Heightened Senses

Hello. I'm Imraan. This is the only thing I own outright; I write from time to time, in the hopes that free-association might save a trip to a sanatorium.

“And thus He unites you to Himself…”

I’ve lately been pondering as to what would amount to the Almighty drawing us Near to His Proximity, and certainly what it might take to taste the fruits of paradise in this world. What if I have been precisely wrong the whole time, and thus sought Him with my (poor attempt at) deeds, and not allowing myself to be inhabited by the Almighty at the level of the heart/spirit.

Perhaps this takes, courage, determination, and perhaps even love… what say you?

125

Cling to the attributes of His Lordship

and realise the attributes of your servanthood!

126

He has prohibited you from claiming for yourself,

among the qualities of created beings,

that which does not belong to you;

so would He permit you to lay claim to His Attributes,

He who is the Lord of the Universe?

127

How can the laws of nature be ruptured for you

so that miracles result,

while you, for your part,

have yet to rupture your bad habits?

128

The point at issue

is not the fact of searching;

rather, the point at issue

is that you be prescribed with virtuous conduct.

129

Nothing pleads on your behalf like extreme need,

nor does anything speed gifts t you to quicker

than lowliness and want.

130

If you were to be united with Him

only after the extinction of your vices

and the effacement of your pretensions,

you would never be united with Him!

Instead, when He wants you to unite you to Himself,

He covers your attribute with His Attribute

and hide you quality with His Quality.

And thus He unites you to Himself

by virtue of what comes from Him to you

not by virtue of what goes from you to Him.

Ibn ‘Ata’ Illah, The Book of Wisdom, 78-9

Source:

The Book of Wisdom / Intimate Conversations; Trans, Victor Danner/Wheeler M. Thackston (Paulist Press, New York: 1978)

Trans, Victor Danner/Wheeler M. Thackston

Series: The Classics of Western Spirituality

 

 

 

 

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When Rumi Found Me In A Time of Grief

I received this document over a year ago, from a sainted being who has become a dear friend and teacher. I only just finished reading it – and it is fortuitous that it happened now. For those of you who aspire to faith, or enjoy dabbling in the metaphysical – heck, even if you have lost all Hope – I recommend parts II and III especially.

A number of you read this blog who live with a debilitating chronic illness – perhaps it is you who may want to consider its words the most. Whilst her experience is anecdotal, her references and reflections esoteric, and perhaps her trust that of a lovestruck fool, perhaps this text may encourage you to try the path of the intoxicated lover. Why not surrender to the Ocean of Being, to which we are all being steadily returned. In our cases, what else is there that we can do?

I hope this isn’t too sanctimonious, preachy nor insulting. But sister Aisha Gray Henry’s text has given me much about which to think. More of her work and publications can be found on the Fons Vitae website – a publishing house she founded and for which she is Editor-in-Chief.

When we met, and she saw me in my wheelchair, she asked me “what is your talent, your gift? How will you contribute?” – these are questions that haunt me still, to which I have no concrete answers. But hers are self-evidently those of beauty. And, like Rumi, who seemed to see the Beauteous Names of the Divine predominating (though this is an opinion of the unqualified), this text resonates with a kind of beauty to which we might all aspire.

Love to you all.

I.

(Shared with permission – email me if you would like a copy of the original)

A Lecture Prepared for UNESCO Celebration in Konya and Istanbul
Honoring Rumi’s 800 Years – May 2007

By Gray Henry

Rumi clarifies principles of Islamic spirituality and metaphysical doctrine through stories, metaphor and the like, in order that we may better incorporate its guidance into the fabric of our daily lives. I’d like to share three instances where his clarifications have been “fleshed out” and gradually demonstrated in my own life—relating to (I) the appointed hour of our deaths and God’s omniscience, (II) suffering and affliction leading to true gratitude and trust, and (III) to self-naughting—a taste, or seeming glimmer (dhawq), of surrender and non-duality.

We love Rumi because he speaks of truths we recognize and know in our innermost hearts. In his Diwan, he counsels:

“Return to yourself, oh heart. For from the heart a hidden road
can be found to the Beloved. If the world of the six directions
has no door, then come into the heart, the place of contemplating
God, though it is not so now, it can be so.”
(6885)

I

All faith traditions attest to the omniscience of God. We are told that the events in our life are already determined but we are free as to how we choose to react. But, how do we know that our fated hour has, in fact, been preassigned? Rumi tries to illustrate this with such stories as that of the two men who are sitting in Damascus having tea. One looks up and notices the Angel of Death approaching their table. In great fear, he flees to Solomon, whose troop of Jinn transport him magically to Samarkand in one instant. The Angel comes up to the man, who remains sitting, and asks, “Wasn’t that so-and-so I just saw sitting here with you? Strange to find him here in Damascus when I have him on my list for Samarkand tonight.”

