The following transcription is from an audio lecture on Sufi Principles of Meditation, a course originally delivered live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago.
In our studies of meditation, we are deeply concerned with levels of being, degrees of consciousness, which, according to the 14th Dalai Lama, is infinite. A very famous Sufi initiate by the name of Abd al-Karim al-Jili, he wrote a book called The Universal Man, Al-Insan al-Kamil. He stated, “The journey to God is short. The journey in God is infinite.”
While this work teaches us how to reunite with divinity, with the Truth, the reality is that upon entering religion, reunion, there are qualities of knowledge, of understanding, which are within the divine. It is infinite. Consciousness has the capacity to expand to an infinite degree, and different traditions teach and map these levels of consciousness in different ways, in varying levels.
The conservative Piscean traditions, in which the different doctrines and scriptures originated within the past 2,000 years, speak about these levels of being, these levels of consciousness, in a very abstract manner. The writings are not very explicit and require a lot of experience and initiation from a teacher or a sheikh, a guru, a master, but times are different. We now live in an era related to the astrological influence of Aquarius.
Pisces was noted for its conservatism. The knowledge had to be earned, and only when practitioners would meditate for many years, would they be allowed to really understand and be taught the heights of their spiritual tradition, and in Sufism this is no exception.
Sufism pertains to the Era of Pisces, and while many manuals of writings were given in that tradition, a lot of that wisdom is very veiled, and only understood by initiates: people who are awakening their consciousness, not only physically, but in the internal planes―whether through dream yoga, astral projection. But whether or not those abilities are developed in us we can begin to appreciate and understand, to approach these levels of consciousness, which the Sufis call stations.
A station is a place that people travel to, where people arrive, where people leave. The levels of being are described as places or stopping points in ascension towards the Truth. The highest station among the Gnostics is Marif’ah. It is knowledge of divinity. It is permanent self-realization. It is the full incarnation of God in the soul: the path of resurrection which Samael Aun Weor speaks about in his book The Three Mountains. These degrees or stations of the path as taught by the Sufis, were explicitly provided by Samael Aun Weor in The Three Mountains.
So in this lecture we will talk about how meditation applies to the science of the Tree of Life, the Tree of Being, the levels of being, which is a map to understand where we are and where we must go if we truly want to obtain religion, yoga.
The levels of Being or these stations, these degrees of knowledge, of development, are made explicit within the writings of the Aquarian knowledge, and I’ll read for you a quote from the book The Aquarian Message by our teacher Samael Aun Weor. The chapter is from Internal Meditation:
“The seven degrees of ecstasy through which the mystic reaches the perfect state of the soul are described in the school of Sufism. The school of Sufism teaches about ecstasy. The state and secret of our level is revealed in Sufism, because this is the interior state of life in God.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Aquarian Message, “Internal Meditation”
So what is ecstasy? It comes from the Latin ecstatuo [Greek ἔκστασις ekstasis], “to stand outside oneself.” It is our psychological state that we cultivate as we learn to remove the ego and to go beyond our level of being, to become something more, something profound.
Samael Aun Weor writes in Revolutionary Psychology, “What is our level of Being? We must know where we are if we wish to ascend to a higher level.”
Our psychological state determines everything, which is why meditation is so fundamental for change. Meditation is precisely the science, the art, the philosophy, the religion of understanding our own conditions of mind, but also our virtues, our qualities of soul. This is much more important than any outward adherence in a group, or participation in a school. While schools are necessary, they provide clarification of how to practice meditation. They also inspire us to work, to want to change, but a group itself is not a defining factor of whether one will reach the goal.
Our work is our own. In the Piscean era, and even today, the Sufi schools are very conservative. They only taught the most profound doctrine, the most profound sciences, to those who have proven themselves under the jurisdiction of a teacher, but of course in the Aquarian Era “Initiation is our own life intensely lived with rectitude, and with love” (Samael Aun Weor), which is why even Bayazid Bastami, a Sufi initiate, stated the following, “I stood with the pious and I didn’t find any progress with them. I stood with the warriors in the cause, and I didn't find a single step of progress with them. Then I said, ‘Oh Allah! What is the way to you? And Allah said, ‘leave yourself and come.’”
Meaning: leave behind the ego. Eliminate the ego. Strive and fight in yourself, work on yourself. Abandon our previous level of being, what we are now, to become something new, and transformed
The Levels of Being: Stations of the Sufi Path
These levels of Being are depicted by Kabbalah, the Tree of Life, and it is this image, this map of consciousness, this diagram of divinity that is missing from the teachings of the Sufis, and even many other traditions, because the Tree of Life was not explained openly by the Muslim masters, but it is an essential diagram or graphic that elaborates and explains the stations of the Sufi path.
