|Friendship with morning sun & hummingbirds, May 13, 2020|
“Jesus loves me. This I know. For the Bible tells me so.” Good old Vacation Bible School children’s song. And then there’s growing up. Getting old. And knowledge from any book, from any preacher, from any external source, sometimes just isn’t enough.
Because humans thirst for truth. It’s the divine implant calling, like a tracking device, that burns through books and that cries for direct personal experience. Even when it hurts. For holy fire purifies. Still unsatisfied, and broken-hearted as well, the yearning yet insistently pulls, thank God, further into the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” This, the trail, the trial, of living in mystery, ever searching.
A vital key to tracking the unseen can be found in the familiar notion of recognition. It’s that thrilling and unsettling feel when a person or place seems both strange and also previously known, a sort of deja vu. William Chittick invites us to go further into the word: “re-cognize”:
“that is, to come once again to see what one already knows. . . recognition is discovered within oneself, but learning is acquired from outside…One comes to see face-to-face what was only known by hearsay and following authority.”
And he connects this with the classic line, replacing “knows” with “recognizes”: “He who recognizes himself (or “his soul”) recognizes his Lord.” [Translator’s Introduction, Unveiling of the Mysteries, Fons Vitae, 2015, p. xi.]
Sufis, as well as other trackers on the spiritual pathway, say bewilderment (of a certain sort) doesn’t mean a person is lost, but instead signals higher reaches on the way toward the divine. “Bewilderment is beyond all the stations” writes Sam’ani in Repose of the Spirits in “his chapter on the divine name wali, the Friend” (translated by William Chittick, Divine Love, pp. 293-4).
In order to re-cognize, perhaps it’s necessary to get befuddled and to let go of indoctrination, and to surrender flat levels of knowing, over and again, in order to climb higher, especially in relation to the greatest guide. For love is the great mystery, not meant to be defined, “inexplicable” concludes Chittick: “Anyone can be a lover, but no one can explain love” (p. 293).
That’s comforting. Yes it is—for someone who admits the truth of bewilderment about it—especially when it comes to approaching God. And recognize that love, most especially Divine Love, pulls past the reaches of human knowledge and opens a door, one of those hidden in plain sight. Like the one just mentioned above, it’s so easy to wander past, barely—if at all—aware it’s been missed. Perhaps it doesn’t look big enough or bright enough when up against the great name of Love.
It’s simply friendship. It’s an experience that’s still hard to nail down in words, but perhaps it’s more comfortable in the sense of knowing where it is, when it happens, how it feels. And it’s easier to feel sure we’ve offered friendship and can still return to the glow of it.
And yet, to presume friendship with God? Still a bit scary. But the glow we know of human friendship radiates in the God-given sunshine after rain, and in the rain, too. Even the thunderstorm, particularly having witnessed rainbows and well-watered flowers. Trees.
Chittick adds Maybudi to Sam’ani:
“How could the traveler not be delighted that friendship is the nearest way station to the Protector? The tree that produces only the fruit of joy is friendship, the soil that grows nothing but the flowers of intimacy is friendship, the cloud that rains nothing but light is friendship, the drink whose poison turns into honey is friendship, the road whose dust is musk and ambergris is friendship… Friendship’s field has the width of the heart, and the kingdom of paradise is one branch of friendship’s tree. Those who drink friendship’s wine are promised vision.” (Divine Love, p. 298)
|Raindrops, oak leaves, spring flowers: re-cognizing divine friendship|