Oriental Mysticism

18.07.2015 10:35


Sufiistic and Unitarian Theosophy
of the Persians


Cambridge: Deighton, Bell, and Co.; London: Bell and Daldy


Scanned, proofed and formatted at sacred-texts.com, August 2007, by John Bruno Hare. This text is in the public domain in the US because it was published prior to 1923.

Copytext edition:

Published by


67 Great Russell Street, London WC1

First published 1867

Reprint with a new introduction 1938




From a feeling of profound admiration for the munificent encouragement given to Oriental studies throughout YOUR MAJESTY'S Empire, I have solicited the honour of dedicating to YOUR MAJESTY this attempt to contribute towards a better understanding of the Philosopher Poets of the East. The noble Institutions of France for the promotion of

p. viii

those studies (some of which it has been my privilege to attend), and the Illustrious Names that adorn them, will make YOUR MAJESTY'S reign long remembered as the brightest Era in European Orientalism.

I have the honour to remain,



most obedient and humble Servant,


Dated RAMAZAN, 1283 A.H.
     (January, 1867, A.D.)





THE following work is founded upon a Persian MS. treatise by ’Azíz bin Mohammed Nafasí 1, but I have endeavoured to give a clearer and more succinct account of the system than would have been afforded by a mere translation. The term Súfí is derived from the Arabic word súf "wool," in allusion to the dress adopted by the Dervishes, who are the master and teachers of the sect; the similarity to the Greek σοφὸς appears to be merely accidental. The system of the Sufis consists in endeavouring


p. x

to reconcile Philosophy with Revealed Religion, and in assigning a mystical and allegorical interpretation to all religious doctrines and precepts. These tenets are found principally among the Shi’ites, or followers of ’Ali, and appear to have existed in Islamism from its very foundation; indeed the expression of the Corán, "I am the Truth" (Hacc), is the first principle of the system. They may be considered as forming the esoteric doctrine of that creed 1. Steering a mid course between the pantheism of India on the one hand and the deism of the Corán on the other, the Sufis’ cult is the religion of beauty, where heavenly perfection is considered under the imperfect type of earthly loveliness. Their principal writers are the lyric poets, whose aim is to elevate mankind to the contemplation of spiritual things, through the medium of their most impressionable feelings. This habit of contemplation, which is so constantly inculcated by them, requiring as it does retirement and seclusion for its due exercise, inclines the followers of the system somewhat towards asceticism, but in countries where luxury is the idol of the many, we may not unnaturally look


p. xi

for a protest against it in the tendencies of the few. My present intention is merely to give an exposition of the system; its origin and history I reserve for a future work, in which I hope to prove that Sufiism is really the development of the Primæval Religion of the Aryan race. The Ahl i wahdat form a branch of Sufiism, rather than a separate sect of Theosophists; they insist upon the Universality and Unity of God. I have translated the title "Unitarian," although I am sensible that misapprehension may arise in consequence of its current application to the professors of a particular form of modern belief. I should have preferred the use of some such term as Monopantachists had I possessed sufficient courage or position to warrant me in coining so formidable an epithet. The term may be generally understood of those Mussulmans, who, though pursuing philosophical enquiry, refuse to subscribe unreservedly to all the metaphysical doctrines of the Súfís.

The expression zát i Khudá, "the Nature of God," by which the Persians designate the very essence and being of the Deity, would, perhaps (according to the general use of the word zát in construction with a proper name), be more idiomatically rendered "God Himself;" but as this treatise

p. xii

professes to deal in exactitudes investigated from an Oriental point of view, I have preferred keeping to the original idiom as more definitely expressing the idea.