In the Masnavi, we have another version of this story called “Solomon, The Angel of Death, and the Man who Asked to be Taken to India”:

Solomon said, “Whatever you want, just ask!”
He pleaded, “Please assign the wind this task”
To transfer me to India with its breath.
So, over there, I might escape my death.”

(Solomon) questioned Azrael right at the chime:
“Angel of death, did you drive that good man
From home and family—was that your plan?”
He answered, “Now you know I wouldn’t lie,
I just looked on amazed as he strolled by,
For God had said today he would be dead
Not over here, but India’s tip instead.”
(Book I, 960-974)

Rumi tells us, “All the world’s affairs are planned this way, Open your eyes to see this clear as day.” What are we to conclude? We may believe with our minds that this is a Truth, but how do we know that this, in fact, is what’s going on?

I will now recount a story whereby I came to know with my heart that the hour of death is already there for each of us.

A few years ago, I went out to the airport in Louisville, Kentucky, to catch a flight to Cincinnati, which would connect me to JFK in New York for the evening flight to Cairo. The agent at the counter informed me that the flight to Cincinnati had been cancelled. I replied, “Then put me on any flight to New York.” She said there were none, but that she could book me for the next day. Two business people from New York were standing behind me and pushed their way forward. They were very frustrated by this inconvenience and asked her if there were time enough to rent a car and drive to Cincinnati to make the New York flight. She replied that indeed there was enough time to do this, and the couple turned to me and said, “We’re New Yorkers and don’t drive, but if we rented a car would you drive us and, then, hopefully, all three of us would make the needed flight?” I called my husband and said that it was doubtful I would fly to Egypt that evening, but would take the flight the following night, while probably staying in either Cincinnati or New York.

When we got out on the highway, I noticed a sign indicating that Cincinnati was 90 miles away. We had only two hours before the flight would leave, so I decided that as long as we had made this effort, I might as well drive at 90 miles per hour. I am not used to driving fast, but a strange calm came over me and I concluded that, should the police stop us, we would have at least given it our best shot. As we pulled into the airport, the business couple ran for the flight, I handed the check-in porters $20 to return the rented car and then proceeded inside with my baggage. The agent explained that, unfortunately, it was too late for me to make it, and as tears welled up in my eyes, I commented, “But, I have to make this flight.” As I turned to go, she called me back and said that the New York flight had just, at that moment, been delayed and she could, in fact, put me on and have my bags transferred in New York directly to the flight going to Egypt. When I boarded the plane, the New York couple were pleased and said that they had a car waiting for them at JFK and would be able to take me directly to the needed terminal on arrival. When we reached my terminal, the check-in counter had already, in fact, closed and the neon lights were dimmed. But, I know where the gate is for this flight, as I go each December to visit my children in Cairo, so I ran like the wind. I ran as though my life depended on it and my lungs and chest burned from the exertion. As I reached the gate, the door of the plane was being shut and all the wheelchairs were being removed. I was told I was too late to board, but again I pleaded, “I have to make this flight.” Mercifully, they let me on board.

Late the next day, I was sitting with my daughter when the telephone rang. My husband had concluded that I did not make the original flight but took that same plane when it returned the next day to New York. When that EgyptAir flight left New York, it crashed into the sea. My daughter burst into tears because it was such a close call, but I merely remarked, “It wasn’t my time.” Looking back at what had happened, there were too many coincidences for it not to have been destiny at work. What if the couple had not pushed forward and asked me to drive the rented car? What if I had not driven at 90 miles per hour? What if the flight from Cincinnati had not been unexpectedly delayed? What if the couple had not had a car waiting for them, which got me to the EgyptAir terminal so quickly? And, what if I had not run for my life? Something was pulling me along, a force that drew me steadily on to make that EgyptAir flight. I can only conclude that I experienced the idea that things are written for us. It must be then that these are not isolated occurrences. This must be going on all the time, but we don’t notice it because the events of our daily lives are not critical and do not stand out, particularly. So, therefore, I now am at ease with the cards that are being dealt out to me on a daily basis, and I continue to try to embrace the Divine Will behind these otherwise seemingly random moments with an open, welcoming heart.

