Please enjoy these dissertations on various aspects of the principles
of Sufi healing. In them I hope to reiterate, in contemporary terms,
the keys to understanding the power of Islamic Sufism. These are, to
the best of my knowledge, the understandings of all the great Sufi masters,
as derived from lifetimes of personal experience and practice within
the classical Islamic context.
These writings are my personal understandings of some terms, meanings
and significances - accrued as a result of my many years of contemplation,
study and practice of the concepts and disciplines included in the body
of knowledge commonly referred to as 'Islamic Sufism'. They are not
proposed to be the 'final word' or 'final analysis'. They are not even
proposed to be definitive. They are simply my personal understandings
and come from the essence of my heart.
To firmly anchor the relationship of Gnosis (knowledge of God) to Healing,
let me state that it is the assertion of the Sufis, and indeed a majority
of the Healing Community at large, that a true and functioning knowledge
of God is the beginning and the end of the highest and most effective
form of healing.
Sufi masters unanimously and enthusiastically assert that their understandings
are rooted in the Divine knowledges brought to them from Allah (the
One, the True, the Divine), through His noble and beloved Prophet Muhammad
(upon whom be Allah's Peace and Blessings), in the form of the revelation
of Islam. It is my hope to present to you some of the fundamental practices
and understandings of this science in such a way as to stimulate your
interest, hope and enthusiasm for the same kind of personal development
that is exemplified by the saintly Sufi masters of the past and present.
These understandings work for me. I use them every day and they are
effective and useful to me on my path of progress toward the One. It
is only my sincere hope that they may be as useful to the reader as
they are to me.
*** A note on the text. It is a pet project of mine to help English
become a truly universal and possibly even a committed spiritual language
(like Sanskrit, Arabic, Urdu and so many others) by adopting into its
vocabulary sufficient words and meanings from the Islamic and other
traditions of spiritual knowledges. As a contribution to this endeavor,
it is my intention to use as much possible of the common Arabic terminology
as used in a normal Sufi conversational context. Should a word or two
pop up that the reader does not understand and to which there is no
attached meaning, please refer to a proposed glossary of terms at the
rear of the compilation, whenever it is completed.
*** A note on the use of the masculine gender word "HE" as the personal
pronoun denoting the existence of Divine Benevolence: Please realize
that there is of course no gender whatsoever to The Divine Reality,
either real or implied. The word 'He' is the closest realistic, easy
and practical translation for the Arabic word 'HU', which, when used
in human context, is the third person pronoun denoting masculine gender.
But when it is used in the context of referring to The Divine, it is
as genderless as the finger that points to the moon. It is, in this
case, another one of the Divine Names and Attributes indicating 'His'
Existence as "The Divine Cause, both separate from and linked inexorably
and inexplicably to our own."
"I am known only by you, just as you exist only by me.
Who knows you knows me, although no one knows me,
so that you too are known by no one."
Ibn `Arabi's Fusus (I, 92, pp. 248-254)
This is a brief exposition of some points of the Sufi Science of Gnosis
- Knowledge of God. It assumes interest in the subject and offers no
further proof of Divine Existence. Most people interested in this subject
matter are already convinced and want simply to set foot on the path
of knowledge. This treatise may be a first step on a joyous, but not
necessarily easy, journey.
Sufism is nothing if not a certifiable chain of transmission. All "mystic"
knowledge consists of two equally important parts, the outward teaching
of description and instruction, and the inner core of true, full-body
realization. These might be compared or paraphrased as the indications,
or signs (ayats), and the meanings, or "the Teachings" and "the Practice",
or the lesson and the comprehension.
Once the actual comprehension is reached, the teaching may become more
personalized, because all things from the source lead to the source.
But until that point, the teachings must be studied and the practices
practiced with devotion, belief and sincerity.
Each person of understanding will attempt to publish "the Way" in some
manner or other. This writing may be a "new" rendition of the teaching,
but it is coming from its source and is designed to point the reader
in the right direction. How the conveyer reached these conclusions is
a matter of biography, and of little interest. Important is how well
the reality is represented.
