Over the past few decades a large amount of the Western public's attention has been drawn to Islam in the form of fundamentalist belief and practice. This movement, and its effects on the Muslim community and Middle Eastern societies in particular, has proved nothing short of disastrous for many. But what is largely unknown to most is the inner tradition, wisdom and philosophy known as Sufism; what some consider to be the 'mystical' dimension of Islam. Through the poems of Rumi, the writings of Ibn Arabi, and analysis by academics like Prof. William C. Chittick we come to learn that Sufism - as it was inspired and conceived - laid out a cosmology for individuals that sought to help individuals grow 'spirituality' through the rigorous use of their minds.

This week on MindMatters we discuss several ideas central to Sufism: the nature and value of 'transmitted' knowledge - compared to direct knowledge and understanding, the striving towards perfection of man's inner nature, and the process of nothing less than coming closer to God; knowing one's self in order to know God, and vice versa. Along these lines we also look at some correspondences with Gurdjieff's philosophy and methods for working on the self. Far from being a mere footnote in religious and philosophical thought, Sufism couldn't be more relevant to a world that has effectively moved away from God and away from one's own relationship to the higher order of the Universe.

Running Time: 01:02:10

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Here's the transcript of the show:

Corey: ...I'm just existing because of this identity or that identity or this politician, now it's that politician or it's this... All of these things, these are just horrible substitutes for knowing your place in the cosmos.

Harrison: Welcome back to MindMatters. Last week in our discussion on the Holy Grail, I pointed out that all of the main Grail stories were composed over around a 50 year period from 1180 to 1230 and around that time we mentioned what was going on - for example the cathedral building, the gothic architecture that sprung up around that time, and also that it was a time of intense activity in Sufism. So today we're going to get into a bit about Sufism, what it is and some of the Sufis from around that time and some of the things they were saying, one of whom is known as Ibn Al-Arabi. His name is longer than that but that's what we'll refer to him as. I've heard it pronounced either 'arabi' or 'airobi', so we might fluctuate between the two.

Arabi was born in 1165 and died in 1240 - again right around the time of the Holy Grail stories - up in France. He was actually Spanish so he was born just south of where all that Grail activity was going on. And he's got a bit of an interesting story. He apparently experienced what is called 'an opening' or an 'unveiling'. This is like a mystical experience where the barriers between the human material realm and the divine realm blast wide open, and he experienced an intense vision at the age of twelve or thirteen. Apparently that's when he experienced this, and throughout the rest of his life he experienced more of these visions and openings, but in that first one, that was the thing that blew his mind wide open and for the rest of his career, all the things that he wrote, all the vast numbers of books that he wrote, were attempts to put into words what he experienced in that first vision, in addition to his mystical experiences for the rest of his life.

Just to get an idea of how prolific this guy was, his main work which is called The Meccan Openings, from what I can tell in a critical edition that was published of it, it was something like thirty seven volumes, around seventeen thousand pages -- and that was just one of his works. Of course not all of his works were that long. Some were quite short, maybe 100 pages. But it just gives some idea of how prolific he was in his writing. He wrote hundreds of works. I think there are something like 400 that are still available and he wrote perhaps 800 different, unique works over his life.

He was an expert of all on the entire Islamic tradition of that period of time, whether jurisprudence or philosophy, or Sufism, which is the mystical branch, the inner knowledge of the Quran, the inner knowledge and the practice of that inner spirituality.

So we'll be talking a bit about that and also, I'm going to be bringing up some stuff about Rumi too. Rumi is probably the most famous Sufi in the western world through his poetry. You can find all kinds of books in the spirituality or poetry sections of book stores on Rumi and his poetry.

He was born in 1205 and died in 1273, so he's a generation younger than Ibn Arabi, and again, famous for his poetry. He had an interesting life as well. He had a connection to Arabi through one of his pupils who was, I believe, the stepson of Al-Arabi. So while Arabi wrote all kinds of in-depth, arcane, difficult to understand theory on practically every subject imaginable, Rumi was a poet. He expressed these mystical experiences -- as they call them 'states' in Sufism -- through these poems, and then later in life he started composing a series of more didactic poems to kind of give an introduction to Sufism.

His two main works are divided between those two - one, the poems that are describing each individual spiritual experience that Rumi himself had, and then more of a teaching guide but not very systematic, it was poetry so it's still delivered in an 'artful' form.

I don't know if we'll be talking about any other Sufis but we'll just see where it goes from there. So maybe to start out with, Sufism, we want to know what that really is. I don't know if you guys have maybe anything personal to share, like how you first found out about Sufism, or if you just want to launch into a starting point for what it actually is... anything?

Corey: I can definitely not give a definitive answer on that, but I can just hazard an attempt to explain what I understand about Sufism's role to be, at least in the Islamic world back in the twelfth century, and the role that even Arabi played. I was listening to an interview with William Chittick and he said that Arabi never called himself a Sufi, he never considered himself anything besides someone who was trying to perfect man's inner nature. And so the things that he wrote about, discussed, and investigated, and the visions that he had, were all directed towards bringing an awareness of God and the self into his life and into the lives of the people around him. So it was always deeply rooted in the Islamic tradition.

And yet, for the Sufis in general and in that period of time what I understand, it was considered to be two main branches of knowledge, and that the one branch of knowledge was the kind of knowledge that gets transferred over generations and is very practical - the sciences and just the down to earth knowledge - but in the Sufi tradition this branch, this way of knowing the world through the intellect, science and whatever kind of methods that are used, was something that was to be used only by necessity. Only if you need this to complete a project of some kind or to live well, that this is a body of knowledge that's worth investigating.

But the other body of knowledge that was much more important to investigate was God, in every dimension. That was the big thing that I think Arabi did. He 'saw' God and he saw the anatomy of God, and then he went and wrote out the anatomy of God. He used a vocabulary that obviously we don't have today, a vocabulary of faith that's kind of strange and challenging to read because it's a romance. It's a romance between man and God, between your 'you' and your 'self'.

In many ways it's challenging because in the modern world we're really rather faithless, in those terms. We've put all of our faith into transmitted information -- that is knowledge that's transmitted 'father to son', through universities, through colleges, through professional careers and papers and journals. And yet the direct experience in the heart of love of God, of understanding what it means to say that God is all merciful and that there is no God but God, and to discuss things like the nature of being and the oneness of being in the cosmos, to seek and to investigate through faculties that aren't just purely eyeballs and brains. It's to understand on a deep personal level what it means to be in this universe, and to be a part of all of these myriad possibilities of what God is and what God isn't, and to understand that you're always walking a tightrope because it's not just blind faith, but it's an understanding that God is and God isn't at the same time, that this is God and this is not God, and that God is all merciful and God is tyrannical,.tThat there are these different faces of God and to understand what that means and how to make any sense of any of it.

What is God? This question I think is Arabi's life work. It's to understand and to transmit for us so that we can take that information and we can apply it ourselves and seek out the answer for ourselves because that's always going to be a unique and very personal understanding, that you're not going to get tested on it in college. You're not going to find the answer in a book. But through the heart and through the purification of the heart there's some hope that we can understand.

Elan: That distinction that you made Corey, between the transmitted teachings which is called the takthir, next to the kind of knowledge that comes from intellectual understanding and development of the self as it relates to one's relationship to God, is called the tawhid. I'm probably not pronouncing either of those terms correctly, but that's a real biggy because William Chittick -- who we'll be referencing a lot today because he is probably one of the premier professors and students of Sufism and ancient Islamism -- is explaining, especially through this book which is called Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul, he is bringing to us in his best understanding of what Sufism really was intended to do and looks at it in terms of what Islamism has become in this modern world.

And he's quite critical. He makes mention of the fact that there's a sense of dogmatism and appeal to authority and ideological influence, that gets very far away from the types of thinking that Sufism was meant to induce in the practitioner - which was the development of the self, which was the development of one's own personal connection to the 'real', to God, to the hierarchy of the universe - that we would seem to take for granted in today's versions of religion. And you can apply this to all sorts of modern secularized, dumb downed, dogmatized versions of the world's great religions.

So, one of those definitions - tawhid - is explained in his book. He writes:

"All reality is unified in its principle. Everything in the universe comes from God and returns to God, and everything is utterly and absolutely dependent upon God here and now, always and forever, in every time and in every place."

