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Chapter 4 Fritz Meier the Mystic Path

Chapter 4 Fritz Meier the Mystic Path

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ChapterFour
THEMYSTICPATH
FritzMeier
EVENINMUHAMMAD'SLIFETIME(hediedin
n/6p)
someofhisfollowerswerenotcontentwithmerelyobeyinghisprecepts,butwishedtoenterintoacloserrelationshipwithGod.ThepaththeytookwassimilartothatofChristianmonks,thoughtheywerenotnecessarilycelibate.Theytriedtoloosentheirtieswiththefleshandwiththeworld,topurgethesoulofqualitiesthathadbeendeclaredevilorthatseemedtothemtobeconcernedonlywithearthlywell-being.ThismovementgrewinnumbersasIslamspreadinther17thandII/8thcenturies;eithertheArabasceticsfoundimitatorsinthenewterri-tories,ornewly-converted,non-ArabMuslimswerealreadyacquaintedwithasimilarworld-renouncingpietyfromtheirearlierfaiths.Withsome,thissearch.forGodtooktheformofisolatingthemselvesfromotherpeople;butothersmerelyledamoredevoutreligiouslifewithintheframeworkofhumansociety.
If
theintensifica-tionandintrospectivetrendofthissearchseemedtobeoversteppingthelimitsprescribedbyorthodoxyitwasnotunanimouslyaccepted.Therepresentativesofthemovementpaidlessattention
to
thelegalandphilologicalaspectsoftheQuranandthe
baditb
(SayingsoftheProphet),andmoretotheirsignificancefortheconductofthesoul.Questionsofdogmaandmetaphysicswerealsorelativelyneglected.Andsoanewtheology-ifthatistherightexpression-cameintoexistence,ascienceofpiousself-examinationandreligiouspsychology,assistedbystudyoftheIslamicscriptureswiththatparticularendinview.Twoofitsprincipalrepresentativeswereal-Hasanal-Basri(d.II0/728)andal-Muhasibi(d.243/857).Themovementwaswideinitsscope,reachingfromlugu-briousasceticismtoprofoundabstractspeculation,anditsadherentsrangedfromquitesimplesoulstomenofgreatintellectualpowers.Forconveniencewewillcalltheseadherents'religious'(ratherinthemedievalsenseof
re!igiosi),
aroughandreadytranslationoftheArabic
nussak
(sing.
nasik).
Thedisciplinetheycreatedreceiveddifferentnamesatlaterdates,includingtheambiguous'innerscience'and'teachingoftheworkingsoftheheart'.
PreclassicalSufism
In
theII/8thcentury,moreespeciallyinthelatterpartofit,thesereligiousincludedthegroupknownas
siifijya,
TheSimtlrgh,thefabulousbirdwhich
SJ,mboiizes
Godin
one
of
thegredtSliflallegories:adetailfrom
pi.
13.
(I)
suftyyun
(sing.
sufi)
or
mutasawwifa
(sing.
mutasawwij).
In
allprobabilitytheyweresocalledbecauseofthewoollenhabits
(suI,
'wool')thatthey,orsomeofthematleast,wore,andwhich,intentionallyornot,setthemapartfromotherpeople.Thewoollenshirtwasagarmentassociatedwithpenitence,wornforcenturiesbythose,includingChristianmonks,whohadadoptedpovertyforreasonsofpiety.Thenotionofpovertydidnotneces-sarilyentailthatofpiety,buttheword'pauper'(Arabic
[aqir,
Persian
daru/esb,
later
dartuish,
hence'dervish')didcometohavetheseassociations.Itisnotquiteclearwhatelsedistinguishedthe
Siifiyya
fromtheotherkindsofreligiousascetics.Someseemtohavedisplayedacertaincontemptforexistingsocialinstitutionsandtheirtheologicalapologists,askingthemselveshowfaritwaspossibletogoonlivinginsuchasocietyandworkingtoupholdit.Somewereindifferenttothecustomsandstandardsofsociety;somebelievedthemselvescalledupontoopposethem;andalladoptedtheirownlifestyle,singlyoringroups.Withoutdoubttheysetmorestorebytheirpersonalreligiousexperiencethanbythetraditionalforms,andbelievedthemselvestobebetterattunedtothemeaningandpurposeofreligionthantheleadersofestablishedpiety,letalonethoseofsecularlife.Itispossible,thoughtheevidenceisextremelytenuous,thattheSufipracticeoflisteningtopoetryandmusic
(sama<)
asameansofintensifyingtheirsensationofloveforGodandoftransportingthemselvesintostatesofecstasy,inwhichtheybelievedtheyexperiencedadirectcontactwithGod,datesfromasearlyastheII/8thcentury.TheQuranicinjunctiontorememberGod
(dhikrallah)
asoftenaspossiblehadled,evenintheProphet'slifetime,totheholdingofmeetingsatwhichquestionsconcerningreligion,includingthe
law,
weredebated.Thesewerecontinued,inmodifiedforms,
in
thecirclesofthevariouskindsofreligious.Withthe
Sufiyya,