The science of Creation, and thus of knowing God, is documented in
many languages from many times. The most recent and arguably complete
exposition of this science came with the life of Muhammad, the revelation
of the Holy Qur`an and the experiences of the myriad of followers who
embraced this knowledge wholeheartedly.
The teachings of the masters are famous, but there must be living representatives
to give it life, otherwise it is dead. And the knowing is eternal and
unchanging, but the knowers are as varied as humanity itself. Indeed,
the spirit moves where it will.
The Goal of this exposition is to call to the way of the Eternal, Everlasting
Peace, one person at a time. It can be done. Personal circumstances
are irrelevant. Once the knowledge is known, a simple remembering is
sufficient to bring an increase of peace and knowing to the body and
Peace (of mind and heart) is the sole most significant healer in any
time. Surrender brings the Real Peace to the body and mind and allows
for the immediate disappearance of tension and anxiety, which is the
root cause of all other physical and mental imbalances. Continuation
The Role of Sufi Healing in Contemporary Society
Many of our upbringings were in the darkness of unbelief in the Divine
light of it all. But that duality is a basis for the struggle of life
which is theoretically the joyous interplay of light over darkness and
knowledge over ignorance. It is the reality of that struggle which makes
life a real test and thereby a process of discovery and self-improvement
which becomes the means to the gratitude and awarenesses that life is
created to inspire. In other words, the hardships exist so that their
sadness and frustration may be transformed into victory, joy and wisdom.
In search of the praiseworthy diamonds we dig forever in the common
soil. Discovery is to make known and to make known is to praise.
In the search for archetypal role models of the spiritual type we have
reluctance stimulated by fear of extremes. On the one hand we have the
righteous fear of religious fanaticism in which all other beliefs and
non-beliefs are wrong, and where it is the religious and spiritual duty
of the true believer to join the crusade to save the world. On the other
hand, we have the nightmare and desolation of the all-consuming fear
for personal survival, with faith in nothing other than dreary personal
productivity and acquisition. This is the 'cog in the machine' mentality,
and represents basically no religion at all.
In the first chapter of Qur`an (Al-Fatihah) is mentioned the two consequences
of disbelief in objective (revealed, divine) truth. One is the incurring
of disfavor, i.e. the accrual of 'bad karma', exemplified by a joyless,
lifeless existence, and the other is the 'going astray', or religious
egotism, which is the basic misunderstanding leading to fanaticism,
judgmental attitudes and extremes of indulgence, among other things.
Few people actually understand the real and general purpose of life
itself, and even fewer are contemplative enough to be able to perceive
the real purpose of individuals in their own surroundings. Yet this
is exactly the understanding that is most needed. The healing power
of this understanding is truly transformative.
I wish to propose the possibility of discovering a personal balance,
and the possibility of the existence of a general cure-all in the form
of a knowledge and a knowing. An 'objective truth', if you will, the
study and practice of which leads the seeker to satisfactory understandings
concerning the nature of humanity and his/her personal role in it, and/or
salvation from it.
The Goal of Sufism
Holistic Health in the 90's
The flower children have reached maturity. The illusions of youth have
long since passed, and the realizations sought after are being attained.
We broke loose in the 60's, studied and practiced in the 70's. Blended
in and mellowed out in the 80's, and are rising by the power of Truth
in the 90's.
In the 70's Holistic Health was the study of physical disease and therapeutics.
In the 80's it was patience, work and digestion. The main thrust of
Holistic Health in the 90's was spiritual realization as a means to
personal and societal ideals. Looking seriously at the realities
of social reformation, spiritual truths have become the tools available
for the attainment of personal goals. Personal goals will include
societal and environmental goals. Theology is a major force in intellectual
and psychological reform and the studies and practices of the Sufis
have risen as a means of understanding and achievement.
The goal of the Sufi is to understand and live in The True Love.
That goal, maintain the Sufis, is the highest aspiration of the human
heart. Love is the true force of Creation, and Creation is a manifestation
of Divine Love.
