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The Gift of Peace

Published in Sufism Journal, Spring & Summer 2007

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

We are always peace.


To get rid of the idea that we are not peace
is all that is required.

— RAMANA MAHARSHI

THE PEACE OF THE SOUL

Peace is a quality of the soul. And like all real spiritual qualities,
peace is not achieved or earned by our efforts. It is given through
grace, like the peace Christ promised his disciples:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you:


not as the world giveth give I unto you.

Because our culture has lost an understanding of the ways of grace,


we tend to identify peace with effort. Most of us struggle for peace,
thinking we can attain it through striving. Outwardly we seek peace
through the resolution of conflict. Inwardly, too, we hope to resolve
our conflicts, working to bring the warring factions of our psyche
into balance. In meditation we strive to find peace beyond the
activity of the mind.

We might achieve some sense of peace this way, through effort and
struggle. But real peace is an aspect of the divine, and in the words
of the Sufi master Bhai Sahib, “How can there be effort with divine
things? They are given, infused.”

Peace that is given has a different quality precisely because it


comes without effort or struggle. It is not a resolution of conflict,
either inner or outer. It does not belong to the dimension of
struggle, but to the dimension of the soul. It cannot be born from
conflict because it is an aspect of the oneness of our true nature. In
oneness, how can there be conflict? If there are not two, where is
the need for resolution?

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Real peace is a quality of pure being. The peace that Christ left with
his disciples, the peace “not as the world giveth,” is in all of us. It is
part of our essential nature. But like many qualities of the soul it
remains hidden, overlooked by our perceptions and ways of relating
that are so grounded in duality, conflict, and self-interest.

Traditionally peace has been transmitted on an individual level,


from master to disciple, as Christ gave peace to his disciples. But at
this critical time in our evolution, this is no longer enough. All of
humanity needs to have access to the peace of the soul, for this
peace belongs not just to each individual, but to the soul of the
world. And if we look around us we see the world needs this peace;
life itself needs to be nourished by its own higher nature in order to
recover from past abuse, and to thrive. The spiritual work of the
time is to help the soul of the world awaken, to help the qualities of
life’s true nature nourish the whole.

PEACE AND THE ERA OF ONENESS

How can we help the heart of the world awaken? The first step is a
step in consciousness. The coming era is an era of oneness, and a
consciousness of oneness is emerging in our collective. We see this
consciousness reflected in the development of global
communication, the Internet, and in our recognition of ecological
interconnectedness. But we don’t see the deeper dimensions of this
consciousness, how it is part of life’s highest nature, how it contains
the divine qualities of peace, love, and real power.

Only the divine can heal and transform the world—the forces of
antagonism in the world are too powerfully constellated for us to
resolve on our own. But the divine needs our participation: we are
the guardians of the planet. And what is the nature of this work? In
our masculine culture we identify work with “doing” and activity.
But to hold a space for the divine requires the feminine quality of
“being.” Through the simplicity of living our inner connection to the
divine, living the awareness of the heart, we link the worlds
together and allow the higher energies to flow into life.

The mystic recognizes the play of opposites within herself—the dark


and light, masculine and feminine, spirit and matter—and knows
that they are part of a greater oneness. No longer caught in the
duality of opposites, the mystic lives with the reality of union. The
opposites remain, but they no longer appear in conflict. The mystic

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can, as Judaism’s Midrash urges, “observe how all things borrow
from each other”:

day borrows from night and night from day…the moon borrows
from the stars and the stars borrow from the moon…the sky
borrows from the earth and the earth from the sky…All God’s
creatures borrow from the other, yet make peace with one
another….(1)

And in this era of oneness the seeker needs to shift her focus from
her own self-development to the development of the whole. This
requires that we leave behind patterns of spiritual isolation. By
leaving the cave and monasteries we can live the light of the heart
in ordinary life, in the marketplace where the density and darkness
of materialism needs to be dissipated.

It can be helpful to recognize that the divine within life has its own
natural rhythm, its own in-breath and out-breath, which we can
come to know and work with. The light and energy of the divine is
currently following ancient patterns that flow through our collective
psyche. We can help peace come into our world by trusting that
peace itself has the patience to work around resistances, that its
power is not scattered or wasted in conflict. The spiritual energy of
peace is currently working with the energy of discord, undermining
its arguments, changing the flow of energy from confrontation to
understanding. If we allow ourselves to be open to what is already
happening, we will begin to see and work with the consciousness of
oneness that is emerging.

SIMPLE ANSWERS

During times of transition it is important to return to what is basic,


to what belongs to the core of life. If we look closely, we can see
that life itself contains a harmony that is part of its deepest nature.
One can see this in the petals of a flower, in the swirl of the water in
a river, in a flock of geese flying south. We can allow life to teach
us, to show us how to live in a way that does not continually
constellate conflict. Life can reveal to us the flow in the opposites,
the way night leads to day, winter to spring. Once we change our
attitude to life, once we give up the need to be the conqueror or
oppressor, then life can show us how to live in peace. Once we step
outside of the paradigm of the warring opposites we will find that
the sun is shining.

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A thread is being woven in the inner worlds but we do not know how
to look. Harmony is being created, but we remain focused on
discord. The energy patterns of life are subtly shifting, the currents
that come from the deep are changing. Life is trying to redeem
itself, trying to shake off the debris of our power struggles.

Because we live at the end of an era life has apparently become


more complex. This is one of the signs of things falling apart. With
our computer generated models we look for complex answers to our
problems. But peace is simple, and is part of the simplicity of life.

We always seem to overlook the simple wonder of being human,


which means to be divine. We are the meeting of the two worlds,
the place where miracles can happen and the divine come alive in a
new way. We are the light at the end of the tunnel. We are the
warmth and the care and the compassion, as much as we carry the
scars of our cruelty and anger.

The changes in life are so fundamental and simple, and yet they are
not easy to live. There are forces at work that push us outwards
towards complexity. These are the forces that take away our joy
and demand that we work harder and harder. They drive us into
conflicts we do not need, and always try to obscure the simple joy
of life, of being together and valuing our companionship. Fast food
and mega movies may glitter and catch our collective attention, but
we know in our hearts that something fundamental is being
overlooked. We do not need to drown in prosperity or impose our
beliefs on others. We have simply to recognize what is real and live
this in our own way.

In the simplicity of our human values—love, and joy, and hope—we


are connected in oneness. But we can only discover this connection
when we return to this simple core of being. When we return to the
heart we will see what is being born, how a linking together of
individuals, groups and communities is taking place, how patterns
of relationships are growing—and how life energy is moving along
these patterns. By acknowledging these changes, we can help
peace flow where it is needed.

THE LIGHT OF PEACE

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Many people are frightened of real peace. It cannot be manipulated;
it has no role in power dynamics. In the clash of opposites we fight
to win, to impose ourself. Even our image of world peace is a
balance of power. What would happen if these power dynamics
were removed? How would we know who is in control? The drama of
power needs adversaries. A life of peace functions in a different
way. It does not belong to patterns of control. Peace and freedom
belong together.

To be open to peace is to leave behind so many of the ways that we


define our life. To work with peace would mean that we work with
an energy that is free from the constellation of opposites. This
energy is a part of our divine nature. In the Qur’an such an energy
is described in the “verse of Light” from sura 24:

Allah is the Light


Of the heavens and the earth,
The parable of His Light
Is as if there were a Niche
And within it a Lamp:
The lamp enclosed in Glass:
The glass as it were
A brilliant star:
Lit from a blessed Tree,
An Olive, neither of the East
Nor of the West,
Whose Oil is well-nigh
Luminous,
Though fire scarce touched it:
Light upon Light!
Allah doth guide
Whom He will
To His Light:

The golden light of the oil of the “olive, neither of the East nor of
the West” is within us. It is the light of our divine nature, which is
also a part of life. How can our divine nature be other than the air
we breathe? Our breath is His breath. Through the breath the soul
and the body, heaven and earth are brought together. His light is
“the Light of the heavens and the earth.” Behind the appearance of
duality is the light of oneness, and real peace. We can live this
oneness, this primal union, or we can remain with an attitude that
sees only the continual conflict of opposites. The oil from the “olive,

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neither of the East nor of the West” is burning and shows us a
different way to live.

The light sura continues:

(Lit is such a Light)


In houses, which Allah
Hath permitted to be raised
To honour; for the celebration,
In them, of His name:
In them is He glorified
In the mornings and
In the evenings, (again and again),

By men whom neither


Trade nor sale
Can divert from the Remembrance
Of Allah, nor from regular Prayer,

The light that is given belongs to the remembrance of God, the


simple awareness of divine presence. In this light the divine is
remembered and celebrated, even in the midst of life’s activities.
We need this light to guide us, and in this light we find our
remembrance of what is real. This light is always available, only
hidden by our forgetfulness. The light that is beyond the opposites
is not gained through conflict, but comes through prayer and
remembrance.

Those who love Him and remember Him have access to the light
that the world needs—the light of peace, the light of oneness. Our
world can never be saved by politicians or mediators, but by those
whose hearts are turned to the Real. This awareness belongs to the
core life, to a creation which celebrates its Creator. It is present all
around us, within us, part of the simple truth that we are here in
service to the divine. If we can see with the heart, not our
conditioning, we can awaken within the peace that is revealing itself
at this time. And through the simple combination of our spiritual
practice, our prayers, and remembrance, and our everyday life, we
can help to bring His light and His peace into His world.