Ten spheres, ten stations, with all of their multiplicity, their dimensionality, their infinite qualities―this diagram teaches us where we are in our meditation, and therefore those schools that leave aside the Tree of Life do not understand meditation in its heart, because we cannot understand where we are, what our level of being is, where we must go, if we do not understand the Kabbalah.
קבלה Kabbalah comes from the Hebrew, קבל Kabel, meaning “to receive.” It also means “tradition,” the secret teachings of the initiates. When we meditate, we investigate, we analyze, we experience, we then receive new knowledge. We understand the depths and intricacies of the soul, and the path that leads out of suffering.
But in order to do that we have to abandon what we are. As Abu Sa’id, a Sufi initiate, stated,
“Wherever the delusion of your selfhood appears―there’s hell. Wherever you aren’t―that’s heaven.” ―Abū Sa’īd in Ibn Munawwar: Asrār at-tawḥīd, ed. Shafī‘ī-Kadkanī, 299
The ego is the problem. The ego is the obstacle. The sense of “I,” “me,” “what I want,” “what I crave,” “what I desire,” in itself is called the tree of death, in Islam. شجرة الزقوم The tree of Zaqqum, which in Arabia is an actual tree whose leaves are very bitter to taste, became a symbol of the infra-dimensionality of the ego: the subconsciousness, the unconsciousness, the infraconsciousness.
So we have to abandon our own pride, fear, laziness, lust, defects, nafs in Arabic, the lower soul, in order to obtain heaven. But this quote is very interesting. It says that “Wherever you aren’t―that’s heaven.” This does not mean that there is a complete nihilism there, that we cannot experience heaven. It depends upon our level of being. Are we attached to our negativities, our hatreds, our self-esteem? Or do we set that egotism aside, withdraw the senses, and awaken the consciousness, the soul, so that we can experience the Being?
Remember that this map, this Tree of Life, represents us―who we are, who we really are―not our culture, our language, our name, but divinity.
Stations are precisely the degrees of consciousness that we develop in ourselves through work. These are known as initiations. And if you study the writings of Samael Aun Weor, such as The Three Mountains, The Major Mysteries, The Perfect Matrimony, Tarot and Kabbalah, Alchemy and Kabbalah in the Tarot, you understand that this Tree of Life is essential. These are precisely the stations of the path, the degrees of consciousness, which we seek to actualize.
Remember that initiation is our own life. It is not found in a physical group, although those schools help. They instruct. They inspire. Real Initiation occurs when we humble ourselves, when we humiliate our ego. Shame comes before honor. If we wish to return to divinity, we have to strip away the baggage, the delusion of self, which is not real. We have to remember the Being, the Tree of Life, because the Being is heaven. When the ego dies, the soul returns to divinity, our true reality: a profound state of omniscience, cognizance, happiness.
And so this diagram helps us to understand ourselves. It is very intricate, very deep. Here we introduce it in the context of this lecture to frame the discussion of the forthcoming lectures in this course.
Divine Nature in Arabic Kabbalah
So again, initiation is development, qualities of consciousness that we learn to realize here and now. It is obtained through very profound work, but of course the Being, divinity―whom the Sufis and Muslims call الله Allah―is precisely the one who gains the initiation honors, degrees, qualities and experiences, understanding, wisdom. الله Allah in Arabic means “The God.” And if you look at this graphic you find that there is a top trinity that emerges from an abstract Seity, a perfect profound and limitless space known as אין Ain, אין סוף Ain Soph, אין סוף אוֹר Ain Soph Aur. That is the Absolute. That is Allah, because even the term Allah meaning “the God” refers to the most profound heights of the Truth.
In Islam they do not have any images of God. It is considered sacrilegious. That is because it is impossible to anthropomorphize space, and the light that emerges is precisely in this diagram, this top trinity: Kether, Chokmah, Binah: Crown, Wisdom, Intelligence. It is light that expresses in three ways, but is one. There is no division of that light. It is perfect, but it manifests in three ways in order to create life, which is why the Qur’an speaks abundantly about how one of the names of divinity is الخليق Al-Khaliq, “The Creator,” referring to Binah, the intelligence of divinity that creates the soul.
Likewise we have الرحمن Al-Rahman, the Compassionate, الرحيم Al-Rahim, the Merciful―Chokmah and Chesed―which refers to the beginning of each Surah of the Qur’an with the exception of Surah 9: بِسْمِ ٱللَّٰهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim, “In the Name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful.”
