Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 72
Publication Date: 1867
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This is a concise study of the key concepts of Sufi philosophy, written by a western scholar in the mid-19th century. Palmer discusses the spiritual journey that Sufis take, the path to oneness with God. A very useful feature of this book is the glossary of poetic symbols used in Persian Sufi literature.
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THE Traveller in the path of mystic philosophy is the Perceptive Sense, which as it becomes further developed results in Intelligence, not however the intelligence of life, but such as is described in the words of Mohammed, "Intelligence is light in the heart, distinguishing between truth and vanity, not the intelligence of life." After a time our traveller merges into Divine Light, but of the thousands who start upon the road scarcely one attains thereunto.
The Goal is the Knowledge of God, and the acquisition of this knowledge is the work of Divine Light alone, Perception or worldly intelligence having no lot or portion therein. The latter is represented as the sovereign of this world, and the perceptive faculties are the executive officers of his rule, to whom both the cultivation and devastation of the face of the earth is due. The idea is suggested by the following passage of the Corán: "When God said to the angels, I am about to place a vicegerent in the earth, they said, Wilt thou place therein one who shall commit abomination and shed blood? Nay; we celebrate Thy praise and holiness. God answered them, Verily I know what ye wot not of." (Cor. cap. 2, v. 28.) Which answer implies that God knew that although such might even be the conduct of the bulk of mankind, there would still be some who should receive the Divine Light and attain to a knowledge of Him; so that it is clear that the object of the creation of existent beings was that God should be known.
Object of Philosophical Inquiry.
Existence was made for man, and man for the knowledge of God. To the same purport is the answer given to David, "David enquired and said, Oh Lord! why hast thou created mankind? God said, I am a hidden treasure, and I would fain become known ." The business of the Traveller then is to exert himself and strive to attain to the Divine light, and so to the knowledge of God; and this is to be achieved by associating with the wise.
The stages and the road.
The received notion of the "stages" in the "road," involves a paradox, the disciple who asks concerning them being told that there is not even a single stage, nay more, not even a road at all. This statement is differently explained by two sects, the Sufis and the Ahl i Wahdat, whom I shall call the Unitarians. The Sufis say that there is no road from man to God, because the nature of God is illimitable and infinite, without beginning or end or even direction. There is not a single atom of existent things with which God is not and which God does not comprise: "Are they not in doubt concerning the union with their Lord? doth he not comprise everything?" (Cor. cap. 42, v. 54.) Nor is there aught that he does not comprehend with his knowledge: "Verily God comprehendeth all things with his knowledge." (Cor. cap. 42, v. 54.) The Traveller who has not attained to this Divine Light can have no lot or portion with God, but those who have reached it gaze always upon His face; they go not forth by day and retire not to rest at night without an abashed consciousness that God is present every where; for with Him they live, and in Him they act.
The whole universe compared with the majesty of God is as a drop in the ocean, nay infinitely less than this. But Perception or Intelligence can never lead to this conviction, or reveal this glorious mystery; that is the province of the Divine Light alone. Such is the Sufiistic explanation of the proposition, "There is no road from man to God."
Unitarian Interpretation of the preceding.
The Unitarians interpret it as follows. They hold that existence is not independent, but is of God; that besides the existence of God there is no real existence, nor can there possibly be: for that which exists not, cannot exist of itself, but that which does exist, exists of itself, and that which is self-existent is God.
When man imagines that be has an existence other than the existence of God he falls into a grievous error and sin; yet this error and sin is the only road from man to God; for until the Traveller has passed over this he cannot reach God. A certain Sufi poet has said,
Plant one foot on the neck of self,
The other in thy Friend's domain;
In everything His presence see,
For other vision is in vain.
That is, whilst you are looking up to self you cannot see God, but when you are not looking up to self all that you see is God. Such is the Unitarian solution of the proposition that "there is no road from man to God," namely that the error of imagining an existence separate from God is the only road to Him; the stages on this road are innumerable, and some philosophers even assert that it has no end.