FOOTNOTES

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(1)
Midrash, Exodus Rabbah (31:15), trans. H. Freedman and Maurice
Simon.

Sufi Dreamwork
Published by Seven Pillars

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

The dream is a little hidden door


in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul....

— C. G. JUNG

GUIDANCE ON THE PATH

The interpretation of dreams has always been an important part of


the Sufi tradition. Early Sufi manuals have sections on dreams,
which offer differentiation between “true” and “false” dreams, the
latter being dreams without psychological or spiritual value. “True
dreams” are those which offer guidance. Traditionally, dreams are
interpreted by the sheikh or the representative of the sheikh. The
twelfth-century Sufi, Najm ad-dîn Kubra, stressed the importance of
dreams and their interpretation, including in the rules of the path,
along with “constant silence, constant retreat and constant
recollection of God,” “constant direction of a sheikh who explains
the meaning of one’s dreams and visions.”

In the Naqshbandi Sufi tradition dreamwork has always been


important. Bahâ ad-dîn Naqshband, the founder of the order, was
renowned as an interpreter of dreams, and apparently wouldn’t
actually take somebody as a disciple until they’d had a dream that
confirmed that. He also stressed the value of group discussion.
“Ours is the way of group discussion,” he would say. As this path
has evolved in the West, these two aspects of the Naqshbandi path
have come together in the form of group dreamwork. At our
meetings we meditate—practicing the silent meditation of the heart
—have time for tea and talking together, and then we share and
discuss dreams.

Through sharing our dreams and listening to those of others we also


learn to value the uniqueness of our own path, of our own way of

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journeying Home. We are each taken to God in our own way,
according to the uniqueness of our individual nature, for “every
being has its own appropriate mode of prayer and glorification”
(Qur’an 2:186). It is so easy to try to identify with others, to walk
the path we see being lived by others. Others can inspire us, but we
can only walk our own path, follow our own dream, live our own
destiny. Our dreams tell our story, how the path unfolds within us.
When we share a dream, the uniqueness of our own path is given
attention. And through hearing the dreams of others we can see
how for each us the journey of the soul is different, demands
different qualities.

Working with dreams, we learn to read the signposts on the way, to


listen with an ear attuned to the music of the path, to the frequency
of the soul. We uncover what we need to know, read the next step
that we need to take. Our dreams describe the inner processes of
the path, the spiritual and psychological work that is unfolding. The
Naqshbandi path has always had a strong psychological element.
Much of the work of purification is psychological, involving the
confrontation with the shadow as well as other psychological
processes. Often in the first years on the path the focus will be on
this psychological inner work, the alchemical transformation of the
nigredo, our shadow, the rejected and unacknowledged aspects of
ourselves. We will have dreams of our own darkness and fears,
frightening figures chasing us down night-time streets, monsters
hidden in basements. Working with these dreams we learn how to
accept and love our darkness. Our dreams reveal what is hidden
within us, the beauty and the terror. And within the darkness of our
shadow we slowly come to see the light of the Self, the pearl of
great price hidden in the depths.

Deeper than the psychological are the spiritual dreams that speak
to us with the ancient images of the path, the bunches of grapes
that represent esoteric teaching, the wine of the Beloved that
intoxicates the Sufi. Or as in the dream of a room full of old men
carding wool, the dreamer is told of the process that says you are a
Sufi when your heart is as soft and as warm as wool. The depths of
the soul knows these symbols, even if they are unfamiliar to our
contemporary minds, and they remind us of the ancient road we are
traveling. But dreamwork is not just about interpretation, about
finding out what the dream means. Dreamwork is a dialogue, a
conversation between the dreamer and the world of the dream.
Through this dialogue we make a connection to a part of ourselves

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that the outer world often dismisses and invalidates. We reconnect
with our dreaming, with the soul as it speaks to us in this ancient
language of images and symbols. And when we share dreams in a
meditation group this dialogue is heard by other people’s hearts
and validated within a sacred space. This is an important
affirmation of the dream, and of the soul that speaks to us through
our dreams.

If you believe in your dream it will attract the interpretation, the


response it needs. The Jungian Werner Engel said “the dream will
always make itself known.” A dream is a living, dynamic reality that
attracts the attention it needs. The interpretation may not be
perfect; it may even be wrong. You may not discover the real
meaning of a dream until weeks or even years later. Dreamwork is
not about right or wrong, but a process through which we work with
the world of the psyche, we reconnect with the soul. Through
dreamwork the energy of the inner world is made accessible to us.
Through trying to understand our dream we participate with the
inner world, and its energy can come into consciousness, come into
our waking life. We are nourished by our dreams more than we
know, and dreamwork helps us to access this nourishment, be fed
by the manna of our dreamworld.

CATCHING THE DIVINE HINT

Working with dreams, we gradually become familiar with a reality


that is not fixed or static. Dreams are amorphous and changing, and
their meaning is neither logical nor pre-determined. Responding to
a dream, we have to catch its meaning as it belongs to the moment,
a moment that is outside of time and outside of the defined
parameters of our rational mind. Dreamwork thus helps us to listen
and be responsive to a different, more fluid dimension, and can
prepare us for the difficult work of catching the Divine hint. The aim
of spiritual training is to lead a guided life, guided by that within
which is eternal. The Divine often guides us through hints, which we
have to catch and respond to without rational understanding. This is
the way of Khidr, the Sufi archetypal figure of direct revelation, a
direct and unconditional inner connection with the Divine. In the
Qur’an’s story of Khidr, Moses, who represents the established law,
wants to follow Khidr and be guided by him. But Khidr tells him,
“You will not be able to bear with me. For how can you bear with
that which is beyond your knowledge?” (Qur’an 18:61-62).

Walking the mystical path of love, we are taken into a reality we


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cannot understand, which is beyond our preconditioned knowledge.
We must learn to listen and respond from a place of unknowing—to
be an empty cup. This is a very different attitude from that
demanded by the outer world, which requires that we act from a
place of knowing and understanding. Dreamwork can help to
awaken the part of our brain that can respond without
preconceptions.

In dreamwork we interact with a reality that is less fixed and more


dynamic than the outer world or our rational mind. Listening to
dreams, we attune ourselves to this fluid inner world in which things
are rarely as they appear. As images shift and change, so their
meaning evolves; so hidden parts of the dreamer become known.
Gradually our consciousness becomes adapted to functioning in this
non-linear, more dynamic mode.

Working with dreams, we leave behind the fixed world, which is


familiar to the rational mind, and to which we have become
conditioned through our education and upbringing. Instead we
consciously participate in a constantly changing reality, which we
cannot rationally understand. Dreamwork trains the mind not to be
caught in any fixed image or idea, and not to judge or have any
preconditioned response. There is also a humor in dreams that
laughs at our preconceptions or dissolves our established sense of
self. Dreamwork frees our consciousness from the rigidity of any
imposed pattern, and can awaken us to the laughter and freedom of
our true self. It can prepare our consciousness for the work of
catching the Divine hint.

The Divine hint is “quicker than lightning” and if we interfere,


through any judgment or censorship, the hint is lost. If we respond,
“What if . . . ,” or “But . . . ,” or “I am not sure . . . ,” or with any of
the mind’s conditioned responses, then the hint is lost, the
opportunity gone. A Divine hint requires that we listen and act
accordingly. Nor will a Divine hint always be about an action.
Sometimes it is something we need to know, a quality we need to
develop, an attitude we need to change. What matters is that we
are always attentive and respond in the moment. We do not weigh
up the consequences or consider our actions. We listen and act. But
in order to listen and respond unconditionally, the mind has to
become free of many patterns of conditioning. We have to leave
behind our normal desire to understand, to know what we are
doing. Dreamwork can help to free our mind, to enable it to work at

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this higher, faster level.

Dreamwork is a stepping stone to catching the Divine hint. But it is


not the same as catching the hint. Dreamwork is a process through
which we uncover the meaning of a dream. The hint is just given,
and the only participation of the wayfarer is to listen and then
respond. The hint works at a much higher vibration than
dreamwork. But through dreamwork we can realign our
consciousness and work with our mind in a different, non-linear
way. Individually and as a group we work at the threshold of
consciousness, at the borders of the unknown. We tune into what
has not yet taken form, rather than what is already fixed and
defined. Dreamwork trains us to listen to the voice of our Beloved,
to be attentive to That.

THE GOLDEN THREAD

Spiritual dreams are those that come from the soul. They teach us
about symbols and the meaning that is hidden under the surface.
They guide us through the labyrinth of our psyche and tell us about
our real destiny. These dreams help us to uncover the real nature of
our being, to recognize its quality and bring it into our everyday life.
They have within them a “golden thread” that is the destiny of the
soul, our own direct connection to God.

Spiritual dreams are an elaboration of this “golden thread,” giving it


the coloring and texture of the moment, of the time and the place
and the people. Working with these dreams, we align ourselves with
this innermost quality, this sense of Self. We become alive to this
ancient and eternal part of our being. Through dreamwork we
become nourished by the numinous and by our own connection to
what is sacred and eternal. First we glimpse this thread, and then
learn to recognize it. Gradually it becomes the path that we follow,
the guidance we need. We learn to know this thread as the unique
nature of our spiritual life, of our whole life.