II

The lesson to follow concerns the potential and meaning of affliction and suffering, as well as Rumi’s line: “Things become clear through their opposites.”

In his Diwan, Rumi explains,

“Weave not, like spiders—
Nets, from grief’s saliva
In which the warp and woof are both decaying
But give the grief to Him, who granted it
And do not talk about it anymore
For when you are silent His speech is your speech
And when you do not weave, the weaver will be He.”

“At every instant Thou hast given me
A death and resurrection; thus have I
Seen the controlling power of Thy Generosity.”
(Mathnavi V 4222)

And he also counsels:

“He has afflicted you from every direction
In order to pull you back to the Directionless.”
(Diwan 3952)

“Every heartache and suffering that enters your body and heart pulls you by the ear to the promised Abode.”
(Diwan 35486)

And so, here is what happened in my life to demonstrate conclusively the meaning and message of suffering- that really taught me the truth of putting one’s trust in God alone.

Some years ago I was living in an English village outside Cambridge while studying and working with the Islamic Texts Society, an academic organization which we established to publish important spiritual works from the Islamic heritage after having had them translated into English.

One evening as I reached to switch off the bedside lamp, I noticed my arm would not stretch out to do so. In fact, I found I was not able to pull the blankets up about me except by using my teeth; neither arm seemed to function. When I tried to take a deep breath it seemed as though my lungs were incapable of expansion. At the approach of a cough or sneeze, I held my arms tightly around my chest for fear the sudden and painful enlargement of my breast would rip me apart. When I arose the next morning, the only way to get out of bed was to hang my knees over the edge and slide off since my upper torso had become powerless. I couldn’t even raise my arms to brush my hair. Turning the bathroom faucet was an excruciating affair. By holding the bottom of the steering wheel in my finger tips, I was able to drive to the village clinic. The doctor concluded I had some type of virus for which there was no treatment other than time.

A day or so later, my husband and I were to fly to Boston for the annual congress of the Middle East Studies Association. I viewed my affliction as an inconvenience which would ultimately pass and decided to ignore my condition. I noticed, however, that on the day we were to leave England I began to have trouble walking and getting upstairs was extremely difficult. By the time we reached the hotel room in Boston, more and more of my system seemed to be shutting down. I could no longer write or hold a tea cup, bite anything as formidable as an apple, dress myself, or even get out of a chair unless assisted. Everything ached. I could not move my head in the direction of the persons to whom I was speaking –I looked straight ahead, perhaps seeing them from the corner of my eye.

Friends gave all kinds of advice that I simply shrugged off. The worst part was lying in bed at night. It was impossible to roll onto either side, and my whole body felt on fire with pain. It was terrible to have to lie flat, unable to make any shift of position whatsoever all night long. I thought to myself, “If only I could scratch my cheek when it itched, if only my eyes were not dry but cool, if only I could swallow without it feeling like a Ping-Pong sized ball of pain, if only I could reach for a glass of water when thirsty during the long night.”

As we traveled on for work in New York, I continued to make light of my infirmity and to ignore suggestions that I seek help. On the plane, however, when it was necessary to ask the stewardess to tear open a paper sugar packet, I suddenly realized– “I can’t even tear a piece of paper!” I requested that a wheelchair await me in New York and I be transferred to a flight home to my parents in Louisville, Kentucky. Since my husband was obligated to stay in New York, a kind soldier returning to Fort Knox helped me during that leg of the trip. I felt like a wounded fox that wanted nothing more than to return to, and curl up alone in, the nest of its childhood. My father met me, and the next day took me for every test imaginable. Nothing was conclusively established–was this rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus? I was brought to my parents’ house and at last put in my childhood bed with a supply of painkillers, which I was not inclined to take. Since I found I could tolerate great pain, I wanted to observe the situation and know where I stood. I started seeing my body as an object separate from me, and my mind as that which witnessed its ever-declining condition. When my legs finally “went,” with knees swollen like grapefruits and feet incapable of bearing me up, I mused with a kind of detached interest, “Oh, there go the legs!” The body seemed to be mine, but it was not me. Later that night it happened. As I lay gazing out my bedroom door and I noticed the carpet in the quiet hall, I thought, “Thank God I’m not in a hospital and the hall is not linoleum and that I am not subjected to the chatter of nurses. I know I’m in trouble and I do need help, but that would be too great a cost for my soul.”

