Grace as a gate: a vision

    Sunday, February 22, 2009, 6:05 PM [General]

    You are now suspended in space. 

    A frightful feeling forms. 

    A neon judgement to the left. 

    A kiss beckons from the right. 

    They are no longer here, you are alone … or rather, momentarily alone, as if you are waiting for some audience with someone or something important. More important than everything you hold most dear. 

    Oh, the cult was so wrong. So wrong. How could it have gone so wrong?

    You recognize it all now. The words of the Doctrine. They were totems. Totems to protect you in this space. But the interpretations they fed you, oh, it was so wrong.

    You are in a garden, standing in front of a gate. And there is singing. Such beautiful singing. The song is not ordinary singing, not music, something more than music. It is light-music. It is light-music. It is light-music. And the light-music becomes an angel. The mother-angel singing. Is it she that beckons?

    No. She is not the one that beckons. She is the gesture of beckoning, you understand, and with that understanding, one of her names becomes apparent. She is grace. Grace in entity.

    Grace as a gate.

    You follow through her.

    But then she stops and speaks for the first time, her voice recognizable, as if all your loved ones speak to you in unified single form.

    “This is as far as your ascension will proceed, within this strand of the puzzle. I will show you more, but it will be a creation-in-speech. A creation-in-speech will approximate creation, and can lead you to truth or falsity. The false is banality itself. But the truth is complex, the most coveted treasure, the jewel of understanding, the emerald overview, the key to time, the бриллиант of being, the star of stars, the diamond dialectic.

    So choose, my child, choose well.”

    And she conjures up a vision in your mind. A sense of concept. Birth. Formation of the heavens. Formation. Formation of what? Existence? What is existence?

    It’s a fold in the fabric of reality. But what is the fold?

    It’s a form in the cloud that doesn’t end. But what is form?

    It’s a movement, a becoming in time, to the realization. But what is movement? What is becoming?

    It’s love. Existence is love.

     

     

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    The lover’s gift, inscriptions upon the body and individual returns

    Friday, February 13, 2009, 7:17 PM [General]

    The professor and the builder were visiting a gallery.They went to see a controversial retrospective of a Somalian born Dutchnational artist called Ayaan van de Paddo. The exhibition was controversialamongst the Muslims of the city, because her oeuvre tended to follow aconsistent theme: naked female bodies, painted, as if tattooed, with words ofthe Quran. Her message was in some way political, relating to the treatment ofwomen in the Islamic world. The juxtaposition was too much for some of thebelievers. The outside courtyard of gallery was subject to constant noisy protest,a sea of brown and black voices crying out, sounding inside the gallery likewaves of an angry post-colonial ocean about to break, or perhaps alreadybroken, upon the shore of this strange Albion. The protest came courtesy of thelocal university’s Islamic Union, with much flag and effigy burning, angrysheikh speeches and quivering voiced sister vox-pops to the media. The outragewas not confined to this country, having spread as far south as South Africaand as far east as Indonesia, where the Dutch embassy suffered a bomb attackthe previous day (no one serious injured, but the West now panicked andoutraged). Of course, like other similar mass hysterics, there was a deeperreligio-political wound at the heart of all this.

     

    Wounds, upon bodies of all kinds, were on the builder’smind, when he and his friend came upon the central, offending image of theexhibition: a large photograph of a woman’s naked back, a young and beautifuleastern back, apart from a series of awful lacerations and cuts, clearly the(very real) result of a severe beating. Upon her back were projected thosewords of Surah An Nisa (4:34) regarding the relationship of men and women.

     

    “That old chestnut again,” said the builder, grimly.

     

    But the professor was in no mood for post-colonialdiscourse, Islamic feminism or politics today. He was preoccupied with thesubject matter of his current book: the triads of Proclus as they related todivine emanation in the Neoplatonism of Kabbalah. “The three moments of theNeoplatonic world-process, immanence in the cause, procession from the cause,and reversion to the cause: identity, difference and the overcoming ofdifference by identity. Procession creates individuality. So how can reversionstill retain individuality?”

     

    The builder was concernedwith the artist’s work, and with the Muslims’ protest. However, he had broughthis friend to the exhibition for a reason: to assist him in his research.

     

    “Here’s the answer to your question, I think” he said,nodding in the direction of a gallery tour group who just entered from thesouthern wing. The tour guide was a beautiful Central Asian woman, dressed in a1950’s Chanel style suit, but fashioned very strikingly out of tie dye rainbowcoloured material. Her audience were clearly enraptured with her exposition ofthe metaphysics within Van Gough’s chair, the picture at the entrance to thisroom, her exotic melifluous vowels casting a spell over the rest of the room,so that soon the other visitors were drawn into the circle around her.

     

    She flashed an exquisite wide smile at the builder as shegracefully led her group toward the Somalian photo, beside which the twofriends had stood watching.

     

    “You know her?” asked the professor.

     

    “Yes, we met at a conference on architecture,” repliedthe builder, whistfully. “I’m surprised you don’t recognize her: she says sheknows you, but perhaps you forget. She completed a PhD on Deleuze, the Body and Islam. You were at her viva.”

     

    “Oh, of course. I thought she was teaching in Sydney.”

     

    “No, she’s moved to London. To be with me, as a matter offact.”

     

    “Ah, congratulations!”

     

    “Thank you. But listen for a moment. She knows all about identity,difference and the overcoming of difference by identity. It’s her bread andbutter, so to speak. If there is anyone who can help you with your book, it isshe.”

     

     

    The gallery guide began her exposition by quoting theQuran.

     

    The gallery guide’s speech:

     

     

    And indeed We havecreated man, and We know what his ownself whispers to him. And We are nearer tohim than his jugular vein. (50:16)

     

    To God belongs theEast and the West, wheresoever you look is the face of God. (2:115)

     

    Everywhere we turn, there is God.

     

    But everywhere is the creation of God.

