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Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1

Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1


Publisher: International Association of Sufism, a nonprofit corporation. Editor-in-Chief: Seyyed Ali Kianfar, Ph.D. Executive Editor: Seyedeh Nahid Angha, Ph.D. Journal Board: Hamid Edson, Ali Haji, Halima Haymaker, Munir Hedges, Elizabeth Miller, Safa Ali Newman, Hamed Ross, Taher Roybal. Photography: Soraya Chase Clow

Cover Photo: Journey of the Universe Prod.

Inside Cover Photo: Susan Lambert

The various articles in SUFISM represent the individual views of their authors. SUFISM does not imply any gender bias by the use of feminine or masculine terms, nouns and/or pronouns. SUFISM is a quarterly journal (ISSN: 0898-3380) published by the International Association of Sufism. Address all correspondence regarding editorials and advertising to: SUFISM, P.O. Box 2382, San Rafael, California 94912 Phone: (415) 472-6959 Fax: (415) 472-6221 email All material Copyright Š 2012 by International Association of Sufism. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication (including art) may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher. The publication is published by the International Association of Sufism, a California nonprofit corporation. The publication of any article, essay, story, or other material herein constitutes neither an endorsement of, agreement with, or validation of the contents of the author’s views expressed therein. Although the Publisher has made all reasonable efforts in its editing of such material to verify its accuracy, the Publisher takes no responsibility for any innacurate or tortious statement by the author set forth therein.


Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1

feature section with Brian Thomas Swimme, PhD

21. Science, Knowledge and Belief:

Hadiths from the Prophet Mohammad Introduced by Hamid Edson

25. Through the Locus of Life Centered in the

Heart, The Creation of God Is Perfected Excerpt from A Meditation (Payam-e-Del) by Hazrat Moulana Shah Maghsoud Introduced by Hamid Edson

27. Cosmogenesis:

A Scientist’s Journey into the Heart Brian Thomas Swimme Discusses the Transformational Import of New Cosmology

37. To Become Love In Human Form

Excerpt from The Universe Is A Green Dragon by Brian Thomas Swimme Introduced by Hamid Edson

Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1


Discover EarthRise Workshops • Events • Retreats •

Photos: top left, Connie King; all others, © Claudia Holt. All rights reserved.

Transformational Experiences with Today’s Leaders

EarthRise Center at IONS Sufi Retreats and Workshops Jan 4–13, 2013 • Tenth Annual No. California Sufi Sesshin. Sponsored by the Golden Gate Sufi Circle. Ten days of Silent Meditation alternating with Zikr and Dances of Universal Peace, integrating active practice with meditation, a deep and joyful experience. March 21–24, 2013 • The Path of Love: Know and Live Your Divinely Guided Life with Robert Ibrahim Jaffe, MD, MD(H), Maxine Salima Adelstein MEd, DD, and John Wadude Laird, MD. These gifted Sufi healers, faculty of Univ. of Spritual Healing & Sufisim, guide participants in ancient Sufi spiritual healing traditions to open the heart and soul.

A Sampling of Other Workshops & Events Nov 9–11 • Invitation to Soul, Jan Edl Stein, MFT, nature-based wisdom healing modalities. Nov 10 • Women’s Courage Circle, Aninha Esperanza Livingstone, PhD Dec 1 • Lightworkers Healing Method, Level Two—Letting Go of the Past, Lynn McGonagill Dec 5 • Benefit Concert for EarthRise: Siv Roland/New Equations Foundation Dec 7–9 • Personal Retreat Weekend, rest & reflect with exceptional food & quiet walks. Dec 7–9 • Building Skills of Self Compassion, Kristin Neff, PhD, pioneer in the field. Dec 8 • The Horse Boy, award-winning film about Neff and her family trek to Outer Mongolia in search of a possible autism cure for her son. Q&A with Neff. Dec 30–Jan 1, 2013 • New Year’s Eve Creative Vision Quest, Dana Lynne Andersen, MA Feb 15 • Speaking the Soul: The Transformative Power of Words, Kim Rosen, MFA

Earthrise at Institute of Noetic Sciences, 101 San Antonio Rd, Petaluma

You are invited! Please contact us or visit:, 707.781.7401 5

Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1

The world’s longest running journal on Sufism Since its founding in 1983, the International Association of Sufism has been proud to be a home for Sufis, spiritual seekers, and people of all kinds devoted to uplifting the quality of humanity around the globe. Over the last three decades, the IAS has been blessed with phenomenal growth and has worked hard to be a leader in a wide range of areas. Among the longest running of its traditions of service is our journal, Sufism, An Inquiry, which we first published in 1987. Since that time, Sufism, An Inquiry has been a living reflection of the dynamic energy and growing global community of Sufis and searchers who are deeply engaged in the work of the IAS. Over 60 volumes, the pages of Sufism, An Inquiry have championed women’s rights and the work of the Sufi Women Organization; published scientific inquiries ranging from the physiology of heart math to the latest findings of astronomers; shared new translations of classic works of Sufi literature previously unavailable in English; offered works by leading psychologists on human development and the spiritual path, reported on human rights and other diplomatic movements ranging from the work of the United Nations to interfaith organizations such as the United Religions Initiative; explored the cultural gifts of world religions diversely embodied around the planet; and provided insight into a wide variety of effective practices for spiritual development. As a whole, the tradition at Sufism, An Inquiry of featuring the work of great teachers, scholars and scientists from a wide variety of global perspectives, historical contexts and fields of specialization runs deep and strong throughout our journal’s history and shall continue to grow far into the future. Since the time the IAS first began publishing Sufism, An Inquiry, the world has also gone through an amazing transformation full of new opportunities and new challenges. One notable dimension in which the world has changed completely is the world of media under the influence of the internet and high technology. Just as the IAS has been at the forefront of leadership efforts for peace, human rights and equality, religious freedom and international cooperation, critical to meeting the opportunities and challenges of our changing world, today the IAS is proud to announce that it is relaunching Sufism, An Inquiry in a new online, digital format that will make it more dynamic and more accessible than ever to a worldwide population. We look forward to developing video content, mp3 audio files, social interactivity, links to websites with related content, and a beautiful full-color layout. At the same time, we plan to offer the journal, not just online, but in print, in downloadable pdf format, and in other formats readable on e-readers. To all our readers who have added so much to our community over these many years, we wish to extend our great appreciation for making us part of your life and we extend to you and to all our enthusiastic invitation to journey with us into this new and exciting period of growth for our journal. We hope you will enjoy this, our inaugural issue in our new online, digital format! Let us know what you think in an email to: Peace to you and yours, Sufism, An Inquiry Editorial Staff,


editors’ desk

11. A Letter from the Desk of the Editor

Shah Nazar Seyyed Ali Kianfar, Ph.D.

13. Prinicples of Sufism:

Within the Covers of the Book of Religion Nahid Angha, Ph.D.

17. Essential Practices: Patience Nahid Angha, Ph.D.

19. Selected Teachings

Hazrat Moulana Shah Maghsoud

95. 99 Most Beautiful Names: Ar-Rahman Shah Nazar Seyyed Ali Kianfar, Ph.D.


41. Rumi

Drew Dellinger, Ph.D.

60. Estuary

Jason Kirkey

69. A Hymn to Unity and Patience Dedan Gills

73. I Am

Charles Burack

history and inquiry 61. Was Rumi an Evolutionist? Hamed Ross

87. The Saint of Pious Devotion:


from the life of Moulana Uways Al-Qarani Safa Ali Michael Newman

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women and faith

43. Growing a Global Heart

Belvie Rooks with Elizabeth Miller

community 75. A Soul seeking medley:

Songs of the Soul Festival Selections Ali Haji

94. United Nations Report

Arife Hammerle, Ph.D.

literature review

83. The Ecstatic Body as a Doorway to

the Soul: Rumi’s Four Essential Practices Safa Ali Michael Newman

Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1



Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1

What inspires


...turns into

unstoppable action

...when we

get connected.

Share your inspiration at

Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1


Shah Nazar Seyyed Dr. Ali Kianfar Shah Nazar Seyyed Ali Kianfar, Ph.D., the Editor in Chief of the journal, is the Co-Director of the International Association of Sufism. He is an acclaimed Sufi Master with students around the world, an international lecturer and the author of numerous books including An Introduction to Religion.

In Islam, this is a journey through the belief system of self to Self. In the past, when human knowledge and information about nature and natural forces was limited, the immense power behind natural phenomena constituted the supreme mystery of human experience. Over time, those mysterious powers were represented by human beings as different gods. Eventually, the many gods representing the powerful phenomena of nature came to dominate human societies of every kind. At the beginning, many of these gods resided in the celestial sphere and were worshipped outside the confines of buildings. As our construction skills improved, those gods were moved into buildings! Then we began to express our devotion to the gods through our developing artistic abilities and we created magnificent decorations inspired by our spiritual longing. Over time these decorated buildings became temples of worship, but the expressive power of these adorned buildings came to serve the authorities controlling each temple and the often self-serving belief systems they 11

Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1

promoted. Thus, our reverence and awe for the mysterious power we witnessed in the world around us was diverted away from connection with that power toward acceptance of human authority and its misrepresentations of reality. We have learned that in ancient times, human beings would drum forcefully during an eclipse to make sure the cloud covering the face of the sun-god would disappear or leave. At the present time, during this new millennium, we hear a similar drumming, which is stronger than ever before. That is, we hear the drumming of science insistent upon uncovering the hidden sun of knowledge that resides within the heart of every element. Science is beginning to explore deeper and deeper within every particle of nature. Indeed, it will not be long before science tells as about the oneness of the universe and directs us to open ourselves toward understanding the absolute knowledge that governs the Oneness of Being. At the same time, everywhere in organized religion still the face of truth is hidden under a cloud of ceremony. Idols

a letter from the desk of the Editor

stand stronger, more powerful than ever through its first and second declarations of before in temples and buildings across the faith. In the first declaration, the human land. Populations gather around these idols being bears witness that “There is no god and treat them as living gods. Human beings except the Divine Reality” or, in Arabic, “la use the words and teachings of the sacred ilaha illa Allah.” In the second declaration, books to drench those gods with power, yet the human being recites: “I bear witness that the holiness, purity and illuminations of Muhammad is the messenger (Rasul) of God” the words remain unknown. Truly, today as or, in Arabic, “Muhammadan Rasul-al Allah.” much as ever, ignorance is a suitable The first declaration is, in itself, a code ground for superstition. of unity, a code that resides within No matter what religion the heart of the Abrahamic we follow as long as our tradition, monotheism, and practices are not rooted the act of witnessing the Do you know me, O dear heart? to the heart, but are Oneness of Being. The I am but Life from the Beloved instead surrounded by second declaration bears Residing within the heart of Being the images of the mind, witness that Muhammad — Moulana Shah Maghsoud we shall remain far is the messenger who th 20 century Sufi Master, from reality. Images and brought the message of scientist, philosopher idols are the products of Ultimate and Divine Unity and poet the senses and mind and and who announced that should be removed from each human being has the the face of our own being so capacity to discover that unity that we may experience unity within himself or herself. with the One Being. Within this message is At some point, we need to listen to the wrapped the potential and greatness of the drumming of knowledge and the voice of human being. This greatness is bestowed wisdom, whether this voice and drumbeat upon humanity through the generosity of come from a laboratory of science or rise the universe. The Most Gracious, the Most from the heart of the messenger of the Merciful has given human beings the potential divine. When our mind is occupied with the to rise out of illusion and to know and to sermons of preachers we cannot hear the become this universal unity. So let us unwrap voices of the messengers of the divine. Let this treasure hidden behind the senses and us remove the idols of the mind from the created images of sensory interpretation. temple of the heart. Let us discover the light within the heart and Since the first instant of its revelation, disperse once and for all the shadows of the Islam has made its message of unity clear mind. Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1


Within the Covers of the Book of Religion


Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1

principles of Sufism

Nahid Angha, Ph.D.

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Within the Covers of the Book of Religion We often think of primitive human as

simple and naive, but such egotism merely ignores the immensity of the contribution of primitive cultures to our present civilization. Primitive human established the path for generations to follow; creating goals, standards and designs for our advancement, and thus should be credited for his/ her bravery, imagination and vision. One of the many contributions of the primitive culture to our cultural life was the creation of religion. Many cultures were founded upon ritual grounds; temples were built for the sake of worshipping. We revered earth and the nature surrounding our lives. Religions informed and governed the details of everyday life. Religions founded on the ancient system of polytheism introduced a way of devotion to a personal god focusing on the “one reality.” Others focused on the absoluteness of good and evil, introducing gods of light and darkness. And yet another group revered multitudes of gods that expressed both the forces of the natural world and the elements of human nature, and there were many more spiritual systems in between. As we advanced in our knowledge and information, as our technology developed and we began to question the limitations imposed on us by the natural world, we gradually found answers to a few of our questions. We learned that the sun was not a god but a star, that forces of nature were not dieties but actions, reactions and interactions of matters and energies, that celestial beings were galaxies, orbits and planets. Monotheistic religions emerged from the Middle East and taught us to revere and believe in one God, or rather the Ultimate Divine Reality and Unity—the Divine that was Eternal, Compassionate and Merciful. 15

Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1

If we think of Judaism as spiritual teachings based on laws, then Christianity is founded on love and Islam on knowledge. Centuries have passed and in every new era we have found a new way of understanding our quest for Divinity. Yet the questions of “I” and its relationship to understanding God have remained puzzling. As soon as the teaching of a prophet found its way into the marketplace of religion, salvations and redemption found new interpretations. Then, each such religion begins to provide an answer in harmony with the needs of individuals and cultures of time era. These answers have indeed satisfied different people at different times, but where can we find a universal answer to our questions? One of the reasons that we are still searching, that many of us are not happy with the answers provided by traditional and marketplace religions, is that we are looking outward to find an answer for a very deep, inward, personal question. Within any one of the great traditions of spiritual teaching and religion there exists a mystical dimension, where a personal striving is required for a higher, inward understanding. To answer the questions of “I” and its relationship to understanding God, in the framework of religion, one may need to know what is “religion?” The same logic applies to the question of God. Who or what is God? One has to define the extent of one’s search even to reach the question. Where does one look for an answer, in what framework, in which discipline? One has to search within cultures and times; within history and geography; within nature and supernatural. And one must do so while realizing that the way the domain of the search is structured will determine the framework of any answer.

Nahid Angha, Ph.D. Every culture, every time era and every faith sees these questions from a point of view. Even though we all are looking for God, nonetheless, we are all looking from different perspectives, from different angles, from different experiences. There is not a common answer. Throughout history we have come to many puzzles, many mysteries have amazed us; some have kept us in a state of awe and some have fascinated us for a long time. We have found a few answers along the way and as long as our search was/is on the surface of nature and fell/falls into the dimensions of time and place we can acquire much information. Questions of our own and divine identity have received many answers and still we demand more clarification. For ages we have searched outside of ourselves in seeking to solve the mystery of God and His relationship to ourselves. Lacking knowledge, we have come together and worshipped the Divine in hopes of finding salvation and eternal peace. Our prayers have reflected our limitations; our dissatisfaction with the answers of conventional religion and faith has not proved a substitute for knowledge. To believe in an unknown god is simply to rely on what we do not know. It may be comforting for a while, but does not answer questions. To some, perhaps, such not-knowing is bliss. There are many who are afraid to

face the eternal question of life after death and yet there are others who do not stop searching. The truth of religion does not consist of public manifestations. Religion it is not an assembly of people; it is not worshipping an unknown; it is not a political party or social ideology; it is not a business of selling heaven. The truth lies elsewhere. Religion is fact, an abstract, an eternal law. It is a road towards understanding and as such is personal, private and based on the knowledge of the self. Once an individual understands the “fact” and the “law” s/he also understands that the only way to expand his or her horizon is to submit to the law and become united with it. Such a union is not transferable from one mind to another. It is a practice to be undertaken by a seeker. This is what lies within the covers of the book of religion—a divine book that offers guidance for the pure; for those who dwell within the depths of their being and become united with the law of Being. “Call Me, I will answer; remember Me, I will remember you.” One has to discover and learn to submit to the same law that the Divine has chosen for its Reality, so to discover that ultimate Unity within the manifestations of multiplicty. One has to take the step from one’s self and begin the journey towards the Eternal Self, before any question may be answered or any puzzle revealed.

Seyedeh Nahid Angha, Ph.D. Executive Editor of the journal, is Co-Director of the International Association of Sufism and founder of the international Sufi Women’s Organization. She is an acclaimed Sufi Master and spiritual leader from an ancient Sufi lineage, an active leader in the interfaith community worldwide and the first Muslim woman initiated in the Marin Women’s Hall of Fame. Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1



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essential practices along the spiritual path


By Nahid Angha, Ph.D.

Patience as it is practiced in Sufism possesses both an outwardly apparent and inwardly essential aspect. A salek always thinks before he speaks, awaiting the opportune moment, so as not to say what he may well later regret; likewise, he constantly attends to the care of his body and mind so as not to fall into distress and helplessness; most important of all, he keeps his heart from falling into rejection and denial: perhaps the most difficult of tests. Weakness in patience reflects uncertainty of belief, since patience is one of the reasons and methods that keeps belief intact.1 It has been narrated from Amir-al-Moumenin Ali that the relationship between patience and belief is likened to that of mind and body; a body without mind will not live; belief without patience will not endure.2

1 Ghotbeddin Abul Muzaffar Ebadi, Sufi Nameh. Teheran: 1347, pp. 75-76. 2

Dr. Nahid Angha, Principles of Sufism. Jain Publishing Company, 1986, pp. 47-48.

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Oh, human being, you think that you are only a small body; know that a greater world is wrapped within you.

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- Amir-al-moemenin Ali (pbuh)

selected teachings Hazrat Moulana Shah Maghsoud Sadegh Angha

A Sufi sees the truth of his identity as clearly as he sees his face in the mirror. The righteous one sees the truth of his identity as he sees his face on the trembling water. The misled and rebellious one neither discovers nor will discover. His surroundings are the realm of ignorance and loss. The darkness of ignorance diminishes the rays of awareness. Therefore, put the darkness away from yourself. Light the channel between your heart and your mind and do not let these neighbors remain unaware of each other. Unite your mind and your heart and through this union dissipate any desires growing in your heart so that you may remain eternally. When the energies of your senses gather and reach the house of your heart and wish not to turn back, you will find your ‘self ’, and when your being is nourished by the breath from the soul of life, you will see the illuminating face of your ‘self ’. Birds fly back to their nest at night and find comfort there. At night time you, too, should gather and concentrate all the scattered energies of the senses in your heart. Remain there all peaceful and uncover the illuminated figure of your self all in unity. If it breathes into the elements of your being from the eternal soul, you will step out of the realm of death.1

1 Moulana Shah Maghsoud, Payam-e-del, Message of the Heart. trans. by Nahhid Angha, Ph.D., International Association of Sufism Publications, San Rafael, CA: 1994, p. 10. Nahid Angha, Ph.D. is the sole authorized translator, writer and authenticator of her Father’s teachings and writings. She, alone, has full ownership and authority so granted by the appointment and permission of Hazrat Moulana Shah Maghsoud Sadegh Angha.

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the hadiths of Prophet Mohammad

Science, Knowledge and Belief quoted translations by Nahid Angha, Ph.D. selections and introduction by Hamid Edson From the very beginning, the Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, emphasized to followers of Islam that the way of religion revealed in the Qur’an is followed through the pursuit of knowledge. The Prophet explained in numerous hadith, a few of which are presented below, that pursuit of knowledge in a learned and scientific manner is a duty for all Muslims. Thus, the culture of Islam has distinguished itself as a religion in which science has been celebrated and depicted as a intetral with spirituality. In Islam, scientific inquiry has always been supported and advanced by spiritual teachers. Importantly, the Prophet’s hadith make clear that science, knowledge and belief are available through such inquiry to all people, men and women, rich and poor, native and foreign. In the same manner, the pursuit of science, knowledge and belief is not to be limited by prejudice or even physical restrictions. Ultimately, the discoveries of science help humanity to better understand the principles governing spiritual development. In this way, the foundation of belief is built on understanding instead of ignorance.

“Knowledge is the life of Islam, the pillar of belief. Whoever learns a science, to him Allah will give a perfect reward; and whoever learns and acts according to his learning, Allah will teach him whatever he does not know.” “Knowledge is the storehouse of many treasures and its key is questioning and asking.’ So ask till Allah blesses you and gives you mercy. The knowledge of four kinds of people is rewarded: the one who asks, the one who teaches, the one who listens, and the one who loves these three.”

“The greatness of a scholar over a simple worshipper is like the light of the moon over the stars.”

“One hour of seeking knowledge is better than one night of prayer, and one day of searching for knowledge is better than three months of fasting.” “There are people from Fars (Persia,) that could find knowledge even if it were hidden in far away galaxies.” “One hour of truthful thinking is better than sixty years of worshipping.”

Tr. Nahid Angha, Ph.D., Deliverance, Words from the Prophet Mohammad. International Association of Sufism, 1995, pp. 15, 19, 35, 69, 76, 78, and 86.

Hamid Edson is a student of Dr. Nahid Angha and Shah Nazar Seyyed Dr. Ali Kianfar and a board member of the Institute for Sufi Studies. He is also an author and an attorney-mediator whose practice is devoted to helping families navigate change and conflict. His books include The Declaration of the Democratic Worldview and a volume of poetry, A Brave New Worldview.


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January 12, 2013

Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1



Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1

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In the following excerpt from A Meditation, Payam-e-Del, the great 20th Century Sufi Master, Moulana Shah Maghsoud, provides a cosmological perspective focused on the ultimate, unlimited awareness of the Divine. A key feature of this description is Moulana Shah Maghsoud’s description of the heart as the locus of life, where the heavy world of physical manifestations and the fine world of spiritual essence meet, and where the human being and creation of Allah are perfected. Thus, Moulana Shah Maghsoud offers a cosmology that describes the fulfillment of human potential through arrival at a deeper appreciation for the living sacred oneness of existence approached from their respective sides of the science/ spirituality divide. However, Moulana Shah Maghsoud, who was also a highly respected physicist in his time, writes from an experience of the living sacred oneness of existence that validates and then transcends science’s current knowledge concerning human awareness and potential. Moulana Shah Maghsoud writes... Moulana Shah Maghsoud is a great Sufi Master from the twentieth century who was also a scientist, philosopher, poet and lecturer. He lived in Iran and the United States of America and is the author of numerous books.


