• January 1, 2021

    Do we know why we do the things we do, especially the apparently selfless things? In an earlier time, if I risked my life to save yours, I would tell you to thank the gods for your life. Now it is assumed I made a courageous decision and that I am the agent of my acts.

    One great ‘reason’ why God has become so unimportant to most of us in ordinary life is that we have assumed ‘responsibility’ for our lives. I think it is my life, I think I’m in charge and I can take credit for the wins and the losses, both.

    Can you examine this belief? When overwhelmed by compassion, overcome by beauty, struck dumb by the truth, do you think you are worthy, that you have come to something in yourself? Or do you thank God for this undeserved visitation of His Nature?

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  • November 1, 2019

    What is the point of zikr?

    Zikr is for the Absolute. It is our service to our origin.

    Why would the Absolute need something from us?

    What I am about to say is my understanding, from my own experience. This may mean nothing to you. But perhaps hearing this will be like what the Buddhists claim when you hear the dharma, that it reaches in and changes your orientation.

    Creation serves the purpose of the Creator. Imagining otherwise is like the sheep assuming that the shepherd and the paddock are for their benefit.

    What did the Creator wish to accomplish with creation? The Creator’s purpose was to know and love all the possibilities within Himself. The universe is an exercise in His Self-discovery.

    What does that have to do with us?

    We are a part of His Self-discovery. From Himself was everything made, because in the beginning there was nothing else. In creating us from Himself, He entered into Creation and became subject to the same laws He had established for His creatures. From the limitless, He became limited.

    If we sleep, He sleeps within us. If we wake up, so does He, or at least that portion of Him that sleeps in us. In other words, the Absolute fell in love with His Creation, He became identified and ceased to be awake.

    Of course, the Absolute also remains in His original state outside creation.

    The people who believe in God think He is all-knowing and all-powerful.

    He could be, if He wished. The evidence is otherwise. The evidence is that He has agreed to limit Himself in order to experience His Creation. This is disturbing to those who look for some ultimate, reliable perfection to rely upon.

    We have an urgent task to perform which is of great value and we do not know if there is anyone else to do it. The question is, can the Absolute awaken in His creation and thereby realize His aim of discovering Himself? Can His Splendour enter the mundane world? In Zikr, it is possible. We can invoke aspects of His Being and reflect them to Himself.

    Within His Creation, He experiences the suffering of His creatures. We can offer relief through mutual adoration. The relationship is reciprocal, based on mutual dependency.

    We humans are the active but limited side of infinity. By remembering our origin, we can restore His unity and redeem the unforeseen consequences of creation. We remembering who we are, we can remind Him of Who He is. That is the point of zikr.

    Is this what you mean by the Work?

    Yes. This is my understanding. In zikr, I remember this. In ordinary life, I do not. Is my life really mine to do with as I please? Or is there something more?

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  • August 1, 2019

    When do I become visible to myself?

    Of course, observing myself in action, I see the identities that operate in me, that I have habitual reactions which carry me through most situations without the need or ability to change anything. When I look to see more, I do not see anything that resembles a permanent, cognizant self, able to be. There is attention and perhaps presence, the lights are on, but no one is home.

    Rumi in his discourse 14 says this very clearly…what is real in me is not visible to myself. “You cannot see the attributes of man: examine yourself and you will not find anything so you suppose yourself empty of [His attributes]. Yet it is not the case that you have changed from what you were, only these things are hidden in you, like water in the sea”.

    In the presence of other people, more possibilities arise. Someone may see me without prejudice, attentively, and then I may see more of my non habitual self. If another gives me space and uses attention impartially, I am given the gift of greater freedom to be. This is the transformative power of real listening.

    This is an important guide for my behaviour towards others. When the other does not impose their opinions of me, when their attention is open and spacious, something more of me may become evident, something not conditioned by my past that is more of my true nature. Alas, the other person may also reinforce my habitual self by expecting and seeing only that, and then my limitations are likely enhanced. Seeing this, what efforts must I make to be more open to others?

    There is another possibility. Can I turn towards God? Can I have the sense that I am seen by Him? By this I do not mean the god of the religions, who is a human construction. By this I mean my sense of relationship to a Universal Being, the all-pervading consciousness. Turning in this direction, I become visible to myself as a reflection of Him, having an endowment of some aspects of Himself which His presence naturally calls into being. I feel recognized and I see who I am and have always been.

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  • July 1, 2018

    I have said for many years that it does not matter what name or concept you use for God. What matters is what you feel about Him.

    People want to talk about God with the same frame of mind and setting of the nervous system that they would use to do the grocery shopping or figure out the Times crossword puzzle. This is nothing short of stupid.

    I speak to a beloved friend with a special feeling, a different tone of voice, a different countenance. In this way, the basis of our friendship is renewed. If I do not make this effort, the relationship is closed to me; in reality, it does not exist, it is something else, something unrecognizable.

    So it is with God. Thought of in one way, He does not exist to me. I am an atheist. But when I am in the right state to be engaged with Him, He becomes accessible. He becomes real.

