Mysticism: What does Mysticism look like today? (part two)

Good afternoon and welcome Today we have three remarkable speakers who will be introducing the topic of what mysticism looks like today in the three faith traditions

I will introduce them in the order they are going to speak first, |I'm very disorganized Rabbi Cohen we're very blessed to have her Rabbi Cohen is the rabbi at Temple Shalom, the reform Jewish synagogue here

she is also an associate rabbi at Temple Sinai in Toronto from 2001-2008 where she was involved in all aspect of congregational life in 2008 to the present, she has been a teacher of tanakh and Jewish history at Tenenbaum CHAT, She was hired as the first woman rabbi in a previously orthodox-dominated school She has also continued her public work as a part-time rabbi at temple shalom in Waterloo Rabbi Cohen _________ for the people of all ages from a broad spectrum of the Jewish community and interfaith community next speaker is

this is terrible I was too boy copying things Dr

Douglas Forest, professor in the department of psychology at the University of Toronto and member of st James Anglican Church in Stratford he is past chair of the music committee of cultural affairs at the University of Toronto Scarborough and he is a member of the Emanuel Academy and his current interests include a collaborative study exploring the nature of happiness his primary interests is poetry and he's been working on a long term project of translating Hungarian 20th century mystic poet Sandor Weores Last but not least, Shiraz Sheikh, who holds a specialist degree in middle eastern and Islamic studies and a masters degree in Islamic history with a focus on modern Arabic religious movements currently, he is a PhD candidate, almost done, in the field of Arabic intellectual history at the University of Toronto

His presentation is on the life and times of the first Ottoman Grand Mufti, Mohammed Tahir al-Husayni for the last 7 years, he has been teaching a course on the history of Islamic studies in the department of history at York University This year, we're really blessed to have him teach a course for us here at Renison as well He is teaching 'Islam in the West' course as an adjunct faculty member Please join me in welcoming all three distinguished speakers

We look forward to a wonderful session All of you should also have handouts all three of our wonderful speakers have given us something else to work with they're all with your packages Welcome Rabbi

good afternoon thank you to Idrisa and Daniel in Marylin for inviting me to speak this afternoon |I've given you a handout and through a handout we're gonna go through and stop at certain points in my talk I mean introduce you to a text and each one hopefully will be a little bit of a window into Jewish mysticism in a way that it's practiced some I'm going to jump in and hopefully you were here to hear Bob Chodas the last time and have a little bit a background if not hopefully you can catch up Kabbalah is one strand of Judaism that has spanned our history from ancient biblical times to the present day it's rooted in the biblical and early rabbinic periods of visions and speculations on the nature of the divine it began with esoteric interpretations of the creation story _________ the beginning of creation and the coming into existence of a material world created by the divine it continued with descriptions of God in Ezekiel's vision that the divine chariot and the throne of glory known as ___________ and _______ mysticism, visions of the divine throne and Palace it was an intellectual way of trying to probe the divine mysteries of our interaction with God and eventually what it means for redemption of the world with the Zohar that was written down in the 13th century in its description at the Sephiroth the divine emanations it attained a fully systematic explanation through symbols of the heavenly and earthly realms with Isaac Luria we have the concept that each Jew is individually responsible for bringing harmony to the world and even to the divine itself and that was the first text is the picture of the divine sephirot that was developed with Isaac Luria and the Zohar this intellectual stream of Kabbalah was both bold and radical in its symbolism and its suggestion that human beings can even influence God but it was also a conserving factor within Judaism because it never strayed far from the intention to follow God's laws as given to us in the Torah and interpreted by the rabbis so with both the flight of fancy for the mind while a stabilizing force for our physical attention to detail and our interaction with the world and each other unlike other mystical traditions, Jewish mysticism and especially the fully formed versions as found in the Zohar and Isaac lauria discouraged asceticism and promoted the profound idea that the minutiae of daily living has significance and meaning on a cosmic level

so again I just refer to you to the sephirot here in this first text and you can see how it begins with the keter which is also known as ein sof all these have different kinds of names different symbols connected to them so it becomes quite an advanced system ________ in its plain form at times this knowledge with kept hidden from the average person or until someone had achieved a certain age in understanding a traditional text the Midrashic story I'm sure that Bob might've told last week about the four rabbis who tried to enter pardes did you tell that story? Pardes is a synonym for heaven or god's realm 1 went crazy one became a heretic one died and only one rabbi Akiva returned b'Shalom in peace and whole going along with that idea that it really was something that was quite dangerous at the beginning we have something |I've given you- a Midrash on the bet which is the first letter of the Torah scroll and the first line and it's an enlarged letter and so one of the traditions that grew up around it in regards to a mystical study was the question with that's why did God begin the Torah with a bat and not an aleph, the first letter of the alphabet and so in Genesis ______ it says just as the letter bat is enclosed on three sides but open to the front we are not permitted to investigate what is above in the heavens what is be low what happens after we die and what is before what happened before creation but we are to maintain ourselves with in this world so that was the warning for those that took up the study of Kabbalah but at times it has held its intellectual place alongside the greatest rabbisand halakhas those who set the Jewish law into code there was no conflict than within great halakhas like the Gaon of Vilna and Josef Karo these men and many others were able to integrate detailed commandments of everyday life with the spiritual cleaving to God so this is why the study of Kabbalah was never seem to be a threat to mainstream Judaism

what one believed was never as important as the physical actions that one did the the two streams then, mystical and ritual, were able to coexist this makes a Jewish mysticism very different than I believe other forms of religious mysticism where the clashes seems to occur today are between those seen as the professional and academic studies of Kabbalah and those the practice specific Kabbalistic rituals like prostrating themselves on the graves of the righteous, the wearing of amulets, (I picked my Jewelry today on purpose) and exercising of ____ posessing spirits these are often seen within the academic world of mystical study as primitives then or charlatans in the 17th century there arose a man named Sabbatai Zevi a self-proclaimed and promoted Messiah this greatly affected the Jewish communities in such a profound way that when he was finally seen as a fraud it left people with hope and they were completely distraught without hope in the 18th century in the Ukraine and Poland a new understanding of Judaism arose called Hasidism by the founder the Baal Shem Tov or master of the good name he was known for his mystical trances his utter joy in God's presence and as encouragement to the common person that they could enter God's presence through joy and devekut, clinging to God these events which |I've only just named made the Jewish establishment of Eastern Europe weary of anything new anything that would lead people away from the tradition at the same time in Western Europe during the Enlightenment 18th and early 19th centuries many Jewish leaders were embarrassed by Kabbalah and mystical approaches to the tradition

it was seen as an obstacle to progress and contrary to their rationalist approach to the world during this time the study of Kabbalah was concentrated in the Hasidic communities of Eastern Europe and therefore seen as an impediment to entering the modern age full of superstitions and practiced by those who look like they came from a previous age it was viewed as an enigma to modern Judaism that was a really brief little jog through those historical periods we come to the question of what is then contemporary Kabbalah and why after the time of the Enlightenment was it revived to point where almost every Jewish synagogue and community today has incorporated elements of mysticism into its practice and rituals the first there are only a few communities our congregations where Kabbalah is the major expression but it often appears as of the resources by individuals or communities who come together for spiritual purposes in the twentieth century there are many things happening in the culture at large that enabled a revival and the popularization of Kabbalah so we think I have the feminist movement, the New Age movement, anti-establishment protest and then the academic study and Jewish mysticism and all four of these helped to bring it into popular use with the rise of feminism all religions were being forced to respond issues of quality and the role of the female in male-dominated theisms

the depiction then of the shekhina, as developed in the Kabbalah of the Zohar and Luria expressed a feminine aspect of God and this help to balance the patriarchal _______ and depiction of God and masculine roles such as King and judge and if you see that the lowest sephirot, or emination one of the names for mahud or kingdom is also shekhina, which is the feminine indwelling presence of God the new age or renewal movement in North America infused Kabbalistic symbols and Hebrew letters into their poetry and artwork there were there's artwork known as savitas, pictures that are composed of Hebrew letters and they became very popular meditation and alternative services were offered by New Age rabbis like Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and meditation and musical chants were brought into the mainstream by Shlomo Carlebach and they saw these as ways to draw in young people back to Judaism so if you will go with me for a second, I'm just gonna do a little bit up like I what's called a ______ which is really a song without words and it's the type of thing that started to become very popular in the seventies and that and their way up meditating through these _____ so I just going to like I'm and you can see that the kind of a chant that just keeps repeating itself over and over again and that you can kind of get yourself into another state of consciousness through it so many young people then of the sixties and seventies were leaving their communities to search out mystical traditions in Asia we found this was very true love certainly young Israelis as well as Jewish people in North America they were criticizing their elders for their stanch believes in the physical structure of religious life the large buildings that needed to be maintained and seemed hollow in their spirituality they rebelled against institutional religion and they were looking for something with more spiritual depth and the other factor that brought Kabbalah into the mainstream was done through the work of Gershon Sholem he was an academic born in Germany who moved to Israel in the 1920s and he spent his life tracing the history of Jewish mysticism and documenting through meticulous research the symbols and beliefs that traveled through text and practice from one historic Jewish community to another he also looked at the influence of other religious traditions on the development of Kabbalah and so soon universities were investing finances into Jewish Studies departments and the academic study of Kabbalah helped to revive it for both serious study as well as the way to connect to others across the religious spectrums by the 1990s we were seeing a growing awareness of Kabbalah in the public awareness outside of the Jewish community so everybody's heard of Madonna and the red string, things like that so what does Kabbalah offer in our world today and why is that become so popular Jody Myers in her essay 'Kabbalah at the turn of the 21st century' describe 6 aspects of Kabbalah that appeal to our contemporary world these are not new questions and perspectives but they fit within our post modern sensibilities she said it's an alternative understanding of God and the cosmos it offers a new approach to the study of sacred texts it offers another interpretation and mode of prayer it meshes with our understanding of science and endows science with the spiritual component it provides an optimistic view of the world and the importance of our human role and it helps to explain the existence of evil so these were the 6 things that she thought made it interesting and useful for us today so I wanna go through a little bit of what each of those might be so in terms of an alternative understanding of got in the cosmos Kabbalah has cultural value because it is seen as the anti-establishment and spiritual

so red string, _____, tree of life and other popular and superstitious forms of mysticism started to become popular but beyond these popular expressions we see a complex system of understanding the divine in the sephirot so the sephirot can be seen as complex and dynamic ways of expressing the divine it's seen as both limitless, infinite, unknowable but also as attributes of god and of human aspiration the symbols of sephirot provide a spiritual outlook in which the divinity in the sacred are not distant and transcendent but also imminent an indwelling it gives a wider variety of images than the traditional masculine hierarchical theism god as judge or king Kabbalah is non authoritarian shekhina is the feminine attribute of God one that is called upon in healing acknowledging the phases of the Moon seasons of the year was an ancient concept that appealed to the modern person _____ Samuelson in her article 'gender and Jewish mysticism' notes the rich and multi interpretations of the feminine aspects of the Kabbalah she cherishes the open-ended possibilities for interpretation of material when she says, and this is a quote from her

if we allow the mystery of language and the power of the textual tradition to do their enchanting work on earth we may be able to survive the challenges of contemporary science and its complementary technology in which only one interpretation is feasible and only one reading true against the shallow vision a reality Kabbalah offers us it's multiple call infinite never-ending interpretive imagines have a linguistic written richness that makes us humans created in the image of God so in that way it gives a are richer way of understanding of God and the cosmos and it also offers then a new approach to Scripture so it's a non literal approach and a level of secret or esoteric knowledge the Zohar explains that God's Word it's like a beautiful maiden,s clothed and veiled the body one of the things that I brought for you in text number three then is again this first line from that Torah most of us know it is as ' just in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth' but I will show you what the Zohar's interpretation of that is and that is ______ t which is the second sephirot also the gevurah or power sephirot the Godhead created Elohim which was the third sephirot, binah, or understanding and then Tiferet is the heavens and shekhina, the earth so we have this sense of the unfolding at the emanations then of god within that first few words at the Torah according to the Zohar, the sephirot were already expressed in the written Torah and it was only revealed and the interpretations then of the Kabbalah so each person today studying Torah appreciates that there's this multi-level approach and its expressed in this concept of pardea which |I've given you with text 4 pardes is the word actually not even hebrew in origin which means orchard it's found in _____, the song of Songs I'm and each letter then stands for a way of understanding the sacred text so the pay the first letter stands for peshot which is the simple our little understanding the rames is the hint at something deeper idros is a Midrash or story homily on the text that teaches an ethical lesson and then there's sod which is the secret or mystical understanding of the text and so we approached text we consider say which level are we looking to see this through and understanding than that every every piece of text has this sod level a Kabbalistic practice from the 15th century in Israel has become mainstream today it's called tikun al shavuot in the the Kabbalist understanding, this tikun or fixing was like the ceremony of the _______ unveiling of the bride before the night of the great wedding on Mount Sinai and today we say that we stay awake all night up of the holiday you might know as Pentecost so that we are awake and ready to receive the Torah again in terms of opening up an alternative form of worship, I wanted to serve put it within perspective a couple of the prayers and and the way we see things in our prayer book in the ____ sidur which is the mainstream orthodox sidur are there are Kabbalistic interpretations alongside all of the are more traditional commentaries with all the prayers and then before many of the ritual things that actually _________ for the sake of the unification of the Holy One blessed be He in its presence the shekhina in awe and love to unify the name _____ with the ______ in perfect unity in the name of all Israel and then it says I'm ready to fulfill the commandment of love and then what it might be putting on tefillin are tallit so this comes with the belief that our words of prayer and rituals or perhaps significant beyond the individual, that in the perfect fulfillment of the requirements comes a shift in the fabric of the universe and in fact in God's own self, that we're actually unifying God by doing certain rituals another example where we see it reflected in our _________ prayer on where we literally imitate the Angels that surround God's throne of glory it's expressed in _______ mysticism this is a text from the book of Isaiah and one of the lines, the line of the Hebrew text says they that we say before god and that we imitate the angel standing up and we rise up like angels as we say kadish kadish kadish where we are surrounding God's throne of glory contemporary interpreters of Kabbalah drop on older teaching with to describe prayer and mitzvot then as vehicles for connecting to the upper world infusing one's life with the power of the sacred and for restoring the world to its harmonious balance in there fifth idea that sort of connected to you then science I think |I've got about five minutes okay in some way that we see that the the ein sof that the the wheel or thought that preceded anything in creation anything in our material world seems to also work along with sort of our modern theories like the Big Bang Theory, the idea that the universe came out about almost nothing or nothing and exploded it actually fits within the idea of the sephirot as well and Lurianic Kabbalah Kabbalah and psychology also kinda mesh because it has the belief that humans are created in the image of God and that we strive to have the characteristics of God and so we often see this overlay of the human being over top at the sephirot and that each of the sephirot represent an attribute of God like compassion or knowledge then we are trying to be like that so it encourages us to work on ourselves in our own characteristics another way taken from the Kabbalistic tradition is this concept of Tashlich at Rosh Hashana, we actually stand by a body of water and with symbolically throwaway our sins

and I it comes from the idea that on Rosh Hashana we drink from the well of salvation, renewing ourselves and turning the death energy of our sins towards life which is written by Arthur Wasco it helps us to create a positive outlook that our behavior matters in the world that we can do something to bring more harmony to the world and one of my students actually expressed it this way that he was told in and his synagogue that every time he as a child does a mitzvah, something that they are commanded to do by tradition that their actually laying another stone in God's Palace in the heavens above so it's a very concrete idea obviously that we don't take literal value but the idea that what we do down here on earth changes something in God's realm I am okay I think I'm gonna have to just wrap up now on okay I am I wanna read to you a quote from one of my colleagues rabbi Elaine Glickman she wrote about shabbat and shabbat is the seventh day, our daily of rest and what she's said is we can experience the Messiah every week by observing shabbat according to Jewish tradition God intends the weekly show not merely as rest not merely as religious obligation but is a foretaste of redemption in the spirit of shabbat, Judaism teaches I the joy and peace of the messianic age shabbat rituals and ceremonies expressly foreshadow the days of deliverance the elaborate dinner parallels the feast of the righteous the shunning of work corresponds to the era's endless serenity in abundance and the prayers and songs herald the time when also shall know the Divine Presence at the messianic shabat lekhah dodi urges come with me to greet shabbat for ever a fountain a blessing awake awake your light has come forget your sorrow, quiet your groans as a bridegroom rejoices in his beloved your God takes joy in you how marvelous and so how do we seek a balance between our rational selves and our acceptance of the unknown faith itself cannot be logically explained and I think that every religious person then has to maintain at least a spark of mysticism i'll do one little text with you I gave you I text 8 just to show you something else that the Kabbalists play with and that is the idea that letters and numbers have significant and that you learn values through them so if we look at the Hebrew word for our house, it has three letters, the bet, the yov and the tod which together in grammatria adds up to 412 and the word mikdash, which means a sacred place has letters that add up to number 444 so we ask what is the difference then between an ordinary house and a sacred place and the differences 32 which spells the word heart lev you just listened to Blake's poem the lamb set to music by Sir John Tavener who passed away on the 12th of November of this year Tavener was one of the few contemporary composers who sincerely and methodically endeavored to compose music in a manner consistent with the mystical core of the Christian tradition such an approach to art is concerned as much with method as it is with conten

t let me begin with the extended quote from Tavener that you have I believe in front of you I think in the end intuition teaches us everything, leave the universities of the world and go into the desert so say the fathers I'm speaking about metaphysical intuition the only way still unexplored by our modernist hell first of all one has to say we know nothing and from that abyss we must abandon all preconceived ideas whether it be surrealism, sonata form, fugue, cannon and so on and get rid of them all so that one has nothing left in one's mind to begin with it feels like an abyss this does of course presuppose that one believes in some kind of my reality but even if not let the younger composer try to forget everything that he or she knows just to see what happens if it is just silence then OK if it is just one or two but all notes okay but I guarantee that if one continues with this, gradually a music starts to form inside one and who knows we may start to realize that another kind of reality does after all exist the key notions and the above quote are relevant to any human activity it describes a way of doing a method a way that is traditionally referred to as mystical we will return to the implications of this quote from Tavener but first let's look at another somewhat older quote concerning knowing or understanding daunting in book two or in Chapter 1 of book two of his convivial tells us how to read his divine comedy allow me to paraphrase from the passage for dante the complete poem like a sacred text is written and thus can be read at four levels the first is the surface level where the words are taken literally for example the musical instrument is a liar, is a liar and there's nothing more than a liar, the musical instrument that is the second level decide if the allegorical he resides the first hidden level ovid through his story of orpheus taming the wild beasts with his liar symbolized how wise men with their voices can make hard hearts grow tender the third level of meaning is the moral the poems homeletics or practical lessons in the gospel we discovered that when Christ ascends the mountain to be transfigured of the twelve apostles he took with him but three

one meaning of which is that in matters of great secrecy we should have few companions the fourth and the ultimate level is the anagogical the esoteric the mystical level beyond the discursive at this level we have contact with the supernal or eternal truth that is the ground for and is reflected in the other three dimensions dante tries to give the sensitive this when he says this may be seen in of song of the prophet which says that when the people with israel went out of Egypt judea was made whole and free for although it is true according to the letter that which is spiritually pointed at is no less true when the soul casts off sin it is made whole and free at this level words fail and meaning can only be perceived or intuited even dante's description of being free of sin and made whole is only pointing at something that must be grasped something between the words and beyond the words yet related to the words like for Tavener where the real music is heard within the silences between the notes such perception is perception with the heart not the eye the heart is not a physical heart nor does it refer to a motion it must be stressed that the four levels are not independent mutually exclusive for they form a single hole we can see the divine meaning, the fourth level as the center radiating out to the circumference of the circle which is where the literal and material is found or we can view the center as the literal and material level that is a concentration of the divine that surrounds and infuses all other levels the idea of levels of textile meaning did not arise with Dante nor his time these four levels that Dante describes can be directly traced back to to the Judaic tradition's four ways of reading a sacred text the shot, the plane or the literal Rameez the allegorical the Roush the homeletic and the sof, the mystical explicit discussions of the necessity of understanding sacred texts that all four levels can be seen in Christian commentaries from the 2nd century to modern times from origin through Gregory the Great up through henri de Luboc in 1959 in France unfortunately within the Christian tradition today this manner of knowing is operative primarily but not exclusively among members a certain artistic and comparative religion groupings let us now turn to the topicof mysticism in today's Christian Church among Christians there might well be an increased interest in what loosely may be called mysticism for reasons that have already been mentioned beginning in the 1960s but I'm not convinced that all forms of popular mysticism relate to the tradition furthermore from the perspective of the church although there is no single proclamation from thank you very much just in case from what I read or hear mysticism is often looked upon with skepticism and at times with derision I must say the times understandably so when the form taken is clearly unconnected to the Christian tradition when Christian mysticism is tolerated it often appears to be just that tolerated and considered to be a quaint addon rather than the heart of the religion

there are always although there are always been tensions between Exoteric and esoteric dimensions of Christianity the almost total disconnect is a relatively new phenomenon two hundred years frankly this is in large part the outcome of compromises the church made starting centuries ago to be more acceptable to modern society since the Renaissance, the enlightenment, the reformation, the counter-reformation and we can go on, rationalism along with the myth of progress have come to dominate more and more our philosophies, theologies and every day saw time becomes linear rather than cyclical and the empirical search for so-called historical facts has largely supplanted enlightening myths with the triumph of rationalism and scientism being the only permissible ways of knowing in today's society not only has the veil been torn asunder but so has creation the tearing of the veil came to me not only that anyone could have access to the mysteries but in fact there are no mysteries merely a lack of historical information, knowledge and reasoning and knowledge concerning the meaning of life and God can be acquired through human reason alone without the aid of divine revelation from the modern perspective what cannot be known either through the sense perception or reason is deemed unknowable and if it exists is open only to speculation we now live under the reign of dualism as a consequence of this fact versus meaning facts are deemed objective and meaning is deemed subjective all interpretations and sacred texts become either obvious, literal even if we are reading translations all of which are questionable or interpretation is merely a matter opinion most people think that because they are familiar with the grammar of the language in which the text is written that they automatically understand the text, a set of instructions for putting IKEA furniture together another deadly dualism is Martha verses Mary

if we remember the story doing is deemed objective and practical contemplation is subjective marry like the Sabbath is reduced to be merely a time of rest recharging our batteries that will allow us to get back out there at it rather than Mary being the heart and the soul that understands and guides practical activity remember Mary is the best part without Mary, Martha can go off doing whatever she thinks is right and will likely be guided by whatever by whatever is currently fashionable in whichever section of modern secular society she moves we must be in the world but not of the world simply put without a guiding mystical core, without a deep understanding of our Christian tradition to critique and to inform civil society than any secular idea in value can influence Christian thought theology and practice and reduce us to the level the Social Club trying to put bums in pews this is also a consequence of the myth of progress new theology must be improved and happiness like building jerusalem based on more cars, more fun, better wine, a longer life, and my will along with satanic Mills goes unchallenged his will is reserved for one prayer once a week

Blake referred to this as the sickness of Albion personified in ourism are modernist heroes bacon, Newton and locke the church's traditional rites and rituals such as many associated with the Eucharist lose their meaning and power and come to be discarded as merely stage plays or even superstitions the depth of the mass or the service is being flattened out unfortunately the reaction and the defensive traditional rites and practices all too frequently themselves take negative forms you think that my candle lighting is superstitious my defensive candle lighting often becomes superstitious, moralizing and idolatrous, the other side the dualistic calling descent into dualism have played a central role in every schism in the church and dualism is at the heart the current social political arguments and power struggles that plagued the current church over the past century Christian mystics and those who have been interested in Christian mysticism have recognized the trap and the consequences of dualism

in the english-speaking world they would range from Evelyn Underhill to James Finley and many others the cure of a third term this frequently professed to be the mystical solution but the solution itself can be a former dualism thesis antithesis synthesis sometimes described as two contraries is and then both coming together there is nothing that is necessarily mystical nor Christian in this they can be the dialectics of the 19th century German rationalist Hagel a Christian dialectic is Trinitarian in nature and based on the unity of the Father the son and the Holy Ghost with the rationalist dialectic, the third term is a product of two contrariess over time the Trinitarian thinking the whole is composed have complimentaries that are essential and eternal, not temporal the Unity is not the product of human thought or activity

the third term the Holy Ghost is the binding light that is constantly circulating and maintaining the one San Augustine is often misunderstood because he's always read by dualist and seen on one hand this or on the other hand that knew how to think in Trinitarian terms at all levels of understanding father son Holy Ghost being wisdom life the faults' dualism of lover and beloved of God in creature is overcome by the Spirit of loving knower and known her moments have knowing there's always only one the mystical notion of knowing God or spiritual union was, is and ever shall be a resting in that undivided eternal Trinity and then returning to anxiously engage in an illusory and divided temple world Saint Augustine said our hearts will always be anxious our activities will always be anxious until we rest in you let us return toTavener's way of making and Dante's way of understanding to examine how the mystical dimension might aid in the healing and in the development of Christianity we need to escape dualism as much as possible first our doing in understanding needs to be grounded in Revelation and in intuition not sense perception alone it provides limited information, it is very perspectival not in reason alone

