Friday, June 26, 2009


"True spirituality is not a fixed faith or belief; it is the ennobling of the soul by rising above the barriers of material life."
Hazrat Inayat Khan

"In the realm of religion most believers are still locked into traditionally accepted beliefs... Since these beliefs differ, they are often a cause of political conflicts with the trail of avoidable human suffering... The future perspectives of spirituality are based upon experience rather than belief systems..."
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

I bought a copy of Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi and began to read it. This does not always happen. Often I will buy a book because I like the title or the theme appeals to me. But then, in some strange form of imposed osmosis, I will believe that I understand the book without reading it. Sometimes I will break through this odd form of self denial and read, often discovering that my preconceived notion of the content is a great barrier to actually absorbing the ideas therein presented. It is this barrier that I must overcome in order to participate in the world of the author. Sometimes I will fail in this effort, deciding that I am smarter then the author and understand more then he/she does about whatever the issue or theme happens to be. There are a number of books in my library that I feel this way about and occasionally I look at the spines, imprinted with title and author and reprise my superiority. Then, if I am in a good mood, I laugh at my own presumption.

In the case of Reading Lolita in Tehran, unlike my usual m/o I began reading it right away. Why? Because, unlike many of the books I buy, it is about something that I truly know nothing about, the world of women inside a severe theocracy. Plus, the author has an author's note in the beginning of the book that I adore.
She says:
"Aspects of characters and events in this story have been changed mainly to protect individuals, not just from the eye of the censor but also from those who read such narratives to discover who's who and who did what to whom, thriving on and filling their own emptiness through other's secrets."

Isn't that wonderful though? And it brings me to the point of this particular blog. How much of your belief is based on the need to know you are better than others?
That may seem like a specious question but I am quite serious. I have been thinking much about how nice it feels to know that you know something that others do not know. How nice it feels to be in on some secret that only a very few can truly understand. And then to go further, how nice it feels to be able to tell someone that your belief is waiting for them, if only they will stop and listen for a moment to the wonderful message you have for them.

In the case of Ms. Nafisi, she was dealing in a system that not only is totally sure of its righteousness but also was quite willing to flog anyone who does not agree. Unfortunately for the floggers, eventually people will begin to see that there are serious holes, hypocrisies and inconsistencies in the system. So, we come to the next point I want to make, how invested are you in the belief system that tells you that you are wonderful and others are lacking? Do you depend on this belief system for your identity or to consistently inform you in some way?

I suppose we all do this to some extent; probably because we need some form of anchor to help us feel safe. Fundamentally that is what we are always doing, creating a safe place for ourselves with our interpretation of what we are experiencing or what we are told. When we get high or feel the increased flow of endorphins through our brains, brought on by the meditative or ecstatic state we have found, we will tend to attribute the feeling to whatever is taking place around us. It may be a religious ceremony, it may be a meditation class, it may be something quite individual but our tendency will always be to give credit to whatever or whomever the ecstatic state arose from. And we will then create a system to support our interpretation because that is what humans do. The much more difficult course would be to not create a system or a foundational belief.

It is almost impossible to avoid interpretation. We rely on language and cultural information to orient us and those will always be restrictive. Again the constant question, what to do? Well, back in the day, when I was a hippie, we questioned everything. Our battle cry was, "Question Authority!" Of course that only lasted until one was required to make a living, then authority became useful. I am not advocating such extremes but I am advocating having a look at what you think you believe and why you believe it. Only you can know what that is and how you arrived at the conclusions you have decided are real. As Pir Vilayat states above belief systems, even new ones, are passé; experience is the real teacher. Therefore, have your experiences but avoid creating a system to support them.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


"So for a system to change, one has to dislocate it and assemble it again in a new way."
Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

I know of this woman, a Presbyterian minister, who made a very pointed statement about the normal course of events for a spiritual group. I do not remember her exact words so I will have to paraphrase. She said when the founder of the group appears there is a lot of enthusiasm and deep dedication to the message he/she brings. Then his/her successor will tend to expand on the original message, going even deeper. When the third generation comes a distinct change takes place. There is what might be called a regression or a movement toward creating an orthodoxy. So the original message of freedom becomes one of rigid doctrine. Apparently this sort of thing is fairly inevitable. I suppose that what happens then is a shift toward devotion to the orthodoxy. This means that the sort of person who is, what we might call, a spiritual pioneer is no longer welcome.

