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Sufi Ecstasy

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.sufi,alt.islam.sufism,talk.religion.misc,talk.religion.newage,alt.consciousness.mysticism
From: (haramullah)
Subject: Sufi Ecstasy ('wajd')
Date: 16 Mar 1998 19:59:40 -0800

49980213 aa2  Friday the 13th!

assalam alaykum, my kin.

haramullah asked Asha to elaborate on her text:
#> what is a "sufi state of ecstasy"?  what are the observable 
#> conditions which accompany it?  how can you tell the difference 
#> between a "sufi state" and a "nonsufi state" of ecstasy?<<<
# sounds like your spoiling for a debate on a good subject 

not at all.  I am interested in hearing a variety of perspectives.
I was rankling in response to the offhanded dismissals of what I
consider to be important and longstanding shamanic traditions and
the occasional unique individual who is able to integrate
psychoactives into their spirituality.

# ...(I'd rather know your personal experience) 

I'll try to keep this in mind.

# A sufi state of ecstasy... is sometimes called hal, which 
# a word that just means "state" ... ...hal is a momentary pause in
# the steam of ordinary  thoughts that illuminates the meaningfulness 
# of life by the discovery of one's participation in the presence 
# (thinking) of the universe which is quite beyond thoughts --- 

#  .So, you ask: "How one can identify when someone else is in a 
# state of ecstasy."    You look inside yourself. 

no observable difference in how the person behaves?  even some
small characteristic descriptions?  perhaps this is what you mean
by 'discerning Truth' or 'that for which one may watch'?

# academic answer to what what sufis mean by ecstasy there are a lot of
# interesting writings by people lIke Ibn Arabi....

something in particular you'd care to pass on?

# known as discernment ... that might be a good subject to discuss; 
# how the sufis discern truth and what they might mean by that.... 
# how one tells if what is written is truth or so one can tell about 
# someone elses state of ecstasy by discernment and compassion.>

beautiful.  sounds like two subjects then: a) how "the sufis" 
do it (apparently an abstraction or an ideal unless someone in
this elist wants to take on the mantle of "sufi"); and b) how 
WE go about it in our own experience (something you seemed to 
want to focus on -- our personal experience beyond academia --
I will say something about my own below).

# That is just it, true ecstasy is a gift, nothing that you do produces
# it, it comes from Allah ... 

sounds alot like what is called 'the Grace of God' in Christian circles.
not something that can be earned, not something related to either faith 
or works -- subject to the inscrutible manner of the divine.

then the usual discussion turns to how to PREPARE oneself for this 
gift, how to watch for it, entice it, how one can make oneself a proper 
receptable for the beneficence of the Supreme.  if anyone has 
commentary on this I'd enjoy hearing it.

re 'an ecstasy':
# ...(although you can watch for it)....

what do you think one can one watch for?

# Just when you think you want a happy laughing ecstasy then it 
# comes as a melancholy or it comes crashing through like a rhino 
# on a rampage ....  

moodal flavors of ecstatic condition.  thus ecstasy is not emotion,
but can be tinged or composed within or by emotion.

# What do you have to say about this subject? 
# Can you describe/define ecstasy?
# Can it be induced? 
# It is being high the same as being High? 

my questions were in part a request for you to elaborate on your
language, and I would have to take them differently, so....

$ what is a sufi state of ecstasy?  

ecstatic states or trances pertain to an exaltation of emotional
intensity surpassing rational thought and ordinary experience.
these are at times a simultaneous explosion of pleasurable and 
painful subjective phenomena -- and are thus both transformative
and, perhaps foolishly, longed for.  some indicate that ecstasy 
is a precursor to illumination (thus it is sought and/or faked).

to characterize a state of ecstasy is to describe its content or
its formulation.  to say of it that it is a 'sufi state' says
to me that it is induced through means traditional to sufi orders
or individuals, perhaps having a content flavored with rudiments 
of traditional poetic, legendary, scriptural and instructional
elements (e.g. Qur'anic or Romantic allusions and features).

there are some who describe the context of the truly ecstatic
state related to sufic formulation in terms of process -- that 
there are stages observable prior to and in accompaniment of the 
state of ecstasy so described (e.g. Nicholson, Shah, and 
probably many others).  I feel that these are descriptions of
spiritual development within which *ordinary* ecstatic states
are experienced.  there may be exceptions which transcend these
elaborated matriculations (e.g. those achieved via psychoactives
or within the throes of bhaktic or ritual frenzy).

as for the traditional means of inspiring the sufi ecstasy,
I doubt there are really many limitations given the breadth of
sufism, but Shah has a decent description which also generally
reflects th character my experience outside sufi circles:

	When the Dhikr has so sunk into the mind that
	it is being automatically repeated without
	conscious effort -- then the 'Superior Form'
	is used.  According to Sufi doctrine, mastery
	of the thought processes and their linking
	with the body have been achieved.