Kether is also Allah, the Crown, Supremacy, and that light which emerges from the unknown is that perfect expression of God.
Of course, the Christians refer to this trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but that teaching in that tradition degenerated when people mistakenly believe these divinities to be three people and not energy, consciousness. So that is why the Qur’an is explicit and rejects the trinity. But we study all traditions so that we do not end up in fanaticism or confusion.
This light is perfect. It is the Being, and if we wish to know and develop that light as expressed in Surah Al-Nur, the 24th sura of the Qur’an, we learn to enter initiation, to develop that light. We learn to forget our egotism. We put it aside, and remember our true Self, the reality of that light, that great perfection.
Kabbalah, Numerology, and Persian Sufism
So let us define, according to the Sufis what stations are, initiations, levels of progress. The levels of knowing God, the remembrance of God, occurs in accordance with hierarchy, and even amongst the Sufis, they explain these stations in very different ways: sometimes 7, sometimes 40, other times 100, or even 1,000.
These stations refer to the qualities of ourselves, our soul, such as discipline, contentment, awe of divinity.
It is important to remember that these stations are very dynamic. When Samael Aun Weor wrote about these different initiations, he was very specific, and explained something that was never taught publicly. But the Sufis alluded to that teaching in a very abstract way. So as I said, sometimes the Sufis say there are 7 stations, sometimes 40, sometimes 100.
The number 7 is important to Kabbalah. It refers to 7 levels of the soul, the lower 7 levels of the spheres or סְפִירוֹת sephiroth, the Hebrew term for “emanations.” There are also 40 stations referring to the 4 worlds of Kabbalah, the 10 sephiroth in the tree of life in the 4 worlds: Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah, Asiah.
40 also relates to the Hebrew letter מ Mem, which refers to words like מים mayim, water, and even the Arabic مائي mayiyn, which has the same significance.
Farid ud-Din Attar wrote a book or a poem called The Conference of the Birds, and he speaks about the 7 stations of the path. Al-Qushayri, who wrote Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism, explained that there are 40 stations, which are very profound, and much of the knowledge we are providing here comes from that text. And lastly there is the 100 stations of the Sufi path by Abdullah Ansari of Herat.
All these initiates were Persian, and I’ll quote for you what Samael Aun Weor wrote in The Perfect Matrimony about Persian Sufi initiates:
“The most ineffable part of Mohammedan mysticism is Persian Sufism. It has the merit of struggling against materialism and fanaticism and against the literal interpretation of the Qur’an. The Sufis interpret the Qur’an from the esoteric point of view as we, the Gnostics, interpret the New Testament.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony
So Sufism teaches us how to interpret the Qur’an, because the language of the Qur’an is Kabbalah, which if you say in Spanish is La Kaba. It is the science of the stone. In the Middle East, Muslims pray towards Mecca, the Kaaba, the stone of the mysteries. That stone is a symbol of the work with Yesod, the vital forces that are essential into entering meditation.
If you say la baca, the same syllables in Spanish, you have “the cow,” and Al -Baqarah is the longest surah of the Qur’an. It is “The Cow,” a reference to the divine mysteries of the eternal feminine, the Divine Mother. There are very profound mysteries here, very deep.
The term baqa actually means “subsistence.” The term fana in Arabic means “elimination, annihilation” of the self, so that one can enter the Truth. Baqa is subsistence within the Truth. So once we have died to the ego, the soul subsists and realizes the Being, baqa. That is the mystery of Al-Baqarah: the sacred cow within Islam, the longest surah of the Qur’an. If you are interested in knowing more about these topics you can study specifically The Eternal Tarot course we have available on chicagognosis.org, where we speak a lot about the Muslim mysteries and the Kabbalistic symbolism contained within those teachings.
Kabbalah is the science of numbers. They represent principles. The law of 7 is very deep, and it can teach us how to meditate, to understand the Tree of Life in its order. 40 can also relate to 40 virtues, relating to מ Mem in Hebrew, or in Arabic م Meem.
The fact that certain Sufis refer to 100 stations can also refer to initiation, because when you add the numbers together, the digits, 1+0+0=1 relates to the first card of the sacred tarot, Arcanum 1: The Magician, which refers to laws of the Being and the soul, the path of development. The tarot and the Kabbalah are one science, and we use these principles when we study meditation. It is a map and it is how we navigate our own internal worlds.
