Oriental Mysticism (1)
OF THE TRAVELLER, THE GOAL, THE STAGES, AND THE ROAD.
The Traveller.THE Traveller in the path of mystic philosophy is the Perceptive Sense, which as it becomes further developed results in Intelligence, not however the intelligence of life, but such as is described in the words of Mohammed, "Intelligence is light in the heart, distinguishing between truth and vanity, not the intelligence of life." After a time our traveller merges into Divine Light, but of the thousands who start upon the road scarcely one attains thereunto. The Goal. The Goal is the Knowledge of God, and the acquisition of this knowledge is the work of Divine Light alone, Perception or worldly intelligence having no lot or portion therein. The latter is represented as the sovereign of this world, and the perceptive faculties are the executive officers of his rule, to whom both the cultivation and devastation of the face of the earth is due. The idea is suggested by the following passage of the Corán: "When God said to the angels, I am about to place a vicegerent
in the earth, they said, Wilt thou place therein one who shall commit abomination and shed blood? Nay; we celebrate Thy praise and holiness. God answered them, Verily I know what ye wot not of." (Cor. cap. 2, v. 28.) Which answer implies that God knew that although such might even be the conduct of the bulk of mankind, there would still be some who should receive the Divine Light and attain to a knowledge of Him; so that it is clear that the object Object of Philosophical Inquiry. of the creation of existent beings was that God should be known. Existence was made for man, and man for the knowledge of God. To the same purport is the answer given to David, "David enquired and said, Oh Lord! why hast thou created mankind? God said, I am a hidden treasure, and I would fain become known 1." The business of the Traveller then is to exert himself and strive to attain to the Divine light, and so to the knowledge of God; and this is to be achieved by associating with the wise. The received notion of the "stages" in the "road," involves The stages and the road. a paradox, the disciple who asks concerning them being told that there is not even a single stage, nay more, not even a road at all. This statement is differently explained by two sects, the Sufis and the Ahl i Wahdat, whom I shall call the Unitarians. The Sufis say that there is no road from man to God, because the nature of God is illimitable and infinite, without beginning or end or even direction. There is not a single atom of existent things with which
[paragraph continues] God is not and which God does not comprise: "Are they not in doubt concerning the union with their Lord? doth he not comprise everything?" (Cor. cap. 42, v. 54.) Nor is there aught that he does not comprehend with his knowledge: "Verily God comprehendeth all things with his knowledge." (Cor. cap. 42, v. 54.) The Traveller who has not attained to this Divine Light can have no lot or portion with God, but those who have reached it gaze always upon His face; they go not forth by day and retire not to rest at night without an abashed consciousness that God is present every where; for with Him they live, and in Him they act.
The whole universe compared with the majesty of God is as a drop in the ocean, nay infinitely less than this. But Perception or Intelligence can never lead to this conviction, or reveal this glorious mystery; that is the province of the Divine Light alone. Such is the Sufiistic explanation of the proposition, "There is no road from man to God."
Unitarian Interpretation of the preceding. The Unitarians interpret it as follows. They hold that existence is not independent, but is of God; that besides the existence of God there is no real existence, nor can there possibly be: for that which exists not, cannot exist of itself, but that which does exist, exists of itself, and that which is self-existent is God.
When man imagines that be has an existence other than the existence of God he falls into a grievous error and sin; yet this error and sin is the only road from man to God; for until the Traveller has
passed over this he cannot reach God. A certain Sufi poet has said,
The other in thy Friend's domain;
In everything His presence see,
For other vision is in vain.
[paragraph continues] That is, whilst you are looking up to self you cannot see God, but when you are not looking up to self all that you see is God. Such is the Unitarian solution of the proposition that "there is no road from man to God," namely that the error of imagining an existence separate from God is the only road to Him; the stages on this road are innumerable, and some philosophers even assert that it has no end.
5:1 Cf. Sale's Corán, Preliminary Discourse, p. 97.
OF LAW, DOCTRINE AND TRUTH.