perhapsalreadyinthen/8thcentury,suchmeetingscametotaketheformofcollectiverepetitionofcertainformulas,notablythefirstclauseoftheIslamiccreed,'ThereisnoGodbutGod'
(Ia
ildba
iliallab},
a
II]
 
processwhichalsoinducedecstaticstates.Bothpractices,
samii'
and
dbier,
couldbecombinedatoneandthesamemeeting.TheSufiyyacertainlydidnotseethemselvesasdisregardingreligiouslaws,butforthemobservanceofthelawwasnomorethanapreliminarystage,andmanyofthemoversteppedit
in
theirardour.WherethisearlySufismoriginatedisstillamystery.Suchevidenceasexistspoints,thoughbynomeanscon-clusively,tothecivilizationsoutsideArabiaproper,toMesopotamia,Syria,Palestine,EgyptandespeciallytonorthernSyria.Butbytheyear
200/815
itwasalsoknowninMecca,theYemenandtheOxusregion.
Ciassica'iSufism
LearnedtheologiansdidnotrateearlySufismasequalwiththeirowndoctrineandsomeofthemhadreserva-tions,too,aboutthe'innerscience'practisedbythereligious.ButbythebeginningoftheIII/9thcenturyatthelatest,theconceptofSufismhadfoundapprovalevenamongnon-Sufireligious,andmanyweretheirattempteddefinitions.Clearly,themenofthe'innerscience'recognizedthatSufismembracedanadmirableideal,justastheyfoundinspirationintheidealofselflessgenerositypursuedbythe'associationsofyoungmen'
(fttyan).
Wedonotknowwhatinfluencedthemmorestrongly:adesiretohumblethemselvestothelevelofthevagrantandignorant,oradesiretoleadthesepeoplealongtherightpath;admirationfortheirsomewhatoddwayoflifeortherealizationthattheirmethods,too,hadmeaning.Atallevents,duringtheIII/9thcenturythetermSufismcametoapply,nolongermerelytotheratherdisreputablerevolutionarywing,buttothecentreandfinallytoalmosttheentirebattalionofthe'innerscience',usuallyimply-ingthestrictestascetismaswell.Thetermneverbecamecompletelygeneral,andsomewhomightonaccountoftheirutteranceshavebeencalled
Sufiyya
inthenewbroadersenserefusedtoacceptthedesignation.Itwasmoreoverchallengedfromtheoppositesidebyaquitedifferent,veryexaltedconcept,thatof
gnosis,
higherknowledge.ThusSufism,originallyamarginalphenomenon,cameduringthemJ9thcenturytobethenameforthewholemovementofreligiousascetismandofthe'innerscience',andwas
in
turnsubsumedinthemovement.ThroughouttheIII/9thandIV/10thcenturiesgreatmastersofthe'innerscience',nowgenerallycalledSufiyya,suchasDhtin-Niinal-MisriinEgypt,AbuSa'idal-Kharraz,Ibn'Ata'andal-Junayd
in
Mesopotamia,AbuYazidal-Bastaml,AbuHafsan-NaysaburiandAbuBakral-WasitiinIran,andmanyothers,workedatthesebasictechniquesofreligioussearchandreligionsecstasy,thatweresometimestoolazyandsometimestooviolent,untilclassicalSufismemerged,anIslamicmysticismwhichcontinuedtodevelopvariantformsincertaindetailedaspects,butseenasawholegainedinhomogeneity.Therecognizedauthoritiesattemptedtopruneitsmoreexuberantoffshoots.Theydistinguishedbetweenthepraiseworthyandtheblameworthy,separatedvirtuesfromemotions,drewupascaleofinnerdemeanour,ascribedinnerfunctionstospecificnon-physicalorgans(heart,spirit,etc.),establishedascheme
of
ethicalandepistemologicalprinciplesandmappedtheboundariesofwharwaspermitted
in
thewayofspiritualadventuring;
II
Them)'Sticpath
inshort,theyevolvedanintricatemoralpsychology,notconcernedwiththeexplorationofman,butintended
to
guidetheinitiateinhispilgrimagetowardspurificationofthesoul.Overall,repeatedinvariantforms,alwaysstoodthetenetofmonism
(tawhid),
thebeliefthatGodisOneandthatHealonewills,permitsandmakespossibleeverything,man'sfateandsufferingontheonehand,theprincipleofgoodandthecommandmentsontheother,inotherwordsthatthehumansubjectisaphantomandthatapartfromGodthereareonlyobjectscreatedanddirectedbyGodhimself.ThisteachingwasintendedtodemonstratethatformantoresistthetwofoldwillofGod,expressedindestinyontheonehand,andinthecommandmentsontheother,wassenselessandthathisnaturalpurposeshouldbetosurrenderhimselfsincerelyandunreservedly.InundertakingthepathtowardspurificationthemysticcouldbesurethatGodwasnotonlythegoal.aheadofhimbutwasalsotheforcethaturgedhimonfrombehind.WithitsdoctrineofGodastheonlycreativeandactivesubject,classicalSufismoccupiedthesamegroundasthetraditionalismofsomeonelikeIbnQutayba(d.
