Tag Archives: Imagination

Finally the Cat Is Out of the Bag!

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Lud Dimpfl’s Sufi class (circa 1973)

I am the dark guy in the back row just in front of the left door jamb.

 

 

Lud Dimpfl with Meher Baba

 

New Start—419
Let Hell Go To Its Favorite Abyss

What if you were a writer when
(You had an imagination)
You imagined a new way backwards

(For a new way towards)
To examine the apparently soulless behavior
Of someone who couldn’t budge

Because who had kept dammed his heart and if
Then instead of damning him for his lack of savior
What if instead of that you understood better

Who he really was or at least you understood that
To judge is to fetter
(Yourself as well and to them too)

And so then you stepped toward this bliss:
You let hell go (to its favorite abyss)
You let flow your tear-salted water

From your oceanic heart and then
(It’s a start)
You wept?

 

~.~.~

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.”

~.~.~

Note to Gentle Readers:

The company that administers this website blind-sided me with a new format for posting stuff which I didn’t understand. For that, this post is very much behindtime. (but all is better now. (Ojala and inshallah)

Apologies.

Gentle Readers,
Perhaps you haven’t been following my blog “religiously.” (There’s that nasty word again) And so perhaps a brief bit about my background is in order. In order that is to better understand where I am coming from, and better put my musings in the context of a useful framework.

So here’s why this is a “Sufi” website:

I was an initiate in a Sufi order in northern California, from 1972 to 1979. (If you aren’t familiar with “Sufism,” if it helps to place this in context, Rumi was a Sufi). This order was co-founded by Hazrat Inayat Khan, sent to the west (England, The United States, etc.) in 1914, by his murshid, Madani, as I recall, in Hyderabad, India. The mission was to establish a Sufism beachhead in the west.*

In Sufism, the “guru” is called a murshid. Or, in the case of a woman, a murshida.

Inayat Khan died in 1927 and in 1948 the then murshida, Rabia Martin, (Inayat Khan’s chosen successor), when dying of cancer directed that the order be put under the aegis of Meher Baba (which means, compassionate father) in India. She was convinced he was “The Qutub,” which means in Sufism, the highest spiritual authority on the planet at the time. He was of the large Parsi community in India. They had centuries earlier fled from their native Persia where they were ostracized by the Islamic influences that took over Persia, and as is frequent worldwide in these cases of differing religions, did not show tolerance to the “infidel” Parsis, who didn’t wish to renounce their ancient devotion to the prophet Zoroaster, not even in favor of Mohammed..

Meher Baba conducted then the order from a physical distance, (its headquarters being in San Francisco) naming Ivy Duce as the new murshida. When I joined, Ivy Duce was about seventy five years old. Basically we followed the practices which had been set forth by Hazrat Inayat Khan, with some changes–mostly additions prompted by Meher Baba (I can’t think of any subtractions).  Oops. Yes I can. One thing. Meher Baba wanted omitted some of the arcane practises which if taught to people not spiritually advanced enough to use them safely, could abuse them, both to their and others’ detriment.

And so we revered Inayat Khan (Hazrat is a title bestowed in the east upon one who is respected as a holy person). We studied his writings, and sang his Zikr to start each meeting. It was a round–or canon (like the famous canon in D by Pachelbel, or more familiarly (and aptly, the last line) “Row Row, Row Your Boat.” And we said his invocation also at the start of a meeting. This was, “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.”

As you may notice these are pantheistic in tone, and the invocation I do believe ranks as the most ecumenical of invocations. As such it is often the case that fundamentalists in their respective religions, take objection. As do others who imagine that “religion” inherently is imposed upon one from without, whether by a person such as Christ or Buddha, or usually, by mere priests of one sort or another who purport to speak for God.

Inayat Khan neatly sidesteps this (as do most Sufis I have come across in my readings) by the expedient of declaring that God has a way of adapting to the belief of the individual, who is encouraged to use the full range of her imagination to conceive of God as the embodiment of whatever most moves her heart. Since as Inayat Khan repeatedly emphasizes, the temple of God is the heart of man. Along these lines, he often quotes the Prophet Mohammed who said “Every man has his own religion.”

One of the practices prescribed by Inayat Khan is daily to say to oneself, “My thoughtful self, reproach no one, hold a grudge against no one, bear malice toward no one; Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

And this brings us to today’s theme, that of judgment. (Ha! Finally the cat is out of the bag!) Of course some religions or philosophies emphasize the concept of reincarnation (e. g. Jainism, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, some subsects of Islam, and others. Most recently–to my knowledge–also, Meher Baba.) Indeed, though Inayat Khan never explicitly references such a doctrine, in my opinion, his philosophy connotes this. He often refers to the human being’s gradual development in terms that simply haven’t a possible timeline without reincarnation. I suspect this stemmed from the fact of Sufism being born of Islam, and steeped in a tradition of obfuscation. So as to avoid fundamentalist persecution—an example being poetry ostensibly written to an opposite sex beloved, or reference to “wine” when the cognoscenti knew what was meant was to a reference to God or divine intoxication. And had Inayat Khan spoken directly of reincarnation, it would have aroused controversy and Sufis are noted for keeping a low profile.