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Translated by Nahid Angha, Ph.D.

...The eternal essence exists in the depths and surfaces of all beings and will not disappear. But while unstable beings always gather and scatter, yet the whole of existence is neither increased nor decreased by their gatherings and scatterings. The creating angel of God is the source of life, and birth is the power of the source. Births neither add to nor take away anything from the universe. These infinite extensions from a particle to the whole, from atom to the universe, are constant births that sink into dispersion and death. The appearance of life is a presentation of these great expansions and condensations, but the truth and the essence of life is the eternal and immortal originality. There are one hundred and one canals in the skirt of the uqdeh-e-haya’ati (locus of life centered in the heart) that water and run through seventy-one thousand capillaries and nourish ten trillion brain cells so that the creation of God is perfected in that expansion and condensation. Uqdeh-e-haya’ati resides in the edge between the two worlds of fineness and heaviness, its act is the destination of God. That is where the world of awakening life faces the world of sleeping death, the first pulling one toward eternity and infinity while the second pushes one to the depth of transience. The third point in the heart is the meeting place of the two worlds of fineness and heaviness. Search for the truth in your celestial figure at this third point in your heart, in the state between consciousness and half sleep. The center of life in your heart is light, certainty, and original knowledge. It is all-knowing. Therefore, appearances are manifested from this center. It is the essence of all that is pure and the figure of all bodies. Everything is completed by the hand of its making. Bring to this source nothing but nothingness, since it is the source of all wealth and richness.

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Cosmogenesis On August 24, 2012, Sufism: An Inquiry had the privilege of spending an afternoon with evolutionaryl cosmologist, beloved educator, and filmmaker, Dr. Brian Thomas Swimme. It was a rare opportunity to gain greater insight into the emergence and implications of “new cosmology,” or “the new story,” through the lens of Brian’s own unfolding relationship with science, exploration and inquiry. Dancing between childhood moments beneath the stars, years of intensive scientific study, reflections on this moment in history, and an ever-expanding reverence for the beauty and mystery in the cosmos, Brian invites us into a journey of remembrance, discovery, celebration and wonder. Brian Thomas Swimme is the author of The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos and The Universe is a Green Dragon, and co-author of The Universe Story, which is the result of a ten-year collaboration with cultural historian, Thomas Berry. Working with his long time collaborator Bruce Bochte, he created three educational video series: Canticle to the Cosmos, The Earth’s Imagination, and The Powers of the Universe. Most recently Brian and Historian of Religiions Mary Evelyn Tucker wrote the film, Journey of the Universe, broadcast on PBS television stations nationwide and recipient of a California Emmy award. Brian is a professor of cosmology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and Director of the Center of the Study of the Universe. He lectures widely and has presented at conferences sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, The World Bank, UNESCO, The United Nations Millennium Peace Summit, and the American Museum of Natural History. photos courtesy of Journey of the Universe Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1



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Sufism, An Inquiry: In new cosmology, what would you say are the responsibilities of each human being in the evolution of our shared humanity? Being in the present moment is a principle of meditation in many mystical schools, certainly Sufism, which says: bring nothing to your heart but presence because the source is so rich that you can’t bring anything to the source; you have to be empty and available for it. How do you see this teaching in the context of your own experience? Brian: In new cosmology we still have to develop selflessness, and love, and we have to overcome greed and anger and so forth. But at the same time, we recognize that we’re in the midst of giving birth to something that is actually new. And just like you said, we don’t know what it is. There’s a word I just learned that comes out of Schelling….he calls it the unprethinkable, so that we don’t know what’s coming. Schelling would say we can’t think it; that it’s not discernible through the faculty of the mind. I think that idea is so powerful because it means that we have this incredible opportunity in bringing forth something that’s actually beyond the reach of our current consciousness, and that invites us to cultivate new modes of awareness. For centuries we scientists have fallen into this idea that we can predict what’s coming. Science was really determined by what it could predict. Once you really think you can predict, there’s not as big a need to pay attention, and so you’re talking yourself out of presence. It’s one of the major challenges of contemporary science. In fact, I would say that one way into presence, for me, has come through

the shattering of classical science…I was trained in classical science, like everybody was, but slowly the insights from quantum physics, and from evolutionary biology were introduced. Both contain the element of surprise in a very deep way. And that was so hard for scientists to accept – our inability to predict and control. Einstein never moved away from that ideal of getting the equations that would enable us to predict, but it’s pretty clear that’s not possible. For me, once that penetrated into my understanding, then suddenly everything became more interesting because I realized that the ideas that I had, however helpful, could not fully capture what was before me. That was my gateway toward trying to develop the capacity for astonishment. As you were saying, the origin is so far beyond us that if we can release ourselves from fixations, we have the chance of being astonished by what’s surfacing. Looking back on it now, I can say that certain sensibilities were being closed down in me, and there was a kind of driving success in me towards articulating things mathematically. And I loved that. I loved it, but at the same time, I was aware that I was becoming more and more narrow. I remember that I was in graduate school, and I was squeezing the joy out of my life because I was becoming so fixated…Darwin talks about this, and I think it’s a really common experience among scientists. Darwin said that after years of work, he found poetry to be almost beside the point, whereas he had loved poetry when he was younger. So, what was happening to him? As I began to reflect on that, I asked myself a simple question: How is it that I ended up studying the mathematics of the Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1


Universe? And I remembered my fascination with stars as a child, and I realized that, wow, this was all about a pathway into fascination. And as I released myself from that overly narrow focus, it was like discovering myself again… In other words, I could allow myself to simply be fascinated, because that was at the root of it all. In graduate school especially, there’s a training to push aside your feelings, and to focus

have the Earth, the center is Hell, and then surrounding the Earth are these spheres, which are turning. And then, the largest sphere is God. So it’s kind of an amazing universe, but the main difference is that Dante’s cosmology is fixed, fixed in place. And so from the beginning of time, a God organized things this way, and then holiness, or salvation, within the Dantean world is overcoming various vices and then taking

on the cerebral, so I was on my own kind of in bringing that back in. As a young child I was taught Dante’s cosmology. You know, they wouldn’t say it was Dante, but it was basically the same thing. When you look at Dante’s world, you have the Earth, and the center of the Earth is Hell. Now, Dante didn’t think that Hell was the center of the Earth, but it’s just an image trying to elicit an experience. You

on the divine qualities which are emanating down to us from the heavenly spheres. That would be the traditional view, and the number one difference with contemporary cosmology is that we now talk about the development through time, so that anything that exists comes from a prior time in which it didn’t exist; everything in the universe has been constructed. So instead of having Earth set in place, and then


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humans set on Earth, we have this process out of which human emerged, and out of which the Earth emerges. It’s a major transition – there’s a transition from cosmos to cosmogenesis… from a more static universe to a time-developmental universe. I was a person of the cosmos, and then through education started discovering cosmogenesis, and it just blew my mind. Cosmogenesis suggests that the universe

is not fixed, it’s being created. It shifts the focus so that we are the ones, now and in the next few centuries, who will reinvent what it means to be human inside of this expanding knowledge of the creative potential each of us contains. The classical way of thinking about human knowledge is: there’s a world out there, and we have a mind in here, so we’re representing the world. It’s two things: the

mind and the world. But I started thinking, it’s one thing, or it’s at least not two. And I was wondering, what does it mean if the things I’m studying as a scientist, are the things that gave birth to me? Newton never had that thought! I mean Newton’s genius is unbelievable, but he never had that thought. Going back to what I was saying about the stars, I realized that the stars got me to study them. They are so beautiful! I was a little kid, three years old, mesmerized by the stars! The stars got me to pay attention. And then I learned through science that I was composed of them! And to understand my own life, I thought what was important, and I thought about allurement, this is one of the things that is happening, and I just sort of proceeded with considering the powers of creation that generate movement in the universe. My writing and work is very much a reflection of coming into greater awareness of myself in relationship to the world around me. An Inquiry: What you’re saying ties in so well to my experience of Sufism and what I understand from what I’ve been learning, because Sufism and Islam are unity. If you could only leave one thing in Islam, my understanding is that you would have to leave La ilaha illallah– there is nothing but unity, nothing but one. Brian: That’s really nice. Here’s how I understand what’s taking place: our bodies are composed of atoms that have descended from and been constructed from the stars, and our bodies are also fused with energy that has its origin at the beginning of time. Our lungs were actually constructed several Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1


hundred million years ago by particular fish. So we are just an amazing unity of the universe. The body at some level, the bodymind, the human being, knows this intuitively. The utterances of prophets and articulated in wisdom traditions are coming from the profound truth of things. Science is slower because it doesn’t proceed with that kind of profound intuitive grasp; it proceeds with a kind of mass of empirical evidence, which is measuring things outside of us, and then slowly building that up. I think the truth is arrived at first subjectively, and now we happen to be in that time when the scientific enterprise has caught up in an empirical way. One isn’t superior to the other, but what’s really thrilling is the power that is going to be available for uplifting humanity, as we see this deep correspondence. That’s how I see it. The universe is reflecting on itself through the human being, and it first comes forth mystically, subjectively, intuitively, and then rationally, empirically. We could say that the mystery understands things, but the images and ideas it uses to understand things are other than that which it is. That is, I can describe myself – I can say I studied mathematics, and I’m 61 years old, and I’m married. All these things are true, but the power that’s describing them is who I am. I am capable of describing myself, but the mystery itself remains beyond images…The power that gave birth to the image is still different than the image. At some level, the mystery of who we are is ultimately unsayable. Even after millions of years of exploration, we will not have exhausted infinity. What I’m hoping for, right now, is that we will come to appreciate the way the self that is mysterious and infinite is present in each being, not just in humans. 33

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The origin is so vast, and I think that will always be the case. But I think there will be a deepening of the direct understanding of who we are. Going from cosmos to cosmogenesis, we start to see the way in which our self is itself the entire history of the cosmos. We’re learning more details about that. The origins of anger, jealously, and so forth…now we have a sense of it going back millions, even billions of years, so it’s a new pathway in from the scientific orientation, one we can combine with meditation and a mystical approach.

An Inquiry: I’m thinking about a previous conversation in which you talked about practices in everyday life that cultivate the kind of presence, awareness, and relatedness we’ve been talking about. You gave an example of standing at the foot of the ocean, communing with the ocean, being with the way the water moves, imagining all of the life within the water, and actually intentionally developing an ability to be in conversation beyond language in ways that allow us to experience the language of the wave, the tree, the star, and to develop that kind of direct perception you refer to in your discussions of science. Brian: Yes! Exactly. We can be using science to move the mind in that direction, toward a more direct encounter. Again, we’re immersed in origin, in what I call the “all nourishing abyss,” and so moment by moment things are being created. I think there’s actually a Sufi cosmology called Continuous Creation, where every moment, every instant, the universe is being created anew. That’s exactly this point of view. So that’s the excitement that I get out of it. It’s about how we listen, and about

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locating a common context. The universe is our greatest teacher. It’s constantly showing us how to live in rhythm and harmony. We can teach ourselves to tune into the energies moving all around us, and to create with them – with the wind, with the fire, with the earth. Everything has a story to tell us, and we can participate in generating a new story, moment by moment. An Inquiry: It would be great to hear a little about your recent project, Journey of the Universe, or anything that stands out to you about our moment in history?

