermost depths of our own situation and life, a form of guidance, for “We will certainly guide you in Our ways,” says divinity here.
This principle is divided into the different schools of Sufism or the levels of meditative knowledge, شريعة Shariah and حقيقة Haqiqah. شريعة Shariah is ethics. It is the law, how we beautify our outer being, but to receive inner experiences, visions from divinity is the truth, حقيقة Haqiqah, from الْحَقُّ Al-Haqq, the Truth. It is knowledge of divinity. It is Gnosis, معرفة Marifah.
What is the way to reach that point, to bridge the two stages of the path, ethics and experience? It is طريفة Tariqah, which is meditation. طريفة Tariqah is the path. It is the way to divinity, and of course, a طريفة Tariqah is traditionally associated with any school of Sufism in the physical world. That is one meaning. But really, those schools will teach you―if you are really serious and if they are still effective―how to meditate in order to build upon ethics, so as to experience divinity. But of course, in the beginning, we struggle with the mind. This is شريعة Shariah ethics, the path of مُجَاهِدَة mujahidah: striving against the mind.
The Greater and Lesser Holy Wars
So there is a scriptural basis for what we are teaching here. There is nothing new. جهاد Jihad, striving, has two distinct forms that we also study and learn in our tradition, although there are some differences from the mainstream, public teachings of Islam and Sufism. In order to understand what holy war is, it is important to remember what an unbeliever is. In Arabic the [plural] term is كافرين Kafirin, the singular كَفَرَ Kafir. It means to be a polytheist, an unbeliever, an infidel.
There is a Surah in the Qur’an called الكهف Al-Kahf, meaning “The Cave.” It is interesting that the term unbelievers sound like كَفَرَ Kafir, or الكافرين al-Kafirin. These esoterically are the ego, the defects that dwell within the caves of the infradimensions beneath the Tree of Life, known as hell, the infraconsciousness, the caves of the mind. So, when all religions teach that hell is underneath the Earth's crust, people believe that it is physical, but it is not. In the interior of the Earth within the inner dimensions of nature is where the egos belong. They gravitate within those realms within the darkness of the caves. An unbeliever is an ego, a defect.
So, in synthesis, there exists unbelievers or egos in our mind, for which we should show no mercy, and then there are black magicians, people outside of us, الكافرين al-Kafirin. We call them demons. They live in the inner dimensions of nature too, but though they are unbelievers, we should show them compassion. We should treat them with respect. So, some people get very confused. They read the Qur’an and it says, we must kill the unbelievers, and people interpret it to mean to kill people who are not following one's tradition, and this is wrong. This is a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of striving, that there are two forms, two kinds.
In Gnosis, we have a lot of exercises, a lot of prayers that we use in order to counter and to nullify works of black magic that are cast upon us. There are many exercises we can use to defend ourselves, to protect ourselves spiritually. So, this is an internal battle. Many people who are studying Gnosis, who are beginning meditation, often have experiences of dreams in which they are being attacked by negative entities. In many cases, this is their own mind, but also there are beings who know, outside of us, that we are working effectively to change, and so they do not like this path, and they confront us and try to take us away from this work, to mislead us. For more information about this, you can study a lecture given on our website. It is called Basics of Spiritual Defense.
There are two forms of holy war. There is the outer and the inner war. In Gnosis, we defend ourselves internally from attacks of black magic. It does not mean that we fight physically and harm people. That is not the meaning. Instead, it means to protect ourselves with prayer, conjurations, meditations, and many exercises, so that we have a space in our home and that we are safe internally, wherever we go. We are protected, protected by divinity.
The inner war takes precedence, as most important, but of course there is a lot of misunderstanding about what this means: the inner war against the ego, the unbelievers in our own mind.
In the Qur’an, Surah 9 is very controversial, as I said, because it has many references to killing unbelievers who persecute the Muslim initiates. Do not be confused by the language. We have to kill our own egos―without exception―not people who do not follow a particular tradition other than our own. There is a very subtle reading here that has led to a lot of problems in humanity, because people are not educated, and they are not initiates. They have misinterpretations that lead them into very grievous problems.
Now in the life of the Prophet Muhammad, he was given permission to physically defend himself because there were many sorcerers who were trying to kill him, to destroy him. So, self-protection is important. We can defend ourselves if we need to, physically. This is why many monks within the Buddhist tradition, such as in the teachings of Bodhidharma, they learned Kung Fu. They learned to defend themselves from harm. But of course, they were very peaceful initiates. Whether or not those traditions have maintained their ethics is obviously the question today.
But let us read the actual excerpts from certain Sufi writings that elaborate these points, so that we are very clear about what these terms mean. This is from Revelation of the Mystery by Al-Hujwiri, a great Persian master:
The Prophet said: “The mujáhid (the striver) is he who struggles with all his might against himself (jáhada nafsahu) for God’s sake.” And he also said: “We have returned from the lesser war (al-jihád al-aṣghar) to the greater holy war (al-jihad al-akbar). On being asked, “What is the greater holy war?” he replied, “It is the struggle against one’s self” (mujáhadat al-nafs) (or as some other sources have stated, our lower animal desires). Thus, the Apostle adjuged the mortification of the lower soul to be superior to the Holy War against unbelievers (meaning people outside of oneself who are persecuting and trying to physically end one's life), because the former is more painful (meaning the inner work is a lot more painful than enduring physical hardships, without exception). You must know, then, that the way of mortification is plain and manifest, for it is approved by men of all religions and sects and is observed and practiced by the Sufis in particular; and the term mortification (mujáhadat) is current among Sufis of every class, and the Shaykhs (the teachers) have uttered many sayings on this topic. ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery
So sometimes مُجَاهِدَة mujahidah or mujáhadat (in the Persian context) sometimes translates as self-mortification. The word mort, as in mortality, relates to death. What is inner striving or mortification of the ego? It is the death of desire, the death of our defects.
To help clarify this and to not allow any people room for misinterpretation, I will relate to an experience I had in the astral plane many years ago. I was in a room somewhere, awake, observing my surroundings, remembering the presence of my Being, and I was praying to my Divine Mother because I was afraid at the moment that a certain group of people near me were black magicians trying to harm me.
Suddenly my Divine Mother showed me on the wall, with many words, many sentences, many descriptions, certain teachings that were very insightful about these principles that we are explaining here. I saw my face as if on a projector portrayed before me, and the words “97% ego” next to it. Of course, I was very amazed by what I saw, in which my Divine Mother, my inner Being was showing me that “You are a demon. So why are you afraid of other demons?” Very interesting, isn't it? People become terrified when they learn about sorcerers, black magicians, demons, archdemons, etc. But my Divine Mother was showing me, “You really should not be so concerned with other people, but rather yourself.”