And again sticking to the no no of judgment, once one is hip to reincarnation there obtain obvious corollaries, such as the concept of “young souls” or “old souls.” The older souls, for their greater experience, are wiser. And a corollary to that is the injustice of judging a “young soul” by the standards of an older one. It would be like demanding calculus from a kindergartner. Because we are all on different rungs of the ladder, as it were. And God knows (as opposed to we) who is higher and who is lower or by how much. There can then be no absolute standards of even good and evil. Inayat Khan says the virtue of a regular person would likely be a sin for a saint. And Meher Baba has said, “There is no such thing as evil. Only relative degrees of good.”

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*By an interesting coincidence, Inayat Khan’s wife was either the cousin or sister (I forget which) to Mary Baker Eddy who founded Christian Science.

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.

I Am Biased Toward Joy

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John Keats

New Start–31

Make a Heaven to Hide In

“I am convinced of only two things,
The sanctity of the heart’s affections,
And the truth of the imagination.”
–John Keats

Belief does wonders:
Witness the placebo cure
And you can control what you believe
For instance you can easily believe in this:

The blessing of the God in gratitude
Which is an incontrovertible thing
As in for instance
Think about this:

What do you think were
The odds of your being here with your eyes
And heart as sacred witnesses?
And if you don’t think much about

The Midas touch of sacred music
You don’t know what solemnis missas this misses
So invent your sacred and God will follow
Use your imagination–Allow God

A fair shot more intoxicating than
Whiskey has ever been–It’s like
What the famous manna from heaven was
And what is heaven?

It’s a happy place like gratitude
Or any truly happy place will do
So make a heaven to hide in
Make heaven your placebo

~.~.~

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,
I noticed my last biographical post (from my childhood) was written last September. So I figured I was due for another. Indeed part of the reason this blog post is belated is that I’d been working on that, but it was extending into a two parter (I try to keep them around 1,000 words) which I was still far from finishing (I have to write out both parts to decide where to put the break) and then suddenly out of the blue (or in Spanish, fuera de la nada, which means out of nothing) came a new non-bio idea but right up my Sufi alley meditation on a theme-wise and I do have a bias in choosing direct Sufi stuff over indirect Sufi stuff (e. g. my biographical sketches). Not to mention it seemed “written” as the Arabs say because of how it came about. It reminded me of the famous volcano Paricutín erupted fuera de la nada (out of the blue in English) in a Mexican cornfield circa 1943 and threw up such a quantity of volcanic ash and lava til by 1952 it had reached a height of 1300 feet. (Always I have been fascinated by that) and so I defer to that as my blog post this time.

Every day I get sent* a choice bit from Hazrat Inayat Khan (founder of Sufism in the Western world circa 1920) and here in today’s is this quote: “There is one moral; the love that springs forth from self-denial and blooms in deeds of beneficence.” And this brings an issue about “self denial” which I would like to talk about.

I usually adore Hazrat Inayat Khan. But sometimes his advice doesn’t seem to apply or at least it depends on what is the meaning of is or such. Like here (about self-denial) for instance.

I say the best of Sufism and spirituality in general is being on a quest for happiness. You see, I feel that happiness is the sine qua non of what’s apt spiritually. And if it makes you happy how can that be called “self denial?”

Ipso facto for me if advice depresses me I look at it twice. Because no doubt I do need to bite bullets. But unless on careful inspection the matter is indeed such a case I am biased toward joy. Not only as a reward to be sought but as a compass. If I am getting progressively happier that means I am going in the right direction.

And so here’s a confession:
I am in this for selfish motives.
I am in it because it makes me happy.
From this I conclude it’s good because I believe happiness is from God (read love), and is impossible otherwise to achieve.

And thanks to following the advice of Inayat Khan, I have a sovereign right to imagine God the way I want. (a such-tailored God is hard not to worship, unless of course one has a problem with gratitude.) Not only a right but Inayat Khan has that as a prescription for spiritual advancement and, as I say, a route toward happiness.

And so I have spiritual cover. I have Inayat Khan himself. He stresses over and over the need to use your imagination to project an image of God to follow. The way I see it then is this:

You can imagine God in any way you like, so the image be beautiful hence from the heart. And then God will, like in Pinocchio, bring the wooden boy to life. God (what humility!) being the wooden boy.

And back to Inayat Khan:
“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 this:

”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.”

And imagination connotes creativity and creativity is fun. It sounds suspect to say I worship fun. Yet I am a fun lover. But doesn’t that depend on your definition of fun? In my case and for instance, the circus bores me, but following a rainbow or better, a rainbow in my mind, now there’s where you DO find a pot of gold. Yup, it’s back to the Philospher’s Stone. Except we need to refine the meaning of “gold.”

Which is not only where you find it but where you seek it (e. g. “Knock and the door will be opened.”)

Anyway here my definition of fun is love. Nothing is more fun than that. And if you don’t know that, I do fear that you aren’t happy.

And remember the old Beach boys song (“We had fun fun fun, til Daddy took the T Bird away.”)? It begs the question, Why settle for Daddy’s whim? To hell with him. Our imagination has better T birds. And they never fly away.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*You can get a free daily subscription for that here:
https://wahiduddin.net/saki/saki_new.php