Tag 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.

Water Has a Good Attitude

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Lud Dimpfl’s Sufi Mureeds (Initiated 1973)

New Start–171

Something From the North Star

“Spring is like a perhaps hand . . .”
–E. E. Cummings

I keep telling myself
Be like flowing water easily
Engulfing even boulders in its path

Or in another guise as perhaps glaciers
With their little known habitat of flowing too
Like slow tears

Which also abrade a channel
Taking something from the North Star
And heading south to an eternal spring

~.~.~

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,
Here where I live in Guatemala (para precisar, Panajachel*) the electricity is out again. It’s lately been a too frequent thing. But I philosophize saying well there is a price for everything. And I do have a wonderful apartment surrounded by a beautiful garden with roses other suchlike flowers and a persimmon tree, lawn you could play croquet on, etc. all for $350 a month. But lately electricity has occasionally been a problem. The scuttlebutt is that it gets shut down for repairs to the lines. And so there is if so hope for the future. And it only has happened say three times in three months, and it only lasts a day at a time, usually back on for the evening thus not interfering with my free cable tv (comes with the rent) and the classic movie channel, etc.

And nuisances like this do train me to be like water which simply flows around a jutting rock in the stream (water has a good attitude). And too it does break my internet habit a bit.

But it was out again last night and I had to make do (for illumination) with candles and a fire in my fireplace. (Yup, have that too) And my computer batteries allowed me to view movies from my impressive dvd collection (to pass the time). I saw Tender Mercies in which Robert Duvall showed he could sing, playing the role of a (for alcoholism) washed up erst famous country music singer a la Loretta Lynn or Emmy Lou Harris. And the night being still young, I also saw the Clint Eastwood movie, “Unforgiven.” It got a lot of Oscars as I recall.

Tender Mercies was more “spiritual.” The title phrase referred to what the leading lady Duvall’s new wife, was grateful for, from God. Which though happy in the present was oddly contrasted with the fate of her first husband who had been killed in Vietnam. And we also see a young and sweet Ellen Barkin, as Duvall’s daughter from an earlier disaster marriage, who chose wrong (another alcoholic) and died in a car crash when her new husband was drunk driving. Which mightily upset Duvall, saying he was the one who should have died instead, being an alcoholic like her drunk driving husband.

Yes these things can look complicated. It does help to believe in reincarnation, a thing of importance in the brand of Sufism I was initiated into.**

Her second husband the one in the movie was as I say Robert Duvall who played a washed up and sloshed up alcoholic. But the Tender Mercies lady threw Duvall a rope and was the winch that then pulled him out of his quicksand of despond, giving him a job around the gas station she ran, with the proviso that he had to give up drinking. Which he did, falling in love with her hence doing it for the proverbial “some dame” of Guys and Dolls fame.

As for Unforgiven, it was an odd title considering that to forgive someone it’s likely necessary they ask for forgiveness or at least show some repentance, which was the farthest thing from the minds of this movie’s villains. But then I guess that justifies the title.

Speaking of Clint Eastwood, if you look to the right you will see something titled my favorite quote, also from a Clint Eastwood movie (For a Fistful of Dollars): “Things always look different from higher up.”

Which Hazrat Inayat Khan (the founder of my Sufi order) often stressed as perhaps the most important Sufi truth. (rhymes with ruth***)

But back to Guatemala, the electricity is still out the day after, being Sunday, and the electricians not working on Sunday.

So I console myself with sunlight and chai and home made cookies. Thanks to my maid or really more like my all purposely useful butler person Adelina. (Yes I can afford that too, two days a week) relaxing in the garden reading Margaret Atwood’s (she of the Handmaid’s Tale) novel, “Cat’s Eye.” It’s about a lady painter. (Interesting story how she got there. As Shakespeare would say, “Thereby hangs a tale.”)

Not so much there in the way of tender mercies. As I say, this life stuff is complicated. But it makes for an interesting story that helps one grapple with pain and sorrow.****

And all I have to do is get to the bottom of my first rate frustration from a bout of electricity scarcity. (Life is best with a challenge)

This reminds me of an oft told story of my Murshida (denombre Ivy Duce) of her master, Meher Baba, who upon her complaining of the myriad disasters in her life*****held up his hand two fingers almost together saying “Can’t you take this much?”

I now refer you to the photo shown above of my Sufi class. Notice the sign on the wall, whose letters are too small to read from here. It’s an old Jewish proverb that says, “God forbid that we should ever have to bear all that we are capable of bearing.” I am the dark haired guy in the back row partially blocking out the white left door jamb. The man in front and center was Lud Dimpfl, my beloved preceptor. (We Sufis were divided up into smaller groups (300 Sufis being too much for Murshida Duce to juggle all at once). I was fortunate to have been in his class of thirtyish.

