Tuesday, 27 November 2018

The Septenary Principle in Sufism

Although Hindu, Greek, Taoist, Egyptian and Zoroastrian examples of the septenary constitution were presented in early Theosophical literature, Sufi examples were relatively scarce, even though the Sufi schools are a notable esoteric tradition that make prominent use of the sevenfold structure, as subsequent studies have shown, a pioneering work being Henri Corbin’s The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism (1971).

The table below adapted from a Naqshbandi model (https://sufipathoflove.com/seven-levels-of-being/), with additions from the Kubrawiya school.

Nafs al-Kamila
The Pure /Perfect Self
tawbah (repentance)
waraʿ                    (fear of the Lord)
zuhd (renunciation, or detachment)
faqr  (poverty)
abr       (patience)
tawakkul (trust, or surrender)
riā  (satisfaction)
Ruh Madeni
Mineral soul
Ruh Nabati
Vegetable soul
Ruh Haywani
Animal soul
Ruh Nafsani
Personal Soul
Ruh Insani
Human Soul
Ruh Sirr
Secret Soul
Sirr Al Asar-
The Secret of Secrets
The Breast/Chest
Al- Qalb
The heart
The Spirit
The Innermost being
The Consciences
Inner or Spiritual heart.
The Hidden
Innermost Spiritual Heart.
Al-Khafa  Secrecy
Innermost Spiritual Heart of Hearts
Alam-ihahut  Divine Essence
Alam-i-iahut    Divine Nature
Alam-i-jabarut     World Beyond Form
Alam-i-malakut World of Imagination
Alam-i-mana World of Spiritual Perception
Alam-i-surat  World of Forms
Alam-i-tabiat World of Nature, Man

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

William Q Judge - Talk on Karma

1891 was a watershed year for Judge with his writing on Karma and Reincarnation. A half a dozen articles appeared, including lecture transcripts. The passages below are from a nice, basic presentation on reincarnation which shows off Judge's skills as a public speaker and his pioneering efforts in promoting reincarnation in Christianity. His ideas that everyone is seeking happiness and we are all connected are themes that have become quite important today with the Dalai Lama, which shows that his message remains relevant today.
All men and women, I take it, are in the pursuit of happiness. If they do not find happiness here they seek it after death. They think that if they are not happy now they may be happy when they shall have died; and so, I suppose, the poor people who live in your East End -- which is a blot on your civilization, brought about by the wrong philosophy which those living in the other end believe and practice -- they, I suppose, in the degradation in which they are compelled to exist, are also in the pursuit of happiness. They cannot get it now in London, but they expect it sometime; and the other circles of your society, those who are not condemned by nature or by God to have been born in the East End without their consent, even they are full of disappointment, unable to secure the ends they have in view, compelled to work hard for the living which they cannot secure -- they also are in the pursuit of happiness. Is it not so? And is it not also so that in both places the individuals of each class demand justice? And "Karma," about which I am to speak, is justice and nothing else.

Now the doctrine of Karma which we talk about means that as this being passes from life to life, he is under the government of law, and not of injustice. Is the world governed by law, or is it governed by favor? The religious systems of the day in the West show that their teachers believe the Universe to be governed by favor, by prayer, by partiality, by the absence of law. The theologians say, "If the Lord made law, he can also refuse to obey the law"; but the Theosophist says, "If the Lord made law to govern the Universe, he must obey the law." And the great law governing man in his progress through life, in all the relations of life and of the Universe, is Justice, and that law of justice says that as you sow, so shall you reap, and that was enunciated by Jesus of Nazareth, just as all the teachers before him and since have enunciated it in all places and times. Now if that law enunciated by Jesus is true, that as you sow, so shall you reap, and as ye judge so shall ye be judged, where is the justice of having a human being born in degradation without his consent, unless you adopt our doctrines of Reincarnation and Karma? Karma means Justice, compensation for every act good or bad which you do in your life. Seventy years is not enough time in this life to reap by experience and to receive justice for all your deeds. Do you know that although this saying of Jesus is believed, "As you sow, so shall you reap," yet hundreds of men now live sixty or seventy years of wicked life and do not get apparently what they have sown? When will they get it, if there is no justice? Similarly, you see good men living sixty and seventy years of life; where do they get what they have sown? You may say, some of you, one reaps up in Heaven and the other in Hell; but if you say that, at the same time there is another doctrine which you admit, that the wicked man merely by believing at the last moment may reap yet his just reward. For what? For being wicked all his life, and at the end simply saying, "I believe in something that is not justice"?

If there is justice in the Universe it must govern us always, and we believe in Reincarnation, that you and I have been here before, that I have been here before and will be here again, and so have you. If this be true, and I think it is, and also the other principle of justice, the principle of perfect compensation and balance in nature, then the whole Universe is vindicated; but if you look at it in any other way, God becomes unjust -- and no one believes that he is so. The Universe becomes something governed by caprice, for do not the theologians and the churches, all churches in this country and in every other country which are dogmatic, say that you can alter the course of nature by prayer, that when the mother prays for the child who is on a journey, that child is saved from a horrible wreck, while forty other children are killed because their mothers did not pray? Is that justice? No. Justice means that for every act you perform, every thought you think, every thing you do, you will receive an exact equivalent some time; and seventy years of life, as I told you, is not long enough. It is not long enough to reap by experience, to account for the savages being savages, to account for your poor people being poor and degraded. Nothing will account for these things but our doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation -- that these people have come over from other lives where they did those acts which condemn them now to suffer the compensation.