Assuming that, let's explore the various meanings and manifestations
of Love and their impact on the human individual and society. We might
define the basis of human motivation as "to love and be loved". The
Sufi loves and is loved in the truest and ultimate sense. S/he lives
in the certain and experiential knowledge of God's Love for creation
and humanity and therefore strives to know and become truly human. S/he
spends his/her time doing deeds of self-effacement and purification,
studying knowledges that will increase the orientation toward the One
True Source and decrease the likelihood of falling into error and delusion,
at the same time manifesting by every means available that same love
in human understanding to all creatures. By coming to know his/her own
needs and the means to their fulfillment, s/he comes to know the needs
of all humanity and the means to their satisfaction.
The Loss of Love
It certainly seems like the materialist society (whose goals are all
the same) is simply putting the cart before the horse. We all feel the
need for material stability, but why? If we were to look deeply, we
would find that we feel material stability would be an adequate (even
requisite) platform from which to manifest and receive love - from family,
friends and society in general. The difficulty with this is simply that,
as we all know, the life of this world is fleeting and thereby the search
for material stability becomes all consuming and can lead to tragedy.
The primary motivation (Love) becomes lost in the unending search for
the unattainable, and never becomes attained. The goal becomes lost
in the search for the means.
A person constantly caught in the quest for material stability will
never have the time to love and receive love from spouse and family.
This is the sad tragedy of the "American way".
To this the Sufis say "Love Now!"
Put yourself right with Love. This is not an unpopular theme in the
world of contemporary psychology. Let love flow from you now and you
will discover from within yourself the very source of life itself, without
which it is but a hollow shell. You'll no longer be lost in the priorities
of your mortal existence, and all self-concern and egoism will depart.
This does not mean to say that you will become irresponsible - quite
the contrary. You will fulfill your responsibilities all the more effectively
since your motivation will be from the ease of love rather than from
the hardship of concern and worry.
The truly enlightened beings of the world, Bodhi-Sattvas, Mahatmas,
Buddhas and Sufi Masters (etc.) have reached (at least) the stage of
realization called 'Subsistence in Divine Love', and their only concern
is to provide for their family (humanity) that same subsistence. Hence
our need to manifest. We possess a secret that wants to be known.
This level of existence is what we all long for, and it is the goal
of Sufi Healing. It is the beginning of "to love and be loved" - to
know and live forever in Divine Love. A family, community or society
based on this principle is going to stay together through thick and
You're never out of touch with Love!
If you ever think that you are, then you simply need to pick up the
The role of Sufi Healers is to carry the deep
torch from which all hearts may be rekindled.
How does one acquire the deep torch? By having it kindled by a real
Sufi Master, and following the pathway of Peace and Love to its completion.
The kindled heart will burn through all physical illness and discomfort.
The heart on fire with Love will live forever in that Love.
The Gnostic Claim - God IS Knowable
God IS Knowable. What's more, Such as It is, Divine Nature makes Its
knowledge incumbent upon creation. Ignore It at your peril. The good
news is that it is possible. It would not be required of us if it were
All words have meanings. All meanings are meant to be known and explored.
Meaning is the source of knowledge. Knowledge is the understanding of
meanings. Meaning is that which is indicated (by a word). A meaningless
word nullifies its own existence.
How does one explore meaning? With conviction, determination, investigation
and repetition! The word 'Gnostic' means Knower (of God). The word 'Gnosis'
means Knowledge (of God). The word 'agnostic' means to be without knowledge
(of God), and therefore, ignorant.
Consider, if you will, the meaning of the word 'ignorant' (Spanish/Latin:
ignorante) - one who ignores. To ignore is an act of will, of deliberate
denial and uncaring, and therefore unknowing, (of the Divine Nature
of Existence). And now consider the consequences of ignorance - singularly
the most damaging aspect of human existence. Fear, war, pestilence,
disease, all the damaging elements arise from this one human quality.
Consider the meaning of the word 'enlighten' - to remove the burden
(of ignorance). Consider the meaning of the word 'wisdom' - the understanding
and practical application of knowledge. Do we know
of anyone born with them? Are they not, then, noble objectives?
Consider the most fundamentally beneficial (and beneficent) aspect
of human existence, the Knowledge of the Unity of us all. Is
not the Unity Beneficent? Contemplate Divine Unity for one moment
and see what happens to you. Is not this Unity sufficient to speak for
itself? The slightest contemplation of it can be magnificently inspirational.