276/889),
andpromotedtherevivalof'orthodoxy'byAsh'ari(d.
323/935).
Ash'arl'sSuficontemporaryAbUBakral-WasitIwentsofarinmonismthathecondemnedprayersofsupplicationasanoffenceagainstthecommand-mentofsubjectiontotheirreversiblewillofGod.Mysticismdifferedfromorthodoxybyitsadvocacyofpracticesleadingtopurificationoftheself,andbyitsendeavourtodirecthumanspirituallifeexclusivelyintothatchannel,andtoannihilatethepseudo-subject.PhilosopherscommendedSufism'seffortstopurifythesoul,butfeltthatitlackedthestrivingforunderstandingthatshouldfollowfromit,andalsodeprecateditsrelega-tionoftheselftonothingness.TherewassomejusticeinthelaterdesignationofclassicalSufism,bytheAndalusianscholarLisanad-DInibnal-Khatib(d.777/1375),as'themysticismofethicalbehaviour'
(at-ta.rawwujal-khuluqi).·
Textbooksandtransition
IntheearlyIv/rothcentury,al-Hallaj,anativeofsouthernIranwhohadtravelledwidely,stirredupantagonismbyhisbarbedobservationsontraditionalIslamandhiscriticismofSufismasithadbythendeveloped.HisthesiswasthatGodwasontologicallypresentinman'severyfibre.ButhecametogriefonthehopelessattempttomergehisownconsciousnesswithGodandtoachieveunionbetweenGodandtheself.Hislongingwasalsoexpressedinlovepoems(notallofwhichheactually.wrote)whichemploytheterminologyofsecularlovelyrics.Buttheyshouldnotbetakendogmaticallyandthegreatestcautionshouldbeexercisedinmakingdeduc-tionsaboutal-Hallaj'stheologyfromthem.
If
someoftheexpressionsoflongingfordeatharegenuine,thenhehimselfsawdeathastheonlyhelpforhim.Circumstances,includingpoliticalintrigue,combinedtolead
to
hisexecutioninBaghdadin
3.10/922.
ThiswasnotintendedasanattackonSufismassuch,anddidnotharmit.Butitunderlinedtheneedtoregulatemysticismandtolaydowncertainnormsforit.ConsequentlyseveralSufitextbookswerecomposed
in
thervjrothandv/Ilthcenturies,whichselectedcommendabletextsfromthe
 
Themystic
path
oraltraditionhandeddownfromtheclassicalandearlierexponentsofthe'innerscience'and,wherenecessary,citednon-commendableonesfortheircautionaryvalue.Significantlyal-Hallajisseldomquotedinthesebooks.Anopponentofal-Hallaj,al-Khuldi(d.
349/959),
tookcaretobypassal-HallajintracinghisspiritualgenealogybackalmosttothetimeoftheProphet,namingal-
J
unaydashisghostlyfatherinstead.Insodoinghecreatedthefirstpedigreeofmysticalteachers,aprocedurethatbecameusualamonglatergenerationsofSUflyya.Morestringentlyregulatedmethodsofeducationofneophyteswereintroducedatthesametime,withthedualpurposeofensuringmoreeffectiveinstructionandofinstitutingmorereliableprecautionsagainsterror.Theearlierpracticehadbeenforthepupiltoservearelativelyfreeacademicapprenticeshipwithamaster,butthatgavewaygraduallytotheestablishmentofresidentialschools,inwhichthenovicewasmorestrictlysupervisedbyhisteacher,andreceivedinstructionfromhimregulatingallhisactions.Thenovicewasobligedtorevealhiseverythoughtandtosubmithimselfcompletelytohismaster(Arabic
sbajlkb,
Persian
PiT),
untilhiseducationwascomplete.