I was reminded of this when one of my friends was watching me do the movements to a prayer. She told me that my movements, which I had learned 30 years ago, were no longer correct. She also told me that the prayer I was saying, also learned 30 years ago, had been changed and I needed to change how I said it. And, she also told me that two of the teachers I revered and had followed for the same number of years were not academic enough; which kind of shocked me since both have PhD's. But in listening to this I recognized what I had heard above. When someone starts telling you that how you are doing something is wrong, that is the beginnings of orthodoxy. It is also the beginnings of entropy for the group that is making this shift. Or so I believe.

In looking over the various definitions of entropy it would seem that they all mean essentially the same thing. When a system, the cosmos, or something mechanical or a political or social system gets to a place where no more growth is possible it tends to collapse in on itself. Here are the definitions if you are interested:

So, what to do? I remember feeling; I think it was last year or maybe the year before, that my home was being taken away from me. I did not understand what was happening and kept fighting against it. I would make comments on the leader's forum which caused all sorts of difficulty. Finally someone accused me of being a constant negative influence and called me a bunch of names, so I quit the forum. After all, from their point of view they were right. I came to realize that what was happening was a kind of heat death and I could not stop it. For that matter, why would I want to?

Everyone is allowed the right to choose freedom or orthodoxy. For many orthodoxy is really the only choice because it gives security and that is the preeminent need of the sub-conscious. To choose freedom means choosing insecurity and a bit of terror in your life as one is never sure of the outcome.
Pir Vilayat used to constantly emphasize that one must free oneself from conditioning in order to become who one really was. Yet what seems to be happening is a determination that tradition is the important thing and that what must take place is an acceptance of what is being taught. Or so it seems to me. I have never been comfortable with someone telling me that it must be this way or that way but that is what is being said. So, I guess I am homeless.

The longer I realize that I am homeless, the more I come to appreciate the truth of what Pir Vilayat once said to me, "now you will discover who you really are!" He said this to me after having given me an unusual initiation. What I have come to understand is that there is absolutely no safety in a group ideal. A person must discover their own ideal. As long as a person is relying on a group ideal to inform them they will always be less then they could be. Being with a group is fine but allowing the group to tell you what to believe is giving up your power. Yet, I also understand that it is a very powerful impulse because there is deep security in accepting the group interpretation of reality.
Spiritual Freedom is apparently a state of being that is not really suited to everyone even though Pir Vilayat called it the ultimate longing of the soul. There is such safety in the group that the group is extremely compelling. And people also want equilibrium. They want to know that there is total balance and that boat rocking is definitely not allowed. Unfortunately a system in a state of equilibrium cannot allow change and with no change death is inevitable. Spiritual Freedom on the other hand is scary.

When I first realized that I was becoming homeless it was very very scary. I felt a deep sense of abandonment. Now I realize it is a gift, perhaps the most precious of gifts. It is still scary at times since the system and the group that I had come to rely on is no longer valid to me. But perhaps that is how things need to evolve. It is a very human compulsion to give one's loyalty to an individual or to an ideal and when the ideal begins to seem too structured or fails us in some way we feel isolated and alone. That's the monkey brain I suppose. But we are much larger then the monkey brain. We are also celestial beings. And, as celestial beings, we are quite capable of the ultimate statement, spiritual freedom is the goal. As Ibn al Arabi has said, as paraphrased by Pir Vilayat, "When God created mankind God had to allow for free will, because to do otherwise would not have allowed for any kind of discovery." This quote is from my memory so please excuse any imprecision.

I just realized that I have not defined Divine Entropy. It's simple really. All things eventually dissolve, even ideals, into the Unity of Existence. So it should not be a surprise to anyone to discover that a large part of existence is in a constant state of flux. As one thing dies another grows. As it happens I believe that the age of spiritually superior beings is drawing to a close and an age of democratic equality is arising. It will not be easy because nothing dies without some kind of struggle and those who have come to rely on the existence of their spiritual superiority will need to let go. Some will, gladly, others will fight on til the end. All in all the world of spirituality is in for an interesting time.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir