If the term "Sufi" can be appropriated by any non Muslim who calls
himself God, then the word Sufi becomes meaningless.
Sufi practices originated in an Islamic context -- and that context was
highly judgemental, one that placed many obligations upon both believers
and imposed taxes upon non Muslims.
According to Schimmel's Mystical Dimensions of Islam, the earliest Sufis
or proto-Sufis were ascetics in and around some parts of what is now Iraq.
They were troubled by how rapidly Islam was becoming compromised by the new
wealth brought by conquest of the wealthy areas of the Near East and, especially
the territories (Iraq and Iran) once occupied by the Sassanid empire.
Instead of the simple clan life of Arabia, the Muslims were now in cities,
and wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few while many were in poverty.
Troubled by this, the proto Sufis emphasized awareness of G-d, his judgement
and undertook constant remembrance of G-d and avoidance of wealth.
Very centuries later, when neoplatonic teachings filtered into the purview of
Islamic scholars, some forms of Sufism took on theosophical elements derived
from hellenistic and late antique source material.
**These materials have no discussion of 'evolution' in its darwinian connotation.
Only modern theosophies, mostly derived from Helena Blavatsky link spirital
development with evolution.
This is in contrast to the development of universalist 'sufi' orders in the West, many of which were influenced not by a Muslim context, but by a Western
context supported by cosmopolitan Westerners with the leisure, wealth and
interest in Theosophy and New Thought.
By contrast, genuine Islamic Sufism was practiced and propagated by Arabic speaking sailors and other laboreres -- who would have been horrified by
any suggestion that Sufism could justify believe in reincarnation.
To re-iterate, it appears that what we call Sufism developed **in the context** of Islam, which proclaims one G-d, creator of all else, distinct from creation.
And Muhammed is the final prophet.
And in Islam, there is a last judgement. A last judgement every bit as
terrifying at the one postulated within many forms of Christianiy. It was
in this grim context that many Sufis did teach of G-Ds love and mercy--
to balance out the context in which they as Muslims practiced.
If one were to teach as a true Sufi in the West, it would be highly appropriate
to emphasize what G-d demands of us by way of love for neighbor and the need
to restrain one's senses when facing the onslaught of advertising and the many cues to crave what we do not need.
In Islam there is no allowance for reincarnation and the early
forms of sufi practice did not make allowance for reincarnation, either.
Without the escape hatch provided by reincarnation, this left each
person with a heavy obligation to be mindful of religious and social
obligations -- property, business practice, inheritance, right dealing.
Very many precautions were in place to prevent Muslims from turning
Mohammed into an intercessor for them after death.
At most one could pray for the deceased after death and hope G-d would
be merciful. That was all.That
is the context, religious, cultural and ethical, in which what we call 'sufism' developed. Corboy suggests that if one removes sufism from its context, that in the long run it will crumble into a mish mash of new age/new
thought practices, with a few bits of islamicized motifs, clinging here
Sufism took its forms in the context of a religion and culture that
didnt just affirm, but required many things -- and didnt just discourage
but forbade many things. And Sufi lineages developed in parts of the world
where identity was tied to clan, to tribe, and where many gained nicknames
based on either hometown or where they became famous.
Likewise, Chan and Zen Buddhist lineages developed in the context of cultures influenced by householder Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism (China) and Shinto (Japan).
Such an assertion --that one isnt merely, enlightened, isn't merely a saint but is G-d such an assertion would be considered out of bounds in an Islamic context.
To call this out of bounds is to speak circumspectly and politely.
Many devout Muslims, if they heard of someone making such a claim
on his own behalf would reply in horror, "I take refuge in Allah!"
To worship that which has been created by
(a man) as
God -- in the Islamic context, this is considered ***wrong*** and it also violates the fundamentals of Judaism and Christianity
as well. (Thou shalt have no other God before me).
In the context of Hinduism one can get away with claiming oneself to be
G-d -- but sufism did not develop from a Hindu religious/social/cultural
context. Sorry folks.
One cannot turn baseball into football however hard
Unless you into the world of Lewis Carroll and enter the realm of the Red Queen who believed in six impossible things before breakfast.
(Some claim Hallaj, who asserted "I am Truth" (one of the Names of God) was a Sufi, but Muslim Sufis consider Hallaj non representative and marginal. For more on this see Marie Schimmel (The Mystical Dimension in Islam
) and Robert Irwin's Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents
-- see the chapter on Massignon.)
A Side Trip into Theosophy
Modern versions of theosophy which originate from Blavatsky have an element
missing from late antique, Islamic and Renaissance theosophies:
Blavatsky sought to reconcile modern science, and especially the new theory of of evolution, with gnosticism.
When you see evolution slushed together with karma and reincarnation,
teachings that there is such a thing as "spiritual evolution" or "karmic
evolution" up or down the planes of realization, reincarnation as evolution
or devolution -- chances are that whoever is teaching this material
found it in Blavatsky or was inspired by material written by someone
else influenced by Blavatsky.