In conclusion, I have only to acknowledge my obligation to Mr C. A. Hope, of St John's College, for his valuable assistance afforded me in preparing this book for the press.




ix:1 The Maksad i Aksá or "Remotest Aim." Vide Hajji Khalfa, ed. Flügel, Vol. VI. p. 90. This work was originally written in Turkish and translated into Persian by Khwárazím Shah. Some fragments of it were edited in Turkish and Latin by A. Müller, Brandenburg, 1663. The copy I have made use of forms part of a volume containing miscellaneous Persian and Turkish treatises on Philosophical and Religious subjects, presented by Adam Bowen to the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge. It is marked R. 13. 32. in the Catalogue.

x:1 Cf. La Poesie philosophique et religieuse chez les Persans, par M. Garcin de Tassy, p. 3.








DEDICATION (by special permission of His Majesty the Emperor of the French)












Of the Traveller, the Goal, the Stages, and the Road



Of Law, Doctrine, and Truth



Concerning the Perfect Man, and the Perfectly Free Man



Concerning Fellowship, and Renunciation



Concerning Attraction, and Devotion



Concerning Counsel








Concerning the Nature of God



Concerning the Attributes of God



Concerning the Works of God, physically considered



Concerning the Works of God, metaphysically considered



Of the four Universal Sources








The Saintly and Prophetic Offices defined




p. xiv












On the Influence of Early Prejudice upon Belief












Grounds for the Discussion



Of the Origin and Animal Development of Man



Of the Intellectual and Spiritual Development of Man



Of the Upward Progress or Ascent of Man






Glossary of Technical and Allegorical Terms in use among the Sufi Poets







Thy prayer-mat stain with wine, if so
  The Magian's favour thou canst win,
For travellers in the land should know
  The ways and customs of the inn.

THE verse above quoted, like most Oriental poetic Introduction. writings, is susceptible of a mystical and much higher interpretation than appears from a merely superficial perusal. It is peculiarly illustrative of the allegorical form under which the intellectual life of the Religious Philosopher is treated by the Persians, namely that of a journey, the ultimate object of which is the knowledge of the Infinite Majesty of God; a plan similar to that adopted with reference to the moral life by our own John Bunyan in the Pilgrim's Progress. At the outset of their treatises the term Traveller is applied to the intellectual man only, but the word is afterwards used in a more

p. 2

general sense, just as in Christian writings man is not unfrequently called a Wayfarer; it becomes often identical with Disciple. M. Garcia de Tassy, in a work already referred to in the preface, has very appropriately quoted a verse of St Thomas illustrating this point:


Ecce panis angelorum
Factus cibus viatorum.


[paragraph continues] To an elucidation of this system, and the technical terms employed therein, the following pages are devoted; but to avoid breaking the continuity of the account, I have endeavoured to present an epitome of the Oriental Mystic Philosophy from the point of view taken by the Mohammedan writers, from whom my information is chiefly derived. I must therefore premise that any dogmatical statements that may occur in the course of the work are not to be considered as enunciations of my own opinion, but as an exposition of the views of those whose system I am attempting to expound.

The first part will contain an explanation of, 1, The terms Traveller, Road, Inns or Stages, and Goal. 2, The words Law, Doctrine, Truth, and the Perfect Man, according to the Oriental definition of them. 3, What is meant by Fellowship, Renunciation, Attraction and Devotion.

p. 3

The second, the Sufiistic account of, 1, The Nature; 2, The Attributes; 3, The Works of God; 4, The Four Universal Sources.

The third, a definition of, 1, The Saintly; 2, The Prophetic Office.

The fourth, a dissertation on the Influence of Early Prejudice upon Belief.

The fifth, the Study of Man.

For the benefit of those who study oriental poetry I have added an Appendix, containing a glossary of allegorical and technical terms in use among the Sufiistic writers.







(A. Arabic. P. Persian.)

For technical reasons, the Arabic script for each entry in the following list has been omitted--JBH.

P. abrú. The eyebrow. The miracles of Moses.

A. ijtimá’. Collection. Man's sole desire being concentrated in a longing after God.

A. asfár. Journeys. There are four journeys undertaken by the Súfí Traveller, 1. The journey to God. See Part I. Chapter I. 2. The journey to God whilst journeying in God. 3. The upward progress and actual meeting with the Deity. 4. The journey to God whilst journeying from God for the recovery of sinners.

