Monday, October 31, 2005

Early Snow Descends on Mount Katahdin

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While studying spiritually luminous individuals of the past can be an important source of guidance, inspiration, encouragement, strength, support, and ‘food’ for reflection, such exploration will never show how "exemplary Muslims achieved the goal of life." This is so for a number of reasons.

In ibn al-Husayn al-Sulami’s Book of Futuwwah one finds the following puzzle. "What meeting takes place but is never observed, and what departure is observed but never takes place?" The answer which emerges, shortly thereafter, revolves around the ‘meeting and departure of those who are spiritually in love’.

To look only at outward behavior or only at acts which can be observed as the cause or explanation for how one achieves ‘the goal of human life’, is like assuming the tip of an iceberg is the whole story and that the surface of things is more substantial than that which remains concealed. We cannot see the intentionality, sincerity, love, longing, taqwa, certainty, kashf (unveiling), or states and stations, of another human being, and, yet, within these realms is where the purpose of life is actually pursued, and, if God wishes, realized.

To be sure, some of the spiritual intensity, depth, richness, subtlety, breadth, and luminosity of these inner realms do, often, but not always, manifest themselves in the behavior and actions of a friend of God. However, these behaviors or actions are the result of, rather than the cause of, having achieved the purpose of life.

Hazrat Junayd (may Allah be pleased with him), who is one of the great lights of the Sufi Path, once said that ‘The enlightened individual is one who refuses to place trust in three things: (a) knowledge; (b) action; and (c) seclusion.’ As long as one places one’s trust in such things, then, the individual’s understanding of the true Source of realization is defective.

The foregoing does not mean one should not seek spiritual knowledge, or that one should not seek to perform good deeds, or that one should not undertake whatever Sufi practices one may be given by the shaykh. What it means is that those who place their trust in other than Divinity are sowing the seeds of shirk (polytheism) and kufr (unbelief).

Knowledge, per se, will not spiritually transform us, nor will action, in and of itself, spiritually transform us, nor will Sufi practices, such as going into seclusion, necessarily transform us in any spiritually essential way. The key to the beginnings of spiritual transformation is the love which arises through the nisbath or inner relationship which links the ‘Seeker’ with the ‘Sought’.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said: "True faith is realized when I and Allah become dearest to you." On another occasion, the Prophet is reported to have said: "None of you can have perfect faith till I become dearer to you than your father, children, and all humankind."

The road to faith travels through the domain of love. In fact, contrary to the claimd by some authors which indicate that Sufis study the lives of the saints in order to see how the purpose of life is achieved through "extraordinary human qualities", if one approaches the hagiographies of the friends of God in an appropriate manner, one does not so much see how the purpose of life is achieved, as much as the individual is introduced to one of the most fundamental venues of spiritual transformation on the Sufi Path - namely, one begins to fall in love with the lovers of God, and if this seedling of love is nurtured through the presence of nisbath with an authentic shaykh, then, the seeker begins, God willing, to make progress toward realizing the purpose of life.

Hagiography, which focuses on the lives of saints, is not necessarily preoccupied with describing the extraordinary human qualities of those who achieve nearness to God. For instance, there have been many who achieve nearness to God whose lives are known to few and about whom nothing has been written.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said: ‘God loves best those servants who are pious and hidden. When they are away no one misses them, and when they are present, they are ignored. These are the imams of good guidance and the torches of Knowledge.’

In another Hadith, the Prophet is reported to have said:‘There are those, with unkempt hair, whose possessions amount to no more than a couple of dates, whom no one wants to look at, but whom may, if such individuals appeal, in supplication, to God, have their prayers answered.’

Finally, God, through several Hadith Qudsi, is reported to have said, via the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): (1) "The most enviable of My awliya close to Me is a believer whose possessions are few, whose joy is prayer, who accomplishes the service of one’s Lord to perfection and obeys God in secret. This person is obscure among human beings, and no one points to this person." (2) My saints are beneath My canopies. None knows them but Me."

Consequently, hagiography actually only deals with a very limited sample drawn from a much larger population of saints. In fact, as the foregoing Hadiths indicate, the people who become known may even be of a lesser spiritual stature than those with respect to which no hagiographies were ever written.

Furthermore, hagiographies do not just consist of a litany of "extraordinary human qualities". Such works are biographies whose special focus happens to be upon saints of one sort or another.

