Category Archives: Spirituality

The Mystical Utility of the Imagination

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Hazrat Inayat Khan, circa 1920

Published by wordcatalyst.com
PR–476

At the Window Pane

“The natural initiation may come to a person at any time of his life. It does not come to everyone, but only to some. And for this initiation one need not go to a teacher; it comes when it is time for it to come. It comes in the form of a sudden change of outlook on life; a person feels that he has suddenly awakened to quite another world; although he remains in the same world it has become totally different to him.”
–Hazrat Inayat Khan (Three Aspects of Initiation)

The wide-eyed boy lingers at the window pane
Looking out at slants of raining sadness.
But there’s rhythm from a dark
Symphonic horn and yes a gladness;
A basking-in from rose and thorn
Blood vermilion dance
To eclipse such sadness
As descants close the arc
(Like the ocean does the sand)
A divine madness brings round the circle
(It’s romantic when the Ring does the asking)
Which band symbolic born
Slips around his finger
As he holds his own hand.

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,
As you may recall (it is oft said) that this is a Sufi blog. But that begs the question what is Sufism? And I speak mainly from my own experience, since my time as a Sufi mureed (initiate) was seven years (1972 to 1979) of studying the writings of Sufi Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan, who was of the Moinuddin Chishti school. (As I was taught, there were four main schools of Sufism). This Chisti one placed an emphasis on the arts, as their path toward God. Indeed Inayat Khan was a celebrated musician. And the order I belonged to was heavily nto the arts. Each year we put on a musical play, on mystical themes. There were also many singers, dancers, artists and poets. Well, at least two I can think of. Me and Rachel Dacus–then Abrams (Well-published now–google her!).

The photo above is of Inayat Khan with his instrument, which I believe is called a vina.

But the arts carry certain connotations, such as the immense value of the imagination. (Try to write a poem, or compose a song without using your imagination!)

And so big surprise that Hazrat Inayat Khan seemed to agree with my favorite quote from the poet John Keats, “I am convinced of only two things, the sanctity of the heart’s affections, and the truth of the imagination.”

Here is what Inayat Khan had to say about the mystical utility of the imagination:

“Somebody can be praised by one and hated by another, and ten people may all have a different idea of the same person, because each understands him according to his state of evolution. Each sees that person according to his own point of view, each looks at him through his own eyes, and therefore the same person is different to each being. In the mind of one the person is a sinner, in the mind of another he is a saint. The same person who is considered gentle and good by one is considered the opposite by another. If this can be so in connection with a living being, it is equally possible that various ideas of the deity should be formed in each heart, and that each soul should mold his own deity according to his own evolution and according to his way of idealizing and understanding. Therefore the deity of every heart is different and is as that person has imagined; but the God of every soul is one and the same, whatever people imagine. It is the same God that they all imagine, but their imaginations are different and it is the lack of understanding of this that has caused the differences in religion.”

And for this reason Inayat Khan often quoted the Prophet Mohammed who said, “Every man has his own religion.”

And an objection might be raised saying, but what if God is nothing like what is imagined?

Since God is infinite and we are not, our brains and intellect are not, and so perforce it comes down to imagining stuff.

I fancy some will throw up their hands saying well then what chance is there we’ll have any accurate conception of God?

But this presupposes this to be an important question.

After all, understanding in this sense being impossible, is that ipso facto a problem?

Especially since in trying to understand the infinite with our finite brains is a wild goose chase, since as the cofounder of my Sufi order, Meher Baba said, to try to understand God with your brain is like expecting to see with your ears. It’s the wrong organ. The right organ for that is the heart.

Or, again to quote Inayat Khan, ”As one can see when the eyes are open, so one can understand when the heart is open.”

I will carry this further. We can imagine God to be in a totem pole or a doll, and God will manifest in that. Just like Pinocchio turned into a real boy.

Inayat Khan liked to tell this story:

Moses once passed by a farm and saw a peasant boy talking to himself, saying, ‘O Lord, Thou art so good and kind that I feel if Thou wert here by me I would take good care of Thee, more than of all my sheep, more than of all my fowls. In the rain I would keep Thee under the roof of my grass-shed, when it is cold I would cover Thee with my blanket, and in the heat of the sun I would take Thee to bathe in the brook. I would put Thee to sleep with Thy head on my lap, and would fan Thee with my hat, and would always watch Thee and guard Thee from wolves. I would give Thee bread of manna and would give Thee buttermilk to drink, and to entertain Thee I would sing and dance and play my flute. O Lord my God, if Thou wouldst only listen to this and come and see how I would tend Thee.’