Unity is the Source of Inspiration. What is it that you
listen to when you contemplate Unity?
All religious, spiritual and socially uplifting teachings are
inspired by this Unity. All religions, spiritual traditions, and ancient
medical sciences and philosophies, from flower arrangement to homeopathy
to the arts of war, include as an essential element a never-ending deep
contemplation of, and listening to, this Unity.
Can there be any thing greater than this Unity? Can this Unity be Knowing
but not Conscious? May we have consciousness, but not That in and by
which we exist? Should this Unity not have qualities that are beyond
our comprehension? And should not this Unity be solicitous of our well-being,
since Unity saw fit to bring us into existence in the first place? Is
Unity not Aware, the Source and Author of a mother's love and a father's
concern? Is this Unity not capable of creation? Did we, and the creation
of the known and unknown universes, past, present and future, arise
accidentally, as though somehow without the consent, knowledge, cooperation
and willful participation of this Supreme Unity?
Consider some alternatives. Would you support the contention that the
Unity is incapable of speech? All of creation speaks to its kind
and others in some form. Is not then speech an essential attribute of
this Unity? If capable of speech, would you consider Unity incapable
of creating one (or more) able to listen? Who were the great spiritual
leaders of history? All claimed the ability, by Divine Grace and Will,
to speak for The Unity in the language of the people at that time. And
was not their message of eternal benefit to those who listened?
Should not this Seeing, Speaking, Creating, Knowing, Willing, Compassionate,
and Powerful Unity be able to give Itself a name unique to Itself in
all languages, that distinguishes Itself from all previous concepts
and misconceptions? And would you consider this Entity (Unique, Whole
and One In Itself) unable to make this Name, and Its Will and Purpose,
known to Its creation?
Contemplate the meaning of these words!
- Al-lah! The One, greater than which there is nothing!
- Ahad! The Unique. Standing Alone, beyond comprehension, without
necessity of Creation. He is now as He was.
- Wahid! The Oneness, the Unity (Life, Knowledge, Seeing, Hearing,
Speaking, Will, Power), Who comprehends all.
The knowledge of Unity is a study; the Knowing of Unity is a practice.
The Knowing and living in Unity is the primary human obligation that
supercedes all other obligations in importance and priority. All
action or non-action arising from this Knowing will be from Source and
successful. No other knowing can claim this! One moment away from
this knowing is damaging and to persist in its ignorance hardens the
The Knowing of Unity benefits us in many ways.
- Personally, with physical health and well being.
- Socially, with a caring, unified society and the power of love and
concern that such a society can bring to the individuals within it,
- Societally, by allowing the meeting of the races for the purpose
of global harmony and balance (of regional deficits).
This Divine Unity is the Source and Creator of all knowledges, foremost
among which is the Science of Knowing (the Divine) itself.
The Divine Oneness has revealed the Science of Knowing Divinity and
made it available to those who would seek it. It's called Gnosis, 'Knowledge
of God', or 'God Realization' and is often referred to as the 'mystic
way'. It has its roots in singular Truth and its origin in before time.
The "Way" (to know God) has been espoused by every convinced individual
from every religious and spiritual background.
What could be more practical, in any day and age, than the knowledge
of the Science of Knowing the Divine Unity of us all? Divinity exists.
Even one's choice to ignore it affirms it. It is not erased from reality
by such ignorance, only ignored.
Where does one go to seek knowledge of the Divine? Only the Divine
can have complete knowledge of Itself, and only by Divine Will could
Divine Knowledge be accessible to humanity. The Sufis say simply, "We
know God by God."
Sufism: The Science of Perfecting Awareness
The word 'Sufism' has no original meaning in English. It appears to
be a symbolic representation (and sometimes trivialization) of a significant
and meaningful word in Arabic - Tasawwuf (self-purification, healing,
becoming whole and healthy). This Arabic word denotes, among other things,
the healing, realization and teaching process deriving from, and whose
existence is solely dependant upon and the sole point of, a single definable
and observable activity. This activity is the study and practice of
the Islamic revelation under the directorship of an authorized and truly
matured spiritual master.