Brian: I’ll tell you a story that just happened two days ago. I got an email that said: “Dear Dr. Swimme, I wrote a book in the 1980s called Journey of the Universe: According to the Quran.” These were two books that happened independent of one another... I thought that was so fantastic. I haven’t read his book yet, but I just sort of loved that. And here’s a sentence I thought was really fantastic, he said: “I read your book, and I appreciate it very much – it’s a book that every educated person can feel affirmed by.” And I thought, that’s what Mary Evelyn Tucker and I had hoped for; that it would be something that would be broadly available no matter a person’s orientation. We now have the opportunity for a new recognition of unity. We live in a time of great divisiveness, and yet we can start to realize that there is this cosmogenesis taking place, and we’re all inside of it.

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"to become Love in Human form ...” By Hamid Edson

In Brian Swimme’s best-selling book, The Universe Is a Green Dragon, Brian employs a form of Socratic dialogue to explore the teachings of New Cosmology. In honor of his mentor and colleague, Thomas Berry, Brian names the teacher in his work Thomas. He refers to the student simply as “Youth.” In this excerpt Brian asks Thomas to explain to Youth the implications Wof science’s discovery of the origin of the universe in the Big Bang, the creative and annihilating dynamics of quantum mechanics, and the refinement of our understanding of the essence of life in the context of the evolutionary creation story from which we now understand humanity cannot stand apart. Here, Swimme writes about the positive and negative impacts the divide between science and spirituality has had upon humanity’s development of greater self-understanding and he voices many ideas also explored by prophets and mystics the world over. In Islam, the most fundamental statement of the nature of existence is: La Illaha illa Allah - There is nothing but the One, the Divine. Brian in his own way also speaks to this fundamental statement. He posits, “the ultimacy of no-thingness that is simultaneously a realm of generative potentiality,” and further asserts that the universe is a living entity and “a single energetic event, a whole, a unified, multiform and glorious outpouring of being.” Brian is, in essence, saying, “There is nothing, but the whole, the single, the unified, the One.” In the traditions of Islam, this One is further described as Divine and is known by ninety-nine Divine Names. From within the pages of The Universe is a Green Dragon, Brian describes this One as a “generative potentiality” and a “multiform and glorious outpouring of being.” These descriptions in turn evoke the Divine Name with which the Holy Qur’an begins: Ar-Rahman, the Most Gracious.


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From the different descriptions that science and spirituality give the One Whole of Existence, we can learn to extend more serious contemplation of the descriptions of reality provided in spiritual texts such as the Qur’an. In our Western culture, we have come to regard science as having a very strong, objective foundation and to consider spirituality as being based upon psychological delusions, or at best, subjective experiences. Since its inception, however, the culture of Islam has championed the growth of scientific inquiry and played an important role in the evolution Brian celebrates of the emerging evidence-based awareness of the incomprehensible scope of “the glorious outpouring of being,” which science calls the Big Bang or as Brian prefers, the flaring forth. At the same time, the practical and experiential inquiry of Sufism has led many Sufis to establish an awareness of Ar-Rahman as an ultimate reality, beyond all illusion. Brian Swimme sees our ability to receive the teachings of cosmology as a key to fulfilling humanity’s highest potential: the mystery of embodying love. In Islam, this potential is signified by the Divine Name, Ar-Rahim, the Most Merciful, which directly follows and complements Ar-Rahman in opening the Qur’an. Allah’s graciousness or Rahmat is the universal outpouring of being that is all of existence and that is the expression of Allah’s love, but Allah’s mercy is the endowing upon each manifestation of being the capacity to receive and embody that outpouring of love. By equating fulfillment of human potential with the goal of “becoming love in human form” through the awareness arrived at through cosmology, Brian describes an effort very similar to that of the student of Sufism. That is, the Sufi student or salek seeks from the teacher instruction in how to strengthen his or her connection to the outpouring of Allah’s Rahmat and thereby to increase his or her ability to receive, appreciate and embody Allah’s love.

from The Universe is a Green Dragon By Brian Swimme, Ph.D.

THOMAS: ...The great wonder is that this empirical, rational journey of science should have any contract at all with spiritual traditions. But in our century, the mechanistic period of science opened out to include a science of mystery: the encounter with the ultimacy of no-thing-ness that is simultaneously a realm of generative potentiality; the dawning recognition that the universe and Earth can be considered as living entities; the awareness that the human person, rather than a separate unit with the world, is the culminating presence of a billion-year process; and the realization that, rather than having a universe filled with things, we are enveloped by a universe that is a single energetic event, a whole, a unified, multiform, and glorious outpouring of being. We do not want to forget that the division between science and religion has created sufferings of all kinds. We have paid a tremendous price to establish scientific activity, and only by remembering the suffering that this schizophrenic situation created can we celebrate the present. We have a vast new empirically grounded story of the universe, one that explodes beyond any previous telling of reality, one that encompasses all peoples because it is rooted in concrete experience. Within this emerging story we can continue our journey to our fullest destiny. YOUTH: What is our fullest Destiny? THOMAS: To become love in human form. YOUTH: Love? I thought we were talking about science and religion. And emptiness. THOMAS: Yes, that's right. The journey out of emptiness is the creation of love. YOUTH: I'm confused. THOMAS: By what exactly? YOUTH: Well, by love. What do you mean by love....

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Rumi Drew Dellinger, Ph.D., is an internationally sought-after speaker, poet, writer, and teacher who has inspired minds and hearts around the world, performing poetry and keynoting on justice, ecology, cosmology, and compassion. He has presented at over 1000 events across the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia, including Bioneers, the Green Festival, the Dream Reborn, and the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Rumi the first whirling saint of poetry spinning like a galaxy weaving constellations of words like blazing stars, numinous moons planets with gardens blossoming and oceans floating in space. Rumi the first whirling saint of poetry traversing the geography of divine desire with longing stronger than the undertow of history. This Presence is mysterious, like the silhouette of music, the circumference of a dream. When Rumi met Shams the clouds couldn’t keep quiet they cried at the question that knocked Rumi down they floated more slowly, hoping to hear whispers from their mystical conversations. Rumi sending words like flaming arrows to penetrate hearts cold as that December night when Shams was called to the back door never to be seen again. Rumi bathed in sacred graces Rumi bathed in sacred graces like the wind that fills the flute with notes of longing.


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I saw Rumi spinning verses in the early morning hours, one arm wrapped around the pillar, his free hand tracing outlines of angels in the air songs with the power to intoxicate prophets longing for the Beloved whose absence fills the world invisible odes built of breath like God could kiss your lips and transmit words that ride on waves of how it feels when you’re together. - Drew Dellinger

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By Elizabeth Miller

We were pleased to welcome Belvie Rooks to a new Interview Series dedicated to Women and Faith, as our first guest contributor. The primary focus of Women and Faith is to engage in the exploration of the wisdom of women, especially those working creatively at the intersection of personal, social, and ecological healing. The design of these in-depth conversations arises from women’s experiences of living from the heart as they cultivate integrity and presence. In essence: What is it that provides women with strength, balance, and peace on their path of service, and how do women experience transformation? Belvie Rooks is an educator, writer, activist and producer whose work weaves spirituality, feminism, social healing and environmental restoration in novel ways that honor the wisdom of all beings and bridge socially constructed divides. Belvie is married to activist and poet, Dedan Gills. Together they are the co-founders of Growing a Global Heart, a project to bring communities together to plant a million trees in locations throughout the world in honor of the millions of lives lost in acts of violence and oppression, and to seed new hope for humanity and the earth. Most recently, Belvie was the featured speaker at the Sufi Women Organization’s fall luncheon, where she shared stories from her own life, and brought the audience with her on a journey through the inspirations and creation of Growing a Global Heart, including its recent extension to tree planting initiatives with youth and communities in Oakland.


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photos by Susan Lambert and Steve Uzzell

With an authenticity and grace that shines through all of Belvie’s work, she recalled her visit to El Mina slave dungeon on the Cape Coast of Africa five years ago, where she found herself hand-in-hand with Dedan at the “Door-of-no-Return,” the portal through which millions of men, women, and children began the journey into slavery over a period of nearly 400 years. At the time, Belvie was overcome by grief at that amount of suffering humanity has endured, unaware the giving herself to feel fully, while remaining open in her heart, would open a new doorway – one leading to new dreams and unimagined possibilities. As they sat in the wake of their time in El Mina, Dedan asked Belvie to consider a question: “What would healing look like?” Allowing herself to dwell in the question and to listen inside herself for the answer, Belvie witnessed lines of poetry, echoes

of ancient wisdom, and images of the natural world moving through her, from which the vision of brining communities together to talk openly and honestly about our history and our common humanity, and to turn the soil, began to take shape. In addition to poetry from Alice Walker and others she heard on the beaches of Africa, at the close of her presentation, Belvie shared a quotation from Shah Nazar Dr. Seyyed Ali Kanfar’s Seasons of the Soul, in which he writes: It is the heart that shapes the human being in the image of God The potential of the heart is the potential Of the seed that creates the whole tree.

Belvie expressed that she felt deep resonance with these words, finding them to speak to her experience, and to call her into the space of her own heart, where she connects often Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1



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with the wisdom she first mentions here, that of her female ancestors, and where she finds her dreams of peaceful community. But For Such a Time as This I’ve been sensing the presence of my grandmother, Carrie Kayton, a lot lately, and really sitting with her teachings. Often in hard times, my mantra is a prayer that I will more fully embrace and embody the faith of my grandmother, who stands for me as a metaphorical representative of a lineage of female ancestors. For instance, my great-grandmother, Martha Lardy, was born in the 1850’s, which meant that she spent the first 15 or so years of her life as somebody’s property. She would have been 16 or 17 when the Civil War ended. When I think of my grandmother, who lived the majority of her life in the pre-civil rights South, so much of her faith in the future was invested in me. One of her favorite Biblical scriptures was from the books of Esther: “But for such a time as this that you were born.” Now how’s that for making you feel special? In the whole orchestrated universe, you matter! As a teenager it was really hard to believe, but if you hear something enough, it begins to sink in. And since she said it to everyone, as you heard it, you realized that you were special in your own unique way. It’s a message that gives you a lot of faith in yourself, and sense of purpose even before you know what that purpose looks like. Often because of the southern sharecropper system, women like my grandmother only had a 5th or 6th grade education, which means that in the context of the society most of them would have been labeled “uneducated.” I like to honor the wisdom of these women, and to bring

their voices into the conversation in new ways. It’s important for me to remember, name and honor the lived heart wisdom that they embodied. Whenever my grandmother was complimenting somebody, she would always say: “That person never met a stranger,” or “That child just don’t know no stranger.” She appreciated people who could understand everybody as friend, everybody as family; who could make room for everyone and not leave anyone beyond love. I just love that. I have always felt it as something to aspire to – to be the kind of person who doesn’t know stranger, who can find commonality among difference. Part of Growing a Global Heart involves the vision of communities coming together to turn soil and plant seeds in the midst of different belief systems, traditions, practices…seeing ourselves in each other. Part of what this project has done for me is to allow me to embody the spirit of there is no other. For a lot of my life, it was more of a concept than a lived experience. Previously, I could talk about it, but it was not yet fully alive in my own heart.