This golden thread cannot be recognized with our rational mind, but
our symbolic consciousness sees it, and the consciousness of the
heart knows its purpose. Through working with this thread, seeing
how it is woven into our dreams and hidden within our daily life, we
discover that it belongs to the foundation of both our inner and
outer life. This thread is our deeper self living within us, giving color
and substance to the images of our psyche and also the texture of
our days.
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UNCONDITIONED FREEDOM

The practice of dreamwork in a spiritual group makes us aware of


how this thread is present in the dreams and lives of others. We see
how easy it is to overlook, and how it often appears in a form we do
not think of as spiritual, even overlook as insignificant. Many times
it is present as an image or event in a dream that seems to be out
of place with the rest of the dream. Because the destiny of the soul
is so different from the agenda of our ego-self, even our “spiritual”
ego-self, this thread will be found where we least expect it. Our
“golden thread” is always leading us beyond our preconceptions,
into a state of unconditioned freedom.

Through hearing and discussing the dreams of others, as well as our


own dreamwork, we discover this thread and see how it affects our
outer life. We learn to see how this deeper destiny is woven into our
everyday life, how outer situations and events have this hidden
essence. We learn to recognize this quality of the Divine not just in
meditation or moments of ecstasy, but in the midst of life. And as
we see it within our own self and within our life, we carry this
consciousness for the whole. Both individually and as a group we
support what is essential to life, and to life’s making its deeper
meaning known. In this way we validate what the world does not
validate, we affirm what the world has forgotten.

Dreamwork is an ancient spiritual practice that the Naqshbandi path


has adapted to the needs of the present moment. Combining a
traditional understanding of dreams and their symbols with the
insights of modern psychology, dreamwork helps to guide us on the
inner journey and be nourished by the symbolic world that our
culture has rejected. Dreamwork helps to open the door to our soul,
to that quality of ourselves that is eternal. We learn to listen and
attune ourselves to this deeper dimension of our own being, so that
we can participate more fully in the real wonder of what it means to
be alive.

And dreams also point beyond our own individual self, our own
individual journey, to the greater whole of which we are a part.
Sometimes our dreams are not just an expression of our own soul,
but of the soul of the world, the anima mundi. Through these
dreams we can experience a vaster horizon than our self, and
maybe awaken to the transformation that is happening within the
whole world. For just as we change and transform, so does the

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world of which we are a part. Dreamwork can connect us to this
greater unfolding, to the primal changes that are happening to life
itself. And then we can play our part more fully, be a part of the
golden thread hidden within the world. We can realize and live the
primal connection between our soul and the soul of the world, and
be what is awakening.

Spiritual Empowerment
Published in edited version in the final issue of
Ascent Magazine, Spring 2009

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

First we receive the light, then we impart the light, thus we repair
the world.

— KABALISTIC SAYING

Every human being carries within them a light that belongs to God.
This light is our most precious substance. It is our divine essence,
our true nature. It is also potentially the most powerful force in the
universe, as it contains the power of the Divine, the Source of all
that is created. In the Upanishads this is described as:

The boundless power, source of every power, manifesting itself as


life, entering every heart, living there among the elements, that is
Self.(1)

In past centuries, the spiritual work with this light has focused on
the inner journey back to God, the reclaiming of our essential
nature, which is a state of unity. But there is another dimension to
the journey—the mystery of how our individual light works in the
world. It is through awakening to this mystery, and claiming our
relationship and responsibilities to the whole, that we claim our
spiritual maturity and respond to the real spiritual need of the time.

The divine power that resides in our heart and connects us all in an
unending flow of life and light has a role to play in the world, in both
the healing of past wounds and in the creation of the future. Our
own individual efforts—efforts born from fractured psyches and
corrupted souls—cannot undo the damage that has been done to
the earth or humanity, nor can it imagine what is truly possible. It
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will be through spiritual empowerment—through recognizing that
our individual light is part of a greater light—that the divine will play
its part in the co-creation of a new era.

But how do we wake up to this inner power? How can we allow the
divine light within us to work for the sake of the whole?

The mysterious relationship between an individual’s light and the


light of the whole has been known in many ancient traditions. Just
as shamans have understood that their work is always for the sake
of the whole, so is all real spiritual practice. Christian monks and
nuns praying in their cells were not just praying for their own
salvation, but the salvation of all mankind. The yogi in deep
meditation was not just dissolving his own individual self in the
universal Self, but bringing that universal light and power into this
world. The tears of the great Bodhisattvas are the tears of all
humanity.

But this deep awareness of how our light contributes to the whole
has largely been forgotten. In the West we are the victims and
purveyors of spiritual censorship, a censorship so profound and
deep that we no longer even know of what we have been denied.
When the Catholic Church turned toward worldly power and denied
spiritual power they systematically deprived us of our spiritual
heritage The Gnostic Gospels were purposefully lost along with the
suppression of the Gnostics. Any other initiates who understood and
had access to real spiritual power, like the Cathars, were ruthlessly
repressed.

In recent years we have begun to have access to real spiritual


teachings. Some of the Gnostic Gospels have been recovered, and
teachings such as the Gospel of Thomas have revealed the esoteric
depths of Christianity. The West has also benefited from Buddhist
and Hindu teachings brought from the East. Sufism has also made
its way to West, with its profound understanding of mystical states.
Yet it is as though we are still denied part of these teachings, as
though certain doors that could have been opened remain closed.
For example in Sufism there are is the teachings of the awiliya, the
friends of God, who look after the spiritual well-being of the planet.
In Judaism there is a similar body of hidden initiates known as the
Lamed-Vav Tzaddikim, or Righteous Men, 36 in number who help to
avert disasters. Yet only too often we regard these spiritual beings
as myths, not recognizing or valuing their real spiritual power, or
the meaning that they have for each of us.

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How can we reconnect with this larger dimension of spiritual
wisdom that belongs not just to the inner journey of the individual,
but also to the evolution of the whole? Tibetan Buddhism
emphasizes the Bodhisattva path in which one works not for one’s
own enlightenment, but for the enlightenment of others. Specific
practices include symbolically creating a world of harmony and
perfection for all, and taking in others’ suffering and offering one’s
own happiness in exchange. These practices point to a larger
transformation. But do practitioners fully recognize the potential
spiritual practices have to change our world? Do they accept this
responsibility?

How can we recognize the part that we each have to play? First we
need to acknowledge the fundamental reality that we are
connected to each other, that spiritual gifts are given for the sake of
the whole. Some doors will only be opened with an attitude of
service—an attitude so undervalued in contemporary culture. Our
Western pursuit of individualism, our focus on the individual self,
has claimed spiritual treasures almost solely for the purpose of
individual development. We think love is given solely to help us feel
better. We long for peace so our troubles will go away. Only too
often we regard a spiritual path as a way to enrich our self. We
rarely live the primal truth that we are never given for our self, but
always for others.

When we imprison our spiritual aspirations in the enclosed circle of


our individual self we deny our self and our world a light and power
it desperately needs. Our world is dying not just through
exploitation and greed, but also through a denial of the sacred that
unifies us all, the sacred that gives meaning and purpose to every
life, every moment. We have separated spirit and matter and thus
live in a world starved of spirit. Unless spirit can return nothing new
can be born: we will continue to live in a materialistic desert empty
of joy.

Through spiritual practice light can return to the world: the divine
light that that is within us can start to heal and transform our
battered world. But only if we recognize this non-personal
dimension of our prayers, our meditations and devotions.

OUR PLACE IN THE WHOLE

The time has come for us to ask how we can take this step towards
spiritual maturity—how can we retrain our spiritual awareness to

15
focus less on our selves and more on the evolution of the whole?
How can we use our light to return to the simple awareness of unity
that can heal our fractured world and our selves:

Those who see all creatures in themselves

And themselves in all creatures know no fear.

Those who see all creatures in themselves

And themselves in all creatures know no grief.

How can the multiplicity of life

Delude the one who sees its unity?(2)

In order to claim this vision of unity we do not forsake our individual


work—this will always be necessary. Purification and inner work,
what the Sufis call “polishing the mirror of the heart” gives us more
access to our own light. We free it from the distortions of our lower
nature and the veils of the ego, so it can shine more brightly, and
become more and more a part of our consciousness. It is this light
which guides us Home, leads us from the world of duality to the
oneness that is within and around us. Through this light we make
the journey from separation to union: we consciously reconnect
with our divine nature.

Traditionally, it was only when seekers realized the stage of union,


unio mystica, that they were shown how their individual light
connects to the light of the whole. This awareness came after many
years of practice, when one awoke with the realization that the
individual atman is the universal atman. In this realization
everything is connected, there is no other and no individual self.

But now we need to place this awareness at the beginning of our


journey: to reconnect the individual with the whole as we take our
first steps on the path. This is possible now in a way that has not
been possible in the past, in fact it is a necessity. The needs of the
whole cannot be ignored, or our planet risks widespread
destruction. Human and ecological disease and degradation are too
imminent to disregard.

The world is calling out for oneness, for unity, and needs the light of
all of us. It is a commitment we each have to make in our own way,
and cannot be forced. But we can be made aware of the real
16
potential of our practice: that we can empower ourselves and the
world. Then we can reclaim what has been denied us and bring an
understanding of spiritual power back into the world. Our world is
never going to be healed by politicians or corporations. But it can
be transformed by the divine that is within each of us and within
creation.