A hagiography often involves material about parents and their spiritual qualities, as well as the nature and character of the early years of a given saint, along with information about education, formative events, cultural milieu, important teachers, travels, and so on. In addition, a hagiography often includes material on, and excerpts from, various facets of the individual’‘s writings, teachings, sayings, aphorisms, poetry, and whatever else seems of value or importance in relation to the life being explored.

In short, hagiography tends to revolve about much more than just describing the extraordinary human qualities of those who achieve nearness to God. If a hagiography were just about ‘extraordinary human qualities’, if it were just an account of a remarkable woman or man, then, other than our being amazed with the fact that people of such spiritual caliber have existed at some point in the past - recent or distant - the lives of the saints would have little relevance to us as individuals.

Hagiography explores human potential. It discusses the problems, difficulties, questions, struggles, issues, opportunities, setbacks, and possibilities of life which resonate with many of those who read these books.

Hagiography informs, instructs, inspires, cautions, entertains, and invites with respect to the realm of spirituality. Hagiography induces a reader to reflect upon his or her own life and helps incline one to want to be a better person.

However, most of all, hagiography is a love story. It is a story about an individual’s love for truth, as well as for those who are purveyors and distributors of that truth.

It is a story about the individual’s love for his or her shaykh(s), and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and Allah, and for the spiritual potential which God has placed in the individual. It is a story about the individual’s love for learning about, and realizing, the purpose of Creation.

The extraordinary thing is that the subjects of many, if not most, hagiographies do not consider themselves to be extraordinary in any way, or to possess extraordinary human qualities. They would credit Divinity for all the extraordinary aspects of their lives, or they would give credit for the loving, compassionate, generous, kind guidance, encouragement, and support of their own teachers and spiritual guides.

They tend to look at themselves as ordinary human beings for whom, by the Grace of God, extraordinary things have happened. And, the underlying message is that what has happened in relation to them can, in ways which are unique to each individual, happen to any one of us ... if we are willing to open ourselves up to the extraordinary dimensions of Being which both surround us, and are within us.

Finally, although some authors contend that hagiography was the typical genre of the Sufis, what this claim is based upon is not only unstated but well may be untrue. Al-Hujwiri’s Kashf Al-Mahjub, or al-Ghazali’s Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din, or Farid ud-din Attar’s Parliament of the Birds, or Shaykh MuhyidDeen Abdul-Qadir Jilani’s Al-Fathu Rabbani, or Rumi’s Mathnawi and Discourses, or ibn al-‘Arabi’s Bezels of Wisdom and Meccan Openings, or Abu Bakr al-Kalabahdi’s The Doctrine of the Sufis, or ibn al-Husayn al-Sulami’s Futuwwah, or Hazrat Maneri’s Hundred Letters, or Matin Lings’s Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century, along with hundreds, if not thousands, of other Sufi works are not primarily hagiographies, although they all may contain material on the extraordinary qualities of this or that Sufi saint.

Instead, these works are books of instructions concerning the nature, purpose, methods, adab, states, stations, origins, and problems of the Sufi Path. Extracts from the lives of various saints may have been used for illustrative purposes, and as instructional reminders, during the elaboration upon this or that point/principle/issue, but so were Quranic commentaries, Hadiths, poetry, stories, discourse, history, and personal experience used for these same ends.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

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The difference between muslim history and Islamic history

While Sufis may have little interest in Muslim history, they have an abiding interest in Islamic history. Muslim history concerns the events which transpire in relation to what Muslims do and/or what is done to them, and, unfortunately, this, all too frequently, has very little to do with Islam. Islamic history, on the other hand, focuses on the descent of Divine revelation, on the lives and teachings of the Prophets, on the lives and teachings of the close Companions of the Prophets, and on the lives and teachings of all the other friends of God.

Islamic history is about the sacred journey of individuals whose destination is the realization of essential identity and unique spiritual capacity as expressions of God’s Divine Plan underlying and permeating the purpose for which Creation was originally brought forth. Islamic history is about the potential, and realization of, fitra or primordial spiritual capacity - first of all in the Prophets, Companions and Saints, and, then, in all those who sincerely pursue Deen toward that same end.