His point is that Sufism has been called this kind of mystical tradition, religion, it has been denigrated and poo-pooed as a new age version of religion - 'oh you're a Sufi' - that type of thing. But his point is no, there is an intellectual tradition deep in Sufism that is being encouraged in the practitioner that doesn't take any of the writings in any of the great works, in the Quran, in the other texts, for granted. There is a constant imploring that one should question these things, that if anything, they should be a point of departure for more questions. And it's through that questioning, through the development of the 'fateor', or this kind of deep soul intellect that we come to have this direct understanding of God through knowledge of ourselves, because God is in us.

We are a part of the macrocosm and a part of the hierarchy. And to lose sight of ourselves within this cosmology is to lose sight of what is real.

Harrison: Well that gets back to something Corey was saying about the transmitted knowledge and the real knowledge. The Sufis, in particular Rumi, didn't like mainstream philosophy very much, or particularly Arabi and Rumi, that there was a difference between the worldly philosophizing and the inner truth of religion.

So in one of his poems, Rumi writes:

"(Thy) life has gone (to waste) in (the consideration of logical) predicate and subject: (thy) life, devoid of (spiritual) insight, has gone in (study of) what has been received by hearsay. Every logical proof (that is) without (a spiritual) result and effect is vain: consider the (final) result of thyself!"

You could apply this to any academic today, living today if you just look at academia - well what's the result of your knowledge? Look at yourself. Are you a particularly great human being? Well they might think so, but in reality they're not. As great as their intellects are, and as great as their intellectual achievements might be to the world, they are usually often just as mediocre human beings as everyone else, nothing great to distinguish them on the soul level, on the level of their character, or on the level of their spiritual development, however we want to define that.

Well first one other quote from Rumi:

"The great scholars of the age split hairs on all manner of sciences. They know perfectly and have a complete comprehension of those matters which do not concern them. But as for what is truly of moment and touches a man more closely than all else, namely his own self, this your great scholar does not know."

So Chittick writes in his book The Sufi Doctrine of Rumi he says (it's got pictures in it so it's nice) {laughter},:

"Man must know himself in order that he can escape from himself; all other knowledge is worthless."

Then he quotes Rumi once more:

"Make a journey out of self into your real self, O master,

For by such a journey earth becomes a quarry of gold."

Reading the Sufis, in particular these two - Rumi and Al Arabi - they often remind me of Gurdjieff, naturally, because there's a whole hypothesis that Gurdjieff learned something or other from Sufi traditions in Central Asia. And there are a lot of points of similarity between the two practices and doctrines, one of which is this focus on what is actually practical and useful -- there's probably a better word for that -- for the actual person in what they come to know, because you can learn a whole bunch of facts about anything, and like I said, still remain a non-entity, a rather useless human being.

But the knowledge that seems to matter the most, and this is what Gurdjieff focused on too, is self-knowledge, and what to actually do in order to transform. Chittick actually defines what he calls, Sufi psychology, keeping in mind that by psychology he's including the entire psyche which is the soul, not the psyche as reduced by modern psychologists - the purely behaviorist mechanical low level self, the 'nafs' or the flesh in the Sufi terminology.

Elan: Let me just comment on something you said Harrison, because there is a lot of Gurdjieff here, as well as Zoroaster and the Apostle Paul, and that's again, I think we've been saying some of these things in the past few shows, there is this overlap or seeing the same picture from these perspectives that are shared, that just compound the truth of looking at the relationship between the individual self and the cosmology of the universe, one's relationship to metaphysics and the rest of the world in its deepest sense.

Just getting back to that point about Gurdjieff being so influenced by some of this, there's this passage here which reminded me quite a lot of Gurdjieff's idea of bankruptcy, which is this idea that we have to die to all of the selfish, egocentric self-centered tendencies that we have. Chittick writes:

"The cosmos is animated by two, simultaneous movements. First is the centrifugal movement away from the Source. Second, the centripetal movement toward the Source. These are what the philosophical tradition commonly called al-mabda'wa'l-ma'ad, 'the Origin and the Return'. The Sufis often used the expression al-qaws al-nuzuli and al-qaws as-s. u'udi, 'the descending arc and the ascending arc.' The issues discussed are cosmogenesis and eschatology.

When addressing the fact that all things naturally and necessarily go back to their Origin, the tradition also discusses the uniquely human privilege of voluntarily returning to God. Freely choosing to return is precisely the raison d'être of realization and realization is another name for the voluntary return. Or, in Sufi language, the voluntary return provides the means to 'die before you die.'"

