Tag Archives: Atheism

A Counter Offer I Couldn’t Defuse

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Lunar Eclipse–
Photographer
Patrick McCullough

New Start–91

A Counter Offer I Couldn’t Defuse

In Sufism atheism doesn’t make sense
Unless our atheist has first tried God
(Tried the Sufi God)

Because fair is fairest of them all:
How can you judge a God you have denied
Before you even tried?

And here’s atheists thinking small thinking
They’ve got me in a cul de sac of argument:
They say with a clever entrapment smile

“Which God?”
And so I say to that well deny this:
The God that would be beautiful to you

Try to talk to that God
(In the walk-in closet of your heart)
Because in Sufism one picks one’s God

One chooses a God from the heart
A God specially designed closer than antibodies fit
With their locking ports which admit no strangers

Even my atheist friend
Said she wished she could believe
These reassuring fairy tales

But she never tried to talk to God
Not even the version of Whom
She’d have liked to believe in

Not even to present her terms of belief
She might be surprised
It worked for me in fact

God made me a counter offer
I couldn’t defuse: I was kissed
By a lunar eclipse

~.~.~

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,
First apologies for the lengthy lapse in posting. I have been travelling (each year I revert a few weeks worth to my erstwhile natural habitat. I refer to California, where I was born and raised. Well, raised is a loaded term in my case. I used to joke saying, (about some instance when I’d known what I was doing) “My mommy didn’t raise no dummies.” But then I would add, my mommy never raised anybody.

Indeed, she put me in a sort of orphanage at age five. There is a reference to that below, and the backstory of that will be dealt with in more detail by an upcoming blog post (s?), to replace one or some from an earlier set of biographical blog posts that were lost by some apparently malevolent hacker of my website (see asterisk below).

Just now, however I am committed to continuing with the current theme of the issue of the existence or not of God.
I am having trouble finding where I left off. There was a promised fourth part of a four-parter that dealt with the issue. I am having a difficult time organizing the fragments that were to make up that fourth one, and so I am giving myself a reprieve, since I came across an old post from August, 2013* which deals with this very issue. So, I will post this again, as a way of stalling for time vis a vis the fourth part mentioned above.

The good news is this one is largely ready to go, hence there will be less further delay in my long overdue postage due type derelict awol by our blog boy (Me).
And so here it is (or was):

Gentle Readers,
If you want, without further ado, an explanation for this poem (see above) being included here, best to go straight to the “About” section (see above) which deals with my miracle “conversion.”

At age twenty.

From a state of atheism.

The following stuff though deals with the roots of all that, which I do believe are relevant to my story of how I have dealt with the issue of if God or not.

For some reason I find it a fascinating issue, the one about the existence of God. I can’t remember if I’ve already done a post about that (You don’t post to be repetitive). But here’s a caveat; I do repetitive. But I hope each time it’s more like Cummings was repetitive always talking about spring, or John Donne, things that are rings.

So beware, there may be future posts as well on this theme (The existence of God). Come to think of it, my last (from August, 2013) post segues nicely into this issue since as I recall it ended talking about C. S. Lewis and his “proof” of the existence of God (i.e. The Case for Christianity and the radio commentaries that was based upon)

So, as a preamble to my no doubt subsequent posts on this subject, I may as well delve again into biographical hence explanatory (and to some, exculpatory) material. Even though some people might then say adversarily that I turned to God out of desperation rather than for any “good reason.” But the great mystic Meher Baba talked about a state of “divine desperation” which was given as the pretty universal explanation for these “conversions.”

I mean it’s even quite possible that what on the surface was a misfortunate orphanage situation, really was a roundabout long-way-around-is-the-shortest-way-home kind of thing. I mean it was a pretty useful desperation then if my happy now is rooted in it!**

Time for some backstory:
As a child, I adored Jesus. And Christmas, And not just for the gifts, more for the candles and the songs . . .