it is limited by its assumptions 2 – leave the universities of the world we need to bracket our ideas and prejudices we need to die we need to eliminate as much up our particular self and ego as possible we need to look for God's will in God's truth this does not mean we don't study sacred texts or learn from those who came before us but these are more audible once we reduce the noise of our prejudices and desires and go into that inner desert our modernist hell is a meaningless music in a meaningless life, a life of distraction entertainment and where meaning can be confabulated and distorted for someone self-centered purposes purposes which all too often have ended up damaging creation which includes our bodies souls and spirits eliminating our desires and modern distractions presupposes that one believes to be able to let go we need to have faith in a safety net if nothing else there must be the first verses Genesis upon which all the old the New Testament are an elaboration or if you wish the opening poem of the Gospel of John because we are all made in God's image this is number five by the way the divine truth and beauty are there to be found in all this if we let go and open the eyes of our heart and if we persevered a music may start to form inside of us this takes time this doesn't happen overnight either individually or collectively when reading sacred texts and traditional exegesis we must begin with the literal we can only move beyond that level to the extent that we can lose ourselves and allow the taxed to awaken the truth that is already there within us this is not easy home I'm reminded of will's journey visions and dreams in Langlands Piers Plowman it's not even a step-by-step when we move forward the process is irregular it's two steps forward

it's one steps backwards its I think |I've got it now and now I don't and |I've lost it and |I've something comes to me a revelation a dream and I proceed again think I will end at this I'm getting close anyway I think I'll end it with the quote at this time as well, a brief one from Pascal who said all of our problems are related to the fact that we human beings find it difficult to sit alone in a quiet room and do nothing for one hour thank you um I have to be honest when I first read the theme of this talk, i was a bit challenged and perplexed as to how I would approach it Sufism as an important dimension to Islamic practice has histirically come in many forms so to say that one group of Sufis are more traditional than the other is to oversimplify the issue so therefore we have decided to, in my talk anyways, discuss various ways in which Sufism can be viewed or perceived so i'll categorize them in three views and perceptions which I will reveal to you one at a time the first way to view Sufism is to accept it as a valid dimension of Islam this view was expounded by doctor Gionatti's talk at our last gathering in which he discussed Sufism as part of three dimensions

you have the first dimension with the which is Islam which can be understood as the exoteric elements the religion like the the Sharia or the five pillars and whatnot the second I mention that doctor gionotti spoke of iman which was faith and you can put the various theological schools and creedal elements within that category and then he spoke about the third category which was ihsan which can be translated the as excellence but this dimension is what the Sufis tend to grab onto as a way to explain their role in Islam now historically there has always been a tension between the various accepted modes of Sufism by certain piety minded thinkers just as there was tension in the other dimensions in Islam within Islam, you have various modes of legal understandings and then you have the various schools and they're always a time vying with one another and sometimes in a spirit of cooperation, other times not so much in the same dimension if iman, you also see this tension with the various schools of theology and kalam which is the Arabic word for theology and so you also see it within ihsan or Sufism for example some Sufis may consider the use of music and dance by others to be incorrect and misguided the prohibition against music and dance has its roots in Islamic tradition and would maintained by many important scholars and interpreters so you may find action people who follow a type of Sufism where they may adhere to stance where music and dance is considered to be inappropriate or excessive and so they might criticize others who may feel that Dance and music is an integral part of Sufi practice so you might see some little tensions there so there is a wide spectrum of practice among Sufis so to say that one is more tradition than the other is can be a little bit eluding you can't however talk about elite versus folk or elite Classical versus maybe vernacular understanding of Sufism

but in the end game they are still part of Islam Sufis who consider themselves orthodox – and I hate using that word but justifying a word that I can screen to so pardon me for using that – just to hone in on those who followed the ideas of the three dimensions that I talked about remain highly critical toward those who the considered to be too exoteric or literal so regardless of where Sufi stood they always had a critical approach toward those who might just stick to the letters of the law who over-legalized the religion now this could take various forms some of them would except the legal tenets of Islam but would criticize people for being too legal, for being too excessive in their understanding which they thought could blind someone from the real reality is obvious long and then on the opposite end the spectrum you have antinomianists who outright reject the law completely now those groups were rare but did exist traditionally in in in the history of Islamic civilization

you find examples of those groups and then you'll have those who were accepting of the legal tradition but found a particular joy in pushing the envelope a bit so those Sufis are referred to as the followers on the path of blame and so what they like to do is to draw the ire of the legalists towards them I'm a Muslim – born a Muslim, grew up as a Muslim, but was born in Caanda so I was raised in Toronto I did not encounter Sufism until much later in my life I did not see it as being something part of my religion for me Islam was a simply going to mosque on Fridays, we had Eid, there were 30 days where we fast, we can't eat bacon that was really the extent of my religious experience it was not until that I entered university that I began to discover this aspect of ihsan and was shocked but also concerned even though I was part of the tradition, i was locked out of it for so long and this had to do with certain developments in the Muslim world and also with it coming over here so Sufism has this unique experience where it has a tenuous relationship right now and hopefully in my talk I'll try to explain why that is as i said before, we can talk about classical elite forms of Sufism for some folk forms to fathom over time within the elite form of Sufism, we can detect a type of classical refined Sufi practice within Islamic civilizations

this begins to take place around the twelfth and thirteenth century okay where the legalists and theologians try to reconcile aspects of Sufism with what they consider to be mainstream Islam so you start to see the formulation a classical form of Sufism these Sufis accepted legal elements of Islam but they felt that they had a deeper insight into the inner meanings of that practice one i example i give to my students, an analogy I have a younger brother – younger, smarter, brother our mother who we trust and admire and love has always told us that you don't touch the part on the stove because its hot, you'll burn yourself now I being a very devoted and loving and obedient son have always accepted that i take my mother's word as truth that the part is hot and thankfully |I've never burned my fingers and touched the pot my younger smarter brother however not so much you know what, I'm pot

