Sunday, August 18, 2019

When Bewilderment Tracks the Mystery

of God. Knowledge of God effervesces into the greatest mystery. And yet life plummets into meaninglessness without tracking this impossibility. One thread to sustain the pursuit comes in the embrace of bewilderment, a gift from and perhaps a tasting of the Divine.
From the first to the final pages of Sufi Path of Knowledge, William Chittick offers nurturance involving the taste and understanding of bewilderment as it comes through the teachings of Ibn  al-‘Arabi.
“To find God is to fall into bewilderment (hayra), not the bewilderment of being lost and unable to find one’s way, but the bewilderment of finding and knowing God and of not-finding and not-knowing Him at the same time. Every existent thing other than God dwells in a never-never land of affirmation and negation, finding and losing, knowing and not-knowing . . . The bewilderment of the Verifiers in respect to God as He is in Himself never prevents them from finding Him as Light and Wisdom and from employing the fruits of those divine attributes to illuminate the nature of things and put each thing in its proper place” (pp. 3-4).
The “Verifiers” are described as those who “have verified the truth of their vision of God on every level of existence and finding, not least on the level of intelligence and speech, the specific marks of being human” (p. 4).
I’m only midway through this volume of Chittick’s and won’t quote from the final pages yet, but I did consult his index which notes nineteen occurrences of “bewilderment” extending through to the end of the book. Of course, the notion of bewilderment builds meaningfulness through the development of a web of terms. A few of the critical notions include the “relative absolute,” the “coincidence of opposites,” the “He/not He,” and “imaginal faculty.” [* See notes at end for further elaboration on these terms.]
When we try to approach the Truth, we’re onto the slippery slopes of essentials and absolutes. “The Absolute allows for no absolutizing of anything other than Itself, which is to say that everything other than God is imagination” (p. 29). “The Essence alone is absolutely Real” (p. 29). 
“the spiritual ‘stations’ (maqamat) themselves,. . . go back, in Ibn al’Arabi’s way of seeing things, to unique perceptions of reality, delimited and defined by certain relationships and constraints. But none of these is absolute, so each can be contradicted by other points of view. The human response to these constant shifts in perspective may well be ‘bewilderment,’ which, Ibn al-‘Arabi tells us, is the station of the great friends of God” (p. 29). 
Most, if not all of us, place premium on certainty, and this undergirds the appeal of fundamentalism as well as racism, sexism, and other exclusive dogmatisms. The constructs that prioritize tolerance for ambiguity serve as alternatives to such oppressive absolutes. For example, the scheme developed by William Perry for intellectual and ethical development offers progression from dogmatic thinking toward the advanced levels which involve making commitments even within relativism. But my experience of such schemes leaves the longing for Truth, for the Absolute, insufficiently tended.
The pressures of relativism and multiplicity eventually push for the reconciliation of opposites. How can God be both Transcendent and Immanent—totally beyond and simultaneously close as heartbeat? How can a loving, all-powerful God allow good persons to suffer? Reminding me of C.G. Jung’s linking the union of opposites with psychological wholeness, Chittick emphasizes the “coincidence of opposites” (jam’ al-addad): “God is the coincidence of all contrary attributes. In knowing God, we must be able to put opposites together. . . The rational faculty can grasp God’s Unity and transcendence, while imagination is needed to perceive the multiplicity of His self-disclosures and His immanence” (pp. 59, 70). 
“It is impossible for sense perception or the rational faculty to bring together opposites, but it is not impossible for imagination.Hence the authority and strength of the Strong only became manifest in the creation of the imaginal faculty (al-quwwat al-mutakhayyhila) and the World of Imagination, which is the closest thing to a denotation (dalala) of the Real. For the Real is ‘the First and the Last, the Manifest and the Nonmanifest’ (Koran 57:3).” Page 115, Chittick translating Ibn al-‘Arabi.
Bewilderment, perhaps by definition, results in separation from the normal world, as the person is tossed to “be wild,” to be separated from standard thought, meaning, and relationships. One way of coping is acceptance of silence. Professor Alan Godlas translates a poem from Rumi and adds end lines with transliteration which adds feeling of the language:

          Go into contemplation
          of God's wonders, andar ravid
         Struck by awesomeness
         and bewilderment, become lost, gom shavid

         Stunned by God's creative brilliance
         one's loses ones proud beard and moustache, gom konad
         one recognizes one's limits,
         and about the creator, becomes silent, tan zanad
         He can only say, like the Prophet,
         "I cannot praise You as You deserve,"
         from deep in his soul, u ze jan;
         since a truly worthy elucidation
         is beyond articulation and expression, an bayan.

