[Some indications on the scope and limits of disbelief in oneself and of complete trust in God]

“Since all the strength by which our enemies are overcome is born in us from disbelief in ourselves and from trust in God, it is necessary for you, my brother, to acquire exact knowledge of this, in order always to have this strength and to preserve it with the help of God. Know then, and never forget, that neither all our capacities and good features, whether natural or acquired, nor all the gifts freely given us, nor the knowledge of all the Scriptures, nor the fact that we have for long worked for God and have acquired experience in these labours, nor all this together will enable us to do God’s will rightly, if at every good deed pleasing to God, which we are about to undertake, at every affliction we wish to avoid, at every cross we have to bear according to God’s will, if, I say, on all these and similar occasions a special divine help does not inspire our heart and does not give us strength to accomplish it, as the Lord said: ‘Without me ye can do nothing’ (John xv. 5). So for the duration of our life, every day and at every moment, we must keep unchanged in our heart the feeling, conviction and disposition, that on no occasion can we allow ourselves to think of relying on ourselves and trusting ourselves.

As regards trust in God, I will add the following to what I have said in the third chapter: know that nothing is easier for God than to give you victory over your enemies, whether they be few or many, whether they be old and strong or new and weak. Yet He has His own time and order for everything. Therefore if a soul be overburdened with sins, if it be guilty of all the crimes in the world, if it be defiled beyond imagination;—if, at the same time, to the extent of its desire and strength, it uses every means and endeavour to become free of sin and turn to the path of good, but cannot get stable in anything right, however small, and, on the contrary, sinks ever deeper and deeper into evil; even if it is all that, it must not weaken in its trust of God or fall away from Him. It must not abandon its spiritual weapons and strivings but must fight and fight, struggling with itself and with its enemies with all its courage and untiring efforts. For know and under- stand, that in this unseen war all are losers except a man who never ceases to struggle and keep his trust in God; for God never abandons those who fight in His armies, although at times He/ lets them suffer wounds. So fight, everyone, and do not give ground; for the whole thing is in this unceasing struggle. /God is always ready with remedies for those struck down by the enemies and with help for overcoming them, which He sends to His warriors in due time, if they seek
Him and firmly hope in Him. At some’ hour when they least expect it they will see their proud enemies vanish, as is written: ‘ The mighty men of Babylon have forborn to fight’ (Jer. li. 30).”

Source: St. Theophan the Recluse, Unseen Warfare, Chapter 6, p. 10

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[“What I am not, God is.”]

“To lose consciousness of oneself, to become conscious of God. To become conscious of the nothing that I am in order to have consciousness of everything that is God. One does not take a step toward God without this preliminary negative. What I am not, God is.

Man makes himself like God in the measure in which he is no longer man, that is, when his transparency, in the absolute sense, is such that God passes through him. This is the deification of man, not human imperfection arrogantly divinized—a haughtiness absolutely outside the place in life that leads to God—but man annulled, abolished, dissipated, so that God alone is because God alone is God and no god is god except God.”

— Guido de Giorgio

via Gornahoor

[“This path is nothing other than the dimension of depth.”]

“Sufis believe:—

That the souls of men differ infinitely in degree but not at all in kind from the divine spirit whereof they are particles, and wherein they will ultimately be absorbed; that the spirit of God pervades the universe, ever present to His work and ever in substance; that He alone is perfect benevolence, perfect truth, perfect beauty; that love for Him is true love, while love of other objects is illusory love; that all the beauties of nature are faint resemblances like images in a mirror of the divine charms; that, from eternity without beginning to eternity without end, the supreme benevolence is occupied in bestowing happiness; that men can only attain it by performing their part of the primal covenant between them and the Creator; that nothing has a pure absolute existence but mind or spirit; that material substances are no more than gay pictures presented continually to our minds by the sempiternal artist; that we must beware of attachment to such phantoms and attach ourselves exclusively to God, who truly exists in us as we solely exist in Him; that we retain, even in this forlorn state of separation from our Beloved, the idea of heavenly beauty and the remembrance of our primeval vows; that sweet music, gentle breezes, fragrant flowers, perpetually renew the primary idea, refresh our fading memory, and melt us with tender affections; that we must cherish those affections, and by abstracting our souls from vanity (that is, from all but God) approximate to this essence, in our final union with which will consist our supreme beatitude.”

