Sunday, May 04, 2008


The spirit (ruh) comes by the command of God. As a general rule, most people have very little direct, experiential knowledge of it.

The spirit is said to be the locus of manifestation of love. Indeed, the proper vocation of the spirit is nothing but love.

According to Sufi masters, there is a dimension of the heart which gives expression to love. However, this facet of the heart, when it becomes spiritually active, is consumed with love of human beings, specifically, and all of creation, in general.

There is another level of the heart which gives expression to love for the Divine Presence. The love of the spirit is complementary and supplemental to this kind of love of Divinity.

The spirit is dedicated completely to love of God. However, the spirit's capacity for Divine love, when it becomes perfected, illumines, shapes, colors and moves the love of the heart.

The spirit is described by Sufi masters as having certain qualities. These qualities are: familiarity, forbearance, light, love, life, knowledge and permanence.

The familiarity of the spirit is primordial in character. It is shaped by the experience of "being brought" by God from non-existence into created existence. Furthermore, this aspect of familiarity reverberates with the original covenant of commitment between the spirit and God.

The spirit's quality of forbearance addresses, among other things, the spirit's capacity to refrain from everything except fulfilling the conditions of servanthood. Three spiritual currents run through this quality of forbearance: namely, modesty, tranquility and dignity.

Being modest in all things before God is one of the characteristics of a true servant. Moreover, through servanthood, one derives both essential dignity and tranquility.

A third quality of the spirit involves light. This potential encompasses hearing, speech and vision.

The servant of God hears the call of Divinity and responds in order to serve the will of God. Through speech, the servant of God also is busy with praise, glorification and worship of Divinity. By means of vision, the servant experiences the overwhelming beauty and majesty of Divinity.

Love is another quality of the spirit. The love of the spirit is marked by yearning, seeking and sincerity.

The one in love always yearns for the beloved and is never happy away from the beloved. Restlessness characterizes the one who is separated from the source of all happiness, joy and unity.

Our restlessness in this world is a reflection of the spirit's yearning to be reunited with the beloved. No matter what we do or try, until we are wholly with the Beloved, we always will remain restless.

The one in love constantly is seeking the "object" of love. The individual sees traces and signs of that which is sought after almost everywhere. In fact, the individual keeps mistaking the signs for the reality of which the signs are but a trace.

As a result, the person becomes involved in one "affair" after another with the things of the world. The individual is attracted by things because the seeking spirit catches a reflection of the beloved in those things. The individual "falls in love" with the things, only to discover, in time, those things are not what the spirit is really seeking after all.

The spiritual journey constitutes the search of the spirit. The spirit seeks the only Reality with which the spirit can feel fully satisfied, complete and at peace.

To sustain the spiritual journey, one needs sincerity. Without sincerity, one will never be able to withstand the trials, difficulties and challenges which the One sought has created to test the quality of love of the would-be suitor.

Furthermore, once, God willing, the quest of the spirit has been realized through being reunited with the Beloved, there will be further need of sincerity. The servant proves the sincerity of his or her love by fulfilling the request made by the Beloved.

From the spirit's quality of life comes a variety of capacities or potentials. These include not only intelligence but, as well, a whole spectrum of different modes of perception.

When these potentials are perfected, they become tools through which the individual serves God. Moreover, these qualities of intelligence and perception become so many different modalities for experiencing, as well as giving expression to, love of God.

The spirit's capacity for knowledge entails two themes. One theme involves cognition. The other aspect concerns will.

The cognition referred to here is not a reference to brain functioning which is the usual sense of this term. The cognition of the spirit is a matter of the spirit's ability, when perfected, to understand through love of Divinity.

Love has its own unique way of knowing and understanding. When the individual comes to realize experientially, through the spirit, the infinite breadth, depth and richness of God's love, everything in the life of the individual becomes infused with, and illuminated by, such love. Knowledge and understanding both see through the eyes of Divine love.

Love is not passive, it is active and dynamic. That which is known and understood through the vision of Divine love is acted upon. Consequently, the quality of will entailed by the knowledge of the spirit, seeks, with God's permission, to put understanding into action in the service and worship of Divinity.

Finally, the spirit's quality of permanence encompasses dimensions of steadfastness and persistence. Each of these dimensions colors permanence in a different manner.

To be steadfast, is to be constant in one's love for, service to, and worship of God. The perfected spirit is a perpetual motion "machine" which generates a constant reflection of Divine love.

Sufi masters radiate, and glow with, this quality of steadfastness. It permeates every aspect of their being.

In addition, the quality of permanence contains the potential for persistence. Long after all traces of the body and the world have disappeared from the Face of existence, the spirit will persist in its journey from God, to God through God, by God and with God.

