Monday, January 23, 2006

a Sufi friend

There's a friend who feeds me pleasure and kindness.

He's sewn me a robe of my own skin and veins:

My body the robe for my Sufi heart,

This friend my lord, my cloister the whole world.

#246: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Key word: friend

Yesterday Bob commented: "And I'd say God doesn't rule his/her believers, his/her believers shape the God." This is humanism's classic response to theism: It is not God that creates Man, it is Man that creates God. The gnostic stance is to see God as a friend:

The world is often seen as a training ground or prison for Soul as it seeks spiritual liberation, a return to its true home in the Pleroma or realms of pure spirit beyond the physical and psychic regions of matter, emotion and the mind. The true nature of Soul is as a divine spark which originally issued forth from the fountain-head of God. Gnostic traditions often teach that only through the intercession of a messenger from the pure spiritual realms can the Soul become acquainted with God. The original Greek word 'gnosis', as noted above, meant knowledge in terms of being 'acquainted with'. The gnostic in any form is a 'friend of God'.

Excerpt from Dean Edwards: Gnosis-Overview [my emphasis]

Sufism as Rumi understood it is a very pure form of gnosticism, as I understand it. Gnosticism and gnosis are currently in fashion and there are different views around as to what they entail. In my own view, the existence of such a plurality of views is not only consistent with but is an essential feature of the gnostic spirit. However, this sense of God as someone we can become acquainted with runs through all of the better definitions.

This is the friend that Rumi refers to here and that he addresses in all of his quatrains, whether the friend takes the form of his lost teacher and companion, Shams, or in the form of an alluring goddess. It's really all the same friend. He makes it quite clear in today's verse that this friend is also Allah, the Lord God elaborated by Mohammad and based on the Hebrew deity Yahweh, an essentially male creator god who vanquished an earlier feminine deity (or triple goddess). Rumi's use of the imagery of sewing is a subtle means of recalling such a feminine creatrix while avoiding the usual emphasis on natural procreation: this Goddess uses Her hands to make his body, not Her womb.

How is this not all still Rumi shaping a God out of his aesthetic imagination? He might answer that this "aesthetic imagination" is his friend and it is She who shapes his being in the world, the form that his body takes and the form that the world takes in housing it. Something inside us "creates" the world and the self as perceived by the (smaller) self or ego. Many mystics perceive this act of creation as one intended to create a mirror for self-reflection. The universe creates consciousness so it can see itself. There is always an initial phase (or two) in which this consciousness is characterized by illusion: either it identifies with the world and sees God as illusory or it identifies with God and sees the world as illusory. God is essentially "above" all that. God is (as the religionists insist) truly transcendent for God is the source of both forms of identification. And yet God is eminently immanent (ha! - couldn't resist that combination of words!) for what could be closer to us than that which creates our own sense of self and the world as we perceive it? What closer friend could there be?


At Monday, 23 January, 2006, Blogger Arizona said...

An earlier post titled "beware that flower" (written 20 January) was published only today, due to a combination of technical problems and my absent-mindedness.

My apologies for any resulting confusion.

At Monday, 23 January, 2006, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

Well, I did also write that an indefinable something is running through everything. I don't know what it is, but I think it's amoral, and I'm not sure how interactive it is. But I suspect communication with it is wordless.


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