     

    So is God equivalent to the creation? Is the creation aveil that keeps this Creator hidden? But if the Creation is a hiding, then the act of Creation surelyrequires the Creator to contract itspresence. But if God is contracted, then how can it be that the face of God iswherever we turn, for surely the verse intimates that the Face fills all space?

     

    Van de Paddo has done something quite close to a metaphorof creation and the path to the truth. She has depicted a body, inscribed withthe words of the Holy Book. This is very close to the truth. But it is only inher depiction of the body as cut thatshe fails as an artist, because the body of inscription suffers no cuts, if she could but understand. Thebody is impossible to cut because, as pure surface, it has nothing inside: orat least, nothing inside that can be accessed through cutting.

     

    For the Creation is not so much a veil, as a body without organs, a space of pure surface, over which meaning playsout as adorning tattoo.

     

    For those of you who are not conversant with modernphilosophy, I am sure the phrase “body without organs” sounds most peculiar,almost sinister. The concept comes from the work of French philosopher Deleuzeand the Italian psychoanalyst Guattari. In many ways, it is the apotheosis ofour previous atheist century. Their other name for the body without organs is“the plane of immanence”. They believe it is a virtual domain from which allmeaning derives as actualisation of possibilities (what I prefer to call inscriptions upon the body).

     

    Why do they need to talk of a body without organs?

     

    A body withorgans is the old philosophy, which they wish to depart from. Because organsare internal to a body, they are “under the skin” of the body. So in a sense,organs provide the source of meaning for the body: they are the source of itsvitality. And that was how the old philosophy – the philosophy of Plato, orDescartes, or Russell, or Freud for example – viewed meaning. The oldphilosophy would say: there are things in the world, whose true meaning isburied deep “under the skin”. If we can characterise what is “under the skin”,if we can develop an anatomy of these organs of the body, then we have a SingleLogic that explains the meaning of the world.

     

    A body with organs is also how the mainstream worldreligions view the cosmos. The truth is buried under it all: the Single Logicis in fact the Law of God, for instance.

     

    But in the later philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari,there is nothing under the surface,and there is no Single Logic. In this century, this fact has been established,we cannot argue with it. For we all understand now that, whenever we try tocodify this Law, something escapes. Because life is always in flux. That if weever try to say: this is exactly what achair is, someone will find a chair that will violate those rules, but still bea chair in a different game. That when we say there is only one mode of Islamic practice, a thousandother Islamic practices will appear in competition, some as bifircations fromothers, some syncretic marriages with other cultures and so on. When we say,this is what America stands, or this is what Iran stands for, a multiplicity ofalternatives appear to confront our assumptions.

     

    Let’s relate the problem to Islam, because we stand nowin front of this picture and can hear the angry cries of the students outside.If we say this is what the Quran orInjeel or Torah means, the same problem emerges. An interpretation that relatesQuran to Kabbalah, an interpretation that relates Quran to my personal daytoday, an interpretation that relates Quran to the situation in Israel rightnow. Endless possible alternatives, where meaning flows from one point ofdeparture (the Holy Book for example) to mate with alien territories and formnew meanings (politics of contemporary Israel, my personal day, Kabbalah, etc).

     

    And we can’t win. Say we were to fight the multiplicitiesand say: “The Quran should only be understood in terms of the historical datawe have regarding its revelation and how the prophet’s socio-political contextrelates to our lives and society today.” Then we are still utilizing the holybook as a point of departure to mate with the science of history (how washistory written in the time of the hadiths), with all the related problems ofthe history of history, and to mate thisin turn with the poetry of analogy (saying “our society is like the society ofMecca at that time” means that we engage with the poetics of “likeness”).

     

    Whenever we try to pin everything down to a Single Logic,all we do is generate a logic ofmany, to draw a line from one territory to another.

     

    That is, there is nothing below the surface: there is no true single meaning of a chair, ofAmerica, of woman or Islam or even of the Quran: there are only flows of meanings that play upon theendless surface of reality, interacting, forming new meanings, generate andactualise new possibilities. The Cosmos is the Earth. Deleuze and Guattariwrite “The Earth is a body without organs. This body without organs ispermeated by unformed, unstable matters, by flows in all directions, by freeintensities or nomadic singularities, by mad or transitory particles.”

     

    The body without organs is linguistic. It is differences,truth and falsity, hot and cold, light and darkness. It is logical in nature(because difference is logic), but it not a single logic, because language (thedifferences) are dynamic, procreative and multiple. They are signs arrayed asgenerative multiplicities, chains of signification emerging throughrelativities. The Cosmos is multiple logics, bifircating and mating to form newlogics. And this explains, incidentally, why Time is essential to the wholepicture. The Cosmos is dynamic and temporal: the relative generation of signsis how we measure time, because that is how we become things, how we enter into practices, how we function in theworld.

     

    Is there no morality in the new philosophy? There is onlyone of fascism versus freedom. Deleuze says that if we insist – as a fundamentalist insists – that the logic is the SingleLogic, then we engage in fascism and develop a “cancer” on the body withoutorgans. But if we acknowledge that the logic is one of many, then we openourselves up to wondrous possibilities, and life becomes a life fulfilledthrough creative exploration and openess toward new engagements and newactualisation.

     

    The new philosophy is indeed in accord with the theme ofmultiplicity within the Holy Book. There, the variations and differences arethe characterisation of life: life is multiplicities of speech, thought,language, in continual unfolding.

     

    And amongst hissigns is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in yourlanguages and colors. Verily, in that are signs for those who know (30:21).

     

    The Holy Book lists multiplicities, infinite variationsas the meaning given to us in the Creation. And within its own text too,self-reflexively: Do they not reflect onthe Quran ? if this book were from other than God, they would certainly findmuch variation and contradiction in it. (4:81) The Holy Book itself, as themicrocosm of God’s Creation, is all variation and relativity!

     

    To summarize: the Cosmos as we see it is characterised,actualised by the plane of immanence, an infinite body without organs.Everything we see, hear and utter is like tattoos being inscribed upon this body.