A few moments later I became aware that I seemed to be solidifying, my body had stiffened and seemed to be very much like a log– I was totally paralyzed. Then, I seemed to separate from my body and lift a distance above it. I glanced back and saw my head on the pillow below and thought, “This is remarkable– I’ve read about this kind of thing… I am thinking and my brain is down there in my head! I must be dead.” I considered what to do and decided to pray.

I noticed that I seemed to be pulled back towards my heart– as if by a thread of light. But then there I was– quite all right, but utterly rigid and still. The light of the moon comforted me as it passed through the leafless November branches making patterns on the blankets. I thought, “Even at night, the Sun is there. Even in darkness and death, Light and Life are present.” The season seemed to parallel my state.

I then began to imagine my future. I have friends who are in wheel chairs who have always been placed along the sidelines for various events. Had I now joined them? Was I now out of the normal life of others? I began to see myself like a hunchback or a dwarf. I had always been known for my inexhaustible energy and activities. I could always, somehow, get to my feet to do one more thing. This was now over. I would no longer be able to do anything. I thought of the people in this world who have impressed me most– the Mother Teresas of our world. I realized that what was exemplary in these people was not what they did, but what they were; their state of being actually inspired others. And so I set upon a plan of inward action: The best thing I could do for others would be to sanctify my soul, to let my state of being become radiant. Having concluded this, I felt things were in order.

In the morning my parents found me, fixed in place; I was given eggnog to drink through a straw–chewing was over. My husband came from New York and I recall marveling when I observed him. He could, without considering the matter in depth, shift his position in a chair, scratch his forehead, or lean over to pick up a dropped pencil– all painlessly! Imagine– reflex action! Occasionally if I really wanted to move, for example, my fingers, I would think to myself, “All right, now, I-am-going-to-try-to-move-my-fingers,” and I would concentrate my entire attention on the task. With incredible pain and focus, I could at most shift a few millimeters. It struck me profoundly that when someone is able to move in this world without pain– that is, in health– that they are experiencing a foretaste of paradise on earth without ever being aware of it. Everything after that is extra.

Ultimately, it was decided that I should be given a week’s course of cortisone so I could return to my children and the British specialist who might be able to figure out what I had. The cortisone was miraculous and frightening– I could actually walk and pick up things– yet I knew that I couldn’t.

On the return to Cambridge, the hospital, needing to proceed with tests, decided that I should be removed overnight from cortisone. I then discovered what withdrawal symptoms are– a level of pain that seems to consume one alive with fire. But the pain was nothing compared to the frightening mental confusion I experienced: I could not grasp proper thinking, or even normal reality. What I needed was not only a doctor, but a kind of scholar/saint who could describe to me the hierarchy of meaning so that I would not be so painfully lost. I suppose true doctors are a combination of all three.

I grasped a rosary and clung to it like a lifeline thrown to a drowning man, and I made it to the light of dawn on the invocation of God’s Name, my sanity somehow still intact.

The English specialist could not make a conclusive diagnosis. Our Vietnamese acupuncturist suggested toxins had built up on the entire nerve and muscle system and prescribed massage during steam baths to release them. It sounded definitely worth doing. But, at the same time, I had come to that point that the very ill come to, where, though they take advice with gratitude, inside of them something has dimmed and they no longer care or wish to make any effort. Pleasantly, I had reached a great calm within. Each day I was brought downstairs where I directed the preparation of meals and worried the children who saw I could no longer sew on a button or sign a check. I was resigned to never moving again. I had never experienced such peace. It was touching that people prayed for me and it was lovely that so many asked after my condition. I felt like an upright pole in the middle of a stream. I had come to feel that it would be wrong to pray for my affliction to be lifted, as its good had come to outweigh its bad, in terms of my heart and soul. I could see what was of real importance.

In the spring, my husband had work in Arabia and suggested that as he would be traveling by private plane they could manage to get me on board. I could as easily sit in a warm climate as I could in cold, damp Cambridge.

A few days later I was asked to give my annual talk at Jeddah’s King Abdul Aziz University. I declined, explaining that I was unable to research and prepare a topic properly. Friends said they would be delighted to do this, if I could come up with a subject. I answered, “All right, why does this Job-like affliction happen to someone, in the view of Islam?” The passages they wrote down and translated to English from both the Koran and hadith, the sayings and recorded deeds of the Prophet Muhammad- – all seemed to say the same thing. In Islam, illness is understood to be a great blessing because it is an opportunity, if borne with patience free of complaint, to purify oneself of past sins– to burn away wrong thoughts and deeds.