he touched the pot and he touched the pot he disobeyed my mother and touched the pot and ended up burning his hands but do you think that he touched the pot again? no so we both end up in the same place except he's got burned fingers but their is a difference between him and although I didn't burn my fingers and I'm in a good place by obeying my mother and not touching the pot my brother has certainty as to the burning of his fingers he knows the danger, the knowledge is real for me it's just a matter of faith and those who became part of the elite tradition criticized the legal and saying that you follow these rules and regulations but for you these are just rules and regulations with no real meaning for us, we have that certainty

right we know what the five pillars mean we know what the theology means we know what the koran means we know what all these elements mean because we have certainty in them through our experience and practice so over time you see the development of an elite form of Sufism and this usually came in typical packages and you find this pretty much anywhere in Islamic world at the heart of that elite tradition is the idea of a master disciple relationship which is very important to always remember so for them it's not something that usually is practiced on your own you have to have a master who will lead you along the path to your spiritual ascension

earliest forms of Sufism in the Islamic tradition have always been a master disciple relation there are exceptions to this rule but generally speaking you have that overtime, disciples began to grow around certain Sufi personalities who are seen as having the certainty of knowledge and are capable of bequeathing that to their disciples these bodies of Sufis grew so you started to see orders begin begin to emerge and that's why today when you encounter Sufis, you will encounter them in this mode, in a type of order or group today there are hundreds of Sufi orders um but they all claim to trace a spiritual lineage back to very important spiritual masters in Islamic history, going all the way back to Prophet Muhammad himself types of practices that the elite forms engaged in were things like asceticism which over time developed into a type of, instead of removing one self away from society with hermit-like behavior, detachment of oneself from the accoutrement one may become attached to it was a worldly detachment but not necessarily removing oneself from the world a love for poetry and I think we've seen examples of that in the other traditions play an important role poetry is important to them because it's probably the best way to express truths that are difficult to say through works |I've given you a sheet of two very important Sufi masters that we'll talk about in a minute that poetry is oftentimes linked or paired with music, all this is part of an important Sufi practice which is known as dhikr, or rememberance

that's the ultimate goal the Sufi wants to be in constant awareness of God and is known as dhikr or remembrance and so the poetry and the music play a functional role and that it is used for the aspirant to always be engaged in the remembrance of God and i was struck by the neguin up here because it actually sounded a lot like a Sufi chant or Sufi dhikr you know for us, we say lā ʾilāha ʾillā-llāh over and over again using the Divine Name to kinda cleanse the heart it varies between orders but the melody in the sound was very similar elite forms of Sufism may may have different forms of dhikr rememberance and you may have seen some examples of these on TV or on in public gatherings in some places the mevlevi order in turkey for example chooses to whirl to accompany the music while others may chant others may even do this internally without making any sort of noise but it's a contemplaitive type of dhikr but in all these orders, your find the dhikr being an essential thing so that's the lead for the surface and you find them in a in in many different forms and are generally considered to be traditional for Sufism on the other side you have vernacular forms of Sufism and this is oftentimes described by some as being maybe not real Sufism I don't like describing it that way because I think sometimes it's just a matter of different forms and different expression if you actually look very deeply into these vernacular forms of Sufism, you will find similar motifs and symbols being used which are taken directly from the elite forms

the paper that I gave you is my attempt to try to demonstrate this the first one is by the famous Mevlana whose real name was Rumi the 13th century Persian poet who is probably one of the most important and celebrated mystical poets in Islam and this translation here is from the first paragraph of his magnum opus called the Masnavi which is a collection of his poems in six volumes quite massive and quite influential the other is a selection from a vernacular folk Sufi from the same time as Rumi which was which is around the late Seljik period and almost just at the beginning of the Ottoman Empire the process of Islamization Anatolia, just to give you sort of historical position, his name was ________ and he belonged to vernacular and almost antinomian type of Sufism heritage you can read these on your own but I'll just give you sort of a jist of what's taking place here in mevlana's song and reed flute, mevlana discusses the story of the reed flute and the poem is given from the voice of the reed and the reed is speaking to the reader and telling the listener about his separation from the reed bed how someone came to the reed bed and chopped them down hollowed him out and removed him from the reed bed he described it as sort of shocking and violent experience what what Rumi is trying to do is create the analogy to the human experience in that the human being has been separated from his or her origin which in this case would be the divine the human being was removed from the origin and is in a state of pain because they want to return to the origin and back to their beloved which is the divine and so Mevlana does this in the most elite classical style of Persian poetry that you can ever experience and I wish there was a way that I can do that for you you just have to take my word for it unless you want to learn Persian and then you can listen for yourself and realize how right i am it is quite but amazing

he does that in in a style which is flawless and classical but then you look at someone like _____ who's writing at the same time here ______ does away with the whole reed flute, a very classical Sufi instrument and instead go straight for the vernacular and go straight for what his community would understand why _____ is important is that he did not write in the classical languages of Islamic Sufism he didn't write in Arabic or Persian rather he chose his own vernacular which was Turkish a very simple form a Turkish in fact if you read his poetry in the original form you're struck by just how simplistic his Turkish is in fact this text is actually given to first-year Turkish students