Post-classicalSufism
ThepredominantcharacteristicofSufismfromabouttheendofthev
I
II
thcenturywasthehighervalueplaceduponvisionaryandoccultexperiences.Thegroundwaspreparedforfullacceptanceoftheseattendantpheno-menabythetheologianMuhammadal-Ghazali(d.
j051
IIII),
whosawmysticalperceptions,suchasheightenedauditoryandvisualpowers,asevidenceforthepossibilityandrealityofprophethood,andthusofthecredibilityoftheIslamicreligion;
in
otherwords,the'minortradition'ofmysticismasaproofoftherightnessofthe'majortradition'ofreligion.Visionaryexperiences,relegatedtothebackground,indeedinmanyrespectsdisownedaltogetherunderclassicalSufism,werenotovervalued,letaloneregardedasself-justifying,inpost-classicalSufism;buttheygainedinimportanceassymptomsofthestudent'sinnerstateandofhispsychicprogress.Theteacherinterpretedhisdreamsandvisionsforhim,andthefirststepsweretakentowardsasystemofinterpreta-tion.Foralthoughitwasacknowledgedthattherecouldbedirectperceptionofhigherworlds,stillone'sownpsychiccharacteristics,too,couldbemanifested,forinstance,inthe.formofanimals,andthiskindofsymbolicimagecouldnotbeinterpretedbutbyasystemofcorrespondences.Buttheessentialgoalwasonlytobereachedafterpassingthroughtheseinterveningstagesandsettingasidetheirphenomena.Thetheoryofadivinesparkinmanalsooccasionallycropsupjnthepost-classicalperiod,probablyastheresultofcontactwithphilosophyandperhapstoowithShI'ithought,derivingforitspartfromGnosticism.Fromthisangle,mysticalendeavourappearsastheliberationofalightanditsreturntoitssource.This'liberation'wasfrequentlyplacedinacontextderivedfromphilosophicalandnon-Quranicsystems.AfavoureddoctrinepositedtheemanationoftheworldfromGoddescendingbyvariousstagestoinorganicmatter.ButthewaytoknowGodwasnot,accordingtothisdoctrine,simplyamatterofre-tracingthepaththat
~?+:
ir
ASl!fibolymanwarminghisfeet.ThemanuscriptisPersian)
XI
16thcentury,butdetailssuchas
tbe
facia!typeand
theciosds
pointtoa
Mongo!
source.
(2)
theworldtook
in
itsgenesis,formandoesnotoccupyapositionatthelowestpoint,themostremotefromGod,butisplacedasymmetrically,onanupward-reachingbranch,onthetipofthenaturalworld.Thatisthestarting-pointfoi:hishigherdevelopmenttowardsthestageof'Perfect·Man',tousetheSufi:expression,bymeansoftheinnerpurificationalreadymentioned.Yahyaas-Suhrawardi(d.
587/1191)
equatedGodwithabsolutelightandnon-beingwithdarkness,andarrangedevery-thinginbetweenaccordingtoascaleofsteadilydiminish-inglightandsteadilyencroachingshadow;healsocon-ceived,inadditiontothiscosmogonicradiancepouringoutfromthesinglesource,theideaofasecondradiance,of'illumination'
(ishriiq),
bymeansofwhichthealreadyexistinglevelsoflightliteachotherspiritually,asitwere,inmanifoldways,butalwaysfromabovedownwards,oratleastsideways,neverfrombelow.Onlywiththissupplementaryradiancedoesthelightincorporatedinmanacquirethestrengthandthedesiretoresisttheattractionsofthematerialworld,andgainachanceofavoiding,aftersloughingoffthebody
in
death,thefallintoanevenlowerstate,intothebodyofananimal,fromwhichtherewouldbenofurtherhopeofescape.Ibnal-'ArabI(d.
638/1240)
substitutedforthismonismoflightamonismofbeing,
in
whichallphenomenaarenothingbutmanifestationsofbeing,whichisonewithGod.Inbothsystemsmysticismoccupiestheground

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