Moses was amused to listen to all this, and, as the deliverer of the divine message, he said, ‘How impertinent on thy part, O boy, to limit the unlimited One, God, the Lord of hosts, who is beyond form and color and the perception and comprehension of man.’ The boy became disheartened and full of fear at what he had done. But immediately a revelation came to Moses: ‘We are not pleased with this, O Moses, for We have sent thee to unite Our separated ones with Us, not to disunite. Speak to everyone according to his evolution.’

And to nail down the the mystical utility of the imagination, Hazrat Inayat Khan wrote,

“All works of art and music and poetry come from imagination, for imagination is the free flow of mind, when the mind is allowed to work by itself and bring out the beauty and harmony it contains. But when it is restricted by a certain principle or rule, then it does not work freely… No one has believed in God, no one has loved God, and no one has reached the presence of God who has not been helped by his imagination.”

And according to Inayat Khan, this is his destiny:

Then there is the person who has imagination which is strengthened by faith. He not only prays to God, but he prays before God, in the presence of God. Once imagination has helped a man to bring the presence of God before him, God is awakened in his own heart. Then before he utters a word, it is heard by God. When he is praying in a room, he is not alone. He is there with God. Then to him God is not in the highest heaven but close to him, before him, in him. Then to him heaven is on earth and earth is heaven. No one is then so living, so intelligible as God; and all names and forms disappear before Him. Then every word of prayer he utters is a living word. It not only brings blessing to him, but to all those around him.

It might take a long time, admittedly. And while Inayat Khan never explicitly talked about reincarnation,* it was obviously something he believed in, from the connotation given in his writings of the perforce gradual and drawn out nature of our spiritual development.

But then there is always grace (which keeps things from being cut and dried) and so the issue is complicated. As seen in my poem above.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Sufism is originally derived from Islam, which does not talk about reincarnation. And neither does Christianity, though I have heard rumors it was in the Christian tradition until the fourth century when it was no longer talked about. And if you read much about Inayat Khan you will gather that he was big on not rocking boats, going with the flow of everyone’s belief system, saying that what mattered was the heart behind it all. Hence unlikely that he would dwell on anything controversial, except as was connoted in his writings, which as I say are rife with talk which would not be meaningful without reincarnation.

And Meher Baba, who thirty years later reoriented my Sufi order, quite explicitly confirmed the reality of reincarnation.

Elizabeth’s Punk Piece Party

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Elizabeth Herron

PR4–61

I’d Been Invited by the Queen

“I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
he said to me, “You must not ask for so much.”
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
she cried to me, “Hey, why not ask for more?”
–Leonard Cohen (Bird on a Wire)

Some guys like me
We talk big about no fear
Of death I tend to say
If my time were drawing near

(My theory goes)
I would wax wise and declare
It was like a dinner party:
I’d been invited by the queen

And then inevitably I’d had to go home
And yet there’s complaint anent which
A case could be made for it’s just ungrateful greed
Considering all the wonders I’ve seen

All the free dinners and theater tickets
To ask for more
Although these things are far from unarbitrary
(It’s a subjective soul thing)

And maybe it’s more like the Leonard Cohen thing
Above and even
(Lots of times)
There’s Oliver Twists to this

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,

In my youth my favorite TV show was Science Fiction Theater.

Every episode started out with the host saying, “Let me show you something interesting.”

And he would walk over to a sort of display which featured a scientific principle. Like how a phonograph works or radio signals or such. And then he would say something about how that tied in to the extrapolation which could be derived, allowing future scientists to do some amazing thing, but along the same lines.

I often try to do that with my poems, when I start off with a quote (to show you something interesting.)

Like the Leonard Cohen quote atop the above poem. And then I extrapolate from there. How amazing that is I do not claim except to say I tried, and to quote Emerson: “Hitch your wagon to a star.”

What got me started on this post, is a couple of quotes from a book I just finished reading. They are from Larry McMurtry’s Magnum opus, Lonesome Dove, which got him the Pulitzer Prize and whose screenplays of it (any other of his works) got him Emmys. And muchos Oscars.*

Apparently (by my standards) he is a metaphysically oriented kind of guy. Witness these (interesting) quotes from Lonesome Dove:

“ ‘When was you the happiest, Call?’ Augustus asked.
‘Happiest about what?’ Call asked.
‘Just about being a live human being, free on the earth,’ Augustus said.”

