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TO

ALL

THATTHATTHAT

ISISIS

THE

LIVING REALITY.

THIS

WORK OF REVELATION IS A RESTATEMENT OF THE ANCIENT WISDOM AND IS THE INTELLECTUAL

BIRTHRIGHT

OF

ALL

 

THE

RAINBOW OF THE COVENANT

 O

NAMUH

SOW THE SEEDS OF THIS WORK WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOUR CREED OR RACE

AND

LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I LOVE YOU

ARISESTHATSUNSETSTHATSUNSETSTHATSUNARISESTHATSUN

OSIRISTHATSONSETSTHATSONSETSTHATSONOSIRISTHATSON

ADDED TO ALL MINUS NONE SHARED BY EVERYTHING MULTIPLIED IN ABUNDANCE

 

Today is the 9th of November 2003, the day of days a holy and blessed time. It is the day when Tantalus reaches the summit of the Magic Mountain. The Harmonic Concordance brings to fruition the public presentation of

THE

GREAT WORK

upon the Neters net wherein the creators have on behalf of the one and only occasioned its rebirth and from where even as we speak, it is transmitting in constant pulse that born again energy of the one great truth. The revelation of

LIVING

MIND

MINS MIND MINS

DREAMING

MIND

Imperfect the site is perfect as it should be within this particular juxtoposition of instants that constitute therein the stillness of realities living forever.

SISTERS AND BROTHERS OF MINE

Please scatter the seeds of this wonderfully creative time without fear or favour upon the

MINDS

I

of the all and sundry that is the energised everything of a living reality.

 

 

"DOORWAY TO HEAVEN"

THIS

IS

"make no mistake, the greatest shift of consciousness ever.

The period between Novem-ber 8 and 23 is a very special time, when humanity will be assisted by all the Heavenly Beings of Light to catapult their consciousness into the fifth-dimensional level.

After the lunar eclipse on Novem-ber 8, a rare galactic alignment will build powerful cosmic energies which will gather momentum until the solar eclipse on November 23rd

 

THE STAR OF DAVID

 

formation in the heavens will be the harbinger of unprecedented showers of frequencies of divine consciousness.

This will have the effect of opening upa multi-dimensional portal of divine consciousness into the heart and mind of the

THE

MOTHER FATHER

GOD

PRINCIPLE

THE

COSMIC

I

AM ALL THAT IS

 

Every man, woman and child will be treated to a rare glimpse into the remembrance of their own divinity, and the one-ness of all life.

The light of divine consciousness will be shining forcefully through the mental strata of the Earth, and a portal into the divine mind of

GOD

will open within the mental bodies of all humanity.

The new solar frequencies of the fifth dimension will thus become available to all those who choose it!

SOUL TO SOUL

These frequencies are aligned with the ascended master frequencies,

and will hum in tune with the patterns of perfection in the Causal Body of God.

This is, make no mistake, the greatest shift of consciousness ever attempted by the Heavenly Beings of Light, for all humans to take advantage of. This gigantic shift of consciousness was essential to the divine plan of anchoring

 

THE

LIGHT OF GOD

 

to the planet, to transform the Earth, as well as humans, for if this was not done, it would be like trying to change the image of humanity in a mirror, without changing the human himself who causes the reflection. Outer-worldly situations only change if there is corresponding change in the minds and hearts of men.

When every soul on the planet remembers the oneness of all life, and that if we harm one another, we are in actuality harming ourselves, then this profound truth will open up the mind-blowing concepts of the interconnectedness, and the ultimate inter-dependent-ness, of soul and soul.

Can you imagine how people will interact once the profoundness of this truth pervades their consciousness?

Quoted from the

DAILY MIRROR

Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Veena Minocha

Page

33

The above article by Veena Minocha Astrologer of The Hindustan Times is submitted to your cyclopian minds

I

THE

MESSAGE

unless integral to quoted work.

all arithmetical machinations, emphasis,

comment, insertions subterfuge and insinuations

are those of the Zed Aliz Zed as recorded by the far yonder scribe.

 

 

STORM ON THE SUN

HOW THE SUN AFFECTS LIFE ON EARTH

Joseph Goodavage

1979

Page 5

THE STAR

Chapter 1

"Eliminate the impossible. Whatever remains, however improbable must be true"

Sherlock Holmes

 

 

FINGERPRINTS OF THE GODS

G Hancock

1995

Page 287

"What one would look for, therefore, would be a universal language, the kind of language that would be comprehensible to any technologically advanced society in any epoch, even a thousand or ten thousand years into the future. Such languages are few and far between, but mathematics is one of them - and the city of Teotihuacan may be the calling-card of a lost civilization written in the eternal language of mathematics."

"Of all the other stupendous inventions,' Galileo once remarked,

what sublimity of mind must have been his who conceived how to communicate his most secret thoughts to any other person, though very distant either in time or place, speaking with those who are in the Indies, speaking to those who are not yet born, nor shall be this thousand or ten thousand years? And with no greater difficulty than the various arrangements of two dozen little signs on paper? Let this be the seal of all the admirable inventions of men.3"

 

WHAT ONE WOULD LOOK FOR THEREFORE WOULD BE A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE THE KIND OF LANGUAGE COMPREHENSIBLE TO ANY TECHNOLOGICALLY ADVANCED SOCIETY IN ANY EPOCH

SUCH LANGUAGES ARE FEW AND FAR BETWEEN BUT MATHEMATICS IS ONE OF THEM

 

I

THE

NINTH

 HIEROGLYPHIC

 

A

MAZE

IN

ZAZAZA ENTER ZAZAZA

ZAZAZAZAZAZAZAAZAZAZAZAZAZAZ

ZAZAZAZAZAZAZAZAZAAZAZAZAZAZAZAZAZAZ

THE

MAGIKALALPHABET

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZZYXWVUTSRQPONMLKJIHGFEDCBA

12345678910111213141516171819202122232425262625242322212019181716151413121110987654321

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 25
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

 

THE

UPSIDE DOWN

OF

THE

DOWNSIDE

UP

ZXSONIHHINOSXZZXSONIHHINOSXZZXSONIHHINOSXZZXSONIHHINOSXZ

987654321999999999123456789 ZXSONIH987654321999999999123456789 HINOSXZ87654321999999999123456789

H I N O S X Z Z X S O N I H 8 9 14 15 19 26 26 19 15 14 9 8 H I N O S X Z Z X S O N I H

8 + 9 + 5 + 6 + 1 + 6 + 8

I

I AM THAT THAT AM I

ZAZAZAAZAZAZ

THE

DREAM

OF

THE

RAINBOW COVENANT

 AZAZAZAZAZAZAZAZAZZAZAZAZAZAZAZAZAZA

 

A B C D E F G H I
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I

I

ME

J K L M N O P Q R
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
1+0 1+1 1+2 1+3 1+4 1+5 1+6 1+7 1+8
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
J K L M N O P Q R

I

ME

S T U V W X Y Z N
19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 I
1+9 2+0 2+1 2+2 2+3 2+4 2+5 2+6 N
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 E
S T U V W X Y Z S

 

WITH EPISODIC SENSE OF DE JAVU THE FAR YONDER SCRIBE AND OFT TIMES SHADOWED

SUBSTANCES WATCHED IN FINE AMAZE

THE

ZED ALIZ ZED

IN SWIFT REPEAT SCATTER THE SACRED NUMBERS AMONGST THE LETTERS OF THEIR PROGRESS

AT THE THOUGHT OF THE NINTH RAM WHEN IN CONJUNCTION SET THE FAR YONDER SCRIBE MADE

RECORD OF THE FALL

 

LOVE DIVINE DIVINE LOVE

9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6

THAT LIGHT THAT

THAT LOVE THAT

THAT DIVINE LOVE LIGHT THAT

 

- O R I O N - O S I R I S - I S I S - - - - - - - -
- - - 9 - - - - - 9 - 9 - - 9 - 9 - - - - - - - - -
- O R I O N - O S I R I S - I S I S - - - - - - - -
- 6 - 9 - 5 - 6 1 9 - 9 1 - 9 1 9 1 - - - - - - - -
- 15 - 9 15 14 - 15 9 9 - 9 19 - 9 19 9 19 + = 180 1+8+0 = 9 - -
15 O R I O N - O S I R I S - I S I S - - - - - - - -
- 15 18 9 15 14 - 15 19 9 18 9 19 - 9 19 9 19 + = 216 2+1+6 = 9 - -
- 6 9 9 6 5 - 6 1 9 9 9 1 - 9 1 9 1 + = 90 9+0 = 9 NINE 9
- - - - - - - - 1 - - - 1 - - 1 - 1 + = 4 - - 4 - -
- - - - - 5 - - - - - - - - - - - - + = 5 - - 5 - -
- 6 - - 6 - - 6 - - - - - - - - - - + = 18 1+8 = 9 - -
- - 9 9 - - - - - 9 9 9 - - 9 - 9 - + = 63 6+3 = 9 - -
- O R I O N - O S I R I S - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - 9 9 9 - - 9 - 9 - - - - - - - - -
- O R I O N - O S I R I S - I S I S - - - - - - - -

 

 

7
ORIONIS
99
45
9
6
OSIRIS
89
35
8
4
ISIS
56
20
2
-
-
-
-
-
-
First Total
244
100
19
-
-
2+4+4
1+0+0
1+9
-
-
10
-
10
-
-
1+0
-
1+0
-
-
1
1
1

 

 

EARTH LIGHTS

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS

Paul Devereux 1982

Page11

"And Albion knew that it was the Lord, the Universal Humanity& Albion saw his Form a Man"

William Blake Jerusalem

 

THE GALACTIC CLUB

INTELLIGENT LIFE IN OUTER SPACE

Ronald N. Bracewell

Page 41

PROJECT CYCLOPS

"I think there is no question that we live in an inhabited universe that has life all over it"

George Wald

Page52

" After this initial detection took place, perhaps their beacon would be turned on. What frequency might they choose for their beacon?

Where Is Their Beacon?

Possibly they would choose to tune their beacon somewhere in one of our TV bands. Therefore, we should all be alert for the first message, which may show up on the TV set of anyone of us. During regular program hours we might interpret extraterrestrial signals merely as troublesome interference; conditions would be more favorable for re-ception late at night after the local stations have gone off the air. Occa-sionally one may catch glimpses of programs on vacant channels, usu-ally coming from another station. Such reception of a remote station can occur due to unusual atmospheric conditions, or as a reflection from transient trails of meteors plunging through the upper atmosphere. In view of these exceptional possibilities it would be helpful to know what to expect in the way of an extraterrestrial message as distinct from a terrestrial program.

What Will Their Message Say?

In 1941 Sir James Jeans reasoned that we could attract the attentIon of the Marti:lns "if any such there be" by shining a group of searchlights toward Mars and emitting flashes to represent a sequence of numbers such as 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17,19,23 . . . , the prime numbers. Subsequently, other authors have suggested that extraterrestrials might use this same type of message to contact us. Personally, I think it would be rather anticlimactic for designers of some high-power radio transmitter in space to use their program time trying to prove to me that they could also count! At the least I would expect a little poetry or art. In any event, let's give them credit for enough imagination to put on a program that would rivet our attention.
Another thought regarding the message's content is based on the sup-position that the beacon will have to remain turned on for a very long time before any acknowledgment is received. A dilemma faces our extraterrestrials. A long story runs the risk that we tune in near the end. A short one repeated again and again bores us to tears for decades while we try to acknowledge. This dilemma has led to a further idea: mes- / Page 53 / sages might be nested within messages-short items, frequently re- peated, sandwiched between episodes of a longer story repeated less frequently, all of which is contained within an even longer communi-cation, and so on. Thus, no matter when we tuned in there would al- ways be enough variety and recapitulation to keep our attention."
                

