Sunday, June 10, 2007

Unity is not uniformity

Pir Zia Inayat Khan Here is a sohbet or spiritual dialogue by Pir Zia Inayat Khan, which focus on the subject of evolution of humanity's understanding of Unity of God. This is a subject that always fascinates me. I found the way Pir Zia put it together simply beautiful and thoughtful.

"There's a saying of Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, which I feel is very important, particularly at this time. And that is: "Unity is not uniformity."

If one studies history, one finds that prior to the great monotheistic religions, There were polytheistic religions. Their Deities were for the most part interchangeable. The various pantheons of Deities represented the different natural forces. If you went from one place to another, the names and images would be different, but they were translatable. So, there was a kind of universality of religion at that time. And there were no religious wars. It was understood that the names and forms were subjective.

But there was something lacking at that time. And that was a sense of the transcendent.

The religions of that time represented cosmic forces, But the awareness of the totality of Being as endowed with personality; The ideal of monotheism; that was lacking. And when that ideal came a whole new dimension was added:

The transcendent, the Unity of all cosmic forces in one total Being.

The dawn of that understanding brought with it the monotheistic revelations Of Beni-Israel (the ancient Prophets of Israel), the message of Jesus, the message of Mohammed, peace and blessings be upon them.

This was a new development in Human thought, which answered a need; answered a lack in the ancient world.

But, the extreme, the mistake that was made, was to project that transcendent Unity upon this world of subjectivity and of multiplicity; to assume that one God meant one law for all people to be interpreted by one authority; one language of the sacred.

And so, the message of Unity very soon became a message of uniformity.

Uniformity, rather than fostering Unity, created conflicting uniformities with one uniformity claiming everyone should follow this form, another claiming it should be that form. Whereas the ideal that was intended was a Unity of spirit rather than form.

So, there's a challenge.

How does transcendent Unity manifest in this world of multiplicity?

As we've seen, conflicting uniformities produce only chaos and disunity. That is the importance of the expression of Love, Harmony and Beauty. The Sufis teach that Unity manifests itself on the plane of multiplicity as Harmony.

So, you might translate this into a series of waza'if, invocations of Divine Qualities. Focusing on rising above distinctions and differences, toward the transcendent pole of our Being:

Ya Wasi : O Thou, the All-Encompassing.

And then touching upon the Solitude of the Divine Unity:

Ya Ahad : O Thou, the One Being.

Now descending once again into the world of multiplicity, manifesting Unity in the world of multiplicity through Harmony:

Ya Jami' : O Thou, the Gatherer."
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