Islamic history is not about culture, language, race, ethnicity, oil, politics, terrorism, social intrigues, economics, revolution, art, the destruction of Israel, architecture, fashion, careers, institutions, empires, ambition, exploitation, natural resources, technology, and the like. In fact, people who suppose that the foregoing elements are part of Islamic history, are not only confusing Muslim history with the former, but fail to understand, or appreciate, why the distinction is, unfortunately, necessary.

Islamic history is about God and God’s relationship with the purpose of Creation. Muslim history is about Muslims and their relationship with themselves and others, and, as such, may be quite apart from, if not in conflict with, the spiritual potential which God placed in humankind. Muslim history is not primarily concerned with what God wants but with what Muslims want - although all too many Muslims conflate and confuse the latter with the former.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Religion, Deen, Authenticity, Experience . . .

Let us begin with the word "religious." There are a number of ways in which this word can be understood.

For example, in one sense, the ‘religious’ concerns any belief system which, on the one hand, reflects upon the meaning of existence vis-a-vis human beings, as well as in conjunction with the rest of the universe, and, then, on the other hand, speaks about the nature of the link between the parties of the first part with ‘Reality’ in some absolute sense of this latter referent. Often, a word such as "God" or "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" or "Allah" (or many other possibilities) is used to name this Reality, but such a word is not absolutely necessary as long as there is an understanding that there is some essential or fundamental Ground which not only underwrites the existence of the universe and the inhabitants of that universe but which has some sort of relationship with the universe that has been established - a relationship which stands in need of critical explication either through philosophical, scientific, psychological, sociological, anthropological, and/or theological disciplines.

There is, yet, another sense of the ‘religious’, however, which, initially at least, is not primarily about belief systems per se. Instead, paramount importance is placed on the role which phenomenology or the experiential has in revealing various levels of non-conceptually mediated connectedness between the physically observable universe and the whole of Reality.

In this latter approach to the religious, the rational mind plays, at best, a secondary and after-the-fact role. In fact, within the perspective of this second broad approach to the ‘religious’, the rational mind needs to be transformed and brought into harmonious alignment with much more essential faculties of knowing and understanding.

In this latter approach to the ‘religious’, there may be post-experiential attempts to gauge the meaning, purpose, value, or significance of some given aspect of phenomenology which appears to have trans-rational, non-ordinary, and essentially transformational currents running through such an experiential field, but these attempts at reconstruction are derivative and not always to be trusted as being accurately reflective of what actually is going on in the realm of phenomenology.

Both of the previous senses of the ‘religious’ are from the human side of things. In other words, whether one approaches the ‘religious’ primarily in terms of a "belief system" or in terms of phenomenological encounters with the ‘Real’, or some combination of these two modalities of engagement, we are talking about what human beings are thinking or experiencing about their link with Being considered as some sort of whole, all inclusive, totality of possibility.

There is a third sense of the ‘religious’ which is not human-centered but Real-centered. In this sense of the ‘religious’, how human beings think about, or feel toward, or believe in, or interpret, or experientially engage existence takes a back seat to the way things actually are, and the task becomes a matter of realizing, according to capacity, the truth of ‘what is’.

In Islam generally, and the Sufi Path, in particular, this process of Real-centered, staged, realization is known as "Deen". Deen is the process of discovering the essential nature of our being, and the term which is used in relation to this essential nature is "fitra".

Deen is not ‘religious’ in either of the first two senses of this latter term. That is, Deen is not a belief system, nor is it something which places primary emphasis on experiences or phenomenology of a certain kind. Deen is a process of taking or guiding one back to, and bringing to fruition, original, essential nature.

Systems of belief may spring up in relation to Deen, and, as well, there may be certain kinds of non-ordinary, trans-rational phenomenology which are experienced while engaged in the ‘way of deen’, but neither of these is synonymous with Deen, nor can ‘Deen’ be reduced down to being functions of either, or both, of these senses of the ‘religious’, or some combination thereof.

"Religion" and "religious" are man-made words serving human purposes - sometimes doing so in a useful fashion and sometimes doing so in a problematic fashion. Both of these words carry a great deal of conceptual, emotional, and historical baggage, and, as a result, this tends to interfere with coming to understand the nature of either ‘Deen’ or ‘fitra’ from the perspective of the ‘Real’.

Consequently, to try to equate Sufism with "authentic religious experience" may not put us as much on the ‘right’ track as some authors might suppose. At the very least, the notion of the ‘religious’ needs to be properly qualified along the lines suggested above.