EARTH LIGHTS

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS

Paul Devereux 1982

Page 62

"One of the most dynamic and original of UFO researchers is John Keel. As far back as the 1960s he was questioning the reality of solid, physically real UFOs. In an article in Flying Saucer Review 3 he claimed that 75 per cent of all known sight- ings were of the ill-defined lights and formless blobs' type. He calls them 'soft' UFOs. His investigations into the metallic, physically 'hard' UFOs repeatedly failed to convince him. Hoaxes were uncovered after in-depth inquiry, and psychic effects frequently came to light in even the 'hardest' of UFO events. He explains that his ideal UFO landing would have to meet stringent criteria, such as the object appearing at all times as the same solid form; being seen first in the sky and then being seen to land conventionally; any occupants would have to appear as solid, biological creatures, no matter how bizarre, and: witnesses would have to be demonstrably free of any patho-logical or mental aberrations.
Keel has become convinced that the UFO enigma is one that has always existed on Earth. It frequents 'window areas' of the globe, he maintains, where geological conditions cause electro-magnetic conditions to prevail that possibly help the phen-omenon to manifest. While I personally agree with all of this, and subsequent research by others have tended to confirm these aspects, I must confess to having been unnable to find any 'hard' evidence published by Keel to demonstrate how he arrived at these ideas. On the face of it, he seems to have simply come up with his insight from an intuitive evaluation of data available to him.
Keel coined the term 'ultra-terrestrial' to describe UFO entities that he feels are 'elementals', other denizens of the Earth sharing it with us on another level and interacting with us through various geophysical gateways, perhaps influencing or even con-trolling the way we think and perceive reality. According to Keel, these entities appear not only as UFO entities but also as the sinister 'Men In Black', the bland-faced swarthy characters who are often reported as showing up in flap zones-often in curiously new-looking obsolete cars-questioning or threat-ening investigators and witnesses. Other researchers have con-sidered these disturbing fellows to be government agents or / Page 63 /  messengers of some secret organization which rules the world in occult ways. Others feel that the evidence for the actuality of such Men In Black is questionable, to put it mildly. But Keel seems convinced that they are, in fact, parahuman elementals, the devils, faeries and even angels of former times.
Beings associated with the UFO mystery, Keel writes:
are part of our immediate environment in some unfathomable fashion, and to a very large extent are primarily concerned with mis- leading us, misinforming us, and playing games with us . . . They may have watched other civilizations come and go. They may have sincerely helped us to preserve the memories of those lost ages and those past mistakes. Or it may all be rubbish, and we may be
nothing more than pawns with which they play their mischievous' games
In his classic Operation Trojan Horses Keel tells us that some-where in the vast range of the electromagnetic spectrum '. . . there lies an omnipotent intelligence. . . able to manipulate energy. It can, quite literally, manipulate any kind of object into existence on our plane.'
Along with many other researchers, I feel that Keel's ideas are nudging us in the right direction. He has begun to direct our attention towards telling aspects of the phenomenon. However, he still seems to assume that some 'other' intelligence is involved; he invokes loose concepts about 'rays', and has continued to find meaning in certain dark notions of 'conspiracy'. In the final analysis, he never seems to be really definite about the nature of his 'ultra terrestrials'. He would doubtless counter that that is part of the whole problem.
Another major UFO researcher is an American-based French scientist called Jacques Vallee. For many years he has produced
books and papers exemplifying the leading edge of thought on the whole enigma, but it is in his Passport To Magonia that I feel he has achieved his most important insight into the UFO enigma to date. In this book he does not put forward a theory to explain the nature of UFOs-in fact he goes out of his way to avoid doing so: he simply but very effectively demonstrates that the basic motifs in modem UFO accounts parallel those to be found in ancient folklore. Like Keel, and at about the same time, Vallee pointed out that the faeries and elementals, devils and visionary personages of former times bear'striking likenesses to today's UFO entities. Vallee writes:

Page 64

When the underlying archetypes are extracted from these rumours, the saucer myth is seen to coincide to a remarkable degree with the fairy-faith of Celtic countries, the observations of scholars of past ages, and the widespread belief among all peoples concerning entities whose physical and psychological descriptions place them in the same category as the present-day ufonauts6
There are three ways of interpreting the implications of this crucial observation made by Vallee: (a) modern UFO patterns match those of earlier folklore because UFOs and their entities have been visiting our planet for thousands of years; (b) the patterns match because today's UFOs and entities are merely repeats of earlier generations' encounters with Earthbound elemental beings that have subtly changed their appearance to correspond with current images of what other-worldly beings should look like; or (c) the archetypal, universal nature of UFO entities suggest that profound mental processes are somehow at work in the whole UFO phenomenon. In Passport To Magonia Vallee dodges the issue.
In the final chapter of his book, Vallee gets himself into some extraordinary tangles, as if in drawing the parallels between folklore and the UFO mystery he was left in a limbo of thought. He dismisses the ETH as 'naive', and then asks what the alter- natives are. He lists three possibilities he patronizingly suggests 'imaginative science fiction buffs could perhaps look into'. For one of these theories Vallee proposes in outline what is, in my opinion, the correct way of dealing with the UFO problem:
There exists a natural phenomenon whose manifestations border on both the physical and the mental, There is a medium in which human dreams can be implemented, and this is the mechanism by which UFO events are generated, needing no superior intelligence to trigger them. This would explain the fugitivity of UFO manifestations, the alleged contact with friendly occupants, and the fact that the objects appear to keep pace with human technology and to use current symbols.
This is in keeping with an earlier notion by C. G. Jung, as we shall shortly see..."

 

-
99
99
18
9
5
NAMES 
52
16
7
2
OF
21
12
3
3
GOD
26
17
8
-
-
-
-
-
10
99 NAMES OF GOD

198

63
27
1+0
Add to Reduce
1+9+8
6+3
2+7
-
Second Total
18
-
-
-
Add to Deduce
1+8
-
-
1
Final Total
9
9
9

 

3
GOD
26
17
8
5
BLESS
57
12
3
3
YOU
61
16
7
-
-
-
-
-
11
GOD BLESS YOU
144
45
18
1+1
-
1+4+4
4+5
1+8
2
Final Total
9
9
9

 

-

99

- - -
5 NAMES  52 16 7
2 OF 21 12 3
3 GOD 26 17 8
- - - - -
10
NAMES OF GOD
99 45 18
1+0 - 9+9 4+5 1+8
- - 18 - -
- - 1+8 - -
1
Final Total
9 9 9

 

 

A HISTORY OF GOD

Karen Armstrong 1993

The God of the Mystics

Page 175

God can 'beget' a son. There is no deity but al-Lah the Creator of heaven and earth who alone can save man and send him the spiritual and physical sustenance that he needs. Only by acknowledging him as as-Samad, 'the Uncaused Cause of all being' will Muslims address a dimension of reality beyond time and history and which would take them beyond the tribal divisions that were tearing their society apart. Muhammad knew that monotheism was inimical to tribalism: a single deity who was the focus of all worship would integrate society as well as the individual.
There is no simplistic notion of God, however. This single deity is not a being like ourselves whom we can know and understand. The phrase 'Allahu Akhbah!' (God is greater!) that summons Muslims to salaI distinguishes between God and the rest of reality, as well as between God as he is in himself(al-Dhat) and anything that we can say about him. Yet this incomprehensible and inaccessible God had wanted to make himself known. An early tradition (hadith) has God say to Muhammad: 'I was a hidden treasure; I wanted to be known. Hence, I created the world so that I might be known.'25 By contemplating the signs (ayat) of nature and the verses of the Koran, Muslims could glimpse that aspect of divinity which has turned towards the world, which the Koran calls the Face of God (wajh al- Lah). Like the two older religions, Islam makes it clear that we only see God in his activities, which adapt his ineffable being to our limited understanding. The Koran urges Muslims to cultivate a perpetual consciousness (taqwa) of the Face or the Self of God that surrounds them on all sides: 'Wheresoever you turn, there is the Face of al- Lah.'26 Like the Christian Fathers, the Koran sees God as the Absolute, who alone has true existence: 'All that lives on earth or in the heavens is bound to pass away: but forever will abide thy Sustainer's Self, full of majesty and glory.'27 In the Koran, God is given ninety-nine names or attributes. These emnphasise that he is 'greater', the source of all positive qualities that we find in the universe. Thus the world only exists because he is al-Ghani (rich and infinite); he is the giver of life (a/-Muhyi), the knower of all things (al-Alim), the producer of speech (al-Ka/imah): without him, therefore, there would not be life, knowledge or speech. It is an assertion that only God has true / Page 176 / existence and positive value. Yet frequently the divine names seem to cancel one another out. Thus God is aI-Qahtar, he who dominates and who breaks the back of his enemies, and al-Halim, the utterly forbearing one; he is aI-Qabid, he who takes away, and al-Basit, he who gives abundandy; al-Khafid, he who brings low, and ar-Rafic, he who exalts. The Names of God play a central role in Muslim piety: they are recited, counted on rosary beads and chanted as a mantra. All this has reminded Muslims that the God they worship cannot be contained by human categories and refuses simplistic defmition.
The first of the 'pillars' of Islam would be the Shahadah, the Muslim profession of faith: 'I bear witness that there is no god but al-Lah and that Muhammad is his Messenger.' This was not simply an affirmation of God's existence but an acknowledgement that al-Lah was the only true reality, the only true form of existence. He was the only true reality, beauty or perfection: all the beings that seem to exist and possess these qualities have them only in so far as they participate in this essential being. To make this assertion demands that Muslims integrate their lives by making God their focus and sole priority. The assertion of the unity of God was not simply a denial that deities like die banat al-Lah were worthy of worship. To say that God was One was not a mere numerical defmition: it was a call to make that unity the driving factor of one's life and society. The unity of God could be glimpsed in the truly integrated self. But the divine unity also required Muslims to recognise the religious aspirations of others. Because there was only one God, all rightly guided religions must derive from him alone. Belief in the supreme and sole Reality would be culturally conditioned and would be expressed by different societies in different ways but the focus of all true worship must have been inspired by and directed towards the being whom the Arabs had always called al-Lah. One of the divine names of the Koran is an-Nur, the Light. In these famous verses of the Koran, God is the source of all knowledge as well as the means whereby men catch a slimpse of transcendence:
God is the light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of his light is, as it were (ka), that of a niche containing a lamp; the lamp is [enclosed] in glass, the glass [shining] like a radiant star: [a / Page 177 / lamp] lit from a blessed tree- an olive tree that is neither of the east nor of the west-the oil whereof [is so bright that it] would well-nigh give light [of itself] even though fire had not touched it: light upon light. 28
The participle ka is a reminder of the essentially symbolic nature of the Koranic discourse about God. An-Nur, the Light, is not God himself, therefore, but refers to the enlightenment which he bestows on a particular revelation [the lamp] which shines in the heart of an individual [the niche]. The light itself cannot be identified wholly with anyone of its bearers but is common to them all. As Muslim commentators pointed out from the very earliest days, light is a particularly good symbol for the divine Reality, which transcends time and space. The image of the olive tree in these verses has been interpreted as an allusion to the continuity of revelation, which springs from one 'root' and branches into a multifarious variety of religious experience that cannot be identified with or confined by anyone particular tradition or locality: it is neither of the East nor the West.
When the Christian Waraqa ibn Nawfal had acknowledged Muhammad as a true prophet, neither he nor Muhammad expected him to convert to Islam. Muhammad never asked Jews or Christians to convert to his religion of al-Lah unless they particularly wished to do so, because they had received authentic revelations of their own. The Koran did not see revelation as cancelling out the messages and insights of previous prophets but instead it stressed the continuity of the religious experience of mankind. It is important to stress this point because tolerance is not a virtue that many Western people today would feel inclined to attribute to Islam. Yet from the start, Muslims saw revelation in less exclusive terms than either Jews or Christians. The intolerance that many people condemn in Islam today does not always spring from a rival vision of God but from quite another source:
29 Muslims are intolerant of injustice, whether this is com-mitted by rulers of their own -like Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran - or by the powerful Western countries. The Koran does not condemn other religious traditions as false or incomplete but shows each new prophet as confirming and continuing the insights of his predecessors. The Koran teaches that God had sent messengers to / Page 178 /  every people on the face of the earth: Islamic tradition says that there had been 124,000 such prophets, a symbolic number suggesting infinitude. Thus the Koran repeatedly points out that it is not bringing a message that is essentially new and that Muslims must emphasise their kinship with the older religions:
Do not argue with the followers of earlier revelation otherwise than in the most kindly manner - unless it be such of them as are set
on evil doing - and say: 'We believe in that which has been bestowed upon us, as well as that which has been bestowed upon you: for our God and your God is one and the same, and it is unto him that we [all] surrender ourselves.'30
The Koran naturally singles out apostles who were familiar to the Arabs -like Abraham, Noah, Moses and Jesus who were the prophets of the Jews and Christians. It also mentions Hud and Salih, who had been sent to the ancient Arab peoples of Midian and Thamood. Today Muslims insist that if Muhammad had known about Hindus and Buddhists, he would have included their religious sages: after his death they were allowed full religious liberty in the Islamic empirc, like the Jews and Christians. On the same principle, Muslims argue, the Koran would also have honoured the shamans and holy men of the American Indians or the Australian Aborigines."
       
