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Sufism and Eros

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.sufi,alt.islam.sufism,alt.religion.gnostic,talk.religion.misc,talk.religion.newage,alt.consciousness.mysticism
From: (haramullah)
Subject: Sufism and Eros (was Sexuality)
Date: 23 Dec 1997 21:58:38 -0800

49971009 aa2 (terminating in a long quote from PLWilson on Sufism 
						and Eroticism)
assalam alaykum, my kin.

Ken McFarland :
# ...I asked about the Sufi attitude toward sexuality....  total agreement 
# within the responses that sexuality is Divinely inspired and is a very 
# wonderful activity.

     'the Sufi attitude' is one of unification
     'sexuality' can be love in manifestation
     where the simplistic suffers magnification
     no more love infuses Allah's creation

# My question now concerns moral aspects of sexuality. From a Sufi
# perspective, are there rules of morality that apply to sexual expression?

     there is no 'Sufi perspective',
	all is all, the one is the one
     countless veils, spokes, eyes,
	all is all, the one is the one
     society's rules are the limbo bar,
	all is all, the one is the one
     dance along if the Music stirs,
	all is all, the one is the one

	_The Sufi in the 'Tavern of Ruin'_

	In the state of 'self having passed away' (fana),
	the Sufi has completely lost his 'self' and reached
	the spiritual station which the Sufis call the
	'Tavern of Ruin'.  It is said that Bayazid was in
	this station when someone knocked at his door.
	Bayazid asked, "Who do you want?"  The man
	answered, "I'm looking for Bayazid."  Bayazid replied,
	"Ah!  It's been years since I have had any news
	of him."

	In such a state, the Sufi has passed beyond 
	faith and faithlessness.  He sees neither friend nor
	stranger; and in every place and in everyone, he
	sees only God.  Yet, it is not from himself that he
	sees.  Rather, it is God seeing God in God.  In such
	a state, the Sufi says:

		The lover has died and left both
			Islam and unbelief.
		Burning in love of the flame,
		the moth does not distinguish
		between the light of the mosque
		and the light of the monastery.


		Blasphemy and religion, Ka'ba and
			Pagan temple,
		for the true lover, are one and the same.

	However, it must be stressed here that in no 
	sense does this mean that one may neglect the
	performance of duties and obligations of Islam
	(Shari'at).  One who refuses to follow the Shari'at
	is acting out of self-will and worshipping himself.

	Thus, the Sufi in the 'Tavern of Ruin', having
	died to and passed away from himself, is liberated
	from both blasphemy and religion.
	_Answers to Questions about Sufism_, by Dr. Javad
		Nurbakhsh, Khaniqahi-Nimatullahi Pubs.,
		1976; pp. 27-8.

	_The Asceticism of the Sufi_

	The ascetic turns away from this world towards
	the world hereafter.  The Sufi turns away 
	from both this world and the next, inclining
	towards God alone.  In turning away from the 
	pleasures of this world, the ascetic desires to gain
	the pleasures of heaven.  The Sufi, however, 
	enraptured in Divine Love, passes from himself
	and forgets entirely about gain, loss or pleasure
	-- here or hereafter.  By thinking of and delighting
	in the future rewards of heaven, the ascetic is,
	in fact, merely engaging in a subtle form of self-
	gratification and self-worship.  The Sufi though,
	drunk through Union with God, is totally absorbed
	in the present moment, the 'here and now', and has
	let go of existence.

	As Bayazid has said, "The duration of Bayazid's
	life of asceticism was only three days.  On the
	first day, he renounced the world.  On the second
	day, he renounced the world hereafter.  And on the
	last day, he renounced whatever separated him from
	God."  _In summary then, the asceticism of the
	Sufi is renouncing and letting go of everything
	that is other than God._
	Ibid., pp. 14-5.

# the context of modern Western culture. 

     what matters a context to those who know the Shariah?
	feeble customs and cultural biases are as nothing
     do the libertines and the ascetics clamor for variety?
	feeble customs and cultural biases are as nothing
     where shall we rest our feet but upon Allah's bench?
	feeble customs and cultural biases are as nothing
		before submission to divine love.

# sexuality between consenting adults, under the
# circumstances described above moral; immoral; not subject to moral
# consideration; good as long as it is not addictive; permitted so long as no
# other party is damaged; not permitted under any circumstances, permitted so
# long as there is no intercourse, etc., etc.?

	Niffari bids the gnostic perform only
	such acts of worship as are in accordance
	with his vision of God, though in so doing
	he will necessarily disobey the religious
	law which was made for the vulgar.  His
	inward feeling must decide how far the
	external forms of religion are good for him.
	_The Mystics of Islam_, by Reynold A. 
	  Nicholson, Arkana Books, 1989; p. 72.

