Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Between Ego and Spirit, Fragmentation and Wholeness

The heart could be called the child of the marriage of self and spirit. The heart occupies a position intermediate between ego and God. It becomes a point of contact between the two. Like a transformer, it receives the spiritualizing energy of the spirit and conveys it to the self. Like the physical heart it is the center of the individual psyche. If it is dominated by the demands of the ego-self, the heart is dead; it is not a heart at all. If it is receptive to spirit, then it can receive the qualities of spirit and distribute these according to its capacity to every aspect of the human being, and from the human being to the rest of creation. If it is receptive to spirit, a heart is sensitive, living, awake, whole. It becomes the treasury of God's qualities.

In this, behold, there is indeed a reminder for everyone whose heart is wide-awake--that is who lends ear with conscious mind.[Qur'an 50:37]

It is through the heart that the completion of the human psyche is attained. The heart always has an object of love; it is always attracted to some sign of beauty. Whatever the heart holds its attention on, it will acquire its qualities. Those qualities are as much within the heart as within the thing that awakens those qualities in the heart. The situation is like two mirrors facing each other, while the original reflection comes from a third source. But one of these mirrors, the human heart, has some choice as to what it will reflect. Rumi said, "If your thought is a rose, you are the rose garden. If your thought is a thorn, you are kindling for the bath stove."1 Being between the attractions of the physical world and the ego, on the one hand, and spirit and its qualities on the other, the heart is pulled from different sides. Rumi addressed this issue in a conversation recorded and presented in Fihi ma fihi2 (Herein is what is herein):

All desires, affections, loves, and fondnesses people have for all sorts of things, such as fathers, mothers, friends, the heavens and the earth, gardens, pavilions, works, knowledge, food, and drink--one should realize that every desire is a desire for food, and such things are all "veils." When one passes beyond this world and sees that King without these "veils," then one will realize that all those things were "veils" and "coverings" and that what they were seeking was in reality one thing. All problems will then be solved. All the heart's questions and difficulties will be answered, and everything will become clear. God's reply is not such that He must answer each and every problem individually. With one answer all problems are solved.3

There are countless attractions in the world of multiplicity. Whatever we give our attention to, whatever we hold in this space of our presence, its qualities will become our qualities. If we give the heart to multiplicity, the heart will be fragmented and dispersed. If we give the heart to spiritual unity, the heart will be unified.

Ultimately what the heart desires is unity in which it finds peace.

Truly, in the remembrance of God hearts find peace.

The ego desires multiplicity and suffers the fragmentation caused by the conflicting attractions of the world. Rabi'a, perhaps the greatest woman saint of the Sufi tradition, said, "I am fully qualified to work as a doorkeeper, and for this reason: What is inside me, I don't let out. What is outside me, I don't let in. If someone comes in, he goes right out again-- He has nothing to do with me at all. I am a doorkeeper of the heart, not a lump of wet clay."4 We can assume the responsibility of being the doorkeeper of our own heart, choosing what we wish to keep within the intimate space of our own being.

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