And

“He had known several men who blew their heads off, and he had pondered it much. It seemed to him it was probably because they could not take enough happiness just from the sky and the moon to carry them over the low feelings that came to all men.”

I hadn’t heard about him until many years ago when I got fortunate to have a writing teacher (Elizabeth Herron).**

Elizabeth (the professor at Sonoma State University) liked to tell us who her favorite writers were and high on her list was Larry McMurtry. This was before Lonesome Dove was written. I remember she especially recommended Somebody’s Darling, and All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers.

I had a crush on her. And even though she was married, a guy could dream, couldn’t he? But the upside of that was I was motivated to impress her and so I tried my damnedest. And I wrote a poetry collection for my final project. (She said ONE good poem would have sufficed but I wanted to show off, and even dedicated it to her; I titled it, Elizabeth’s Punk Piece Party and Other Poems.)

And guess what? Two of those sixtyish poems have been published (and one republished). Which gives me an excuse to put them in this blog post (which after all is also–apart from my concept of Sufism and mysticism in general–about poetry and poetry writing. And of course often some biographical stuff)

And so here they are:

(These journals below are now defunct, except for Tipton Poetry Journal)

Published in Word Catalyst and then republished in Tipton Poetry Review:

I Was a Prince

I was a prince who found you in a pond
Secure beneath a lily pad to hide
Your creamy body from the sun and me but
You squirmed out of my grasp and dived so deep
I dared not follow so I placed a net
Which looked quite like a lily pad and I
Disguised myself and sat on top a frog
As any fool could see–when you came up
I quickly kissed your lips and magic things
Occurred like in the fairy tales to wit
I did become a frog and it turned out
You really fancied frogs’ legs but I squirmed
Out of your grasp and dived down deeper than
You dared to follow so you placed a net
Which looked quite like a lily pad and when
I came back up again to sit on it
You kissed me back into a prince once more
And it turned out you fancied princes too
So you apologizing for the frogs’
Legs dinner episode said “Still it was
A lot of fun” And so we lived and dived
Quite happy ever after til one day
You were especially hungry and you knew
That when I was a frog you were supposed
To kiss me but you ate me and you said
“It was a boring game after a while”

Published in Umbrella Journal:

Einstein, God, and Picasso

Einstein thought things
Were pretty mysterious
And that made him “religious”

You can’t handle coal
Without getting your hands black
So I guess he couldn’t handle the universe
Without getting awestruck
It’s a pretty big place

If it isn’t distance it’s time so
Think about the Jurassic if you will
I mean actually seeing dinosaurs
Whose digestive juices and genes
Were just like ours

Only in a different pattern:
The style of the Artist
Is instantly recognizable

God I think is like Picasso
Who never had to pay for anything
He would just write a check
Which, of course, never got cashed
It was far more valuable as a collector’s item

And this has not been published but it was her favorite in the book of poems I wrote:

Trying to Write Something in the Air

Just come from visiting you
I wipe my eye
I wave good-bye

My hand lingers in the air
My finger pointing
Not to blame anyone

It is wet cool on one side
A secret moisture tells me
Which way the wind is blowing

My finger sways drunkenly
Trying to write something
In the air

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Larry McMurtry is an amazing guy who wrote lots of wonderful books and spin-off screenplays, many of which won Oscars and Emmys. For an interesting short bit about him and these, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_McMurtry

**For more about her see: http://www.elizabethherron.net/

God Had a Wee Problem

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Lud Dimpfl's Sufi Mureeds (Initiated 1973)

Lud Dimpfl’s Sufi Mureeds (Initiated 1973)

I am the one in the top row to Lud’s left (the one eclipsing the door jamb)

PR–390

The Down Beats of Hegel’s Philosophy

“Of course it was folly,” he said, “but it was a folly
in which there was something fine.”
–W. Somerset Maugham (Of Human Bondage)

My gut tells me beauty
Is playing hide and seek

But why this world?

Why this ridiculous world?
Is it a game
Is it enough

Where the prosaic implies the pretty?
Which then fades like waves
One after another

Even on this pristine shore
The waves are old and odd
How they add drumstruck charm:

Slow thunder under each phosphorescent-sandy
Angry candy boxed blue moon

But why this world?