Discovering Connections At one level the emerging embodiment comes from stepping into and embodying the role of elder. Growing up, I was pretty clear what my grandmother, my grandfather, and my great aunts and uncles held as their core values. I speak a lot about my grandmother because as child that’s who I spent a lot of my time with, and as young people, we are looking to others to show us the way. More and more it feels like a privilege to know myself more fully and to offer what I’m learning, and to hold a space for other generations to find deeper connection to the truth of who they are. Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1



In terms of a sense of connection, I often find myself recalling images of our small blue planet floating peacefully in space, and celebrate that as home – the ultimate home, in contrast to notions of home as I street I live on, or the country I happen to live in. For me, such images are an ever-present reminder of the folly of an internalized view of separation. With an expanded sense of community rooted in an embrace of the Earth and the Earth’s wisdom, the consciousness that there is only one comes even more present. Scientists like Brian Swimme now talk about differentiated unity and the common source from which all life has emerged, and mystics, native elders and Sufis invite us to remember who we are. Brian and I once Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1

had a conversation in which he said, “Our children are in trouble because they don’t know who they are!” It takes me again to the wisdom of my grandmother – “But for such a time as this that you were born.” When Dedan and I began Growing a Global Heart, I thought it was about doing, and certainly what we are doing is very important in terms of contributing to healing the planet and healing some of the historic wounds that create a sense of division. But what I’m discovering is that I’m experiencing an inner journey, an inner transformation that I hadn’t expected, and I’m leaning into it. I’m asking my heart what it wants. I had not been one to focus a lot on the inner process. As an activist, I was constantly looking for outward manifesta-

Masters in Spiritual Guidance The Sofia approach to Spiritual Guidance serves spiritual seekers of all backgrounds, ranging from those deeply involved in specific faith traditions to those who define themselves as spiritual but not religious. With a multicultural and multi-faith orientation, Sofia provides students with both theoretical and practical training. The Masters in Spiritual Guidance (SGMA) is a two-year, low-residency program focused on developing spiritual discernment and awareness of psychological issues, crosscultural sensitivities, and understanding transpersonal and spiritual development. With over 35 years of experience training counselors, guides and clinicians, Sofia University also provides whole-person, transformative graduate programs in Transpersonal and Clinical Psychology.

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tions of shifts in consciousness; evidence that transformation was happening, that things were changing and that effort resulting in something. The past few years, as I’ve listened for how to create the work we are now doing, I’ve been gifted an opportunity to witness how the weaving of inner and outer are so connected that it’s seamless. I used to feel that if you spent too much time on the inner, you were neglected the outer world. I always thought the task was to be in the world. What I’m coming to understand more and more from my own experience is that a sense of how to continue forward is coming both from time spent in silence and in conversation. I’m listening more, and allowing myself to be surprised by what shows up, by what wants to be acknowledged and given voice. Learning and Loving So much emphasis in life seems to fall on having it all figured out, on gaining authority over life. When I was a young person in my twenties, I was sure I would have life figured out at least by my thirties. As a woman nearing seventy years of life, I’m happy to say that I feel like I’m learning more now than at any other period of my life. I think it’s because I’m celebrating, learning and embraching the joy of being in a state of openeness and invitation. I’m also allowing myself to feel fully in this part of my life, rather than trying to push away certain experiences or emotions. It’s become very important to me to give myself permission to fell fully, and to model that in the ways that I can. Acceptance and acknowledgement help us to move on beyond the limited boundaries of


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fear and hurtful experiences. Greater core healing helps to provide self-confidence. From the viewpoint of Jean Houston and other spiritual teachers understanding Love is the key healer and it is possible for a seeker to to find this love. I am learning, finding faith, discovering and trusting in Love. It is Love that is calling. I am reminded by the young people. They show me all of the time with passion in their spirits and their hopeful eyes. Love is calling through them, and longing to be nurtured.

In Homage to the Children I would love to offer a quote from Diane Longboat, a Mohawk, Turtle Clan woman from Six Nations, who is a ceremonial leader, traditional teacher of Indigenous spiritual ways and a healer. She is also a professional educator, has taught and lectured at Universities in Canada and many national and international conferences and gatherings on the topics of spiritual renewal as the guiding force for nation building. This is what she shared with me on the occasion of my talk with at the Sufi Women’s luncheon: “All of the children are Sacred Gifts from the Creator to humanity. The Prophets of our people speak of these new leaders as being born with all of the Gifts of the Ancestors. They are the great prophets, orators, leaders, teachers, visionaries, healers we have been waiting for, praying for and fasting for. They are the spiritually gifted ones who will create a new consciousness for humanity. Our role is to teach them, nurture them, protect them, heal them and guide them to be spiritually activated, awakened and anxious to

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Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1


URI (United Religions Initiative) is a global grassroots interfaith network that cultivates peace and justice by engaging people to bridge religious and cultural differences and work together for the good of their communities and the world.

Visit for more information





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apply their gifts of sacred communication with Spirit to all of the challenges facing our future. They come from all faith traditions, all races, all geographical regions of Mother Earth. They are the Spiritual Warriors of Peace, the Rainbow Warriors of all colors of the human family.” A few nights before my presentation, I had a powerful experience that I’m still sitting with… I was in a half dream state and there were children with all different faces and eyes, and I was sitting with them and hugging them. I woke up in the middle of the experience with my heart pulsating with waves of energy that felt like they were emanating from my heart and rippling throughout my body. It was unlike anything I’ve felt before – the strength of that pulsating sensation of deep, deep

love for the children of every nation. Dedan woke up for a minute and I tried to articulate what was happening, but 4am is a strange time to search for words… Later I thought to myself, how important teachers are since I found myself wanting to find the teacher who could help guide me to that space. What an amazing world to consciously be able to live from that place, where the love of children inspires the love of all. Belvie is the creator of Hey Listen Up: A Sense of Self-A Sense of Place, a groundbreaking, multi-media, urban eco-literacy project and curriculum piloted in South Central, LA, and featured in the Journey of the Universe Educational DVD Series. She was a founding member of Wild Trees

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Press, co-created with Pulitzer Prize winning author, Alice Walker, and creator and host of ConverZations that Matter, a conversation series featuring leaders from around the globe. Belvie is a sought-after speaker and facilitator, and teaches and offers workshops in both university and community settings. Her published worked are included in: DoubleStitch: African American Women Write about Mothers & Daughters (Beacon Press); Sacred Poems and Prayers in Praise of Life, edited by Mary-Ford Grabowsky (Doubleday); The Same River Twice: Honoring the Difficult by Alice Walker (Scribner); My Soul is a Witness: African American Women’s Spirituality (Beacon Press); A Tribute to Thomas Berry: Reflections on Life in the Ecological Age (Center for Ecozoic Studies); 100 WORDS: Two Hundred Visionaries Share Their Hope for the Future, edited by William Murtha (Conari Press); Moonrise The Power of Women: Leading from the Heart (Edited by Nina Simons). Follow Growing a Global Heart on Facebook.


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Visionary Marin Serving the community for 30 years

Thursday, November 8, 6:00-8:30pm Mill Valley Community Center


Dr. Nahid Angha


Co-founder/Director of the International Association of Sufism Recipient of Recognition from the UNESCO’s Universal Forum of Cultures Executive Editor of the journal, Sufism: An Inquiry Founder of the International Sufi Women Organization Represents IAS to the United Nations honoree of the Marin Women’s Hall of Fame Sufism: An InquiryFirst VolMuslim XVI, No.woman 1

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There is an estuary where streams and wild rivers meet and mingle with the salted tides. It gathers all the water to it like the afterlife of rain: inevitable! I too must be an estuary of confluent tidesthis earth-body of antlered thoughts, the decay of leaves: my branching mind. Tumbling with stones and salmon toward the sea, the rivers of the Earth move through me. - Jason Kirkey

Jason Kirkey is an author, poet, and the founder of Hiraeth Press. He grew up in the Ipswich River-​​North Atlantic Coast water­shed of Massachusetts. Inspired by the land­scapes in which he has lived — the tem­perate forests and old moun­tains of New England, the red rocks and high desert of Colorado, Irish hills and sea — his work is per­me­ated with an eco­log­ical sen­si­bility. Whether poetry or prose, Jason’s words strive toward con­so­nance with the ecosystem. He has written four vol­umes of poetry, including Estuaries and a non­fic­tion book, The Salmon in the Spring: The Ecology of Celtic Spirituality. Jason is now working on his second non­fic­tion book and a grad­ uate degree in con­ser­va­tion ecology. He lives in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1


I Died as a Mineral I died as a mineral and became a plant, I died as plant and rose to animal, I died as animal and I was Man. Why should I fear? When was I less by dying? Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar With angels blest; but even from angelhood I must pass on: all except God doth perish. When I have sacrificed my angel-soul, I shall become what no mind e’er conceived. Oh, let me not exist! for Non-existence Proclaims in organ tones, ‘To Him we shall return.’ - Rumi Rumi, Maulana Jalal-’d-din Muhammad and E.H. Whinfield (translator), The Masnavi I Ma’navi of Rumi: Complete., 2008.

Could we call Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi, also known as Rumi, a “Darwinist?”

Does the above poem from his masterpiece, The Masnavi, hint at the scientific idea of evolution and a common ancestor of all life on earth? Was Charles Darwin the most well-known in a long line of evolutionists beginning with Sufis? Some think this passage expresses Rumi’s grasp of evolution nearly six hundred years in advance of the publication of The Origin of Species. The question is intriguing. And the issue is made more interesting considering the potent mix of religion and science involved. Many people today believe these two subjects are polar opposites, and treat them as irreconcilable approaches to understanding the nature of reality. In many places on the globe, particularly in the West, science and religion remain locked in a culture war. Sufi poetry might be one medium both science and religion can share and happily coexist within. This may explain how Rumi’s poetry remains immensely popular in Muslim countries, the West and among both religious and secular people. In what follows, the tension between religion and science is reviewed and the poetry of Rumi is examined as a possible mediator. The particular passage from Rumi’s Masnavi has been debated for many years. Some say it suggests Rumi was ahead of western scientists and discovered evolution hundreds of years before Darwin published his findings. Others are adamant that Rumi made no such case and the couplets are completely spiritual in nature. There are questions about the source of Rumi’s poetic metaphors which need to be explored in order to clarify the relationship between his mystical poetry and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. We can then make some general observations about Sufi knowledge within the science – religion dynamic. The God Wars Scientists, materialists and Darwinists see human evolution as a combination of random and deterministic processes which began with the creation of matter, the creation of the first cell from matter and the evolution of that single cell into the vast variety of plant, animal and human species we see all over the world today. Any talk of spiritual origins or evolution is dismissed.


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Was Rumi an evolutionist?