THE Law is the word of the Prophet, the Doctrine Definition of Law, Doctrine and Truth. is the example of the Prophet, and the Truth is the vision of the Prophet. This follows from the Hadís 1, "My words are Law, my example is Doctrine, my state is Truth." The Traveller must first learn the theory of the Law, and act up to the practice of the Doctrine, by which means the Truth will become manifest in him. Those who possess all these three things are the Perfect, and these are the leaders of the people; but those who are deficient in all are lower than the brutes; these are the wretches
referred to in the Corán: "Verily we have created for Hell many of mankind and of the genii; hearts have they and understand not, eyes have they and see not, ears have they and hear not; they are like unto the beasts of the field, nay more perverse, for they are the negligent." (Cor. cap. 7, v. 178.) From this we learn that each is bound to fulfil his duty in his allotted sphere.
Of the superficial and the real.The superficial has no credit without the real. Mankind in reality is man; the animal kingdom in reality is animal. By reality is meant the possession and employment of the qualities naturally appertaining to the order to which the individual belongs. Thus the wise man knows all, sees all, and works with all; for otherwise the business of the world would not go on. Teachers also work in their way for the same reason. But Rulers work not, or otherwise the harmony of the world would be disturbed.
The object of Law, Doctrine and Truth.The final object of Law, Doctrine and Truth is that mankind should speak aright, act aright, and think aright, or, in other words, become wise and good. The object is threefold: first, that man may not become like the brute he should receive the command and prohibition of Scripture, and obey the same. This he must confirm in his heart and confess with his tongue. Secondly, that he may be adorned with grace and piety he should associate with the wise, and strive earnestly to know and understand the unity of God. Thirdly, that he may become accomplished he should, after the knowledge of God, learn the nature and properties of material objects.
[paragraph continues] When thus accomplished the Traveller may be considered as adorned with Law, Doctrine and Truth.
But all the foregoing theory is useless without Marks and Practice of the followers of Doctrine. practice; the Traveller cannot arrive at the goal unless he combines theory with practice, superficiality with reality; for the Corán says, "and righteous actions shall raise him." (Cor. cap. 35, v. 11.) Now the actions constituting this practice are ten in number. 1. Search after God, which is the object of all striving and conflict. 2. Search after Wisdom, the guide without whom it is impossible to find the road. 3. Inclination towards the wise; that is, the Traveller should frequent the society of the wise and sit as a disciple at their feet. This inclination is the strong steed that bears him on his way. 4. Obedience. The Traveller should in everything be obedient and submissive to the wise, both in reference to the affairs of this world and the next. 5. Renunciation. He must renounce trifling, and at the bidding of the elder even give up all that he has to his care, forsaking his most favourite pursuits, unless they meet with the approbation of his superior. 6. Piety. He must be pious and continent, in word and deed and mode of life, complying with the dictates of the Law and the Scriptures. 7. Submission. The serenity of the Traveller's path is the result of submission to the Law. 8. Reticence. To speak little. 9. Vigilance. To sleep little. 10. Temperance. To eat little. These are the marks which determine the practice of the followers of the Doctrine, ten fierce dragons in the Traveller's path to keep him from
swerving in the direction of sin. If he assiduously follow them under the direction of the wise he ultimately reaches his Goal, and the Truth is made manifest in him; but if he be deficient in one only he can never arrive at his destination.
Marks and Practice of the followers of Truth.There are also ten marks which determine the practice of the followers of Truth. 1. That the Traveller should know God first, and subsequently the nature and properties of material objects. 2. That he should be at peace with all the world, and refrain from all contradiction and opposition. According to the mother from whom he is born into the community each receives a different patronymic; thus one is called a Hanefite, one a Shafíite 1, one a Pagan, one a Jew, and another a Mussulmán; but the true philosopher recognises in each a weak and helpless being like himself, he sees in each a fellow-searcher after God. 3. Charity towards all. Charity is that course of action and teaching which benefits our fellows both temporally and spiritually. Now real charity consists in the employment of counsel and discipline. Teachers should employ counsel that men may be improved; rulers should employ discipline for the
regulation and well-being of society. 4. Humility; this consists in paying due respect to others. 5. Submission and resignation. 6. Trust in God, patience, endurance and perseverance. 7. Freedom from avarice; for avarice is the mother of vice. 8. Contentment. 9. Inoffensiveness. 10. Conviction; for the Truth brings conviction with it.