The Definition of Stations: Initiations
Stations refer to initiations. And going back to the first card of the sacred arcana, is referring to the Magician, the one who begins, who initiates, who works. The following is from Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism by Al Qushayri:
“A station consists of certain forms of behavior actualized by the servant through his struggles. He gains access to these through some kind of voluntary effort and makes them a reality through a sort of striving and the endurance of constraints upon his nature.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So these are the levels of being. We access a higher level of Being by working on our mind, by struggling against mechanical habits, defects. We must gain access to the higher worlds through conscious works and voluntary sufferings. This is a very famous quote by Samael Aun Weor: “We can only awaken through conscious works and voluntary sufferings.” He doesn’t mean that we go out of our way to look for problems. It means that we accept the results of our prior actions, and face the consequences with rectitude, with ethics, with love for humanity.
That is how we constrain the ego. We allow our ego to suffer when we do not get what it wants. This is fundamental if we wish to enter into initiation, understanding of the higher degrees of meditation.
“Everyone’s station is the place that he occupies in this way and with the discipline of which he concerns himself. The necessary condition involved is that no one may proceed from one station to another without fulfilling the requirements of the first station.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
There are very clear levels of development, a progression which the Tree of Life maps very explicitly, very beautifully. The path is very layered. There are levels and degrees, if you have studied The Perfect Matrimony, the Minor Mysteries, the Major Mysteries, the Venustic Initiations, the Three Mountains. While these concepts might seem very far away from us and elevated, they give us a diagram, a map, an understanding of where we are and what we must do.
So Al-Qushayri continues:
“For instance, he who has no contentment cannot properly possess trust. He who has no trust cannot properly possess the quality of surrender. Likewise he who has not turned to God cannot properly know penitence. He who has no vigilance over the morality of his actions cannot properly know renunciation.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
If we wish to enter those higher degrees of initiation, we must work with our level of Being. Certain qualities cannot be developed unless we are very intentional. By eliminating certain defects, we give birth to virtues. By learning to renounce our mind, we in turn are vigilant, watchful over our own morality. If we have not repented of our mistakes and really wept profoundly for our errors, we cannot turn to God. If we have no remorse, we cannot change, we cannot wish to yearn or look for help, and if we do not trust our inner divinity, we will never surrender to him with contentment.
So all these qualities are very interwoven, dynamic, infinite, but it is useful to combine this study with the Tree of Life because it helps to clarify these qualities in ourselves.
Raising One’s Station or Level of Being
Al-Qushayri also continues in his Principles of Sufism, relating how the stations are stepping stones towards the path that leads to divinity,
“The station, place of stay, is the act of staying (iqamah), just as the word madkhal, entry, has the sense of the act of entering (idkhal) and the word makhraj, exit, has the sense of the act of leaving (ikhraj). If his affair is to be firmly constructed upon a sound basis, no one may remain in a given station unless there is evidence that it is the act of God Most High [and not his own act] that causes him to stay in that station.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So as I mentioned to you, stations are stepping stones, degrees, virtues and qualities that we develop in a progression, qualities of the soul that are perfected in the different initiations mentioned by Samael Aun Weor.
There are virtues that we need to master at certain degrees. In מלכות Malkuth, the First Initiation of Fire, we must have patience, tenacity, endurance in order to awaken the fire of the kundalini, the sacred Shekhinah.
In יְסוֹד Yesod, we must truly repent for our lustful deeds, our desires.
In הוד Hod, the heart, the astral world, we have to work on our emotions very deeply: our anger, our resentment, our pride.
In נצח Netzach, the mental world, we have to be very diligent about how we think, how our thoughts affect others.
While these qualities are not strictly limited to those sephiroth, there are certain idiosyncrasies we need to learn. And that is something you can only know through experience. These stations are places in which one can stay or which one can leave, one can transcend. The goal is never to stay in one place, never to go down, to fall, but to ascend these higher and higher degrees of knowledge.
So we are not allowed to stay stationary, unless that is what our divinity wants. There are some practitioners who get stuck because of certain defects they are working on, or do not understand. Other times the Being keeps us at a certain degree because we need to learn something more, to be firmly established in certain virtues, and the understanding of certain actions, but the goal is never to stay in one place, but to always ascend, to go up, to ascend this Tree of Life.
This map is very intricate. It is very dense. There are many relationships associated with each sphere. There are many names of divinity, many aspects of the soul and the Being that are diagrammed here. It is a lifetime of study, to really traverse this map of consciousness from experience. These stations are known as maqamat in Arabic. These are initiations, degrees, levels of development. And I will quote for you a very famous Persian text which I mentioned by Abdullah Ansari of Herat, The Stations of the Sufi Path, and I will explain a few points about this teaching of the Tree of Life and how it can aid our meditation.