In addition to claiming the value of silence, the world beyond words, persons may look to the World of Imagination and to dreams. As discussed in previous blogs, Michael Sells offers very helpful development of “unsayings” as tastings of the divine. Concerning dreams, Chittick summarizes from Ibn al-‘Arabi: “Dreams are in fact a God-given key to unlock the mystery of cosmic ambiguity and the constant transmutation of existence. The new creation is never more clearly witnessed than in the world of dreams” (p. 119).
As noted in the first quotation, the bewilderment Chittick/Ibn al’Arabi talk about is “not the bewilderment of being lost and unable to find one’s way.” So it’s important that persons hold bewilderment without slipping into lethargic trance, self-indulgent delusions, and/or despondency. Supportive relationships with a guide and with “friends of God” are called for. In relation to holding bewilderment, Chittick elaborates on Ibn al-‘Arabi’s emphasis on Wisdom and Courtesy:
“The revealed religions (al-shara i) are God’s rules of courtesy (adab Allah) which He set up for His servants. He who gives God’s Law its full due (haqq) has gained the courtesy of the Real (al-haqq) and come to know the friends of the Real.” Page 175, Chittick translating Ibn al-‘Arabi.

* More on these terms can be seen in previous blogs including these:
For coincidence of opposites, see
Parables Guard Wonder November 20, 2016 (includes  Jung’s  Mysterium Coniunctionis)   
Majesty & Beauty  December 9, 2018   (includes Michael Sells & Sachito Murata)

For “imaginal world,” see 
Pictures Revealing Reality July 14, 2019  

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Pictures Revealing Reality

        A picture or photograph is not “reality,” of course. We know that. And yet some “pictures,” especially when it’s all we’re seeing, are more revelatory than others. Windows into reality we may glimpse—if we take for real what is true, the essence, even the mystery at the heart of life. 
“When we look into the heart of a flower, we see clouds, sunshine, minerals, time, the earth, and everything else in the cosmos in it. Without clouds, there could be no rain, and there would be no flower. Without time, the flower could not bloom. In fact, the flower is made entirely of non-flower elements; it has no independent, individual existence. It ‘inter-is’ with everything else in the universe… When we see the nature of inter-being, barriers between ourselves and others are dissolved, and peace, love, and understanding are possible. Whenever there is understanding, compassion is born. (Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ, p. 11)
        When I’m attentive, scouting through our window panes for certain slants of light, then when taken outside, and bending for a different framing, for a composition that recognizes an image planted inside by the great Mystery, then Truth takes my hand along the pathway, teaching, loving.

        Playing with the raw image also offers further windows. Searching shadows may realize a hidden, finer beauty. Adding contrast leads into the dynamic of opposites, increasing appreciation for each dimension, and more for the inevitable connection, like a vortex swirling sorrow and joy into beyond-words texture of the Divine.

“Background” holds and highlights.

The center of attraction deserves special focus and still its value depends on caring for the context, always shifting, adjusting to the light of that moment. The mystics try to guide us into special, moveable meanings as we move from station to station. Even love has a panoply of shadings.
“Moses’ searching refers to ‘rising to perfection (taraqqiy ila al-kamal). . . through the pursuit of the sacred intellect (al-‘aql al-qudsi).’ Al-Qashani’s idiom here evokes, but extends beyond al-Qushayri’s and Ruzbihan’s articulations of ‘divine inspiration’ and ‘perfect gnosis.’ ‘Retracing their steps,’ refers for Al-Qashani to two realities: (1) ‘rising to the station of the original nature’ (maqam al-fitra al-ula); and (2) rising to perfection until finding the sacred intellect. . . The sacred intellect. . . has been ‘specially selected with the virtue of caring (‘inaya) and mercy (rahma).’ That mercy is spiritual perfection: immaterial, indivisibly sacred and pure light. These qualities are all signs (athar) that the sacred intellect, personified by al-Khidr, is close and intimate. Al-Qashani, following al-Qushayri and Ruzbihan, interprets, ‘And We taught him knowledge from Our presence’ (18:65) to mean a sacred, inner knowledge given without the mediation of a human teacher (ta-lim bashari). Al-Qashani suggests, but does not stress, that this knowledge is unteachable.” (Hugh Talat Halman, Where the Two Seas Meet, p. 183)