By Hamed Ross

science & religion through the centuries

By contrast, many religious adherents, theologians, and philosophers reject human evolution in favor of a hierarchical process which descends from higher and more abstract realms towards the physical one. All physical evolution, to them, has spiritual precedents. Objections to evolution span from creationists, with their literal scriptural interpretations, to philosophical objections on scientific grounds. These opposing approaches define a conflict within our culture concerning the workings of the universe and the meaning and source of evolution. The conflict affects secular people as well as Christians in the United States and Muslims all over the Middle East. The tension between these two groups has been building in recent years. The battlegrounds are the educational institutions and the fickle court of public opinion. Central to this cultural battle is both the theory of evolution and the perceptions about the role of religion in our society. The conflict is particularly active among the millennial generation of young Americans, ages 18-29. The battle is a decade-long debate known as the God wars. According to recent Pew research, this group is the first to seriously question the existence of God.1 Nearly one-third of this age group expressed some level of doubt, and that figure has almost doubled in the last five years. According to CNN, “More young people are expressing doubts about God now than at any time since Pew started asking the question a decade ago.” 2 In the midst of a divisive conversation about spirit and matter, what can Rumi offer? Rumi and the Vakil of the Prince of Bukhara The specific passage quoted above is an excerpt from a story called The Vakil of the Prince of Bokhara. It is about a representative (vakil) of the prince of Bokhara who attempts to flee his master’s wrath, but, overcome by a sense of duty and love, returns to the prince to face what he assumes will be the death penalty for his disobedience. Rumi’s poem describes a series of deaths and rebirths, a recurring theme in the Masnavi. 1 Kapur, Sahil, “Belief In God Plummets Among Youth.” 13 June 2012. Talking Points Memo. http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo. com/2012/06/belief-in-god-plummets-millenials.php. 28 August 2012. 2 Merica, Dan, “Pew survey: Doubt of God growing quickly among millennials.” 12 June 2012. CNN. http://religion.blogs.cnn. com/2012/06/12/pew-survey-doubt-of-god-growing-quickly-among-millennials/. 25 August 2012.

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Rumi is not alluding to reincarnation or evolution. Rather, he is describing the stages and states of the lover who is captured and transformed by love for the Divine. In this metaphor, love for the master overcomes the vakil’s will for self-preservation. The vakil becomes eligible for advancement by placing his head at his master’s feet. This is what Rumi was suggesting by his poetic series of deaths and rebirths, from mineral to vegetable to animal to human and angelic. For a sufi, love of the Divine overcomes personal will and each sacrifice to the Divine spawns a rebirth of new spiritual growth. As Rumi says, “Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?” In his subtle wisdom, Rumi instructs us that dying to lower qualities is a necessary part of being born to higher ones. It is also worth noting that although this may be intended as a description of spiritual development, the process of evolution may be regarded as a similar developmental process in which better adapted qualities supersede the death of less adaptive qualities. Rumi’s poetic genius allows us to see connections between the physical and spiritual realms through cycles of birth, death and rebirth. Other Related Thematic Examples The main theme of Rumi’s poem is the relation between love, death and rebirth in the most metaphorical sense. This is good advice for the spiritual traveler. But this does not mean the specific passage quoted above is limited to spiritual teaching. There are layers of meaning and it may be interesting to flush a few more details out of this passage. Six hundred years before Rumi and twelve hundred years before Darwin, Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib expressed a similar theme in one of his traditions. This teaching is conveyed by Hazrat Mir Ghotbeddin Mohammad Angha:3 Komeil, accompanying Amir al Momenin Ali in the suburb of Kufa, a city of Iraq, asked: “Show me my nafs and help me to become aware of it.” Amir al Momenin Ali replied, “Of which nafs are you eager to become aware?” “Is there more than one nafs?” asked Komeil. “Yes,” explained Amir al Momenin Ali “there are four: nafs of growth; nafs of sensibility (animal spirit); nafs of pure intellect; and nafs of wholeness and Divinity. Each one of the nufus (plural of nafs) has powers and qualities of its own.”


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3 Angha, Hazrat Mir Ghotbeddin Mohammad, “Nafs, Spirit & Heart.” Number 1 Volume 8. Sufism Journal. 28 8 2012.

Hazrat Mir Ghotbeddin continues, The powers of nafs of growth are energies of attraction, circulation, digestion and repulsion; its qualities are to increase and decrease. The nafs of sensibility (animal spirit) has the power of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching; its qualities are lust and anger. The powers of the nafs of pure intellect are thought, remembrance, awareness, patience, and its qualities are wisdom and virtue. The nafs of wholeness, Divinity, has the highest virtues: survival in annihilation; patience in misfortune; honor in poverty; and richness in adversity; the qualities of the nafs are submission and satisfaction in God. This is the nafs that the Almighty God breathes into the human being from His spirit and is the part which returns to Him. His discussion then leads to an in-depth discourse on the Sufi science of nafs which treads a delicate line between the physical and spiritual. What is interesting here is the connection between Rumi’s stages of death and rebirth and Imam Ali’s description of nafs. Rumi seems to follow the same sequence as Imam Ali’s description of nafs. And it is entirely plausible that Rumi was describing the process of purification of nafs under the guidance of divine love by analogy. Shah Nazar Seyed Dr. Ali Kianfar has said the body and soul are tightly coupled. In his address at the Songs of the Soul Festival this year, he said, “Our (physical) bodies are a demonstration and perhaps a manifestation of the eternal. It appears this (physical) stage is one of the stations of eternity. What we can see, we call body. What we cannot see, we call soul.” Dr. Kianfar reminds us that our physical bodies are not cut off from the rest of the universe; nor, we should say, from theoretical metaphysical realms. A Sufi believes in unity and one continuous, contiguous existence. Evolution may not be only a physical phenomenon; it may also be a spiritual one. Those interested in this line of inquiry may also want to pursue the metaphysics of Mulla Sadra. His doctrine of substantial motion (al-harakat al-jawhariyyah) is an area so delicate and complicated that the renowned scholar, Seyed Hossein Nasr, said he spent several months in Iran studying just one question within the doctrine. The question was: How can a body and soul be continuous with some part under the state of change while the divine aspect is, by definition, free of change and immutable? A change in the physical indicates a change in the system and affects the entire system. If God is the root and origin Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1


of that system, any change in the system would seem to affect God as well. In such a case, one can say that when the body changes, God changes. Such change would appear to conflict with the notion of God as eternal and unchanging. Nonetheless, the changing nature of the world is indisputable. What, then, is a believer in God to do? Deny the existence of change, development and evolution? Or deny the existence of God? Mulla Sadra found a way to explain this philosophical dilemma. Nasr said, … if you really master the doctrine of substantial motion of Mulla Sadra … you can explain the theory of evolution without being a Darwinian evolutionist. You can believe in both the archetypal realities in God’s Knowledge that are reflected in temporal flow and the constant flow and motion of the substance of the material world which bear the imprints of those archetypes.4 There are certainly counter-productive movements involved in the conflict of values explored above, but the benefit of the debate is that it challenges us to appreciate the complexity and mystery of creation and to question our collective knowledge. By questioning age-old assumptions and pursuing the quest for true knowledge, no matter where that takes us, we learn to submit to the truths we uncover and to purify ourselves. This is true whether we believe in a higher power or we believe in the finality of physicality. Our abandonment of ideology and search for knowledge takes us on a journey which ends in the death of ignorance and a rebirth in knowledge, stage by stage. In Sufism, the murid or student is instructed to follow unity and the middle way. A Sufi strives to stand on his or her experience, independent of ideology and religious ritual. All paths of knowledge are open. The Ibn Rushd principle of no-possible-conflict5 applies and provides a hermeneutical cushioning for the Sufi to resolve all discrepancies between the Word of God and the Work of God. How can there be conflict? Our task is simply to find meaning and resolution. Jalaluddin Rumi has demonstrated this principle time and again with his recurring spiritual themes of love and longing which challenge us to drop our prejudices and immerse ourselves in knowledge like a drop falling into the ocean. Such a journey results in the end of limitation and the beginning of the infinite. Thus, a Sufi adapts to two worlds and demonstrates the best possible example of survival of the fittest. 4 5

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein, “On the Question of Biological Origins.” Islam & Science (2006): 179-181. Dajani, Rana, “Evolution and Islam’s Quantum Question.” Zygon 47.2 (2012): 343-353.

Hamed Ross is a student of Sufism and Science. He is completing his MA in Humanities with a focus in Big History at Dominican University. He has been a member of the International Association of Sufism for more than 20 years.


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a hymn to unity and patience Morning glow, prelude to flight Moving shadows, dazzling light Insect array, melodic sound Wandering Roots, fertile ground Dying leaf, tender bud Sun parched earth, winter mud Sanctuary joy, leafy glade April shower, summer shade Carbon loving, oxygen giving The universe and I, reciprocal living Hushed in silence, her canopies entrance Together we live, together we dance

- Dedan Gills

Dedan Gills is an educator, poet, activist and pioneer of Green Recovery, a movement to address the healing of human communities and the planet through environmental stewardship, conversation, mediation efforts, the cultivation of inner Wisdom. He is co-founder of Growing a Global Heart with his wife, Belvie Rooks, and has spent the last decade facilitating workshops and inter-generational dialogues locally and internationally, spreading a message of unity, dignity, and respect for all beings. 69

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I Am by Charles Burack Winning Entry of the First Annual Songs of the Soul Poetry and Sacred Music Festival Contest

In the beginnings I am and in the endings I am every finish but a pause every start but a push or pull of infinite pulsations of endless cyclings and recycling birthings and buryings bloomings and bustings All I see is I I is all I see all always all always each always all Each a part, a portal, a prism Enter a leaf you are there Enter a root You are here Branch, trunk, fruit Tree of life Earth is sun’s Dark condensed Rays Sun is earth’s light loosened dust Waves dissolve into particles Particles dance into waves


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Can you see an apple, without seeing the branch, the sun, the dirt, the ants, the spring rain, the clouds, the nearby lake, the distant sea, the farmer, the trucker, the steel plant, the rubber plantation, the marketplace? I am the mother and the baby and the flow of joy between I am the mammaries and the milk and the mouth that sucks blind The trees are my thick hairs, the mountains muscled bone, the seas fragrant sweat the winds living breathe I split myself to see myself to know my nature to gaze upon my face to proclaim my facets With division I multiply With difference I make sense One to act, another to react One to be, another to become One to know, another to be known I make worlds out of yearning for partners in dance Worlds whirl out and worlds whirl in but never do I release both hands

Love wrestling is the combat I love most I rip my stillness to make delirious dance and score my quietude to make uproarious song Chaos is my free play order my moment of rest I splinter my eye to make points of view I gather my eyes to know myself completely I burn and burn consuming myself spreading out my wealth that all may be light Everyone a ray rooted in my burning heart Everyone a root arrayed with my fire My heart a bright home an incandescent loam

Charles Burack is a poet, writer, professor, creativity coach, and interfaith spiritual counselor. He currently teaches at John F. Kennedy University. An award-winning poet and scholar, Burack has published a collection of poems, Songs to My Beloved, and a literary study, D.H. Lawrence’s Language of Sacred Experience, as well as dozeAns of articles, stories, poems and meditations. A former rabbinical student, he is actively involved in interfaith education, arts and counseling. Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1


a Soul seeking medley just a few excerpts from the Songs of the Soul Poetry and Sacred Music Festival 2012 Compiled by Ali Haji

On a destined, beautiful spring weekend in San Rafael, California, the International Association of Sufism (IAS) inaugurated the Songs of the Soul Poetry and Sacred Music Festival, an event that holds the promise, like the Fez Music Festival in Morocco, to quickly establish itself as one of the premier annual gatherings in the world for artists, religious scholars, and enthusiasts from many faith traditions, cultures and generations to come together in celebration and exploration of our humanity. Dr. Nahid Angha, Sufi Master and co-founder and co-director of IAS, opened the event highlighting the purpose of the festival: In the same tradition of the great Sufi Masters who have offered this most beautiful and mesmerizing poetry language to the nations, we the International Association of Sufism, are honored to celebrate our poets and musicians and (are) also embarking on a new program recognizing the unpublished books of poetry by our present time poets and also include sacred music of traditions, which is another expressive language of universal value.