So there's this sense that there is a free will decision here to become part of what might be an ascending movement towards God, or a descending movement away from the human self, away from God. But to ascend would require that one relinquished those this, as in the bankruptcy that was mentioned earlier - a là Gurdjieff.

So I think Gurdjieff put these ideas in his own terms and came up with his own ideas for how to express and convey them, but when we read In Search of the Miraculous and the rays of creation, there is this strong connection, I feel, to these two forces - centrifugal and centripetal as well, and the free will choice to become a part of something that is either greater or lesser than ourselves and our potential.

Harrison: That gets back to this idea of the transmitted knowledge, what's transmitted and what's received. There's another form of transmission in addition to just the transmission of normal worldly knowledge. The point that I was going to get to previously was just that in, like you mentioned Elan in Paul's letters too, Paul has this denigration of worldly knowledge and worldly wisdom, and that the true wisdom is that that comes from God.

So you find the same idea in Sufism. You find it probably in the esoteric traditions of any religion, or the inner traditions of any religion. For the transmission of knowledge, Ibn Al-Arabi was, as Chittick puts it in one of his books - Sufi Path of Knowledge, on the one hand, Arabi was this great mystic or philosopher with all these inner experiences and relating all the secret teachings. On the other hand, he was also a literalist. He argued that every passage, every word in the Quran was divinely inspired and the absolute truth. So you had to take it literally but there was a hidden meaning that encompassed the literal meaning.

So part of the transmitted knowledge was the Quran, the things that came down from tradition and that had to be preserved. But then there was the hidden meaning, the inner meaning that could only be experienced and truly known through one's self and through one's own inner knowing, as opposed to just the external knowing of just remembering facts or something like that.

And one of the things Chittick also points out is that Arabi talks about the hundred and twenty four thousand prophets. So from the time of Adam to the time of Mohammed, there were a hundred and twenty four prophets and they each received basically the divine word and put it in terms and in a language for the context and the people that could hear it. So naturally, in one time and place, the divine word would be given in this language for this people and then it would take a different form here and there.

Al-Arabi only, of course, focused on the specifically Islamic context because that was his culture, but at least there was this recognition of all these previous prophets before Mohammed that presented this type of thing in a necessarily non-Islamic form. This also has a resonance with the Fourth Way as Gurdjieff presents it in that there is an idea of a tradition passed on through time, from person to person. And yet you could trace something back to its very source at the beginning, and it has this direct line of transmission.

That is put into practice by the Sufis in the form of their Sufi orders and their schools, because whenever a Sufi would gain the grand divine achievement, full spiritual realization, they would often start their own order so that today we've got if not dozens then hundreds of them. Maybe dozens. I don't know for sure. So you've got the Mevlevi Order which traces back to Rumi. You've got the Naqshbandi. You've got all kinds of different ones.

So you've got this direct transmission all within this one system or tradition. But if you look at Gurdjieff's description of the Fourth Way, there's the same idea and there's the same tension between a tradition that's passed on in the same form to one that arises in a specific situation, without necessarily any direct antecedent, without any direct line of transmission into the past. If you take what actually happens in this Sufi practice, which is this divine opening, then you can see that if that's part of human nature to have this possibility of divine opening, then as with the hundred and twenty four thousand prophets, it can happen in any place at any time. So it will probably necessarily take a different form than it took in any previous example.

So potentially you've got all of these different forms of the divine truth that spring up in different cultures at different times without necessarily any direct connection to each other, but which all perhaps express the same truth, perhaps just in a different form and different clothing.

And that's one of the ideas that comes across in some of what Chittick writes about Al-Arabi and Rumi, the idea that there are three -- I don't know if what we call the modes of transmission or three aspects of Sufism -- yeah the three main aspects of Sufism. The way he describes it is that there is knowledge, works, and spiritual realization.

So there's the knowledge which is the transmitted form. This is the original revelation of the Quran to Mohammed that is passed on. That's knowledge of the law. And then there's the works. This is what the Sufis would call The Way. So this is the actual spiritual practices that a Sufi or a Muslim puts themselves through and actually does. So you've got law, works, and then, probably the most important or one of the most typical to Sufism is the third - spiritual realization, which is the truth.

You've got the form that the knowledge takes which is, in the case of Sufism - the Quran, and then there's the inner meaning that is discerned through the experience of the practitioner and through their own practice. So this would be meditative practices and contemplation. In modern Sufi orders for instance, you can look up the Sufi practices. They engage in certain types of prayer and meditation and dancing of course -- Rumi started the Whirling Dervish, that's where Whirling Dervishes come from, apparently.