She started to show me many verses from many scriptures, across the wall, like a collage. I saw teachings from the Christian Gospels, from Hinduism, from Buddhism, from Jainism. I also saw, more importantly, what struck my attention was a phrase, “You must follow the law of Muhammad.” It said, “Kill all the unbelievers,” and of course, She was showing me my own egos. So, I understood at that point that this teaching within Islam, which is so distorted today in its original sense, is about the work against the mind. So, no confusion there. I was very humbled by what my Being was showing me. It gave me a lot of confidence in this knowledge and the willfulness to investigate.
Let us be concerned about our own defects, and if you are being attacked internally by extranormal or supernormal forces, from negative entities, black magicians, use the prayers and conjurations to defend yourself. This is a form of holy war too, where we have to protect ourselves in the astral plane, especially. We live in very different times than that of Prophet Muhammad. So, no comparison there.
The Foundation of Striving
Striving is related to willpower, to the sphere of תִּפְאֶרֶת Tiphereth in Hebrew, which must control the lower סְפִירוֹת sephiroth or spheres relating to mind, heart, energy, and physicality, or in synthesis, נצח Netzach (the mind), הוד Hod (the emotions), יסוד Yesod (our vital energies), and מלכות Malkuth (our physical body).
The sphere of תִּפְאֶרֶת Tiphereth is our human willpower. It is the heart of the Tree of Life because through it, we can either go up or down this diagram. It depends on how we use our will, whether we strive against the lower סְפִירוֹת sephiroth, our own egos, our defects, or learn to obey divinity above, through גְּבוּרָה Geburah: the justice of divinity, our conscience, our consciousness. חֶסֶד Chesed, the Merciful, ٱلرَّحِيمِ al-Rahim, חֶסֶד Chesed in Kabbalah, as well as בינה Binah, חכמה Chokmah, כתר Kether: Intelligence, Wisdom, and the Crown and supremacy of divinity inside.
So, we can learn to practice striving in many ways. Let us examine some quotes that could open up this discussion, from Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri:
Know that the foundation and rationale of struggle or striving (mujahadah) is to wean the ego from what is familiar to it and to induce it to oppose its desires (passions) at all times. The ego (animal soul) has two traits that prevent it from good: total preoccupation with cravings (attraction to pleasure) and refusal of obedience (avoidance of pain/harm). ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Some questions for us: Do you enjoy binge-watching television shows? Do we enjoy being passive in front of the TV? Do we lack the ability to focus on one thing at will, or is our attention spent in other activities?―such as sitting in front of a screen, in which we are passively focused on one thing, enmeshed in the story of a television show, and yet we have no cognizance even of our own body.
There are two types of attention here. We can pay attention to a movie for two hours, in which our emotions and thoughts and mind and perceptions are in the movie. We feel that we are the characters, the dramas, the story, the plot line, the special effects, and yet this does not take any effort at all―no willpower there. It means that our consciousness in that example is completely passive, inept, un-awake, asleep. The mind is like that with many types of activities, not just television, so I am not here just to pick on some people, although I know a lot of people love their television shows. But there are many impressions in life that we seek after, in which we enter a state of passivity, in which we are not attentive at all, and whatever that is for us, we have to discover it.
We have to learn what activities in our daily experience cause us to go to sleep at the wheel of our car, because remember that the conscience, the consciousness is in the body. We are driving the car: our mind, our heart, our energies, which fuel everything, and our physical body is a vehicle in which we express ourselves, our psyche.
But how are we doing it? Are we attentive at the wheel using our mind, our emotions, and our energies for the spirit, or are we invested in what we are seeing, being fascinated by illusions, and asleep and unaware of what is going on internally and externally?
We have to learn and understand what impressions of life really fascinate us, keep us hypnotized. It could be for food. It could be for drugs, alcohol. For some people it is sex. For many it is money, shopping, praise, attention. For some it is adoration, praise. Whatever it is, we have to be like Jesus―deny ourselves, deny the ego. When we know an impulse or desire is wrong, do not feed it. Do not give into it. Follow your consciousness, your conscience. Let your will obey your heart. Let תִפאֶרֶת Tiphereth, our human willpower, obey the justice of God inside, גְּבוּרָה Geburah, الْدِّين al-Din in Arabic, the religion, the teaching, the Dharma, the law: شريعة Shariah, because when we disobey our own hearts, we betray our Being. With knowledge comes responsibility. When we know something is wrong, we should not do it, without exception. This is ethics. Follow your conscience. Obey your intuitions, and we will find happiness.
If we disobey, we enter problems, complexities, conflicts. We do not obey our conscience when we do not renounce certain behaviors because we are ignorant. We do not realize how our own attachments and cravings, as well as our aversions to difficulties in life, keep us unconscious, unaware, asleep.
Let us continue with this quote:
When the ego is defiant in the pursuit of desire, it must be curbed with the reins of the awe of God. When it stubbornly refuses to conform to God’s will, it must be steered toward opposing its desires. When it rages in anger [at being opposed], its state should be controlled―no process has a better outcome than the breaking of the power of anger by developing good character traits and by extinguishing its fires by gentleness. ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Do you feel hatred towards a person who condemns you? Do you feel anger from feeling betrayed? Do you feel resentment or envy for the wellbeing of others? Then rein in your desires by remembering the presence of God, your Being.
What is awe of divinity, awe of God? It is respect for the codes, the precepts, the conscious ethics of the initiates. This is גְּבוּרָה Geburah. This is the law. Remember we spoke about the Iron Surah, the Surah “Iron” in the Qur’an, and how iron metallurgically is a symbol of willpower within the alchemical science, which is a mixture or synthesis of Greek and Middle Eastern teachings, teachings that eventually entered Europe in the Middle Ages. גְּבוּרָה Geburah, Justice, the law, our conscience, is precisely that awe of divinity that the soul feels, that consciousness feels, in the presence of the spirit. It is respect for the codes and conduct of ethical knowledge, of precepts, of behaviors that enact the wellbeing of humanity and ourselves.
Without this, there is no wisdom. Even Al-Jurayri stated the following in the same book, Principles of Sufism, a quote that I have related many times in other courses, but I want to reiterate here:
Whoever does not establish awe of duty (which is consistency of spiritual practice and discipline) and vigilance in his relationship to God will not arrive at disclosure of the unseen (mukashafah) or contemplation (mushahadah) of the divine. ―Al-Jurayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al-Qushayri
What is awe of duty? It means to practice every day, to have that respect for the exercises of our tradition that are going to liberate us, and to fulfill them with consciousness and fidelity. This is how we obtain vigilance, مراقبة muraqaba in Arabic. That term vigilance or مراقبة muraqaba also means “meditation.” So, by being consistent, by establishing awe of duty and vigilance, مراقبة muraqaba, in our relations to God, without that, we will not arrive at disclosure of the unseen―meaning to have experiences internally―nor witnessing or understanding of divine nature.