Page175

"God is given ninety-nine names" 

Page 176

"The Names of God"

 

-
99
99
18
9
5
NAMES 
52
16
7
2
OF
21
12
3
3
GOD
26
17
8
-
-
-
-
-
10
99 NAMES OF GOD

198

63
27
1+0
-
1+9+8
6+3
2+7
-
-
18
-
-
-
-
1+8
-
-
1
Final Total
9
9
9

 

 

3
GOD
26
17
8
5
BLESS
57
12
3
3
YOU
61
16
7
-
-
-
-
-
11
GOD BLESS YOU
144
45
18
1+1
Add to Reduce
1+4+4
4+5
1+8
2
Final Total
9
9
9

 

-

99

-
-
-
5
NAMES 
52
16
7
2
OF
21
12
3
3
GOD
26
17
8
-
-
-
-
-
10
NAMES OF GOD
99
45
18
1+0
-
9+9
4+5
1+8
-
-
18
-
-
-
-
1+8
-
-
1
-
9
9
9

 

A HISTORY OF GOD

Karen Armstrong 1993

The God of the Mystics

Page 242

7

The God of the Mystics


"Judaism, Christianity and - to a lesser extent - Islam have all developed the idea of a personal God, so we tend to think that this ideal represents religion at its best. The personal God has helped monotheists to value the sacred and inalienable rights of the individual and to cultivate an appreciation of human personality. The Judaeo- Christian tradition has thus helped the West to acquire the liberal humanism it values so highly. These values were originally enshrined in a personal God who does everything that a human being does: he loves, judges, punishes, sees, hears, creates and destroys as we do. Yahweh began as a highly personalised deity with passionate human likes and dislikes. Later he became a symbol of transcendence, whose thoughts were not our thoughts and whose ways soared above our own as the heavens tower above the earth. The personal God reflects an important religious insight: that no supreme value can be less than human. Thus personalism has been an important and - for many - an indispensible stage of religious and moral development. The prophets of Israel attributed their own emotions and passions to God; Buddhists and Hindus had to include a personal devotion to avatars- of the supreme reality. Christianity made a human person the centre of the religious life in a way that was unique in the history of religion: it took the personalism inherent in Judaism to an extreme. It may be that without some degree of this kind of identification and empathy, religion cannot take root.
Yet a personal God can become a grave liability. He can be a mere idol carved in our own image, a projection of our limited needs, fears and desires. We can assume that he loves what we love and hates what / Page 243 / we hate, endorsing our prejudices instead of compelling us to transcend them. When he seems to fail to prevent a catastrophe or even to desire a tragedy, he can seem callous and cruel. A facile belief that a disaster is the will of God can make us accept things that are fundamentally unacceptable. The very fact that, as a person, God has a gender is also limiting: it means that the sexuality of half the human race is sacralised at the expense of the female and can lead to a neurotic and inadequate imbalance in human sexual mores. A personal God can be dangerous, therefore. Instead of pulling us beyond our limitations, 'he' can encourage us to remain complacently within them; 'he' can make us as cruel, callous, self-satisfied and partial as 'he' seems to be. Instead of inspiring the compassion that should characterise all advanced religion, 'he' can encourage us to judge, condemn and marginalise. It seems, therefore, that the idea of a personal God can only be a stage in our religious development. The world religions all seem to have recognised this danger and have sought to transcend the personal conception of supreme reality.
It is possible to read the Jewish scriptures as the story of the refinement and, later, of the abandoment of the tribal and personalised Yahweh who became YHWH. Christianity, arguably the most per-sonalised religion of the three monotheistic faiths, tried to qualify the cult of God incarnate by introducing the doctrine of the transpersonal Trinity. Muslims very soon had problems with those passages in the Koran which implied that God 'sees', 'hears' and 'judges' like human beings. All three of the monotheistic religions developed a mystical tradition, which made their God transcend the personal category and become more similar to the impersonal realities of nirvana and Brahman-Atman. Only a few people are capable of true mysticism, but in all three faiths (with the exception of Western Christianity) it was the God experienced by the mystics which eventually became normative among the faithful, until relatively recently.
Historical monotheism was not originally mystical. We have noted the difference between the experience of a contemplative such as the Buddha and the prophets. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all essentially active faiths, devoted to ensuring that God's will is done on earth as it is in heaven. The central motif of these prophetic religions is / Page 244 / confrontation or a personal meeting between God and humanity. This God is experienced as an imperative to action; he calls us to himself; gives us the choice of rejecting or accepting his love and concern. This God relates to human beings by means of a dialogue rather than silent contemplation. He utters a Word, which becomes the chief focus of devotion and which has to be painfully incarnated in the flawed and tragic conditions of earthly life. In Christianity, the most personalised of the three, the relationship with God is characterised by love. But the point of love is that the ego has, in some sense, to be annihilated. In either dialogue or love, egotism is a perpetual possibility. Language itself can be a limiting faculty since it embeds us in the concepts of our mundane experience.
The prophets had declared war on mythology: their God was active in history :md in current political events rather than in the primordial, sacred time of myth. When monotheists turned to mysticism, however, mythology reasserted itself as the chief vehicle of religious experience. There is a linguistic connection between the three words 'myth', 'mysticism' and 'mystery'. All are derived from the Greek verb musteion: to close the eyes or the mouth. All three words, therefore, are rooted in an experience of darkness and silence.' They are not popular words in the West today. The word 'myth', for example, is often used as a synonym for a lie: in popular parlance, a myth is somedting that is not true. A politician or a film star will dismiss scurrilous reports of their activities by saying that they are 'myths' and scholars will refer to mistaken views of the past as 'mythical'. Since the Enlightenment, a 'mystery' has been seen as something that needs to be cleared up. It is frequently associated with muddled thinking. In the United States, a detective story is called a 'mystery' and it is of the essence of this genre that the problem be solved satisfactorily. We shall see that even religious people came to regard 'mystery' as a bad word during the Enlightenment. Similarly 'mysticism' is frequently associated with cranks, charlatans or indulgent hippies. Since the West has never been very enthusiastic about mysticism, even during its heyday in other parts of the world, there is little understanding of the intelligence and discipline that is essential to this type of spirituality.
Yet there are signs that the tide may be turning. Since the 1960s / Page 245 / Western people have been discovering the benefits of certain types of Yoga and religions such as Buddhism, which have the advantage of being uncontaminated by an inadequate theism, have enjoyed a great flowering in Europe and the United States. The work of the late American scholar Joseph Campbell on mythology has enjoyed a recent vogue. The current enthusiasm for psychoanalysis in the West can be seen as a desire for some kind of mysticism, for we shall find arresting similarities between the two disciplines. Mythology has often been an attempt to explain the inner world of the psyche and both Freud and Jung turned instinctively to ancient myths, such as the Greek story of Oedipus, to explain their new science. It may be that people in the West are feeling the need for an alternative to a purely scientific view of the world.
Mystical religion is more immediate and tends to be more help in time of trouble than a predominantly cerebral faith. The disciplines of mysticism help the adept to return to the One, the primordial beginning, and to cultivate a constant sense of presence. Yet the early Jewish mysticism that developed during the second and third centuries, which was very difficult for Jews, seemed to emphasise the gulf between God and man. Jews wanted to turn away from a world in which they were persecuted and marginalised to a more powerful divine realm. They imagined God as a mighty king who could only be approached in a perilous journey through the seven heavens. Instead of expressing themselves in the simple direct style of the Rabbis, the mystics used sonorous, grandiloquent language. The Rabbis hated this spirituality and the mystics were anxious not to antagonise them. Yet this 'Throne Mysticism', as it was called, must have fulfilled an important need since it continued to flourish alongside the great rabbinic academies until it was finally incorporated into Kabbalah, the new Jewish mysticism, during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The classic texts of Throne Mysticism, which were edited in Babylon in the fifth and sixth centuries, suggest that the mystics, who were reticent about their experiences, felt a strong affinity with rabbinic tradition, since they make such great tannaim as Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Ishmael and Rabbi Yohannan the heroes of this spirituality. They revealed a new extremity in the Jewish spirit, as they blazed a new trail to God on behalf of their people. / Page 246 / The Rabbis had had some remarkable religious experiences, as we have seen. On the occasion when the Holy Spirit descended upon Rabbi Yohannan and his disciples in the form of fire from heaven, they had apparently been discussing the meaning of Ezekiel's strange vision of God's chariot. The chariot and the mysterious figure that Ezekiel had glimpsed sitting upon its throne seem to have been the subject of early esoteric speculation. The Study of the Chariot (Ma'aseh Merkavah) was often linked to speculation about the meaning of the creation story (Ma'aseh Bereshit). The earliest account we have of the mystical ascent to God's throne in the highest heavens emphasised the immense perils of this spiritual journey:

Our Rabbis taught: Four entered an orchard and these are they: Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Aher and Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva said to them: 'When you reach the stones of pure marble, do not say "Water! water!" For it is said: "He that speaketh falsehood shall not be established before mine eyes" , Ben- Azzai gazed and died. Of him, Scripture says: 'Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.' Ben Zoma gazed and was stricken. Of him Scripture says:
'Hast thou found honey? Eat as much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.' Aher cut the roots [that is,
became a heretic]. Rabbi Akiva departed in peace.'

Only Rabbi Akiva was mature enough to survive the mystical way unscathed. A journey to the depths of the mind involves great personal risks because we may not be able to endure what we find there. That is why all religions have insisted that the mystical journey can only be undertaken under the guidance of an expert, who can monitor the experience, guide the novice past the perilous places and make sure that he is not exceeding his strength, like poor Ben Azzai who died and Ben Zoma, who went mad. All mystics stress the need for intelligence and mental stability. Zen masters say that it is useless for a neurotic person to seek a cure in meditation for that will only make him sicker. The strange and outlandish behaviour of some European Catholic saints who were revered as mystics must be regarded as aberrations. This cryptic story of the Talmudic sages shows that Jews had been aware of the dangers from the very beginning: later, they would not let / Page 247 / young people become initiated into the disciplines of Kabbalah until they were fully mature. A mystic also had to be married, to ensure that he was in good sexual health.
The mystic had to journey to the Throne of God through the mythological realm of the seven heavens. Yet this was only an imaginary flight. It was never taken literally but always seen as a symbolic ascent through the mysterious regions of the mind. Rabbi Akiva's strange warning about the 'stones of pure marble' may refer to the password that the mystic had to utter at various crucial points in his imaginary journey. These images were visualised as part of an elaborate discipline. Today we know that the unconscious is a teeming mass of imagery that surfaces in dreams, in hallucinations and in aberrant psychic or neurological conditions such as epilepsy or schizophrenia. Jewish mystics did not imagine that they were 'really' flying through the sky or entering God's palace but were marshalling the religious images that filled their minds in a controlled and ordered way. This demanded great skill and a certain disposition and training. It required the same kind of concentration as the disciplines of Zen or Yoga, which also help the adept to find his way through the labyrinthine paths of the psyche. The Babylonian sage Hai Gaon (939-1038) explained the story of the four sages by means of contemporary mystical practice. The 'orchard' refers to the mystical ascent of the soul to the 'Heavenly Halls' (hekhalot) of God's palace. A man who wishes to make this imaginary, interior journey must be 'worthy' and 'blessed with certain qualities' if he wishes 'to gaze at the heavenly chariot and the halls of the angels on high'. It will not happen spontaneously. He has to perform certain exercises that are similar to those practised by Yogis and contemplatives all the world over:
  He must fast for a specified number of days, he must place his head between his knees whispering softly to himself the while certain
  praises of God with his face towards the ground. As a result he will gaze in the innermost recesses of his heart and it will seem as if he saw the seven halls with his own eyes, moving from hall to hall to observe that which is therein to be found.3
Although the earliest texts of this Throne Mysticism only date / Page 248 /  back to the second or third centuries, this kind of contemplation was probably older. Thus St Paul refers to a friend 'who belonged to the Messiah' who had been caught up to the third heaven some fourteen years earlier. Paul was not sure how to interpret this vision but believed that the man 'was caught up into paradise and heard things which must not and cannot be put into human language'.
4
The visions are not ends in themselves but means to an ineffable religious experience that exceeds normal concepts. They will be conditioned by the particular religious tradition of the mystic. A Jewish visionary will see visions of the seven heavens because his religious imagination is stocked with these particular symbols. Buddhists see various images of Buddhas and bodhisattvas; Christians visualise the Virgin Mary. It is a mistake for the visionary to see these mental apparitions as objective or as anything more than a symbol of transcendence. Since hallucination is often a pathological state, considerable skill and mental balance is required to handle and interpret the symbols that emerge during the course of concentrated meditation and inner reflection.
One of the strangest and most controversial of these early Jewish visions is found in the Shiur Qomah (The Measurement of the Height), a fifth-century text which describes the figure that Ezekiel had seen on God's throne. The Shiur Qomah calls this being Yozrenu, the Creator. Its peculiar description of this vision of God is probably based on a passage from the Song of Songs, which was Rabbi Akiva's favourite biblical text. The Bride describes her Lover:

My beloved is fresh and ruddy,
to be known among ten thousand.
His head is golden, purest gold,
his locks are palm fronds
and black as the raven.
His eyes are doves
at a pool of water,
bathed in milk,
at rest on a pool;
his cheeks are beds of spices,
banks sweetly scented.
His lips are lilies, /
distilling pure myrrh,
His hands are golden, rounded,
set with jewels of Tarshish.
His belly a block of ivory
covered with sapphires.
His legs are alabaster columns
.
5


 Page 249 / Some saw this as a description of God: to the consternation of generations of Jews, the Shiur Qomah proceeded to measure each one of God's limbs listed here. In this strange text, the measurements of God are baffling. The mind cannot cope. The 'parasang' - the basic unit - is equivalent to 180 billion 'fmgers' and each finger' stretches from one end of the earth to the other. These massive dimensions boggle the mind, which gives up trying to follow them or even to conceive a figure of such size. That is the point. The Shiur is trying to tell us that it is impossible to measure God or contain him in human terms. The mere attempt to do so demonstrates the impossibility of the project and gives us a new experience of God's transcendence. Not surprisingly many Jews have found this odd attempt to measure the wholly spiritual God blasphemous. That is why an esoteric text such as the Shiur was kept hidden from the unwary. Seen in context, the Shiur Qomah would give to those adepts who were prepared to approach it in the right way, under the guidance of their spiritual director, a new insight into the transcendence of a God which exceeds all human categories. It is certainly not meant to be taken literally; it certainly conveys no secret information. It is a deliberate evocation of a mood that created a sense of wonder and awe.
The Shiur introduces us to two essential ingredients in the mystical portrait of God, which are common in all three faiths. First, it is essentially imaginative; secondly, it is ineffable. The figure described in the Shiur is the image of God whom the mystics see sitting enthroned at the end of their ascent. There is absolutely nothing tender, long or personal about this God; indeed his holiness seems alienating. When they see him, however, the mystical heroes burst into songs which give very little information about God but which leave an immense impression:

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A quality of holiness, a quality of power, a fearful quality, a dreaded quality, a quality of awe, a quality of dismay, a quality of terror -
Such is the quality of the garment of the Creator, Adonai, God of Israel, who, crowned, comes to the thone of his glory;
His garment is engraved inside and outside and entirely covered with YHWH,YHWH
No eyes are able to behold it, neither the eyes of flesh and blood, nor the eyes of his servants.
6


If we cannot imagine what Yahweh's cloak is like, how can we think to behold God himself?
Perhaps the most famous of the early Jewish mystical texts is the fifth-century Sefer Yezirah (The Book of Creation). There is no attempt to describe the creative process realistically; the account is unashamedly symbolic and shows God creating the world by means of language as though he were writing a book. But language has been entirely transformed and the message of creation is no longer clear. Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet is given a numerical value; by combining the letters with the sacred numbers, rearranging them in endless configurations, the mystic weaned his mind away from the normal connotations of words. The purpose was to bypass the intellect and remind Jews that no words or concepts could represent the reality to which the Name pointed. Again, the experience of pushing language to its limits and making it yield a non-linguistic signficance, created a sense of the otherness of God. Mystics did not want a straightforward dialogue with a God whom they experienced as an overwhelming holiness rather than a sympathetic friend and father.
Throne Mysticism was not unique. The Prophet Muhammad is said to have had a very similar experience when he made his Night Journey from Arabia to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. He had been transported in sleep by Gabriel on a celestial horse. On arrival, he was greeted by Abraham, Moses, Jesus and a crowd of other prophets who confirmed Muhammad in his own prophetic mission. Then Gabriel and Muhammad began their perilous ascent up a ladder (miraj) through the seven heavens, each one of which was presided over by a prophet. Finally he reached the divine sphere. The early sources  /
Page 251/ reverently keep silent about the final vision, to which these verses ithe Koran are believed to refer. -

And indeed he saw him a second time. by the lote-tree of the furthest limit, near unto the garden of promise, With the lote-tree veiled In a veil of nameless splendour . . . . ,
[And withal] the eye did not waver, nor yet did it stray: truly did he see some of the most profound of his Sustainer's symbols.
7

Muhammad did not see God himself but only symbols that pointed to the divine reality: in Hinduism the lote-tree marks the limit of rational thought. There is no way in which the vision of God can appeal to the normal experiences of thought or language. The ascent to heaven is a symbol of the furthest reach of the human spirit, which marks the threshold of ultimate meaning.
The imagery of ascent is common. St Augustine had experienced an ascent to God with his mother at Ostia, which he described in the language of Plotinus:

Our minds were lifted up by an ardent affection towards eternal being itself. Step by step we climbed beyond all corporate objects
and the heaven itself, where sun, moon and stars shed light on the earth. We ascended even further by internal reflection and dialogue
and wonder at your works and entered into our own minds.
8
Augustine's mind was filled with the Greek imagery of the great chain of being instead of the Semitic images of the seven heavens. This was not a literal journey through outer space to a God 'out there' but a mental ascent to a reality within. This rapturous flight seenu something given, from without, when he says 'our minds were lifted up' as though he and Monica were passive recipients of grace, but there is a deliberation in this steady climb towards 'eternal being'. Similar imagery of ascent has also been noted in the trance experiences of Shamans 'from Siberia to Tierra del Fuego', as Joseph Campbell puts it.9
The symbol of an ascent indicates that worldly perceptions have been left far behind. The experience of God that is finally attained is utterly indescribable, since normal language no longer applies. The Jewish mystics describe anything but God! They tell us about his cloak. / Page 252 / his palace, his heavenly court and the veil that shields him from human gaze, which represents the eternal archetypes. Muslims who specu-lated about Muhammad's flight to heaven stress the paradoxical nature of his final vision of God: he both saw and did not see the divine presence.
10 Once the mystic has worked through the realm of imagery in his mind, he reaches the point where neither concepts nor imagination can take him any further. Augustine and Monica were equally reticent about the climax of their flight, stressing its transcend-ence of space, time and ordinary knowledge. They 'talked and panted' for God, and 'touched it in some small degree by a moment of total concentration of heart'. " Then they had to return to normal speech, where a sentence has a beginning, a middle and an end:

Therefore we said: If to anyone the tumult of the flesh has fallen silent, if the images of earth, water, and air are quiescent, if the
heavens themselves are shut out and the very soul itself is making no sound and is surpassing itself by no longer thinking about itself, if all dreams and visions in the imagination are excluded, if all language and everything transitory is silent - for if anyone could hear then this is what all of them would be saying, 'We did not make ourselves, we were made by him who abides for eternity' (Psalm 79:3,5) . . . That is how it was when at that moment we extended our reach and in a flash of mental energy attained the eternal wisdom which abides beyond all things.
12


This was no naturalistic vision of a personal God: they had not, so to speak, 'heard his voice' through any of the normal methods of naturalistic communication: through ordinary speech, the voice of an angel, through nature or the symbolism of a dream. It seemed that they, had 'touched' the Reality which lay beyond all these things.
13
Although it is clearly culturally conditioned, this kind of 'ascent' seems an incontrovertible fact of life. However we choose to interpret it, people all over the world and in all phases of history have had this type of contemplative experience. Monotheists have called the climactic insight a 'vision of God'; Plotinus had assumed that it was the experience of the One; Buddhists would call it an intimation of nirvana. The point is that this is something that human beings who have a certain spiritual talent have always wanted to do. The mystical / Page 253 / experience of God has certain characteristics that are common to all faiths. It is a subjective experience that involves an interior journey, not a perception of an objective fact outside the self; it is undertaken through the image-making part of the mind - often called the imagination - rather than through the more cerebral, logical faculty. Finally, it is something that the mystic creates in himself or herself deliberately: certain physical or mental exercises yield the final vision; it does not always come upon them unawares.
Augustine seems to have imagined that privileged human beings were sometimes able to see God in this life: he cited Moses and St Paul as examples. Pope Gregory the Great (540-604), who was an acknowledged master of the spiritual life as well as being a powerful pontiff, disagreed. He was not an intellectual and, as a typical Roman, had a more pragmatic view of spirituality. He used the metaphors of cloud, fog or darkness to suggest the obscurity of all human knowledge of the divine. His God remained hidden from human beings in an impenetrable darkness that was far more painful than the cloud of unknowing experienced by such Greek Christians as Gregory of Nyssa and Denys. God was a distressing experience for Gregory. He insisted that God was difficult of access. There was certainly no way we could talk about him familiarly, as though we had something in common. We knew nothing at all about God. We could make no predictions about his behaviour on the basis of our knowledge of people: 'Then only is there truth in what we know concerning God, when we are made sensible that we cannot fully know anything about him.". Frequently Gregory dwells upon the pain and effort of the approach to God. The joy and peace of contemplation could only be attained for a few moments after a mighty struggle. Before tasting God's sweetness, the soul has to fight its way out of the darkness that is its natural element:

It cannot fix its mind's eyes on that which it has with hasty glance seen within itself, because it is compelled by its own habits to sink downwards. It meanwhile pants and struggles and endeavours to go above itself but sinks back, overpowered with  weariness, into its own familiar darkness.'s15"

SOUL

SO YOU LIVE SO YOU LOVE LOVE YOU SO LIVE YOU SO

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"God could only be reached after 'a great effort of the mind', which had to wrestle with him as Jacob had wrestled with the angel. The path to God was beset with guilt, tears and exhaustion; as it approached him, 'the soul could do nothing but weep'. 'Tortured' by its desire for God, it only 'found rest in tears, being wearied out'.16 Gregory remained an important spiritual guide until the twelfth century; clearly the West continued to find God a strain. , In the East, the Christian experience of God was characterised by light rather than darkness. The Greeks evolved a different form of mysticism, which is also found world-wide. This did not depend on imagery and vision but rested on the apophatic or silent experience described by Denys the Areopagite. They naturally eschewed all rationalistic conceptions of God. As Gregory of Nyssa had explained in his Commentary on the Song of Songs, 'every concept grasped by the mind becomes an obstacle in the quest to those who search.' The aim of the contemplative was to go beyond ideas and also beyond all images whatsoever, since these could only be a distraction. Then he would acquire 'a certain sense of presence' that was indefinable and certainly transcended all human experiences of a relationship with another person.17 This attitude was called hesychia, 'tranquillity' or 'interior silence'. Since words, ideas and images can only tie us down in the mundane world, in the here and now, the mind must be deliberately stilled by the techniques of concentration, so that it could cultivate a waiting silence. Only then could it hope to apprehend a Reality that transcended anything that it could conceive.
  How was it possible to know an incomprehensible God? The Greeks loved that kind of paradox and the hesychasts turned to the old distinction between God's essence (ousia) and his 'energies' (energeia,) or activities in the world, which enabled us to experience something of the divine. Since we could never know God as he is in himself, it was the 'energies' not the 'essence' that we experienced in prayer. They could be described as the 'rays' of divinity, which illuminated the world and were an outpouring of the divine, but as distinct from God himself as sunbeams were distinct from the sun. They manifested a God who was utterly silent and unknowable. As St Basil had said: 'It is by his energies that we know our God; we do not assent that we come near to / Page 255 /  the essence itself, for his energies descend to us but his essence remains unapproachable."s In the Old Testament, this divine 'energy' had been called God's 'glory' (kavod). In the New Testament, it had shone forth in the person of Christ on Mount Tabor, when his humanity had been transfigured by the divine rays. Now they penetrated the whole created universe and deified those who had been saved. As the word 'energeia," implied, this was an active and dynamic conception of God. Where the West would see God making himself known by means of his eternal atributes - his goodness, justice, love and omnipotence - the Greeks saw God making himself accessible in a ceaseless activity in which he was somehow present.
When we experienced the 'energies' in prayer, therefore, we were in some sense communing with God directly, even though the unknow-able reality itself remained in obscurity. The leading hesychast Evagrius Pontus (d.399) insisted that the 'knowledge' that we had of God in prayer had nothing whatever to do with concepts or images but was an immediate experience of the divine which transcended these. It was important, therefore, for hesychasts to strip their souls naked: 'When you are praying,' he told his monks, 'do not shape within yourself any image of the deity and do not let your mind be shaped by the impress of any form.' Instead, they should 'approach the Immaterial in an immaterial manner'.19 Evagrius was proposing a sort of Christian Yoga. This was not a process of reflection; indeed, 'prayer means the shedding of thought'.20 It was rather an intuitive apprehension of God. It will result in a sense of the unity of all things, a freedom from distraction and multiplicity, and the loss of ego - an experience that is
clearly akin to that produced by contemplatives in non-theistic religions like Buddhism. By systematically weaning their minds away from their 'passions' - such as pride, greed, sadness or anger which tied them to the ego - hesychasts would transcend themselves and become
deified like Jesus on Mount Tabor, transfigured by the divine 'energies'.
Diodochus, the fifth-century bishop of Photice, insisted that this deification was not delayed until the next world but could be experienced consciously here below. He taught a method of concen-tration that involved breathing: as they inhaled, hesychasts should pray:

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"Jesus Christ, Son of God'; they should exhale to the words: 'have mercy upon us'. Later hesychasts refined this exercise: contemplates should sit with head and shoulders bowed, looking towards their heart or navel. They should breathe ever more slowly in order to direct their attention inwards, to certain psychological foci like the heart. It was a rigorous discipline that must be used carefully; it could only be safely practised under an expert director. Gradually, like a Buddhist monk, the hesychast would find that he or she could set rational thoughts gently to one side, the imagery that thronged the mind would fade away and they would feel totally one with their prayer. Greek Christians had discovered for themselves techniques that had been practised for centuries in the oriental religions. They saw prayer as a psychosomatic activity, whereas Westerners like Augustine and Gregory thought that prayer should liberate the soul from the body. Maximus the Confessor had insisted: 'The whole man should become God, deified by the grace of the God-become-man, becoming whole man, soul and body, by nature and becoming whole God, soul and body, by grace.'21 The hesychast would experience this as an influx of energy and clarity that was so powerful and compelling that it could only be divine. As we have seen, the Greeks saw this 'deification' as an enlightenment that was natural to man. They found inspiration in the transfigured Christ on Mount Tabor, just as Buddhists were inspired by the image of the Buddha, who had attained the fullest realisation of humanity. The Feast of the Transfiguration is very important in the Eastern Orthodox Churches; it is called an 'epiphany', a manifestation of God. Unlike their Western brethren, the Greeks did not think that strain, dryness and desolation were an inescapable prelude to the experience of God: these were simply disorders that must be cured. Greeks had no cult of a dark night of the soul. The dominant motif was Tabor rather than Gethsemane and Calvary.
 Not everybody could achieve these higher states, however, but other Christians could glimpse something of this mystical experience in the icons. In the West, religious art was becoming predominantly representational: it depicted historical events in the lives of Jesus or the saints. In Byzantium, however, the icon was not meant to re-present anything in this world but was an attempt to portray the ineffable / Page 257 / mystical experience of the hesychasts in a visual form to inspire the non-mystics. As the British historian Peter Brown explains, 'Throughout the Eastern Christian world, icon and vision validated one another. Some deep gathering into one focal point of the collective imagination. . . ensured that by the sixth century, the supernatural had taken on the precise lineaments, in dreams and in each person's imagination, in which it was commonly portrayed in art. The icon had the validity of a realised dream.'
22 Icons were not meant to instruct the faithful or to convey information, ideas or doctrines. They were a focus of contemplation (theoria) which provided the faithful with a sort of window on the divine world.
They became so central to the Byzantine experience of God, however, that by the eighth century they had become the centre of a passionate doctrinal dispute in the Greek Church. People were beginning to ask what exactly the artist was painting when he painted Christ. It was impossible to depict his divinity but if the artist claimed that he was only painting the humanity of Jesus, was he guilty of Nestorianism, the heretical belief that Jesus's human and divine natures were quite distinct? The iconoclasts wanted to ban icons altogether but icons were defended by two leading monks: John of Damascus (656-747) of the monastery of Mar Sabbas near Bethlehem, and Theodore (759-826), of the monastery of Studios near Constantinople. They argued that the iconoclasts were wrong to forbid the depiction of Christ. Since the Incarnation, the material world and the human body had both been given a divine dimension and an artist could paint this new type of deified humanity. He was also painting an image of God, since Christ the Logos was the icon of God par excellence. God could not be contained in words or summed up in human concepts but he could be 'described' by the pen of the artist or in the symbolic gestures of the liturgy.
The piety of the Greeks was so dependent upon icons that by 820 the iconoclasts had been defeated by popular acclaim. This assertion that God was in some sense describable did not amount to an abandonment of Denys's apophatic theology, however. In his Greater Apology for the Holy Images, the monk Nicephoras claimed that icons were 'expressive of the silence of God, exhibiting in themselves the / Page 258 /  ineffability of a mystery that transcends being. Without ceasing and without speech, they praise the goodness of God in that venerable and thrice-illumined melody of theology'.
23 Instead of instructing the faithful in the dogmas of the Church and helping them to form lucid ideas about their faith, the icons held them in a sense of mystery. When describing the effect of these religious paintings, Nicephoras could only compare it to the effect of music, the most ineffable of the arts and possibly the most direct. Emotion and experience are conveyed by music in a way that bypasses words and concepts. In the nineteenth century, Walter Pater would assert that all art aspired to the condition of music; in ninth-century Byzantium, Greek Christians saw theology as aspiring to the condition of iconography. They found that God was better expressed in a work of art than in rationalistic discourse. After the intensely wordy Christological debates of the fourth and fifth centuries, they were evolving a portrait of God that depended upon the imaginative experience of Christians.
This was definitively expressed by Symeon (949-1022), Abbot of the small monastery of St Macras in Constantinople, who became known as the 'New Theologian'. This new type of theology made no attempt to define God. This, Symeon insisted, would be presump-tuous; indeed, to speak about God in any way at all implied that 'that which is incomprehensible is comprehensible'.
24 Instead of arguing rationally about God's nature, the 'new' theology relied on direct, personal religious experience. It was impossible to know God in conceptual terms, as though he were just an-other being about which we could form ideas. God was a mystery. A true Christian was one who had a conscious experience of the God who had revealed himselfi n the transfigured humanity of Christ. Symeon had himself been converted from a worldly life to contemplation by an experience that seemed to come to him out of the blue. At first he had had no idea what was happening, but gradually he became aware that he was being transformed and, as it were, absorbed into a light that was of God himself. This was not light as we know it, of course; it was beyond 'form, image or representation and could only be experienced intuitively, through prayer'.25 But this was not an experience for the elite or for monks only; the kingdom announced by Christ in the Gospels was a / Page 259 / union with God that everybody could experience here and now, without having to wait until the next life.
For Symeon, therefore, God was known and unknown, near and far. Instead of attempting the impossible task of describing 'ineffable matters by words alone',
26 he urged his monks to concentrate on what could be experienced as a transfiguring reality in their own souls. As God had said to Symeon during one of his visions: 'Yes, I am God, the one who became man for your sake. And behold, I have created you, as you see, and I shall make you God.'27 God was not an external, objective fact but an essentially subjective and personal enlighten-ment. Yet Symeon's refusal to speak about God did not lead him to break with the theological insights of the past. The 'new' theology was based firmly on the teachings of the Fathers of the Church. In his Hymns of Divine Love, Symeon expressed the old Greek doctrine of the deification of humanity, as described by Athanasius and Maximus:

O Light that none can name, for it is altogether nameless.
O Light with many names, for it is at work in all things. . .
How do you mingle yourself with grass?
How, while continuing unchanged, altogether inaccessible,
do you preserve the nature of the grass unconsumed
?
28


It was useless to define the God who affected this transformation, since he was beyond speech and description. Yet as an experience that fulfilled and transfigured humanity without violating its integrity, 'God' was an incontrovertible reality. The Greeks had developed ideas about God - such as the Trinity and the Incarnation - that separated them from other monotheists, yet the actual experience of their mystics had much in common with those of Muslims and Jews.
Even though the Prophet Muhammad had been primarily con-cerned with the establishment of a just society, he and some of his closest companions had been mystically inclined and the Muslims had quickly developed their own distinctive mystical tradition. During the eighth and ninth centuries, an ascetical form of Islam had developed alongside the other sects; the ascetics were as concerned as the Mutazilis and the Shiis about the wealth of the court and the apparent abandonment of the austerity of the early ummah. They /
Page 260 / attempted to return to the simpler life of the first Muslims in Medina, dressing in the coarse garments made of wool (Arabic SWF) that were supposed to have been favoured by the Prophet. Consequently, they were known as Sufis. Social justice remained crucial to their piety, as Louis Massignon, the late French scholar, has explained:
The mystic call is as a rule the result of an inner rebellion of the conscience against social injustices, not only those of others but primarily and particularly against one's own faults with a desire intensified by inner purification to find God at any price.29
At first Sufis had much in common with the other sects. Thus the great Mutazili rationalist Wasil ibn Ala (d.748) had been a disciple of Hasan aI-Basri (d.728), the ascetic of Medina who was later revered as one of the fathers of Sufism.
The ulema were beginning to distinguish Islam sharply from other religions, seeing it as the one, true faith but Sufis by and large remained true to the Koranic vision of the unity of all rightly-guided religion. Jesus, for example, was revered by many Sufis as the prophet of the interior life. Some even amended the Shahadah, the profession of faith, to say: 'There is no god but al-Lah and Jesus is his Messenger', which was technically correct but intentionally provoca-tive. Where the Koran speaks of a God of justice who inspires fear and awe, the early woman ascetic Rabiah (d.801) spoke of love, in a way that Christians would have found familiar:
                                                        \
Two ways I love Thee: selfishly,
And next, as worthy is of Thee.
'Tis selfish love that I do naught
Save think on Thee with every thought.
'Tis purest love when Thou dost raise
The veil to my adoring gaze.
Not mine the praise in that or this:
Thine is the praise in both, wis
.
3O

This is close to her famous prayer: 'O God! If I worship thee in fear of Hell, burn me in Hell; and if I worship Thee in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise; but if I worship Thee for Thine own sake, / Page 261 / withhold not Thine Everlasting Beauty!'31 The love of God became the hallmark of Sufism. Sufis may well have been influenced by the Christian ascetics of the Near East but Muhammad remained a crucial influence. They hoped to have an experience of God that was similar to that of Muhammad when he had received his revelations. Naturally, they were also inspired by his mystical ascent to heaven, which became the paradigm of their own experience of God.
They also evolved the techniques and disciplines that have helped mystics allover the world to achieve an alternative state of conscious- ness. Sufis added the practices of fasting, night vigils and chanting the Divine Names as a mantra to the basic requirements of Muslim law. The effect of these practices sometimes resulted in behaviour which seemed bizarre and unrestrained and such mystics were known as 'drunken' Sufis. The first of these was Abu Yazid Bistami (d.874) who, like Rabiah, approached God as a lover. He believed that he should strive to please al Lah as he would a woman in a human love affair, sacrificing his own needs and desires so as to become one with the Beloved. Yet the introspective disciplines he adopted to achieve this led him beyond this personalised conception of God. As he approached the core of his identity, he felt that nothing stood between God and himself; indeed, everything that he understood as 'self seemed to have melted away:

I gazed upon [a-Lah] with the eye of truth and said to Him: 'Who is this?' He said, 'This is neither I nor other than I. There is no God
 but I.' Then he changed me out of my identity into His Selfhood . . .
Then I communed with Him with the tongue of His Face, saying: 'How fares it with me with Thee?' He said, 'I am through Thee;
there is no god but Thou.'
32

