Religion & Love

Religion is architecture in time; but what is seen with the eye of form, that is, the forms that constitute the exterior of religion, is in fact an image reflected in time, a mere shadow of the cathedral of truth. Every human work is a design in time; it is extended between its generation and degeneration, from its generation as an idea to its manifestation in the world, and then to its natural degeneration.

My friends, religion is no human work though humans have to do the work to manifest it. The outward form of the saint is a mere instrument at the service of his inward reality which is essentially identical with God. Unlike human work which is extended in and through time, religion is monument only whose base is in time; it is a monument that shoots from earth to heaven, from time to eternity. It is erected vertically out of every time and every place into the no-place and the no-time. Oh, religion is the alchemy of the soul. But this inner dimension of religion, the hidden cathedral with whose shadow we have busied ourselves, this Sacred Geometry, is concealed to the eye of form, to the vulgar and superficial demands of the servants.

Who is the saint? The saint has become the axis of the world; he is the bridge, the word through whom transcendent meanings are reflected on earth. The saint has a foot in existence and another foot in non-existence, one eye fixed on the veil and another eye seeing through the veil; he slips in and out of existence, for he is the master of both worlds.

Don’t try to make the world a heaven; first find the heaven inside yourself. Know that you are already in heaven only dreaming the world. Don’t change anything yet; first wake up. World is a stream of forms that proves your constancy, your other-worldliness. Let this current polish your soul since that can only make you stronger and more constant. A stream cannot exist without a groove or an unchanging bedrock. Know that you are that unchanging bedrock. Lay down and let the world walk all over you. My child, fear not, for you are only the witness of this passing.

The witness is not really someone or something that is witnessing as if it were one of His faculties; the Witness is witnessing itself and witnessing Itself. The Real is the very act of witnessing; and was He not pure act! But as the whole of Reality is the act of witnessing, and that there is nothing apart from this reality, then that witnessing is witnessing no one and nothing but Itself. Reality is the witnessing of witnessing, i.e. Self-contemplation. Everything that is known to you, even in the depths of your minds and hearts, is really His knowledge; it is in His light that you see and know things. Oh brother, this sight of yours is a borrowed sight; your life is a borrowed life. Drop your stories and find the hidden story-teller. Find Him who tells without telling, He whose telling is Silence and whose face is The Void.

Your telling has concealed His telling; your being has concealed His face. Your reality is a veil over His Reality. Be silent and tell nothing; be no one and nothing. We rather slip in and out of our deaths with every blow. After all, life is nothing but a perpetual slipping in and out of death. We are created anew in every instant. Man is God in revolution: I am because He blows existence into my face, my essence.

Before He turns you toward Himself He turns you toward yourself, so that with His light you see the ugly and the beautiful together. But know that all beauty is His; the ugly!? The ugly is not.

Hey you, who dwell on the other side of existence sitting in the shared heart of all beings, can you hear me?! And He says, “Your voice is the echo of my voice; your seeking me is my seeking you.” Oh Sun, oh Shankara, that faceless Face, I have missed You so much. You have marked me with an eternal wound, that sweet death in Your Face. We cannot stay in this house of existence, for we have our roots in non-existence. The tale of our existence is a wave in the ocean of non-existence. Lift up your head and see the face of He whose shadow, your ego, you have been chasing. Suffer no more of this confusion; confusion and madness lead to His presence, to eternal sobriety. The master said: “Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.” Yes, suffering is only an attitude toward pain.

This world is but a make up on His face. Behold not the collyrium but that annihilating glance, that return Home. Long, long, and long, for longing is the universal currency. Oh God, gather me toward yourself, for my non-existence is scattered into existence.

To perceive His reality one must shut the eye of form and see only with the eye of the heart. The reality of things comes from their meaning and not from their form.

There is really only one thing man can do by himself, which is to annihilate himself, whether physically or spiritually. The rest is His play. As long as you are you see only the play, but when you are annihilated and are no more you will see only the Face. “Everything is annihilated but His face.”

Spiritual Practice

I visit my blog less often than I used to. I open the post page to write something because after all the point of having a blog is to blog; but I stare at the empty page because I have got nothing to write. I feel I have a lot to say, or rather a lot to share about what I have learnt from others. But I don’t feel right to write because that would make me a hypocrite. You see, I cannot claim to know anything as long as that knowledge is not assimilated by me and put into practice, by which I mean conformity to what I believe to be true, and I am very weak in that department. I love spirituality, and above all spiritual metaphysics. But it is one thing to read and talk and write about it which does not make one spiritual but only a little prepared for spirituality; and it is another thing to assimilate what I read and use it as a support for my spiritual practice; and without spiritual practice, which is adherence to one or another orthodox religious/spiritual tradition, nothing is ever accomplished.