As I delivered my talk, it began to dawn upon me why Muslims always reply with Al hamdulilah (the same as Alleluia) whenever anyone inquires as to health. I had always wondered why one could ask someone who suffered from an obviously terrible physical or emotional pain or loss, “How are you,” and all one could get out of such a person was, “All praise belongs to God.” I kept wanting them to talk about their pain with me, to share their suffering, and I wondered why they would not. Suddenly I realized that they were praising God for their state of being. The suffering they endured, no matter how great or small, was an opportunity to be purified, which is the very aim of human existence. In an instant, my own illness was seen in a new light. I no longer patiently tolerated it. I loved it, I flowed with it. I saw how blessed I was to have been tried with not something small, but something as total as paralysis. God had thought me up to it.

As I loved my illness, or shall we say, loved God’s will for me, my fingers suddenly began to regain movement. Bit by bit the movement in my hands returned, until at last in late spring, I was restored. What had been the most painful and difficult time in my life turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. I had gained a deepened perspective, a sense of proportion and freedom. God had blessed me with near total dependence on others, a symbol reminding me of my utter dependency on Him. And even when I had not been able to move one inch, I was able to be in touch with His Divine Presence.

“God created suffering and heartache so that joyful-heartedness might appear through its opposite.” (Mathnavi VI 104)

(The illness described above was later diagnosed as Guillain-Barre’ Syndrome.)

Rumi explains:

“When someone beats a rug with a stick
He is not beating the rug
His aim is to get rid of the dust.
Your inward is filled with dust
From the veil of I-ness
And that dust will not leave all at once.”
(Diwan 12074)

But, the “rug beating” of the paralysis left much dust, which necessitated God’s going for a central organ- my heart.

III

In his Diwan, Rumi writes:

“Come out of ourselves? But to where?
To selflessness. Selflessness is meaning, meaning.
Self-consciousness is names, names.”
(Diwan 16600)

In the Maqalat, Shemsi Tabriz is recorded as having stated that, “Meaning is God” and, “I have a living God—what would I do with a dead God?” Further, he inquires of us:

“What is the utmost end of need?
Finding what has no needs.
What is the utmost end of seeking?
Finding what is sought.
What is the utmost end of the sought?
Finding the seeker.”

In a verse Rumi liked, al-Hallaj proclaims, “Kill me, my faithful friends! For in my slaughter is my life—my death is in my life and my life in my death.”

The mystery of Die before death is this: “After dying come the spoils—other than dying no other skill avails with God, oh worker of deception.” (Mathnavi VI 3837)

We, the readers of such glorious passages, again attempt to understand them through duality with our reasoning minds, which are lodged in the phenomenal realm. How does one know these truths, these spoils, for certain in one’s own heart?

What does Rumi mean when he says, “All of this dying is not the death of the form—for this body is nothing but the spirit’s instrument”? (Mathnavi V 3821)

Let me now tell you a story of God’s grace upon this poor and unworthy servant when He granted me a taste of that eternal realm of Divine Unity. In 1995, many things had come to a close in my life. My parents, whom I had returned to Kentucky to care for, had died. Following that I had completed some publishing for the Bosnians, after having returned from the most heartbreaking work in their refugee camps during the war as it raged. I had not yet gone back into publishing. (Islamic Texts Society, 1979-1991/ and not yet Fons Vitae, 1997 onwards.) I started noticing that my heart hurt a lot of the time, and I was experiencing frequent shortness of breath. I lived alone in my father’s home and, at night, deep pain in my heart became more and more unbearable. One night, it was so bad, and the skipping of the heartbeats had become so alarming, that I concluded, as I cried out, that I was about to die. It occurred to me that I had never written a will and that maybe – in Kentucky – the state takes all, in such a case. I reached over and took a yellow legal pad, on which I wrote a few simple instructions in a most illegible handwriting. It was very comforting to think, however, that everything had been put in order.