Yet again, this was no external deity 'out there', alien to mankind: God was discovered to be mysteriously identified with the inmost self. The systematic destruction of the ego led to a sense of absorption in a larger, ineffable reality. This state of annihilation ('fana) became central to the Sufi ideal. Bistami had completely reinterpreted the Shahadah in a way that could have been construed as blasphemous, / Page 262 / had it not been recognised by so many other Muslims as an authentic experience of that islam commanded by the Koran.
Other mystics, known as the 'sober' Sufis, preferred a less extravagant spirituality. Al-Junayd of Baghdad (d.9IO), who mapped out the groundplan of all future Islamic mysticism, believed that al- Bistami's extremism could be dangerous. He taught that 'fana (annihilation) must be succeeded by baqa (revival), a return to an enhanced self. Union with God should not destroy our natural capabilities but fulfil them: a Sufi who had ripped away obscuring egotism to discover the divine presence at the heart of his own being would experience greater self-realisation and self-control. He would become more fully human. When they experienced 'fana and baqa, therefore, Sufis had achieved a state that a Greek Christian would call 'deification'. Al-Junayd saw the whole Sufi quest as a return to man's primordial state on the day of creation: he was returning to the ideal humanity that God had intended. He was also returning to the Source of his being. The experience of separation and alienation was as central to the Sufi as to the Platonic or Gnostic experience; it is, perhaps not dissimilar to the 'separation' of which Freudians and Kleinians speak today, although the psychoanalysts attribute this to a non-theistic source. By means of disciplined, careful work under the expert guidance of a Sufi master (pir) like himself, al-Junayd taught that a Muslim could be reunited with his Creator and achieve that original sense of God's immediate presence that he had experienced when, as the Koran says, he had been drawn from Adam's loins. It would be the end of separation and sadness, a reunion with a deeper self that was also the self he or she was meant to be. God was not a separate, external reality and judge but somehow one with the ground of each person's being:

Now I have known, O Lord, What lies within my heart;
In secret, from the world apart,
My tongue hath talked with my Adored.
So in a manner we
United are, and One;
/ Page 263 /

Yet otherwise disunion is our estate eternally.
Though from my gaze profound
Deep awe hath hid Thy Face,
In wondrous and ecstatic Grace
I feel Thee touch my inmost ground
.
33

The emphasis on unity harks back to the Koranic ideal of tawhid: by drawing together his dissipated self, the mystic would experience the divine presence in personal integration.
Al-Junayd was acutely aware of the dangers of mysticism. It would be easy for untrained people, who did not have the benefit of the advice of a pir and the rigorous Sufi training, to misunderstand the ecstasy of a mystic and get a very simplistic idea of what he meant when he said that he was one with God. Extravagant claims like those of al-Bistami would certainly arouse the ire of the establishment. At this early stage, Sufism was very much a minority movement and the ulema often regarded it as an inauthentic innovation. Junayd's famous pupil Husain ibn Mansur (usually known as al-Hallaj, the Wool-Carder) threw all caution to the winds, however, and became a martyr for his mystical faith. Roaming the Iraq, preaching the overthrow of the caliphate and the establishment of a new social order, he was imprisoned by the authorities and crucified like his hero, Jesus. In his ecstasy, al-Hallaj had cried aloud: 'I am the Truth!' According to the Gospels,Jesus had made the same claim, when he had said that he was the Way, the Truth and the Life. The Koran repeatedly condemned the Christian belief in God's incarnation in Christ as blasphemous, so it was not surprising that Muslims were horrified by al- Hallaj's ecstatic cry. Al-Haqq (the Truth) was one of the names of God and it was idolatry for any mere mortal to claim this title for himself. Al-Hallaj had been expressing his sense of a union with God that was so close that it felt like identity. As he said in one of his poems:

I am He whom I love, and He whom I love is I:
We are two spirits dwelling in one body.
If thou seest me, thou seest Him,
And if thou seest Him, thou seest us both
.
34

Page 264

 It was a daring expression of that annihilation of self and union with God that his master al-Junayd had called 'fana. Al-Hallaj refused to recant when accused of blasphemy and died a saintly death.
When he was brought to be crucified and saw the cross and the nails, he turned to the people and uttered a prayer, ending with the
words: . And these Thy servants who are gathered to slay me, in zeal for Thy religion and in desire to win Thy favours, forgive them, O Lord, and have mercy upon them; for verily if Thou hadst revealed to them that which Thou hast revealed to me, they would not have done what they have done; and if Thou hadst hidden from me that which Thou hast hidden from them, I should not have suffered this tribulation. Glory unto Thee in whatsoever Thou doest, and glory unto Thee in whatsoever Thou willest.
35
AI-Hallaj's cry ana al-Haqq: 'I am the Truth!' shows that the God of the mystics is not an objective reality but profoundly subjective. Later al-Ghazzali argued that he had not been blasphemous but only unwise in proclaiming an esoteric truth that could be misleading to the uninitiated. Because there is no reality but al-Lah - as the Shahadah maintains - all men are essentially divine. The Koran taught that God had created Adam in his own image so that he cbuld contemplate himself as in a mirror .
36 That is why he ordered the angels to bow down and worship the first man. The mistake of the Christians had been to assume that one man had contained the whole incarnation of the divine, Sufis would argue. A mystic who had regained his original vision of God had rediscovered the divine image within himself, as it had appeared on the day of creation. The Sacred Tradition (hadith qudsi) beloved by the Sufis shows God drawing a Muslim towards him so closely that he seems to have become incarnate in each one of his servants: 'When I love him, I become his Ear through which he heard his Eye with which he sees, his Hand with which he grasps, and his Foot with which he walks.' The story of al-Hallaj shows the deep antagonism that can exist between the mystic and the religious establishment who have different notions of God and revelation.For the mystic the revelation is an event that happens within his own soul, while for more conventional people like some of the ulema it is an event / Page 265 / that is firmly fixed in the past. We have seen, however, that during the eleventh century, Muslim philosophers such as Ibn Sina and al- Ghazzali himself had found that objective accounts of God were unsatisfactory and had turned towards mysticism. AI-Ghazzali had made Sufism acceptable to the establishment and had shown that it was the most authentic form of Muslim spirituality. During the twelfth century the Iranian philosopher Yahya Suhrawardi and the Spanish-born Muid ad-Din ibn al-Arabi linked Islamic Falsafah indissolubly with mysticism and made the God experienced by the Sufis normative in many parts of the Islamic empire. Like al-Hallaj, however, Suhrawardi was also put to death by the ulema in Aleppo in 1191, for reasons that remain obscure. He had made it his life's work to link what he called the original 'Oriental' religion with Islam, thus completing the project that Ibn Sina had proposed. He claimed that all the sages of the ancient world had preached a single doctrine.
Originally it had been revealed to Hermes (whom Suhrawardi identified with the prophet known as Idris in the Koran or Enoch in the Bible); in the Greek world it had been transmitted through Plato and Pythagoras and in the Middle East through the Zoroastrian Magi. Since Aristotle, however, it had been obscured by a more narrowly intellectual and cerebral philosophy but it had been secretly passed from one sage to another until it had finally reached Suhrawardi himself via al-Bistami and al-Hallaj. This perennial philosophy was mystical and imaginative but did not involve the abandonment of reason. Suhrawardi was as intellectually rigorous as al-Farabi but he also insisted on the importance of intuition in the approach to truth. As the Koran had taught, all truth came from God and should be sought wherever it could be found. It could be found in paganism and Zoroastrianism as well as in the monotheistic tradition. Unlike dogmatic religion, which lends itself to sectarian disputes, mysticism often claims that there are as many roads to God as people. Sufism in particular would evolve an outstanding appreciation of the faith of others.
Suhrawardi is often called the Sheikh al-Ishraq or the Master of Illumination. Like the Greeks, he experienced God in terms of light. In Arabic, ishraq refers to the first light of dawn that issues from the /
Page 266 / East as well as to enlightenment: the Orient, therefore, is not the geographical location but the source of light and energy. In Suhrawardi's Oriental faith, therefore, human beings dimly remem-ber their Origin, feeling uneasy in this world of shadow, and long to return to their first abode. Suhrawardi claimed that his philosophy would help Muslims to find their true orientation, to purify the eternal wisdom within them by means of the imagination.
Suhrawardi's immensely complex system was an attempt to link all me religious insights of the world into a spiritual religion. Truth must be sought wherever it could be found. Consequendy his philosophy linked the pre- Islamic Iranian cosmology with the Ptolemaic planetary system and the Neoplatonic scheme of emanation. Yet no other Faylasuf had ever quoted so extensively from the Koran. When he discussed cosmology, Suhrawardi was not primarily interested in accounting for the physical origins of the universe. In his masterwork TheWisdom of Illumination (Hiqmat al-lshraq), Suhrawardi began by considering problems of physics and natural science but this was only a prelude to the mystical part of his work. Like Ibn Sina, he had grown dissatisfied with the wholly rational and objective orientation of Falsafah, though he did believe that rational and metaphysical speculation had their place in the perception of total reality. The true sage, in his opinion, excelled in both philosophy and mysticism. There was always such a sage in the world. In a theory that was very close to Shii Imamology, Suhrawardi believed that this spiritual leader was the true pole (qutb) without whose presence the world could not continue to exist, even if he remained in obscurity. Suhrawardi's Ishraqi mysticism is still practised in Iran. It is an esoteric system not because it is exclusive but because it requires spiritual and imaginative training of the sort undergone by Ismailis and Sufis.
The Greeks, perhaps, would have said that Suhrawardi's system was dogmatic rather than kerygmatic. He was attempting to discover the imaginative core that lay at the heart of all religion and philosophy and, though he insisted that reason was not enough, he never denied its right to probe the deepest mysteries. Truth had to be sought in scientific rationalism as well as esoteric mysticism; sensibility must be
educated and informed by the critical intelligence
.

 

IMAGINATION IN MAGIC INITIATION

ADD TO REDUCE REDUCE TO DEDUCE

 

ISHRAQ = (9 + 19 + 8 + 18 + 1 + 17) = 72 (7 + 2) = 9

ISHRAQ = (9 + 1 + 8 + 9 + 1 + 8) = 36 3 + 6 = 9

 

ISHRAQ = (9 + 19 + 8) =  36 (3 + 6) = 9

ISHRAQ = (9 + 1 + 8) =  18 (3 + 6) = 9

 

ISHRAQ = (18 + 1 + 17 =  36 (3 + 6) = 9

ISHRAQ = 9 + 1 + 8 =  18 (3 + 6) = 9

I

+

MAM + DAD

IMAM = (9 + 13 + 1 + 13) = 36

IMAM = (9 + 4 + 1 + 4) = 18 

 

A HISTORY OF GOD

Karen Armstrong 1993

The God of the Mystics

Page 267

As its name suggests, the core of Ishraqi philosophy was the symbol of light, which was seen as the perfect synonym for God. It was (at least in the twelfth century!) immaterial and indefinable yet was also the most obvious fact of life in dIe world: totally self-evident, it required no definition but was perceived by everybody as the element that made life possible. It was all-pervasive: whatever luminosity belonged to material bodies came directly from light, a source outside themselves. In Suhrawardi's emanationist cosmology, the Light of Lights corres-ponded to the Necessary Being of the Faylasufs, which was utterly simple. It generated a succession of lesser lights in a descending hierarchy; each light, recognising its dependency on the Light of Lights, developed a shadow-self that was the source of a material realm, which corresponded to one of the Ptolemaic spheres. This was a metaphor of the human predicament. There was a similar combina-tion of light and darkness within each one of us: the light or soul was conferred upon the embryo by the Holy Spirit (also known, as in Ibn Sina's scheme, as the Angel Gabriel, the light of our world). The soul longs to be united with the higher world of Lights and, if it is properly instructed by the qutb saint of the time or by one of his disciples, can even catch a glimpse of this here below.
Suhrawardi described his own enlightenment in the Hiqmat. He had been obsessed with the epistemological problem of knowledge but could make no headway: his book-learning had nothing to say to him. Then he had a vision of the Imam, the qutb, the healer of souls:

Suddenly I was wrapped in gentleness; there was a blinding flash, then a diaphanous light in the likeness of a human being. I watched attentively and there he was . . . He came towards me, greeting me so kindly that my bewilderment faded and my alarm gave way to a feeling of familiarity. And then I began to complain to him of the trouble I had with this problem of knowledge.
'Awaken to yourself,' he said to me, 'and your problem will be solved.
The process of awakening or illumination was clearly very different from the wrenching, violent inspiration of prophecy. It had more in common with the tranquil enlightenment of the Buddha:

Page 268

mysticism was introducing a calmer spirituality into the religions of God. Instead of a collision with a Reality without, illumination would come from within the mystic himself. There was no imparting of facts. Instead, the exercise of the human imagination would enable people to return to God by introducing them to the alam al-mithal, the world of pure images.
Suhrawardi drew upon the ancient Iranian belief in an archetypal world by which every person and object in the getik (the mundane, physical world) had its exact counterpart in the menok (the heavenly realm). Mysticism would revive the old mythology that the God- religions had ostensibly abandoned. The menok, which in Suhra- wardi's scheme became the alam a/-mithal, was now an intermediate realm that existed between our world and God's. 'This could not be perceived by means of reason nor by the senses, It was the faculty of the creative imagination which enabled us to dis-cover the realm of hidden archetypes, just as the symbolic interpretation of the Koran revealed its true spiritual meaning. The alam al-mithal was close to the Ismaili perception of the spiritual history of Islam which was the real meaning of the earthly events or Ibn Sina's angelology, which we discussed in the last chapter. It would be crucial to all future mystics of Islam as a way of interpreting their experiences and visions. Suhrawardi was examining the visions that are so strikingly similar, whether they are seen by shamans! mystics or ecstatics, in many different cultures. There has recendy been much interest in this phenomenon. Jung's conception of the collective unconscious is a more scientific attempt to examine this common imaginative experience of humanity. Other scholars, such as the Rumanian- American philosopher of religion Mircea Eliade, have attempted to show how the epics of ancient poets and certain kinds of fairy tales derive from ecstatic journeys and mystical flights.38
Suhrawardi insisted that the visions of mystics and the symbols of Scripture-such as Heaven, Hell, or the Last Judgement-were as real as the phenomena we experience in this world but not in the same way. They could not be empirically proven but could only be discerned by the trained imaginative faculty, which enabled visionaries to see the spiritual dimension of earthly phenomena. This experience was / Page 269 / nonsensical to anybody who had not had the requisite training, just as the Buddhist enlightenment could only be experienced when the necessary moral and mental exercises had been undertaken. All our thoughts, ideas, desires, dreams and visions corresponded to realities in the alam a/-mithal. The Prophet Muhammad, for example, had awakened to this intermediate world during the Night Vision, which had taken him to the threshold of the divine world. Suhrawardi would also have claimed that the visions of the Jewish Throne Mystics took place when they had learned to enter the alam al-mithal during their spiritual exercises of concentration. The path to God, therefore, did not lie solely through reason, as the Faylasufs had thought, but through the creative imagination, the realm of the mystic.
Today many people in the West would be dismayed if a leading theologian suggested that God was in some profound sense a product of the imagination. Yet it should be obvious that the imagination is the chief religious faculty. It has been defined by Jean-Paul Sartre as the ability to think of what is not.39 Human beings are the only animals who have the capacity to envisage something that is not present or something that does not yet exist but which is merely possible. The imagination has thus been the cause of our major achievements in science and technology as well as in art and religion. The idea of God, however it is defined, is perhaps the prime example of an absent reality which, despite its inbuilt problems, has continued to inspire men and women for thousands of years. The only way we can conceive of God, who remains imperceptible to the senses and to logical proof, is by means of symbols, which it is the chief function of the imaginative mind to interpret. Suhrawardi was attempting an imaginative explanation of those symbols that have had a crucial influence on human life, even though the realities to which they refer remain elusive. A symbol can be defined as an object or a notion that we can perceive with our senses or grasp with our minds but in which we see something other than itself. Reason alone will not enable us to perceive the special, the universal or the eternal in a particular, temporal object. That is the task of the creative imagination, to which mystics, like artists, attribute their insights. As in art, the most effective religious symbols are those informed by an intelligent knowledge and understanding of the human / Page 270 /condition. Suhrawardi, who wrote in extraordinarily beautiful Arabic and was a highly skilled metaphysician, was a creative artist as well as a mystic.Yoking apparently unrelated things together - science with mysticism, pagan philosophy with monotheistic religion - he was able to help Muslims create their own symbols and find new meaning and significance in life.
Even more influential than Suhrawardi was Muid ad-Din ibn al- Arabi (1165-1240), whose life we can, perhaps, see as a symbol of the parting of the ways between East and West. His father was a friend of  Ibn Rushd, who was very impressed by the piety of the young boy on the one occasion that they met. During a severe illness, Ibn al-Arabi was converted to Sufism, however, and at the age of thirty he left Europe for the Middle East. He made the hajj and spent two years praying and meditating at the Kabah but eventually settled at Malatya on the Euphrates. Frequently called Sheikh al-Akbah, the Great Master, he profoundly affected the Muslim conception of God but his thought did not influence the West, which imagined that Islamic philosophy had ended with Thn Rushd. Western Christendom would embrace Ibn Rushd's Aristotelian God, while most of Islamdom opted, until relatively recently, for the imaginative God of the Mystics.
In 1201, while making the circumambulations around the Kabah, Ibn al- Arabi had a vision which had a profound and lasting effect upon him: he had seen a young girl, named Nizam, surrounded by a heavenly aura and he realised that she was an incarnation of Sophia, the divine Wisdom. This epiphany made him realise that it would be impossible for us to love God if we relied only on the rational arguments of philosophy. Falsafah emphasised the utter transcend-ence of al-Lah and reminded us that nothing could resemble him. How could we love such an alien Being? Yet we can love the God we see in his creatures: 'If you love a being for his beauty, you love none other than God, for he is the Beautiful Being,' he explained in the Futuhat al-Makkiyah (The Meccan Revelations). 'Thus in all its aspects, the object of love is God alone.'
40 The Shahadah reminded us that there was no god, no absolute reality but al-Lah. Consequently, there was no beauty apart from him. We cannot see God himself but we can see him as he has chosen to reveal himself in such creatures as / Page 271 / Nizam, who inspire love in our hearts. Indeed, the mystic had a duty to create his own epiphanies for himself in order to see a girl like Nizam as she really was. Love was essentially a yearning for something that remains absent; that is why so much of our human love remains disappointing. Nizam had become 'the object of my Quest and my hope, the Virgin Most Pure'. As he explained in the prelude to The Diwan, a collection of love poems:

In the verses I have composed for the present book, I never cease to allude to the divine inspirations, the spiritual visitations, the correspondences [of our world] with the world of Angelic Intelligences. In this I conformed to my usual manner of thinking in symbols; this because the things of the invisible world attract me more than those of actual life and because this young girl knew
   exactly what I was referring to.41


The creative imagination had transformed Nizam into an avatar of God.
Some eighty years later, the young Dante Alighieri had a similar experience in Florence when he saw Beatrice Portinari. As soon as he caught sight of her, he felt his spirit tremble violendy and seemed to hear it cry: 'Behold a god more powerful than I who comes to rule over me.' From that moment, Dante was ruled by his love of Beatrice, which acquired a mastery 'owing to the power which my imagination gave him'.42 Beatrice remained the image of divine love for Dante and in The Divine Comedy, he shows how this brought him, through an imaginary journey through hell, purgatory and heaven, to a vision of God. Dante's poem had been inspired by Muslim accounts of Muhammad's ascent to heaven; certainly his view of the creative imagination was similar to that of Ibn al-Arabi. Dante argued that it was not true that imaginativa simply combined images derived from perception of the mundane world, as Aristode had maintained; it was in part an inspiration from God:

O fantasy (imaginativa), that reav'st us oft away So from ourselves that we remain distraught,
Deaf though a thousand trumpets round us bray. /
What moves thee when the senses show thee naught?
Light moves thee, formed in Heaven, by will maybe Of Him who sends it down, or else self-wrought
.
43

/ Page 272

Throughout the poem, Dante gradually purges the narrative of sensuous and visual imagery. The vividly physical descriptions of Hell give way to the difficult, emotional climb up Mount Purgatory to the earthly paradise, where Beatrice upbraids him for seeing her physical being as an end in itself: instead, he should have seen her as a symbol or an avatar that pointed him away from the world to God. There are scarcely any physical descriptions in Paradise; even the blessed souls are elusive, reminding us that no human personality can become the final object of human yearning. Finally, the cool intellectual imagery expresses the utter transcendence of God, who is beyond all imagination. Dante has been accused of painting a cold portrait of God in the Paradiso but the abstraction reminds us that ultimately we know nothing at all about him.
Ibn al-Arabi was also convinced that the imagination was a God-given faculty. When a mystic created an epiphany for himself, he was bringing to birth here below a reality that existed more perfectly in the realm of archetypes. When we saw the divine in other people, we were making an imaginative effort to uncover the true reality: 'God made the creatures like veils,' he explained, 'He who knows them as such is led back to Him, but he who takes them as real is barred from His
presence
.'" Thus - as seemed to be the way of Sufism - what started as a highly personalised spirituality, centring on a human being, led Ibn al-Arabi to a transpersonal conception of God. The image of the female remained important to him: he believed that women were the most potent incarnations of Sophia, the Divine Wisdom, because they inspired a love in men that was ultimately directed towards God. Admittedly, this is a very male view, but it was an attempt to bring a female dimension to the religion of a God who was often conceived as wholly masculine.
Ibn al-Arabi did not believe that the God he knew had an objective existence. Even though he was a skilled metaphysician, he did not believe that God's existence could be proved by logic. He liked to call himself a disciple of Khidr, a name given to the mysterious figure who / Page 273 /  appears in the Koran as the spiritual director of Moses, who brought the external Law to the Israelites. God had given Khidr a special knowledge of himself so Moses begs him for instruction, but Khidr tell him that he will not be able to put up with this, since it lies outside his own religious experience.
45 It was no good trying to understand religious 'information' that we had not experienced ourselves. The name Khidr seems to have meant 'the Green One', indicating that his wisdom was ever fresh and eternally renewable. Even a prophet of Moses's stature cannot necessarily comprehend esoteric forms of religion, for, in the Koran, he finds that indeed he cannot put up with Khidr's method of instruction. The meaning of this strange episode seems to suggest that the external trappings of a religion do not always correspond to its spiritual or mystical element. People, such as the ulema, might be unable to understand the Islam of a Sufi like Ibn al- Arabi. Muslim tradition makes Khidr the master of all who seek a mystic truth, which is inherendy superior to and quite different from the literal, external forms. He does not lead his disciple to a perception of a God which is the same as everybody else's but to a God who is in the deepest sense of the word subjective.
Khidr was also important to the Ismailis. Despite the fact that Ibn al-Arabi was a Sunni, his teachings were very close to Ismailism and were subsequendy incorporated into their theology - yet another instance of mystical religion being able to transcend sectarian divisions. Like the Ismailis, Ibn al-Arabi stressed the pathos of God, which was in sharp contrast to the apatheia of the God of the philosophers. The God of the mystics yearned to be known by his creatures. The Ismailis believed that the noun ilah (god) sprang from the Arabic root WLH: to be sad, to sigh for.
46 As the Sacred Hadith had made God say: 'I was a hidden treasure and I yearned to be known. Then I created creatures in order to be known by them.' There is no rational proof of God's sadness; we know it only by our own longing for something to fulfil our deepest desires and to explain the tragedy and pain of life. Since we are created in God's image, we must reflect God, the supreme archetype. Our yearning for the reality that we call 'God' must, therefore, mirror a sym-pathy with the pathos of God. Ibn al-Arabi imagined the solitary God sighing with longing but this sigh / Page 274 / (nafas rahman,) was not an expression of maudlin self-pity. It had an active, creative force which brought the whole of our cosmos into existence; it also exhaled human beings, who became logoi words that express God to himself. It follows that each human being is a unique epiphany of the Hidden God, manifesting him in a particular and unrepeatable manner
Each one of these divine logoi are the names that God has called himself, making himself totally present in each one of his epiphanies. God cannot be summed up in one human expression since the divine reality is inexhaustible. It also follows that the revelation that God has made in each one of us is unique, different from the God known by the other innumerable men and women who are also his logoi We will only know our own 'God' since we cannot experience him objectively; it is impossible to know him in the same way as other people. As Ibn al-Arabi says: 'Each being has as his god only his particular Lord; he cannot possibly have the whole.' He liked to quote the hadith: 'Meditate upon God's blessings, but not upon his essence (al-Dhat).'
47 The whole reality of God is unknowable; we must concentrate on the particular Word spoken in our own being. Ibn al-Arabi also liked to call God al-Ama, 'the Cloud' or 'The Blindness'48 to emphasise his inaccessibility. But these human logoi also reveal the Hidden God to himself. It is a two-way process: God sighs to become known and is delivered from his solitude by the people in whom he reveals himself. The sorrow of the Unknown God is assuaged by the Revealed God in each human being who makes him known to himself; it is also true that the Revealed God in every individual yearns to return to its source with a divine nostalgia that inspires our own longing.
Divinity and humanity were thus two aspects of the divine life that animates the entire cosmos. This insight was not dissimilar to the Greek understanding of the incarnation of God in Jesus but Ibn al- Arabi could not accept the idea that one single human being, however holy, could express the infinite reality of God. Instead he believed that each human person was a unique avatar of the divine. Yet he did develop the symbol of the Perfect Man (insan i kamil) who embodied the mystery of the Revealed God in each generation for the benefit of his contemporaries, though he did not, of course, incarnate the whole
/ Page 275 /  reality of God or his hidden essence. The Prophet Muhammad had been the Perfect Man of his generation and a particularly effective symbol of the divine.
This introspective, imaginative mysticism was a search for the ground of being in the depths of the self. It deprived the mystic of the certainties that characterise the more dogmatic forms of religion. Since each man and woman had had a unique experience of God, it followed that no one religion could express the whole of the divine mystery. There was no objective truth about God to which all must subscribe; since this God transcended the category of personality, predictions about his behaviour and inclinations were impossible. Any consequent chauvinism about one's own faith at the expense of other people's was obviously unacceptable, since no One religion had the whole truth about God. Ibn al-Arabi developed the positive attitude towards other religions which could be found in the Koran and took it to a new extreme of tolerance:

My heart is capable of every form.
A cloister for the monk, a fane for idols,
A pasture for gazelles, the votary's Kabah
The tables of the Torah, the Koran.
Love is the faith I hold: wherever turn
His camels, still the one true faith is mine
.
49


The man of God was equally at home in synagogue, temple, church and mosque, since all provided a valid apprehension of God. He often used the phrase 'the God created by the faiths' (Khalq al-haqq ft'l-itiqall); it could be pejorative if it referred to the 'god' that men and women created in a particular religion and considered identical with God himself. This only bred intolerance and fanaticism. Instead of such idolatry, Ibn al-Arabi gave this advice:
Do not attach yourself to any particular creed exclusively, so that you may disbelieve all the rest; otherwise you will lose much good, nay, you will fail to recognise the real truth of the matter. God, the omnipresent and omnipotent, is not limited by anyone creed, for, he says, 'Wheresoever ye turn, there is the face of al-Lah' (Koran 2:109). Everyone praises what he believes; his god is his own
  / Page 276 / creature, and in praising it he praises himself. Consequently he blames the beliefs of others, which he would not do if he were just, but his dislike is based on ignorance.50
We never see any god but the personal Name that has been revealed and given concrete existence in each one of us; inevitably our understanding of our personal Lord is coloured by the religious tradition into which we were born. But the mystic (arif) knows that this 'God' of ours is simply an 'angel' or a particular symbol of the divine, which must never be confused with the Hidden Reality itself. Consequently he sees all the different religions as valid theophanies. Where the God of the more dogmatic religions divides humanity into warring camps, the God of the mystics is a unifying force.
It is true that Ibn al-Arabi's teachings were too abstruse for the vast majority of Muslims but they did percolate down to the more ordinary people. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Sufism ceased to be a minority movement and became the dominant Islamic mood in many parts of the Muslim empire. This was the period when the various Sufi orders or tariqas were founded, each with its particular interpretation of the mystical faith. The Sufi sheikh had a great influence on the populace and was often revered as a saint in rather the same way as the Shii Imams. It was a period of political upheaval: the Baghdad caliphate was disintegrating and the Mongol hordes were devastating one Muslim city after another. People wanted a God who was more immediate and sympathetic than the remote God of the Faylasufs and the legalistic God of the ulema. The Sufi practices of dhikr, the recitation of the Divine Names as a mantra to induce ecstasy, spread beyond the tanqas. The Sufi disciplines of concentra-tion, with their carefully prescribed techniques of breathing and posture, helped people to experience a sense of transcendent presence within. Not everybody was capable of the higher mystical states, but these spiritual exercises did help people to abandon simplistic and anthropomorphic notions of God and to experience him as a presence within the self. Some orders used music and dancing to enhance concentration and their pir became heroes to the people.
  The most famous of the Sufi orders was the Mawlawiyyah, whose members are known in the West as the 'whirling dervishes'. Their / Page 277 / stately and dignified dance was a method of concentration. As he spun round and round, the Sufi felt the boundaries of selfhood dissolve as he melted into his dance, giving him a foretaste of the annihilation of 'fana. The founder of the order was Jalal ad-Din Rumi (127-73), known to his disciples as Mawlana, our Master. He had been born in Khurusan in Central Asia but had fled to Konya in modem Turkey before the advancing Mongol armies. His mysticism can be seen as a Muslim response to this scourge, which might have caused many to lose faith in al-Lah. Rumi's ideas are similar to those of his contemporary Ibn al-Arabi, but his poem - the Masnawi - known as the Sufi Bible, had a more popular appeal and helped to disseminate the God of the mystics among ordinary Muslims who were not Sufis. In 1244 Rumi had come under the spell of the wandering dervish Shams ad-Din, whom he saw as the Perfect Man of his generation. Indeed, Shams ad-Din believed that he was a reincarnation of the Prophet and insisted upon being addressed as 'Muhammad'. He had a dubious reputation and was known not to observe the Shariah, the Holy Law of Islam, thinking himself above such trivialities. Rumi's disciples were understandably worried by their Master's evident infatuation. When Shams was killed in a riot, Rumi was inconsolable and devoted still more time to mystical music and dancing. He was able to transform his grief imaginatively into a symbol of the love of God - of God's yeaming for humanity and humanity's longing for al-Lah. Whether they realised it or not, everybody was searching for the absent God, obscurely aware that he or she was separated from the Source of being.

Listen to the reed, how it tells a tale, complaining of separateness.
Ever since I was parted from the reed-bed, my lament has caused
men and women to moan. I want a bosom torn by severance, that I
may unfold
[to such a person] the power of love-desire: everyone
who is left far from his source wishes back the time when he was
united to it
.
51

The Perfect Man was believed to inspire more ordinary mortals to seek God: Shams ad-Din had unlocked in Rumi the poetry of the
Masnawi which recounted the agonies of this separation / Page 278 /   Like other Sufis, Rumi saw the universe as a theophany of God's myriad Names. Some of these revealed God's wrath or severity, while others expressed those qualities of mercy which were intrinsic to the divine nature. The mystic was engaged in a ceaseless struggle (jihad) to distinguish the compassion, love and beauty of God in all things and to strip away everything else. The Masnawi challenged the Muslim to find the transcendent dimension in human life and to see through appearances to the hidden reality within. It is the ego which blinds us to the inner mystery of all things but once we have got beyond that we are not isolated, separate beings but one with the Ground of all existence. Again, Rumi emphasised that God could only be a subjective experience. He tells the humorous tale of Moses and the Shepherd to illustrate the respect we must show to other people's conception of the divine. One day Moses overheard a shepherd talking familiarly to God: he wanted to help God, wherever he was - to wash his clothes, pick the lice off, kiss his hands and feet at bedtime. 'All I can say, remembering You', the prayer concluded, 'is ayyyy and ahhhhhhhh.' Moses was horrified. Who on earth did the shepherd imagine he was talking to? The Creator of heaven and earth? It sounded as though he were talking to his uncle! The shepherd repented and wandered disconsolately off into the desert but God rebuked Moses. He did not want orthodox words but burning love and humility. There were no correct ways of talking about God:

What seems wrong to you is right for him
What is poison to one is honey to someone else.
Purity and impurity, sloth and diligence in worship,
These mean nothing to Me.
I am apart from all that.
Ways of worshipping are not to be ranked as better
or worse than one another.
Hindus do Hindu things.
The Dravidian Muslims in India do what they do.
It's all praise, and it's all right.
It's not Me that's glorified in acts of worship.
It's the worshippers! I don't hear the words
they say. I look inside at the humility. / Page 279
That broken-open lowliness is the Reality,
not the language! Forget phraseology.
I want burning, burning.

Be Friends
with your burning. Bum up your thinking
and your forms of expression
!
52

Any speech about God was as absurd as the shepherd's but when a believer looked through the veils to how things really were, he would find that it belied all his human preconceptions.
By this time tragedy had also helped the Jews of Europe to form a new conception of God. The crusading anti-Semitism of the West was making life intolerable for the Jewish communities and many wanted a more immediate, personal God than the remote deity experienced by the Throne Mystics. During the ninth century, the Kalonymos family had emigrated from southern Italy to Germany and had brought some mystical literature with them. But by the twelfth century, persecution had introduced a new pessimism into Ashkenazi piety and this was expressed in the writings of three members of the Kalonymos clan: Rabbi Samuel the Elder, who wrote the short treatise Sefer ha- Yirah (The Book of the Fear of God) in about 1150; Rabbi Judah the Pietist, author of Sefer Hasidim (fhe Book of the Pietists), and his cousin Rabbi Eliezar ben Judah of Worms (d. I 230) who edited a number of treatises and mystical texts. They were not philosophers or systematic thinkers and their work shows that they had borrowed their ideas from a number of sources that might seem to have been incompatible. They had been greatly impressed by the dry Faylasuf Saadia ibn Joseph, whose books had been translated into Hebrew, and by such Christian mystics as Francis of Assisi. From this strange amalgam of sources, they managed to create a spirituality which remained important to the Jews of France and Germany until the seventeenth century.
The Rabbis, it will be recalled, had declared it sinful to deny oneself pleasure created by God. But the German Pietists preached a renunciation that resembled Christian asceticism. A Jew would only see the Shekinah in the next world if he turned his back on pleasure and gave up such pastimes as keeping pets or playing with children.

Page 280

Jews should cultivate an apatheia like God's, remaining impervious to scorn and insults. But God could be addressed as Friend. No Throne Mystic would have dreamt of calling God 'Thou', as Eliezar did. This familiarity crept into the liturgy, depicting a God who was immanent and intimately present at the same time as he was transcendent:
Everything is in Thee and Thou art in everything; Thou fillest everything and dost encompass it; when everything was created, Thou was in everything; before everything was created, Thou wast everything.53
They qualified this immanence by showing that nobody could approach God himself but only God as he manifested himself to mankind in his 'glory' (kavod) or in 'the great radiance called Shekinah', The Pietists were not worried by the apparent incon- sistency, They concentrated on practical matters rather than theo-logical niceties, teaching their fellow-Jews methods of concentration (kawwanah) and gestures that would enhance their sense of God's presence. Silence was essential; a Pietist should close his eyes tightly, cover his head with a prayer shawl to avoid distraction, pull in his stomach and grind his teeth. They devised special ways of'drawing out prayer' which was found to encourage this sense of Presence. Instead of simply repeating the words of the liturgy, the Pietist should count the letters of each word, calculating their numerical value and getting beyond the literal meaning of the language. He must direct his attention upwards, to encourage his sense of a higher reality.
The situation of the Jews in the Islamic empire, where there was no anti-Semitic persecution, was far happier and they had no need of this Ashkenazi pietism. They were evolving a new type of Judaism, however, as a response to Muslim developments. Just as the Jewish Faylasufs had attempted to explain the God of the Bible philosophic- lly, other Jews tried to give their God a mystical, symbolic interpreta-tion. At first these mystics constituted only a tiny minority. Theirs was an esoteric discipline, handed on from master to disciple: they called it Kabbalah or inherited tradition. Eventually, however, the God of Kabbalah would appeal to the majority and take hold of the Jewish imagination in a way that the God of the philosophers never did."

 

IN

THE

BEGINNING

WAS THE WORD AND THE WORD WAS

WITH

GOD

THERE

WAS

A

LIGHT AND THE LIGHT

SHINETH

IN

THE

DARKNESS AND THE DARKNESS

COMPREHENDED

IT

NOT

 

 

 
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