A. islám. Islamism. Resignation. Submission to the decrees of God.

A. alast. "Art thou not?" The words uttered by the voice of God, "Art thou not My creature?" See nidá.

A. anáníyat. Egotism.

p. 70

P. angusht. Finger. God's all-comprehending power.

A. ímán. Faith. Finding God.

P. á’ïna. Mirror. The human heart. Mirrors in the East were of metal, hence the frequent occurrence of such expressions as "polish thy mirror," meaning "purify thy heart."

P. báda. New wine. Divine love.

P. bázú. Arm. God's Will.

A. bátil. False. All that is not God.

P. bámdád. Morning. The last stage of the journey.

P. but. Idol. God as the object of contemplation.

P. but parast. Idol-worshipper. A contemplative devotee.

A. baitu ’l harám. The Holy of Holies. In Sufi poetry it represents the Perfect Man.

A. baitu ’l mucaddas. The House of Holiness. Ordinarily used to designate the Temple at Jerusalem, but in Sufiistic language, a heart unpolluted by earthly love.

p. 71

P. pákbází. Purity. Inclination towards holiness without expecting reward or promotion, but rather seeking after God for His own sake.

P. peder. Father. God's purpose of revelation.

P. peshání. Forehead. The path of inquiry into the mysteries of a future state. See hablu ’l matín.

A. tajallí. Appearance. Every mystery that is revealed to the heart.

P. tarsá. Pagan. The revelation of God's majesty. See jemál.

P. tarsá-bachcha. A young Pagan. The Germ of the state called Hál, q.v.

A. tasawwuf. Sufiism. The purification (tasfíyeh) of the heart from earthly mists. See áïna.

A. tafrikah. Distraction. Pondering upon God's general disposition and arrangement in the universe.

P. tauhíd. Unity. The Nature of God.

P. ján. Soul. Darling. The manifestations of the Beloved (God).

P. jánán. Darling of darlings. A constant mistress. God, the concentration of stability.

p. 72

A. jáhil. Ignorant. Worldly.

A. jazbah. Attraction. The nearer approach of man to his Maker, through His Grace.

A. jar’. A draught. The mysteries of the various stages of the journey, or, according to some, everything that is hidden from the disciple's understanding during his prosecution of the journey ( ).

A. jalál. Majesty. That which veils God from human sight.

A. jamál. Beauty. Manifestation of the Majesty of the Beloved One (God).

A. jam’. Collection. The unity of God.

A. jam ’u ’l jam’. In Arabic grammar the plural of a plural. The high position of the Perfect Man.

P. cháh i zanakh. A dimple in the chin. The secret mystery of beholding God.

P. chashm. The eye. The beauty of Joseph.

A. hajj. Pilgrimage. The prosecution of the journey by devotion alone. See Part I. Chapter IV.

p. 73

A. hál. State. Ecstasy. The beatific state induced by continued contemplation of God. This is considered to be a divine gift, and a sure prognostication of speedily arriving at The Truth.

A. hablu ’l matín. The strong rope. Acknowledging the Unity of God.

A. husn. Beauty. The concentration of perfection in One Nature.

A. hikmat. Wisdom. Metaphysics. Comprehension of the mysteries of Nature.

A. Hacc. The Truth. God.

A. hakíkat. Truth. Determination of the Nature of God.

A. kakíkatu ’l haká-ik. Truth of Truths. The Nature of God as comprising all truth.

P. khál i siyáh. A black mole (considered a great beauty in the East). The future state.

P. kharábát. Tavern. The stage in which the Traveller is immersed in the Divine mysteries.

A. khirkah. The patched and ragged garment of a religious recluse. Comeliness and soundness of principle.

p. 74

A.P. khatt i sabz. Verdure. Down just appearing upon the cheek. The state of limbo, barzakh (cf. Sale's Corán, chap. XXIII. note u).

