Spiritual Essays

Interrogative Imperative Institute

The Sufi mystical path (tasawwuf) involves a process of purification under the guidance of an authentic (properly authorized) spiritual guide or master that focuses on different spiritual potentials within human beings,

and if that process is successfully completed, may lead, if God wishes, to the realization of one's essential identity as well as to the active expression of one's unique spiritual capacity to know, love, and serve Divine purpose.

Background

By the Grace of God, my spiritual guide knew far, far more that what he has said to me. Unfortunately, I have forgotten far, far more than what I remember of what has been related to me by him.

Moreover, I have written far less than what I remember of what he taught me. The result of this funneling process is given expression through, among other places, the essay on this page, along with other essays concerning a Sufi perspective to which the links to the right take one.

Everything that is good and correct in these essays comes, by the grace of God, through my spiritual guide who was willing to accept me as a reclamation project. Everything that is incorrect in those essays comes from my own shortcomings and ignorance.

The material contained within these essays is intended to stimulate reflection concerning a variety of themes which are important to spiritual life in the midst of everyday life. God willing, the content given expression through such spiritual essays -- both individually as well as collectively -- reflect something of a mystical perspective.

However, one does not have to be on a mystical path or be inclined to that path in order to engage the material in these essays. Anyone with an interest in spirituality and mysticism will find, God willing, an abundance of themes within the boundaries of the essays that may be able, God willing, to form the seeds of contemplative reflection for any faith background.

None of the topics is dealt with in anything remotely resembling a definitive manner. The idea was to introduce a problem, issue or focal orientation in each essay and, then proceed fairly quickly to give something of the flavor of a mystical perspective concerning the theme being considered, before moving on to another topic.

Identity

To go through life and never know who one is, this is a tragedy, both of modern as well as ancient times. Yet, most of us would rather hold on to the ignorance and darkness of our egos instead of risk experiencing the temporary psychological and emotional discomfort which may be necessary to seek and discover the truth about ourselves. In our heart of hearts, even if we might not be willing to admit so to others, many of us realize that one of the primary activities of our egos is to generate misery, difficulty and heartache, both for ourselves as well as others. Yet, we permit ourselves and others to be subjugated to its cruel reign of tyranny again and again and again.

In fact, we are such slaves to, and in fear of, our egos, we are willing to forego all chance of having real, essential purpose, meaning and identity enter into our lives. We would rather continue to permit ourselves to be crushed beneath the constant cravings and selfishness of our respective false selves.

We live in the darkest shadows of a king or queen who rules arbitrarily and consistently uses tactics of manipulation, coercion, terrorism, corruption, seduction and bribery. We dream of escape or revolution, but we cannot bring ourselves to take the steps to journey toward being our own person. We prefer the binding chains shackling us to the identity of the false self, over the efforts required to learn how to use the keys within us to unlock our chains forever.

We shy away from our spiritual identities because we believe this would condemn us to some sort of slavery to Divinity. Yet, we have these worries while we go about busily degrading ourselves as a lackey and a thrall of our false selves.

The false self tells us: "Come with me, and you will be free of God". However, the false self never explains how we are to be free of it.

At best, the false self is like an air traffic control system. As we leave one sector of our being, the ego will turn us over to the appropriate controller in the next sector. Nonetheless, all of the controllers are part and parcel of the same controlling system of the false self. They merely have different names, titles and appearances.

We never will be permitted to fly without filing a flight plan with, and getting approval from, the air traffic control system of the ego. The only flight plans which will receive approval are those traveling along the network of habitual routes laid down by the dialectic of passion and anger.

To control, ourselves or others, is in the nature of the ego. Any inclinations we may have to seek our essential identity will always be resisted by the ego.

Many aspects of modern, and ancient, philosophical, religious, psychological, and scientific thinking is, and has been, directed toward exploring the issue of human identity. Who are we as individuals? Who are we collectively? What does it mean to be a human being?

