Greetings of Peace. This blog contains selections from my correspondence and other sources on a variety of subjects related to religion, philosophy, and spirituality. I hope that they may be of benefit to the interested reader. Concerning the title of the blog, read this entry.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Tasawwuf and Tantra

al-Da'iratu-l Fath of Shaykh Abu-l 'Abbas al-Mursi

There are certainly elements and perspectives of Tasawwuf that are analogous to Tantra but this is quite different than an incorporation of Tantra into Tasawwuf. Concrete examples can include awrad, dawa'ir, and lata'if, which correlate to mantras, yantras, and chakras, and a shared perspective concerning the theophanic quality of nature. Despite the formal and practical similarities of these elements, the content differs considerably because the manifestation is delimited in each case by the scope of the revelation. In Islam, every element of tasawwuf either derives from or is reconciled to the Quran. Likewise, the function and authority of the Shaykh is modeled after the Prophet Muhammad - may peace and blessings be upon him - and derived from the transmission of his initiatic and legislative power in contradistinction to a Shaivite Guru for example who is modeled after and derives his authority from Dakshinamurthi or Shiva in the form of the first Guru.

This is what I was referring to previously by stating that the classical Sufi tradition seems to avoid many of the problems of occultism, which is characterized by syncretism and eclecticism. There is no place for improvisations within the spiritual life because the recognition of the Quran as al-furqan, the criterion, is still very strong. I have encountered the teaching for instance that when the gnostic receives an inspiration, he measures it according to the criteria of the Quran and Sunna and if he finds it contradictory to the revelation he discards it. Bearing in mind that the Quran is a vast ocean of knowledge with a universalist perspective, this should in no wise be considered a diminution or exclusivism as much as a divinely established boundary preventing one from straying off the path.

Schuon asserts that "between one esoterism and another there are possibilities of mutual influence that can hardly exist on the exoteric plane, but in certain cases extend into the domain of outward forms." I believe that the converse also holds true, that between one exoterism and another there are divinely ordained formal limits which can hardly exist on the esoteric plane, but in certain cases extend into the domain of spiritual realization.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Absolute, Infinite, Perfection

Commentary on Surah al-Ikhlas by Seyyed Hossein Nasr excerpted from The Need for a Sacred Science, p. 10-11

The metaphysical doctrine of God as absolute and infinite is contained in an explicit fashion in the Quranic chapter called Unity or Sincerity, al-Tawhid, or al-Ikhlas (CXIII), which according to Muslims summarizes the Islamic doctrine of God.

In the Name of God - Most Merciful, Most Compassionate
Say: He is God, the One (al-Ahad)!
God, the eternal cause of all beings (al-Samad)!
He begeteth not nor was He begotten.
And there is none like unto Him.

The "Say" (qul) already refers to the source of manifestaion in the Divine Principle, to the Logos which is at once the Divine Instrument or Manifestation and the source of manifestation in the Divine Order. He (huwwa) is the Divine Essence, God in Himself, God as such or in His suchness. Al-Ahad attests not only to God's oneness but also to His absoluteness. God is one because He is absolute and absolute because He is one, al-ahadiyyah or quality of oneness implying both meanings in Arabic. Al-Samad, a most difficult term to render into English, implies eternal fulness or richness which is the source of everything; it refers to Divine Infinity, to God being the All-possibility. The last two verses emphasize the truth that God in His Essence is both above all realtions and all comparisons. The chapter as a whole is therefore the revealed and scriptural counterpart of the metaphysical doctrine of the Divine Nature as it issues from the inner revelation which is the intellect.

There is, however, one more statement in this Quranic chapter with which in fact the other chapters of the Quran also open and which is related to the third aspect of the Divine Nature referred to above, namely goodness. God is not only absolute and infinite, but also goodness and perfection. To use the Quranic terminology, He is al-Rahmah, mercy in Himself, and being mercy and goodness cannot but manifest Himself. The expansive power of the Divinity, which "breathing upon the Divine possibilities" manifests the world, issues from this fundamental aspect of the Divine Nature as goodness or mercy. That is why the Sufis consider the very substance of the universe to be nothing other than the "Breath of the Compassionate" (nafas al-rahman). If God is both absolute and infinite, goodness or mercy also reside in His very nature for as Ibn 'Arabi has said, "Mercy pertains to the essence of the Absolute because the latter is by essence 'Bounteous.'"