that's how simple it is but her instead of the reed flute he talks about the waterwheel that you would find in a village and how the wood from the water wheel was cut down from a tree from the forest i was taken away from the forest and then made into a water wheel and the creaking of the waterwheel is the the lamenting as it is being removed from its origin so I'll leave you with it and hope that you have a chance to read and enjoy it in both cases you know ______ has been non- traditional or been maybe outside the accepted levels of classical Sufism I'm trying to argue here that they actually use the same forms but it's just given to you in a different package the second way that one can view Sufism is to simply say that it's not part of Islam just rejected it as foreign its influences have come from outside Islam perhaps from contact with other religions but it's origins are not from Islam it's from outside

this view has many followers from both within and without from Non-Muslim commentators this was an unfortunate outcome from the writings of certain early orientalists and which unfortunately is still maintained with some modern scholars as well one of the sort initial experiences of Europeans with eighteenth and nineteenth century Sufis was through world tours called Le Grand Tour where they were travel around Europe and Constantinople would be a stop on that trip and there they encountered these dancing Sufis and whirling Sufis and howling Sufis but a lot of them were just actors it was the religious Disneyland where people go to be struck with the exoticness of the Muslim world an unfortunately some orientalists also have said this because with their initial understanding of Islam was how can it be spiritual religion when we look at it always being about dos and and don't do not do this and do that and you know you have to do this you have to be at a certain place at a certain time is a legal religion, it's orthopraxic it's not even orthodoxy so for them, if there's any spirituality it must have come from outside and could not have come from within

an unfortunate error even from Muslim scholars and thinkers who have also tried to distance themselves or try too excise Sufism from Islam and there's historical antecedents to this and in contemporary times this has also become an issue for a lot of the same reasons that others speakers have talked about and trying to fit Islam in a modern context many modern scholars today within a Muslim tradition have seen Sufism as not been part of that it made Muslims too passive or too quiescent so from outside Islam not part of Islam it came from outside the third group is a very unique way for Islam and the other other traditions that Sufism is a own tradition separate from Islam or even its own religion in fact that separate from Islam this is an exclusively modern phenomenon with no antecedent in the history of Islam it is really presented as such by Western practitioners a popular forms of Sufism who for one reason or the other are either ignorant to Sufism's connection to Islam or purposely trying to present Sufism as a distinct tradition and I'll give you examples the American writer Coleman Barks who again it famous for making the the 13th century Persian Sufi Rumi famous again in North America with its free verse translations of mystical poetry although he along with other great American personalities like Deepak Choprah and Madonna have made Rumi the most oft-read poet in America we say thank you to them for that they have also indirectly presented him with the kind of anomaly in the minds of his American readership for example in Coleman Bark's versions any mention of the Prophet Mohammed is surprisingly lacking in Rumi's poetry which is extremely strange for anyone familiar with Rumi in the original Persian in fact Rumi mentions the prophet so often so if you actually read Rumi in the original Persian he's talking about the prophet all the time yet when you see him in translation the prophet has been removed it's quite remarkable that Barkley would avoid the prophet entirely this is no small feat

although I do believe that this is intentional I do not necessarily believe it to be malicious for one thing Rumi, as other Sufi mystics, is attractive to Western audiences because of Sufism's universal message unfortunately that message comes across so foreign to people's general misconception of Islam misconception that are fueled by popular media that that message cannot be associated with Islam in their minds so they see imagery on TV, they see the footage that you see from other places with violence and destruction and you know the kind of anti-western rhetoric and then they come across Rumi who's talking about peace love and unity it's hard to bring the two together another possible reason for this is due to the way that certain important and extremely influential contemporary Sufi personalities have chosen to present themselves to their North American followers for example one such teacher was the Sri Lankan born mystic Bawa Muhaiyaddeen who passed away in the eighties he's really from the jungles of Sri Lanka he is a remarkable character

I really encourage you to maybe Google him or look him up on the Internet during the sixties and seventies there was a strong desire to learn about Eastern traditions and spirituality so a group had invited him to come to America to teach he came in the seventies to teach about Sufism but the way that he approached his community was in a very unique way he tried to present his teachings as de-emphasizing a lot of the accouterments of Islam and tried to get at the heart of the matter to the point that his followers today um may in fact practice certain elements of Islam without even knowing that they're practicing Islam by the time he died, he had thousand with all the followers all over North America in Canada and America he's actually buried in Philadelphia right now as far as I know the only Sufi saint buried in America his shrine is regularly visited by his community now some of his followers have made that connection that he was doing was trying to teach them Islam or a type of Islamic spirituality but members of the fellowship as they're called who see themselves are not being part of any sort of larger denomination but that they follow him who is their teacher

and so they talk about him doing this five daily prayers and fasting during Ramadan but he chose to teach his followers in this way Idrisa is getting up to tell me that I'm out of time but I just wanna say right so for someone looking at is may say this really can't be part of traditional Islam if you look at the way that Islam was carried into other parts of the world it was usually done in this way where they're trying to find similarities between the people that lived in a certain region and the message that was being brought by these Sufi masters whether it's Indonesian or an Anatolian or even the Indian subcontinent so i argue that he did nothing unique or new but rather what he did was just something that was always traditionally taught, the way that it was taught in the Muslim world and in other parts of the world so I'll end there and then hopefully maybe this will be a springboard for further discussion thank you

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