     

    Let’s say we believe this, whether Muslim or not, as noone here wants to be called a fascist, after all!

     

    So is this body without organs the body of God? Does ourCosmos of difference abide within God? Is God immanent to our vision?

     

    No, God is not the body.

     

    A parable. A king courts a lover, a maiden so modest thatshe never looks at her suitor, lowering her gaze to the ground when he is near.And so modest, she wears full burqa from head to toe, covering all her face,except her eyes. The king makes a gift for his lover: a pendant with a goldenlocket. The locket is not a normal locket, for it cannot be opened, and is infact solid gold, without a space inside. But it is still a locket of sorts,because within the locket is an embossed image of the King’s face: but image ishidden, because the locket and the image are the same substance – they are allgold. The locket is pure gold and so his lover does not see the face, even  though, as she places it around herneck, his face is as close to her as it can be. But the locket is alchemical,and its metal changes form according to the lover’s dress. When she wears herburqa and walks in the bright lights of the marketplace amongst the common folkand their daily transactions, the locket is pure gold and reveals nothing. Butwhen she is alone in her bedchamber, the locket was such that, as she removessome of her burqa, its metal turns to crystal, and some aspects of the imageappears as hints. The pendant is not the King. But the action of giving-as-loveis what defines him for her. And as she removes her burqa, she knows herwedding day approaches.

     

    The king is God. The lover is the body without organs, orwhat we call the sublimated Logos. This forms the Vine. The transforming pendantand the burqa is the process of inscription upon the body without organs: whatwe see as the Cosmos. These form the branches of the Vine.

     

    We call this body the sublimated Logos, because thesublimation is sublimation to difference. This body is still a space of difference,in spite of its enabling multiplicitous actualisations, relativities andtemporalities, its multiple dynamic becomings.

     

    Inscription upon the body can become a righteousinscription or an inscription in prostitution. As we have said, for differenceto be born, the Logos is sublimated, and the True Time is enabled.

     

    Sometimes, this appearsas a contraction of God, but this is only a psychological appearance. Inreality, God never contracts: God’s actions are Love. And Love here takes theform of breathing into and casting out. The breathing into was first the Logos,the word that abides within each of us. But the Love is strong, so there was acasting out, which sublimated the Logos into the form of the Vine, the domainthe philosophers call the body without organs.

     

    The body without organs – as the space of difference – isthus a corollary of the Love. God’s Love prescribes the body, because theLove’s strength entailed a casting out, and also yielded an inscription, a pathacross the body. As the chosen take their line of flight from north to south,from west to east, the body is inscribed with righteousness, the prostitute,once shamed is then forgiven.

     

    So is the body without organs a veil that hides us fromthe true reality?

     

    Again, no.

     

    God appears to us as a decider and a judge, and so God’sname is Judgement. Judgement is an act of Love, because Judgement is enacted bylaying down a path. The laying down of a path is love because God-as-judgement“hides” itself – as sparks obscured – within all acts of inscription, withinany and every sign that may be written down upon the body, within everythought, wish, action, time period. Within the cosmos. This is the submissionof the signs: they all bow down to the beloved, because of the spark containedand mixed within.

     

    Why do I qualify my use of “hide” here? It is not hiding,because God is wherever we turn. But the sparks are hidden – because the Lover wears her burqa, and the burqarelates to the pendant.

     

    God-as-judgement must be present wherever we turn withinthis body without organs, must be a potential(the golden spark of potential)contained alongside the duller temptations and deviations of multiplepotentials within signs.

     

    It is in this sense that God is wherever we turn:God-as-Judgement is wherever we turn, because our space is the space of judgements-in-multiplicity,a body over which multiple logics may play. Righteous and sinful. But thesparks are embedded within the signs, so are wherever we turn. The restitutionof these sparks will lead us to a righteous body, a body with righteousness(es)tattooed upon its surface. But we can’t see all the sparks in this lifetime. Thisis impossible. We cannot collect them in entirety because then we would see Judgementand become a prophet. But we can seek the sparks, which psychologically appearas the descent of the Shekhina-Sophia, a “revealing” of a “hidden” God.

     

    But God is near in a different way: God-as-Love is near,knowing us: We know what his ownself whispersto him. The True Lover knows and recognizes completely his beloved (this iswhy God’s love is infinitely stronger than ours.) Understanding is nearness. Weare modest still, so keep our eyes to the ground, but the certainty of theknowing Lover provides all the sustenance we need: we are understood, so ourLove is near.

     

    Two modes of nearness. But nearness is still somethingthat must play upon the body without organs, if that is all we see.

     

    So how does God descend upon us directly, inscribing apath upon the body linguistically, if God is himself not a traveller, if God isnot a nomad (or a branch) like man is? It is not a direct descent, not a directinscription: it occurs through agents. This is necessary because the Cosmos isnot us and we are not God. If we were the same, there would be no Love.

     

    What is the agent that enables the descent of theShekhina-Sophia, the agent that makes the sparks apparent? It is the Logos sublimated:the Truth “embedded within” us by God. This is why the lights can be situated uponour body without organs. God placed the source of light deep within us, furtherthan any anatomy can capture: and from that place, the sparks derive, like starsprojected upon a planetarium’s roof. 

     

    So, in fact, the body without organs does have an inside, inasmuch as an interior implies absolute vitality,a Truth beyond multiple logics. But an inside that it is impossible to cut into: the Logos. We cannot characterise the Logosas something like an organ, or fundamental Single Logic. That is not the natureof the Logos as an inside of the body.

     

    In a sense, the Logos is exactly the body without organs. Certainly when the Logos issublimated, the body without organs emerges. The sublimated Logos has the formof the Vine, and the Logos “embedded within” is the life of the Vine. It isless like the brain of the body and more like the soul of the body. And whensublimated, it is exactly the body.