TRUSTING THE LIGHT

One might ask: “Where are the sacred texts that tell us how to do
this?” There are many spiritual texts that speak about the wonders
of the inner journey, and the stages on this path. In Tibet, which
was one of the last places where there was real understanding of
spiritual power, there were some texts that explain this larger work,
but they have been burned, lost, or remain untranslated. In the
West we have a few hints in the way alchemy talks about the light
hidden in matter, the mystery of divine unity: “as above so below,”
and the relationship of microcosm and macrocosm, but there is no
description of how to work with this awareness in our contemporary
world.

There are few answers, perhaps because the questions and


possibilities are so new. What would the world be like if we
acknowledged our interconnectedness? If we felt the needs of
others as our own, if we answered a greater need with as much
force as we use to take care of ourselves? If we really respected the
sacredness of the planet, recognizing how we are all a part of one
living spiritual organism?

Part of any adventure is a step into the unknown, and to allow the
limitlessness of what is possible. This lack of knowing is part of the
journey, part of our return to the Source, and is itself a process of
empowerment. The path will always bring us to a place inwardly or
outwardly that calls us to trust, surrender, and give ourselves
completely, and it is through this willingness to proceed into the
unknown that we discover how much we are helped, and held, and
how much power is truly available to us.

It is time to trust the light itself, trust the light that is within and
around us, trust the Divine to awaken and teach us. Just as we know
in our own journey the power of synchronicity, of connections being
made by an unknown hand, of teachings and wisdom being given
through dreams or intuitions.

17
The first step is always just to say “yes.” There is a Sufi saying “It is
the consent that draws down the grace.” If we can say “yes” to our
own light and acknowledge that it belongs to all of life we step out
of the imprisonment of our individual self into the world that needs
us, that needs our light. Then we begin to live in the presence of the
divine, a divine that is not constricted by our patterns and plans,
our images of duality.

OFFERING OUT PRACTICE

In our spiritual practice we can offer our selves to this larger


purpose by consciously acknowledging the basic truth that every
prostration, every mantra, ever breath that repeats the name of
God, is the world in prayer, is the world remembering, reconnecting
with its divine nature. We need to realize that our light is the light of
the world, and as we work with our light through our practices we
are bringing this light into the world.

Our light follows consciousness. As we remember that our practice


is always for the whole, our light will flow into the whole. The simple
acknowledgement that our spiritual light is part of the world is a
return of divine consciousness to the world. And when divine
consciousness reawakens in the world anything can happen.

We can begin to rediscover the secret potential of spiritual power,


the power that threatened the Church and caused the Inquisition to
hunt down the Cathars. We will realize that there is a power greater
than worldly power, and that this is a power that is all around us
and within us. This is the power of our divine light, a light that
belongs directly to God who is the Source and Creator of all.
Because this power belongs to the Creator it is not limited by the
apparent laws of this world, by the constraints of worldly power, it is
known as miraculous. And yet it is something as simple as the
direct action of the divine. If we work with the light of our divine
nature we are working with the light of the Divine in the world.

As we consciously affirm our light as part of the light of the world


we step into unity, and it is this unity that the world needs. Unity
consciousness is a powerful and healing force. Individual
consciousness that knows and affirms that it is part of the whole is
a true empowerment, because one is no longer isolated with the
image of a separate individual self. There is nothing more
disempowering than being isolated, alienated, separate. Knowing
that we are one reconnects us with the whole of life in every

18
moment, and in this reconnection we both empower and are
empowered. In our spiritual light is the light of the whole, and our
light is also in service to the whole.

Oneness is like the clear blue sky-

everything arises, unfolds, and subsides

within its all-compassionate love.

Oneness is our real Self.

Everything is an aspect of Oneness.

And our quest to know this comes from Oneness.(3)

But it is time for humanity to reclaim the knowledge of how the


divine works within creation. It is time for us to step into spiritual
adulthood and realize the true meaning of co-creationism: our
divine light working with the divine light within creation. It is up to
us: if we do not take this step, a door will remain closed, and the
soul of the world will know the despair of a lost opportunity. If we
respond to the call of the times, we will play our part in the miracle
of life being reborn.

FOOTNOTES
(1)
Katha Upanishad, Book II (The Ten Principle Upanishads, trans.
Shree Purohit Swami and W.B. Yeats), p. 34.
(2)
Isha Upanishad.
(3)
Abhinavagupta on the teachings of Non-dual Kashmir Shaivism.

Spiritual Ecology

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

How can we speak about sustainability without speaking


about the Sustainer?

Finally we are waking up to our ecological imbalance, to the


realities of global warming and its catastrophic consequences. It is

19
also beginning to dawn upon us that these environmental changes
are accelerating, that time is running out more quickly than we may
realize. To quote a recent article in the New York Times by Paul
Krugman:

The fact is that the planet is changing faster than even pessimists
expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a
terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies,
catastrophe—a rise in temperature so large as to be almost
unthinkable—can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is,
instead, the most likely outcome if we continue along our present
course.1

And we are beginning to respond, with concerns about greenhouse


gases and plans to reduce carbon emissions. We are proposing
global protocols that can delude us into thinking we are taking
responsible action even as we continue our demand for materialistic
progress. But underlying our global predicament is an even deeper
delusion, the notion that we can avoid environmental catastrophe
without considering its root cause, without the change in
consciousness that is needed to effect real change.

angels fountain by alicepopkorn, used under the Creative Commons


Attribution 2.0 license.

Behind our present ecological self-destruction, caused by industrial


pollution, by the chemicals, toxins and particularly carbon that our
civilization emits, lies our desire for material progress, the demon of
consumerism and greed that walks with heavy boots over the
sacred soil of our world. At the root of our predicament is a deep

20
disregard for the environment, and for the consequences of our
actions until it is too late. This is the product of a consciousness that
is cut off from the natural world and its interconnectedness. It
comes from an attitude that we are separate from the world around
us and can do with it as we want—an attitude that is unthinkable to
indigenous people who respect and revere the physical world, and
whose cultures protect the balance between humanity and nature.
Our western consciousness evolved through the birth of scientific
reasoning to treat the physical world as a mere object, something
mechanical whose laws we could learn and thus master. We
developed the gifts of science, but also began to create the
materialistic wasteland that we now inhabit. We banned the
symbolic world as something superstitious, and the understanding
of the relationship between the worlds that linked together all of
creation, the concept of the “Great Chain of Being,” was forgotten.
Rather than part of an interdependent whole, each part nourishing
and supporting the other, we became lords of a soulless earth,
which we sought to dominate and subjugate for our own ends.

Underlying this outlook is a deep partriarchal conditioning. As our


collective consciousness shifted from a matriarchal understanding
of the world as a living sacred being, the divine became a
transcendent God, living in heaven. The sacred streams and groves
became just the stuff of myth, the nature spirits that inhabited
them forgotten. Patriarchal consciousness excluded the divine from
the natural world, whose darkness man then had to conquer. We
were left alone in the world with a God we could only experience
after death. Living in a world without the presence of the divine, we
had only our own laws to follow, our own desires to nourish us. The
results of this consciousness can be seen in our ecological
devastation and the soulless world of our materialistic dreams.

The question we now need to ask is whether we can redeem our


present ecological situation without addressing the consciousness
that created it. Can there be any real change without a shift in
consciousness? What would this shift mean and how would it
address the very real concerns of global warming? We cannot afford
to be idealistic dreamers. There must be real solutions to our very
real predicament.

In our patriarchal hubris we have forgotten something that has


been central to every other civilization: the primacy and power of
the divine. We may have banished God to the heaven of our
imagination, but that does not mean that this supreme power is not
21
present. Every other civilization developed and understood ways to
work with this power, to channel Its energy. Shamans were trained
to understand the way Its spirit worked, priests and priestesses
learned to listen to Its voice, Its prophecies and warnings. Sacred
geometry was developed to channel Its energy through sacred
buildings. But now we have become blind and deaf to Its hidden
ways. We may praise and pray to a God in heaven, but we do not
understand how to welcome the divine into our lives. How can we
heal and transform the world without the living presence of its
Creator?

Monotheism pointed us away from the many gods and goddesses of


the ancient world towards a single transcendent God. If the living
presence of God is to return to our consciousness it will be not as a
step back to the old ways, but as a divine Oneness that embraces
all of creation. Mystics have always experienced the oneness of
being, the many facets of creation reflecting the single Essence. We
are beginning to be aware of the ecological unity of life and its
interconnectedness; economically and technologically we are being
drawn into an era of global oneness. We now need to understand
divine oneness: how the different qualities of the divine form a
living presence in the inner and outer worlds, and how these
qualities work together as one.

On a very simple level we do not have the power or technology to


“fix” our ecological crisis on our own. The problems we have
created are too severe. And yet here is the very root of our
misunderstanding. We cannot do this on our own. We need to
embrace the divine not as some transcendent being, but as a living
presence that contains the visible and invisible worlds, all of the
spirit and angelic beings that our ancestors understood. The
oneness of God includes many different levels of existence.