A. khalá-ik. Tempers. Peoples. God's attribute of Power.

P. kham i zulf. A twisting curl. Joy of the heart at knowing God 1.

P. kh’áhar. Sister. Revelation.

A. dákhil u khárij. Entrance and exit. Drunkenness and Intoxication, see mastí.

P. dast. Hand. God's attribute of Power.

A. dakíkah. Tittle. Probation.

A. dunyá. The world. Anything that hinders man from seeking after God.

A. dair. Monastery. The world of Humanity.


p. 75

A. dín. Religion. Belief arising from the stage called tafrikah, q.v.

P. dahán. Mouth. An attribute of God as speaking with man.

P. rukhsár. The cheek. Cosmos.

P. rindí. Profligacy. Thinking no more of human conventionalities.

P. rúza. Fasting. The stage called wasl (q.v.), in which the Traveller abandons the world.

P. rúy. Face. The manifestation of the Deity as comprehending all things. Also The Mirror in which the Godhead is reflected. See Part II. Chap. 5.

A. záhid. A Recluse.

P. zulf. Tresses. The mystery of the Godhead.

A. zunnár. The sacred Cord worn by the Magi. The Brahminical Thread. A mistress’ ringlet; hence allegorically by the Sufis, the yearning after the appearance of the Beloved One (God).

P. zanakh. The chin. The point at which one beholds God.

A. zuhd. Abstinence. Forsaking the outer world and giving oneself up entirely to contemplation.

p. 76

A. sá ’id. Arm. God's attribute of Might.

A. sákí. Cupbearer. The appearance of Divine Love which calls for thankfulness.

P. sukhan. Speech. The warnings of God.

A. safr. A journey. Turning the attention towards God.

A. sawád u’l wajhi fi ’d dárain. Blackening the face (i.e. disgrace) in both worlds. Complete self-denial implying the state of him who performs the last of the "four journeys" described under asfar.

P. sháhid. Mistress. The appearance of The Truth (God).

P. shabángáh. A Night lodging. The last stage on the Journey.

A. sharáb. Drink, Wine. The domination of Divine Love over the heart.

A.P. sharáb khána. Wine shop. The invisible world.

A. sham’. Candle. The Divine Light kindling the torch of the Traveller. See candíl.

P. shor. Disturbance. Noise. Intercourse between God and man.

A. shuhúd. Gaze. The unobstructed vision of the Godhead.

p. 77

A. sabá. The Zephyr. The breathings of the Spirit.

A. tá’at. Obedience. Righteousness. The Knowledge of God.

A. ’árif. Knowing. One gifted by God with a thorough knowledge of His Nature, Works and Attributes.

A. ’áshik. Lover. Man.

A. á’lam i jubrút. The World of Powers. The names and attributes of God. The visible, invisible and future worlds.

A. ’ishrat. Pleasure. Joy in the Lord.

A. ghár. A hollow. Jealousy. Turning the heart towards God.

A. ghammáz. One who throws side glances. The turning of the heart towards God.

A. firághat. Rest. Devotion to things of this world.

A. firák. Separation. Not recognizing the unity of God.

A. faná. Vanishing. The total annihilation of self in the contemplation of God.

A. faná e tamám. Complete disappearance. Total annihilation and absorption of self in the contemplation of God. Death.

p. 78

A. cátil. Slayer. The first manifestation of desire on the part of man and of attraction on the part of God.

A. catíl. Slain (as by the arrows of a mistress’ glance). Acceptable to God.

A. cadh. Goblet. Time.

A. calb. Heart. The intermediate state between the illumination of the reason and the soul by the Divine Light.

A. candíl. Torch or Candle. The heart of the Traveller kindled by Divine Love.

A. káfir. Unbeliever. One who has reached the stage called tafrikah, q.v.

A. kibr. Haughtiness. The grandeur of God.

A. kitáb i mubín. The perspicuous book. In the Corán it signifies the contents of the eternal tablet on which that revelation was inscribed and which is also called . With the Sufis it stands for the heart of the Perfect Man.