So The Way or the path is the actual practice leading to the goal of spiritual realization, the realization of truth. At the level of spiritual realization as Rumi puts it in some of his poetry, that negates the necessity now for the law and The Way because once you've achieved the goal you no longer need the path because you're already at your destination. You no longer need the form which is the law because you embody the law. As Chittick puts it, the Sufi becomes the doctrine at that point. So there's no need for the doctrine because you embody the doctrine in your very being. And the way you get there is through the middle section - the works or The Way. That is what would be the inner alchemy or climbing of the ladder.

These are two symbol systems or forms of imagery that the Sufis used that also show up in more western esotericism like the ladder that's in hermeticism and Gurdjieff too, the inner alchemy of course in western alchemy, as well as, again Gurdjieff too talks about alchemy. But to come back to the transmission aspect, in Sufism there is the necessity for a master to guide you through the process. That's another tension that's also within the Gurdjieff system because for Gurdjieff, he also says you need a teacher, you need a master. You can't climb the stairway on your own. You need someone to show you the steps and act in place of the thing which is growing within you to get you past the hurdle that you wouldn't otherwise be able to pass. So you see the same thing in Sufism, the need for a teacher or a master.

So I just wanted to highlight that tension, both the need for a tradition and a line of transmission, but also the openness to this lack of transmission that comes in this instance of just pure divine revelation. I think that's what might be behind the idea of the prophet, a specially prepared individual -- what Gurdjieff might call the messengers from above -- that's their purpose. Their purpose is to act as that anchor, that incarnation of truth that doesn't necessarily need a transmission because they are the source of it.

So of course Sufis would argue that Mohammed was the epitome, the last and greatest prophet, and other traditions will argue that they have the best prophet. But again, just to round that out, there are some similar things in Paul too, something that we haven't gotten into yet, the whole idea of the fall and the interpretation of the fall is there in Sufism as well as Paul, as we discussed several weeks ago in our discussion of that.

I'll leave it there. We might get back to some correspondences to Paul a bit later on.

Elan: One of the ideas that Chittick tries to get across in his distillation of the importance of the Sufi teachings is this dichotomy or tension between all of the religious ideas that would compel a person to, as I was saying a little earlier, be dogmatic about religion and to not pay attention to one's own thoughts. What Chittick says is that our thoughts are the medium, are the substance, are very real things that we don't give enough credence to precisely because we're so immersed in material, superficial, ego-centered reality. So I'm just going to read a portion here because it speaks to some of this really well. He says:

"Islamic forms of thinking take it for granted that God is the source of all reality. The universe and all things within it appear from God in stages, just as light appears from the sun by degrees. The spiritual world, which the Qur'an calls the Unseen (al-ghayb), is the realm of life, awareness, and intelligence. The bodily world, which the Qur'an calls the Visible (as-shahada), is the realm of death, unawareness, and unintelligence.

The closer a creature is situated to God, the more immersed it is in the light of intelligence, consciousness, and thought. Angels and spirits who inhabit the Unseen, are vastly more intense in luminosity and intelligence than most inhabitants of the visible realm."

Which reminds me a little bit of our afterlife show because in that discussion there was this idea that there are these various spheres of existence in the afterlife, where there are intelligences and beings of a wholly different physical nature that are, to varying degrees, living in environments that are more luminous than others and more sublime and less coarse than the lower spheres, or less coarse and luminous than our sphere. So I thought that was something that came up.

"In this way of looking at things, human beings, who were placed on the earth to be God's vicegerents (khalifa), [and I wonder if he means 'vice regents'] are nothing but thought. Their awareness and consciousness determine their reality. Their thoughts mold their nature and shape their destiny. The great Persian poet Rumi, a true master of the intellectual tradition, reminds us of thought's primacy in his verses,

"Brother, you are this very thought - the rest of you is bones and fiber.

If roses are your thought, you are a rose garden, if thorns, you are fuel for the furnace.

If rosewater, you will be sprinkled on the neck, if urine, you will be dumped in the pit.""

So there's a lot of wisdom in that! You are what you think and that the world is made up of thoughts and the unseen and the generally unknowable, precisely because we are caught up in our 3D physical existence where we lose sight of the materiality of thought, and its impact and its existence in the ether and its connection to other people. We give out thoughts all the time. Sometimes we pick up on thoughts from others without even realizing it, or sometimes realizing it.