Source: Taken from Introduction to Awarif ul-Maarif by Shahabudeen Suhrawardi, translated by Lt. Col. H. Welberforce Clarke, p. 2; Title taken from Martin Lings’ What Is Sufism?, p. 14 (“This path is nothing other than the dimension of depth…or of height, which is the complementary aspect of the same dimension. The Tree of Life, of which the Saint is a personification, is sometimes depicted as having its roots in Heaven, lest it should be forgotten that depth and height are spiritually identical.”)

[To be free is to be intelligent. To be intelligent is to be real.]

(This post is continued from a previous post, here.)

“A high level of free will must employ a combination of these three levels thus: an idea or value or ideal in the intellective sphere must arouse an appropriate emotional response in the animic sphere, and that in turn must trigger a corresponding outward action. Where activity is consistently directed on this basis, the person in question is said to be an authentic being. (This is also a major example of the universal action of ‘vertical causality’, as opposed to the physical kind, acting here in the individual person, and so is under his or her direction.)

The converse of this is the case where the contents of the intellective sphere have little impact on the animic, whose emotional responses are nearly always triggered instead by whatever stimuli happen to be present. In this case, the contents of sense-perception, including the inclinations of other persons, are the causes of one’s actions because of their unopposed access to the animic sphere which prompts action. Where this condition is dominant, it is that of the inauthentic being, who is failing to exercise free will in any significant manner…

…The difference between the authentic and inauthentic person can also be understood in terms of the soul’s representation of its world. In the former case, the soul has full awareness owing to the conscious relations it has both to the intellect and to the senses, whereas in the latter, self-awareness is stifled by the soul’s habitual confusion of itself with the sense-content of its world. Such failures to realize the difference in degree of being between the self and its world reduce the power of free will. When the self puts itself on the same level as that of its own mental contents, or even lower, it is committing the fundamental confusion which I have already called the ‘cosmic illusion’, because in this case the individual cannot distinguish himself from his ‘cosmos’, or see himself as anything other than an item in the system which depends on his conception of it. All things under the headings of sins and crimes and vices result inevitably from this confusion. Such things are obviously failures to realize values in practice, because the nodal point or fulcrum of value, the difference in degree between the person and his perception, has been lost from his awareness.”

Source: Robert Bolton, Self and Spirit, pp. 93-4,95

[Descent into Hell]

“Christ’s soul must needs descend into hell, before it ascended into heaven. So must also the soul of man. But mark ye what manner this cometh to pass. When a man truly perceiveth and considereth himself, who and what he is, and findeth himself utterly vile and wicked, and unworthy of all the comfort and kindness that he hath ever received from God, or from the creatures, he falleth into such a deep abasement and despising of himself, that he thinketh himself unworthy that the earth should bear him, and it seemeth to him reasonable that all creatures in heaven and earth should rise up against him and avenge their Creator on him, and should punish and torment him; and that he were unworthy even of that. And it seemeth to him that he shall be eternally lost and damned, and a footstool to all the devils in hell, and that this is right and just and all too little compared to his sins which he so often and in so many ways hath committed against God and his Creator…Whilst a man is thus in hell, none may console him, neither God nor the creature, as it is written, ‘In hell there is no redemption.’ …

Now God hath not forsaken a man in this hell, but He is laying his hand upon him, that the man may not desire nor regard anything but the Eternal Good only, and may come to know that that is so noble and passing good, that none can search out or express its bliss, consolation and joy, peace, rest and satisfaction. And then, when the man neither careth for, nor seeketh, nor desireth, anything but the Eternal Good alone, and seeketh not himself, nor his own things, but the honour of God only, he is made a partaker of all manner of joy, bliss, peace, rest and consolation, and so the man is henceforth in the Kingdom of Heaven.

This hell and this heaven are two good, safe ways for a man in this present time, and happy is he who truly findeth them.

For this hell shall pass away,

But Heaven shall endure for aye.”