We know for our individual self that real healing only takes place
when we our inner and outer selves are aligned, when we are
nourished by our own soul and the archetypal forces within us.
What is true for the individual is true for the whole. It is from the
energies within and behind creation that the healing of creation will
take place, because these are the beings that support, nourish and
help creation to develop and evolve. How can we heal creation
without the help of the devas and other spiritual forces that are
within creation? They are waiting to be asked to participate, for
their wisdom and power to be used. We need to once again work
together with the divine oneness that is within and around us.
22
But how can we learn how to work together with the inner worlds
when our culture has dismissed them to such a degree that we
have forgotten their existence? We may talk about angels, and
even pray for their intercession, but do we really understand their
power, or that they are just one level of invisible beings? The
invisible worlds are present all around us even though we cannot
see or touch them, just like the wavelengths of light beyond the
small portion of the spectrum we can see. First we have to step out
of our dream of separation, the insularity with which we have
imprisoned ourselves, and acknowledge that we are a part of a
multidimensional living spiritual being we call the world. The world
is much more than just the physical world we perceive through the
senses, just as we are much more than just our own physical
bodies. Only as a part of a living whole can we help to heal the
whole. Just as we need to work together with the outer ecosystem,
we need to work together with the inner worlds. We need their
support and help, their power and knowledge. The devas
understand the patterns of climate change better than we do,
because they are the forces behind the weather and the winds. Just
as plant devas know the healing powers of plants (and taught the
shamans and healers their knowledge), so are there more powerful
devas that know and guide the patterns of evolution of the whole
planet.

Once we regain our consciousness of the divine within creation, we


will discover Her invisible presence in many different ways. And
once we acknowledge how we are an interdependent part of this
living whole, we will find that the divine can once again
communicate with us. It is only humanity that has exiled itself from
the divine, banished Her presence and thus become blind and deaf.
When we lift this veil of separation we will rediscover the ways the
divine within creation communicates with humanity, and how we
can work together to save the planet. She will teach us what we
need to know, guide us in the ways we need to go. We only need
the humility to be open and listen, just as for our own healing we
need to listen to our own soul and the deeper rhythms of our body.

But this shift in consciousness does mean that we will have to take
responsibility for our actions and attitudes. We can no longer walk
blindly, uncaring, on the face of the earth. Leaving behind the myth
of our banishment means accepting our faults and the damage we
have done in the inner and outer worlds. We are beginning to take
responsibility for the ecosystem, though we have not yet fully
realized that we will need to sacrifice our materialistic dream and to
23
suffer the pain of withdrawal from this addiction. Taking
responsibility for the damage we have done in the inner worlds, for
example the sorrow we have caused the Great Mother by our
abuse, is a step we have not yet taken. Nor do we realize how we
have desecrated the symbolic worlds, whose sacred images are
today being used as just another way to sell materialistic fantasies.
Symbols and sacred images used to be a way to connect with the
divine, to make the transition from the physical world to the
mystery of the soul. Yet we now use these images for personal gain,
without taking any responsibility for our actions, for the rape of the
sacred. There will be a price to pay if we are to redeem the
symbolic world of the creative imagination, just as we have to pay a
price for our own faults and failings. Redemption requires real
sacrifice. Only then can we regain the dignity that belongs to us,
and help to heal the wrongs we have done. Growing up requires
responsibility and is a painful process.

To reclaim our dignity and role as guardians of the planet will not be
easy. But we can pray for the intercession of His mercy, knowing,
according to an ancient promise, that “His mercy is greater than His
justice.” There is a real reason that the ancients understood that He
is a wrathful God, and made penance and sacrifice to placate Him.
We may think that our science and civilization can protect us from
this primal power, but the symbol of the dragon as the power of the
earth is not without meaning. We have little understanding of the
archetypal forces that underlie our surface lives, and of how they
are all interconnected and can manifest the will of God. We can no
longer afford to be ignorant or think that we can abuse the world as
long as we want.

Spiritual ecology means reawakening our awareness of what is


sacred in all of creation, and knowing that only if we work together
with the divine in all of its manifestations can we hope to redeem
what we have desecrated and destroyed through our greed and
arrogance. It means to reclaim the wisdom of our ancestors who
knew the sacred interconnections of life and the divine forces within
it. Once again we have to relearn how to relate to the divine, how to
bring an awareness of the many facets of divine oneness into our
lives and prayers and meditations. We cannot afford to remain in
this wasteland of separation, lost in our ego-driven arrogance. And
we cannot afford to wait. We have already waited too long, ignoring
the signs that are around us. Nor can we afford to think that science
and technology will give us the answers we need to restore our
ecological imbalance. Their ideology is born from the separation of
24
spirit and matter, and this is what has caused the problems that are
now bleeding the lifeblood of the planet. Matter is not dead,
however we may treat it. It is part of a living organism like the cells
in our own body. And this living organism is an embodiment of
spirit. We have to bring together spirit and matter, heal the split
that has wounded our world.

The world has been through many crises over the millennia, but this
is the first global crisis that has been created by humanity. Whether
we take responsibility for our predicament will determine our future
and the future of the world. There is an ancient teaching that in
times of imminent catastrophe we are given the opportunity of
divine intercession; we can look towards God and pray for divine
help. We are at such a moment and the soul of the world is crying
out. Are we prepared to welcome back the divine and work together
with the forces of creation? Are we able to claim this real
empowerment? Or are we going to remain on the sidelines and
watch as the politicians argue while the world continues on its
present course?

We do not know what it might mean to once again work with the
divine forces within creation. In the West we have long since lost
touch with this heritage, even though it is buried deep in our
psyche. Yet it is a simple shift of awareness to reclaim this
consciousness, and in doing so we will step into the future that is
being born at this moment of crisis. We will become alive in a new
way as we help the world wake up from the dream that is
destroying it. We will be active participants in the real ecological
work that is needed.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is a sheikh in the Naqshbandiyya-


Mujadidiyya Sufi Order. Born in London in 1953, he has followed the
Naqshbandi Sufi path since he was 19. In 1991 he moved to
Northern California and became the successor of Irina Tweedie,
author of Chasm of Fire and Daughter of Fire. In recent years, the
focus of his writing and teaching has been on spiritual responsibility
in our present time of transition, and the emerging global
consciousness of oneness. He has also specialized in the area of
dreamwork, integrating the ancient Sufi approach to dreams with
the insights of modern psychology. Llewellyn is the founder of The
Golden Sufi Center and author of several books.
workingwithoneness.org, goldensufi.org

Footnotes

25
(show footnotes)

Comments (8)

• I’m delighted to come across this article on spiritual ecology.


I’m in the process of teaching a master’s program in Social
Ecology at the University of Western Sydney on Ecology and
Spirituality.

We are clearly tuning into the same thought processes. There


are a number of authors and social commentators who have
drawn attention to the link between the ecological crisis and
the spiritual crisis, including Al Gore himself in a book he wrote
around 1992.

It’s something I resonate with as a student and practitioner of


Sufism myself. I follow Hazrat Inayat Khan’s teaching to read
the sacred manuscript of Nature, as he says, it’s only book
that will enlighten the reader. This has certainly been my
experience. I love reading books and I love reading Nature
even more.

My sense is that only when we enough of us re-member our


deep connections with the web of life that we’ll really be able
to save our dear planet and Mother, Earth. Indigenous elders
I’ve sat with and read all say the Earth is our Mother! It’s time
we learned to listen to these people who are still tuned into
the Earth. This is an emergent theme that came out of my
own doctoral research in social ecology. I proposed the need
to develop an ecology of culture as a way to heal our Great
Mother.

So thank you for this inspiring article, I’ll recommend it to my


students as well,

In peace,
for the Earth,
Arjuna

— Arjuna Ben-Zion Weiss on August 19, 2009

• at good last exploring the roots. thank you so very much.

— Renate Faber on August 19, 2009

26
• Your wisdom speaks to every part of my being. And if I were to
read your words aloud the faery beings around me would be
dancing with the angels. Deep gratitude from someone who
practices the eco/pagan mysticism of her Celtic ancestors, and
the mysticism of the divine human being that I am learning on
the Sufi path.

— Zahira Conaire Sheehan on August 19, 2009

• Thank you for a lovely article, I have struggled with this


developing this awareness in a manifest way in my life for a
long time. I live in a rural way, and yet still enslaved to the
corporate urban industrial culture, there does not seem to be a
way out anymore, all of the trend curves point to catastrophe,
except as you say through the development of the spiritual
consciousness of the divine within the whole fabric of being,
Hafiz poem talks of halting the sword midblow in the
realization that we are all one flesh and so it is with all creation

— john Khalid on August 20, 2009

• I am aware of this living divine within the deep levels of earth


and her supportive beings and I often feel very alone in
connecting consciously. Now I pray for others to become
aware of these important things that you describe. Your plea is
core and key to the present course. Thank you.

— Iman on August 20, 2009

• Thank you for this article: it is all so true!

I used to feel a deep despair about our treatment of the


Mother Earth and in particular the suffering we inflict on the
animals. But through recent work I have been able to do on a
small scale involving the energies of the Mother Earth and
various spirits of nature, I have learnt how extraordinarily
powerful the forces of light within and behind everything are. I
have learnt also that both earth and cosmic energies are
changing rapidly in these days, that everything is becoming
new and different and, most encouragingly, that working with
these forces does not require complicated procedures or
knowledge, only a willingness to help and clarity of intent.