	The "carnal self" or unawakened consciousness is prevented
	from "seeing God" by the psychic links which bind it to all
	things, and which it interprets as desires.  This is a
	psychological fact recognized by all mystics, and solidified
	in virtually all religious systems in the form of moral codes
	which regulate the relation of the self to other by making
	some things obligatory and others prohibited.  In Islam,
	this aspect of religion is crystallized by the doctrine of
	the divine revelation of Law; the revealing of the shariah,
	the Divine Law, is qualitatively different from the
	"revelation" -- or more properly "inspiration" -- accorded
	to the individual mystic.  This qualitative difference
	results in a powerful tension in Islamic mysticism between
	Outer and Inner.  In effect, the mystic sees God in all
	things, but is told by Law that some of these things are
	prohibited: their "inner" is divine, but their "outer"
	is forbidden.  Islamic mystics may talk all they like
	about the "superior rights of esotericism", but if they
	wish to remain within orthodoxy they must admit that in
	the end it is the Law which appears to have the upper
	hand.  Even to say that the mystic participates in the
	"prophetic light" does not exempt him from Law; somehow the
	shariah must be accepted as the structure within which the
	mystical experience is to be contained and interpreted.

	In their public utterances, therefore, Islamic mystics
	tread a thin ice separating mysticism from what would be
	heresy from the point of view of the exoteric mentality.
	Some of them fall through -- Hallaj, Hamadaini, Sohrawardi,
	the Islmailis -- and are expelled or even executed.  Others,
	like Ghazzali, set themselves the task of reconciling
	mysticism and orthodoxy, a project which involves as much
	brilliance as tendentiousness.
	Ibn Arabi, unlike some of this followers, excaped severe
	persecution if only because his voluminous writings contain
	numerous passages which can be interpreted (and rightly so)
	as representing his own accomodation with orthodoxy.  Here
	however the details of the intellectual and spiritual
	oeconomy [sic] of this accomadation [sic] must be set
	aside in favor of an examination of what might be called
	his "radical mysticism".  Ibn Arabi is like an ocean out
	of which later mystics have drunk what they wanted.  Some
	of them were actually orthodox scholars, others were
	Ismailis or "Lawless" dervishes.  Others were poets,
	deeply influenced not only by his poetry but by the
	metaphysics which informs it.  For the most part this
	poetry represents an expression of the more radical
	side of Ibn Arabi's work (too huge and varied to be
	called a "system"), and which is exemplified by 

	_The Interpreter of Desires_....

	Many Islamic mystics share what might be called the
	neo-platonic "distrust of things".  Human love, for
	example, can never be more for them than a "metaphor"
	(*majaz*, or "bridge") for divine love.  Such mystics
	would therefore obviously tend toward the pole of the
	vision of things-in-God rather than God-in-things.
	However, Islam completely rejects the idea of 
	incarnation -- the doctrine that the divine can be
	completely identified with any single unique thing
	in theological terms.  It also rejects the idea of
	original sin, replacing it (at least among the mystics)
	with the concept of "forgetfulness".

	Thus -- to oversimplify -- individual things possess
	a certain moral neutrality in Islam (always excepting
	those which are banned by Law): things can either be 
	experienced as blocks preventing fully realized
	consciousness, or on the contrary they can be
	experienced as theophanic in nature, direct 
	manifestations of divinity.  Nature, for the Koran,
	is the greatest miracle: "signs for men of perception"
	(Koran, XXX, 21).  Creation is untainted by "sin" --
	only man's consciousness determines the relation of
	self to other.  Thus the relation is more "open" than
	in neo-platonic Christianity.

	Islamic mysticism therefore contains a greater potential
	for the vision of God-in-things, and if the implications
	of the doctrine of Unity of Being are followed to a certain
	logical conclusion, this vision would even seem to take
	precedence over that of things-in-God.  There is no need
	to "abstract" material creation "back" toward the Godhead;
	creation is already divine because it is the divine....

	The "radical" position expressed by Ibn Arabi possesses
	profound implications for two areas of human experience,
	areas which a certain kind of more orthodox mysticism often
	seems to call into question, and even at times to denigrate:
	human love and art.  Ibn Arabi and his School present a high 
	defense of these things, which indeed for them are closely
	related; perhaps the highest defense possible within the
	framework of a mystical "system".  Unlike much mystical
	versification which is both fleshless and dull, that of
	_The Interpreter_ exemplifies an eroticism, and an 
	intensity of style, which set it apart even in sufi
	literature, not to speak of mystical literature in general....