“It has been confirmed that Khidr, peace be with him, said: ‘There are one thousand stations (maqām) between the servant of God and his Lord (mawlā).” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
The Qur’an speaks about this figure known as Khidr, who helped Moses, and Morya in The Lord God of Truth Within refers to this initiate as Melchizedek, the genii of the Earth, a great master.
“And a similar saying has been mentioned from Dhu-l-Nun al-Misri, Abu Yazid al-Bastāmi, al-Junayd, and Abu Bakr al-Kattāni―may God be pleased with them all. Dhu-l-Nun al-Misri said: ‘There are a thousand worlds’ [between the servant of God and his Lord], Abu Yazid and al-Junayd―may God bless their innermost selves, said: one thousand palaces,’ and Abu Bakr al-Kattāni said: ‘a thousand stations.’” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So whether 100 or 1000, these refer to initiations. There are ten spheres in this diagram, from מלכות Malkuth to כֶּתֶר Kether, and if you have read The Major Mysteries, Samael Aun Weor refers to these degrees in terms of esoteric time.
If you are in meditation and you ask a master or your being to tell you where are you at in your work, they will refer to you in your age. To be 99 years or younger refers to the Minor Mysteries. 10 to the first initiation of Minor Mysteries, 20 to the second initiation of Minor Mysteries, 30 to the third initiation of Minor Mysteries, up to the ninth, 90. And beyond that: 100 to a 1000 refer to these ten spheres of the tree of life, the Major Mysteries, and even beyond.
It is a symbol. It is a reference point. We need to know this map so that when we travel to these places in our work and, internally, we do not get lost, we do not get confused, because we cannot interpret our experiences literally. They are symbolic, abstract.
“God the Most High, says, ‘Is the person who follows the good pleasure of God like the person who brings to himself the wrath of God, whose dwelling is Hell?―A woeful refuge!(3:162) [Certainly] they are in varying degrees (darajāt) in the sight of God,’ (3:163) and those ‘ascending degrees’ mentioned in this Qur’anic verse are one thousand stations.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So study this diagram with a lot of patience. I only provide an overview of this to provide context for understanding what the different stations we will talk about, but also the qualities of the soul needed to master those states and to progress in our meditations.
“The journey to God is short, the journey in God is infinite”―ascending degrees, more knowledge, limitless wisdom, which is why Prophet Muhammed stated in Surah Ta Ha, verse 114: “My Lord! Increase me in knowledge!”
Way Stations and Abiding Stations
Abdullah Ansari of Herat explains that there are way stations and abiding stations. These stations are stopping places. They are levels, levels of Being, which always ascend higher and higher towards the divine. And even within the divine there are infinite degrees, levels of Being, which we seek to actualize. This quote explains how this is a very dynamic process, and that we must always strive forward in our work, to question in our meditations, “Where are we at? What must we do in our particular level so that we can renounce what is egotistical and ascend towards what is higher?
“And those one thousand stations are ‘stopping places’ which are traveled by those who are journeying toward God (Haqq) until the servant, having passed [and is helped to pass] through those ascending degrees stage by stage, is honored to be received into the proximity (qurb) of God.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So what is this proximity of God? There are levels to God, which is why we study the Tree of Life, because there are levels and levels of that light. As it is stated in the Qur’an, “Light upon light!” in Surah al-Nur: levels and levels of understanding, but always we want to go higher. That is the goal.
“Or the servant himself passes through one stopping place after another until he reaches the final stopping place, which for him is the field of proximity to God. The proximity he leaves behind is only ‘a way-station,’ while that [proximity] where he remains is the [abiding spiritual] ‘station’―like those stations of the angels in the heavens.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So many of us long to be close to God, to have that experience, to have that realization. We have to remember that we must travel, and traveling to a distant country that is foreign unfamiliar, dangerous, requires a lot of courage, a lot of work, striving, effort.
The stages of the path are way stations, and we wish to abide within the highest spiritual station, like the angels. And we have to remember that the Elohim or the angels, the buddhas, the Gods, whatever name we wish to use, were once like us. They did not begin from the heights. They rose from the mud. They polished their hearts with dhikr, remembrance of Allah, through meditating on their true nature.
One practice we can do is to meditate on the Tree of Life, to ask for clarification of what this diagram means to us. And to understand that these are way stations, places of travel that lead higher and higher. The path of divinity, of the gods, is in a much higher octave, degree, than what we can conceptualize here, and even with the Tree of Life.
We know that there are the ten spheres or sephiroth of the tree in which certain masters ascend, but even in the Absolute there are degrees and degrees and degrees, which are incomprehensible for us at our level. But we need to understand this conceptually, so that we know what the goal is―and to meditate on this for ourselves―to know the truth of it from experience.