What is entailed by, or follows from, the human condition? Where did we come from? Where are we going? What is the meaning and purpose, if any, of human existence?

There are many conceptual and psychological currents which shape our interpretation of the nature of identity and the sort of role it plays, or should play, in our lives. Religion, culture, socio-economic status, family life, education, career, race, ethnicity, age, gender, personal history, sexual orientation, nationality, success, and failure are all thought to have significant contributing roles in the shaping of identity.

From the perspective of the Sufi masters, most of the "normal" ways of addressing the problem of identity often are preoccupied with largely marginal, if not illusory, considerations. More specifically, according to Sufi masters, we are all born with an innate spiritual nature and identity. However, our parents (and, by extension, our families, communities, schools, countries and ourselves) make us into something other than what is indicated by our indigenous spiritual identity.

Furthermore, practitioners of the Sufi path maintain all people are equal before God. Part of the meaning of this equality is that, from the perspective of Divinity, qualities such as: race, ethnicity, language, power, gender, status, fame, wealth, education, beauty and so on, play no role in matters of gaining spiritual proximity, so to speak, to God.

The elimination of the foregoing qualities from our spiritual curriculum vitae means those properties have nothing to do with spiritual identity in and of itself. On the other hand, such qualities do constitute a network of tests, trials, challenges, traps, opportunities and obstacles which must be successfully navigated in order to arrive at the real core of identity - namely, our essential spiritual nature.

We can know whom we are: ethnically, racially, religiously, educationally, socio-economically, historically, nationally, sexually, culturally, and politically. Nonetheless, according to Sufi masters, all of this is useless information because, in and of itself, such information does not help us to realize, ontologically, whom we are in any spiritually essential sense.

To the extent we get bogged down in these sort of "identity" issues, then all of our energies, time, resources, efforts and focus will be diverted from discovering the real source and nature of our identity. Moreover, entanglements in all of the foregoing sort of traditional "identity" issues just become venues for getting lost, confused, frustrated and seduced with respect to what our more fundamental purposes, goals, and needs of life should be.

Such preoccupations are not in our best spiritual interests. Furthermore, in light of all the bloodshed and misery which is generated through conflicts and antagonisms involving these trappings of "identity", this kind of identity preoccupation is not in the best spiritual interests of our families, communities, countries or the world.

Each of us has a unique spiritual identity. The nature of that identity may share certain common dimensions with the spiritual identity of others, but at the heart of our spiritual identity, there is a reality which is shared by no other created thing or being.

Our individual uniqueness is rooted in the Realities of the Names and Attributes of God. Among other things, the Sufi path is intended, God willing, to guide the individual to the full unfolding of the spiritual capacity which constitutes our uniqueness. If this happens, then we will come to know the truth and reality of whom, what, why and how we are.

According to the practitioners of the Sufi path, when we come to experience our essential identities, we will come to the realization of certain truths about human beings. Among these truths, are the following.

(1) All of our attributes are borrowed from, or on loan from, the treasure house of Divine Names and Attributes.

(2) Our essential identity and nature is hidden as a mystery or secret of God within the Divine Names and Attributes.

(3) Until this sirr-illahi, or mystery of God, is unveiled, we cannot know our true selves and, therefore, we will not know real freedom.

(4) The purpose and meaning of our lives only will be known by us with the full unfolding of our essential identity.

(5) We will be incapable of properly fulfilling our duties and responsibilities as God's vicegerent with respect to the rest of Creation, as long as we do not know, in the fullest sense possible, who we are essentially.

(6) If we do not realize our essential, spiritual identities, we will never understand in any direct, transcendental, experiential manner, that only God has reality and that Divine Attributes, Names, Actions and Effects are but manifestations made possible by the sole reality of Divine Essence.

(7) If we do not fully experience our spiritual identities, our understanding concerning the nature of the meaning of servanthood, which is at the core of our true selves, always will be defective.

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