Blavatsky and Leadbeater travelled to India. They defended the traditional
religions of Asia. Even if a particular guru claims there is no smell of truthfulness in theosophy, see whether he or she uses concepts from Blavatskian
theosophy -- such as spiritual evolution, or claims that evolution is
a shedding of karmic or samskaric influences.
One will not find this in Sufi teachings, which if these include themes from
thesophy, will not describe the human soul as evolving.
In Islam there is a final judgement, not reincarnation.
And perhaps as a byproduct of one life, one final judgement, in Islam
as in Judaism and Christianity, there is a concern for righteous behavior
in this life, and accountability to God's judgement after death.
One does not have reincarnation as an escape hatch -- unless in systems
considered utterly beyond the pale by all pious Muslims, Sufi and non
Other derivatives of Blavatskian theosophy will speak of 'ascended masters'.
A variation of Blavatskian theosophy even developed within a Zoroastrian context, by one Behram Shroff who claimed to have been tutored by hidden masters, then revealed his teaching, Ilm i Khushnoom, offering to reconnect
Indian Zoroastrians with the actual hidden meaning of their own prayers
Religions of Iran: From Prehistory to the PresentFrom Prehistory to the Present Richard Foltz ... more eclectic shape in the mid-
twentieth century with the teaching of popular guru Meher Baba (1894–1969).
Meher Baba presumed to call himself Sufi, but though he associated with
dervishes, he did not himself practice Islam, and by calling himself Avatar
forfeited all claim to be a true Sufi -- at least to any person who cares
about distinctions. He also maintained a Dhuni, a fire, not part of any sufi practice whatsover.
And...so if matters have come to pass that the term Sufi can be used to mean anything and be appropriated by a non Muslim who commits blasphemy by calling himself God, then the word Sufi has become meaningless.
"Sufism today is a name without a reality that was once a reality without a name."
According to Madame Blavatsky, the doctrines of theosophy rest on three fundamental propositions. The first postulates an omnipresent, boundless, and immutable principle that transcends human understanding. It is the one unchanging reality, or infinite potentiality, inherent in all life and covers all that humans have tried to say about God. The second deals with the universality of the law of periodicity recorded by science as found in all nature.
As morning, noon, and night are succeeded by morning again, so birth, youth, adulthood, and death are succeeded by rebirth. Reincarnation is the process of human development, in which all growth is governed by the law of justice or Karma. The third proposition declares the fundamental identity of all souls with the universal Over-Soul, suggesting that brotherhood is a fact in nature, and the obligatory pilgrimage for every soul through numerous cycles of incarnation.
Theosophy admits of no privileges or special gifts in humans except those won by effort and merit. Perfected individuals and great teachers, such as Buddha, Jesus, and the mahatmas, are universal beings, the flower of evolution.
There are Sufis who have a theosophical bent, but these are from centuries ago (Dhu l Nun-Misri, Suhrawardi, Al-Arabi) and many consider their position controversial--or at least to be taught and studied with caution, and always with firm attention to Sharia.
For a classic and reliable introduction to Sufi praxis (among many) begin with
Al-Qushayri's Epistle on Sufism: Al-Risala al-qushayriyya fi 'ilm al-tasawwuf (Great Books of Islamic Civilization) Paperback – October 1, 2007
Amazon.com: Al-Qushayri's Epistle on Sufism: Al-Risala al ...Written in 437/1045, Al-Qushayri's Epistle on Sufism has served as a primary
textbook for many generations of Sufi novices, down to the present. The book
www.amazon.com/Al-Qushayris-Epistle-Sufism-al-qushayriyya.../ 1859641865 - 294k - Cached - Similar pages
Finally, for a good guide on what it means to enter the world ruled
by gurus here's this, courtesy of Lewis Carrol:
'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'
'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'
'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'
(Corboy: Another thing rides on this: Who is to be master. )
Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. 'They've a temper, some of them — particularly verbs: they're the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'
'Would you tell me please,' said Alice, 'what that means?'
'Now you talk like a reasonable child,' said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. 'I meant by "impenetrability" that we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stop here all the rest of your life.'
(Corboy note this: Alice asks Humpty Dumpty what his statement means. She is looking to him for further teaching. It is then that he praises her for being
'reasonable'. Alice isnt just requesting information -- she is requesting information from *him* -- after Humpty Dumpty has violated rules of logic and confused her. )
'That's a great deal to make one word mean,' Alice said in a thoughtful tone.
'When I make a word do a lot of work like that,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'I always pay it extra.'
(Corboy: Go and read Nicholai Grozhni's memoir Turtle Feet and his descriptions
of the word games thrown at him by his arrogant and contemptuous logic professor. The ones who went to India should have read Alice in Wonderland.
Many gurus and soi disant avatars had good British educations and might well
have learned Alice in Wonderland--and then used the tricks to great effect
when dealing with the vulnerable people who visited their ashrams._
Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 09/08/2014 11:32PM by corboy.