By now, most of us are aware of the existence of Kabbalah, or the tradition of Jewish mysticism. However, mysticism can be found in many belief systems, and Islam is no different. The central belief of Sufism (an ancient branch of the Muslim faith) is that love is a projection of the essence of God to the Universe. Sufis believe that love is all around us – quite literally – in everything and everyone. Indeed, they say, the totality of existence (good and bad alike) is a reflection – and manifestation — of God… and that we can find God within ourselves!
Sounds kind of “New Age” doesn’t it?
Dervishes – or people of the Sufi faith – believe that God wants to recognize beauty. In turn, they believe God sees, in each of us, himself within the dynamics of nature. In other words, we’re all divinely inspired expressions of god – just as we are, no matter how flawed we perceive ourselves to be.
So what is the aim of Sufism?
The goal of the Dervish is to let go of all notions of duality (and therefore the individual self) and realize the divine unity of all things. In this purest form of existence, we become our truest selves, shining brightly as the aspects of god/the universal energy that we, individually are meant to personify.
But how does this translate practically? In other words, how does one practice Sufism?
Put simply, Sufism is a religion concerned less with worship than it is with personal experience. Like Zen Buddhism and Gnosticism, Sufism teaches that meaning can only be derived from life when one goes through the process of seeking truth, knowledge and the self. They also believe that the energies we need to do this are dormant, but inherently existent in each of us. Guides lead Dervishes through process work with the Six Subtleties (or Lataif-e-sitta, which are most relatable to the tantric chakras) and in turn, they are believed to become whole, realized human beings upon completion of the process.
What does this boil down to?
In short, Sufis are expected full, active participants in their lives. They seek to experience god by fully experiencing themselves. As one old Sufi metaphor goes:
“There are three ways of knowing a thing. Take for instance a flame. One can be told of the flame, one can see the flame with his own eyes, and finally one can reach out and be burned by it. In this way, we Sufis seek to be burned by God.”
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