A. ka’ba. The Temple at Mecca, to which the Mohammedans turn their faces in prayer. The state called wasl, q.v.

A. kufr. Unbelief. The darkness of the stations on the road.

P. kinár. Embrace. Discovery of the mysteries of the Godhead.

p. 79

P. gúsh. Ear. Capacity for receiving the words of God by pursuing knowledge. Sometimes it means knowledge itself, exoteric and esoteric.

P. gísú. Ringlet. Details of the mysteries of divinity.

A. láhút. Divinity. Life permeating all things.

A. lubb. Pith. Intelligence sanctified and purified from doubts and suspicions.

P. lab lab. Brimful. Drinking in the Light of God and having the gaze riveted upon Him,

P.A. lab i lá’l. A ruby lip. The unheard but understood words of God 1. Conscience.

A. mádar. Mother. The tablets on which the Corán is said to have been inscribed from all eternity; called by the Arabs ummu ’l Kitáb, "The Mother of The Book."

A. misál. Fiction. The stage in which the Traveller arrives at a Comprehension of the unity of God.

A. makkmúrí. Drunkenness. Returning from the stage called wusúl (see wasl), by way of cessation.


p. 80

A. murákibeh. Observation. Rejecting conventionalities, and penetrating deeply into the truths of Religion.

P. marg. Death. Eternal life. "Mors janua vitae."

A. mazíd. Increase. The state of man.

A. mastí. Intoxication. Escaping from the domination of Love.

A. mutrib. Musician. The pir or elder who expounds the laws of God to his disciples.

A. ma’shúk. The beloved one. God.

P. Mughán. Magians. Christian monks, confounded with fire-worshippers by the Mohammedans. See tarsá.

P. mugh-bachcha. Young Magian. See tarsá bachcha.

A. mughní. Independent. Confessing the unity of God.

A. mulhid. Heretic. Pedant. Being learned in Theology.

A. muwáfik. Complaisant. See mulhid.

P. miyán. Middle. Waist. The state of the Traveller when nothing remains to veil from him the Glories of God.

P. mai khána. Tavern. The dominion of Divine Love.

p. 81

P. maikedeh. Wine-house. That stage of the journey in which inclination is developed into love by the effect of prayer (see Part I. Chap. V.).

A. náhút. The channel through which láhút flows, q.v.

A. nabúwat. Prophecy. Knowing and proclaiming the truths of Godhead.

A. nidá. Voice. The voice of God calling in the heart and constituting Attraction. See jazba.

A. wajd. Ecstasy. See hál.

A. wasl. Meeting. The unity of God; also the mean between the external and the internal. Seeing God face to face.

A. wakt. Time. Fixing the thoughts upon mortality.

A. wiláyat. Saintship. Perseverance in the contemplation of God. See faná; see also Part III. Chapter I.

A. welí. Saint. One who has given himself up entirely to contemplation. See faná.

A. hawá. Desire. A yearning after the future life kindled by God in the heart man.

(Greek). hayúla. Ἡ ὕλη. Materials. First principles.


74:1 Tholuck in his SUFISMUS (Berolini, MDCCCXXI), p. 105, explains this as follows: "Cincinnorum circuli, Sic divina dicunt mysteria, nemini præter Deum ipsum nota." This, however, is the interpretation of zulf (tresses), not khan i zulf. The verse quoted above, in page 41,


"One glimpse I gave them of my glorious face,"


affords a good illustration of this. The words of the original being


"I showed them a hair's point of my tresses (zulf)."



79:1 Cf. the answer of the Delphic oracle to Crœsus, Herod. I. 47. 4:


καὶ κωφοῦ συνίημι, καὶ οὐ φωνεῦντος ἀκούω.