The Sufi Quest

by Ustad Himli, Mevlevi

MAN, we say we know, originates from far away; so far, indeed, that in speaking of his origin, such phrases as ‘beyond the stars’ are frequently employed. Man is estranged from his origins. Some of his feelings (but not all of them) are slight indicators of this.

This is why we speak of ‘separation from the beloved’; but these are technical terms, and those who employ them to increase their emotional life are -increasing their emotional life.

Man has the opportunity to returning to his origin. He has forgotten this. He is, in fact, ‘asleep’ to the reality.

Sufism is designed as the means to help awaken man to the realization, not just the opinion, to the above statements. Those who waken are able to return, to start ‘the journey’ while also living this present life in all its fullness. Traditions about monasticism and isolation are reflections of short-term processes of training or development, monstrously misunderstood and grotesquely elaborated to provide refuges for those who want to stay asleep.

However improbable all this seems, it happens to be true. It is, of course, not less probable than many other things believed by man. Some such beliefs are certainly erroneous: we all know individuals with beliefs which we are convinced are erroneous. On the other hand, since Sufism depends upon effectiveness, not belief, Sufis are not concerned with inculcating and maintaining belief. ‘I believe this is true’ is not substitute for ‘This is how it is done’. The two things are in reality, if not in appearance, poles apart.

If man finds himself again , he will be able to increase his existence infinitely. If he does not, he may dwindle to vanishing-point. Those who see a threat or promise in such a statement are unsuitable for this work. There is no threat or promise in facts: only the interpretation man makes of them.

People have been sent, from time to time, to try to serve man and serve him from the ‘blindness’ and ‘sleep’ (which today would be better described as ‘amnesia’) which is always described in our technical literature as a local disease. These people are always in touch with the Origin, and they bring the ‘medicine’ which is half the cure. The other half, as in orthodox terrestrial medicine, is the activity of that which is acted upon, to attain its own regeneration with the minimum of aid. These cosmic doctors –a literal translation of a most ancient term– often live in the world almost unnoticed, like the camel in the desert. They have been of all races, and they have belonged to all faiths.

Essentially, religion has two roles, which in all surviving systems have become confused through the absence of specialist knowledge in the publicists and most visible and active theoreticians. The first is to organise man in a safe, just and peaceful manner to establish and help maintain communities. The second is the inward aspect, which leads people from the outward stabilisation to the performance which awakens them and helps to make them permanent.

Numerous residual systems for human progress continue to float around in the world, but virtually all are devoid of value in this inner aspect, though they may not be without historical interest. Certainly they can show us at a glance that they are only employed for personal and community sentimental satisfactions –whatever their own imaginings about the matter may be. They can most charitably be described as vehicles abandoned by their builders and now occupied by half-comprehending amateurs who seek only a relief from thought about their predicament.

‘The Teaching’, however, operated by those whom we call ‘The Wise’, continues and may take any form. It is preserved intact and constantly nurtured by certain Sufis. Well-meaning but imitative groupings based on Sufism, and of no value to this inner side with real ones.

Recognising a ‘True Master’ is possible only when the postulant, man or woman, is what we call ‘sincere’. This technical term refers to his condition, not his opinions. Sincere means that he is objective enough to recognise the specialist and the nature of the task. To reach this stage, the seeker has to learn to set aside, at least for a time, superficial assessment about the teachers, the Teaching and himself. By superficial we mean something quite precise: automatic assumptions based upon rules employed in testing a different type of phenomenon.

Thinkers of the East


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