— Francesca Gracie on August 22, 2009

27
• Until we see the global as personal we will continue to race
headlong to destruction. Until we stop blaming ‘them’ and
realise it is each of our thoughts and actions that creates our
world there can be no return to sanity. When we listen to the
prompting of our heart we remember what we once knew…
we are one.

— Gillian Stokes on August 25, 2009

• Great position on Ecology, friend. It is true that we as a part of


the larger must recognize that our “environment” has never
been separate from us. The very notion of an environment is
as much a misnomer as the arcane ideal of some god in the
sky watching our every move. And I believe our spiritual
“environment” is as vast as the physical (since again, they
cannot be isolated from one another).
I do have to bring one element to your attention: the charge of
monotheism as one catalyst in the separation of our
physical/logical selves from our deeper reality. After reading a
number of monotheist scriptures, I could not determine that
with the close reading of any of those works one could not
attain the deeper understanding of the inner and find a path
through the Messenger, Savior or Prophet into the Self any less
or more than any polytheistic work I’ve read.
Perhaps it is the intention of those who molded the scripts
themselves to have lesser meanings that didn’t require deep
thought and reflection and silence—those privileged persons
who saw their wealth and power as scarce and could not
themselves find the deep abundance of Truth became drunk
with the thirst for material power and control. Perhaps we
continue to relive these chapters BECAUSE we haven’t
outgrown them as a people: Kings to Landowners, Politicians to
Corporations—this chain is our temporary sentence. But it is
weakening.
We need to prescribe a non-logical solution, like the one you
mentioned. One that brings light from the divine (beyond our
senses) into the physical and dovetail that with the passions
and fervour of those who are out on the front lines of the
physical plane. We must look to those who brought us here
(good and bad) and thank them for their efforts (good and
bad), for we can now move forward with warmth and
compassion. This will trigger the new dawn that theosophists
and countless others before them touted we’re meeting in this
century.
28
I deeply thank you for your works, thought and actions. Peace
be unto you forever!

— Idris on August 25, 2009

The Iron Rules, Number Five

Pir Zia Inayat-Khan

My conscientious self, do not claim that which belongs to another.1

I have two small children and I take great delight in watching them
grow and change. In children one can see the simplest impulses of
the human personality before it has been socially conditioned. For
example, when two children are playing together with an
assortment of toys, a toy will often lie utterly neglected until one
child happens to takes it up, at which point the other child will
develop a sudden interest in it, and demand it as his own. As long
as it lay on the floor there was no special attraction, but when
another grasps it, it acquires urgent importance.

In reality, adults are not so different from children in this respect,


although we might hide it. We are drawn to possess what others
possess. In extreme cases, acquisitiveness drives people to deceit
and violence. More often, it simply involves spending a great deal of
time and energy accumulating and discarding possessions, hunting
for the object that will bring happiness, yet never quite finding it.
The whole economy is based on our acting this way. If we stopped,
the economy would collapse and would have to be reinvented.

From a Sufi point of view, every motivation is ultimately grounded


in a divine impulse. Even in our concupiscence there is hope for
redemption. The pursuit of an object leads to the attainment of the
object, which in turn leads to rising above it. If one were not to
strive to obtain that which one desires, if one were to prematurely
renounce it while inwardly still hankering for it, one’s renunciation
would be hollow and hypocritical and liable to be broken at any
moment. But one who has attained the object and risen above it,
that one can be said to be free. Even the path of acquisition must
have its end, as all things have their end, in realization. William
Blake expressed this when he said that the road of excess leads to
the palace of wisdom.

29
Yet it must be said that it is one thing for an individual to follow the
path of excess to the palace of wisdom, and another for the whole
of society to do so. The enrichment of one nation or species very
often spells the impoverishment of another, and with a human
population of over six and a half billion, the Earth’s resources are
already stretched precariously thin. Mahatma Gandhi was once
asked if India could be expected to attain the standard of living of
Britain. He answered that it took Britain half the world to feed itself
—“if India became like Britain, how many worlds would it need?”

Collectively, the path of realization through excessive consumption


is simply not tenable. Yet many of us go through a stage of
preoccupation with objects. As one becomes a connoisseur, one’s
tastes develop and there is no limit to what one wants. When one
has obtained this thing, something else seems more desirable, and
it goes on and on. But after some time one realizes that this is all
dunya (wordliness) and that the thing itself is not what provides the
satisfaction. The thing is just a trigger for an inner experience, and
the experience itself is the source of the pleasure. What does
possession really mean after all? In truth, possession is nothing
more than legal proximity to an object. Is there any kind of invisible
force that links a person and an object? There is no such force,
except in the mind.

When one realizes this one moves to the next stage—from dunya to
akhira (otherwordliness). Instead of seeking possession of objects,
one seeks satisfaction in beautiful and joyful states of being. One
sets out on the spiritual path, and perhaps one attends seminars
and workshops and retreats and reads a lot of books. In this way
one discovers a marketplace of beautiful spiritual ideas. Eventually
one might begin to notice that the same impulses that impelled one
in the marketplace of things drive one through the marketplace of
spiritual ideas: the same acquisitive desire, the same attempt to
obtain satisfaction through possession of something that is
expected to be stable and pleasurable. Moreover—in the spiritual
world as in the physical world—one is often tempted to seize that
which belongs to another because it has more attraction than what
one possesses oneself.

As one pursues one’s spiritual path, one sees that there are other
people who are apparently endowed with a quality of realization
that is extremely attractive. One wishes that one had what the
other person has, and feels the need to test out every new
methodology or discipline in order to latch onto something that will
30
maximize one’s satisfaction. One craves to possess that which
belongs to another, the apparently perfect spiritual state of those
who surround one, and one feels oneself to be trapped in a lesser
state. So one becomes, on the one hand, idolatrous of the others,
and on the other, most unkind to oneself, feeling profoundly one’s
unworthiness and incapacity. Ironically it is likely that the one upon
whom we project our ideal of perfect spiritual accomplishment
likewise feels his or her limitation and wishes for the state of a more
perfectly realized being, and so on ad infinitum, everyone turning
and looking at another—that is, until we return to the principle of
this Iron Rule: Do not claim that which belongs to another.

The rule tells us, only claim that which belongs to you, that which
arises from your own experience. That is what you can claim,
accept and be content with—your own state of being. Understand
its changeableness. Understand that your state is not the essence,
but it is a quality of essence that is shifting. In the acceptance of
one’s state one is better able to sense how it is poised on the
ground of pure essence.

So take the truth of your experience as that which belongs to you,


the special vantage point that has been disclosed to God by God
exclusively through you. Your angle of vision is necessarily unique
to you, and something is thereby added to life that could not be
added in any other way. Nothing is superfluous. All is providential.
Our critical judgments of our experience as good or bad, negative
or positive are ultimately very relative. There is simply the life
experience that we have been given for the enrichment of the
divine self-disclosure. It is in embracing that experience that we
enjoy the fulfillment that is our birthright.

Translating the Invocation Toward the One

Into The Hebrew of the Jewish Tradition

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Netanel Miles-Yepez

Toward the One,

The Perfection of Love, Harmony, and Beauty,

The Only Being,

United with All the Illuminated Souls,

31
Who Form the Embodiment of the Master,

The Spirit of Guidance.

Years ago, when I first began saying the Toward the One prayer of
the Sufi Master Hazrat Inayat Khan, I found that I was often unable
to get beyond the opening words. For even as I was speaking, I
would be lifted “Toward the One” to regions of “Love, Harmony, and
Beauty” where my feet no longer touched the ground of materiality,
but instead were grounded in “The Only Being.” I was overwhelmed
by the energetic qurb—‘proximity’ to the One—in the words
themselves. There was such holy precision in them and manifest
spiritual energy that my heart could not fail to respond to them.
And, as with other things that touched me powerfully from outside
of the Jewish tradition, I immediately wanted to translate it into
Hebrew, the language of my spiritual upbringing.1

In the years since I originally made this little translation for myself
in the 1970’s, other Hebrew translations of Toward the One have
appeared in various places. This is in no way meant to imply
criticism of other Hebrew translations, but only to offer another
version. The beauty of a translation is the access it gives to a
‘message’ originally given in another language, but we must always
understand that it is an interpretation of that ‘message.’ For each
language has a beauty and sophistication of its own which resists
translation. There is no one-to-one equivalence for the cultural
understandings of words translated from one language into another.
Thus, there is a practical truth to what Muslims say when they
speak of the miraculous ijaz (‘inimitability’) of the Arabic Qur’an.
And when they say that a Qur’an in English is not the Qur’an, they
are also right. It is an interpretation.

This is not to say that the spirit of the ‘message’ is not conveyed in
the translation, only that there is variation between one and the
other. And just as a translation is an interpretation of the original,
different translations sometimes yield quite different
interpretations. Thus, it is possible that there will be some who will
find value in my particular Hebrew interpretation of Toward the
One.

This is why I am now hoping to make this translation available, for I


have noticed that the Hebrew translations of the Toward the One I
have seen are interpretations into modern Hebrew. This is good,
and I am delighted to see them, just as I am pleased to see

32
renderings into modern Spanish, German, French, and Arabic. But
with this translation I intended to render Toward the One into a
Hebrew that has a resonance with the liturgical Hebrew of the beit
midrash, where Jews traditionally prayed and studied. For today,
there is both a traditional Hebrew of Judaism and a secular Hebrew
of social discourse.