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Certainty of a Higher Power

A recent dream played with finding the Way more by following a scent, like a dog tracking, rather than by logical planning, in the usual travel mode involving maps and guidebooks. The dream seemed to affirm the importance of going into the field of experience and trusting to revelation of the next step that’s taken expectantly with a nose sniffing the immediate moment. I believe the dream’s direction doesn’t say to discard the marvels of the mind, but instead it reminds that guidance for the individual pathway comes in attending to the edge of knowing, open to emergent consciousness, to liberated sense, to beauty and wonder. 
While still treasuring the written and spoken word, much of my journey has led into (re)sanctification of the body and into knowings that elude literacy. Early years were entrenched in fundamentalism, guarded against indulgence of the body (especially sex outside marriage); scripture was selectively forced to desacralize knowing through the body. Absolute priority was given to legalistic reading of biblical text as pronounced by persons asserting scholarly superiority. The decree was mind over body. 
         For many of us, this patriarchal model collapsed of its own bent when we pursued intellectual activity. Bart Ehrman’s account of his passage out of fundamentalism offers a clear example as he describes going from Moody Bible Institute to Princeton Theological Seminary (see “Commitment to Truth,” pp. 2-6 in Forged: Writing in the Name of God). As we advanced in academic degrees we found that sacred text yields a multiplicity of interpretation and not the prescriptive conclusions evident in fundamentalism. In a way, this emphasis on the mind leads back to the scripture in Philippians concerning the unique workings out of each individual’s prayerful accountability. (For more on this, see previous blogs: Oct 4, 2017, One God; many faiths and Mar 12, 2017, Going Where… )
                   The charge to work out one’s salvation with fear and trembling properly brings a person to one’s knees which can also occasion a feeling of need to reclaim the authority of the body, not as indulgence but as grounded knowing, true to one’s own fingertips. As noted in other blogs, my personal attempts to recover authentic voice of body have featured natural horsemanship (e.g., Mar 27, 2017 To Tell the Truth and Jan 4 2018 Faces of the Beloved  ) and plant ecology (e.g., Jan 3, 2018 These Frosty Woods). Special gifts from these engagements include increased sense of and appreciation for harmony, for beauty, and for the interconnection of power/love.
     It’s far too simplistic to discuss the pathway to God in only two dimensions: body and mind. A more complete and more provocative notion of the Pathway for “spiritual wayfarers on their journey to God” is given in the commentary on Quran 2:189 in The Study Quran:
“Ibn ‘Ajibah, for example, notes in his commentary on this verse that spiritual wayfarers on their journey to God have three houses whose gates they must pass through: the Law (sharīʿah), the Spiritual Path (ṭarīqah), and the Truth (ḥaqīqah), each of which has three gates. The three gates of the Law are repentance, obedience, and reverence; those of the Path are sincerity, the purification from faults, and the realization of virtue; and the three gates of the Truth (also translated as the Reality) are concentration, contemplation, and gnosis (spiritual knowledge). That is to say, human beings should approach God through the means He accepts, the means He has given them.” Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary (p. 83). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.
It may be presumptuous to hope for the ninth gate, but it is a fascinating possibility: gnosis! The term and concept refuse to be nailed down and, in that way, require a light touch, open to surprise and insight. In general, gnosis involves “intuitive apprehension of spiritual truths.” The doorway seems to demand appreciation for the mind, the body, and still more.