Now, lets take a look at the word "authentic." a phrase the certain authors offer as something which may be synonymous with the meaning of "Sufism". To begin with, "authentic" is a term which implies there is a standard or set of standards through which the character of something can be judged as being "authentic" ... as opposed to being ‘inauthentic’.

There are several ways to approach this question of standards. For instance, one could set forth some set of criteria that is to be used in differentiating the authentic from the inauthentic, and this would require, in turn, a discussion of why one set of criteria was selected rather than some other such set.

Another possibility is to begin with the contention that every experience is "authentic". In other words, in as much as experiences are lived by someone, they are, in some sense, links to what is, or part of what is, or expressions of what is, and, consequently, all experiences constitute potential clues in any given individual’s attempt to try to understand what the significance or meaning of such experience is.

This way of looking at things assumes that irrespective of what one takes to be the ultimate nature of life or truth or reality, nevertheless, all experience - no matter how trivial or exalted, no matter how sordid or noble - has value because all experiences generate data which can be used for reflection, inquiry, exploration, critical analysis, and so on, concerning the nature of existence. This shifts the focus away from the issue of "authenticity" and, instead, directs attention toward the challenge of trying to uncover the meaning and/or purpose and/or significance of our experience - whatever that experience may be.

All experience has the capacity to teach. The question, then, becomes whether, or not, we will learn what experience has to tell us about ourselves and the universe in which we rooted.

Earthly existence is constrained by two outer boundary markers - birth and death. In between these two boundary markers is a journey of experience which, according to the Sufi masters, will either take one toward realizing what is at the heart of this journey, or will lead one away from this sort of realization.

In this context, guidance becomes a matter of assisting an individual to work toward developing a sense of discernment concerning experience and, therefore, how to evaluate this experiential realm in terms both of what will bring one closer to the aforementioned realization as well as what will generate problems, confusion, obstacles, and so on with respect to the issue of realization. All experience is authentic, and all experience is valuable, but one needs to be able to evaluate experience in terms of its ability to assist or hinder essential realization concerning the journey of life.

Sufi shaykhs work with a person wherever that individual may be within her or his journey of experience. They don’t tell the person that such-and-such an experience is authentic or inauthentic - rather, they say that all of the individuals experiences are authentic, and, then, proceed to help the individual understand just what they are authentic expressions of ... the lower self, the body, the world, the spirit, satanic suggestion, the heart, this condition, that stage, this state, that problem, and so on.

The Sufi path is a very long journey. If one had to wait just for the possible experiences of essential realization before labeling something "authentic", then, seemingly, most people who step onto the Sufi Path would, for the most part, be immersed in a process which is deemed to be overwhelmingly inauthentic (a rather depressing thought, to say the least) and, therefore, of questionable value. Yet, what makes all of the experiences of this journey valuable is the role they play in pointing out the direction to travel if one hopes to attain realization concerning the significance of the journey as a whole.

This brings us to the third facet of the phrase "authentic religious experience" - namely, "experience" - which certain authors advance as a possibly synonymous expression for "Sufism", or, at least, an equation that may help get us started on the right track. And, in view of the stress given above to the idea that all experience has authenticity, one might suppose it is correct to suggest that the Sufi Path is about "authentic religious experience". However, such is not the case.

Since, as pointed out previously, all experience has a quality of authenticity, to contend that the Sufi Path focuses on ‘authentic religious experience’ doesn’t get one very far. In fact, as important as experience is, what is more important is the character or condition of the ‘channels’ through which experience flows.

Experience is not an end in itself but is a means to an end. The end is to return to the potential of one’s Origins and realize that potential so that experience serves, and gives expression to, the purpose for which the potential exists.

The nature of experience is colored, shaped, and oriented by many factors. Physical condition, emotional states, motivational forces, conceptual biases, beliefs, values, spiritual commitments (or lack thereof), and so on, all modulate the character of experience.

Therefore, one can distinguish between, on the one hand, experience and, on the other hand, the faculties or forces or factors which modulate experience. We learn from experience when there is some sort of alteration in the process which modulates experience and, as a result, permits experience to be understood in a different way than previously had been the case.

Experience is valuable because of the implications, hints, clues, and so on, it carries with respect to our capacities to modulate experience. Experience is valuable because of the way it tends to lead to reflection concerning the factors which color, shape, and orient experience.