In the morning, finding myself still alive, I decided to call a cousin of mine who worked at the Louisville Heart Institute. She sent a car for me, and it was not long before a very kind Lebanese doctor informed me that every time my heart beat, blood was escaping out into the surrounding cavity. He would need to operate the following morning, and I was not to eat anything from that evening onward. I explained, however, that I was not free on the following morning. For some time, I had had tickets to go to Santa Fe to participate in a dear friend’s wedding and, especially, to be present to the golden Aspen leaves quaking in the autumn breeze. What the doctor did not realize was that I was truly free and did not choose to spend the next morning on a cold hospital operating table when I could be in the autumnal paradise of New Mexico. When I had written the will, I really meant it and everything was neatly arranged, very much like old love letters tied up neatly with a satin ribbon. He said I was extremely irresponsible and that both the altitude of the plane and Santa Fe would be too much for my heart. I replied that if I were alive in a week’s time, I would come in.

A friend came and helped prepare my tiny bag and took me to the airport. I was having a great deal of trouble walking and speaking. On the plane, I found myself to be too frail to even turn the pages of a book. I was simply holding on. But, I did scribble on a tiny yellow Post-It the following few words: What is actually happening to me is not physical, it’s spiritual. My true being is trying to separate from my shadow one. What I meant by that was that my Spirit was trying to free itself from that hypocritical quagmire I had been calling my “spiritual life”.

When I arrived in New Mexico, my friends—having heard of my state of illness—insisted that I stay in their home with them although it had been arranged for me, as a wedding guest, to stay in a hut in the desert, not far from the Indian Museum. I responded, “I’ll take the hut.” The next morning, I woke up and decided to slowly make my way out some many meters into the desert to enjoy the Dante-esque mountains and the golden trees. As I slowly walked out, my inner emptiness, my concluded life, my lack of concern for any future or past, were mirrored by the void of the desert around me. I seemed to be on a vertical alignment with nothingness and completion.

In all faith traditions, we are asked to surrender, but I think that must be impossible to do because we always have an agenda at some level. But, as I began to sit down, I got surrendered—was surrendered. Time simply stopped. There I was, sitting in what can only be described as sat (Infinite Luminous Being), chit (Pure Consciousness), ananda (Absolute Bliss). What we are living in is Divine Beauty. It is actually true, God is love. In an utter reverence and a joy that I had never known, my hardened heart began to melt from relief—I could finally See. Tears of relief completely wet my blue sweatshirt as the waves of myself subsided into the Sea of my Self. Although I had a body, it seemed cool and I couldn’t really feel it. Somehow, through my eyes, I could see an unearthly glory about me- nature’s unveiled paradisal archetypes were shining through. But, what was really going on was that that part within my heart that participates in God was recognizing Itself. Somehow, Itself was recognizing Itself. There was/is no time, there was/is no duality—no past or future, no male or female, no birth or even death, no Islam or Buddhism. There was/is nothing but Divine Reality—there is nothing but God. La ilaha ila Lah. That’s all there is. And, that’s all I want. It’s everything and yet no thing. The Eternal Now: I belong here forever. I am from here- it is the true me- even if I forget it.

“Only Thou, oh Best of Helpers, canst transform the eye
that sees non-existent things into one that sees the Existent!”
(Mathnavi VI 825)

And what is the vehicle that can transport us to this Glorious Other Shore? Perhaps something like this state of being that I was blessedly shown. It exists in the place of “no thinking”- where opposites meet, between good and bad. This state of utter happiness and inherent transcendence of our temporal “selves” is always there and we just have to remember to be in touch with It, to recall that who we really are is absolute reverence, serenity, beauty, humility, and awe. It would seem that access is had through stillness, slowness, and reverence; the Buddha Smile.

As the afternoon faded, the tear-damp shirt made my body feel chilled. I slowly rose to return to the hut. I walked in almost slow motion and thought to myself, “So this is what has been called the Holy Grail, the Golden Fleece, the Plant of Life, and so on. In the myths, when the hero goes out to attain the magic plant, he often loses it before reaching home.” I wondered whether, if I lived, I would abuse and lose this greatest of graces, this taste, of Divine Unity. That night, in the hut, I dreamt of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who, for me, embodies qualities Mercy and Compassion. In the dream, I opened the door of my home, my heart, in Kentucky and there he was on the front steps. Behind him were eight earth-colored, log-like bundles and I thought to myself, “He must be bringing me the Eightfold Path.” He came in through the door and, standing a couple of feet away, facing me, appeared to condense into a Cheops-shaped pyramid, which penetrated my heart. At the same moment, I felt an energy descending through my fontanel and coming up through my feet. When I awoke in the morning, my heart no longer hurt but I could no longer speak or even move except extremely slowly. I concluded that a real person moves slowly and is mostly silent—my exact opposite.