"[As] God, the Most High, says, ‘And there is none among us but he has a known station, (37:164) (and in His saying) They seek a way of access to their Lord, which of them (might be) closest…’ (17:57).” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So even the gods, the angels, seek to go higher, and this can inspire us, and humble us―to remember that this path is a process. It is a patient work. Rumi, the great Sufi poet and initiate, explained this process in one of his poems. He talks about the process of the soul elevating higher and higher and higher through a process of the death of the ego.
"I died as a mineral and became a plant, I died as plant and rose to animal, I died as animal and I was Man. Why should I fear? When was I less by dying? Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar With angels blest; but even from angelhood I must pass on: all except God doth perish. When I have sacrificed my angel-soul, I shall become what no mind e'er conceived. Oh, let me not exist! for Non-existence Proclaims in organ tones, To Him we shall return." ―Jalaluddin Muhammad Rumi
So what is that non-existence? It is referred to in the Kabbalah as the Absolute: Ain, Ain Soph, Ain Soph Aur―the cosmic space, the Truth, the infinite from which every world manifests.
Even the term الله Allah has a negating principle. لا Lah means “no” in Arabic. ال Al is the indefinite article “the.” الله Allah is the negative, “The No,” the negation of all that is not divinity. In order to reach those heights, we have to renounce, renounce, and renounce all that is imperfect in us. We must undergo fana, annihilation of the self so that we can subsist, baqa, within our eternal divine reality.
As Abdullah Ansari of Herat states:
“So each of these thousand stations is a waystation for the spiritual traveler (ravanda’), but a station (maqām) for the discoverer.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
The Six Conditions for Initiation
There are some initiates who are reaching certain heights while others are transcending those―degrees and degrees, a process. We have spoken a lot about Kabbalah and the tarot in synthesis. It is important to remember that the 22 arcana of the Tarot are synthesized in the Tree of Life. And there is one card in particular that can help us to understand what the Sufis wrote about the six conditions for initiation, of aiding our meditation.
If we wish to understand and experience this Tree of Life in its different modalities, expressions, principles, archetypes―we must practice six things according to the stations of the Sufi path.
“In those thousand stations, there is no escape from six things, even for the blink of an eye. These six things [conditions] are: respecting the divine command, fearing God’s tricks and ruse, seeking God’s forgiveness, actively respecting the sunna (the Prophetic Tradition), living in friendship and kindness, and being compassionate toward all creation.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So the sixth card of the tarot relates to these principles, and is a very wonderful diagram for understanding our situation, and how to really enter initiation, deeply, profoundly.
The sixth arcanum, the sixth law, refers to the lovers of the tarot. It is the soul caught between the ego and the divine. He is looking to his left, his left arm crossed over his right and his feet in the waters of the card, in the bottom third of this diagram, because he has fallen into temptation.
He represents us. We wish to enter the path, to understand the path, to practice it, to work, but we have ego. And the woman on the right of the card, or to the left of this initiate, is precisely naked, referring to her lasciviousness, her lust, which is his mind, his own ego, his nafs, his own lower soul.
To his right, a divine initiate, a woman, referring to the Divine Mother the sacred cow of Islam, Al-Baqarah. Above there is an angel aiming an arrow towards the whore, the prostitute, the naked woman of this arcanum, in order to slay her, and this teaches us the path, the path of meditation.
Meditation is for comprehending our own faults, eliminating our faults, and perfecting our soul. We do this through love, by loving our divinity. But of course, for that we must turn in repentance to our own inner divinity. But we see that the man’s face is towards the prostitute of this card. He is not facing the chaste, divine, beautiful woman on his right. The Qur’an speaks abundantly of turning to God, as having remorse. If we do not have remorse, it means that we do not respect the divine command: the laws of ethics of the soul.
Remember that the basis of meditation is founded on how we use our energy. Lust and love cannot mix. They are opposites. Desire says “me,” “what I want,” “what I crave,” “what I need,” and compassion says “you,” “what you need.” Lust fulfills itself. Love or compassion sacrifices for others.
1. Respecting the Divine Command
So what does it mean to respect the divine command? Since we have been studying the writings of Samael Aun Weor, the most specific command is chastity, sexual purity, renunciation of animal desire, fornication. We cannot enter initiation if we are losing our energies, sexually speaking. It means that we do not respect divinity and we are facing the whore of the sixth arcanum, feeding our animality, our lower soul.
beginning meditators often struggle with the reality of lust. This is precisely the path of Indecision, the name of this card. When we struggle to orient ourselves, we renounce lust, again and again, as we enter the stations of the path. Without an understanding of chastity, we cannot understand meditation, to rise to a new station. So we must learn to comprehend and have remorse: to really understand how our own desires create pain for ourselves, and for others.
