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To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.sufi,alt.islam.sufism,alt.religion.gnostic,alt.consciousness.mysticism,talk.religion.misc,talk.religion.newage
From: (haramullah)
Subject: Sufism
Date: 23 Dec 1997 22:00:26 -0800

49971219 aa2

assalam alaykum, my kin.

Shaik Khafid  asks the real questions:
# 1) What is Tasawwuf?

"tasawwuf" is typically translated "sufism" or "Sufism" and
compared with numerous phrases intending synonymous meaning,
such as 'method of achieving gnosis/love' (ma'rifa/mahabba), 
and 'spiritual actualization' (el-ihsan).  it is also given
many characterizations in a social light, such as 'those who
abide with the Truth' (al-haqq), 'Companions of the Bench' 
(the Sufis alive during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, 
pbuh), etc.

as I have understood it (mostly through books about it, but 
also in discussions with sufis and a few direct meetings 
with sufis), it seems best to categorize sufism as a type
of esotericism or mysticism, often associated with the
religion or way of Islam, that focusses quite specifically
upon a body of poets and teaching traditions ('orders') 
congregated about its name.

the composition of what is included within sufism (or indeed
'Sufism', which I leave as a term for Islamic sufism) appears
to depend upon the needs of the community and student who
become involved, though it may be roughly said to include the
roles of guide (sheikh/murshid) and seeker (murid) and aim 
at the liberation and integration of the seeker in question.

methods of instruction may differ greatly, but they tend 
to focus on instructional stories and direction through a 
course of varied behaviors leading to a maturation of 
spirit or consciousness (not dissimilar from a variety of
other mystical systems).  there are even traditional 
descriptions of levels of such maturation rendered by 
sheikhs and authors in the community.

Stuart Litvak writes:

	The essentials of Sufism are people, place,
	and materials; that is, the students and
	their teacher, the locale (the community),
	and the teachings.  The Teaching -- what
	transpires when these elements are
	correctly aligned -- is probably most
	fundamental, but this is not generally


	Sufism begins with the human mind.

		Anyone who says, "It is all so
		indescribable, but I just feel
		what you mean," is unlikely to
		profit by Sufism.  For Sufis
		are working, are carrying out
		an effort to awaken a certain
		field of consciousness by
		means of an approach which is
		specialized, not fortuitous.
		Sufism does not trade in airy-
		fairiness, mutual admiration,
		or luke-warm generalities.
		When the "bite" disappears,
		so, too does the Sufic element
		from a situation.  The con-
		verse is also true.  Sufism is
		not directed to a section of
		the commmunity [sic] -- for
		no such section exists -- but
		to a certain faculty within
		individuals.  Where this 
		faculty is not activated, there
		is no Sufism.  It contains
		"hard" as well as "soft"
		realities, discord as well as
		harmony, the sharp brightness
		of awakening as well as the
		gentle dark of a lulling to

	[NOTE: Idries Shah, _The Sufis_, New York;
	       Dutton, 1964, p. 21.]


	While the teacher is essential, it is noteworthy
	that not all Sufis officially teach.  In fact
	most do not.  Those Sufis who do teach have the
	proclivity.  In addition, they will teach only
	when the desire to teach is absent.  This is
	one distinctive criterion that separates the
	true teacher from the bogus.
	_Seeking Wisdom_, by Stuart Litvak, Samuel
	 Weiser Inc., 1984; pp. 56-8. [my comments]

Insan-i-Kamil writes:

	Sufism is the teaching as well as the fraternity
	of the Sufis, who are mystics sharing the belief
	that inner experience is not a department of
	life, but life itself.  Sufi means 'love'.

	In the lower reaches the members are organized
	into circles and lodges.  In the higher --
	*sakina* (stillness) -- form, they are bound
	together by *baraka* (blessing, power, sanctity)
	and their interaction with this force influences
	their lives in every way.

	Sufism is a way of life, believed by the members
	to be the essence and reality of all religious
	and philosophical teachings.  It leads to the
	completion of mankind and womankind, through the
	instititions of discipleship, meditation and
	practice.  The latter is the 'living of reality'.