When we come into this world, the potentials of the spirit's capacity are unrealized for the most part. They need to be perfected.

When one steps onto the mystical path, one begins the journey toward, among other things, the perfection of the spirit. There are various stages to this journey.

Different Sufi masters describe these stages in different ways. The central themes of these descriptions, however, are essentially the same. One way of providing an overview of the stages of the journey toward perfection of the spirit is as follows.

The journey can be construed in terms of nine themes. These are: compatibility, inclination, fellowship, passion, friendship, exclusive friendship, ardent affection, enslavement and bewilderment.

Before one decides to undertake a journey with someone, one wants to have a sense of how compatible the companion is with whom one is contemplating taking the journey. Although the ultimate companion for the journey is really Divinity, one tries to evaluate compatibility through Divinity's surrogate for the journey - namely, the shaykh.

If one feels comfortable with the degree of perceived compatibility between oneself and the spiritual guide, one begins to think about departure. However, before one really gets under way, there are some unresolved matters which need to be addressed.

To begin with, one soon discovers there are some adjustments in one's thinking about, and attitudes toward, the issue of compatibility which are necessary. Most importantly, if one is fortunate, one begins to realize one must learn how to be compatible with the shaykh.

The spiritual guide is an experienced traveler. One has never been on this journey before. If one wants to reach the destination of one's journey, one had best start following the advice and counsel of the spiritual guide. This is true compatibility.

One travels beyond compatibility through inclination. To be inclined to the shaykh, and, therefore, God, is to become inclined to the way of life of the shaykh.

Over time, and if God wishes, one becomes inclined to the beliefs, values, actions, goals, and qualities of the shaykh.

Once inclination has become established, a bond of fellowship arises in relation to the shaykh. One begins to enjoy traveling with the spiritual guide. One accepts the ups and downs of the journey and is happy to be going through all of this with the shaykh as one's guide and companion of the way.

Out of the bond of fellowship, arises passion. One cannot bear to think of traveling without the shaykh. One would feel lost and adrift. Consequently, one holds tightly, passionately, to the hand of one's spiritual guide.

Friendship is given birth through passion. One keeps nothing from the friend. Nothing is hidden from the friend.

One finds comfort, contentment and peace through the friend. One confides in one friend with respect to all one's doubts, worries, concerns and difficulties. And, the friend helps one in, and with, everything.

Exclusive friendship follows upon friendship. One really has no thoughts, interests or aspirations which are not centered around the friend. Meaning, purpose, value and significance rise and set with the presence of the friend.

One has been falling in love with the shaykh since the days of compatibility, but in the stage of ardent affection one begins to feel the stirring of a deep, intense, abiding affection for the shaykh. One fears doing anything which would displease the spiritual guide.

In the stage of ardent affection, even on the most storm filled days, the sun shines brilliantly and warmly when the shaykh is pleased with one. On the other hand, even on the sunniest of days, the air is heavy with darkness and sadness when one feels the shaykh is displeased with one's efforts or demeanor on the path.

At the far edge of the stage of ardent affection, one trips over enslavement, and falls deeply, completely, desperately in love. In this condition, one gladly would sacrifice whatever one has, or is, for the shaykh.

When enslaved by love, one's life has no meaning or value except in the context of one's love for the shaykh. All one's joy, happiness, and fulfillment are derived from being engaged in loving service to, and for, the shaykh.

Bewilderment is the next stop on the journey after enslavement. So many different manifestations of the wonder, majesty and beauty of love are disclosed in this condition that one becomes overwhelmed.

One both understands and does not understand at the same time. In short, one is bewitched, bothered and bewildered - in a spiritual sense, of course.

All through the foregoing journey, there is a growing realization within the individual. This growing realization manifests itself in a different way with each new stage.

The nature of the realization is this. One's companion on the journey is far more complex than one originally imagined to be the case.

The shaykh is, on the one hand, a unique manifestation of all of the shaykhs who have preceded the spiritual guide on the mystical path. Furthermore, the shaykh is a unique, reflected manifestation of the entire Prophetic tradition.

On the other hand, the wayfarer realizes more and more that underwriting all of these manifestations is none other than Divinity. God is teaching, helping, supporting, protecting, guiding, nurturing, and transforming the individual through the agencies of manifestation we recognize as the shaykh, the saints, and the Prophets.

When these realizations come to their full fruition with the completion of the aforementioned journey of love, the spirit, with all its previously discussed qualities, will become perfected. Thereafter, everything which is: done, seen, heard, willed, experienced, perceived, spoken, known, understood, sought, and yearned for, will be in terms of, and an expression of, Divine love. Such love will be the modest, dignified, tranquil, steadfast, persistent love of the servant of God.

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