2. Fearing God’s Tricks and Ruse
This has to do with the ordeals we receive as we are practicing meditation and chastity. These are struggles we have to face that come from divinity. If we do not receive hardship, we will never change. We will never confront the monster that is underneath the bed. Without these troubles and difficult situations in life, our defects will never spontaneously emerge so that we can see them.
This is a psychological gymnasium, which is why Arcanum 6 teaches us the following axiom: “Thou art giving me labor, oh Lord, and fortitude with it.” If you study the lectures on Lucifer, you will know this teaching very well―the tempter, that part of our psychology and divinity that places ordeals and challenges and temptations so that we can overcome them and grow. So this is what it means to fear God’s tricks and ruse, because we face ordeals, but if we don’t comprehend them and eliminate our defects, we end up in more suffering.
3. Seeking God’s Forgiveness
We also must learn to seek God’s forgiveness. Sincere remorse is essential. In meditation it is the crux of how we change, that feeling in the heart that we have made a mistake, and we wish to know how to work on that fault.
4. Actively Respecting the Sunnah (Prophetic Tradition)
And this is how we actively respect the sunnah, a prophetic tradition, the writings of any master or prophet, the life of the prophets, where we see by their examples and spiritual life, like in The Three Mountains by Samael Aun Weor, how to orient our heart when we are troubled.
5. Living in Friendship and Kindness and 6. Compassion Towards All Beings
But also living in kindness and friendship and being compassionate towards all creation. If we want to neutralize selfishness, desire, egocentrism, we must learn to sacrifice for other people. This is what drives us on the path of initiation, how we initiate, how we meditate on what we must change.
Spiritual Acts and Remembrance of God
Lastly, we will talk about spiritual acts and remembrance. Some people think of initiation and the Tree of Life as something abstract, outside of ourselves. But if we wish to really understand meditation, we have to study Kabbalah. We have to understand the symbols and how they apply to what is going on in our life, otherwise we are confused.
I’ll relate to an experience I had many years ago that can elucidate these concepts. I remember that I was meditating very deeply, sometimes hours a day, and I remember falling asleep in my chair in my bedroom. I awoke in the astral plane in my home where I was shown an instructional video. The words “the Path of the Self-realization of the Being” scrolled from left to right in front of my vision or screen.
I was next shown a diagram, ten spheres, which are aligned in two rows of five columns, different faces. Mine was at the bottom, far right. I saw figures that I can never forget―different qualities, or different expressions of different faces, or people, which at the time I did not understand.
I was never studious about Kabbalah in the beginning, but I was having meditation experiences that I could not explain. I remember seeing, particularly, figures in this diagram, portraits, associated with the Nordic pantheon, such as Wotan, father of the gods, in the far top left, and other faces associated with Germanic mythology. And I remember asking this question of an instructor who directed me to Kabbalah, the Tree of Life. I understood that each portrait or face in that glyph was a symbol of my Being: different faces or aspects of my own inner Truth, levels of initiation.
When I understood this symbol, I was relieved, and I had a lot of faith built from my understanding that I was being helped. I just needed the practical knowledge to interpret, and that is why in Kabbalah is essential to meditation, because I was confused. I knew this was from my inner divinity, because of my heart and what my soul was telling me, but when I verified in writing from the books, this reality, it solidified my faith and has helped me to progress through many years of work―to be patient.
In this process, we must always go higher, revise our understanding, self-reflect, which is why Al-Qushayri said in Principles of Sufism the following anecdote,
“I heard Abu Ali al-Daqqaq say, “When al-Wasiti entered Nishapur, he asked the companions of Abu Uthman [al-Hiri], ‘What did your shaykh use to order you to do?’ They replied, ‘He used to order us to realize the necessity of acts of obedience and to see clearly how we fell short in them.’” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So while this pertains to our ethical discipline, of course, there are levels. We emphasize ethics always, but we must not get caught up in concepts, intellectualism, theories which is why:
Al-Wasiti exclaimed, ‘He ordered you to sheer fire-worship! Why did he not command you to be absent from these acts in the vision of their Originator and Further?’” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Meaning: why did he not teach you to learn how to act selflessly from the Being, to manifest those higher qualities in the vision and remembrance of the Truth? Levels of knowledge. Remember we spoke about Shariah, Tariqah, Marif’ah―ethical discipline, inner work, and the highest realizations.