    I have often said, ‘do not allow yourself to think about God when you are in the wrong mood.’ Use the mood you are in to do the things appropriate to it, or change your mood, do not try to talk to your beloved friend when all you can think about is your taxes.

    This is the problem with so-called logical proofs of God. The sort of thinking that examines things logically is not up to the task of proving His existence. All my capacities need to be awakened for me to be satisfied that He exists and then my speech will have many more dimensions than logic alone. It is not possible to house an elephant in a closet, and in the dark, the various parts of an elephant will be easily mistaken, as the story goes. To ponder His Endlessness, I need my best efforts at spaciousness and subtlety and even then I will be far short of the task.

    Bring together feeling, sensing and thinking. Look with great care. Search your heart. Stay with the search. You will find Him, however you have conceived and named Him. Faith is not belief and it is not blind, as the saying goes, it is the most perceptive of faculties.

    Rumi tells us of being in a caravan crossing the desert. At night, while encamped by the fire, he hears a man plaintively calling for his camel by name. ‘Have you lost a camel?’ Rumi asks of him. . ‘I feel I am missing a camel,’ the man responds, ‘and the more I call him, the more certain I am that I have lost my camel’. Rumi begins to think that he, too, has lost a camel. That is how it is for those who find that they are missing something dear to them. They begin to look for Him and call His name.

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  • June 13, 2018

    One of the most powerful myths of our time is the myth of limitless potential. It seems that every commencement speech, every news story about young people, has this cliché…anything is possible, you can be anyone or anything you want, there is nothing impossible for those who hold on to their dream and strive to achieve it. In my view, there is no better foundation for sleep than this one.

    The class of child-like billionaires spawned by the technology revolution in places like Silicon Valley are planning and investing for a day when death will be no more, when science prolongs their life indefinitely and they will emigrate to Mars. They do not need to deal with the consequences of their actions, they just move on into a more wonderful future. The result is that they remain encased in their own self-importance, unable to penetrate the realm of feeling.

    It is my struggle with my limitations that enables me to observe self and achieve some measure of self-mastery. My failures enable me to feel compassion. My death, which every day grows closer, invokes sobriety and also, paradoxically, the qualities of passion and impersonal joy.

    The moth is attracted to the flame. The light is blinding. The flame is deadly. But where else can the moth experience such wild intensity. The moment of dancing its death is the summation of its life. So may it be for me.

    Searching for the limitless is complete nonsense. And it is very damaging, a fantasy that blocks our engagement with reality and the possibility of being human. Potential is never now. Something without limit never arrives. It’s a way to avoid the facts of our existence.

    This work leads not to the celebration of limitless possibilities but to the discovery of what is…the Terror of the Situation…and, with that, a possible awakening of conscience and compassion…qualities that are found in failure, suffering and the loss of illusion. Do you still hope that things will work out for you in the end, a comfortable conclusion, a Hollywood ending? If so, you still haven’t got the message. And despite the poor prospects, I am asked to do my best anyway, just for its own sake.

    Can I recognize that the limitations written into life have been imposed by the universe on itself? This world is not some cruel joke played on us. In this work, God is not thought of as some separate being untouched by the pain of His creation. Nor is the universe a dead material thing. As Mr. G noted, He has entered His world, crucified Himself in His own creation, become a full participant in the details, limited by the laws He has used to form this world*. There truly is no escape. Since we cannot get out, we must go farther in, accepting the flame, not seeking to avoid it.

    Last week, another person I know died from cancer. For years, he avoided his fate, convinced everything would be ok and his life would continue. At the very end, he discarded this view and in an act of great courage, he faced the end. This was a gift that may benefit others.

    * “In the beginning, I alone was. I had nothing but Myself with which to make the world; out of Myself the world was made.”  E.J. Gold, The Man on the Cross.

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  • December 15, 2017

    Where were You, and where was I, when we had our meeting?” (Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi)

    Let us say that you have sincerely decided to invite God into your life. You wish to receive His visitations.

    Your room has a lot of furniture and your house is small. There is room for only a little bit of God. Over time, the relationship may empty your room and make additions to your house so that you can accommodate more of Him. The manner of His visits will then become more and more uniquely your own and less the script found in religion. He is most considerate to limit Himself to the expressions in which you are most able to recognize Him.

    Now, consider that you may also wish to visit Him, to enter His Life. You would need to relinquish your room, your house, your identity, your sense of self. It would be a journey requiring you to sacrifice past and future in order to enter His Presentness with all your attention, forsaking all others. This is zikr.

    You know who you are when you enter the zikr chamber. You know where you are, the street address, the ascending stairway, the carpet where you sit. Such a place does not yet have room for a meeting with Him. But soon, the journey begins and you are no longer in that place, not in the same time. Your address has changed and you are not yourself. If you were to look around you, you would be able to reconstruct the room you entered. But you have moved on. You have left your life. You are on the Way to Him. Invocation shapes the space which then corresponds to His inclination to express Himself. Your response is His Gift to you.

    According to Hadith, Allah says: “Take one step towards Me and I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards Me and I will come running towards you.”

    Where were You, and where was I, when we had our meeting? We met on the Way.

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