Setting the poetic mood of the festival, she shared a few couplets, which she herself translated from Hafiz, the 14th. century Persian sufi poet...


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A flower field, a cup of wine, and the beloved by my side, With this portion, the king is my servant tonight Do not bring candle to light, this gathering of hearts The radiant face of the beloved shines in the house of life I am so attuned to the melody of the reed and the message of the heart My eyes are searching for your lips in the tilting of the cup do not spend a moment without love or beloved... - Hafiz

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Sheikha Azima Lila Forest, healing conductor, Siraj (senior minister), Dance Leader Mentor, retreat guide, and SoulWork practitioner with the Sufi Ruhaniat International, led the line-up of speakers with an insightful presentation on “Poetry and Music: The Stuff That Prayer Is Made Of”. Quoting her teacher Pir Hazrat Inayat Khan, she remembered his words, “it is better to say a prayer than to think it. It is better to sing a prayer than to say it.” She explained: When we sing our prayer, we bring those finer vibrations into the whole body. Thus the whole body is praying not just mind or the mind and heart. Poetry is musical language by itself and has the capacity to stir the heart and soul. Poetry and music bring such beauty into our lives and they can also immeasurably enrich our spiritual lives, our prayer lives. The poetry of the great mystic poets, Rumi, Hafiz, Kabir and Sadi....our prayers in themselves. It is a spiritual blessing to this country and indeed to all english speaking world that Rumi is now the best selling poet.

Marin County’s very first poet laureate, Albert Flynn DeSilver, shared one of his owns songs of the soul, entitled, “Disappointment,” which depicts the yearning for connection with the beloved typical to Rumi poems: What do you want to say to the world? In what tone? Have which bird twittered through the poem on what wings? To carry what to heart in which season? Your favorite sing echoing in the skin.

Which grand body of water will represent your gaping expanse? Which cloud tugs you along by what color? What voice your wind? Which metaphors will get stuck holding your fleeting disappointments for this world?


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Musa Muhaiyaddeen (E. L. Levin), direct disciple of Sufi Mystic and teacher Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, honored the audience with poems from his “snapshot of epiphanies” that take us along the path of discovering that there is more than we have been told or believed to be true: Once I believed in this world and its hallucinating swirl As if it could feed me through all eternity So many lies I have now discovered But I have not yet recovered from all the lies I have swallowed that are still here inside of me

The ember glows unseen Millions pass this tiny fire it is capable of igniting a spark that can consume your ignorance and lay waste to your conceptions it can blaze a pathway through all the universes but alas, it is hidden in the nondescript, unworthy of your attention John Fox, poet and certified poetry therapist, illuminated the hearts and minds of seekers through a presentation on “Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making”. John shared his work at the California Men’s Colony Prison in San Luis Obispo Prison last year, where he was invited by the Director Of Spiritual Care of a hospice volunteer program to work with 50 volunteer life-prisoners on poetry and making poems. These men, as he articulated, were difficult to introduce to poetry given their predicament---being companions of inmates or sitting with men at the hospice who are ill, dying, suffering from Alzheimer’s, and Dementia. But these men had a strong focus in their lives, to be present in both worlds. He explained: “such intimate work puts a person in touch with profound images and at times, edgelessness. There is a wall of vulnerability...finding the willingness for the heart to break, to find out how it may even break open. How to learn to be with what cannot be to a humility of knot knowing...and then to be those allies of openness 79

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and humility...and surrender. I chose poems to serve as prompts, and examples, poems that held and expressed energies of grief and loss, a desire to connect especially when there is intense pain, a fear of letting go...mercy of acceptance...a longing for the far shore. A poem by Harold, one of the CMC volunteers he worked with, says it all about the power of poetry as medicine: Listen

If I breakdown and fall to my knees, The pain comes from somewhere really deep, If I shudder and quake, If I have looked at my fear, my terror in the face, If I sob and wail, I’ve come to grips with my loss, if only briefly, and had to release something cherished, I will not hide this from you, I will not wall it off, I will let you see the deepest part of me California-born and internationally-acclaimed sufi poet, essayist, and librettist, Daniel AbdalHayy Moore, enlightened the hungry souls in the audience with several moving readings from his poetry collection including, the “Knot of Gold”: The Prophet took people of abject poverty and strewed rubies at their feet There was no glass in the Prophet’s windows for any brick to break In each heart, he ties a knot of gold whose two ends make eternities radiant reclining figure eight, gazed upon by God We can stand in the door he made in our being or stride through it into God’s presence. The Prophet never rode out on his she-camel but that they longed for his return

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Reverend Charles Gibbs, an Episcopal Priest and the Executive Director of the United Religions Initiative, spoke on the topics of “Each of us Will Die One Day - An Invitation to be Truly Alive”. He recounted his attendance at an IAS 40 Day (The Alchemy of Tranquility) program two years ago: “We had rich, rich content in the morning and in the afternoon, we were set out into the sunlight of a glorious day to reflect on what we heard...and this is what came to me in my refection: Each of us will die one day. It doesn’t matter. More important is to practice living. Still all that does not serve our truest becoming. Listen to music of the universe inviting us to begin the dance that is ours alone. The beloved has been waiting for before time for our first steps. For our next step. No matter our age, our life is “new” in this moment. Let us dance!

Dr. Seyyed Ali Kianfar, Sufi Master and co-founder and co-director of IAS spoke eloquently and captivatingly on the longing of the soul, summing up the essence and purpose of life: The desire for life is rooted in human consciousness. When a researcher or scientist witnesses eternal and limitless possibilities, and the universe is within his or her sight, he or she must come to


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the conclusion that the inner world of the human being is also eternal. The human body as the outer manifestation of our being is an expression and demonstration of the eternal. That form which we see through our physical vision we call body; that which we cannot see, we call soul. In fact, there is no distance between the soul and the body. If we espouse belief in the primary reality of the unity of existence, then our inquiry, must rest on this foundational principle which does not admit of duality. Hence, there is no distance between our soul and our body. The body is the extension of the soul, and fulfills its duty in service of the soul’s mission. We have many names for soul, but we are unable to locate it. We must find it within the body of the human being before we drop our physical form. It is like a light switch – once it is switched off, the light is gone. We need to catch this light before we miss the opportunity. You are the best and perfect example and sample of the whole creation. Don’t look anywhere else. All you are looking for is you. The whole story is only about you.

All you are looking for is you. The whole story is only about you.

- Dr. Seyyed Ali Kianfar

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Author: Will Johnson 153 pages

The ecstatic Body as a doorway to the Soul A Review of Rumi’s Four Essential Practices: Ecstatic Body, Awakened Soul By Safa Ali Michael Newman

Safa Ali Michael Newman is President of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Sufism. He has authored a book on Uwaiysi Sufism and Islam entitled The Gift of the Robe and co-authored another book on Sufism entitled Sufi Grace -Sacred Wisdom - Heart to Heart.


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Rumi’s Four Essential Practices: Ecstatic Body, Awakened Soul by author Will Johnson is an excellent practical guide to the wisdom and teachings of the great 13th Century Sufi mystic and poet Jalaluddin Rumi. Mr. Johnson uses an innovative format to introduce Rumi’s practical wisdom. Interspersed with the beautiful poems of Rumi, as translated by Dr. Nevit Ergin, the book details four specific spiritual practices taught by Rumi: 1. Eating Lightly; 2. Breathing Deeply; 3. Moving Freely; and 4. Gazing Raptly. As the subtitle of the book suggests, engaging in and perfecting these spiritual practices will assist one in reaching a state of an ecstatic body and an awakened soul. The book has a gentle, easygoing yet insightful style that opens the reader’s heart to the world and practices of Rumi. As the author discusses in the book’s introduction, Rumi took the path of love. Along this path, Rumi discovered that to truly grow in soul, two actions were necessary: “surrendering to love and dissolving the self that keeps that love contained.” Johnson’s explanation of how Rumi surrendered his will and freed himself from the shackles of the physical world provides the reader with an inspiring model, a model that is at once idealized and practical. Through the four practices prescribed by Rumi, the practitioner is shown the way to awaken his or her soul. Johnson’s use of Rumi’s poetry is especially effective in its direct appeal. In a typical example, Rumi urges the reader, “melt yourself down, go to the place where you disappear completely, become nothing.” The unique contribution of Johnson’s book is that he presents teachings from Rumi that employ heightened awareness of the body in order to achieve this state of annihilation. The first practice, “eating lightly,” is

straightforward guidance teaching us to be moderate in our food consumption habits – not to overeat which can dull one’s awareness. The practice of fasting at certain times is emphasized. According to Rumi, “food and drink make your stomach full, but fasting makes you drunk.” The second practice, “breathing deeply,” leads one to a greater awareness of how we breathe and how that impacts our spirit and our soul. The practice of breathing deeply is a powerful technique and therapy for the human being and for spiritual awakening. Breathing is a way to remember the Divine. Rumi teaches us: “If you’re really not aware that god is constantly hunting for you then pay close attention to every breath you take.” The third practice, “moving freely,” is about movement and speaks in part to the ritualized practice of turning the body in circles or dance. From movement can arise ecstasy and awakening. One needs to follow the lead of the movement. Then, as Rumi says, “the whole universe will start to dance particle by particle to your tune.” The fourth practice, “gazing raptly,” encourages one to focus his or her energies by gazing intently and deeply into the eyes of a friend. By this practice, you can surrender to the universe and travel on a journey beyond the self. This follows the way of Rumi and his teacher Shams. Rumi instructs: “if you’ve got the pearls then come and gaze into the ocean of my eyes.” This book achieves the admirable distinction of being able to both delight and teach at the same time. As such, Rumi’s Four Essential Practices is graced with the charm that emanates from so many of the Great Master’s teachings. Through motion, breath, diet and vision, Rumi’s teachings call us to engage our bodies in the task of opening ourselves to the Divine.

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The Saint of Pious Devotion Episodes from the life of Moulana Uways Al-Qarani By Safa Ali Michael Newman


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Uways al-Qarani was born in Najd. There is no precise information concerning the date of his birth, but it has been written that his homeland was Yemen. The name Uways was his father’s name, while Qarani derives either from the fact that Qaran is a place or a mountain in Najd, or that Qarani was the name of a group from the Bani Amer tribe to which Uways was related. Uways died in 659 in the Saffein battle in the wars between Imam Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammad, and Moavieh-ibn-Abisofian. His tomb is in Damascus. Sheikh Farideddin Attar, a Sufi of the 7th century, in his famous book, Tazkerat-ol-Olia (The Book of Saints), says of Uways: Uways shall go to paradise where no creature, other than the ones God loves, shall recognize him, since he prayed to the eternal God on earth in solitude and kept himself far from people so that he would be hidden from the eyes of strangers here and in the everlasting world, as God said, “My friends are under my dome, no strangers can see them.” Uways was considered one of the eight most pious persons at the beginning of Islam. He would spend his days fasting and break his fast with only a few dry dates. He prayed day and night, performing sequences of devotional practice. He would begin by performing prayers and meditation for seven nights, standing until dawn. During the next seven nights, he would perform his prayers and meditations while prostrating without pause. Then for a week he would meditate and pray while sitting through the night. Uways fasted through the entire cycle. It is narrated that once he felt tired and hun-

gry after the 21 days of fasting and discipline. He cried out to Allah, “Refuge be to God, I am ashamed of these eyes wanting to sleep all the time, and this hungry stomach wanting to indulge itself in gluttony,” and returned to his prayers.