The study, condensation and application of the above mentioned purification
process, including its practices, analysis and documentation, became
the domain of the Sufi masters and students, and it came to be recognized
as the esoterics, or inner psychology of Islam. Hence the similarity
of Sufism to western psychology and the derivation of its claim to the
title 'Islamic Psychology'.
There are of course obvious and glaring differences between Sufism
and western psychology, most notably in intention. But it is a part
of the hope and work of the sufis that as psychologists continue their
leading edge search into the spiritual traditions of other cultures,
they will be able to unify with and utilize the common intentions and
goals of most spiritual teachers.
Although sufis do not claim theirs to be the only way, (as it
is both obvious and respectfully noted that many effective systems have
come before it), we do point out that Islamic Sufism is the most recent
and complete emergence of the full principles of spiritual liberation.
And it is certainly famous for it's efficacy.
Liberation implies 'being set free'. It is not to be equated with rebellion,
revolution or self-assertiveness. It can only be accomplished by an
unconditional surrender, the reality of which must be tested. The only
true test of a master is by another master. A Sufi adage tells us "call
no man your master lest he set you free." The beauty of this kind of
spiritual freedom is that it only increases the love, respect and service
one has for one's teacher, much the same as one reaches maturity and
goes about one's life independently never losing the love and respect
for one's caring parents.
All spiritual traditions (religions) have their exoteric disciplines
(practices) and their esoteric understandings. These understandings
have evolved like any others as a result of study and observation of
the beneficial effects of devotion to the practice of the outward disciplines.
The true purpose of all religions is to provide a formula (teaching)
and catalyst (teacher) for alchemy (the spiritual growth or transformation
of the student); the guided transformation of lead (the childish ego)
into gold (the spiritually mature adult). So all teachings must have
their outward formulas, but without the chemist, the alchemist, the
transformed teacher to act as guide, these laws are without reality,
meaningless and ineffective. Under mature guidance, Islam is a spiritually
and socially transformative influence par excellence, and the Sufi way
is widely known as an alchemy for spiritual evolution.
The Practice of Remembrance (Dhikr)
There is a science to the use of the names of God (Allah) in Arabic.
It is one of the spiritual subtleties of the science of remembering
our Reality. Although the true gnostic (realized knower of Divine Reality)
knows what s/he is referring to with the mention of the word 'God',
there is not yet in the English language a science to bring that realization
to the unaware seeker. One of the true bases of Sufi practice is exactly
Compare simply the effect of repeating the word 'God' over and over
again to the effects of repeating the name 'Al-lah'. This same principle
holds true for all of the names of the attributes of the Divine Reality
and is another manifestation of the principle of Barakah (blessing,
spiritual benefit). When we discover that one practice 'works' and the
other doesn't, or that one method is manifestly more 'effective' than
the other, what we are comparing is the Barakah received.
In English these Divine Attributes are objective descriptions, i.e.
nouns and adjectives, and truly meaningful only to the gnostic who has
already attained an awareness of True Meaning. There is of course some
benefit from the contemplation of the meanings of these words, but there
is no real established science for total realization using only the
English language. There is, however, such a science in Arabic, and this
is the science of Dhikr (remembrance) as revealed by Allah to the Prophet
Muhammad and taught by the Sufi masters.
It is said that when we remember Allah, Allah remembers us. It is
from Allah's remembrance of us that we know our True Reality, and it
is this True Reality that constitutes our self-knowledge and the basis
for our healing.
The journey to and through the self can be long and arduous. Without
proper orientation, guidance, tools, and knowledge how to use them it
is impossible. But that it IS possible at all should come as good news
to us, for no effort is too much in the quest for escape from darkness
and the plentiful reward of light and guidance from the Divine.
It is helpful for us to think of the journey in terms of stages of
awareness. For the traveling through these stations we have the teaching
of the Sufi Masters. It is not recommended to attempt this journey without
a guide, and the teachings of the guide of this age can be obtained
from any of his students.
Ali Ansari is a teacher and healer in the classical Sufi
tradition. He is currently offering regular evening classes on the
Principles of Spiritual Healing and is available for personal consultations.
You may reach him at his home at 503/460-0712. For class schedule
and more writings visit www.spiritriders.com.