Such are the marks, and such is the practice of the followers of Truth; and until the Traveller shall have thoroughly penetrated the inmost depths of wisdom, and shall have completed the journey to and in God, these marks and qualities will not be made manifest in him.
7:1 The sayings of Mohammed are so called.
10:1 The Hanefites are the followers of Abú Hanífa, one of the principal authorities for the traditional law. His doctrines are esteemed chiefly among the Turks.
The Shafíites are those who follow the tenets taught by Abú Abdallah Mohammed ben Idrís, al Sháfi’í, who was descended from the family of Mohammed. Salah-uddin (Saladin) founded a college for the exclusive propagation of his doctrines at Cairo. A beautiful mosque to his memory also exists at Herát, in Khorassan. Both sects are considered perfectly orthodox by the Mussulmáns.
CONCERNING THE PERFECT MAN, AND THE PERFECTLY FREE MAN.
THE Perfect Man is he who has fully comprehended The Perfect Man. the Law, the Doctrine and the Truth; or, in other words, he who is endued with four things in perfection; viz. 1. Good words; 2. Good deeds; 3. Good principles; 4. The sciences. It is the business of the Traveller to provide himself with these things in perfection, and by so doing he will provide himself with perfection.
The Perfect Man has had various other names Other titles applied to him. assigned to him, all equally applicable, viz. Elder, Leader, Guide, Inspired Teacher, Wise, Virtuous, Perfect, Perfecter, 1Beacon and Mirror of the world,
[paragraph continues] Powerful Antidote, Mighty Elixir, ’Isà the Raiser of the Dead, Khizar the Discoverer of the Water of Life, and Solomon who knew the language of Birds.
The Universe has been likened to a single person, of whom the Perfect Man is the Soul; and again, to a tree, of which mankind is the fruit, and the Perfect Man the pith and essence. Nothing is hidden from the Perfect Man; for after arriving at the knowledge of God, he has attained to that of the nature and properties of material objects, and can henceforth find no better employment than acting His business. mercifully towards mankind. Now there is no mercy better than to devote oneself to the perfection and improvement of others, both by precept and example. Thus the Prophet is called in the Corán "a mercy to the Universe." (Cor. cap. 21, v. 107.) But with all his perfection the Perfect Man cannot compass his desires, but passes his life in consistent and unavoidable self-denial: he is perfect in knowledge and principle, but imperfect in faculty and power.
Perfection not incompatible with Power.There have indeed been Perfect Men possessed of power; such power as that which resides in kings and rulers; yet a careful consideration of the poor extent of man's capacities will shew that his weakness is preferable to his power, his want of faculty preferable to his possession of it. Prophets and saints, kings and sultans, have desired many things, and failed to obtain them; they have wished to avoid
many things, and have had them forced upon them. Mankind is made up of the Perfect and the Imperfect, of the Wise and the Foolish, of Kings and Subjects, but all are alike weak and helpless, all pass their lives in a manner contrary to their desires; this the Perfect Man recognises and acts upon, and, knowing that nothing is better for man than renunciation, forsakes all and becomes free and at leisure. As before he renounced wealth and dignity, so now he foregoes eldership and teachership, esteeming freedom and rest above everything: the fact is, that though the motive alleged for education and care of others is a feeling of compassion and a regard for discipline, yet the real instigation is the love of dignity: as the Prophet says, "The last thing that is removed from the chiefs of the righteous is love of dignity." I have said that the Perfect Man should The Perfectly Free Man. be endued with four things in perfection: now the Perfectly Free Man should have four additional characteristics, viz. renunciation, retirement, contentment, and leisure. He who has the first four is virtuous, but not free: he who has the whole eight is perfect, liberal, virtuous, and free. Furthermore, there are two grades of the Perfectly Free—those The two grades of the Perfectly Free. who have renounced wealth and dignity only, and those who have further renounced eldership and teachership, thus becoming free and at leisure. These again are subdivided into two classes; those who, after renunciation, retirement and contentment, make choice of obscurity, and those who, after renunciation, make choice of submission, contemplation and resignation;
but the object of both is the same. Some writers assert that freedom and leisure consists in the former course, while others maintain that it is only to be found in the latter.