    Let me make myself clear here: the new philosophers werecorrect in their understanding of the body without organs as the source ofsignification. The cosmos is multiple becomings inscribed across the surface ofthe body, and meanings and interpretations are relativities, bifircation andsycretisation between lines of flight. But I disagree that to say in theirmorality: their equation with fascism of privilaging a “correct” path overother paths. Certainly to privilage is to enter into fascism in all cases,except one. There is a third way between freedom and fascism, one that followsfrom the Faith.


    Let me make myself clear: the body without organs is not the final say. For wine is cultivated from the Vine. This iswhy the new theology follows from the new philosophy. For the body withoutorgans is a gift between lovers. Anda gift is a dowry. And a dowry is a prelude to marriage. But the nature of themarriage is not simple, it is marvelous, miraculous and supreme.

     

    And yet the body without organs is key: it is given to usfor a reason. Multiplicities of speech, thought, language, in continualunfolding are given to us:

     

    And amongst hissigns is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in yourlanguages and colors. Verily, in that are signs for those who know (30:21).

     

    The Holy Book lists multiplicities, infinite variationsas the meaning given to us as signsthe Creation. And signs are a gift,because they indicate the Beloved. Signs are a dowry and earthly meetingsreflect the greater meeting: You shallgive the women their due dowries, equitably (4:4). But a gift is not thesame thing as the giver, the dowry is not the husband. It is not the final say:the gift is a prelude to the wedding.

     

    But again, if there are at least the Logos and theBeloved below and above the body, then is not the body without organs as a veil is lifted when we die or areenlightened? Are we to despise this dunia as something like an illusion of novalue? No: the dowry is abudance. Thereis space enough on the earth for all nations. The dowry is freedom tojourney. But what does this lead to? What is the result of the gift, the resultof this freedom?

     

    The gift follows from Love, and the dowry completes thecircle of the Cosmic Romance because it provides the means of individual return. The body without organs enables reversion that still retainsindividuality.

     

    As the Holy Book says, when we die, we return areindividuals, not as one. They are there, the others, greeting us by our side.We reside with them all, on couches and thrones together: our ancestors andlovers, all different.

     

    How is this possible? Should not reconstitution of theobscured sparks – as should surely happen at the end of days – should this notlead us back at least as though a singleilluminated soul? A single Logos to return?

     

    But no, we return as individuals. The sparks guide, theShekhinah-Sophia guides, but individual garmentsare still formed, our personal interpretationsare still mapped out. A righteous journey is from west to east, from north tosouth: but it is mapped out, seeker-by-seeker, guided by the however andwhatever form Sophia takes for that seeker. So the collecting of the sparks oftruth, the inscription we enter into, the line of flight we follow, the wordsof the Quran as encountered by us, these ultimately form an amalgam, aconjunctive and unique machine, a condensation-as-unification that is an individual garment of days.

     

    Yes, the result is a veil: but it is also what we callour higher soul, that which survives in the afterlife. We began – in a sense --as one, but return as individuals return. Such is the nature of the Love wereceive from the Beloved Creator!

     

    The body is recreated anew, but now pristine, virginal.

     

    Reclining uponcouches lined with silk brocade, the fruit of both the gardens near to hand.Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that you deny? Therein are those ofmodest gaze, whom neither man nor jinn will have touched before them. Which isit, of the favours of your Lord, that you deny? Like the jacynth and thecoral-stone. Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that you deny ?(55:54-59).

     

    The body without organs is replaced by the remade NewBody. There is no prostitution in the afterlife, only the Pleasure of the Pathremains. We wear robes of different days in the afterlife. Because the Logos isthen no longer sublimated as a body without organs, and is instead fullyapparent. And he said to them, "Ihave eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tellyou, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom ofGod." (Luke 22:15-15). Sublimation was the precondition of the CosmicRomance. But now it is completed, we will all know the Creator within the New Body.

     

    The New Body incapable of sin, because sin has beenbanished: where the truth is collected above, the wine is matured and the dry branchesof the vine are thrown to the fire.  

     

    Son of man, whatwill become of the vine-tree out of all trees -- the branch that was among thetrees of the forest? (Ezekiel 15:2)

     

     I am the true vine, and my Father is thefarmer.  Every branch in me thatdoesn’t bear fruit, he takes away. Every branch that bears fruit, he prunes,that it may bear more fruit. (John15:1-2).

     

    In our dunia, in our world today, our body without organsis a Vine of infinite surface, wherein difference may be inscribed as dry branchand grape, darkness and light, inscribing a diamond dialectic. Sparks arecontained within signs by the agency of a Logos sublimated, and a Godunknowable. But the New Body is the wine perfected, but of vintages and stylesall individual, all superb, all a drink of Truth. All different garments, allrighteous, of differing gradations, differing arrays of sparks.

     

    The differences form logics too, so it is right to callthis space of the New Body a body still. But, in this time of resurrection, thepurification delivers only matured, perfected wine. Without the Logossublimated, the configuration becomes one of abiding. One of knowing. And wewill abide. We will abide. We will abide.

     

    And with this the guide concluded her speech, and led hergroup to the next picture, leaving the builder and professor alone.

     

     

    The professor smiled and offered up thanks to the BelovedMaker, in gratitude that, even in front of this blasphemous image, there is aspark of Wisdom to be collected, and offered supplication that these sparksmight guide the friends on their journey along the edge of time, that themodest girl might abide at her end – in individual, multiple repetition -- withthe Beloved King.

     

    Find the brideyou’d break a lent and find content in resolution of

    Appearance and Speculation.

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    A teacher's story: how water was crowned by fire

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009, 9:08 AM [General]

    "Homework for next week. Compare and contrast the following quotes." The professor handed out the assignment.