     A special treasure of retirement comes in the space to immerse in varied readings with less disruption from other external demands. It also provides space for playing the readings into experience, including solitude and meditation. Probably these are prerequisites for entering the doorway of gnosis. Feeling the expanse of time for slow reading and the bodily awareness sharpened in solitude, I’m trying again to find my way into the density of Frithjof Schuon’s Gnosis: Divine Wisdom. Perhaps the best, maybe the only way to approach gnosis is as a “bhakta.” In his glossary to this edition, James S. Cutsinger says a bhakta is a “person whose relationship with God is based primarily on adoration and love” (p.182). Schuon affirms the necessity of letting go the dominance of literacy and single-mindedness:
“It is easy to understand the slight respect shown by bhaktas, or by some of them, for ‘word for word’ exactness in belief or worship… there exists a de facto supremacy of the magic of the soul over the correctness of the symbol and that account must be taken of this supremacy if one wishes to grasp every aspect of the eternal interchange between man and God” (p. 15).
        This “eternal interchange” is what I take the gateway of gnosis to offer. It’s what takes my breath away with opportunity to let it return, more golden in wonder. The throne of intellect is smashed so that, by grace, admission to God’s Intellect may be accessed.
“… sacred Scriptures remain the necessary and unchanging basis, the source of inspiration and the criterion of all gnosis. Direct and supra-mental intellection is in reality a ‘remembering’ and not an ‘acquisition’: intelligence in this realm does not take cognizance of something located in principle outside itself, but all possible knowledge is on the contrary contained in the luminous substance of the Intellect—which is identified with the Logos by ‘filiation of essence’—so that the ‘remembering’ is nothing other than an actualization, thanks to an occasional external cause or an internal inspiration, of an eternal potentiality of the intellective substance. Discernment exists only in relation to the relative even if this relative lies beyond creation and at the very level of Being, and this explains why the Intellect coincides in its innermost nature with the very Being of things; and this is why gnosis underscores the profound continuity between the diverse forms of consciousness of the absolute.     And why this consciousness, some will ask? Because the truth alone makes free; or, better still, because there is no ‘why’ with regard to the truth, which is our intelligence, our freedom, and our very being; if it is not, we are not.” (p. 16)
Wandering in the house of gnosis, I’m humbled, well aware I’m not getting it clearly. And yet, the scent I pick up tracks the Way, best I can tell. I sense the significance of going back out to the trees, to tending the raspberry patch that’s just beginning to yield ripe berries, and to return to the arena with our horse where our mutual training readies the discernment by “filiation of essence.”
Also, in another way, readiness for Schuon probably follows from feeling reassurance through reading Susan Wittig Albert’s memoir, Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place. Albert paints the hill country near Austin, Texas, land to which I owe early wandering from the literalist one-right-way. Her tribute to time spent tending plant life as a medium for growing the soul reassures me about the faint sense of importance I have around loving our woods and gardens. Is the sweat, the time, and money we dedicate to this labor well spent? Although I know the answer is “Yes!” and that the beauty of images found by the camera resonates powerfully, the kind of certainty still wavers before institutional “truth.” 
Perhaps I’d find further support in Philip Sherrard’s Human Image World Image: The Death And Resurrection of Sacred Cosmology. Duane Johnson’s review of the book says: 
“His [Sherrard’s] plea is simply that we need to restore the ancient and more unabashedly 'metaphysical' outlook if we are to stand any chance of averting the political, social, and moral disasters waiting for us by virtue of our having collectively embraced an unalloyed scientific 'world image’.”
 While I’ll probably check out Sherrard, I suspect the certainty I’m longing to trust comes not in the word-world but in another texture more like light, known by warmth and inner vision, more like the sense that the air has turned a golden color and some beauty is calling, longing to be loved. This kind of knowing senses and feels the higher power found by tending the inner garden, the one yearned for by Antonio Machado: “llamo un claro dia con un perfume de jasmin el viento”—the wind one brilliant day called to my soul with the aroma of jasmine… 