“Silence! Silence! For the allusions of love are reversed;
the meanings become hidden from much speaking.”
(Diwan 12073)

A little later in the morning, some of the wedding guests came to check on me and to invite me along to a special lunch and shower for the bride. People were very surprised how slowly I moved and how luminous I appeared in my silence. At the end of the week, I returned to Kentucky and went to the heart doctor who put all kinds of special belts with sensors, which were heart-sensitive on me. I had been asked to give a lecture in Tehran, at a congress on world spiritual art, so I slowly began to write my paper as I sat looking out the windows at the golden autumnal leaves floating Taoistically down to the ground. They didn’t just fall. And, I hoped that my own death would be so gentle and graceful and golden.

“Make a journey from self to self, oh friend, for by such a journey
the earth becomes a mine of gold.”
(Diwan 12117)

In Iran, everyone kindly looked out for me, and it was there in Tehran that this lesson from God concluded. Martin Lings was speaking about Shakespeare at this congress, and I asked if I could have time to speak with him. I told him about my experience in the desert and added, “I didn’t deserve it.” He looked at me and said, “Do any of us deserve our blessings? No. Do any of us deserve our trials? No. They only appear to be different, but in fact it is simply God adjusting us to His Divine Self. There is no duality.”

“Where should we seek peace? In abandoning peace.”
(Mathnavi VI 823)

In the end, as with the paralysis some years before, my illness turned out to be spiritual rather than physical. The Dalai Lama once said that, for the most part, disease is dis-ease. It is a stress which comes from our being at odds with our true selves. The holier a person, the healthier.

“Give up to Grace
The ocean takes care of each wave.
Until it gets to shore.”

“I am filled with you.
Skin, blood, bone, brain, and soul.
There’s no room for lack of trust, or trust.
Nothing in this existence but that existence.”

And so, I have come to see, life is a gradual demonstration for us all that these eternal verities Rumi describes are true and realizable. Eternity is not in time, but now and it follows that this indivisible Now is man’s ever present opportunity. Rumi asks us to unlock the holy in everyday life- to step back and watch this moment we are in and know this bliss.

Oh, lovers, go out from the attributes of selfhood!
Obliterate yourselves in the vision of the Living
God’s Beauty.”
(Diwan 7850)

No one will find his way to the Court of Magnificence
until he is annihilated.”
(Mathnavi 232)

You are your own shadow
Become annihilated in the rays of the sun!
How long will you look at your own shadow?
Look also at His Light!
(Diwan 20395)

(With gratitude for William C. Chittick’s “The Sufi Path of Love” (Suny, 1983) and “Me & Rumi” (Fons Vitae, 2004)

Hope to move…

This past month has been absolutely treacherous in terms of my health; a scare about a damaged liver, not being able to eat food, and something strange happening neuro-chemically that amounted to night-terrors, severe panic attacks to the point I couldn’t be left alone – apparently due to my liver not detoxifying sufficiently –  and of course, pain.

Now, in the midst of this, I receive a letter. I had more or less forgotten about sending a thank-you note to an ER doctor last year who kept an eye on me as I was struggling to breathe due to pain, and I not long ago received his reply. I truly don’t feel I wield any kind of power as such, nor the ability to transform a life. But, in this state of profound difficulty as I’ve been panicking over worse news, or contemplating my mortality, I receive a response from that kind doctor. He wasn’t able to do much for me that day, but he patiently listened, empathised, and treated me with a profound degree of respect.

If I’ve learnt anything… it’s that if possible, spread a kind word when you can. I didn’t think I’d share this letter, but I think it found me at a time when I needed to read it as much as mine did my doctor. So I transcribe parts of it to serve as an example.

“Dear Imraan,

“Your letter brought tears to my eyes. It reached me at a time that I was losing faith in people and this career.

“You have motivated me to not give up, and that I can make a difference in people’s lives.

“I have never received such a heartfelt message from my patients.

“I was on holiday with my now fiancé when I received your letter, it made it an even more special moment.

“…I do remember you. I hope you’re doing well and I’m sorry for all the difficulties you are going through. Hang in there.

“Thank you Imraan.

“I cannot put into words how much your kind words have impacted me.

“Your message will always stay with me and keep me going.