It is a well-known fact that spiritual life-and life is either spiritual or isn’t life at all-and the journey toward God consist of two fundamental aspects: Doctrine and method. Doctrine is that which directs us; it provides a sense of orientation by giving an outline of the goal, much like a map. Method is the spiritual practice that takes us to the goal, much like the vehicle or instrument that takes us to gates of Heaven. Now, reading and thinking of spiritual matters alone, though it may make us feel good or give us some peace, do not accomplish anything because it can become a sort of obsession with the doctrine at the cost of forgetting the journey itself. Doctrine itself is never the Truth Itself but a pale reflection of it that is meant to evoke in the seeker a forgotten memory of the lost paradise, i.e. the paradisaical state of being and consciousness; thus, doctrine too is no more than an instrument and a support for spiritual realization.

Truth Itself transcends all doctrinal formulations to the extent that we are allowed to say all doctrines are false relative to the Absolute Truth Itself; it is false relative to Truth because it cannot be identical with It, for Truth transcends all formulations and is ultimately inexpressible. But all doctrines insofar as they are traditional and orthodox, i.e. have their origin in a non-human influence which is none other than revelation, have a relative truth to them because they are reflections of That which lies above and in transcendence. However, this relative truth has no value in itself if it is divorced from its metaphysical function, and the metaphysical function of the doctrine is to invoke in the aspirant the longing for the Truth that is reflected in the doctrine, and also to keep the traveler on the right path without going astray. Therefore, we must look at doctrine not as a fancy collectible to be used for decoration but as a rope hanging from the sky. We must climb the rope and not swing with or by it.

The spiritual practice, on the other hand, is meant to purify the soul so that it can reflect the Truth expressed in the doctrine. The soul that is purified by its nature reflects the Truth, for the pure heart knows nothing but God. All other forms of knowledge, including empirical knowledge of ourselves and the world, is a dirt covering the spirit, and spiritual practice is the way to clean up this mirror as a result of which our soul-which is essentially identical with the Spirit in its state of purity-remembers and reflects its transcendent principle, God.

That you must hate your soul and put your soul to death is a very true statement because it is this soul as dirt over the spirit that ties us to the belief in our independent existence and separation from God. This nowadays fashionable cult of “love yourself” goes contrary to all traditional values, i.e. to Truth Itself. Instead, you must love your Self which is the Self of all things and is none other than God; but to succeed in loving the Self you must hate yourself and put your self to death, for this inferior self is no more than dirt and darkness. So, to hate yourself is to hate delusion and separation, darkness and forgetfulness, arrogance and ignorance.

When the soul becomes pure as a result of spiritual practice it reflects, by its nature, the Divine qualities which are spiritual virtues of humility, generosity, and objectivity. These virtues are not possessions of the sage but rather belong to God alone. But when the sage has become pure at heart and poor in spirit he has in fact returned to the primordial state in which he was created in the image of God. In that state the spiritual virtues shine by themselves, for it is God Himself along with His attributes that shine through the sage. The humility of the sage is the reflection of God’s transcendence and absolute detachment from the world. The generosity of the sage is the reflection of God’s immanence and infinitude, His unconditional giving through perpetual creation and constant renewal of all things. The objectivity of the sage is the reflection of God’s perfect knowledge and justice. It is not that the sage, the pure in heart and poor in spirit, becomes God or even acquires divine attributes; rather, God’s attributes shine in and through the sage because he is no more himself, and in fact he has become no-thing so that there is nothing in him and with him that can obstruct the Divine Light which is shining everywhere and at all times. The sage has become a channel of grace because he has become nothing, because he hated himself and put himself to death.

All this being said, which is by the way too much considering my present state of literary impotence, all I meant to say was that I feel I cannot say anything of spiritual life unless I am myself in it, and to be in it is to practice it. I try to do my best and pray to God to give me strength and faith so I can practice, that is, to constantly remember Him and conform to His nature. On my own, with this petty human self of mine, I have no faith, no knowledge, no love and no devotion. I am in a state of absolute spiritual poverty and all I can ask Him is to forgive my forgetfulness and minimize my distractions so that I can practice, practice, practice.

