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.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
(Written in late 2006)
My life consists of a continuing quest for convictions, permanent values and beliefs that may serve as intelligent guides for the cultivation of nobility and integrity. According to traditional metaphysics, permanence is not an element of material existence, being as it is a world of transitory and ever-changing forms. This situation is mirrored in the superficial trends, both popular and academic, that permeate all aspects of our modern society. Permanence and immutability are instead qualities of Absolute Being, both transcendent and divine. My pursuit has thus been an essentially religious quest dealing with the cultivation of sacred knowledge of the divine order.
For nearly half my life I have been exploring the religious expressions of humanity, particularly in their extremes of occultism. Occultism has proved to be an enticing, but ultimately unfruitful endeavor. It elicits acclaim and attracts adherents due to its emphasis on visionary phenomena achieved through the use of disciplines that have been extrapolated from various religious traditions, sometimes haphazardly, at other times with great ingenuity, but at all times inherently incomplete. Perhaps the greatest example of this is the eclecticism of Aleister Crowley who set the trend for nearly all contemporary occult literature with his emphasis on practicality. Not only did he borrow disciplines from various traditions but he intentionally sought to divest them of their idiosyncratic religious symbolism leaving only the external forms. In this diminutive state they were now undertaken not as acts of devotion and worship but as arbitrary exercises with the intention of expanding the horizons of mental capability.
The true intention of religious practices is essentially purification of the personality. They serve to divest one of various intemperances, gradually revealing an inherent perfection. Traditional metaphors include the idea of transparency in which the opaque corrugations of the lower nature have been diminished affording greater lucidity of transmission of the interior radiance of the heart. Eastern traditions speak of rendering still the rough waters of the soul so that in their tranquility they will begin to reflect the divine self within. True religious disciplines are not merely mechanical and arbitrary exercises investigated scientifically while awaiting the state of illumination. Instead they are integral manifestations of transcendent reality within the limited field of human agency. Their goal is not a vague illumination resulting from the emotional excitation or tranquility of the performance. Rather it is the integration and patterning of the human life according to its divine prototype.
After over a decade of searching I have only now realized that the knowledge that I have been pursuing is the chief characteristic of orthodox religion. The function of religion is the perpetuation of a distinctive revelation in which the divine order has been revealed to a particular cosmic sector of humanity resulting in its integration into all aspects of that society. Orthodoxy is the instrument of the regularity of tradition. If Truth is the center of divine reality and upon the circumference of its radiance lay the various religious traditions, then each individual point of view reflects a distinctive but complete manifestation of the total reality. Religion in the traditional sense is not the product of individual ingenuity, effort, or innovation. It is eternal and immutable truth periodically revealing itself through the agency of specially ordained individuals set apart as prophets of a new but eternally present dispensation and way of life.
At present the religion that most perfectly reflects my convictions and point of view is Islam. The beauty of the Qur'an, the inspiring life of the prophet Muhammad, may blessing be upon him, as model of the spiritual ideal, the doctrine of unity (al-tawhid), acknowledgement of the multiplicity of prophets and revelations present throughout history in various cultural expressions, and the esoteric dimensions of Sufism have given me an inexhaustible zeal for its investigation and already a degree of devotion. As with any religion there are certain qualifications necessary for identifying oneself with it and relating its doctrines without hypocrisy. It is only my own inadequacy in living up to these ideals that currently keeps me from identifying with Islam in truth.