“Gentleness is a much more powerful force than anger,” we have related in our Eternal Tarot course on the Arcanum 11: Persuasion. Persuasion or gentleness is much more effective than coercion. It is interesting that anger is disempowered when we develop good character traits and by being gentle, being serene, being calm.
For as Prophet Muhammad taught:
The strongest among you is he who controls his anger. ―Prophet Muhammad
So let us control our anger. Let us learn. We are not going to be perfect. We are not going to manage to do it every day, but if we can continue trying and are consistent, if we have that awe and reverence of our Being, in our work, then we will do it. We will learn. We have to use the reins. We are trying to tame an animal that has never been educated, but if you learn through discipline to tame the elephant of the mind, it will become our best friend rather than an adversary. Again, the following is from Principles of Sufism:
And if the soul finds sweetness in the wine of arrogance, it will have become incapable of anything but showing off its great deeds and preening itself before anyone who will look at it and notice it. It is necessary to break it of this habit, dissolving it with the punishment of humiliation by means of whatever will make the soul remember its paltry worth, its lowly origin, and its despicable acts. ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is a very subtle teaching. This does not mean we go out and beat ourselves up―physically or mentally. The mind cannot reprimand itself. The intellect cannot resolve problems of a moral, conscious, ethical nature. “Consciousness must have remorse,” we have explained extensively in our previous lecture. It is one of the constituents of repentance, but it has to learn how to act ethically in a dignified way, in a compassionate way.
Perhaps we argued with someone and later we felt remorse, regret, even though we still feel too proud to want to ask forgiveness. Humiliation in this sense, according to the scripture, is that we go to the person that we wronged and ask for forgiveness in a gentle way, in a sincere way, even though it is painful for our pride. Our pride does not want to kneel before this person whom we think we are better than, and so, the mind fights and argues and spits and screams and yells. However, when we kneel internally in this regard, it is the most beautiful action, since our Essence, our conscience knows what is right. It is right behavior. We feel dignity and serenity in our soul, even though our desires fight to exert dominion over us and the other person.
When we recognize that we are insignificant and worthless―not from morbidity or pessimism, feeling that we are really bad people and that we deserve to go to hell, really negative, really sour personality―we really recognize our insignificance through humility, but this does not mean self-flagellation, hating oneself, being abusive and violent towards one's own mental, physical, or emotional states. It is the dignity of the consciousness.
Humility is the foundation of spiritual development. Humility is knowing what is right, doing what is right, and accepting that one is wrong. It is the doorway that opens up into the mysteries of initiation. So, remember that “All doors are closed to the unworthy except the door of repentance.” Really, one cannot enter that doorway if one is not humble. Humility is the entrance to paradise. Pride is the exit. Pride leads to hatred and many defects, many problems, and humility is not shame. It is dignity. It knows it has no reason to boast, no reason to think that it is great, to go before the whole world and say, “I am a great meditator, or I am a spiritual person!” Really, humility knows that there is nothing to brag about, but this does not mean that one is a shameful person, a negative person. In fact, it is the most positive, ennobling characteristic a person can have because it is the door that leads to many virtues. So humility knows how to adhere to a beautiful form of strength, nobility of character, brilliance of character, creativity in action. It is the power of the soul.
The Signs of Striving
Speaking of the moon, meditators could have astral visions about the sun and the moon. So, we were talking a lot about struggling against the mind and the ego. Many times in our work, if we are really serious about meditation, we will have visions, and many times, this can appear in the form of astrological signs or celestial bodies within the astral horizon, within our visions, within our dreams, within our meditations.
The Qur’an references this many times, that these are signs of divinity. They are symbols in our work of striving against the ego. In synthesis, if you see a cloudy sky, it means that we are very asleep. You see nothing of the heavens. Our consciousness is obscured. The mind is active. Obviously, if the clouds are churning like a storm, very dark, very black, it means that we have a lot of ego to work on, to clear up.
Clear skies, no clouds―if we see heavenly bodies like the stars, the heavens―that is a symbol of ascension, of clarity in your work, clarified perception. Sunrise is a symbol of birth. Something needs to be born in us. If the sun is setting, it means something is dying or something needs to die in us.
The moon, as you see in this image, is a symbol of suffering, ordeals, the work against the ego. So again, the moon is mechanicity, and if you see the moon in your dreams, it is a symbol of working against the mind. It means that we are going to face a level of suffering. If the moon is very full, it means that we are going to have a lot of pain, unfortunately. If I am telling you this, it is because these are some symbols that I have experienced for many years. This is something that has been recurring for me and has been a signpost and guide in my work. So, I am relating it to you because it has been very helpful for me in my practice.
These teachings are related in the Qur’an by the story of Abraham speaking with the unbelievers in Surah 6 verses 75 through 80. It is very rich with meaning, and I am going to relate to you these verses in depth.
So traditionally in this excerpt, he is trying to convert the infidels to monotheism. However, many Muslims interpret these verses as Abraham seeing the stars, the sun, the moon, and literally thinking that these astronomical bodies are God. Exoteric Muslims reject pantheism in general, which is the belief that divinity is within nature, since they believe that God is omnipresent, omniscient and that he is not with natural, created things, and in an esoteric sense, this is true, primarily because الله Allah,—“The No,” in Arabic, the Nothing, the absolute abstract space—is beyond created phenomenon. It is the potentiality in an unmanifested state that is the matrix or seed plot from which all creation emerges. This is where we synthesize that knowledge or how we differentiate ourselves from some other interpretations.
This story from the Qur’an is often very misinterpreted, that somehow Abraham, who is the founder of three world religions, was very confused, and thinking that God is literally the moon, the sun, and the stars. Instead, this verse or these verses are very beautiful for meditation. They are a symbol of striving in the work, in our inner practice, our inner meditations of themselves. I would like to relate them to you at length:
And thus did We show Abraham the realm of the heavens and the earth that he would be among the certain [in faith]. ―Qur’an 6:75
So, as I said, inner visions of the skies relate to certainty in meditation. Do you want to know where you are in your work? Internally, pray and ask as you fall asleep, what your level of being is, and when you wake up in the astral plane, you can leave your home and look up at the sky to see what the quality of the horizon is. That is the answer.