And then there’s the issue of premature judgment. For instance my hit-by-a-car episode at age 15. Compound fracture (bones splintered and open to the air) of tibia and fibula (the two calf bones) which though it resulted in a shorter left leg and nine months in a cast, yet kept me out of the war in Vietnam (better than bone spurs!)

I don’t know how hip you gentle folk are to the Vietnam War, but in my opinion I was thus saved from likely emerging either dead or hugely insane brought on by My Lai massacre sightings and such.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Panajachel lies on the shore of world famous Lake Atitlan which I read in Yahoo travel was number nine in an article titled “The Ten Most Sacred Spots on the Planet.” In 1932 Aldous Huxley declared Aritlan as the second best lake in the world, losing out to Lake Como in Italy because “Atitlan was too much of a good thing.” Of course I bet they hadn’t cut down the trees then.
See
https://www.foxnews.com/travel/10-most-sacred-spots-on-earth
(I guess it was picked up by Yahoo)

**Founded circa 1920 by Hazrat Inayat Khan who while never addressing reincarnation directly, certainly connoted that given the long span of time perforce implied as the course of the development of spiritual awareness. Indeed, the order later was turned over by Inayat Khan’s chosen successor Murshida Martin, to a Parsi mystic named Meher Baba, who she said was the “Qutub” (Sufi lingo for the highest spiritual authority on the planet). And Meher Baba quite explicitly talked of reincarnation, describing how it worked.

***Ruth is an archaic word which means pity, compassion, remorse. Famously a line from Milton’s poem Lycidas, (alluded to in the famous Thomas Wolfe novel, “Look Homeward, Angel”) The line went, “Look homeward, angel, and melt with ruth.”

****Are you hip to the Kahlil Gibran book “The Prophet?” In it (just like in the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu) A holy man wants to go away, seeking solitude, but before he does is prevailed upon to address some pressing spiritual questions, among which was “Speak to us of pain and sorrow.” As I recall he said these things excavated a reservoir which would define our capacity for joy.

***** As told in Murshida Duce’s book, “How a Master Works.” In which the said “this much” referred to the true tale of the myriad “one damned thing after another” stories she related in the book.

A Secret Plan to Ask for a Bicycle for Christmas

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Lud Dimpfl with Parsi mystic, Meher Baba

New Start—243

Turn Around: Face the Sun

(To Lud)

It’s all done with desire wires
(Yes we’re marionettes)

But we can sing an along song
Just like an astronaut growing
Old and bold in his orbit

–Who can with his little jets
Turn around: face the sun–

(Like a cat for fun pounces)
Announces
“I’m flying this thing!”

~.~.~

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 am in the usual quandary of if I should continue with the autobiographical stories, or go back to the Sufi musing genre (in re my views on the sources of happiness). I used to have a preponderance of those posts which you can verify by browsing through the last five years of archives, which are shown just under the posts’ titles on the right (At least on the main page you get with dialing up rumi-nations.com).

Sir Naïve Moi Person originally planned to have regular conversations with readers via comments, or even devote an occasional post to use to respond to any issues arising in comments. But alas I am comment poor, and so am flying blind, needing to decide on my own how to get my blog themes ducks in a row.

But back to flying blind, you could say that about the poem above, inspired by my old beloved Sufi preceptor, Lud Dimpfl *(rhymes with blood). He talked about astronauts in orbit and so of course the route was fixed, although (with little side jets) they could turn this way or that, giving the illusion he was (as Lud said he said) “flying this thing!”

Whereas scientist (chemist) Lud informed us (his Sufi class of 30 mureeds–AKA Sufi students) it was just a matter of wheeling about on the axis of the astronaut’s center of gravity, which was fixed out there in the proverbial “bowl of night.”**

Which brings up the interesting Sufi question of how much we are really in charge of our lives. I like the quote from John Lennon: “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.” And I have been given examples of this in my own life, things out of my control like breaking my leg (okay I DID foolishly run in front of the car) or a wife leaving. Yes, at least in these cases at the time seemingly disastrous things, but as to my leg, I recently mentioned*** how the slightly shortened left leg kept me out of the Vietnam war? How the loss of the wife was in a few short years looked back on with relief, etc.

Though we do get feedback and that makes the art of living truly an art. Certainly if you think of improvisational acting as an art, (and I most certainly do). And all these things guarantee surprises. And we do love those. It’s for instance the popular kiss of death for a novel to have no surprises, and same goes for a movie.

And back to my just now complaint (was it a complaint? I am not supposed to do that) about no comments, hence no guidance from readers. I mention this because I do have some feedback lately and of another sort. Para precisar (my favorite Spanish phrase, meaning to make precisely clear) I refer to a recent seeming influx of new followers of this blog, and timed to my recent heavy emphasis on biographical stories. (Maybe people like more real life drama and less Sufi philosophizing? Go figure)

And here I am (in the teeth of evidence of its popularity) eschewing biography.

So, I will get us back on track with that, before I sign off.

Let’s see, we (me and my three brothers) had just been dumped again by dear old Mom.

So where next? Maybe I will just focus on Uncle Frank. That’s a bite-size chunk not readily mixed with other family stories, so let’s get it out of the way.

Uncle Frank was a rich banker. He married my great grand aunt (sister to the great grandmother I don’t write about much because it would all be negative and a violation of the mantra (see above).
To reprise:
“My thoughtful self, reproach no one, bear malice toward no one, hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite and kind to all.”

And the first thing was “Reproach no one.”

Oops.

Anyway this aunt Bessie was a sweet shy lady I never got to know very well. But I was young. I remember at some early age visiting her and Uncle Frank, (A white-haired Scotsman, proud of his Erskine plaid) getting scared to the nth degree by a stuffed bobcat that they had which was baring its fangs.

Hard by the heater!

Even in the orphanage I saw Uncle Frank at least for every Thanksgiving. He being the rich guy and his wife childless, sort of adopted us as their family and so every year Thanksgiving Dinner was on him. Always at the old Colonial House restaurant in Oxnard, California, featuring (just across the street from the entrance) a dressed-like-a-chef black man who was waving to the passersby to come on in and enjoy southern cooking.

So I knew he was rich.

So I asked what his address was, saying I wanted to write him a letter.

How nice they may have thought, “he wants to say thanks for Thanksgiving dinner!” But I had a secret plan to ask him for a bicycle for Christmas.

You must know that Uncle Frank had to know I was relegated to an orphanage, poor kid, and all I wanted was a bicycle for Christmas. And living in a country way with half a mile between houses, etc. But he got me an adult size one with built up wooden pedals, assuring I would never have to ask for another bike.

He was generous but to a degree not to surpass an embarrassing frivolity!

Later on when Aunt Bessie died, this Frank had his eye on my Grandma Dorothy. You may recall when recently (https://rumi-nations.com/2018/04/16/the-grim-tale-of-the-first-domino/) I quoted her saying, “Thank God I will never be bothered in bed by a man again!”

Well, this was when the subject came up. So she refused him and he latched then on a twenty years younger lady named Zethal, (rhymes with lethal) who conned him into a phony marriage and dared him to denounce her when she claimed a wife’s share in a divorce. He was sensitive to what he figured would be public ridicule, and so let her have her way.

There. I have used up my uncle Frank stories. At least any suitable for a positive outlook blog like this purports to be. though what I could add reflected on my brother Jim, whose insanity was being shown by a selfish solipsism. And not at all Uncle Frank.

Fairly soon (August?) I will be traveling to California for a month or six weeks. Not sure if I may have to take a month off from blog writing. As we say here, “A ver!” (loosely translated, “to be seen.”)

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Lud, bye the bye was widely rumored to be the reincarnation of Hegel, the famous (and my favorite) philosopher aka the dialectic guy).

**A reference to Edmund Fitzgeralds’s ( (1809 – 1883) translation of (Sufi poet) Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, which opens with:

Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultán’s Turret in a Noose of Light.

Most famously quoted from The Rubáiyát is “a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.”

Which brings me to Sufi history. The big heyday of Sufi poetry was between 1000ish and 1200ish years A. D. Which was several hundredish years after the death of Mohammad. And with no Mohammad figure around except of course certain Sufi cognoscenti (Poets and like that) who were scarcely attended to by the extant religious authorities (Yes, giving organized religion a bad name) unless they dared to proclaim “heresy” in their poems. But wine women and song was okay! So it was a simple universal expedient in Sufi poetry that the apparently utterly charming love object was a woman, when it was in fact, God. And the wine? It was another metaphor for the intoxicating state to be found in a close study of God. (To be found within, not from the mouth of some priest. And you will not be surprised to hear that if this got out, this was offensive stuff to those who ruled the same kingdom formerly claimed by the Pharisees.)

But back to The Rubáiyát. My beloved Sufi preceptor, Lud, told us mureeds about this Edmund Fitzgerald guy and his translation of the The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. But Lud said, dissatisfied, Fitzgerald kept tinkering with it. Seven ensuing versions appeared, each one worse than the erst. And Lud said that what had been “a first rate mystical poem,” had tragically degenerated.

So. Caveat emptor!

******https://rumi-nations.com/2017/05/07/a-counter-offer-i-couldnt-defuse/