	...Ibn Arabi's predisposition to autobiography allows us
	to know beyond question that the poems were written to a
	specific girl whom he met in Mecca in 598 A.H.: the daughter
	of a Persian Traditionalist named Makinoddin al-Isfahani.
	The girl was Nizam Ayn al-Shams ("Harmony Eye-of-the-Sun");
	she was exceedingly beautiful, and was renowned for her
	spiritual attainments and eloquence.


	Human love -- indeed, human sexuality -- is accepted by
	Ibn Arabi as real; and since it is real, sacred.  Even
	in the few selections given here [just prior] it must be
	apparent that the intensity of erotic feeling is not
	feigned, nor contrived for effect, nor made up solely
	to point a moral [sic], however mystical.... Even mysticism
	by itself, he seems to imply, is less worthy than love by
	itself, since it leads to dry abstraction; he might have
	quoted the Koran: "Which of thy Lord's blessings will you
	deny?" (LV, 13).  But by juxtaposing poems and commentaries,
	poetic mode and prosaic mode, of consciousness, it is 
	possible to see the full reality of love as he experiences
	it -- a reality which is totally concrete, having nothing
	to do with bloodless theological idealism.  Such a love
	denies nothing of passion, nothing of desire, nothing of
	the fleshly and psychological complexity which the human
	soul can encompass.  It does not "use" the beloved as 
	some sort of respectable but out-worn theme for meditation,
	to be transcended as soon as possible in favor of a vague
	religious ecstasy.  But Ibn Arabi does insist that love,
	like the prime matter of the alchemists, can be "worked".
	Without violating its human origins it can still come to
	englobe the deepest spiritual experience of which the heart
	is capable.  It can do this because in fact it already is
	divine; because human beauty, in and of itself, is "in the
	image of God."

	_The Interpreter of Desires_, for all its apparent lack of
	any systematic approach to an actual spiritual technique,
	suggests by its violent and original mingling of "sacred"
	and "profane" the method by which the theophanic apotheosis
	may be attained.  By the use of the creative Imagination,
	human love, with all its "changes" and "moments" and "states"
	of anguish and fulfilment, is to be experienced as the exact
	mirroring of the relation between human consciousness and
	divine consciousness.  (Or rather, since there is ultimately
	only one consciousness, speak rather of a relationship between
	two aspects of being, a personal/individual aspect and the
	unapproachable essence of the Unity of Being.)   In this kind
	of mysticism there is little or nothing of the static, rigid,
	ascetic or quietistic -- nothing abstract.  "Separation" and
	"union" are both accepted as valid, just as the romantic
	lover accepts without question the beloved's moods of
	coquettishness or generosity.  Indeed, as Ibn Arabi implies,
	separation is in some senses to be preferred to union, since
	from the psychological point of view it intensifies and
	prolongs the purity of love, the "beginner's mind" (to
	borrow a phrase from Zen) in which the still unsatisfied
	lover knows the fiercest and most potent states of ardent
	desire, in themselves a kind of fulfilment; while from the
	metaphysical point of view, this separation allows the real
	purpose of the drama of manifestation to be played out, as
	if God, masked as both lover and beloved, tricked himself
	into believing that some sweetly poignant gulf separated
	himself from himself: Narcissus yearning for himself in 
	the mirror of Nature.  "Lover, beloved and love: all one,"
	as the fifteenth century sufi Shah Nematollah Vali put it.
	And yet, if this oneness were ever to be finally and
	completely realized, creation would cease to exist, and
	with it all pleasure as well as pain.  Bhakti yogis say,
	"Sugar is sweet; but who wants to BE sugar?"  In Ibn
	Arabi's system, one is the cake, and eats it too.... take [an analysis of the metaphysical, theological
	and historical content of mystical literature, thus
	bringing us closer to what Corbin called a "phenomenology"
	of mysticism] as an end in itself would be the greatest
	conceivable offense against the spirit which informed
	poets like Ibn Arabi and his followers.  Finally they
	demand not that we read but that we live, that we throw
	away the received text and create our own -- a text
	which is not the product of artifice, however profound,
	but rather the inescapable result of our own authenticity,
	the radiation of art from the lamp of the logos which has
	been lit within us by the realization of love.
	_Scandal: Essays in Islamic Heresy_, by Peter Lamborn
	  Wilson, Autonomedia, 1988; pp. 71-91.

	ah, desire, the wings of ecstasy pulling me to You,

peace be with you,

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