Sunday, April 28, 2019


Perhaps the biggest find
of the hundred or so purchased
over about a decade
from books on the porch 
of the local library sale
was yesterday in the Billy Collin’s
one dollar buy
No better must have been
the $1 translation 
of Ibn al-Arabi's Fusus
although I haven’t finished reading it
in the two three years since
But Billy Collins makes little 
of finishing
A poem is not for finding one final
I did finish a book earlier today
about Life and Love and Truth
And I’m reassured by all three
that no one here
tells my L/life 
so I’m about releasing
my unique one heart
broken/restored inside outside
whole in One

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Marvelous Mirror of Love

April 18, redbud in woods

Sometimes dreams guide the meaning of text. In the dream, I’m observing a child who holds a book. He gives every sign of non-reading: making puzzled facial expressions, turning the book upside down, maybe even attempting to look through the cover or the edges. The academic expert in the room passionately insisted that this is NOT reading. The other person in the room, a woman of color, equally insisted, "Yes! This IS reading." After interacting with the text, the child smiles broadly, fills with affection, and goes around hugging the other children and kissing their cheeks . 
One of the texts I’ve been reading is Ahmad Ghazali’s Sawanih: Inspirations from the World of Pure Spirits. The oldest Persian Sufi treatise on love. It's translated from the Persian with a commentary and notes by Nasrollah Pourjavady. The reading I’ve previously made of love seems to be trying to turn upside down and demands looking through the cover. From section 74, p. 79:
“What a marvelous mirror love is, for both the lover and the beloved—it can be seen in oneself, in the beloved, and in others. [Note: i.e. the creatures.] If love’s jealousy succeeds so that he [the lover] does not behold anything [or anyone] other (than love), then he will not be able to see the perfect beauty of the beloved perfectly except in the mirror of love. This is also true with respect to the perfect needfulness of the lover, and all (other) imperfections and perfections on either side. [i.e. all the imperfections of the lover and the perfections of the beloved.]”
Perhaps there’s a looking in through the cover of the heart that's necessary in order to see the beauty in the manifestations of the outer world.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Heart Mirror