I wonder if I started out so pro-Jesus because I’d been “abandoned” by my mother. I put that in quotation marks because it was not a complete physical abandonment and in important respects, never an emotional one. But it makes sense doesn’t it? I mean to suspect a lonely child might sooner “turn to the Lord” than a happy child would. Every thing else being equal of course.

Honesty insists now that I tell you a bit of horrific sounding stuff but which wasn’t so bad (You had to be there) as abandonments go.***

Oops! Times up!

More next week . . .
God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Some of my faithful followers may remember that a while back my website was hacked and mysteriously all but a few most recent posts had been deleted. Now I am a neophyte techie and so I don’t understand how and why that could have happened. But the good news is I have kept a separate documentation of almost all of my blog posts, going back to the first one (On April Fool’s Day, 2013). And guess what? This is one of the missing ones. (I am gradually refilling out the online archives).

**This corroborates one of my favorite quotes from Hazrat Inayat Khan, the founder of the Sufi order I was initiated into: “For every loss, there’s a hidden gain. And for every gain, a hidden loss.” His point being since apparent “good news” has a hidden cost, which may exceed the apparent value, and vice versa concerning the apparent “bad news,” it’s best not to either get too excited about the “gain” or too depressed about the “loss.” I mean, I was put in an orphanage, which sounds bad. But if it made me unhappy and lonely such that I was desperate enough to successfully appeal to God, and then came out happy, it (the orphanage situation) was a great investment was it not? Another example is when I was fifteen I was hit by a car and suffered compound fractures, in a cast for nine months, resulting in a slightly short left leg, which kept me out of Vietnam! If it didn’t save my life I bet it at least saved my sanity! Goes to show you never can tell.

***Here I refer to the orphanage and how it came about, But that will be reposted after I finish with the existence of God theme. (Remember, there is a fourth part coming, though this does make it at least five.)

As for the orphanage, this poem shows the loss/gain thing also in perspective:

At the Orchard End of the Orphanage

I remember the sweet peach blossom breeze
At the orchard end of the orphanage
Where I would think endlessly and enviously
Of if no orphanage

Or of if again I felt
My mother’s fingers in my hair
(The mother who had abandoned me there
For a few years)

How it would be different then
In an unorphanaged situation
But now I think of when my mother
Finally did take me back

But struck me
(Through her tears)
With her fistful of wistful
For her lost true love:

She was earnest to explain
To show me in the mirror drain where
My now brown eyes this time
Would have been blue

Gratitude, Which Is a Kind of Grace

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Lud Dimpfl's Sufi Mureeds (Initiated 1973)

Lud Dimpfl’s Sufi Mureeds (Initiated 1973)

I am the dark haired guy in the back row, just in front of the left white doorjamb

New Start–75

Gratitude, Which Is a Kind of Grace

Mind if I ask you a personal question?
I don’t hear a yes so here goes:
Do you ever suddenly feel grateful?
For what?

Oh I don’t know but well
Like just now (out of the blue)
I was looking out of my own brown eyes
Just at the dinner I was fixing on the stove

And though I wasn’t fixing to cry
I started to anyway
I don’t know why
Oh yes I do (it has to do with love)

I was thinking of the many people
Who don’t have a dinner in front of them
And even don’t have eyes to see through
(On account of they haven’t been born)

And just for that you see I was torn
And all at once I started to cry
Just out of gratitude and too for even just
The beatitude of my own gratitude

Which is a kind of grace
(Comes from seeing the face of the stars)
And you know
Even those falling ones are tears

~.~.~

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,
For those just tuning in, this is the third of a four part (in this series, but no doubt this will be an ongoing theme, hence will be revisited from time to time. So many skeptics, so little time!) set of posts which discuss the question of the existence of God. The post of December 30 was getting too long in the tooth (but, I hope, not in the truth) and so it is continued here. And this too, will be cut short with the rest coming next post. (to spare you gentle folk a too long-winded analysis)

I had earlier talked about eyes. Since so many demanding proof of God have demanded to see it with their own eyes.