There is an attention that seems to be an importance here, of thinking about what you're thinking about, of metacognition, of knowing yourself through knowing your thoughts and of questioning your thoughts. That's just another really pertinent part of the intellectual tradition as Chittick presents it.

Corey: As I've been reading these works, I've been continuously reminded of the show that we did on Epictetus and his number one focus -- the only thing that you can control are your thoughts. Now that's the realm of the gods. In your thoughts you are closer to the gods than you are closer to anything else. I just continued to be struck by how even Al-Arabi seemed to be more imaginative, like an Epictetus with an extra faculty. He had a faculty that Epictetus, for whatever reason, I don't know why, he was obviously a brilliant philosopher, absolutely intelligent, just head over heels over most other men. but then, in the same regard, even though Al-Arabi is exponentially more intelligent. But it's not because he thought of all of these different things and logically deduced that there must be all these different forms. It's because in some way and on some level and through some faculty, and he would probably say it's the faculty of imagination, he saw these things. He saw the reality of being and the structure of being, and then he tried to describe that and put it on paper and deduce the different conclusions that you can draw from this reality that he saw.

By doing so, he was in many ways transducing a knowledge that you can't, as a normal guy go out there, like if you're a naturalist and you spend all of your life studying nature, you're not going to come to this kind of a conclusion. You're not going to understand the world of being. But if you're someone even like Al-Arabi and that's your job is to understand the world of being, then you can become like a naturalist of that world.

Obviously people will always argue that this is all just in somebody's imagination, this is all just make believe and this and that. And of course even though Al-Arabi was facing the same kinds of things back then. It's just a perennial complaint because there will always be people who don't have that faculty and there will always be people who can delude themselves into believing they have that faculty, or who want to delude others into believing they have that faculty because it's so highly subjective. We just don't have access to these realms of information and that's why a lot of us are like sheep. We're a lot like sheep in that sense in that we need some sort of a trustworthy shamanic type figure that can structure and build a world. You want them to structure a world, a religious system, a universe that is as close to reality as possible. Without that, the universe is chaos.

We forget how important individuals with this kind of ability are, and how important it is to have a vocabulary of faith and to be able to understand these basic drives that we have, the basic drive to exist and to be able to understand that in a way that's not -- 'I'm just existing because of this career', 'I'm just existing because of this identity or that identity, or this politician now it's that politician, or it's this'.

All of these things are horrible substitutes for knowing your place in the cosmos. They're horrible substitutes for being able to have a vocabulary of faith that says that you're striving to be because that's the charge that God has given all of life on this planet. It's a sacred command, and as humans we have a special place in this cosmos because we share in this mind that, as you were saying Elan, it's so easy to forget that we have this unique ability to think and to change our thoughts, and to analyze our thoughts, and then to thereby change our lives.

We could radically change our lives and change the lives of everyone around us if we have the right words, if we have the right motivation, if we have the right meaning, and if we have a heart.

[Elan: The right names?.

Corey: If we have a heart, yes and the right names too. For so many of us, like you said, it's a world of death and confusion because all of these things are just muddled together. It's all just a big nullity because it's not sharply defined, and the map, I guess you could say the map of meaning is just off.

So you think that you're going to the town across the way but your map has you going in the opposite direction and you just keep driving and driving and driving, and wondering why you never got there. Well it's because our maps are crap. They're just shoddy and we need one for our time and we're not going to get it by just going out and looking at the forests and the rain, this and that. We need spiritual awareness and spiritual guidance.

Harrison: And like you said, a new vocabulary to be able to know where we're at and where we're going. Coming back to the idea of these traditions and how they come into the world, I think Gurdjieff provided that for the twentieth century -- a new vocabulary for this inner truth that pops up throughout cultures and throughout history, but that loses its applicability to certain cultures and certain peoples in certain times. Sometimes the form decays and becomes ineffectual, useless for certain peoples to actually benefit from. So it needs to be reinvigorated every once in a while.

You spoke about the faculty that Al-Arabi had in particular, and that perhaps Epictetus didn't have. One of the things about Al-Arabi is that he describes the stations and states of the Sufi path, of the Sufi way. The states will be the individual experiences, what can be translated as spiritual inrushings as the result of these openings. These are the mystical experiences that can be experienced on the way. And then there are the stations. These are the virtues that are acquired and retained as, I guess you could say, as one develops their character or grows in being, or just develops spiritually.