Those who make choice of obscurity are actuated by the knowledge that annoyance and distraction of thought are the invariable concomitants of society; they therefore avoid receiving visits and presents, and fear them as they would venomous beasts. The other class, who adopt submission, resignation and contemplation, do so because they perceive that mankind for the most part are ignorant of what is good for them, being dissatisfied with what is beneficial, and delighted with circumstances that are harmful to them; as the Coran says, "Perchance ye may dislike what is good for you, and like what is hurtful to you." (Cor. cap. 2, v. 213.) For this reason they retire from society equally with the other class, caring little what the world may think of them. The eminent Sufis are divided in opinion as to which of these two courses is to be preferred.
11:1 In Persian Jám i Jehán numá, the fabled cup of Jemshîd, in p. 12 which were reflected all passing events; and ’Aïna e Jehân-numá, the mirror of Alexander the Great, said to have possessed the same singular properties.
CONCERNING FELLOWSHIP AND RENUNCIATION.
Fellowship"FELLOWSHIP has many qualities and effects both of good and evil. The fellowship of the wise is the only thing that can conduct the Traveller safely to the Goal; therefore all the submission, earnestness and discipline that have been hitherto inculcated are merely in order to render him worthy of such
fellowship. Provided he have the capacity, a single day, nay, a single hour, in the society of the wise, tends more to his improvement than years of self-discipline without it. "Verily one day with thy Lord is better than a thousand years." (Cor. cap. 22, v. 46.)
It is however possible to frequent the society of the wise without receiving any benefit therefrom, but this must proceed either from want of capacity or want of will. In order then to avoid such a result, the Sufis have laid down the following rules for the conduct of the disciple when in the presence of his teachers.
Never answer a question not addressed to you; but if asked, answer promptly and concisely, never feeling ashamed to say, "I know not."
Do not dispute for disputation's sake.
Never boast before your elders.
Never seek the highest place, nor even accept it if it be offered to you.
Do not be over-ceremonious, for this will compel your elders to act in the same manner towards you, and give them needless annoyance.
Observe in all cases the etiquette appropriate to the time, place and persons present.
In indifferent matters, that is, matters involving no breach of duty by their omission or commission, conform to the practice and wishes of those with whom you are associating.
Renunciation.This leads us to the subject of Renunciation, which is of two kinds, external and internal. The former is the renunciation of worldly wealth; the latter, the renunciation of worldly desires. Everything that hinders or veils the Traveller's path must be renounced, whether it relate to this world or the next. Wealth and dignity are great hindrances; but too much praying and fasting are often hindrances too. The one is a shroud of darkness, the other a veil of light. The Traveller must renounce idolatry, if he desire to reach the Goal, and everything that bars his progress is an idol. All men have some idol, which they worship; with one it is wealth and dignity, with another overmuch prayer and fasting. If a man sit always upon his prayer-carpet his prayer-carpet becomes his idol. And so on with a great number of instances.
What ought and ought not to be renounced. Renunciation must not be performed without the advice and permission of an elder. It should be the renunciation of trifles, not of necessaries, such as food, clothing and dwelling place which are indispensable to man; for without them he would be obliged to rely on the aid of others, and this would beget avarice, which is "the mother of vice." The renunciation of necessaries produces as corrupting
an influence upon the mind as the possession of too much wealth. The greatest of blessings is to have a sufficiency, but to over-step this limit is to gain nought but additional trouble.
Renunciation is the practice of those who know Renunciation how recognized. God, and the characteristic mark of the wise. Every individual fancies that he alone possesses this knowledge, but knowledge is an attribute of the mind, and there is no approach from unaided sense to the attributes of the mind, by which we can discover who is, or who is not, possessed of this knowledge. Qualities however are the sources of action; therefore a man's practice is an infallible indication of the qualities he possesses; if, for instance, a man asserts that he is a baker, a carpenter, or a blacksmith, we can judge at once if he possesses skill in these crafts by the perfection of his handiwork. In a word, theory is internal, and practice external, the presence of the practice, therefore, is a proof that the theory too is there.
Renunciation is necessary to the real confession Application of this test. of faith; for the formula "There is no God but God," involves two things, negation and proof. Negation is the renunciation of other Gods, and proof is the knowledge of God. Wealth and dignity have led many from the right path, they are the gods the people worship; if then you see that one has renounced these, you may be sure that he has expelled the love of this world from his heart, and completed the negation; and whosoever has attained to the knowledge of God has completed the proofs.