For me I have always awakened in the astral plane in my old home growing up, and I always am in the habit of leaving my house and going up to look at the sky, to see what the quality of my work is. That is what it means to be among those certain in faith, because we know that this is the message of divinity.
So when the night covered him [with darkness], he saw a star. He said, "This is my lord." But when it set, he said, "I like not those that disappear." ―Qur’an 6:76
As I said, stars are a sign of ascension, higher levels of being. If you see a sky full of stars, that is very beautiful, very wonderful, very high. It means that we are very connected in our work of self-remembrance because the Being, as Samael Aun Weor states, is the Milky Way, emanates from the heavens, from the stars. The Essence emerges from that, but obviously, if you are in the habit of having these states and experiences, like Abraham in this verse, we do not like it when the stars disappear, meaning there are no stars in our astral vision, meaning, there is just darkness.
So, Abraham said, at first, “This is my Lord,” because he sees the stars and he says, “This is my waking state,” and then when it sets and the stars are gone, he says, “I do not like those that disappear,” meaning it is not a good sign for one, that the connection with the Being is not there, not profound. We do not like it when the stars disappear from our astral visions, because it signifies obscuration of the truth within ourselves.
And when he saw the moon rising, he said, "This is my lord." But when it set, he said, "Unless my Lord guides me, I will surely be among the people gone astray." ―Qur’an 6:77
The moon is incredible suffering, unfortunately. The phase of the moon shows us everything in relation to a situation in our daily life. A crescent moon can signify a little bit of suffering, but a full moon or full moons with a lot of luminosity and size signify a greater intensity of moral pain.
For example, I have had this vision many times in relation to old jobs that I had. I remember one in particular that was a very difficult experience, in which, before I had some work meetings, I remember seeing a huge, full moon and feeling a lot of sorrow, because I knew that when I got to work that day, there would be a situation that was very painful. In preparation from that vision, I was meditating and praying a lot and being very vigilant in my daily life to wait for the moment in which certain egos would arise in relation to an ordeal, because those symbols and visions are meant to guide us in our daily existence, in our daily life.
And this is why Abraham said in the Qur’an, “Unless my Lord guides me, I will surely be among the people gone astray,” because unless divinity guides us in those difficult moments, in our physical life, through very painful ordeals, we could leave the path easily. We get that wisdom and guidance because we need it. We need that assurance and faith in our Being that we will be fine if we are remembering Him.
And when he saw the sun rising, he said, "This is my lord; this is greater." But when it set, he said, "O my people, indeed I am free from what you associate with Allah.” ―Qur’an 6:78
A sunrise means the birth of virtue. Something is being born inside. Remember that in Kabbalah, the East is תִפאֶרֶת Tiphereth. The sun rises in the East and sets in the West. When the sun rises in the East in the astral horizon, it means that we are learning to enact beautiful action, virtuous action, as you remember from the previous slides. It is greater than the moon because it is happiness when we strive. We are seeing results from our work.
When the sun sets, this signifies the death of the ego. Something has to die. This is what separates us from, really, the black magicians. You know, we are really working in the death of the ego, we are walking away from the path of unbelief and walking into the path of faith. This is the essential tenet between the left- and right-hand paths of the Qur’an within Islam.
“Indeed, I have turned my face toward He who created the heavens and the earth, inclining toward truth, and I am not of those who associate others with Allah." ―Qur’an 6:79
When we wake up in the astral plane, look up at the sky. I always “turn my face towards Him in the heavens,” to receive insight about my work. This is something we can do. This is what Abraham says: “I turn my face toward He who created the heavens,” meaning, you are literally in the astral plane looking up at the sky to get your answer to your problem. This is how we do not associate with others than God, not following our own desires, because we are looking up for guidance. “You do we worship and Thine aid do we seek."
And his people argued with him. He said, "Do you argue with me concerning Allah while He has guided me? And I fear not what you associate with Him [and will not be harmed] unless my Lord should will something. My Lord encompasses all things in knowledge; then will you not remember? ―Qur’an 6:80
So, people love to argue about what they do not know, basically. Here, we're presenting some living astral experiences and the interpretation of the Qur’an, its symbols, for people who are really working seriously with meditation and the science of certainty.
The Focus of Struggle
Therefore, we have the quote from Al-Qushayri’s Principles of Sufism:
The struggle of the majority of people is to bring their works to full development (so many people want development in many movements, but they do not annihilate the ego). The struggle of the elite is to purify their states because the endurance of hunger and wakefulness is simple and easy. The cure of character and the cleansing of its impurities is extremely difficult. ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
There are many Muslims, people who practice fasting, austerities, ascetism, and this can be very beautiful to a degree. However, to comprehend and annihilate our secret defects of character is very difficult and very painful. As I said, you have to face very horrible and difficult ordeals that really test our character. When the metal is hot from the fire of ordeals, we learn to hammer ourselves into what we must become. Divinity wields the hammer of the spirit, according to Nietzsche, in order to create the soul upon the anvil of hardship. But this is how you enter real qualities of strength. It is through struggle. Endure the heat of ordeals and the even the cold of solitude, like you take a burning hot iron and put it in cold water after you have tempered it. This is how you gain flexibility, sharpness, and strength.
Striving: The Basis of Union
The death of the ego produces illumination. Samael Aun Weor explained that “If the seed does not die, the plant is not born.” The ego must be annihilated to liberate the Essence and the liberated Essence awakens to reality.
You want light? Remove the clouds. Eliminate desire. Curb your appetites. Renounce bad behaviors and comprehend those egos at the end of your day or in the morning hours and pray for their annihilation. You cannot have inner experiences if you are not working to eliminate the conditions of the psyche. This is verified by the Sufis, from Al-Hujwiri’s Revelation of the Mystery:
While all mystics have affirmed the need of mortification (meaning the death of the ego), and have declared it to be an indirect means (asbáb) of attaining contemplation (musháhadat), Sahl asserted that mortification is the direct cause (‘illat) of the latter, and he attributed the search (talab) a powerful effect on attainment (yáft), so that he even regarded the present life, spent in search (of the truth in meditation), as superior to the future life of fruition. “If,” he said, “you serve God in this world, you will attain proximity to Him in the next world: without that service there would not be this proximity: it follows that self-mortification, practiced with the aid of God (meaning our visions in meditation), is the direct cause of union with God.” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery
Or as the Sufis state, subsistence in divinity, بقاء baqā, union with God, is only achieved first through فناء fana, annihilation of desire.