     

    “Ana al-Haqq (I am Truth)” Al-Hallaj

     

    “Do you not see that when the spirit is heedless of itself, it intrudes upon and is audacious toward the Divine Station? Then it claims lordship, like Pharoah. When this state overcomes it, it says, ‘I am Allah’ or ‘Glory be to me!’, as one of the gnostics has said. This is because he was overcome by a state. That is why words like this have never issued from a messenger, or a prophet, or a friend who is perfect in his knowledge, his presence, his clinging to the door of the station which belongs to him, his courtesy, and his observance of the material within which he dwells and through which he becomes manifest.” Ibn Al-Arabi 

     

    The students were streaming out from the lecture theatre. The professor disconnected his laptop and gathered his chalk and duster, about to leave for his office. He was prevented from this by a monk. It was a somewhat incongruous sight under the florescent lights of a modern university, but the professor recognized something of his own journey in that figure’s saffron robes. He was an initiate of their order himself, once, and anticipated why the monk had appeared.

     

    The monk asked the professor: How can you teach when you know words are a burden from which only the Oblivion of Unification can offer relief?

     

    The professor answered thus: As a teacher, when students ask me a question, I provide an answer to convey knowledge. Is knowledge a load or burden? It can be, if the student is like an ass or donkey (and I have many students of such a nature!).

     

    But I have found a recipe for release. Perhaps you seek it, or have already found it too? Part of the recipe is poetry: if we sing love songs, we can be be released from the burden. Some of my students are singers, and are so are unburdened by reciting the knowledge.

     

    Once I was not a teacher, and was not a student either. I attained the station of oblivion, of which mystics attempt to speak.Indeed it is difficult to speak of oblivion! Usually such discussion descends into low comedy.

     

    But here goes. This concept I thought I knew and understood as my ego was split apart, wad divided into a million shards, and I awoke to find that it had no meaning. How did I go on, living in the world of illusion, after this awakening, the people ask? The story of that station is of a flower that opens in the day and closes in the night. The shards re-form within the concept of a person, vapours condensed as from a Cloud, and so this “I” of nothing could function, serene in my nothingness. Perhaps this thing we call “you” has also had a similar awakening? Ah, but for you to answer “I have”/“I have not” is of course the Paradox of our laughing Eastern Sage. 

     

    But this station of oblivion is quite peculiar, and is not without its dangers. Dhul-Qarnain knew it as the attack from above. The Sheikh understood it as the attack of heedlessness. Al-Hallaj understood it himself, as he drowned in the oceans. And so, at that moment, I was not a Muslim in the sense understood by either convention or by the Friends. For the Muslim of the first or second degree is a person who bows down.

     

    What sense has this religion of Submission within the station of oblivion?  This “I” of submission has no sense. And so the conventional act of bowing has no sense. And so, for me at that station of oblivion, the true meaning of submission – the only submission of the zero -- that was the dissolution of the ego only, the ego that dissolves into the Sea of Truth. 

     

    At the station of oblivion, the only True submission left was the obliteration of the“I”.

     

     

     

    You might then wonder, how did I then become a teacher of romance novels after this realisation. For now I am either loading my asinine pupils or else singing psalms with my star students. Either way, all romance novels are about two parties, right? It's because there are levels upon levels, and a level beyond oblivion. 

     

     

     

    After drowning in the waters of serenity, I was crowned by the fires of passion.The love life of Al-Hallaj was problematic, from the perspective of the ordinary folk, but also from the perspective of the Friends of Remembrance. He left his wife to sit under the tree. So too with me. My first wife used to give me the silent treatment. In silence there is no passion.

     

    Then one day, when meditating at the Dazu caves of Chongqing, a bird of fabulous plumage, a Slavonic firebird, distracted me, dazzling reflection of oriental sun rays. How did it travel so far east, to this remotest of regions? I was working as a scientist at the time, so I was curious and followed it.  It led me to a lake where I found the most beautiful woman bathing. She was naked. Her clothes lay hanging upon a nearby tree, I recognized as the garment of the Steppe people. Her grace was hypotic, alluring, intoxicating. She looked back up at me, unashamed. Her smile was seductive, I recognized it that of the Shamaness. I found myself possessed with a desire to have her: a desire that shook my very foundations. I slipped and fell, in a final moment of Zen, the statue of the sleeping Buddha looking on. Now the princess looked down on me -- and in her face, I was shocked to see something I had not expected, on all my travels, the only thing that might truly astonish the obliterated mind: I saw my self, looking back at me.  And I so I took her, heedless of the shariah of the people. The story has a happy ending. Now she is my queen, my comfort, my solice, my bride who sings. The second gate of the first son of Ibrahim.So now I establish my Kabaa: the Kabaa beyond oblivion.

     

    The professor finished his speech.

     

    The monk shook his head, almost upset and said: You speak of the Kabaa beyond oblivion, and of wives and sex. It is all attachment! You say you attained oblivion, but you are arrogant enough to give lectures. This is dangerous, because you will pass through judgement! Judgement is within the ego, if you could understand as I and my fellows understand!

     

    The professor sighed. He took a deep breath and replied laconically: Yes, indeed teaching is a kind of burden (although as I mentioned before, students are either burdened or not). There are the administration responsibilities, for one thing: regular reviews from the usual quality assurance agencies, for example. And then there are the usual types of squabbles and office politics between the other academics, which I do my best to avoid, although sometimes office politics is inevitable, even though it is destestible to me.

     

    I  remember the conversation with Abu Bakr Al-Shibli well, for I was there. Was I teaching him? As I was broken apart, embracing the waves of love like a mirror Pharoah, was I teaching him as I answered him?

     

    Perhaps, but a drunk teacher never leaves a good impression for the parents. My second wife insisted I cut down on the stuff. Never mind, the shame is only between me and God.

     

    But I came back again: the lady in the golden chariot told me to return. And passed through Judgement. You are right to avoid Judgement as, while we are all Judged, only the teacher should pass through Judgement. And every university has a professor: this is my burden, but for every burden there is relief.

     

    I offer a blessing: may you and your friends shall remain as fishes under the sea of love, until you become overcome and pure motion. And another: when the sea is crowned with fire, may you be remade again as yourselves and may you all dance alongside the teacher.

     

    Shaking hands (as maintenance of adab is pleasing to the eye even in a story) the monk and the professor parted company.

