Reflections of Tasawwuf

Essays, Poems, and Narrative on Sufi Themes

Charles Upton

San Rafael, CA: Sophia Perennis, 2008.
176 pages
Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-59731-078-9
Price: $17.50
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Sufism is the practice of remaining aware of the real presence of God in every circumstance, until Certainty is reached. The dizzying complexity of Sufi metaphysics, the passionate beauty of Sufi poetry, and the profound Sufi science of spiritual psychology, are all based on this. The Sufi Path is the process of spiritual transformation, ultimately resulting (God willing) in self-transcendence, produced by the Certainty of God’s presence. In traditional Muslim society, many different moral, intellectual, and spiritual functions were performed by those ‘estates’ responsible for maintaining them. Parents, imams, and ‘grammar school’ teachers transmitted the fundamental ritual and moral principles of Islamic society. The madrasas took care of such traditional sciences as Qur’anic exegesis and the study of prophetic ahadith. The schools of fiqh maintained and applied the shari’ah. The mutakallimiin developed and taught kalam, Islamic ‘scholastic theology’. The falasifa or philosophers carried on an intellectual tradition largely inherited from the Greeks. The ishraqiyyun developed a mystical theosophy based on direct spiritual insight. Physicians employed systems of healing derived in part from metaphysics. Poets often transmitted sophisticated spiritual lore; many other traditional craftsmen did the same. The mathematicians, astronomers and other scientists sought to uncover the Signs of God in numbers, in geometrical shapes, and in the heavens. And the alchemists worked on the reconstitution of the original human form (al-fitra) in psycho-physical terms.

So when a seeker applied for admittance to a Sufi tariqa, he likely knew his Goal. The lower rungs of the ladder of moral, intellectual, and spiritual aspiration were clearly defined and largely taken care of; consequently the aspirant to Sufi initiation could be more certain than he was seeking God Alone. In modern ‘semi-Muslim’ societies, however, things are not so clear. And as for those Sufi tariqas that have emigrated to the West, and the individuals who seek admittance to them, the situation is even more ambiguous. The traditional supports for a collective worldview that places God first and sees His hand in everything are no longer readily available, and no one whose worldview is basically secular can follow the Sufi path as the great Sufis of the past once did. In the secular West especially, Sufi tariqas lack the exoteric religious culture in relation to which they could be truly esoteric; without the Zahir, one might say, there can be no Batin. Therefore, this book is not so much a text on Sufism itself as an attempt—woefully inadequate—to indicate certain elements of the original context that allowed Sufism to be what it is.

Table of Contents

Preface

INTRODUCTION: AN OUTLINE OF SUFISM

I: PRACTICE

Dimensions of Namaz—The Practice of Invocation—The Way of Petitionary Prayer—On the Greater Jihad

II: RESPONSES

Separation
Embracing the Fire—Gratitude—Inside God

III: COSMIC REFLECTIONS OF THE METAPHYSICAL ORDER

Nature, Art and Alchemy—Signs of God in Mathematics and Geometry: An Islamic Perspective—Alchemy as Spiritual Psychotherapy—The Practice of Salt

IV: SUFISM AND ITS FRIENDS: EXCURSIONS IN ESOTERIC ECUMENISM

Christian and Muslim 'Trinitarianism': A Reply to Philip Sherrard—From a Letter to a Christian Mystic from Portugal—Creation is Love: A Sufi Exegesis of a Traditional Catholic Prayer

V: NINETEEN ODES OF HAFIZ

VI: LOVE AND KNOWLEDGE ON THE FIELD OF SPIRITUAL COMBAT:

A Comparison of the Sufi Teachings of Javad Nurbakhsh and Frithjof Schuon

VII: FACETS

The People of Blame—The Scales—Jesus and Muhammad as 'Revolutionaries'—Qiyamat al-Qiyamat

VIII: HISTORIES

Five Prophets—The Tale of the Fakir with the Golden Cloak—Three Poems of al-Qutb

About the Author

Charles Upton, poet, author, activist, and veteran of the counter-culture, developed an interest in metaphysics 'via mythopoeia' and, having survived the social upheavals of the Sixties, and the psychic allures of New Age occultism, awakened at the end of the Eighties to the esoteric teachings of the traditionalists, eventually becoming initiated into Sufism. His critique of New Age occultism and modernism is his best-known work and is published under the title, The System of Antichrist: Truth and Falsehood in Postmodernism and the New Age (2001). Sophia Perennis has published many other books by Charles Upton. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, in Lexington, Kentucky.