With all the distractions, noise, and activity of modern life, it’s easy to miss even the big signals; so the subtle whispers demand extra-special attention. And I’ve learned, particularly through lessons from our horse, that the early-warning signs may not feel pleasant and thus may be even easier to ignore. We’re at risk of missing out on the map to the hidden treasure. But even when the little breeze comes off the ocean, tinged with salty sadness or fear, certain vibrations are saying that direction from the soul is at hand. And for persons on the spirit path, these subtle and difficult direction markers are invaluable, and they can be discerned. For the way does not follow recipes, and it’s known by few, if any, clearcut answers.
   The path of Radical Love is like this. If I can trust my memory of the opening session from the Garrison eventI hear Seemi Ghazi making special emphasis on “polishing the mirror.” That focus comes not as a surprise because Rumi opens the Masnavi on the theme:
     The lover is a veil, All is Beloved …
     Do you know why your mirror tells of nothing?
     The rust has not been taken from its surface.
          (lines 30a & 34, Book 1 of Rumi’s Masnavi, p. 9
           in Alan Williams’ Rumi: Spiritual Verses)
The mirror and related images frequently enter Rumi’s works. Chittick’s index to Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi has over 50 citations under the terms mirror, veil, curtain, and reflection.
   As indicated in Rumi’s lines above, rust on the mirror signals separation from the Beloved. Rumi’s emphasis shows clearly in Book 4:
 … make a practice of polishing, polishing, polishing,/ That thy heart may become a mirror full of images…/In order that the forms of the Unseen may appear in it, and that the reflexion of houri and angel may dart into it . . . [Mathnawi, Book IV, lines 2469-, Nicholson's translation] 
Mojaddedi translates couplet 2475 on the purpose of burnishing the mirror: “To bring the Unseen’s forms to our perception,/ Such as the heavenly angels’ own reflection.”
   We might feel frustrated that guides for the pathway of Radical Love do not give straight-forward uncomplicated directions instead of using so many ambiguous metaphors and apparently contradictory statements. But it helps me to remember: This Is Love. Love reaches toward and from the Source, respecting the essence treasured in the heart of each individual as he and she changes in every heartbeat. True guidance has to allow for movement, for development, with infinite accommodation of care. The doctor of love, Ahmad Ghazzali, notes this amazing variation:
At times love is the sky and the spirit is the earth, and what it sends down depends on the dictates of Time. At times love is the seed and the spirit is the earth, producing whatever it will. At times love is the jewel in the mine and the spirit is the mine, be the jewel and the mine what they may. At times love is the sun in the sky of the spirit, shining as it will. At times it is aflame in the air of the spirit, burning what it may. There is a time when love is a saddle on the horse of the spirit, waiting for whosoever will mount it. At times love is a bridle’s bit in the mouth of the rebellious spirit and thus turns its head to whichever direction it wishes. At times it is the chains of violence (qahr) of the beloved’s glance that bind the spirit…” Sawanih, trans. Nasrollah Pourjavady, p. 21.
What a world of possibilities! Of course, I’m caught right away by the invitation to ride.
   Having been on and off a few spirited mounts, I’m aware of the advisability of preparation. For the ride of Radical Love, this might include exploration of questions such as:
     What meanings are given for the “heart”?
     How do we understand and engage the “mirror”? 
     How do we recognize and move through “veils”?
     What is the “rust”?
     How is polishing done?
   While dancing with these questions for awhile, several bases have emerged. These touch-points help me to avoid feeling lost in a maze. As noted above, I don’t expect clearcut answers to the important questions of the Way and wouldn’t want to be limited by dogmatic conclusions anyway. So having these bases steadies the course without forcing insensitive prescriptions.
     1. The path continually requires one to move beyond the surface/form toward the essence/heart.
     2. God’s Mercy is greater than God’s Wrath.
     3. All manifestation is God.
     4. Gratitude for each manifestation is the right and needed response.
Primary resources identified so far for exploring the questions include:
Omid Safi’s Radical Love.
Translations of Rumi’s Masnavi (by Mojaddedi, by Williams, and by Nicholson.
Translations of Rumi’s Fihi by Thackston (Signs of the Unseen) and by Arberry (Discourses).
William Chittick. Sufi Path of Love; Sufi Path of Knowledge; Self Disclosure of God; “Paradox of the Veil” in Sufism.
Ahmad Ghazzali, Sawanih, trans. Nasrollah Pourjavady.
Ibn al-Arabi on Adam in his Fusus especially translations by Austin and by Dagli.
Kabir Helminski on “Polishing the Mirror of Awareness” in Living Presence.
Michael Sells on “Ibn ‘Arabi’s Polished Mirror" in Mystical Languages of Unsaying.
Titus Burckhardt, Mirror of the Intellect.
Frithjof Schuon, “The Eye of the Heart,” in The Eye of the Heart.
Toshihiko Izutsu, Sufism & Taoism.
James Morris, The Reflective Heart.
This is an impressive list, too big to be encompassed, but incredibly rich. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

“Interpret Your Own Self”