I quoted the revered seer in India, Meher Baba, as saying none can see God but with eyes divine. Which makes sense since our eyes are a finite instrument and God by definition is infinite. Meher Baba has said that to expect to see God with your eyes is like expecting to be able to see with your ears. They are not the apt instrument. The best instrument we have to “see” God is the heart.*. Otherwise we are blind to the business. Fortunately, our uncorrupted** hearts (“The heart of man is the shrine of God”–Hazrat Inayat Khan) are a sort of Seeing Eye God.

But back to eyes. They do of course make for a dandy metaphor, in the sense that the saints are said to “see” God.

In other words though you have to be God to see God, you can, as ascending saints, get a closer and closer successive approximation. Fortunately, said Meher Baba, (and yes, Buddha, in his fashion) this is an eminently possible thing. But perforce it is a slow process, as you might imagine. (Nothing as stupendous as God comes cheap and easy) But this is the purpose of reincarnation. (Count ‘em! 8,000,000 plus lifetimes, and that’s just as a human being!). Just as the cutting edge of water eventually created the Grand Canyon.***

But enough theoretical speculation. I have in my own life seen proofs of the existence of God.

For instance, the divine is in our nature. And like seeks like. A proof of that is this: we all like to be in the presence of love.

Okay well, that would only be a proof of God (read love) if you were a pantheist (like me, and like Meher Baba) who said that nothing exists but God.****

And this is also a Sufi thing as per Hazrat Inayat Khan’s invocation (see above):

“Toward 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.” (Pantheism strikes again!)

But back to loving to be in the presence of love; children love to hang with their loving parent. My cat sleeps on my lap.

And there’s a divine quality we often see in people, (and yes, animals*****) which is called gratitude. And right there is a proof I am part divine, because boy am I grateful. (See poem above)

For part four, see next post (when I get into the nitty gritty of the proofs)

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

* Hazrat Inayat Khan and all the Sufi mystics say this. And as I keep saying, this is a Sufi blog. Because Sufism is close to my heart and I have spent more than half of my life in the study of it (in my fashion). I was even officially initiated by an authenticated Sufi murshid in 1972. True, she threw me out unceremoniously seven years later. (I had confessed too much, you see). But guess who came to my defense? Lud Dimpfl, her assistant, my preceptor. And it was him that I loved, and without whom likely would have left the order of my own accord. So my heart rests satisfied. The story of my gratitude for Lud is told (among many others) in this old blog post, What They Do to 33 Year Old Carpenters. Here’s the url: https://rumi-nations.com/2014/01/13/what-they-do-to-33-year-old-carpenters-2/. It also deals with how I got thrown out of the Sufi order.

I do believe that I was accepted as a Sufi because of my display of gratitude. I remember Lud being impressed by my tears when I explained about the miracle that had turned me from atheism to a believer at the age of 19, when I said to him I was so grateful not to feel alone . . .

If you are curious about this miracle, it is explained in the “ABOUT” section above.

**I need to clarify here. I do not believe the heart can ever be “corrupted.” But it can be unjustly imprisoned, and just as a light can be obscured by putting a blanket over it, the heart can be put out of action. Can pine away for not being attended to. Which in Sufism is the source of all unhappiness. I think that’s what Jesus meant when he said (Matthew 5:15) “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, (archaic word for bowl) but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”

***To get accepted as a Sufi in the San Francisco Group (in 1972) I had to be interviewed by the eighty year old Murshida, (the successor to the successor of the founder Hazrat Inayat Khan, who died in 1926). We (my then wife Judy and I) were informed as we were leaving that Murshida had decided to accept us as two of her 300ish mureeds–historically, no mean feat. (Sufi initiates are called mureeds). And her parting words were an admonition that it was an incredibly long haul getting to the goal of being God. But she was happy with my reply which basically said, that didn’t bother me. Even a small percentage increase in the direction of such a vast store of light was by comparison to the relative gloom I had been suffering under, such a wonderful contrast that I believed at each step, at each increment of advancement, my cup would be overflowing as was said in the psalms.