	The purpose of the Superior Form is the production
	of the next -- and highly important -- phenomenon:
	ecstasy.  While it is conceded that ecstasy can
	come without the Dhikrs, yet it is claimed that
	it cannot be induced so readily by other means.
	In the state of ecstasy, which may be followed by
	unconsciousness, the mind undergoes a transforma-
	tion whose nature is not described.  True ecstasy
	is known by the technical term *wajd*, and paves
	the way to *Khatrat* -- illumination.  Here the
	mind and soul are liberated from the body [shades
	of shamanic journies -- hara.], and knowledge and
	power take the place of the base thoughts of which
	the mind has been purified.  In the Chisthi Order,
	music is used to induce the ecstatic state; some
	orders claim that their members fall into a trance
	after looking into the eyes of their Sheikh.  The
	so-called Dancing Dervishes accomplish trance and
	ecstatic phenomenon through monotonous circum-
	ambulations; and this is most marked in the Maulavi
	Order, most popular in Turkey.  In the ecstatic
	state Sufis are believed to be able to overcome
	all barriers of time, space and thought.  They are
	able to cause appearently impossible things to
	happen merely because they no are [sic] longer
	confined by the barriers which exist for more
	ordinary people.
	_Oriental Magic_, by Idries Shah, Arkana Books, 
	     1993; p. 70.

there appears to be some diversity (and probably confusion
or at least debate) about what Arabic term best relates to
'ecstasy'.  Nicholson describes an entire list of mystical
states or trances (as I would describe them) and characterizes
them all (fana, wajd, sama, dhawq, shirb, ghaybat, jadhbat,
sukr and hal) as "more or less equivalent to 'ecstasy'"
{_Mystics of Islam_, Arkana, 1989; p. 59}, though this may 
be peculiar or inexact.

while I am aware of those OUTSIDE traditional sufi groups
who have undergone what I'd call 'ecstatic trance' in my
presence and feel that I may have myself experienced it, I
have very little experience with the traditional methods 
-- aside from readings (e.g. men in Dhikr beginning music 
and the ringed left-step chanting "Hu! Hu!") and brief exposure 
(as sitting in a ring and, crossing hands and clasping that
of my neighbor, we began a rhythmic swaying simultaneous to
counter-turning of the head and repeated chants).

my question therefore remains unanswered by those who, unlike
Asha, think it may be possible to intentionally inspire the
ecstatic trance (and, possibly, the illumination experience)
within ritual Dhikr (remembrance -- perhaps a recognition of
that beautiful Unity which only Allah makes available).
$ what are the observable conditions which accompany it?  

this appears to vary somewhat in cultures beyond the
traditional sufi orders.  I cannot of course answer this
as it pertains to the tradition and I do not remember
being present for such an occasion.  there are classic
symptoms of ecstatic states, of course, from what has
been called 'possession by (a/the) spirit', to expression 
of a variety of intense emotions, to a vacuous or elated
trance-eclipse unexplainable and ineffable.

when I have experienced what I would call ecstasy I was
feeling an immense gratitude, so powerful that I was
giddy with happiness and crying with joy.  it wasn't
anything I can describe beyond this and I don't know if
I'll ever feel its like again.  other 'trance' states
never compared.

$ how can you tell the difference between a "sufi state" 
$    and a "nonsufi state" of ecstasy?

this is of the same character as that question above and
thus I cannot answer the question, hoping that those who
are experienced among the Cleavers to the Real would reflect
on what they have seen, felt, and heard themselves within
this elist.  my intent isn't to challenge, but to make the
beauty of mystical phenomenon more widely known.

# Why is ecstasy so central to what it means to be a sufi. 

I would guess that this has many possible answers.  my own
response is that the remembrance of the Most Compassionate
is an ideal without equal, and that this is signified through 
an experience of ecstatic bliss.


Germaine  responds to Asha:
# I come across people, on other forums, who are always talking 
# about 'Truth'.  They say they're searching for it, or they've 
# found 'their truth', and they've stumbled upon it, or they 
# were stopped in their tracks by great revelation.

# But as far as I can tell, everyone's truth is different,
# and I haven't the foggiest.. what anyone is talking about!!
# Now, if only I could learn what the Sufis mean by it.

Thou art Truth oh kin


Abdul Karim :
# ...successful Observation is not sufficient to empower us
# to make a change. A man by himself can not add one inch
# to his stature. <--- another borrowed phrase 
# Would anybody like to expound on what IS required? There
# are people here more qualified than I to say this.

submission is required for a true change.

peace be with you,

-- (emailed replies may be posted); 408/2-666-SLUG
cc me replies;;

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