Monday, June 15, 2009

A Catholic Among the Sufis

Father O'Halloran wrote, "Why should someone like myself, from the Christian Tradition, take an interest in, write a paper on, 'Master and Disciple in the Sufi Way?'

Precisely because, first the Sufis regard Jesus as their exemplar par excellence, and yet deny that he founded or intended a Church - or a series of Churches - which would eliminate the master-disciple teaching function. There are today, indeed, a vastly increasing number of people, who have arrived at the same conclusions as the Sufis: that, far from willing the abolition of the Master-Disciple relationship, it is this which would have been the Way preferred by the Founder of the Faith.

Discipleship. Those of who were reared in the Christian Way, if we were to be honest, think of the disciples of Jesus Christ and hanker for a status like unto what must have been that of those who followed the Mater all those centuries ago, in Palestine.

On the face of it, the Sufis' insistence that Jesus was one of them seems almost bizzare to those reared in either Christian or a Moslem environment. For the Christian, unaware that most Church dogma is man-made and not divine in any reasonable discernible manner, the Church constitutes Christianity. For the (orthodox) Moslems, too, Jesus may have been a Prophet, but there is no need for a Master of the Way, least of all one chosen from a competing religion.

In any case, the notion that the Sufi Way is more like the ancient school of Jesus than modern Christianity is just will not go away. Signs of this assertion are everywhere. The most recent concern about Gnostic and other beliefs about Jesus driven out of currency by the triumpth of one sect of the Christians reflected this well.

... Is it possible, it is being asked on all sides, that the Kingdom of God which is within us is the mystical experience, the accessible cognition of the divine? Is it possible that the saying that all men are divine is connected with the Sufi notion that there is a divine spark in all human beings, and the task of humanity is not so much to be "saved", whatever that may mean, but rather to discover exactly what that means and to experience it?

The Christian theoreticians of the Middle Ages, it is obvious, were not in a position to anticipate that one day (and that day is now here) scientists would be able to explain their raptures and sensation of beliefs - those things regarded as proofs of religious truth and even of rank - and to duplicate these experiences in the laboratory. But how is it that, without laboratories, the Sufis were able to deny the permanent nature of these experiences and characterize them, in terminology strikingly reminiscent of contemporary psychology, as delusory and induced by well-known excitatory methods?

This is the chief embarrassment which a modern Christian feels when he reads Sufi documents of a thousand or more years ago. As to whether his embarrassment or his desire for truth is stronger, will determine his reaction and continuing concern for the matter."

- by Father F. X. O'Halloran | from the book, The Sufi Mystery - a compilation of writings by Ameer Ali, Sir Richard Burton, Robert Graves, Idries Shah and many. It deals with authentic and mutated schools and others and their literature over a very wide area of geography and belief. Sufi theories and practices are examined, visits to Sufi centers are described, the relationship of master and disciple investigated, and links with other systems noted.

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