The Causes of Contemplation
People want mystical experiences without fulfilling the necessary actions for their realization. If you are familiar with Buddhism, this is one of the stipulations of karma: “You cannot receive the corresponding results without fulfilling its corresponding action.” Meditation is based on laws, experiences, visions. Witnessing the truth in meditation and the internal worlds is impossible if you don't remove the conditions that obscure your vision.
Think of it this way: can a mirror reflect your actual image if it is full of rust? This is a beautiful allegory given in Sufism by Rumi and many other initiates, even Ibn ‘Arabi, who is considered the greatest of Sufi teachers within the Muslim tradition. The mirror is your soul. It cannot show the truth of your condition if it is rusty, if it is imperfect, if it is not polished, and the way that you enter purification is by striving against imperfection. Polish the mirror. You polish the mirror by rubbing against it with a cloth, and as Rumi said (paraphrased): “How can you perfectly reflect divinity if you resist every rub?”
You want to have vision internally, clean your mirror. Clean your clairvoyance, your imagination, your perception, your vision, so that you can see. Superior worlds of nature vibrate at higher levels of being, less levels of density than our own. If your mind is dense with hatred, with anger, with ego, if it is heavy like lead, then you are going to sink. You are going to see within the infrared of nature, which is the hell realms. That is where we gravitate, or to use the Arabic Kabbalah, the tree of زقوم Zaqqum, which is the tree of death within Islamic mysticism.
In this image, you see a man kneeling in prayer. He has the Arabic letters, inscribed upon his silhouette, “There is no God, but God.” It is the الشهادة Shahadah:
لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا ٱللَّٰهُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ ٱللَّٰهِ
There is only the Being. This is the statement given by Muslims when they declare their faith, and for Gnostics, it has to do with the fact that when we really perceive God in meditation, we say at our level that “There is no God, but God.” There is only the Being. There is no ego obscuring my vision of the truth. But to do that, we have to really work in prayer, a lot of discipline, which is why, Hujwiri states the following in his book, Revelation of the Mystery:
“Those who strive to the utmost for Our sake, We will guide them into Our ways” (Qur’an 29:69). i.e. whoever mortifies himself will attain to contemplation (مشاهدة mushahadah, or the word for meditation also in Arabic). Furthermore, [Sahl] contends that inasmuch as the books revealed to the Prophets, and the Sacred Law (Shari’ah), and all the religious ordinances imposed on mankind involve mortification, they must all be false and vain if mortification were not the cause of contemplation (to experience the truth: حقيقة Haqiqah). Again, both in this world and the next, everything is connected with principles and causes. If it is maintained that principles have no causes, there is an end to all law and order: neither can religious obligations be justified nor will food be the cause of repletion and clothes the cause of warmth. ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery
Reflect upon this. What is your quality of mind when you are compassionate, when you are altruistic, when you are considerate, patient, kind?
Now compare that to being angry, wrathful, hateful, arrogant, deceptive, rude, lustful. How dense do you feel in comparison with these two types of behavior? Are you light and happy or weighed down and afflicted?
The higher worlds vibrate with energy and spiritual force (جنّة Jannah in Arabic: the heavens, plural Jannat). They lack the heaviness of our conditioned psyche. Hell is where we gravitate because of our egotism, our egotistical qualities, which make us resonate with inferior laws of nature.
If you want to vibrate at higher levels of reality, then remove that which conditions you, which prevents you from entering and subsiding there. Whereas one Sufi initiate [Abū Sa'īd in Ibn Munawwar] stated, “Hell is where you are. Heaven is where you are not.” It depends on our mental state. If we are here in our ego, we are in hell, but if the ego is renounced, if we strive against the ego, we abandon the ego, we can enter the heavenly worlds, enter and access qualities that are very heavenly, very pure.
Training the Lower Soul
Training the mind to concentrate and enact divine precepts, noble virtues, and conscious ethics is a gradual process. However, it is the basis of spiritual life. People who study religion or Gnosticism, but indulge in pessimism, in violence, whether in words or physically, skepticism and pride, never experience the truths of religion because our vision directly correlates to the depth and level of our ethics, our level of being.
But we can learn. With time and practice, we learn to let the body rest, in which we do not let our physicality govern our actions when we sit to meditate. So in the beginning, people often struggle with the body. The body is agitated. We have a scratch. We have an itch. We have a pain in our neck. Our legs feel like they are falling off. We have all of these excuses and pains and internal clamor and chatter, which is very distracting. We sit to practice. We have the will, initially, not to move, because it is important that to really introspect profoundly, we have to train the body not to move at all. Swami Sivananda said that our posture for meditation must be firm like a mountain. We should not move because if you want the waters of internal spiritual vision to settle in yourself, to reflect heaven within, the body has to be abandoned completely.
But unfortunately, in the beginning we struggle. We are agitated. We want to move. We need water. We are thirsty. We are hungry. We are exhausted. All of these things are distractions of the ego in order to impede us from entering really profoundly into ourselves. But of course, this is something that can be learned. In the beginning, relax your body. Do breathing exercises. Do a mantra. Do pranayama. You can enter into deep meditation after alchemy or even before. Work with your energies so that your body calms, but also you can only really relax deeply if you are ethical. This is why striving is so important, because if we have committed some type of wrong, we are going to be very tense, even if we do not acknowledge it or admit it to ourselves. So, it is important that if you really want to relax profoundly in meditation, you have to control and train the mind. Your body will obey you more and more, the more you obey your divinity.
Does not training (riyadat) alter the animal qualities of a wild horse and substitute human qualities in their stead, so that he will pick up a whip from the ground and give it to his master, or will roll a ball with his foot? In the same way, a boy without sense and of foreign race is taught by training to speak Arabic, and take a new language in exchange for his mother tongue; and a savage beast is trained to go away when leave is given to it, and to come back when it is called, preferring captivity to freedom. Therefore, Sahl and his followers argue, mortification [striving, mujahadah] is just as necessary for the attainment of Union with God as diction and composition are necessary for the elucidation of ideas; and as one is led to knowledge of the Creator by assurance that the universe was created by Him, so one is led to union with God by knowledge and mortification of the lower soul. ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery
We are led to union by learning the techniques, learning what concentration is, learning how to deny ourselves, to mortify, within practice, because both knowledge and being must be balanced. We have to know the science, the traditions, and the wisdom intellectually, but that we also have to apply it if we want to really go deep into these experiences.
The mind is an animal. If you want to go beyond the level of an animal, then practice seriously. Stop acting like an animal. It could sound very offensive, but in reality, when we act with pride and anger and cruelty, sarcasm, competition, malevolence, etc., we are behaving as animals. But here we are trying to learn how to become a real human, spiritual being. We do that by training the lower animal soul, so that with humility, we can proclaim that, yes, we are a human being when we have entered initiation.