Could it be the same on another planet
Perhaps not so far away
Since anyway distance and direction

Are only timely constructs
Measured in the now or new beats
The down beats of Hegel’s philosophy

The point that counters that compass point:
The heart is beauty’s drum

The ocean is the baton

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,
This is another re-instated blog post from those which mysteriously and suddenly went missing. There were over a hundred posts in all dating from April Fool’s Day, 2013, and as I have occasionally mentioned, the vast bulk of them were wiped out by some apparently malicious entity who got access to the inner workings of my website. And as I have promised, I am gradually (and laboriously) reintroducing them, from back-up files. This is one in a series of those. Also, I should add, this whole debacle explains the gaps you will see in the Archives section.) I generally choose which to put back, by those which a new blog post makes reference to. (In this case the one for December something, 2016)
But back to the original:

Gentle Readers,
This is continued from last week.

In case you missed it, last week I was talking about Lord of the Rings parallels. Specifically Bilbo, the hobbit who had discovered the ring (the one who later on passed it to his nephew, the famous Frodo)

And I got to the point in my meditations when I realized that it wasn’t just a parallel (between Old Bilbo and myself) in that we both had taken up poetry as a retirement hobby. It went further than that. It was also a parallel between Bilbo and me in a more important matter. I had always in reading the trilogy been struck by the deference Gandalf the wizard had paid to the simple old hobbit, (long after his adventures) Bilbo, helping him with his novice lines of poetry.

I know I’ve not deserved it, not certainly in the sense of paying my dues first, like Bilbo had, and in spades. But you see, I had my own Gandalf, who showed me a similar deference. It was my old Sufi preceptor, Lud Dimpfl.* Lud was an important and busy “Senior research Chemist” (specialty in asphalt) for Chevron. But when I would call him at work, he would always enthusiastically reply, “Yes, Eric!” in such a way as to be indescribably sweet, as if nothing in the world could interest him more than an Eric interaction. In fact, I wrote a poem about it. Those interested will find it below**

All this is based on my time in the seventies as a Sufi in San Francisco.

We Sufis in this San Francisco ashram all believed the rumors that Lud was the reincarnation of the philosopher Hegel. Hegel, in case you’re not hip to that, was saying exactly what the mystics say. That you can know a thing only by it’s opposite. (More on this next week, when we get into dichotomies) Which the mystic Meher Baba says was the reason behind creation. It goes like this:

God had a wee problem. Inherent in God was a desire for introspection, which is to say wanted to know Himself. And as Hegel ably proved you can’t know a thing except by contrasting it with what it’s not. It’s the same concept with “negative space” you heard about in drawing class. (“Draw the line where the non-chair begins, and you’ve drawn the chair.”)

So what was God not?

God was not finite.

God was not fraught with problems.

So what did God do? (How should mere I know? So please indulge me as I tell you about what I’ve learned from vastly more learned mystics) But I should use the present tense. God writes a dramatic story in which there are valiant struggles to realize the heart is none but God, as God subdivided Himself, so as to know Himself.

It’s all in Buddhism 101.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Lud Dimpfl was my beloved Sufi Preceptor (assistant Murshid) from 1972 to 1979. For lots more about Lud and my relationship with him see every blog post between these dates (inclusive):
https://rumi-nations.com/2013/11/11/ask-me-something-difficult/
and bracketed by this:
https://rumi-nations.com/2014/04/14/a-positive-force-like-metaphors/
Yup. It’s a lot. (about 22 posts) But I loved Lud a lot. He died of bone cancer about 1985.

** Here’s the poem:
PR–508
Wondering Now About Divine Communication
(To Lud)
“The one whom I have called God, whose personality I have
recognized, and whose pleasure or displeasure I have sought, has
been seeing His life through my eyes, has been hearing through
my ears. It was His breath that came through my breathing . . . “
–Hazrat Inayat Khan (The Personality of God)

When I was a Sufi and I needed
To call my preceptor for advice
Even though he was at his work
He would sound like an excited child
At the prospect of an Eric interaction

One wonders about if God hears prayers
The same way as Lud (rhymes with blood)
Did my need for advice
And as for the advice
(Wondering now about divine communication)

It didn’t come in words
Even with Lud
His attitude was all I needed
And God Lud said is all about attitude:
The beatitude of love