Sunrise March 28
Some weeks before attending the Radical Love event at the Garrison Institute, I was already well into Alan Williams’ Rumi: Spiritual Verses, his translation of Book 1 of the Masnavi. Soon after returning from the Institute and while completing that book, a particularly compelling passage called out: “Interpret your own self” (3758). Williams’ notes tell that this line is “almost identical” to 1088b. So looking back, I find, sure enough, a green sticky marker there pointing to #1088 in the way that I use for the few passages that jump off the page shouting: “Pay attention here!” So what might “Interpret your own self” mean and why is it so important? 
     I believe that this act of interpreting leads me further in the journey of knowing myself and thus connects with the awe-inspiring hadith: “to know oneself is to know one’s Lord.” This challenge continues to provide a bridge between authoritative text and personal construction of meaning.  Samples of previous explorations of the hadith include blogs from 2017: Sept 20, Sept 23, Nov 1, & Dec 16. When I look back at Chittick’s Me & Rumi: The Autobiography of Shams-i Tabrizi, I find this hadith frequently cited (see his listing on p. 357) and particularly in #58 (p. 69) that traces through Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad toward today: “He who knows his soul knows his Lord.”
     I’d probably been prepped for Rumi’s “Interpret your own self” by simultaneously reading Jawid Mojaddedi’s Beyond Dogma: Rumi’s Teachings on Friendship with God and Early Sufi Theories, followed by William Chittick’s Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul. For example, from Beyond Dogma, I feel reassured in my sense that, properly approached with sufficient humility, it’s not too presumptuous to read and interpret Rumi’s Masnavi as direction, as a personal invitation to each individual, for moving closer to the Presence. In short, Rumi guides a person toward knowing him/herself in the way that knows one’s Lord.
     Mojaddedi discusses this ultimate access as coming through “contemporary Friends of God.” In other words, access to the Divine is not locked away in some remote revelation, in an almost indecipherable language where those saints who communicated with God are so unreachably far above us that we just have to follow recipes. Instead, Mojaddedi explains Rumi’s “assertions about the comparable loftiness of contemporary Friends of God, and especially the leading Friend of God of every era”:
“The priority of this concern for Rumi would also account for his emphasis on the shared potential of all people to reach the lofty level reached by Prophets and Friends of God, if they fulfill their mystical potential. . . Rumi’s predilection was to emphasize the closeness of all humanity to the divine…” (pp. 39-41)
This reminds me of Chittick’s calling the “human soul a potential intellect” (Science of the Cosmos, p. 127) and asserting “the only created thing that is omniscient in any real sense is the fully actualized intellect, the radiance of God’s own Selfhood” (p. 128; cf all of Chapter 6 on this potential).
     Mojaddedi elaborates on the basis for our means “to interpret”: “the most distinctive characteristic of [Rumi’s] mysticism is his celebration of the continual communication of God with His creation.” He provides a footnote: “I have decided to use the term ‘communication’ in preference to alternatives such as ‘inspiration’ or ‘revelation.’ The term ‘wahy’ is notoriously difficult to translate and has taken on two dimensions of meaning in relation to Prophets …” (footnote 5, p. 185). Mojaddedi further discusses the difference (and overlap?) between ‘verbal expression’ and ‘internal/non-verbal promptings’ and ‘inspirations.’ This discussion continues with lines from Rumi’s Masnavi as Mojaddedi says that Rumi “describes the Friend of God’s knowledge in the following terms:
The Tablet that’s Preserved was his director— / From what is that ‘preserved’? From any error.
Not through stars, magic or one’s dreams at night,/ But wahy-i haqq and He knows best what’s right!
Sufis may call it mere ‘heart-inspiration,’/ To hide it from the general population.
It’s ‘inspiration of the heart,’ since He/  Is manifest there—it’s thus error-free.
Believer, through God’s light you now can see;/ From error you have full immunity!”
(Mojaddedi in Beyond Dogma, p. 65, translating from Book 4 of the Masnavi, lines 1852-1856. In his more recently published Book 4, Mojaddedi translates wahy-i haqq as “God’s own words,” p. 112.)
So how does the direction to “Interpret your own self” play itself out? I’m finding that “the path of attraction,” as it applies specifically to listening for which readings stir the beating of my heart, is leading me back to the writing left by the guide whose hand I took. It happened like this: I noted my response (an “internal/non-verbal prompting” perhaps) to a comment Omid made in the Radical Love Institute about angel wings on donkeys. He told me it came from Rumi’s Fihi, translated by Thackston in Signs of the Unseen, somewhere in the middle of the 246 pages. I’d already begun reading in this book and, upon returning home, scanned to see if I could find the passage. Didn’t work; so, more properly directed, I started at page one and read forward, finding (pp. 111-112) the angel-feather-on-donkey-tail passage, and kept going. I noticed along the way that Thackston frequently referenced Tales of the Prophets of al-Kisa’i and felt another point of attraction, this time to the Kisa'i text. But, as often happens on a travel, while considering getting a copy of Kisa'i, I felt drawn to other collections of similar tales already on our shelves (Ibn al’Arabi’s Bezels of Wisdom, Attar’s Memorials of God’s Friends, Heschel’s The Prophets) but these were not lighting up. Instead, I was caught by a book with which I hadn’t connected in earlier attempts--our Sidi’s Stories of the Prophets ( by Shaykh Muhammad al-Jamal ar-Rifa'i as-Shadhuli). It had not especially resonated when I’d tried it a few years earlier. Now it rings like a bell or maybe like the lovely chimes on our porch.