“Best wishes, “

Subsistence in God

“The final point of the Tarīq (Path) is that you’re own being, and even your Nafs, reminds you more of Allāh than it reminds you of itself. In other words, al-baqā’ billāh (Subsistence through Allāh). You find your true identity. You are not just some human being that lives at such-and-such an address, but you find your true identity as an Aya (sign) of the Ayāt (signs) of Allāh. An ‘aya’ means something that signifies something beyond itself, it ‘tells’ something. What does it tell, what does it direct you too? Allāh.” –

Sh. Nūh Keller.

London Review of Books – Shared Article ‘Ella George: Purges and Paranoia’

I’m reading Ella George: Purges and Paranoia via the London Review of Books app https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n10/contents

Love, not Reason…

It’s love, not reason, which has no reign;

Reason is concerned with interest and gain.

A lover ever gives, not expecting a return.

Like God Who gives freely, for us to learn.

Virtue is to give without any cause;

The Domain of religion, at this point would pause.

Being saved from punishment, or gaining a reward

Is what pulls the masses to religion and the Lord,

But Lovers don’t like to amass and hoard;

Above this plane they’ve risen and soared.

Rūmī (abridged a little; trans. Tawus Raja)

From Liberated Soul: In Memory of Sayyid Hashim Haddad, A Translation of Ruh-i Mujarrad (ICAS Press: London, 2017).

If only this was the ethos with which we pursued our interpersonal relationships; heck, our online discourse, even? Truly splendid jewels from the great master himself.

 

“Borrowed” from Facebook – On Virtue

Jesus said, ‘Devote yourselves to obtaining that which fire cannot burn.’ ‘And what is that?’ asked the disciples. ‘Virtue’ he replied.”
–– Cited in Ghazali, Ihya, from Jesus in the Eyes of the Sufis by Dr. Javid Nurbaksh.

NYTimes: The Boys Are Not All Right

Sometimes I wonder if these gendered roles are there for some evolutionary purpose, or if they have intrinsic psychological imperatives, and that we ought not let French post-structuralists completely decimate them! Here you have someone on the Left talking about the full expression of the masculine gender, and all I can hear in my mind are attacks from more SJW-inclined friends who will scream that he seeks to perpetuate the Patriarchy. In truth, we as men should be able to live in harmony with ourselves, with women generally. But whilst feminism can serve as an inspiration to a discourse on masculinity, the reduction of male-ness to nothing more than a series of power games is perhaps what is most destructive. Their contributions are rendered meaningless especially if they’re straight and white, because their ability to ‘see’ the other side is somehow impaired by aspect blindness. I love Foucault as much as the next guy, but this is nuts.

I think enough is indeed enough. I’m all for a particular brand of feminism that does not reduce our sisters to the sum-total of their sexual organs – but male-ness shouldn’t be so reduced that the male psyche is emptied of its intrinsic nature. We too, can be loving, nurturing, productive, protective. I suspect it’s that latter one with which many of my sisters will have a problem. But else, if testosterone isn’t channeled towards healthier ends, then the psyche is damaged (I suspect) and we will see more carnage in America.

MIB has done us a service. We need more progressive voices speaking out for men, for the sake of their mental-health issues, their self-worth, for the safety of the women around them.

If they might tackle violent films, video-games, pornography and so on at the same time, it might help re-orient the discourse. Jordan Peterson has such sway precisely because he gives the male back his inherent worth – but I can’t follow him purely because I do not believe in his kind individualism except in the moral life. But he has men reading Dostoyevski, Nietzsche and the Bible. That’s something.

Grovelling Sycophants

https://youtu.be/53tqxdYlspg

So, is it just me, or are the grovelling sycophants being…well sycophantic?

Paul Ryan wants to *spend* federal dollars? I’ve never seen something so tragically asinine. What is it with the Republicans that they can’t tell the President to well… go to Hell?

I’m all for an infrastructure bill…. I guess if it costs the congressional Republicans their dignity, then so be it.

NYTimes: My Year of No Shopping

My Year of No Shopping https://nyti.ms/2k1AuLR

Definitely worth a read, as we descend into further materialism still. Sickness and chronic difficulties make this endeavour that much harder – Lord knows how many supplements, health foods and creature comforts I need to make it through the hour, but this (whilst a little superficial) might tap into a religious impulse that society has so-quickly lost, a rage against rampant Capital and value-materialism. Even if it’s not as radical as I’d like! 

“Are Christians Supposed to be Communists?” By David Bentley Hart in the same newspaper 

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/11/04/opinion/sunday/christianity-communism.html 
Perhaps a little more theological, but an intriguing (and perhaps not all-too-controversial) reading of the Gospel

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