For Israelis (who have often been raised in a secular environment),


modern Hebrew obviously makes more sense and is far more
palatable, but for others who are more oriented toward the Hebrew
of prayer and study, there are certain words and phrases in modern
Hebrew that are foreign to traditional Judaism and do not come
across as authentically Jewish. Thus, I labored to translate Toward
the One in such a way that those who have solid footing in Jewish
tradition may add it to their prayers without it feeling like
something foreign.

Here is my translation of Toward the One into traditional Hebrew:

Liqrat ha’ehad,

Ha’yahid ha’ehad v’ha’m’yuhad,

Shleymut ha’emmet, ha’tzedeq v’ha’tif’eret,

Hannimtza ha’yahid,

Ha’kolel kol hann’shamot ha’ne’orot,

Yotzrey hag’shammat harrabbi,

Ha’ruah haqqodesh.

Of course, some of the words will be the same in nearly all


translations into Hebrew, but there will also be critical differences,
and in this case, even additions.

First of all, the phrase Liqrat ha’ehad is a fairly direct translation of


‘Toward the One’ into Hebrew. But if we wish it to impart more of
the sense intended by Hazrat Inayat Khan, and to connect with how
the Jewish tradition expresses this notion, we have to include
another phrase here. In Hasidism, there is a distinction between
ehad ha’manuy, the number one, and ehad v’eyn sheyni, the One
that has no other, no two or three. The phrase in traditional Hebrew
that best expresses this notion comes from the Italian Kabbalist and

33
hakham (‘sage’), Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto (1707-1747), the
author of the Mesillat Yesharim (‘Path of the Upright’), who gives us
Ehad, yahid, u’meyuhad, ‘One Uniquely Simple Unity.’2 But since
this phrase cannot follow Liqrat ha’ehad in a natural way, I created
a kind of echo of it with Ha’yahid ha’ehad v’ha’m’yuhad.

In the next line, we have Shleymut ha’emmet, ha’tzedeq


v’ha’tif’eret, which is quite different from what we have in the
English and requires some explanation. First of all, shleymut,
‘wholeness,’ is simply the word that best conveys the notion of
‘perfection’ in Hebrew,3 but ha’emmet, ha’tzedeq v’ha’tif’eret
actually translates to ‘truth, righteousness, and beauty.’ Somehow,
emmet, ‘truth,’ struck me as a better choice from within the Jewish
tradition to put in this trilogy of words.4 Nevertheless, I think
ahavah, ‘love,’ (ha’ahavah if put into the whole phrase) would still
be acceptable here. I chose to use tzedeq, ‘righteousness’ for
‘harmony’ because ‘righteousness’ in Hebrew carries with it the
sense of balanced scales.5 Now, tif’eret is in fact the Hebrew for
‘beauty,’ but it is also a word that is loaded with meaning in the
world of Jewish mysticism (kabbalah). In a very simple sense,
tif’eret is what balances and completes the forces of Love and
Justice in the Universe.

The next three lines are fairly straightforward. Hannimtza ha’yahid


is basically, ‘the only one who can be found,’ ‘the only existent.’
Yahid is also the One Infinite Being, the Simple Unity without
separation or parts, the God without limits. Ha’kolel kol
hann’shamot ha’ne’orot is ‘Who contains all the souls that have
been illuminated.’ Yotzrey hag’shammat harrabbi is ‘Forming the
actualization of the master,’6 the rebbe, in Hasidic parlance.

Finally, in the last line, I chose not to translate the words, “The
Spirit of Guidance,” but to replace them with the parallel concept
from the Jewish tradition, Ha’ruah haqqodesh, ‘the Spirit of
Holiness,’ or Holy Spirit. This is the phrase most often used in the
Talmudic and Midrashic literature to denote prophetic inspiration.
And while there are statements in the tradition that say that ruah
haqqodesh departed after the passing of the prophets Haggai,
Zachariah and Malachi, Hasidim clearly believe that it is still
available, even today.

If one were to translate this Hebrew Toward the One back into
English, it would probably come out something like this:

34
Toward the One,

Unique, One, and Unified,

The Wholeness of Truth, Righteousness, and Beauty,

The Only One in Existence,

Who contains all the Illuminated Souls,

Forming the actualization of the Master,

The Spirit of Holiness.

As you can see, there is clear variation in the sense of the words,
but I believe that the Message is still available in them. The English
prayer of Hazrat Inayat Khan is so precise and beautiful that all
attempts at translation will fail in one way or another. It has its own
miraculous ijaz and will stand forever among the great prayer-
creations of the English language. Nevertheless, I offer this
rendering into Hebrew as a way for those who wish to pray in
Hebrew, but who are also committed to the Message, to add this to
their other prayers in a way that will feel natural in the prayer-space
of Judaism.

Netanel (Mu’in ad-Din) Miles-Yepez studied History of Religions at


Michigan State University and Contemplative Religion at Naropa
University, specializing in non-dual philosophies and comparative
religion. He is the editor of Living Fully, Dying Well: Reflecting on
Death to Find Your Life's Meaning, and co-authored A Heart Afire:
Stories and Teachings of the Early Hasidic Masters (2009) with Reb
Zalman.

Rabbi Zalman (Suleyman) Schachter-Shalomi, better known as ‘Reb


Zalman,’ was born in Zholkiew, Poland in 1924. He was ordained by
the HaBaD-Lubavitcher Hasidim in 1947 and is professor emeritus
of Psychology of Religion and Jewish Mysticism at Temple University
and World Wisdom Chair holder emeritus at Naropa University.
Today he is primarily known as the father of the Jewish Renewal
movement and is widely considered one of the world's foremost
authorities on Hasidism and Kabbalah. He is the author of Jewish
with Feeling: Guide to a Meaningful Jewish Practice (2005). In 2004,
he co-founded The Desert Fellowship of the Message: The Inayati-
Maimuni Tariqat of Sufi-Hasidim with his student, Netanel (Mu’in ad-
Din) Miles-Yepez, fusing the Sufi and Hasidic principles of spirituality
35
espoused by Rabbi Avraham Maimuni in 13th century Egypt with
the teachings of the Ba’al Shem Tov and Hazrat Inayat Khan.

Footnotes

(show footnotes)

Comments (1)

• Shalom and Light upon a Light to you, dear Reb, and thank you
for your beautiful inspiration. I had an inspiration for All
Prophets Day to be observed July 5, 2010 in honor of all
prophets and the spirit of guidance today, and co-incidentally
on the birthday of Hazrat Inayat Khan. May I add your
translation to those I am hoping to gather from as many
languages as feasible?

— Ganesh Dawdy on July 24, 2009

The Iron Rules, Number Three

Pir Zia Inayat-Khan

Editor’s note: Continuing our examination of various moral codes,


Seven Pillars is pleased to present Pir Zia Inayat-Khan’s talks on the
Iron and Copper rules of Hazrat Inayat Khan as an ongoing series.
While this material originates from a Sufi context, it can be helpful
to anyone who is looking for practical guidance on applying
chivalric principles to the conundrums of everyday life. A new rule
will be posted monthly until the series is complete.

The third rule is: My conscientious self, do not take advantage of a


person’s ignorance.

Each rule begins with the words, “My conscientious self.” This
means that the rule is a soliloquy, a conversation with oneself. It is
not imposed by an external authority. The rule is the articulation of
an ethical orientation. If that orientation resonates with one’s
conscience, then the rule is a reminder to fully commit oneself, in
all situations, to one’s ideal. If the orientation does not resonate,
then the contemplation of the rule presents an opportunity to clarify
one’s own ethical position. In neither case is the rule a dogma that
demands adherence on the basis of an external authority. The only
true authority is the illuminated human conscience.

36
An X-Ray of Homer Simpson's Brain

Now to the rule: Do not take advantage of a person’s ignorance. Of


course the extreme form of taking advantage of a person’s
ignorance is hucksterism, preying on people’s gullibility and
misleading them to make a quick buck. Most of us are innocent of
this. But there are subtler forms of taking advantage.

In Creating the Person, Murshid1 speaks of what he calls “the


persuasive tendency.” He says:

There is a tendency hidden behind human impulse, which may be


called the persuasive tendency. . . . By this, people achieve for the
moment what they wish to achieve. But in the end, the effect is the
annoyance of all those who are tried by this persuasive tendency.
Does it not show that to get something done is not so hard as to be
considerate of the feelings of others? It is so rare that one finds a
person in the world who is considerate of another person’s feeling,
even at the sacrifice of getting his or her own desires done.
Everyone seeks freedom, but for himself or herself. If one sought
the same for another, one would be a much greater person. The
persuasive tendency, no doubt, shows a great will power. And it
plays upon the weakness of others, who yield and give in to it,
owing to love, sympathy, goodness, kindness and politeness. But
there is a limit to everything. There comes a time when the thread
breaks. A thread is a thread, it is not steel wire. Even a wire breaks
if it is pulled too hard. The delicacy of the human heart is not
comprehended by everyone. Human feeling is too fine for common
perception. A soul who develops his or her personality, what is (s)he
like? (S)he is not like the root or the stem of the plant, nor like the
branches or leaves. (S)he is like the flower, the flower with its color,
fragrance and delicacy.