Again in that Tree of Life, you can refer to the three trinities of that diagram: above, middle, and below. The top trinity formed by כֶּתֶר Kether, חָכְמָה Chokmah, בִּינָה Binah―the middle trinity: חֶסֶד Chesed, גְּבוּרָה Geburah, תִּפְאֶרֶת Tiphereth, and the bottom trinity: נצח Netzach, הוד Hod, and יְסוֹד Yesod. The three levels of Sufism correspond to the three trinities of Kabbalah: the Tree of Life. The top trinity relates to Marif’ah. The middle trinity relates to Tariqah: the path of the heart, and Shariah refers to the lower trinity, how we work with Netzach, our mind, Hod, our emotions, and Yesod, our energy―levels of knowledge and wisdom.
“Al-Wasiti only intended to safeguard these people against complacency (from being satisfied with their level of development), not to turn aside into realms of negligence (to abandon the ethical practices of our tradition) or to authorize infringement of a single one of the usages of religion.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So remember that the Tree of Life is very intricate. We will approach this glyph systematically to understand how these principles apply to our meditation. Even the terms used in Hebrew relate to the profound development of the consciousness, and so here we introduce these concepts, but we will open up the floor to any questions you may have.
Questions and Answers
Question: I was curious, you talked about having a map to know where you are right now, could you talk a little bit more about that?
Instructor: Yes. So, the Tree of Life is precisely the map of our consciousness, and where we are and what we must do.
So we know from our meditative practice that the lower five spheres of this diagram teaches about the quality of our soul. Malkuth in Hebrew means “Kingdom,” our body. When we meditate, we must learn to calm Malkuth.
We must also learn to relax and to work with our vital forces relating to Yesod, which in Hebrew means “Foundation,” the vital energies. We work with these vital energies through mantra, through prayer, through transmutation, sacred rites of rejuvenation, runes, many exercises that are provided in the writings of Samael Aun Weor.
We also learn to calm our emotions, withdraw our emotions from negativities, relating to Hod, the astral body, referring to “Splendor” in Hebrew, the splendor of the heart, the compassion of the heart.
As we calm our emotional center, we also let the mind exhaust itself, relating to Netzach, “Victory.” Sometimes Samael Aun Weor mentions how one who conquers his or her mind is victorious, a buddha, and so the mind always wanders from thing to thing, associative thinking.
We must learn to control our mind with willpower. We are referring to Tiphereth, which in Hebrew means “Beauty,” the beauty of the soul: profound, intuitive, beautiful action. It does not mean a will that is enmeshed in desire, because in most cases for us, our will is conditioned. We tend to be very weak willed in our studies, especially in the beginning. But through these exercises of meditation, concentration practice, relaxation, pranayama, we learn to fortify our will with divine force.
And even when we sit to practice meditation, we can look at this glyph. We can meditate on this diagram and question: where are we in our work? What are we stuck in? Most people do not even get past the physical body. They are always moving their Malkuth. The body, the earth, is always moving. Our inner earth, our body, Malkuth, must always be still when we meditate.
Some people work with energy after relaxing the body, work with Yesod. Other times we are caught up with negative emotion relating to Hod, or our mind is too active, chattering, Netzach. And sometimes we need to develop more will, more divine will, action that always serves, submits to divinity, referring to Chesed, the Being, the Innermost in Hebrew, meaning “Mercy.” And the divine soul, Geburah in Hebrew, referring to “Justice,” the mercy and justice of divinity, which always knows how to act in any situation.
Of course, to go higher requires work, but in a simple way, this diagram teaches us where we are. And if we learn to really investigate those spheres in the internal dimensions, we can receive even more profound guidance, and be instructed as to what we have to work on.
Remember that the science of dream yoga is geared to understanding our own experiences in life. Initiation is our own life, lived intensely, with rectitude and with love. So if we awaken consciousness in those higher regions of nature, we can be shown our level of being, our qualities of mind, our defects that we have to work on, so that when we return to our physical body from sleep, we are charged, we are inspired, because we are receiving the inner guidance of our own inner divinity.
So that is a representation of what the stations are, and they can refer to virtues. They can refer to the sephiroth, the Tree of Life. And remember that each sphere of this Kabbalistic glyph refers to qualities of Being and the soul, such as justice and mercy, beauty, victory, splendor, foundations of work relating to energy, and the kingdom that encompasses all of it. So it is a very beautiful diagram that can teach us much. We will go into aspects of this glyph progressively, in this course, in order to relate certain qualities that can help us understand how to work more effectively.
Audience: That is great, very helpful, thank you.
Instructor: You are welcome.
The Gnostic Academy of Chicago
Free public lectures, meditation classes, courses, articles, and lecture transcriptions.