This is really confessing that "there is no God but God;" and he who has not attained to the knowledge of God, has never really repeated the confession of faith. Early prejudices are a great stumblingblock to many people; for the first principles of Monotheism are contained in the words of the Hadís: "Every one is born with a disposition [for the true faith], but his parents make him a Jew, a Christian, or a Magian." The Unitarians also say, that the real confession of faith consists in negation and proof; but they explain negation by renunciation of self, and proof by acknowledgement of God.
Conclusion.Thus, according to the Sufis, confession of faith, prayer and fasting contain two distinct features, namely, form and truth; the former being entirely inefficacious without the latter. Renunciation and the knowledge of God are like a tree; the knowledge of God is the root, renunciation the branches, and all good principles and qualities are the fruit.-To sum up, the lesson to be learnt is that in repeating the formula the Traveller must acknowledge in his heart that God only always was, God only always will be. This world and the next, nay, the very existence of the Traveller, may vanish, but God alone remains. This is the true confession of faith; and although the Traveller before was blind, the moment he is assured of this his eyes are opened, and he seeth.
CONCERNING ATTRACTION AND DEVOTION.
THE Sufis hold that there are three aids necessary to conduct the Traveller on his path.
1. Attraction; 2. Devotion; 3. Elevation.
Attraction is the act of God, who draws man Attraction. towards Himself. Man sets his face towards this world, and is entangled in the love of wealth and dignity, until the grace of God steps in and turns his heart towards God. The tendency proceeding from God is called Attraction; that which proceeds from man is called Inclination, Desire and Love. As the inclination increases, its name changes, and Inclination defined. it causes the Traveller to renounce everything else becoming a Kiblah, to set his face towards God; when it has become his Kiblah, and made him forget everything but God, it is developed into Love.
Others, however, proceed from this to self-examination, and pass the rest of their lives in devotion. They are then called Devoutly Attracted ( ). If devotion be first practised, and the attraction of God then step in, such a person is called an Attracted Devotee ( ). If he practise and complete devotion, but is not
Sheikh Sheháb-uddín 1, in his work entitled ’Awárif al Ma’árif, says that an elder or teacher should be selected from the second class alone; for although many may be estimable and righteous, it is but few who are fit for such offices, or for the education of disciples 2.
Devotion.Devotion is the prosecution of the journey, and that in two ways, to God and in God. The first, the Sufis say, has a limit; the second is boundless; the journey to God is completed when the Traveller has attained to the knowledge of God; and then commences the journey in God, which has for its object the knowledge of the Nature and Attributes of God; a task which they confess is not to be accomplished in so short a space as the lifetime of man.
Of Thy great power and Thee
Is less, when with Thyself compared,
Than one drop in a sea.
The Unitarians maintain that the journey to God is completed when the Traveller has acknowledged that there is no existence save that of God; the journey in God they explain to be a subsequent inquiry into the mysteries of nature.
20:1 Shiháb-ud-dín Abu Hafs Omar bin Mohammed bin Abdallah, Soharawerdí, died A.D. 1106. See Hajji Khalfa, Vol. IV. p. 275.
20:2 muríd is properly one who possesses the Inclination before mentioned.
ALL counsel may be summed up in the simple Counsel. words, My friend, rely not on life, health, or riches. Nothing over which the firmament of heaven revolves maintains an unchanged existence, but every hour assumes some new form. Every moment a fresh picture is presented to the view; and one appearance is scarce complete ere another supervenes, obliterating all traces of the first, as wave follows wave upon the shore. No wise man would seek to build his house upon the waves, or hope to find a foundation for it there. To quote the words of Hafiz:
Then seize the passing hour, for life but rests upon the wind.
The wisest of mankind are those who have renounced all worldly desires, and chosen the calm and peaceful lot of a recluse's life. Behind every pleasure lurk twenty pains; far better is it then to forego one fleeting joy and spare oneself a lifetime of regret. Life, health, riches, and happiness, may be our portion to-day; but God alone knows what the morrow may bring forth.