	Wisdom or completion, according to the Sufis,
	is to be distinguished from intellectualism,
	scholasticism and the like, which are merely
	tools.  The Path teaches to what extent these
	tools can be used; and also how to amalgamate
	action with destiny.

	'Sufism', says a teacher, 'is the Path taken
	by Sufis in their actual living and working
	according to a form which is not like other
	forms: which leads them to the full develop-
	ment of their mental, physical and metaphys-
	ical powers.  They are organized initially 
	in groups under the guidance of a Guide
	(teacher) until the relationship which is
	self-perpetuating is established.

	'The Fraternity is called the Brotherhood, 
	the Order, and the Way, or Path.  It may be
	called the Building, on the analogy that
	something is being built by the association
	of the members. The Teacher is called a 
	Master, Sheikh, Sage, Knower, Guide, Leader,
	Ancient, or Director.  The Disciple is
	called a Directed One, Devotee, Lover, or
	quoted in _The Way of the Sufi_, Idries
	 Shah, Arkana Books, 1990; pp. 294-5.

# 2) When did Tasawwuf came about?

since the character and boundaries of what constitutes
sufism are so ambiguous, any discernment as to its
origin and status are necessarily based on prejudice
and favor.  from one perspective it comes about in
every moment and passes away.  from another it has
always been around (as the process of maturation or
mysticism).  from another it came about in a very
particular, historical place and time and originated
the core of a popular religion (Islam).

often people enjoy taking a rather literal or linguistic
approach, attempting to isolate the usage of the term
'sufi' or 'tasawwuf'.  sometimes they will attach a
specific significance to the word itself and identify
when that particular referent originated.

typically (as with many mystical congregates contained
or espoused by the religious to which it is affiliated)
sufism is identified with Islam and the stories and
principles attributed to the history of this religious
tradition.  whether this extends into a cultural past
and other traditions such as Buddhism, as is often done
by academics, or into religious history to the 
patriarchs of Judeochristianity, appears to depend on 
the interests of the speaker.  some attempt to apply
a universal quality to their characterizations.

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh says:

	There are religions and religions, but Sufism
	is the religion -- the very heart, the innermost
	core, the very soul.

	Sufism is not part of Islam; rather, on the
	contrary, Islam is a part of Sufism.  Sufism
	existed before Mohammed was born, and Sufism
	will exist when Mohammed is completely
	forgotten.  Islams come and go; religions
	take form and dissolve; Sufism abides,
	continues, because it is not dogma.  It is
	the very heart of being religious.

	You may not ever have heard of Sufism and you
	may be a Sufi -- if you are religious.  
	Krishna is a Sufi, and Christ too; Mahavir
	is a Sufi, and Buddha too -- and they never
	heard about the word, and they never knew
	that anything like Sufism exists.

	Whever a religion is alive, it is because
	Sufism is alive within it.  Whenever a
	religion is dead, it shows only that the
	spirit, the Sufi spirit, has left it.  Now
	there is only a corpse, however decorated --
	in philosophy, metaphysics, in dogmas,
	doctrines -- but whenever Sufism has left,
	religion stinks of death.  This has happened
	many times.  This is happening already almost
	all over the world.  One has to be aware of
	it, otherwise one can go on clinging to a
	dead corpse.
	_Journey Toward the Heart: Discourses on 
	 the Sufi Way_, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh,
	 Harper and Row, 1976; p. 3.
contrast this type of language to that from Stoddard:

	Sufism is the spirituality or mysticism of
	the religion of Islam.  Mysticism makes its
	appearance, as an inward dimension, in every
	religion, and to attempt to separate the
	mystical element from the religion which is
	its outward support is an arbitrary act of
	violence which cannot but be fatal to the
	mysticism, or spiritual path, concerned.
	In the present century, however, the attempt
	to do precisely this has been made repeatedly, 
	and time and time again we are offered a 
	Vedanta (or a yoga) without Hinduism, or 
	a Zen (or something purporting to be such)
	without Buddhism.