     

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    The Good Garment

    Wednesday, December 31, 2008, 6:43 PM [General]

    Why can’t the worshippers peel the skin of the hadiths toreveal the true fruit and have their thirst quenched for a moment? For within the flesh of the fruit is nourishment and juice that will last the entire spanof the traveller’s journey. Traveller, stop by the prayer house and peel thisfruit!

    Read the hadiths regarding the good garments, and peel the skin:

    The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be uponhim) said: “Isbaal (wearing one’s garment below the ankles) may apply to theizaar (lower garment), the shirt or the turban. Whoever allows any part ofthese to trail on the ground out of arrogance, Allah will not look at him onthe Day of Judgement.” (reported by Abu Dawud, no. 4085, and al-Nisaa’i, no.5334, with a saheeh isnaad).

    Ibn ‘Abbaas reported that the Prophet (peace andblessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allah will not look at the one whowears his lower garment below his ankles.” (Reported by al-Nisaa’i inal-Mujtabaa, Kitaab al-Zeenah, Baab Isbaal al-Izaar).

    Mandalas are the order we create in our understanding of self,life and God. All is created by God, but we are unique in that our creation hasthe ability to actively reflect the Creator, the ability to imagine and createan understanding of God, however approximate. This creative understanding has been called a mandala.

    But the mandala is psychological, as it comes from man.Mandalas are drawn to guide our about self-realisation through divine reflection in speech. They are about the self: searching and (by God’s will) awakening,ascending and balancing the divine names encoded within our body.

    The people are often indecent in their understanding,revealing their sexuality to all on the streets! Indecent, their clothing ofwords is promiscuous, and we can see their ugliness bared naked. Some of thesepeople are even preaching to us, almost naked, in houses of prayer. The hutbas are being delivered without any garment!

    But what of the beautiful garments? In beautifulgarments, there is also danger.

    Everyone has a cosmology from which they understand theirreligion and their life. A cosmology can be ugly or it can be a beautifulmandala. But all cosmologies are garments.

    Mandalas are the order we create in our understanding ofreligion and life. All is created by God, but we are unique in that ourcreation has the ability to actively create an understanding of God, however approximate. This creative understanding is a mandala.

    But the mandala is psychological, as it comes from man. Mandalasare about self realisation through divine reflection in speech. They are about the self: searching and hopefully finding the divine names encoded within our body.

     The people have become indecent in their understanding,brazenly flaunting their sexuality, with its imbalance, to all! In this day and age they have become indecent, their clothing of words promiscuous, so we can see an ugliness bared naked. Some of these are even preaching to us in houses of prayer. A day of shame for our religion, when the hutba is delivered by a sheikh without any garment!

     But what of the beautiful garments? In beautiful garments, there is also danger.

    Some people weave a beautiful garment. The true Sufis,the true Gnostics, the true Kabbalists, the true Buddhists, the drinkers of Soma. All, amongst others, are such people.

    Consider two noble groups.

    The common cosmology of the first noble group: to framethe search as a grasping of the Real, a becoming the Real.  This is a path, a personal individuation navigated by a map with seven levels.

    To navigate the path by passing through the Divine Namesas the other noble group: the cosmology of the names taught to Jacob, the gates through which he sends his sons. Again, an individuation of the soul. In thesurah, it is a satisfaction of Jacob’s soul.

    But entering by different gates doesn’t avail us anything against Allah. Realising oneself as the Real doesn’t avail us anything againstthe actual Reality.

    Because cosmology is situated within the human being, in language, and language is part of the fall. 

    Cosmologies are garments. Theologies are garments. Your thoughts are your garments. Your mandalas are your garments. The holy books are garments. The ecstatic poetry of the caliphs form garments.

    So we are to take our garments with us to the masjid. In prostration, our garments must also be in prostration. A cosmology must alsosubmit in love to the master. The hands, head and feet must be in prostration. Take your garment to the masjid!

     That is the garment of righteousness.

    Garments conceal sexuality, sexuality was what Iblis revealed. Garments cover difference, the garments of the world  is woven over difference. An ordinary garment hides your sexuality. But a righteous garment unifies and makesrighteous marriage out of your sexuality.

    To wear a righteous garment is to balance sexuality, balance the gates within the heart. Remember, the wife is a garment for the husband.

    It is lawful foryou to have intercourse with your wives on the night of the Fast: they aregarments for you while you are garments for them. (2:187)

    So the righteous garment is balance over sexuality, it is a marriage of balance that conceals the Pleasure of the Heart.

    There are many different forms of righteous garment, butall achieve balance between male and female and take the form of directed love,the opposite of promiscuity. Jacob’s garment has been spoken of, a garment hepassed to Joseph.

    The righteous garment becomes righteous only in prostration.

     (12:67) And hesaid: O my sons ! do not (all) enter by one gate and enter by different gatesand I cannot avail you aught against Allah; judgment is only Allah's; on Him doI rely, and on Him let those who are reliant rely. (68) And when they had entered as their father had bidden them, it did not avail them aught againstAllah, but (it was only) a desire in the soul of Yaqoub which he satisfied; andsurely he was possessed of knowledge because We had given him knowledge, butmost people do not know.

    And so Jacob’s sons could not avail themselves against Allah, as they entered through different gates, each not in prostration.Separated from their father, untrue to his son and their brother, they formed acosmology that did not yet prostrate.

    So let those who profess to know, know this! Your mandalas should be worn to the masjid.

    The meaning of the commandment to never drag the garmentin conceit or pride. Garments of the world, if not taken to the masjid, canlead to the fire. Purification of the garment is only in the masjid.

    Wear the garment to the ankle, exposing the ankle. The joints of the human cosmology enable the becoming. They are the angels that serve us. The Prophet instructed us not to obstruct them with an arrogant garment.

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    Dhul-Qarnain’s two temptations: the attack above and below

    Sunday, December 28, 2008, 6:55 PM [General]

    Dhul-Qarnayn,“He of the Two Horns", is a figure mentioned inSurah Al-Kahf of the Quran, where he is described as a great and righteousruler who built a long wall that keeps Gog and Magog from attacking the world.

