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Language of the Sufis

Sufi ArtPerson figures prominently in expressions of mystic understanding of the three main faiths that originate in the Near East. The spare forms of personal pronouns in marked constructions constitute a keying, in Goffman's terms, of mystic discourse, as in the well-known `I-Thou' of Martin Buber, or `I in them and Thou in me' of St. John (17:23).

Sufi Islam even contrasts the religious law, the mystic path, and the Truth in such terms:

Of the religious law (its truth is):
I and Thou;


As for the mystic path (its truth is):
I am Thou and Thou art I.


But the Truth Itself (is):
Neither I nor Thou, only He.


ash-shari'atu: ana wa anta;
at-tariqatu: ana anta wa anta ana;
al-haqiqatu: la ana wa la anta, huwa.

- Siraj ed-Din

The third person pronominal reference in the last line above, `only He', works to obviate any sense of separation or duality that reference to the first and second person, `the persons of instances of discourse', might imply. In Sufism one strives to move beyond the `I-Thou' polarity in relations with one's spiritual master, and beyond the `this' of `this world'. It is an attempt to move beyond human subjectivity, to return to the greater Subjectivity, as Becker puts it , not of God but of His loving.

For Sufis understand Creation actively in terms of God's longing to be known. That the pronoun for this greater subjectivity is the third person, the `non-person' according to Benveniste's characterization, but either the `absent one' or the `concealed' or `hidden one' (al-gha'ib) according to Arab grammarians, casts at the very least another potential frame on the third person.

- from the paper, Person in epitaphs of a line of Sufi Babas: continuity and change by Frances Trix of Department of Anthropology, Wayne State University, Detroit, USA. paper published in: Journal of Language Sciences. vol.21, 1999.

- graphics credit: Susan St. Thomas / one of Sonoma County, Californias famous visionary fine artists, Susan draws her artistic inspirations from dreams, myths and spiritual traditions of the world, weaving beautiful watercolor magic. visit her online art gallery here.

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