World is the shadow of God

This world is the shadow of God; it is not a thing, not an existent entity; rather, it is the lack of a thing, lack of light, as are all shadows.

Our relation to the absolute principle is paradoxical from the point of view of our mundane intelligence: First, there is nothing but God; but then, we are separated from Him! How can this be?!

Well, paradox and contradiction did not keep physicists to develop quantum physics which is a very successful science though it will always appear paradoxical to our mind. What seems paradoxical in one level of reality resolves itself into unity in a higher level of reality. God is paradox-free.

How can a shadow understand the object of which it is a shadow?!

We ask: If God is everything, then how can we be separated from Him? Well, from the point of view of God, a contradiction in terms since God is absolute and owns all points of views at once, there is no such thing as separation; even our existence is only a pure possibility for God and never a concrete reality, much similar to the way dream characters are real relative to one another but only subconscious possibilities relative to the dreamer.

God is everything and yet we are separated from Him! But this is not really a paradox since the two situations cannot be realized simultaneously: The second condition follows if and only if the first condition is not fully satisfied, or realized if you will. We feel separated from God as long as we don’t truly believe that He is everything; but once we have realized that God is everything, then we won’t feel any separation; our separation too is nothing but God himself appearing as void.

Our feeling of separation is not a result of God’s absence but an adverse effect of an acute case of forgetfulness: The Fall is nothing but a fall into forgetfulness. Forgetfulness is the original sin; salvation and return to His bosom is a possibility always in the here and now, something immediately realized once we realize He is all that there is, that I am Him, my thoughts and feelings, my pain and suffering, my hopes and worries, my joy and happiness, are all Him and nothing but Him. Then we cease to fight, for any fight would be a fight with Him, a fight with our own being. True surrender is the most intelligent decision we can ever make.

A concise way of articulating our relationship with God is this:

My being is God’s knowing 

Truth & Reality

World is not something in which we act and think. World is what we think and how we act. The habit of the modern mind, thanks to the reign of scientific worldview, is to assume that world, as a determinate structure, is there before we come to it. But isn’t this thesis itself something somehow arrived at by the mind?!

What is is what it is depending on who we are and how we look in its direction. Things are the way they are because of the way we confront them. To say that reality exists independently of our apprehension of it is itself only a way of confronting reality. What we find in the world depends on our methods of investigation. Or, truth is a function of method. And method is the fixing of values and interests serving a predetermined goal.

That modern science cannot find anything non-physical in the universe is simply because the scientific method was defined and designed from the very beginning to disregard the metaphysical and pick only the physical. When you decide to explore the world using only your hands you will discover all that is tactile but you won’t discover sound, smell, taste, etc., things which don’t lend themselves to your particular methods of investigation, in this case yours hands. To hear sound one must listen, for no amount of touching can apprehend sound; for those who refuse to listen no sound can ever be known to them.

If science cannot prove the existence of God, and won’t ever, it is simply because science is set out to discover empirical phenomena, phenomena that can be subject to control experiments and mathematical quantification. But God is defined to be that which transcends all empirical qualities and quantities. What we fail to understand about science, and hence give it superior status out of ignorance, is that science is just one among the many ways of confronting reality. Science is just one among the many human traditions that have aimed at understanding reality. Science as tradition is a mode of inquiry in which quantity and inference play the fundamental role, while religious and spiritual traditions choose the path of quality and intuition.The methods by which God is recovered are radically different from the methods of science. It is nothing but intellectual fascism to give the scientific truth absolute superiority and call everything else fiction and superstition, and hence not worthy of having a voice. Truth is the function of method.

What happens in science must stay in science. We should not mix up science and our spiritual intuitions. To use science to justify spiritual truths is like using your hand as a means of listening to music. In order to avoid this fatal trap we must remind ourselves that modern science is just a story we keep repeating to ourselves as if it were the only story. Surely science works and has its own truth, but by no means are its truths superior to spiritual truths, let alone absolute. After all, science is itself only a spiritual possibility for mankind. We found science and made it what it is; how stupid of us is it to let science tell us who we are.