    Surah Al-Kahf is a portion of the Quran that containsa secret map for the explorer. We live in an age of exploration, so let the mapbe known to all, that they might be rightly guided.

    Why is a tailor concerned with cartography andexploration? Because the expedition is dangerous and requires a garment toprotect from alien forces. The secret beauty of the surah can clothe the Peopleof Understanding with a powerful garment, a garment fit for an exploration of Time eternal (but more on that another day), that ascends to Prophecy itself (the ascendence we dicuss now), a garment to protect thetraveller from the dangers above and below.

    The worshippers examine the verses with littleunderstanding. They read it as children read. They read the part concerningDhul-Qarnain and debate who he was. Was he Alexander? Cyrus? They read abouthis journey from west to east, and his construction of the barrier to defendthe eastern people from Gog and Magog, and debate the geographies of thenarrative. Some say Magog is the Mongols of Central Asia. Other match Magog tomore contemporary politics. Their attempts are folly!

    They try to position the east and west, the westernand eastern people, the figure of Dhul-Qarnain and Gog and Magog on a map ofthe world.

    They try to find a map for Dhul-Qarnain. Thisis folly because they always use the wrong map. They need the map ofDhul-Qarnain himself, which certainly was not a wordly map.

    The map they require is there in front of them,in the words of the surah itself!

    We live in an age of exploration, and yet theworshippers remain in their homes, afraid to venture out. Perhaps they areafraid because they sense their maps are inadequate.

    We live in the age of exploration, and the timehas come for the secret map to be given to anyone who would explore righteously.

    Dhul-Qarnain means the two horned one: he whobalances east and west.

    To understand, look at the points of the compassin the holy books.

    The west is a Divine Name that is reflected inthe body of the human being. The west is a mirror that does not shine, amuddied water that absorbs and does not reflect. The west is speech, the rawcreative spirit. The west is a Divine comfort that descends upon the seekers,and a location within our own psyche that must be sought and cultivated if weare to ascend. The west is the unconscious, the place of dreams, the writingboard on which consciousness is inscribed. The west is creativity andimagination. All explorers begin their journey in the west, because exploration isalways a creative act, an act of writing, an act of speech. All our prayersbegin in the west, because prayer is creativity, a creative approximation ofthe Divine within our minds, in reflection of the Divine creative act thatrendered our form at the beginning. The west is the gate to the Divine House, theentrance to the space of the Names.

    And because exploration begins in thewest, we also call the western station the lower station.

    The east is a Divine Name that is reflected inthe body of the human being. The east is the Divine Breath that breathed lifeinto the cosmos. It is also the breath of human prophecy that reflects in humanlanguage the unrepresentable song of the Divine. It is from this eastern aspectof the human being that come all the holy books of our history, all therevelations of the ages, all words of God encoded through propheticinspiration.

    Because prophecy is higher than creativity, buthas its beginning in the creative spirit, we also call the eastern station theupper station.

    A prophet is one who journeys from west to east. Theprophet begins as a righteous worshipper, not as prophet. The worshipper ascendsfirst to the lower, western station. The western name descends upon them andoffers love and comfort and entry into the House of God. The worshipper beginstheir journey by cleaving to the Western Name, mastering their dreams, and makingrighteous their speech. The worshipper then travels east, to the limits oftheir speech, to the heart of the human body, the heart that beats by theBreath of God. Prophecy descends upon the worshipper, and the prophet breathesthe breath of the unutterable, singing a divine song at the very limit oflanguage. The prophet as a scribe iscommanded to write and becomes humanity’s linguistic connection – the connectionto our representable, perceivable cosmos – with the unrepresentable.

    Prophecy is both the limit of humansight, looking to the eastern dawn of God’s light, and is also a song, deriving, as all songs do,from the west. Consequently, prophecy is only possible through a marriage ofeast and west. This is the cosmic marriage of which has been spoken by themystics. It is balance between east and west. Dhul-Qarnain is the two hornedone: the two horns are east and west, held in perfect balance by him.

    The Quran describes exactly this propheticascention as Dhul-Qarnain’s journey from west to east.

    (18:82)They will ask you of Dhul-Qarnain. Say: I shall recite unto you a remembranceof him. (83) We made him strong in the land and gave him unto every thing aroad. (84) And he followed a road (85) Till, when he reached the setting-placeof the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring, and found a peoplethereabout.

    He begins in the west, where the sun sets at amuddy spring, a water that does not reflect. He begins at the source ofcreativity. He begins with speech. He begins his journey by entering theWestern Name that descends upon him in gracious invitation.

    But we have said the exploration is froughtwith dangers. That’s why we need a map, to avoid danger.

    The map of Dhul-Qarnain details the twotemptations: one of the west and one of the east.

    (18:85)We said: O Dhul-Qarnain! Either punish or show them kindness. (86) He said: Asfor him who doeth wrong, we shall punish him, and then he will be brought backunto his Lord, Who will punish him with awful punishment! (87) But as for himwho believes and doesright, good will be his reward, and We shall speak untohim a mild command.

    Dhul-Qarnain is tested by God through theNorthern Name. The North is a Divine name, reflected in the human body. TheNothern name is Deen, judgement,logic, rationality, measure. It is associated with the left side of the body. Aswe have written elsewhere, rationality, judgement and logic are a preconditionfor the Cosmic Romance: eating of the Tree brought us into judgement, butthrough judgement we may realise the Cosmic Romance, because judgement is aprecondition of being a free agent. The north and west are intimately linked:the west is language and speech, which are still an order of lesser judgement,but the west is still an open field. The field is divided and cultivated (orwasted and defiled) by systems of judgement.

    In the case of the explorer, the danger is thenthe same as that faced by Dhul-Qarnain. We construct a system of values, wemake judgements, utilizing our Western nature, utilizing our creative spirit.We may abuse this aspect of our selves that God has granted us, and create amonstrous, tyrannical system of judgement. We may create a system that harmsus, or harms others. Humans do this constantly. That’s the temptation of theNorth over the West.