Al-Arabi gave warnings that all inrushings aren't from the same source. He divided them into four different sources - the divine; so from the very top, from oneness, the Absolute level of being -- spiritual; that would be from the spiritual realms. But then there were also two other sources - the ego itself, egocentrism and satanic.

So there are these different sources of inrushings and Chittick points out that if you look at a modern tradition like the catchall New Age community, there's no differentiation between the source of inrushings. You have a great experience and it's this mystical experience and now you're - what's J.P. Sears's phrase for it? - ultra-spiritual, right? Because you've had, you know it, you've experienced the divine inrushing of one sort or another. But, like you said, you're like a babe in the woods. You don't know what's going on. You don't know how to differentiate any of these things. That's again, where the need for a master for a sheikh in the Sufi tradition, or a teacher, is necessary to help you discern because you don't know these things. You're like a beginner in mathematics. You don't know what's what. You need someone to show you the ropes, hopefully someone who knows what they're talking about, but you've got a whole bunch of charlatans and people you can't trust and people pretending they know something, or people who think they know something and don't actually.

It is a rough place to be in. It is a perilous path, a perilous time and place to be in where we collectively don't have someone we can implicitly trust with this kind of thing, partially because it's so at odds with our culture today. It's not something that is taught in elementary school, for instance. It's just not part of our everyday life.

I want to bring it back to a few of the ideas that come out particularly in Rumi. This will tie back to the shows we did on Christianity, on Paul in particular. There's this idea that we mentioned already about self knowledge, the importance of self knowledge. That's the only knowledge that actually matters. But on the other hand, that isn't to say that all knowledge of external things or of cosmology -- not modern cosmology as in astronomy -- but the nature of reality and all that stuff, it's not to say that isn't important because like Rumi would say, that first facet of Sufism, knowledge or the law, which might include things like this, is that theory -- as opposed to practice -- that theory is what provides the picture of where you're heading.

You need a picture of the context in which you're acting, in order to act properly. So part of self-knowledge will be to have a proper framework in which to place yourself. Where am I? How do I fit in the grand scheme of things and what is my path through that jungle? You need both.

But the full realization, the path that you were going towards, is self-knowledge. And what is self knowledge? Well part of the spiritual realization is that, as Gurdjieff would say and as Rumi says too, a realization of one's own non-entity, that you are really nothing, that there is nothing special about you. You are the most insignificant speck. But on the other hand, from another perspective, you are all important because the true self - what you are actually trying to discover or in the process of coming to 'know' - you find that the truth behind the true self is actually God.

So by acquiring self-knowledge you are actually acquiring knowledge of God, because you are this fractal holographic representation of God, that you as the microcosm encompass all of that. The treasure within is illimitable, it's unlimited because it is everything because on the ultimate level through that connection of your own spark of divinity, you actually are God. And that's the controversial aspect of mysticism in general.

I'll read a quote from Rumi, well first Chittick kind of introducing it. First there's a quote from the Quran, or it might be a hadith. Let me find it. So this will give the context for what I'll read next. This is God speaking:

"I was a hidden treasure and I wanted to be known, so I created the world."

So now, Chittick writes:

"Through the spiritual path man awakens from his slumber and finds that he is not what he had thought himself to be; he is not that particular mode of consciousness with which he had identified himself.

And man does not 'achieve' anything by realizing union with God; rather he becomes what he had always been in his inmost nature. God is the Real and nothing can be outside His Reality."

So now he quotes Rumi:

"Take the famous utterance 'I am God.' Some men reckon it a great pretension; but 'I am God' is in fact a great humility. The man who says 'I am the servant of God' asserts that two exist, one himself and the other God.

But he who says 'I am God' has naughted himself made himself nothing) and cast himself to the winds. He says, 'I am God': that is, 'I am not, He is all, nothing has existence but God, I am pure nonentity, I am nothing.' In this the humility is greater."

So this comes back to tawhid - there is no God but God - the unity of everything where everything is God. And in that, if we tie this back to some of our first shows that we did where we talked about Whitehead -- the different kinds of theologies and ways of looking at the nature of God, in most western religions God is a transcendent being, totally 'other'. For Sufis, that would be what they call shirk, or associating with other Gods, saying that there is something that exists separate from God because if you have a transcendent god who is over and above creation, now you have God separated from His creation. And that is in essence to set up a separate god, a separate Absolute - whereas there is only one God. There is only one.