****And here I refer you to Baba’s also short essay, “God Alone, Is.” Strange when you stop to think about it how it should involve such a long process just to arrive at one’s own true identity. I guess we will just have to bear up and accept that we must live (read: have adventures!) for millennia . . . (Sigh)

*****(in re gratitude in animals)
I remember seeing on PBS or such a documentary, part of which concerned a man who had lovingly raised a lion cub. And then he turned him over to a nature preserve, thinking he would be happier in his natural habitat. But he came back for a visit a few years later and when the lion saw him he rushed him as if to attack, and all around were worried. But it was just the lion’s eagerness to stand upright and lick his face in pure excitement to see him again.

What They Do to 33 Year Old Carpenters

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Lud Dimpfl with Meher Baba

Lud Dimpfl with Meher Baba

PR3–131

Kissed on the Lips by a Lunar Eclipse

In Sufism atheism doesn’t make sense
Unless our atheist has first tried God
(Tried the Sufi God)

Because fair is fairest of them all:
How can you judge a God you have denied
Before you’ve even tried?

And here’s atheists thinking small thinking
They’ve got me in a cul de sac of argument:
They say with their clever entrapment smile

“Which God?”
And so I say to that well deny this:
The God that would be beautiful to you

Try to talk to that God
(In the walk-in closet of your heart)
Because in Sufism one picks one’s God

One chooses a God fresh from the heart
A God specially designed closer than antibodies fit
With their locking ports which admit no strangers

Even my atheist friend
Said she wished she could believe
These reassuring fairy tales

But she never tried to talk to God
Not even the version of Whom
She’d have liked to believe in

Not even to present her terms of belief
She might be surprised
It worked for me in fact

God made me a counter offer
I couldn’t defuse: I was kissed
On the lips by a lunar eclipse

~.~.~

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.”

~.~.~

August 24, 2016:

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, (ironic, n’est-ce pas?) 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 pick this one to do today because a friend just asked me what happened with me and the Sufis and rather than reinvent the wheel I wanted to say hey just read this post. But lo it was among the missing posts. Which is the kick in the butt I generally need to put back another.

Fortunately I kept a text copy of these missing posts. But they require a certain format and secret codes, and that’s why I don’t put them all back immediately. It takes at least an hour for each one. But back to regular programming:

Gentle Readers,

Since last week, I’ve found some Lud photos to illustrate my lately Lud (short for Ludwig, rhymes with blood) theme. Lud being of course my erst beloved Sufi preceptor during my seven years as an official (read initiated) Sufi, some thirty years ago. Last week, unable to find one of Lud, I featured a photo of his daughter, “Three B” (after Baba’s Beautiful Baby,” a name Meher Baba gave her, which stuck, for obvious reasons). She went on to be a fabulous painter who painted nothing but Meher Baba. And I emphasize fabulous.* in the photo one could see she was radiantly happy to be with Meher Baba. In this week’s, too, I show Lud with Meher Baba. And need I add, that Lud, too was radiantly happy.
(See above)

I have already posted, chronicling how Lud had been so sweet to me when I was dismissed from the Sufi order by Murshida Duce. How he rushed to see me and though I could not believe my ears, to apologize to me, for having suggested I write the letter I did to Murshida. And it was also sweet to thereby know that if it had been up to Lud my dismissal never would have happened, and obviously so, since the letter I’d sent Murshida contained nothing I’d not already told Lud, and which had elicited from him nothing but his saying how impressed he was with my honesty. And, of course, stressing the need for a plan to address the issues.

I had been worried, of course, so I had called Lud before I sent the letter off to Murshida. (I think I’ve already told of Murshida’s “Christmas Present” that year. Of how we should each send her a letter saying if we were happy as Sufi’s, functioning well under the requirements, or were having problems, even to the point of not wishing to continue, thus offering what I would have called an honorable discharge)

And Lud had said not to worry so it was an honest letter. But afterwards, when Lud rushed to say good-bye and comfort me, he said, it was indeed, too honest.

He said, (by way of explaining that he’d never told Murshida about it), “I saw you had a good heart, and then I just assumed it all would work out.”