To be sure, reflection and thought, for example, have experiential components. However, the capacity for thought, reflection, and awareness (or emotion, or motivation, or sensation, or spirituality) are not experiences, per se, but the generators, modulators and processors of experience.

The quality or character of experience won’t change until different dimensions of these capacities alter the manner in which experience is processed and/or understood. The emphasis here is not on experience, per se, but on the processes surrounding experience and out of which experience arises.

If one wishes to change the quality or character of experience, one must, first, change one’s modality of engaging such experience. The Sufi Path uses experience as a tool with which to probe that which surrounds experience and, thereby, shapes, colors, orients and qualifies experience.

The Sufi Path is not about producing certain kinds of experiences. Instead, it is a way of helping an individual to tap into different dimensions of the very faculties and capacities through which experience is processed.

Whatever experiences may come, the Sufi emphasis is on processing or engaging or understanding those experiences in a manner which is an increasing function of the fully realized essential nature or ‘fitra’ of the individual. Experiences will look after themselves if only we will look after that which modulates and processes them.

‘Deen’ is the exploratory journey of transformation of the channel-ways through which experience flows. Experience in the absence of such transformation will always remain authentic, but one may never come to understand the significance, nature, and purpose of such experience since one needs a transformed ‘self’ to appreciate that experiential authenticity is a spectrum of possibilities pointing beyond the horizons of experience, per se, back to the Ground out of which all experience arises.

In truth, the "animating spirit of the Islamic tradition" speaks for itself, and all authorized Sufi teachers know this. "Wherever this spirit flourishes" Muslims are alive to their own spiritual possibilities, and to the extent Muslims fall away from this spirit, Muslims and Muslim civilization (not Islam) become "desiccated and sterile", if they survive at all.

Deen, which is the animating spirit of Islam, is God given. It can never become desiccated and sterile.

Failure is entirely on the human side of things. Muslims fail in their pursuit of, and commitment to ‘Deen’.

The latter is incapable of bringing about the failure of anyone who is sincerely committed to its principles and methodology. Indeed, the One Who has established ‘Deen’ as a means of realizing the truth about human nature, has an inherent predisposition to be inclined to, and responsive toward, expressions of sincerity in the pursuit of Deen.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

An Essay from Streams to the Ocean

Many of us want to blaze our own path in life. We are inclined to explore where, when and what we wish. We believe we should think for ourselves.

We assume responsibility for analyzing events according to our methodology and interests. We feel a need to draw our own independent conclusions.

Many of us are predisposed to suppose that purpose, meaning, value, and significance should all be discovered or invented or created by us. This is our way of marking territory, clearing paths, and fashioning a philosophical homestead in the wilderness of raw experience.

This kind of rugged individualism is alright up to a point. However, it cannot take the place of spiritual guidance.

The spiritual wheel has already been invented. There is not only no need to reinvent it, this wheel cannot be generated through human effort irrespective of how intelligent or talented or resourceful we may be.

There is a strong tendency among many people to act as if spirituality can be pieced together into its original wholeness by a perspicacious bit of consumerism. For example, we read books on mysticism and select that which seems to be most useful and important, as if we were going through a bargain bin and could distinguish value from trash.

We go to talks on spirituality or watch television programmes on this subject. Along the way, we take in a valued clue here and an interesting possibility there. As a result, we begin to paint a picture of the mystical path.

We proceed like we were accomplished artists who knew all about: spiritual perspective; or, how to make our own mystical pigments from scratch; or, what colors were necessary to give balance and cohesion to the painting. We seem to believe composition and subject matter merely involve letting our imaginations speak their creative truths for all to admire.

We become eclectic in our selections. We seem to believe if one mystical tradition is good, weaving together elements from six or seven traditions has got to be even better.

We are oblivious to the fact that different spiritual traditions are the way they are for a reason. They have a history. They have a context. They often have specific target audiences in mind. They emerged for a purpose, and they may have declined or disappeared for a purpose.

Many of us seem to behave as if we were mystical cardiac specialists working in the emergency room of modernity. We encounter a spiritual tradition which is ancient and, apparently, barely alive, and we believe we have the capacity to resuscitate the nearly moribund patient through sheer skill and will on our part. As a result, we often make the patient suffer through our arrogance and pride.