— Theologia Germanica, XI

Source: Whitall N. Perry, The Spiritual Ascent: A Compendium of the World’s Wisdoms, p. 367

[The Compellor]

An Islamic Prophetic tradition (hadith):

“It was narrated that Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri said: ‘We (the believers) said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, will we see our Lord on the Day of Resurrection?’ He (Prophet Muhammad) said, ‘Do you have any difficulty in seeing the sun and the moon when the sky is clear?’ We said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘So you will have no difficulty in seeing your Lord on that Day, just as you have no difficulty in seeing the sun and the moon (in a clear sky).

 …Then the bridge (sirat) will be laid across Hell.’ We said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! What is the bridge?’ He said, ‘It is a slippery (bridge) on which there are clamps and (hooks like) thorns which are wide at one side and narrow at the other and have bent ends. A plant with such thorns is found in Najd and is called al-Sa’daan. Some of the believers will cross the bridge as quickly as the wink of an eye, some others as quick as lightning, a strong wind, or fast horses or she-camels. So some will be safe without any harm; some will be safe after receiving some scratches, and some will fall down into Hell (Fire). The last person will cross by being dragged (over the bridge). You cannot be more pressing in claiming from me a right that has been clearly proved to be yours than the believers in interceding with Almighty Allaah for their brothers on that Day, when they see themselves safe.  ‘They will say, ‘O Lord, our brothers used to pray with us and fast with us and do good deeds with us.’ Allah will say, ‘Go, and whoever you find with a dinar’s-weight of faith in his heart, bring him forth, and Allah will forbid their bodies to the Fire.’ So they will go, and some of them will be sinking into the Fire up to their feet or shins, and they will bring forth those whom they recognize. Then they will come back, and He will say, ‘Go, and whoever you find with half a dinar’s-weight of faith in his heart, bring him forth.’ So they will go and bring forth those whom they recognize. Then they will come back, and He will say, ‘Go, and whoever you find with an atom’s-weight of faith in his heart, bring him forth.’ So they will go and bring forth those whom they recognize.’ Abu Sa’eed said: ‘If you do not believe me, then read the verse interpretation of the meaning:

Surely, Allah wrongs not even of the weight of an atom (or a small ant), but if there is any good (done), He doubles it, and gives from Him a great reward [Qur’an, 4:40].

[The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:] ‘So the Prophets, the angels and the believers will intercede, and the Compellor (Allah) will say, ‘There remains My intercession.’ Then He will take a handful from the Fire and bring forth some people whose bodies have been burnt and throw them into a river at the entrance to Paradise that is called the Water of Life.
They will grow on its banks, as a seed carried by a flood grows. You have seen how it grows beside a rock or beside a tree, and how the side facing the sun is usually green while the side facing the shade is white. They will come out like pearls, and necklaces will be placed around their necks. Then they will enter Paradise, and the people of Paradise will say, ‘These are the people emancipated by the Most Merciful. He has admitted them into Paradise without them having done any good deeds and without them having sent forth any good (for themselves).’ Then it will be said to them, ‘You will have what you have seen and the equivalent thereof.'”

(Narrated by al-Bukhari in Kitab al-Tawheed (The Book of Unity), no. 7440)

Al-Jabbar (the Compellor)

“He is the repairer of the broken, the completer of the lacking, the one who can enforce His will without any opposition.

Hadrat Ali used to pray, Ya Jabbira kulli kasirum wa ya masahilla kulli ‘asirin—’O Jabbar (the Compellor), who puts together all that is broken and brings ease to every difficulty.’

At the same time al-Jabbar is the one who is able to enforce His will at all times and places without any opposition. This forcefulness makes submission a necessity. His forcefulness is within the destiny of all His creation. The sun cannot say, ‘I will not rise again.’ The wind cannot say, ‘I will not blow again.’ Yet the human being is given a choice. We are also given the wisdom to know what is right and what is wrong. We are given freedom yet the purpose of our creation is to know Allah, to find Allah, and to become the servant of Allah. But this is not enforced on us. Allah has left it to our wish.

We find al-Jabbar by knowing that the only place to go to repair our broken hopes, to find peace in the confusion in which we find ourselves, is to Allah. On those unhappy occasions of disobedience and revolt, if we run to take refuge in Allah’s mercy before the coming of His punishment (from which no force can save us and from which there is nowhere to hide), we will find in this moment the recollection of Allah in His capacity as the Forceful One.”

Source: Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti, The Name & the Named: The Attributes of God, pp. 61-2