Otherwise, if we do not really apply these things in practice, we are like a donkey with a load of holy books on our back. We can carry the knowledge around and use the terms very eloquently, but it does not mean that we are actually living it, and this is something that we have to really be serious and consider.
That is what most religious and spiritual students and teachers are. We have a lot of memorizations of things, but it is important that we learn to practice this knowledge.
The Three Ways to Strive
In synthesis, there are three ways to strive. I am going to elaborate some teachings from the Master Abdullah Ansari of Herat in his Persian text Stations of the Sufi Path, which are very profound and synthetic of everything that we have been talking about.
Striving is to fight against one’s ego (nafs), against evil (div), and against the enemy. God, the Most High, says, “Strive in God’s cause, as you ought to strive...” (22:78).
The Three Categories of Strivers
Let us elaborate on what these synthetic principles are.
Those who strive (mujāhidān) with the sword are of three groups of people: one group are those who strive and are rewarded for their striving, the second group are those who are exhausted but are forgiven for their exhaustion, and the final group are those who die [are killed] and are considered martyrs (a شاهد Shahid, to witness the divine). ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So what is that sword? Of course, people think it is physical. In reality, it is a reference to Kundalini, ז Zayin in Hebrew, the creative fires of the sun that rise in the spinal column through the work of initiation. This Kundalini in the internal planes is a flaming sword, which guards the initiates against negativities.
We use this force in order to reject sorcerers internally in the astral plane. Divinity rewards us by defending ourselves from witchcraft. For example, in the lecture Arcanum 7: Triumph, relating to the Hebrew letter ז Zayin, the power of the Kundalini, I had an experience in which I overcame an ordeal in the astral plane and was later confronted that night, or better said, early morning, 4:00 AM, by a group of sorcerers who were seeking to harm me. In that instance, I remembered to use the prayers of our tradition. I especially used the Conjuration of the Four. I covered my solar plexus with my left hand, and used my right hand extended outward in the form of the pentagram, which is the holy symbol of the Gnostics, representative of the true human being―إحسان Ihsan: beautiful action―that knows how to follow the conscience of God, الْدِّين al-Din: the religion of divinity. In that way, I was invoking my Being, praying to manifest through me, to reject these entities, and in that instance, there were explosions and bombs and gunfire in the astral plane from my Being, as a symbol of the type of force that my inner God was exerting upon these negative entities. I remember being very humbled by this. Obviously, I did not feel that I deserved for my Being to protect me, but because I overcame an ordeal, because I strived against myself and overcame and conquered in the astral plane, He was helping me.
This is how we fight with the sword against the Black Lodge. It is with the fires of our creative energies, to reject those negative forces, and in that way, divinity honors us, crowns us. You can listen more to that lecture and that course on The Eternal Tarot to learn more about those principles.
Even Samael Aun Weor fought many black magicians in the astral plane. This is something that should not surprise us. They are known as בְּעָלִֽים Baalim in Hebrew, الكافرين al-Kafirin in Arabic, the infidels, entities who intentionally awakened powers in the ego and work for selfishness in order to harm humanity. So, we have to protect ourselves internally from their attacks.
There is even a story of Samael Aun Weor where near the end of his physical incarnation, he was in a temple of the Black Lodge where those entities or beings were robed and clothed in very elegant, beautiful attire and were filled with a lot of luminosity. But Samael Aun Weor felt cautious. He did not know whether or not they were positive or negative, and so, he confronted them and said, “Are you of the White Lodge or the Black Lodge?” and in the astral plane, they unveiled that “We are the Black Lodge,” and they fought him. Samael Aun Weor used the sword of his Kundalini to defend himself, so he rejected them and fought. He was even exhausted at the end because he had to really conjure with a lot of power these entities who sought to harm him, who sought to lead him into the black path.
This is what it means, how one strives but is exhausted and is forgiven for their exhaustion, because sometimes, honestly, those battles can be very intense, very tiring, psychically, consciously, but something that we have to face in accordance with our own idiosyncrasies, our own karma, and our own path. Not everybody goes through such intense trials like that. It depends on really the specific karma of a person, but of course we have to learn to defend ourselves regardless, no matter what our situation is.
Many masters even died for following their Being like Mansur Al-Hallaj. They are those who are died, who are killed and are considered martyrs like Mansur, who basically said: “Ana 'l-Ḥaqq: I am the Truth!” He was killed by the Orthodox Muslims because he basically said that “I am God,” الْحَقُّ Al-Haqq: The Truth. It is better if we realize that it was the truth speaking through Mansur, because there was no Mansur, no personality, no ego there, and so as a witness of divinity, he was executed. You can read about that at the end of a book called The Narrow Way by Samael Aun Weor, who dedicated an entire chapter to this great initiate, who is very controversial even in Sufi circles [see The Passion of Al-Hallaj].
When we die to the ego, we are martyrs. We witness divinity because when you give witness to the truth and really give it to people, obviously, humanity does not like the Gnostic teachings, does not like chastity, renouncing desire and ego. In a way we are waging a holy war in a sense, not with violence, not with physical weapons, but with intelligence and truth, with wisdom, with knowledge. That is really the best weapon against ignorance.
Those who strive against the ego are of three groups: those who strive and are servants among the righteous servants (abrār) of God, then there are those who discover and are supporters (awtād), and finally, those who are free and liberated and are among the spiritually transformed apostles (abdāl) of God. ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So, this has to do with three degrees of initiates. The servants of the righteous ones are in شريعة Shariah. They are learning basic ethics. This is pretty much all of us. We are learning how to serve divinity and to really know, right action, beautiful action, إحسان Ihsan. We serve God through our meditations, our prayers, our sincerity, our service to humanity, whatever that may be.
طريفة Tariqah relates to discoverers, those who discover and support, because this has to do with people who are having experiences in meditation, who are witnessing the truth, and therefore, they are discovering knowledge that is not readily understood in books. If we are able to relate some teachings relating to very obscure teachings in the Qur’an or in the Buddhist sutras or tantras, it is because we were practicing and having those inner experiences to help us understand, and that is something that anybody can do. It is not only an exceptional few who can do it. All of humanity can learn this if they really want to. It depends on the inner effort of the person.
And then lastly, حقيقة Haqiqah / معرفة Marifah: truth and knowledge, relates to those who are free and liberated and are among the spiritually transformed apostles, the initiates. Those are people who are perfected in mastery, really high levels of meditators who can access samadhis at will, like Samael Aun Weor who would simply let his body go to rest and he would immediately leave his physicality and enter the internal worlds. We struggle even to be present physically, let alone enter the astral plane, but this is something that is accessible for people who have shifted their entire center of gravity within the Being.