Who knows the value of having someone like Lud say that. Perhaps it was just for that, that I was a Sufi.

I don’t know how many of my gentle readers have ever been thrown out of a group like the Sufis. I remember Murshida saying she’d been asked if Sufis should shun ex-Sufis who’ve been dismissed from the order. She said, that would be a horrible thing, since that’s when they needed friends the most. Of course, Murshida saying that, and it being taken to heart, well, while I did have pretty good luck with my close friends, and my wife, Sally, I certainly saw much evidence of being shunned. And there were others not so close, who proved my friend then, as well. And if any are reading this you know who you are and please know too you have my eternal gratitude. It’s so much easier to suffer judgment when the judgment isn’t shared by your friends, and even some objective observers.

But, and I cannot emphasize this too much, the real psyche saver in this was Lud.

As for the judgment police, I don’t judge anyone for judging. It’s not the worst sin I have forgiven. (Or committed) And fairness demands no double standards. And as I used to tell my first grade students, they should always feel free to appeal to my sense of justice, because “I am the fairest of them all.”

But I cannot over-emphasize my intense gratitude for Lud sparing me that horrible feeling of judgment and then, ostracism. If all the Sufis stood against me, but Lud was at my back, it would not have mattered. And so it was, at the end. Bless his sweet heart.

Because (and here’s a confession) it was Lud I loved. Though Murshida too, in a way, powerful enough to make me burst into uncontrollable tears at her funeral, three years after she had thrown me out of the order. But honesty bids me also say, that my reaction there sure had come as a surprise to me.

The summer before that fateful Christmas was my thirty-third birthday. And little did I know then the foreshadowing it was when, the night of my birthday my mother woke me up in the wee hours, drunkenly phoning to say, “Happy Birthday! Just had to remind you what they do to thirty three year old carpenters.”**

Sure enough, six months later, I felt crucified all right. Talk about synchronicity.

When Lud was dying, a few years later, we started writing to each other. I offered to get a marrow transplant if it would help with his bone cancer. But he said it wasn’t that type of thing. I wish though I’d have had a first hand way to judge how much better it is to actually make a sacrifice (I have heard it’s quite painful the procedure) for someone you love than it is just to know that you would.

And I loved him.

I still do, wherever he is now. I will always cherish my last physical interaction with him after I’d been dismissed, with us saying goodbye, hugging and both of us crying and me apologizing for not having been a better mureed, and him, incredibly, for not having been a better preceptor. You see, to Lud the hardest thing in the world would have been to be denied the Sufi order. And so he felt bad on my behalf, that that had befallen me.

I don’t have the vaguest notion what will be up blog-wise next Monday. A ver, as we say here in Guatemala. (We’ll see)

But if any of my readers knew Lud, and would like to share their stories, I’d love to post them in a blog post. Not to worry if they are short bits. I have some short bits myself that I haven’t gotten to, as it wasn’t enough to develop into a theme for a post. But if we all got together we could maybe do a charm bracelet thing, with a succession of freestanding anecdotes, quotes, or what have you. But about Lud somehow. Sort of like make up for that ill-fated birthday scrapbook. (To read about that, see December 23 post, “The Kind of Tears You Get From Laughing Too Much.”)***
God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Three B rented a house from a Sufi, (a realtor who also got me into my house which when finally sold was a key to having enough money to retire to Guatemala and write this blog and website. But I digress) who hired me to paint the interior. (I was doing such odd construction jobs on the weekend to earn extra money.) While there I saw in Three B’s garage a multitude of paintings, many of which were crude and amateurish. Apparently it showed a history of her painting career, It also shows how with perseverance one can become extremely accomplished from quite humble beginnings. Of course she was aided by a passionate desire to do justice to the subject.

**33 year old carpenters is of course a reference to Jesus’ age when crucified

***I just checked and sure enough that is one of the missing posts (Just as is this). But it does kick my ass then to put it back. Stay tuned then for a soon new repost from lost blogposts. Thank God I at least kept text-only back ups!