Some of us tend to be true progeny of our technological age. We have come to the conclusion spiritual traditions of the past need to be up-dated and proceed to do this according to fashion and fancy.

We throw out parts which seem to have no relevance to modern sensitivities. We tack on features which appear to render the tradition consonant with modern knowledge and understanding.

We believe we are pushing back the frontiers of spiritual wisdom. Little do we suspect how right we are.

We have become the sorcerer's apprentice, wreaking havoc and destruction with each new incantation and wave of the wand. In the master's absence, we have got in over our head and have no idea how to stem the tide of rising, turbulent waters.

The practitioners of the Sufi path stipulate very clearly that guidance can only come from God. Guidance is not within the purview of human beings.

Prophets, saints, guides, as well as our own hearts and minds are not the primary source of guidance. God is.

The spiritual personalities who have a guiding function do so much in the way that water is released when sluice gates are raised. As such, the human role in guidance becomes a matter of the structural intricacies of the gating process through which water is channeled and regulated. The modality of release obviously has significance and importance, but the water for which the gate was constructed comes from God, as does the design for, and operation of, that gate.

Shaykhs are the living exemplars who give expression to spiritual guidance which comes from God. In a sense they are mediums of communication in which the noise to signal ratio has become vanishingly small. At the same time, the signal to noise ratio has become almost pure, if not pure, signal.

Spiritual guides have different multi-channel capacities for handling various dimensions of the Divine signal(s) which come for the benefit of human beings. Nonetheless, whatever spiritual signals come through a particular spiritual capacity, is undistorted, clear and pure.

Indeed, a very important part of the guidance which comes through spiritual teachers is to show us how to eliminate the number one source of noise interfering with our hearing Divine communication - namely, the ego. Spiritual guides are valuable resources in this respect because they show what the potential of human beings is when the noise of the ego is removed and only the pure signal of Divinity remains.

From the perspective of Sufi masters, anyone who supposes he or she can storm the bastions of spirituality through her or his own cleverness and talent will be repulsed. Such forays are the work of the ego and are always doomed to failure.

We cannot find truth or understand truth unless God wishes us to do so. We are powerless and defenseless without Divine assistance and support. One of the essential forms of such assistance and support is spiritual guidance.

There are many commodities in society which, because of their value and significance, become the focus of counterfeit operations. Currency, paintings, stamps, sculpture, historical artifacts, and jewels are just a few of the items which some people seek to imitate for their personal gain.

Similarly, spiritual guidance is now, and has been in the past, subject to counterfeit attempts. This is as true for the Sufi mystical path as it has been for other mystical traditions.

Due to the inestimable value and significance which authentic spiritual guidance has for human beings, there always have been those who were interested in exploiting the situation and trying to pass off the false for the real. The people who did this stood to gain money, fame, influence, power and status.

The existence of counterfeit "spirituality" poses a considerable problem for would be seekers. To seek means one has not yet found what one is seeking. Moreover, the seeker after the mystical path may have only a vague idea of that for which one is looking.

In a very real sense, one only will know precisely what one is looking for after one has arrived at one's spiritual destination. Since the seeker has not arrived, the seeker is not in any position to differentiate counterfeit spirituality from the genuine article. This places one at a distinct disadvantage if, and when, one encounters spiritual con artists.

Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) seems as good a maxim as any to keep in mind at this point. Although practitioners of the Sufi path have indicated no one can be his or her own mystical guide, nevertheless, this does not mean one has to become brain dead.

God has given us reason, logic, judgement, common sense, and reflection as tools to use to help us sort through certain kinds of information and experience. God also has provided us with a heart with which to listen for, and detect, spiritual resonances.

If we weigh matters carefully, if we are sincere in our intentions, if we try to listen to our innermost being, if we seek Divine guidance on the matter, then, God willing, we will be far less likely to be fooled, than if we merely rushed headlong into something in a rather naive, unreflective, imprudent manner.

One's spiritual well-being (as well as one's emotional, mental, physical and financial well-being) may be on the line. Therefore, one ought to have, and give, some care and consideration for that which potentially is being placed at risk.

Unfortunately, on the human side of the equation, there are no guarantees for arriving at correct decisions. Only God can make guarantees stand up. Indeed, this is precisely why finding a legitimate way to place our affairs in the care of Divine guidance becomes so crucial and vital.