37
Murshid is speaking here of the tendency to argue, to cajole, to
wheedle, to badger—in short, to do all within one’s power to change
someone’s mind in the interest of personally benefiting. We all, at
times, try to leverage our rhetorical skills to the best
advantage. When one feels the stakes are high, one argues one’s
case tenaciously, with lawyerly intensity.

To “win” an argument one must downplay the weaknesses in one’s


position and emphasize the strengths. Certain facts must be
highlighted and other facts must be concealed. That which is
congenial to one’s argument one plays up, and the rest is
conveniently ignored.

We all have this tendency, more or less. It is just part of the rhetoric
of speech, almost unavoidable. We always want to give the best
reason for our decisions, our thoughts, and so on. But when this
tendency takes an extreme form it becomes abusive. When one
knowingly withholds critical information in a discussion, one is no
longer contributing positively toward a mutually favorable
resolution.

If the purpose of a conversation is a “meeting of minds”—and when


should it not be?—then what is wanted is not the triumph of one
point of view over the other, but rather a cognitive synthesis in
which multiple facets of a subject are brought into harmony and the
understanding of both parties is expanded.

When, on the contrary, one takes advantage of the blind spots in


another person’s angle of vision, that which results is just a form of
exploitation. Knowledge is power, and the manipulation of
knowledge with the motive of self-interest can be tyrannical.

Of course secrecy is not in itself a negative or destructive force. In


fact, it is a natural and necessary aspect of life. All of nature is a
revelation of the mystery of the divine secret in successive stages
of disclosure. If the pure, all-encompassing truth of reality were
ever to be disclosed in its totality, the witness’s mind would melt.
Neither you nor I could stand the force of the disclosure and
survive. It is as a mercy to us that, “Allah hath seventy thousand
veils of light and darkness.”

It is only as the human being’s capacity deepens and expands that


the veils can be lifted, one by one. Not every moment is the right
moment to express a finer perception, a realization of the soul.

38
Secrets of the heart are not to be blurted out carelessly. The
luminous darkness of silence nourishes and protects spiritual
knowledge until its moment of expression has come. This secrecy is
beautiful and empowering. It empowers not only oneself, but also
the other. The Prophet, Saint, or Master who keeps the divine secret
does so in a spirit of compassionate solidarity with all life,
supporting the natural unfoldment of each being. This is just the
opposite of the secrecy of the tyrant, who uses knowledge to
dominate others. Both use power, but the tyrant uses power
against others, whereas the Prophet, Saint, or Master uses power
for and with others. The result is very different.

Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, founder of Seven Pillars House of Wisdom, is


the spiritual leader of the Sufi Order International, a mystical and
ecumenical fellowship rooted in the visionary legacy of his
grandfather, Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan. Pir Zia is also
President of the Suluk Academy for esoteric studies. Pir Zia holds a
doctoral degree in religion from Duke University, is a recipient of
the U Thant Peace Award, and is a newly appointed Lindisfarne
Fellow.

The Iron Rules, Number Two

Pir Zia Inayat-Khan

Editor’s note: Continuing our examination of various moral codes,


Seven Pillars is pleased to present Pir Zia Inayat-Khan’s talks on the
Iron and Copper rules of Hazrat Inayat Khan as an ongoing series.
While this material originates from a Sufi context, it can be helpful
to anyone who is looking for practical guidance on applying
chivalric principles to the conundrums of everyday life. A new rule
will be posted monthly until the series is complete.

The second rule is: Speak not against others in their absence. This
is a saying that, like all wise words, has several levels of meaning.
On the most literal level it means: do not speak unkindly about
people who are not present in the conversation. At a deeper level,
one could say that to speak against someone in his or her absence
means to speak judgmentally of someone to whom you are not
present. In this case, being present means being conscious of the
soul of the person. To lightly discuss the characteristics of a person
without truly being present to that person—without experiencing
the person’s soul—is an error.

39
But again, the literal meaning is: do not to speak about people
when they are not around, except in praise. The situation that the
rule addresses is a common one, I think, in the experience of all of
us. In the social world we inhabit, people are more likely to speak
about other people in their absence than in their presence. Gossip
has a kind of infectious quality. One might not naturally incline
toward it, but one finds oneself in conversations in which the
intoxicating atmosphere of casual criticism gets the better of one.
In that moment, a feeling of license prevails. But as one steps away
from the conversation, the thought suddenly dawns: what have I
said?

The ego does not exist in isolation. Rather, it is a construct formed


of layers of psychic substance generated in relationships. Our self-
image is bound up in other people’s image of us, and vice versa.
When we cast negative judgments on others, we may imagine
ourselves to be revealing the person’s true nature, but we are in
fact concealing it. We are wrapping the person up in veils of
darkness, covering over the light of the soul.

From a mystical point of view, the physical presence or absence of


a person is incidental. We are interconnected beyond time and
space. Nothing goes unheard; every word, and indeed every
thought, resounds through the universe. Nothing is hidden; every
vibration has its effect.

Murshid says: “It must be remembered that one shows lack of


nobleness of character by love of gossiping. It is so natural, and yet
it is a great fault in the character to cherish the tendency of talking
about others. In the first place, it is a great weakness one shows
when one passes remarks about someone behind his back; in the
second place, it is against what may be called frankness. Besides it
is judging another, which is wrong according to the teaching of
Christ, which says Judge ye not, lest ye be judged.”

Judge ye not, lest ye be judged. That is the best touchstone: to ask,


how would I feel if that person spoke of me as I am speaking of him
or her? If you would feel comfortable, what you are saying is
probably fair. Likewise, one might ask, would I speak in this way if
the person were present? If so, again, what one is saying is
probably fair.

40
When we have stopped speaking against others, we will have more
energy to direct to a nobler and ultimately more satisfying
occupation: speaking in favor of others.

The Iron Rules, Number One

Pir Zia Inayat-Khan

Editor’s note: Continuing our examination of various moral codes,


Seven Pillars is pleased to present Pir Zia Inayat-Khan’s talks on the
Iron and Copper rules of Hazrat Inayat Khan as an ongoing series.
While this material originates from a Sufi context, it can be helpful
to anyone who is looking for practical guidance on applying
chivalric principles to the conundrums of everyday life. A new rule
will be posted monthly until the series is complete.

Iron Rule 1

The first of the Iron Rules is: My conscientious self, make no false
claims. Well, that sounds very easy. None of us would like to think
that we make false claims, and probably consciously we don’t. But if
one were to apply this rule to everything that one says, I think that
one’s awareness of one’s speech would deepen dramatically, and
one would see that there are shades of truthfulness in speech.
There are things that we say that our full will is behind—we are
transparent at that moment, and that gives the speech great
power. And there are other things that we say where there is no
transparency; there is just the opposite, opacity. We are projecting
a smokescreen with the view of obtaining a desired end. And yet
the result that is obtained cannot possibly compare to the purity of
the state that is lost in so doing, and the joy and peace that is the
natural consequence of that purity.

In connection with this, one could refer to the chapter from The Art
of Personality by Murshid (Hazrat Inayat Khan) on “Word of Honor.”
Here are some highlights: “What is the word? Word is one’s
expression, the expression of one’s soul. The one upon whose
words one can rely, that one is dependable. No wealth of this world
can be compared with one’s word of honor. The person who says
what he or she means, proves, by this virtue, spirituality. To a real
person, to go back on one’s word is worse than death, for it is going
backward instead of going forward.” Murshid refers to the story of
Haris Chandra who suffered great sacrifices to uphold his word of
honor. Afterward, Murshid was asked a question: What happens if

41
you find yourself in a situation where you have carelessly given
your word of honor and now, to uphold your word, you must do
something that, in the light of present circumstances, seems more
harmful than beneficial? In such a case, is it not too extreme to
stand on this principle? Murshid answered, very tactfully I think,
that no principle should be taken to extreme and made absolute.
There is danger of excess in everything. However, if one develops
the tendency of compromising one’s word of honor because the
situation has changed, the effect is that one becomes all the more
likely to continue to make casual promises knowing that one will
later allow oneself to deviate from one’s word. Insofar as we remain
firm in our dedication to our word of honor, to such a degree will we
be judicious in exercising our promise.

If one studies one’s life, one may find that there are relatively few
occasions when one signs on a dotted line or makes a vow or
pledge or declaration. But very frequently, in casual conversation,
one commits to something; one accepts responsibility for
something; one projects into the future: I will do this; I will be there.
Very often we do so with the unexpressed subtext that, after all,
circumstances are changeable and I reserve the right to change my
mind. But to such a degree as we do so, our word loses the sacred
power that is possible in the pledge of the knight.

When one deviates from one’s promise it is invariably because


there is benefit to be gained. Sometimes the rewards are very
tangible and extremely tempting. Yet when one looks back on one’s
life and contemplates the times one has given one’s word and not
followed through due to some temptation or other, it is clear that
the benefit obtained cannot compensate for the sense of loss that
one now feels, a loss of integrity. But we need not become mired in
the guilt of the past. We need only repent, make amends, learn the
lesson and move on, wiser and truer to our life’s purpose. It is a
new day and we have new choices, and we have learned to give our
word of honor judiciously and to uphold it conscientiously.

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