Friday, May 11, 2012

There are two kinds of unveiling (kashf) which occur on the Sufi path. One of these is potentially detrimental to the mystical wayfarer. The other can be a source of great blessings for, and help to, the individual.

The first mode of kashf or unveiling concerns the nature and events of the world. The second form of unveiling gives expression to spiritual realities which transcend the realm of the world.

When, by God's command, an individual is provided with a method for: accessing foreknowledge of worldly events; or, being a witness to events going on elsewhere in the world, without leaving one's residence and without any modern technological assistance; or, becoming privy to the details of the past, present and future of whomever one likes, then such a mystical wayfarer is confronted with a very substantial trial and risk.

There are two options for dealing with this situation. The individual can use her or his discretion for determining whether or not to utilize the abilities which God has made available. The person can wait for instructions from Divinity concerning the use of those abilities.

Whenever the mystical wayfarer uses his or her discretion with respect to whether or not to access hidden knowledge concerning the world, two contingencies come into play. First, this individual will have to answer to God on the Day of Judgement for each and every discretionary use of worldly kashf. Secondly, every time one makes discretionary use of worldly kashf, one runs a risk that one's spiritual progress will come to a standstill.

An individual may believe she or he is using worldly kashf only to help others. This may or may not be so. However, one thing is certain. The intentions, motivations, attitudes, understandings, goals, and purposes of a person who makes discretionary use of worldly kashf will come under the closest of Divine scrutiny and cross-examination.

The individual cannot presume she or he will come through the rigors of this investigation in unscathed fashion. The ordeal of being subjected to the intensity of the aforementioned scrutiny is, in and of itself, likely to raise the question of just how necessary was such discretionary use of worldly kashf.

Nevertheless, on the Day of Judgement, second thoughts don't count. One must be prepared to accept the consequences of the choices one makes in the present life. So, as is sometimes said in the military: "Be advised!".

Having access to hidden knowledge concerning the world and its people, can be very seductive and tempting. One may start out in a seemingly innocuous manner, only to discover, if one is fortunate, one is getting caught up in the world in, yet, another way.

Whether one is entangled in the world through "normal" means or through non-ordinary channels, is a moot point. In either case, entanglement means one has lost one's spiritual purpose.

If one loses one's spiritual way on a "lower" level or on a "higher" level, one remains lost in both cases. In fact, one's predicament may be much worse in the latter case since more is expected of the individual. This individual should have known better than to get seduced by the allurements of hidden knowledge concerning the world.

The foregoing comments notwithstanding, there are occasions when use of worldly kashf or unveiling may be required in the service of others. This especially may be true with respect to the kinds of thing a shaykh may do, from time to time, to help an initiate at certain stages of the mystical journey.

Nevertheless, one is better off when directives in these matters come from Divinity. Waiting, with patience, for Divine assistance is, spiritually, far superior to trying, with impatience, to take matters into one's own hands. The former approach is the best form of spiritual etiquette in these matters.

Some people may wonder why individuals should be given access to hidden knowledge while, simultaneously, being told to refrain from taking advantage of this kind of knowledge. One reason for juxtaposing such extraordinary possibilities next to the challenge of restraint is to test the individual concerning whether he or she prefers lordship over servanthood.

Ultimately, the Sufi path is a journey toward perfect servanthood. Those who become attracted to, if not addicted by, the discretionary use of worldly kashf, are indicating a preference for lordship. This inclination or preference becomes an obstacle to making further progress on the Sufi path.

In a sense, one becomes all dressed up with the powers of worldly kashf but with no spiritual place to go. At best, wherever one may be spiritually, on whatever level, one becomes stuck there and unable to fully realize the spiritual purpose of one's life.

At worst, things begin to deteriorate spiritually. One falls further and further away from the mystical path. Yet, the tragedy of this is one may not be aware this is happening because one still has use of the "toys" of worldly kashf.

The other kind of kashf, mentioned previously, concerns spiritual unveilings. These are transcendent to the sort of hidden knowledge about the affairs of the world which is the focus of the worldly mode of kashf.

Spiritual kashf involves unveilings in the form of experiences involving states and stations of the mystical path. Through Divine "flashes", intuitions, visions and so on, one receives knowledge, wisdom and insights about various spiritual realities.

The understanding gained from this form of kashf can be extremely useful to wayfarers of the Sufi path. Such understanding serves to guide, support, strengthen, protect, purify, perfect and illumine the individual's mystical travels.

Worldly kashf, for the most part, cannot assist the individual in any of the above mentioned ways. In other words, with certain exceptions, worldly kashf really has no useful role to play on the mystical journey.

There is only one cautionary proviso which needs to be stated in relation to spiritual kashf. This mode of mystical unveiling is not the goal of the Sufi path. Spiritual kashf is a means, not an end.

The goal of the Sufi path is to become a perfect servant of God through realizing one's essential identity and capacity. Spiritual kashf assists one in the pursuit of this primary objective of the mystical journey.

If one should become preoccupied with spiritual kashf, in and of itself, and, therefore, somewhat divorced from the proper focus of the Sufi path, one becomes spiritually at risk. These risks may not be quite the same as those which are associated with discretionary use of worldly kashf, but the risks to further spiritual progress are, nonetheless, still there.

More specifically, if one wishes to reach a particular destination, one cannot permit the beauty and majesty of the landscape to distract one from the original goal. This is especially the case if one is under a time constraint concerning how long one has to complete the journey to the intended destination.

If one spends too much time by the roadside smelling the flowers, one may never reach one's destination in time. As with everything else in life, one must keep things in a balance of proper moderation.