    Dhul-Qarnain conquered that temptation, as hecrowned his western land with a righteous judgement. His Deen reflected theDivine, and so his western Kingdom became a fruitful land.

    (88)Then he followed a road (89) Till, when he reached the rising-place of the sun,he found it rising on a people for whom We had appointed no shelter therefrom.(90) So (it was). And We knew all concerning him.

    First graced by the West, crowned by arighteous Deen in the North, Dhul-Qarnain moves east. This place has no shelterfrom the light. The Eastern Name isprophecy, and prophets have no shelter from the light, they abide in lightconstantly. For the rest of humanity, the prophets are indeed our lights alongthe path. Dhul-Qarnain ascends to this name and attains prophecy.

    Prophecy is the balance of east and westand it is in this state that the second temptation arises.

    (91)Then he followed a road (92) Till, when he came between the two mountains, hefound upon their hither side a folk that scarce could understand a saying.

    The people scarcelyunderstand a word. They do, however, understand. They exist at the limits oflanguage, of representation. They exist at the limits of speech, whose fieldDhul-Qarnain entered at the West. Dhul-Qarnain’s journey has taken him to thelimits of speech, the limits of cosmologies, the limits of the cosmos aspercievable by the human mind. For this is the nature of the Prophetic station,a station of Mastery of the Limits.

    (93)They said: O Dhul-Qarnain! Lo! Gog and Magog are spoiling the land. So may wepay thee tribute on condition that thou set a barrier between us and them?

    The temptation from the South. The South is aDivine Name that is reflected in the body of the human. It is Love, Compassionand Beauty. God is Love, and Love is the meaning behind all, and that Love isincorruptible by definition. But it is the imprint of Love within the humanform that is subject to a danger here. The people require Dhul-Qarnain’sknowledge to protect them from the attack of Gog and Magog. In exchange, theywould tempt him with the offer of tribute. What is the tribute to prophecy? Itis a dangerous thing, if human love, our southern aspect, deviates from modesof Divine lovesong, and become attached instead to submit to prophecy itself. Divinelove takes many forms: we can love the Divine through love of each other, as wellas through focused cultivation of the love of the Divine in prayer. Butsubmission a prophet, or submission to a prophecy, poses a danger, as it mayultimately obscure and oppress the greater love.

    (94)He said: That wherein my Lord hath established me is better (than yourtribute).

    Dhul-Qarnain was not tempted, a prophet isnever tempted by such an offer. So the second temptation is our temptation:what do we worship? What do we love?

    Divine Love is to unfold: it’s the meaning oflife. But, as the Buddhist scriptures teach us, attatchment is the other sideof human love: and attachment can lead to hatred ultimately. If you worship theprophecy at the expense of forgetting the Divine, then where will you stand atthe end of days?

    (18:94)Do but help me with strength (of men), I will set between you and them a bank.(95) Give me pieces of iron - till, when he had levelled up between the cliffs,he said: Blow! - till, when he had made it a fire, he said: Bring me moltencopper to pour thereon. (96) And (Gog and Magog) were not able to scale it nordig through it.

    Having attained prophecy and averted the twotemptations within himself, Dhul-Qarnain then repeats this act again, for theworshippers. He builds a barrier that prevents Gog and Magog from attackingbelow (the first danger of judgement against west) and from attacking above(the second danger of love against east).

    But what is the barrier and what are the twomountains?

    In the Quran, mountains are stabilizers of theearth. Earth is the plane of human consciousness, its territories and lands,its cities and nations, exist as territories, lands, cities and nations overthe physical planet but also, exist as frameworks and categories we use toorient our becomings.

    The earth is a plane of intra- andinter-subjective interation. The earth of consciousness is also open toearthquakes, fire, pestilence, wars, as well as gardens, cities andfruitfulness.

    This range of earthly experience is a dialectic, a logical plane, delimited bytwo absolutes: truth and falsity, affirmation and contradiction, yes and no.This is the logic of life.

    The distance between those two mountains is aswide as the human cosmos itself. The two mountains stabilize the human cosmos. Allthat is knowable within our current existence is between these two mountains.

    The two absolutes are its stabilizers, forwithout these two poles, existence within this plane is not possible. But,between these two poles, all ispossible, and that is the problem faced by Dhul-Qarnain’s people.

    When Gog and Magog run free throughout theland, a promiscuity of words becomes possible, the fields can be leftunattended, destruction, theft and evil is placed within the minds of thepeople. The Torah (Eziekiel 38:10) on the emergence of Gog and Magog: Thus says the Lord "On that day itshall come to pass that thoughts will arise in your mind and you will make anevil plan.” You will say, "I will go against a land of unwalled villagesto take plunder and booty…"

    Theft and destruction of unwalled cities! Thecities of the soul are in need of walls. So Dhul-Qarnain established the barrierbetween the mountains. Gog and Magog could not scale or dig through it.

    What is the barrier? The radmaa of Dhul-Qarnainis the sunnah (path) of righteousness, a barrier that extends between thelimits of conscious thought, the limits of the human cosmos itself. It is acosmology, a sunnah, a means of navigating the becoming, so we are protectedfrom the attacks below (from the dangers of misalignment below, throughtyranical judgement) and from attacks above (from the danger faced at prophecy-- the danger of idolatory – attachment that leads to hatred). As a sunnah, itis a navigation.

    (97)He said: This is a mercy from my Lord; but when the promise of my Lord comethto pass, He will level it down to the groun when the Promise of my Lord comes.(98) And on that day we shall let some of them surge against others, and theTrumpet will be blown. Then We shall gather them together in one gathering.

    But the navigation breaks down at the end ofdays. Gog and Magog will be released to surge upon the land. And the sunnahwill not avail us: only the prayer of Jesus will do this. (A discussion of therelated hadith is deferred to another time.)

    Let the babes become men and women, let theworshippers prepare for the and clothe themselves against alien forces!

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