A group photo of Brother Masons found its way to my Facebook wall. A posed shot obviously following a joyous and joyful church service.
Magpie edit: Muskrat, stop bugging me about this.
“…know that Sufis prefer the knowledge that comes by inspiration, to the exclusion of that acquired by study,” writes F.E. Peters, a professor of mine many years ago. “Again, they desire neither to study such learning nor to learn anything of what authors have written on the subject; to inspect neither their teachings nor their arguments. They maintain on the contrary that the ‘way’ consists in preferring spiritual combat, in getting rid of one’s faults, in breaking one’s ties and approaching God Most High through a single-minded spiritual effort. And every time those conditions are fulfilled, God for His part turns toward the heart of His servant and guarantees him an illumination by the lights of understanding.”
The Sufism issue of Gnosis delivers diverse articles on Sufi traditions, including that which popped into my head by way of that photo on Facebook. Written by Ya’quh ibn Yusuf, then a doctoral candidate studying Jewish mysticism at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, it includes a few paragraphs that can rattle some people. Like me.
I’d love to provide you the entire article. I want to hand you the magazine. You should have your lodge purchase the entire collection of back issues. I’ll share only that which I remembered, boldfacing the specifics. Do not be distracted by the mentions of Sufism. Or perhaps you should, mentally replacing the word Sufi with the word Masonry.
“…most of us in the West are already Christians or Jews. And while I believe it may be a mistake to narrowly identify with the religion of one’s ancestors, there is also a price to be paid for ignoring one’s own ancestral heritage. Our religious background is very much a kind of ‘local material’ out of which we are constructed. If we seek to follow Sufi teachings and develop our connection with God by digging deeply within ourselves, our own religion provides us with tools and a place in which to do some digging.
“Let me offer some examples of how I have seen these issues working themselves out among friends of mine. In Israel most Jews generally identify themselves as either ‘religious’ or ‘secular.’ It takes some courage and initiative to venture beyond these identifications and pursue one’s own spiritual search. I have observed that as they rise to the kind of challenge that Sufi teaching represents, secular seekers typically need to heal their rejection of Jewish tradition, while religious seekers need to overcome a general reflex of defending Jewish tradition as well as their specific allergy to Jesus… [This is] a matter of opening blocked channels to elements of religion which, it turns out, have a life within as well as outside the individual…
“All religions can be viewed not as ends in themselves, but as outer forms of belief and behavior that exist to facilitate inner work. The problem is that each religion also exists as a corporate entity that seeks to promote its own working set of tools and beliefs, and, like religions and sects, every spiritual group has a kind of collective ego that is fed by new adherents. All this should come as no surprise. What I believe we should bear in mind, however, is that too much of a focus on the particular form we are employing – whatever form that might be – serves to keep us stuck on the surface of appearances and prevents the work from moving more deeply within. This is why, as I understand it, Sufi teaching emphasizes ‘completion, not conversion.’
“Thus I have met observant Jews who have a personal relationship with Jesus, but choose not to convert to Christianity, and Christians who admit that their primary relationship is with God the Father. Certainly I know many Sufis who share the essential perspectives of the Prophet Muhammad but choose not to embrace Islam. In each of these cases there is an understandable reluctance to let an institutional mentality appropriate what properly belongs to the greater glory of God…
“Our task, as I understand it, is not to get rid of form on the social and religious levels any more than on the physical level. It is to appreciate the reflections of divinity to be found within form, to make of the forms in which we are involved a vehicle for the Divine. However we may choose to affiliate ourselves, whatever working basis we may choose to embrace, we do well to remember that the work of transformation does not depend on our concepts and categories, but on our actual cooperation with the grace of God.