Monday, January 4, 2010

Outer And Inner

Outer and Inner
There must be a reason for our being embodied in this world other than to escape it. The perspective of Sufism is always a non-dual wholeness.

If the human heart is a space in which two worlds meet, in which two kinds of senses operate, then it is possible to be in both worlds simultaneously: the world of the senses and the world of inner spiritual qualities. Our humanness would consist, then, in that presence, that receptivity to what is offered both by the senses and the spiritual qualities, and finding our right relationship to the outer and the inner dimensions.

In this life, no pleasure is entirely physical or spiritual, outer or inner. The most outer, material pleasures would mean nothing if there were not some quality of anticipation, association, personal relationship. Likewise for a living human being, the most spiritual pleasure is nevertheless experienced through the mediation of the human nervous system. We experience the spiritual qualities as states of relaxation, of heart expansion, of coming alive.

The word for heart in Arabic is qalb and literally means that which fluctuates; the heart expands and contracts, and even in its purified condition passes through many states. The Prophet said, "The hearts of the children of Adam are as if between the two fingers of the Infinitely Compassionate. He turns each however He wishes. O God, O Turner of hearts, tour our hearts toward obedience to You."

Ibn 'Arabi says:

God made the heart the locus of this longing to bring actualization of this reality near to the human being, since there is fluctuation in the heart. If this longing were in the rational faculty, the person might seem to be in a constant state. But since it is in the heart, fluctuation comes upon him always. For the heart is between the two fingers of the Compassionate, so its situation is not to remain in a single state. And so it is within this fluctuation, witnessing the way the fingers cause it to fluctuate. [II 532.30]

The heart as the locus of longing experiences constant expansion and contraction, but if the heart is awake, it begins to grasp the Divine Reality through all these changes of state, through the intoxication of expansion and through the aridity of contraction. The heart is always occupied with some object of longing through which it is coming to know the essential Beauty, the longing behind all longings.

The goblet is the lover's heart, not his reason or sense perception. For the heart fluctuates from state to state, just as God--who is the Beloved--is "Each day upon some task" [55:29]. So the lover undergoes constant variation in the object of his love in keeping with the constant variation of the Beloved in His acts. The lover is like the clear and pure glass goblet which undergoes constant variation according to the variations of the liquid within it. The color of the lover is the color of the Beloved. This belongs only to the heart, since reason comes from the world of delimitation; that is why it is called reason, a word derived from "fetter." ...[L]ove has many diverse and mutually opposed properties. Hence nothing receives these properties except that which has the capacity to fluctuate along with love in those properties. This belongs only to the heart.... The wine is precisely what becomes actualized in the cup. And we have explained that the cup is identical with the locus of manifestation, the wine is identical with the Manifest within it, and the drinking is that which is actualized from the Self-discloser if His locus of self-disclosure.9 [II 113.33]

The heart is not an accessory to life. It is not a switch to be turned on or off, a box to be open or closed. The fathoming of the human heart and the disclosure of spiritual qualities within it is the work of all life, art, spirituality. Our purpose in life is to know the heart without the veils of our fears, preoccupations, desires, and strategies. A human being with a heart is the hologram of the seen and unseen universes. If we have seen such a person we have seen everything. Everything is a part of him or her who has fully known the reflection of the Infinite within the heart. If we keep the mystery of spirit, "God," present in our hearts, that "God" will become our reality. This Essence will become our essence. This Power will become our power. God's wholeness is our wholeness.
The heart can be understood as the center of the unconscious, the potential integrative power at our core. It is the point at which the individual human being is closest to the Divine Reality, to Wholeness. The heart is the center of our motivation and our knowing, possessing a depth and strength of will that the personality lacks. The heart may even know what the conscious mind denies. When we say that the heart has an integrative power, we are not talking in abstract, metaphorical, or merely intellectual terms. The realization and purification of the heart both opens a doorway to the Infinite, and also results in a restructuring of neural pathways, a refinement and reorganization of our entire nervous system without which we are not completely human.

Living from the Heart

We have proposed that the heart includes a spectrum of subconscious faculties for knowing reality immediately and qualitatively. In other words, the heart is intuitive. The heart, however, is obscured, or "veiled" from its intuitive knowing by most of our habitual thoughts and emotions, particularly in so far as these are derived from the false self.

In the condition we find ourselves, life presents us with so many ambiguous situations. How can we know whether we are following the concealed desire of the false self or the guidance of the heart? We cannot afford to sentimentalize the heart, which is not only tender but fierce, which is both in submission and in absolute freedom at the same time.
Reason, which is the wise and skillful use of the conscious mind, can be used to clear the mirror of the heart from the distortions of compulsion, defensiveness, and illusion. To some extent this is the work of a true psychotherapy, a process which is a "healing of the soul." While the effects of past wounds can be mitigated by bringing contents into consciousness and psychotherapy, an authentic spirituality can awaken the healing forces of humbleness, gratitude, and love. For these qualities, however, to be authentic and spontaneous, and not merely the outcome of a moral obligation, it is necessary to live from the heart. The complete healing of the soul is possible through the soul's contact with Wholeness through the heart.

Purity of the heart refers to the heart's overall soundness and health. The heart, if it is truly a heart, is in contact with Spirit, but to achieve this rapport with Spirit it must be renovated and made receptive all the way down to the subconscious levels. Only then can it reliably respond to the spiritual qualities within are reflected within itself.
Living from the heart is responding to the inner guidance of Love and Wisdom in the heart. This guidance may appear to be irrational and even counter to one's own apparent self-interests. That is its beauty and power. It does not come cheap. It does not depend on emotion. It submits faithfully, spontaneously and joyfully to the requirements of the moment. It knows no fear and always submits to the Wholeness.

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