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Principles of Sufi Healing (Part one)
by Ali Ansari
Preface

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."

Introduction

"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 mind.

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 brings Joy.

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 thin.

You're never out of touch with Love!

If you ever think that you are, then you simply need to pick up the spark again.

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 not.

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 heart irreparably.

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, and
  • 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 this science.

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. Email: ali@spiritriders.com

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