Inward Connection Uways did not physically see the Prophet Mohammad during his lifetime, but obeyed the Prophet’s rules and laws so well that Attar called him the best of the Prophet’s followers (kheyrol tabein). In one well-known story about Uways told by the Prophet Mohammad himself, the Prophet came home and asked his wife who had come to see them, telling her that he smelled the essence of God in their midst. The Prophet’s wife replied that a man had come a long way, from Yemen, to see him. She told the Prophet that the man had told her he could not stay longer because he had to return home to care for his Mother. When the Prophet’s wife told him that the traveler’s name was Uways and that he asked her to give his regards to his master, the Prophet, the Prophet replied that he had never physically seen Uways, but knew him as one of his best followers. Another story about Uways describing his relationship to the Prophet Mohammad also illustrates the Uwaysi principle that the receipt of divine knowledge does not require the physical presence or closeness of the teacher but an inward connection through the heart. After the Prophet’s death, Omar came to see Uways and asked him, “If you were such a great follower of the Prophet, why did you never come see him?” Uways replied, “Did you see him?” “Yes I did,” said Omar. “No,” replied Uways. “You saw but the cloth and not the reality of the Prophet.” Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1




THURSDAY • OCTOBER 25, 2012 • 6 P.M. Nahid Angha, Ph.D. , Co-

director, The International Association of Sufism; Director, Sufi Women Organization

Michael Pappas, Executive Director, SF Interfaith Council – Moderator


on’t miss this chance to learn about Sufism – the inner, mystical interpretation and expression of Islam 89

Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1

– from an internationally esteemed Persian Sufi scholar, author and lecturer. Dr. Angha will discuss Sufi history and Sufi literature, with an emphasis on the poetry of Rumi and Omar Khayam, considered by many to be among the highest literary expressions of spirituality. Angha, a human rights activist, women’s rights and interfaith activist will also discuss the rights of women in Islam.

Location: 595 Market St., San Francisco Time: 5:30 p.m. check-in, 6 p.m. program Cost: $20 standard, $8 members, STUDENTS FREE (with valid ID). Also Know: Painting courtesy Salma Arastu

Details & tickets: call (415) 597-6705 or go to

Receipt of the Robe The best-known story regarding Uways is how he received the robe of the Prophet Mohammad. One day the Prophet gave his robe to Imam Ali and told him, upon the Prophet’s death, to take the robe to his best follower, Uways. The Prophet, who had never met or seen Uways, explained to Imam Ali who Uways was. “Uways lives in Najd. He is a slight man with long hair and a white scar, about the size of a coin, on his left side and on his palm but not from leprosy. He is a camel shepherd. All the money he earns he spends on taking care of his old mother. He has obeyed my law saying that everyone must serve and care for his needy parents. He is a servant of God.” Guided by the Prophet’s words, when the Prophet Mohammad died, Imam Ali and the Caliph Farooq went to Najd to deliver the robe to Uways. Upon reaching Najd, they asked for Uways, and were told that Uways was a recluse who spent his time on the mountain praying. When Imam Ali and the Caliph went to the mountain, they found Uways standing for prayer. After Uways had completed the salute oinama’az, they greeted him and asked him to show his side and hand. Satisfied that this man was Uways, they gave him the message of the Prophet and the Prophet’s gift, the robe. Uways asked if they would let him resume his praying. When he returned, Uways told Imam Ali and Farooq that he had asked God for permission for the great honor of carrying the robe and that God gave him shafaa’t (the intercession) of numerous followers of the Holy Prophet. Listening within the Heart After receiving the Prophet’s robe, Uways continued his pious life without interruption. Many pious persons sought out Uways and asked to be his student. Among his students were Haram ibn Hayan and Habib ibn Salim Race. When Haram ibn Hayan, who had not yet met Uways, first came to see him, Uways greeted Haram by his full name. In response to Haram’s question, how did Uways know him, Uways told his visitor, “My soul recognized your soul.” Haram asked Uways to teach him. Uways instructed Haram:

I have never known that someone who knows God can seek the presence of anyone else and seek refuge in him. Death is close, it is under your pillow when you sleep and in front of your eyes when you are awake. Do not underestimate your sins no matter how small they seem, because if you fall in them they will become the cause of your destruction. According to the stories, one day as he performed his ablutions (washing before prayer), Uways heard the sound of a drum in the distance. He wondered what the sound was and received an answer, “This is the sound of the drum of the King of the Believers [Imam Ali] who is going to a battle.” Uways told himself that there was no prayer worthier than following Imam Ali, and hurried to follow and accompany him. Finding Imam Ali, Uways asked him to take his hand as an expression of his allegiance. Imam Ali asked Uways, “By what provision do you seek allegiance?” “By my life,” Uways replied. By himself, Uways became a branch (usually 1000 soldiers) of Imam Ali’s army. Uways was the first soldier martyred in the Battle of Saffein. WAs the best example of a pious spiritual traveler, Uways received the robe of the Prophet Mohammad, a teacher he never met in person. Through the inward connection of the reality of their hearts, Uways received the teaching of the Prophet, his unseen teacher. By his love and devotion, he stayed true to the Prophet’s teaching and the guidance and knowledge it provided him. Uways passed on this guidance and knowledge for the many generations of Sufis that followed him. He taught: Your heart returns to you, keep it pure and present only for Allah, so no one enters your heart but God. Watch your heart and guard it from any thought except that of the Divine.

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Once the heart is in perfect balance and harmony, it can help other hearts. Therefore, establish the line of communication with your teacher through the heart. The true prophet never says, Follow me. The true prophet guides you to yourself. The teacher reflects Divine light. You receive this light to see your way. Constantly focus on the mirror until the light is received. The most dangerous teachers are those who have their first spiritual experience and think this makes them a teacher, as if the first chapter were the whole book. The teacher you can trust has journeyed to the end of the road. To make someone crazy is easy. To help one person become wise is the purpose of the teacher. Remove the weeds before you plant the seed. In the past, people were closer to nature and family, they planted trees and watched them grow. They drank in the beauty of the stars. The way of the pure and simple is the way of God. Practice training for purity by having more respect for yourself. Purify yourself of whatever is not you. This is what is meant by “Whoever knows himself knows his Lord.�


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- Shah Nazar Seyyed Ali Kianfar, PhD excerpts from Seasons of the Soul

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Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1

NGOs To Play Important Role in United Nations Five-Year Plan The IAS United Nations Report

By Arife Hammerle, Ph.D.

The International Association of Sufism is a Non-governmental Organization with the Department of Public Information. IAS serves a UN collaborator in this role. In addition, IAS works within the local and global communities in an effort to build peace and advance humanitarian efforts worldwide. It strongly believes that promoting mutuality, respect and understanding among cultures is critical in establishing effective pathways to conflict resolution and acceptance of difference among races, cultures and the human community. IAS holds its work as an NGO of the UN to be the cornerstone of its efforts in fostering peace around the world. Recently, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon released a five-year action agenda outlining the UN’s global priorities. This plan sheds light on the significant emergent messages and issues concerning the work of the UN. With the broad scope of this five-year plan, the Secretary General is offering practical leadership identifying positive steps an NGO of the United Nations can take in the cause of an uplifted humanity. It is also clear from the scale of the emergent challenges outlined in the agenda that a dynamic relationship between NGOs and the United Nations is necessary to empower global networks sharing the views and concerns of the United Nations. THE SECRETARY-GENERAL’S FIVE-YEAR ACTION AGENDA The currents of change are transforming our human and physical geography. Demographic transformation, the emergence of new centres of economic dynamism, accelerating inequality within and across nations, challenges to the existing social contract by a disillusioned, mobilized citizenry, technological and organizational transformation linking people directly as never before and climate change are all placing the foundations of our world and our global system under unprecedented stress…. The UN can play a central role in strengthening international governance and establishing constructive patterns of collaboration to manage unprecedented threats and demands for change and to take advantage of new generational opportunities. This agenda sets out a series of actions that I believe the global community must take over the next five years. GENERATIONAL IMPERATIVES AND OPPORTUNITIES I. II. III. IV. V.

Sustainable development Prevention [of disasters and conflicts in all areas of UN work] Building a safer and more secure world by innovating and building on our core business Supporting nations in transition Working with and for women and young people

Arife Ellen Hammerle, JD, Ph.D., LMFT, is a student of the Uwaiysi School of Sufism, as guided by Sufi Teachers Dr. Nahid Angha and Shah Nazar Seyyed Dr. Ali. Kianfar. Dr. Hammerle is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and is a psychotherapist with the Community Healing Centers, an integrative psychotherapy non-profit organization. Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1


prepared from the teachings of

Shah Nazar Seyyed Ali Kianfar, Ph.D.

by Sarah Hasting Mullin, Ph.D.

with artwork by Salma Arastu

Ar-Rahman is a name only appropriate for God, as it describes the mercy, grace and the blessing of the Divine that is infused within every particle of existence. Everything in existence receives waves of Rahman by simply existing; this fact inherently demonstrates the Divine’s grace, mercy and constant provision. The Qur’an (Sura 55: 1-6) describes the allencompassing quality of Ar-Rahman: The most gracious! It is He Who has taught the Qur’an. He has created man: He has taught him an intelligent speech. The sun and the moon follow courses computed; And the herbs and trees—both bow in adoration.” All of creation is bathed in the rain of mercy and sustenance of the Divine. However, each living being demonstrates different degrees of capacity to receive Rahman and the ability to embody and reflect the mission, love and beauty of the Creator. The human being is unique for he or she has the potential to develop his or her capacity to understand and become aligned with the wisdom of


Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1

Rahman. This divine wisdom is innately contained within the human being like a seed. This rule therefore becomes of interest to those on a spiritual journey; as one begins to increasingly recognize and appreciate how to become more eligible to receive such bounty and to then develop this received mercy within his or her own being. When one strives to actualize this potential and to take care of this seed with proper practice and self-understanding, one can ultimately live in continuous accordance with the plan of his or her Creator. By being in closer connection and communication with Rahmat, one experiences becoming more self-aware of one’s essential, divine nature and is increasingly appreciative of the divine qualities developing within his or her being.

Salma Arastu was born in Rajasthan, India. She has been painting for 30 years since graduating with a Masters degree in Fine Arts from MS University in Baroda, India. She embraced Islam through her marriage. Sarah Hastings Mullin, Ph.D is a member of the International Association of Sufism. She recently graduated from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto. She is a psychological assistant in Berkeley, gaining hours toward licensure. She works specifically with young adults, couples and with families after divorce. Sarah also holds a first-degree black belt in Aikido.

Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1



Sufism: An Inquiry Vol XVI, No. 1