Those who fight against the devil are of three groups of people: one group are those who continuously seek knowledge and are among those near to God (murqaribān), then those who are obedient and thus are considered sincere ones (sidiqun), and then there are those who are pious and are thus considered the friends of God (awliyā) (or better said: the saints, the initiates). ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So let us be clear. Many people in Gnosis get petrified and terrified of black magicians. Personally, since I have been in this knowledge, I have had a lot of experiences internally and even physically with people attending groups or even attending my group here locally who are sorcerers, who are awakened and developing powers in the ego. Despite the fact that these people are very confused and ignorant and are committing harm, demons and witches should not be approached with violence. We should not approach these people with any type of aggression, with anger, and of course, for some people it is very difficult, and many get sensitive and identified with their attackers. This is how many entities like demons or sorcerers, witches, or warlocks, are able to influence people because of fear and anger.
The way to confront these types of people is with compassion. They cannot harm you if you love them, but this does not mean that we ignore the problem. This is why we have prayers and conjurations to defend ourselves psychically. So, we can love a person, but they can still hurt us. This is why we learn prayers and conjurations and learn to distance ourselves when necessary.
But we do not condemn anybody. We do not point our fingers at people and say, “So-and-so, is a witch,” therefore they are going to be ex-communicated. This is a very big problem in the Gnostic movement, which is infecting a lot of groups, unfortunately. In reality, if anyone needs this knowledge more, it is them. Therefore, we should have mercy by showing them the teaching, by explaining it to them, by explaining how their behaviors are causing harm for themselves and others and respect their will. As Prophet Mohamed taught in the Surah الكافرين Al-Kafirin: The Unbelievers: “Unto you your religion, and unto me, mine. I do not believe what you believe,” or “I do not follow what you follow, neither do you follow what I follow.” And let them be. Let them be.
But learn prayers and rituals, protect yourself, defend your energy so that you are safe, but do not be paranoid. Do not be afraid, because that is how these types of people break through your barrier, so to speak. It is through fear and anger and pride.
With شريعة Shariah, the law of ethical discipline, we seek knowledge and instruction for how to protect ourselves. This is the beginning of wisdom. We are brought near to divinity this way.
For “those who are obedient and thus are considered sincere,” this has to do with people who are consistent in meditation, practicing each day, transmuting energy each day, sacrificing each day, annihilating the ego each day.
The last level, حقيقة Haqiqah / معرفة Marifah: truth and knowledge, have to do with the saints, people who are very pious. Piety is something humble, deep, lasting, a sense of integrity which is unshaken. It is the inner character of great masters like Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna, Samael Aun Weor. They are the friends of God because they know the truth. They have experiences at will and therefore they are familiar with divinity.
So there are levels amongst the strivers. Obviously, we are in the beginning. We learn to change what we can change here and now. In synthesis, I would like to relate how, if we are working effectively in our practices of renouncing the ego, we are learning to change each day, meaning: practice retrospection meditation as we explained previously, in the previous lecture on repentance. Learn to transmute your energies. Work effectively with mantra, prayer, pranayama, or sexual alchemy if you are married, and learn to serve others. This is how we really strive for divinity and for humanity. This is how we transform ourselves.
At this point in time, I would like to open up the floor to questions.
Questions and Answers
Question: When doing runes, can you not move from your posture like meditation?
Instructor: That's a very good question. Now with certain runes, there are movements that one enacts like the Rune Olin, especially where you learn to transmute your energies through movement. Now, when you are performing the runes, obviously you have to move yourself into position, and like with the seven vowels, the seven runic letters, you learn to position your body in those different postures sequentially. When you make the rune, you have to hold your position while you are prolonging the vowels, such as I E O U A M S.
With that practice, you do have to move, but when you are in the position themselves―for each vowel, each letter, when you prolong them―do your best not to move, because the important thing is that while you are making the posture with your body, you are learning to focus on the vibration of energy in yourself and the circulation of those forces. The physicality or the physical posture is one thing. It is like an antenna that attracts cosmic energy. But when you are in the position, learn to focus on the force itself and the power of your prayer, your introspection.
So, these are exercises that are very useful in order to charge our body with very necessary vital forces, emotional forces, mental forces, spiritual forces. In that way, after you perform those runes or sacred vowels, you can sit and relax and enter meditation itself. The runes are very powerful for that. They give your consciousness a lot of energy so that your concentration and prayer can be very deep.
When you enter those positions, do not move for each vowel, but make whatever movements you need to enter the different runic postures. This is very good for entering meditation, because as a preliminary for meditation―primarily because if your body is very agitated, if you are used to moving around a lot and you have a hard time sitting still―it is good to basically move around a little bit and perform mantras so that those energies help your body to rest, to circulate. It is a form of spiritual exercise for those who are not familiar.
Question: It is so easy to give up because my monster ego seems impossible to manage. Why does everything seem so intense, every battle monumental?
Instructor: It is difficult because unfortunately, statistically speaking, we are 97% ego. We have a lot of desire and as I related to that experience to you about my Divine Mother showing me my portrait and then those different verses from different scriptures, I was at first, very alarmed. I felt weak and sad and disappointed in myself and ashamed because I realized I am worrying about other people being demons and ignoring the fact that I am 97% ego. So, I felt overwhelmed too, and it is easy to want to give up. But the reality is that we have divinity inside. You have your Being, and there my Divine Mother was showing me, “You must follow the law of Muhammad”―meaning―kill your ego.
It is really a battle. It is monumental because the results are incredible. If we succeed, we will become a divine angel, a being, a master, but to fail is to become a demon. There really is no other outcome in this science. This is something that Samael Aun Weor mentioned many times, and it frightens many people, but really, this is something that should give us encouragement, because the Qur’an teaches: Truly you fear the infidels? Really you should fear الله Allah, your Being, for He is more terrifying than any unbeliever. Really, in essence, your Being is more mighty than any archdemon, than any fallen initiate, than any evil creature that engages in witchcraft and manipulation and deception, and wicked things. This is not to inspire anger and hatred towards black magicians, but really to have compassion for them, because really, they only have power in hell, but really the Being has power in heaven, hell, the earth, and if we reach that point, the Absolute.
Really, defeatism is a very big problem for people. We give up because we feel that we are not educated enough, or we are not capable enough. You can read about an entire chapter in The Revolution of the Dialectic by Samael Aun Weor, where he explains the ways to overcome Defeatism. The reality is that you can change and that if you have remorse and you want to change, then you can. The ego lies. That is why it is an unbeliever.