The Christian must believe in this, because St. Matthew says, "For every act, word and thought, you must give account." Giving account does not mean saying, "I did it," and then getting no reward and no compensation. It means to give account, to render and give up, to receive the fine or the punishment. In St. John's Revelation it also says, "I saw the Book of Life Open, and men were judged for their acts"; so that in the Christian Bible, we find that this doctrine of Karma -- that perfect justice must rule, that you must receive the compensation for every act and thought -- was taught, and this compensation can only be accomplished by Reincarnation.
That is what the law of Karma means. Karma means action, the result of action, the cause and the effect. Human beings are always setting in motion causes, and those causes must reap effects, must bring about effects here or hereafter, and hereafter does not mean in a mythical place which no man can find, but here on this earth. You must come again and again to reap the results of your acts, good or bad, to progress from life to life on this earth, to continue civilization higher and higher, so that at last those pinnacles may be reached to which the earlier speakers referred. Then the whole world will admit that it is one family going on to perfection, not that other parts in it are in the favor of some Almighty presence, which, by reason of their supplication, gives them benefits which it will not give to anyone else just as worthy.
The Theosophist says that justice rules the world, and justice is the English equivalent of the word Karma, or of the old, most ancient doctrine that man is ruled by law and must give account, must suffer or enjoy in various, several lives on earth, for every act, word and deed which he may have performed.
Talk on Karma [Given to the general public during the First Annual European Convention of the T.S., on July 10, 1891; Theosophical Sitftings, Vol. IV., pp. 24-26.]

Friday, 2 November 2018

Through the Gates of Gold - Ch.5, pt. 2a The Secret of Strength

The first half of this chapter uses the images of death and the battlefield, the second part uses the images of nature and gardening. The chapter begins with an interesting reflection on the exoteric nature of religion, with its tendency towards rigid dogmatism. With the simple experience of living with in a different religious tradition, one can relativize this narrow outlook and appreciate the esoteric perspective better:

Religion holds a man back from the path, prevents his stepping forward, for various very plain reasons. First, it makes the vital mistake of distinguishing between good and evil. Nature knows no such distinction; and the moral and social laws set us by our religions are as temporary, as much a thing of our own special mode and form of existence, as are the moral and social laws of the ants or the bees. We pass out of that state in which these things appear to be final, and we forget them forever.

This is easily shown, because a man of broad habits of thought and of intelligence must modify his code of life when he dwells among another people. These people among whom he is an alien have their own deep-rooted religions and hereditary convictions, against which he cannot offend. Unless his is an abjectly narrow and unthinking mind, he sees that their form of law and order is as good as his own. What then can he do but reconcile his conduct gradually to their rules? And then if he dwells among them many years the sharp edge of difference is worn away, and he forgets at last where their faith ends and his commences. Yet is it for his own people to say he has done wrong, if he has injured no man and remained just?

As in many wisdom traditions, observation of the dying process has great philosophical value:

When a man's soul passes away from its brief dwelling-place, thoughts of law and order do not accompany it. If it is strong, it is the ecstasy of true being and real life which it becomes possessed of, as all know who have watched by the dying. If the soul is weak, it faints and fades away, overcome by the first flush of the new life.

Why? Because he is no longer held back and made to quiver by hesitation. In the strange moment of death he has had release given him; and with a sudden passion of delight he recognizes that it is release. Had he been sure of this before, he would have been a great sage, a man to rule the world, for he would have had the power to rule himself and his own body. That release from the chains of ordinary life can be obtained as easily during life as by death.

The experience of being on a battlefield, opens some interesting reflections of the nature of suffering and empathy; by focusing on everyone’s suffering, one’s own suffering loses its importance:

It only needs a sufficiently profound conviction to enable the man to look on his body with the same emotions as he would look on the body of another man, or on the bodies of a thousand men. In contemplating a battlefield it is impossible to realize the agony of every sufferer; why, then, realize your own pain more keenly than another's? Mass the whole together, and look at it all from a wider standpoint than that of the individual life. That you actually feel your own physical wound is a weakness of your limitation. The man who is developed psychically feels the wound of another as keenly as his own, and does not feel his own at all if he is strong enough to will it so.

Next is a reflection on the stark reality of the instinctive nature of the struggle for existence – we are born alone, we die alone, and we have to fight our own battles. And like a breath of fresh air, a new possibility is proposed – instead of struggling and resisting the forces of life, why not join in with nature and work along with her; and this goes hand in hand with the idea that it is better to  conquer yourself than a thousand men in battle.

The great life of the world rushes by, and we are in danger each instant that it will overwhelm us or even utterly destroy us. There is no defence to be offered to it; no opposition army can be set up, because in this life every man fights his own battle against every other man, and no two can be united under the same banner. There is only one way of escape from this terrible danger which we battle against every hour. Turn round, and instead of standing against the forces, join them; become one with Nature, and go easily upon her path. Do not resist or resent the circumstances of life any more than the plants resent the rain and the wind. Then suddenly, to your own amazement, you find you have time and strength to spare, to use in the great battle which it is inevitable every man must fight, — that in himself, that which leads to his own conquest.