The Grace to Embrace

We must remind ourselves, those of us practicing religion as a means of salvation rather than welfare, that the spiritual life, the life of God, is about God and not us. That we complain so often of our imperfections and the subsequent suffering is a misunderstanding of religion. Perhaps we think that spiritual life is about having a good time, that a good spiritual life is a life of mental and emotional security and perfect devotion. In the face of the slightest suffering we blame ourselves of spiritual failure as if perfection, spiritual or otherwise, was a human possibility!
It is a bad habit of our times, more so in the western hemisphere, that we should think everything is about us and how we feel, that anything that disturbs the emotions has an evil origin unless one sees the visible hand of God. We have a hard time accepting, let alone trusting, that whether we are in suffering or not God is working within and without. We feel that we must know his every move or else we lose faith and find ourselves in despair, as if He owes us an explanation on top of the possibility of salvation offered by grace, as if God has a “Buy one get one for free” business!
We cannot trust in the invisible, thanks to our faulty culture and education; so instead of raising ourselves to God we bring Him down to our own mundane level which is no more Him but a projection of our own desires in one form or another. Our complaint over lack of spiritual perfection is the most destructive of all spiritual imperfections, for it indicates that we pursue the path so to feel good about ourselves; above all it indicates our lack of faith and trust in Him.
The best violins in the world were at once a seemingly useless pieces of wood. That wood has become the masterpiece that it is because it gave itself totally to the hands of a master who chopped and hammered it for thousands of hours. The best architect chooses the material that shows the highest degree of conformity to both the means and the final end of perfection.
Whenever we come to such moments of suffering, the dark nights of the soul, we must think ourselves, if we seek God rather than the self, as deformed souls under the hammer of God who is cutting away our imperfections. And by no means should we think or expect that we are on the way of becoming perfect beings in the face of God, for our perfection is in our non-being before Him: Our salvation is nothing but our annihilation in God.
We must ask of God nothing for ourselves except more consciousness of Himself. And we must remember that each blow of His hammer is a chance of becoming more conscious of Him. God’s hammer is the grace to embrace.

The Cloak of Religious Zeal

Many a times I thought how can one explain to the critics of religion that what lies at the heart of religion, the inward truth of which religion is only an outward expression, has nothing to do with the heinous acts done under a cloak of religious zeal, that such acts are of men oblivious to the principle and not of the principle itself. Never I found a response better than one offered by William Law:

“Would you know whence it is that so many false spirits have appeared in the world, who have deceived themselves and others with false fire and false light, laying claim to information, illumination, and openings of the divine Life, particularly to do wonders under extraordinary calls from God? It is this: They have turned to God without turning from themselves; would be alive to God before they are dead to their own nature. Now religion in the hands of self, or corrupt nature, serves only to discover vices of a worse kind than in nature left to itself. Hence are all the disorderly passions of religious men, which burn in a worse flame than passions only employed about worldly matters; pride, self-exaltation, hatred and persecution, under a cloak of religious zeal, will sanctify actions which nature, left to itself, would be ashamed to own.”

William Law 

The Transcendent Unity of Religions

[Photo is of Mount Damavand in Iran]

The subject is borrowed from the book of the same title, The Transcendent Unity of Religions, by Frithjof Schuon, the principal exponent of the Traditionalist School of comparative religion. The transcendent unity of religions comes from the fact that there is one truth behind all revealed traditions, and that this truth reveals itself within diverse forms so to address the diverse modes of understanding and communication proper to various cultures: The Absolute becomes the relative so that the relative becomes the Absolute. This is the metaphysical mystery of which Perennial Philosophy speaks; it articulates the intrinsic relationship between the Principle and its Manifestation: The Principle being absolute must be transcendent and nondual; being Infinite it must manifest in diverse forms, and hence be at once immanent within its own manifestation. Thus, as the manifestation is always already prefigured in the Principle, the principle too is always reflected in the manifestation. It is from this metaphysical insight that revealed traditions, though diverse, are outward forms of one and the same inward truth: All radii of a circle diverge only in their outward motion but converge to one and the same point in their inward journey toward the center where radii is no more. The goal of religion is not to be a distinguished radius, for all radii are the same relative to the center; the goal is to point toward the center and realize that all radii, being means to an end, exist only insofar as we are not at the center.

The following quote from Lord Northbourne in the book The Underlying Religion is indicative of the immanent diversity and the transcendent unity of religions and emphasizes the necessary function of such diversity.

Paths that lead to a summit are widely separated near the base of the mountain, but they get nearer together as they rise. The wise climber takes the path on which he finds himself and does not worry too much about people on other paths. He can see his path but cannot see theirs properly. He will waste an enormous amount of his own time if he keeps on trying to find another and better path. He will waste other people’s time if he tries to persuade them to abandon theirs, however sure he is that his is the best.