Each ego commits شرك shirk in Arabic. It means to split, basically. It is to believe in many gods, many egos, many defects, many desires, but not divinity. Really, divinity is a power that is to be contended with, and when you are working in this knowledge, you will face hardship and challenges and difficulties. The solution is to meditate on the qualities of your Being, the virtues of your inner God and to remember His power, because when you see how your soul is capable of the most beautiful action, the most serene compassion, the most unfaltering courage in the face of hardship, then you will be willing to endure the worst.
Obviously, it is not easy. This is why this path is taken by very few. Many Muslims pray the Fatihah, which is the most recited [Surah or] verses of the Qur’an and is the opening of that book. It is a very powerful prayer that you can recite and remember and visualize and meditate upon, because it is very inspiring. Especially if you are having challenges, you can reflect on those verses, especially. It begins with:
بِسْمِ ٱللَّٰهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
…meaning, חכמה Chokmah: Christ in Kabbalah, in Christian, esoteric, Gnostic Kabbalah, and the Merciful (חֶסֶד Chesed) the spirit.
2 Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds
…meaning בינה Binah: the intelligence of divinity that organizes and creates all things.
3 The Compassionate, the Merciful
…referring to again, חכמה Chokmah and חֶסֶד Chesed, but also الله Allah is כתר Kether: the supremacy of divinity, the power of divinity.
4 Master of the Day of Judgment.
…relating to גְּבוּרָה Geburah, the justice of divinity who is inside of you, your own conscience that knows right from wrong and has the power to change.
5 You do we worship and Thine aid do we seek.
…within תִּפְאֶרֶת Tiphereth, your human willpower. You concentrate within your meditations as worship, and you receive aid within your human soul through meditative experiences.
6 Guide us upon the straight path
…meaning: the middle pillar of the Tree of Life, your spinal column, أ Alif in Arabic, the straight path of the initiates, the bodhisattvas of compassionate hearts. The straight path, guide us to the straight path and guide us on the straight path…
7 the path of those whom Thou hast blessed, not of those who incur wrath, nor of those who are astray.
Meaning in נצח Netzach (mind), הוד Hod (emotions), [יסוד Yesod: sexuality] and מלכות Malkuth (the physical world).
That prayer is very powerful. It is a visualization of the entire Tree of Life, and you can remember those qualities in you, since really, divinity is in you. Therefore, what are we to fear? Divinity is more powerful than any demon. Rely on your Divine Mother. She is the one who can rectify any situation.
Question: Would you be able to suggest somewhere that very clearly explains how to practice pranayama?
Instructor: You can look at Kundalini Yoga by Samael Aun Weor, as well as The Yellow Book by Samael Aun Weor, especially. We gave a lecture called Breath in which we explained in this course how to practice a mantra called Ham-Sah, which is a form of pranayama as well.
Any other questions?
Question: Could you explain again the posture of the right hand and the use of our sword, the Kundalini? You said the left hand on the solar plexus, and I did not get how the right hand is placed.
Instructor: When you conjure in the astral plane, you take your left hand and cover your solar plexus. This is because the left hand is receptive. We receive solar forces within our abdomen, in our left hand. The right hand projects solar energy.
If you are familiar with chains within our tradition, we receive with our left hand, by holding hands with a group of people, and our right hand is facing down, which transmits solar creative energy. The left hand is up. The right hand is down. In the same way, we protect our reservoir of solar force with our left hand over our solar plexus when we conjure, primarily because we want to rely on that storehouse of energy, because the solar plexus is a battery of psychic force. All the solar energies we accumulate from our prayers and transmutations is deposited there like a battery, as a storehouse. When you are conjuring, you are relying on that transmuted force to protect you. Your left hand on your solar plexus is utilizing and absorbing those forces so that they transmit through your left hand and arm, your shoulders, to your right arm, your right hand, and outward. The right hand has to be formed like the pentagram, the thumb, index, and middle fingers are extended. The pinky and ring finger are closed, so that those two little fingers are down, and your three primary fingers are up. In that way, you are conjuring and praying and imagining that your creative fire, your energy, is extending outward in order to defend you, to protect you.
Now, there are some interesting correlations within the Muslim tradition about this. When Muslims pray in masjids, in mosques, they place their right hand over their left. They hold their wrist with their right hand, the left wrist with the right hand. That is a symbol of how the right solar forces must conquer the lunar animal mechanicity, and when we pray in that position, one is asking divinity to conquer the lower animal self. This is why in the Qur’an it is mentioned many times that the unbelievers of the left-hand path try to mislead the followers of the right-hand path, which is the initiate. For more information about that, you can study Arcanum 8: Justice in our Eternal Tarot course, the arcanum of justice.
Question: When confronted with a black magician physically, how do we conjure and pray, especially when overwhelmed and forgetting ourselves?
Instructor: The solution is to remember your Being. If you are overwhelmed, you are forgetting your Being. Do not identify with fear. Observe it. Look at it, and if some person is trying to steal your energy psychically, or even by touching you, personally, I keep a respectful distance from people. You know, with friends and family, I am close, but obviously with people who are practicing witchcraft, if I am aware, that I keep a safe distance, but also remember my Being, the presence of God, divinity, because if you forget that quality in yourself, you allow fear to enter. Then you can be manipulated. Therefore, the solution is to overcome fear. I recommend you study the lecture called Basics of Spiritual Defense, within the course Spiritual Self-Defense on our website.
In synthesis, the best way to defend yourself against black magic is to comprehend and eliminate your ego. Strive against your defects. Do not let your ego get what it wants. Observe it. Transform it. When the impressions of life enters into you, such as a difficult situation where perhaps you are being criticized or condemned, do not let your anger dictate what you say, what you do. Transform the impression of that situation. Meaning, you see what is happening outside. You are observing the reactions internally, but you do not give your energy to your ego. You comprehend yourself in that moment [learn about the transformation of impressions in Transform Your Life in Beginning Self-Transformation].
The best weapon against any type of black magic is an awakened, clarified, intuitive state. A correct psychological state is able to unmask traitors and overcome any obstacle according to Samael Aun Weor Therefore, it is important to be balanced. You learn how to be balanced by meditating on those experiences in your day, in which you felt particularly weak. Imagine those situations. Visualize them. Remember them in sequence and reflect on those egos that you saw in yourself in those moments and how you were tested or tried. Ask for comprehension. Pray. “You do we worship”―concentrate on your Being and ask for insight― “and Thine aid do we seek,” meaning the intuition, the comprehension, the wisdom.
Any other questions? I thank you all for coming!
The Gnostic Academy of Chicago
Free online courses, lectures, podcasts, and transcriptions.