	In recent times nothing has suffered more from
	this vain procedure than Sufism: in a variety
	of forms and in many parts of the Western 
	world we are now offered a Sufism without
	Islam!  One might as well try to purvey human
	life without a human body!  To be sure, the
	body (though made in the image of God) is
	corruptible and mortal, while life is invisible
	and immortal.  Nevertheless, as far as we in 
	this world are concerned, it is only in the 
	body that life finds its support and expression.
	So is it also in the case of mysticism or
	spirituality: this is the inward or supra-
	formal dimension, of which the respective
	religion is the outward or formal expression.
	One cannot be a Benedictine without being a
	Christian, or a Sufi without being a Muslim.
	There is no Sufism without Islam.
	_Sufism_, William Stoddard, Paragon House,
	 1985; p. 19.

# 3) Why did Tasawwuf came about?

cause-effect origination is difficult to use in the 
case where even the temporal source is disputed and 
variable.  it is possible sufism was directed by the
will of the divine to manifest in the world, or that it
was a natural outgrowth of human development, or that 
it was a local response to eternal, universal human need.

# 4) Who were the first practicians of Tasawwuf?

where we go now with response of course depends on the
predilections of the speaker and listener.  in this case
the listener is someone who is sitting before a keyboard
and monitor, reading words on the monitor's screen, the
speaker in an almost identical orientation.  it is a 
kind of 'public speaking' as via the radio, going to
those who may or may not have any relation to me.

who were the first practitioners of Sufism?  obviously
the Prophet Muhammad, his devout followers, and those
of the Muslim Sufi 'Golden Chain' after Ali.  some also
suggest that Adam, Mosheh (Moses), Ibrahim (Abraham)
and possibly Issa (Jesus) were precursors in the Sufi Way.

who were the first practitioners of a central core
mysticism to all religions?  this is of course lost to
the observation of historians.  humans who existed
long before any kind of social religious tradition
developed undoubtedly engaged in these types of
intense Teacher/Student relationships and assisted
one another to spiritual maturity.

# 5) Where did Tasawwuf first existed?

Sufism first existed in the region of Mecca, a city in
West Saudi Arabia if one identifies Muhammad as the
first Sufi.  if one goes back to Judeochristian
patriarchs then it depends on which one takes as the
'first' and could be quite difficult to locate depending
on where 'Adam' might be thought to have existed.  

# 6) Why is there a need to be accepted into a sufi order in order to
# practice Tasawwuf?

there isn't.  this is a prejudice of those who are members of
the orders or the misunderstanding of those who have little
connection to sufism.  there are 'wandering sufis', for example,
who have no formal connection to the Orders.  

again, significance of terms determines the response.  if 'a
sufi order' becomes an ambiguous and informal group or body
of initiates into the mysteries of the self, then even those
who have never known one another could be said to be 'of the
same order', implying a unification of aim and approach.

# 7) What is the role of a Syaikh in a sufi order?
# 8) What is the role of a Mureed in a sufi order?

these were covered well above.  the translations of the terms
(Guide and Seeker or Student respectively) provide a clear
indication of the role.  seldom is it explained that the sheikh
never ceases to *be* a murid -- that the teacher has not ever
stopped being a student.

# 9) What is the difference between a genuine sufi order and a false one?

the central focus of the false order will become the members of the
organization, the power and attention focussed on the sheikh and
upper echelon rather than dispersed for the benefit of attention
to the individual members and their development.  basically the
quality of instruction or maturation is the predominant difference.

# 10) How many genuine sufi orders are there?

just as there is an ambiguity as to the significance of the term
'sufi' and who ought be identified as such, so also is there an
ambiguity about an order's "genuineness".  

some will point to the traditional ascription of lineage and
the Golden Chain (a kind of pedigree).  others will make note
of the geographical origins of the sheikh or order.  perhaps
others will attest to the materials (sometimes secret!) which
are used for instruction or compose the core study of the
community.  and still others will witness to the depth of
purity of the sheikh, the level of awareness and composure
of the community members, or the challenge (and therefore the
reward) offered to the dedicated who enter into the company.

as has already been stated, some suggest there is only really
one sufi order, and that this is informal, not distinguished
by social categories or labels, and initiated by the divine.

Frank Gorin :
# Is there is fact a need?
# Must one (I) put on the wool to see through the wool?

the need may well be there for some.  it is difficult
to taste a ripe mango by looking at it from afar.

may peace be with you,

(emailed replies may be posted);; 408/2-666-SLUG
  join the esoteric syncretism in alt.magick.tyagi; 

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