So the idea of this transcendent god removed from reality, removed from creation, is actually a form of idolatry according to the Sufis. It's not that God is purely immanent in creation, because that is to identify the Absolute or God with every individual part of creation - that's to set up an infinite number of gods at odds with each other, totally separate, having totally separate sources of power.

So the Sufi tradition is actually in line with Whitehead's conception of God, and Hartshorne, Whitehead's student, which is in the philosophical tradition called panentheism, that God is both transcendent and immanent -- that God is within every part of creation and also transcendent above it.

And there's a point where Chittick talks about this in relation to either Arabi or Rumi, I can't remember which. Well if you want to get the book, just get the book and read it. {laughter} Maybe I'll read a bit. This is in the chapter on God and the World. So he's talking about the transcendence or incomparability of God, that's the tanzih, and the imminence or resemblance - tasbbih. So Chittick writes:

"As Ibn Arabi often points out in his Fusus al-hikam, the Quran summarizes these two points of view in the verse, "nothing is like Him; and He is the Hearing, the Seeing"."


"There is nothing like God, so He is absolutely transcendent; but inasmuch as a being "hears" or "sees," it is from God that these attributes have come, or to be more exact, it is God who in reality is seeing and hearing."

This gets back to what I said about the spiritual realization being that the true nature of the self, behind the false self that is destroyed and dies in this spiritual death and rebirth, the true self is actually God Himself, God Itself.

There are a couple of things in there that remind me of the conversation we had with Joseph Azize and his book, where he talks about, first of all the importance of the phrase; 'I am' in Gurdjieff, and especially his exercises. That was one of Gurdjieff's central ideas - 'I am'. Not only was that almost a mantra for certain spiritual exercises, but there's so much contained in that statement. I think, like Azize said in the show, he quoted a recollection of Maurice Nicoll that Gurdjieff had told him that behind 'real I' - which is the kind of the goal of the Gurdjieff system - behind real I lies God.

So it's the same concepts in Sufism - the discovery of the real I, to be able to really say 'I am', 'I exist', 'I am existing', is to say the heretical statement 'I am God'. But like Rumi says, there is a supreme humility about that statement because what that really means is; 'I', my individual self am nothing. I'm an non-entity. The only thing that exists that has any real meaning is the 'totality', is the source from which I come and from which all my faculties come.

So for the Sufis, when the real I 'sees' or 'hears', it is actually God seeing or hearing. This is the big thing that ties back to the Apostle Paul, where Paul is talking about the faith of Christ and God's faith, and God's dominion, and all of these properties of God. Like we discussed on those shows, the way in which those things manifest is through humanity, is through us. So the Kingdom of God is not some kingdom external to us where God's going to send this earthly representative and He's going to rule over us like a medieval king, or something like that. No, it's God's dominion, the idea of the action of God, the work of God manifested through us, through people, through individuals. But in order for that to happen, there has to be this destruction of the old self, of the fallen self, the Adamic self.

We don't have time to get into it today but there are all kinds of passages in this book in particular, on the Sufi interpretation of the fall, of Adam's fall, and how that relates to the cosmos in general, and why there exists this separation between God. Why is there a multiplicity? If God is One, why are there many things?

Well part of the answer is the quote that I said that 'I was a treasure hidden', and I created the world in order to discover it, in order to essentially know myself, and the idea of the fall of Adam and what that entailed. That was the identification with the separate self, and the loss of the ability to see the true nature. It was an identification with the separateness and a closing off of that vision of reality. So the path forward, the path upward, is to regain that vision, enriched through the experience of climbing that path to then re-integrate with the true self, the real self, what you always in fact were, but had lost connection to and forgotten, basically to remember your self, gain a true 'I' and be able to say 'I am God'.

But, we've been going for an hour so I think we will stop there. Any final words guys? any last words?

Elan: 'I am God' seems to be a good place to end it.

Harrison: Well I'll just say, I'm not saying that. [laughter]

Corey: A direct quote...

Harrison: So thanks for tuning in everyone. We'll be returning probably to some Sufi stuff later on, so everyone take care and yeah, read some books! Bye.