Nafs, Spirit & Heart
by Hazrat Mir Ghotbeddin Mohammad

from Vol. 8, No. 1
Posted March 1, 2002

Sufism and Consciousness:
part two

by Amineh Amelia Pryor

from Vol. 8, No. 3

Human Longing for Spirituality
by Dr. Shahid Athar

from Vol. 9, No. 3
Posted November 2, 2001

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Sufism and Consciousness: part one

By Amineh Amelia Pryor

The traveller on the path to truth must have intelligence, understanding and insight. These are his prerequisites.

In approaching the subject and study of consciousness one question that is often on my mind is the goal: whether to study consciousness theories or whether to become more conscious. The two concepts are intertwined and play off each other as an inquiry into the understanding of consciousness is undertaken. In this article I will attempt to bring these two concepts together through an inquiry into the consciousness of Sufism, which is a science of consciousness that holds the reality that knowledge comes through experience. Therefore, the true study of Sufism will lead not only to greater understanding, but also to increased awareness and consciousness.

To begin, I have found it useful to distinguish levels of consciousness. Rather than thinking of these consciousness levels as a progression, I find these distinctions useful mainly in the semantic sense of delineating the definition of consciousness, which is a word with varied and broad meanings. Richard M. Bucke delineates three levels of evolution and proposes that the human mind progresses through these levels of evolution, summarized as follows:

1.Simple Consciousness - ability for sensory stimulation and perception.

2.Self-Consciousness - the development of the ability to conceptualize, use language, and be conscious of the self.

3.Cosmic Consciousness - humanity's cumulative experiences bring ever-increasing information and knowledge.

Cosmic Consciousness or "intuitive intellect"which transcends temporal reality and the intellectual conceptualization of self-conscious man.(2) As the study of Sufi consciousness is begun, it is useful to acknowledge what level we are studying. I will discuss this idea more, shortly.

On the path of Sufism, the quest for knowledge is equated with the attainment of knowledge through experience. There is no distinction between studying consciousness and increasing consciousness; they are one in the same. Consciousness comes through experience of the complete system of Unity. The philosophy or psychology of Sufi consciousness is not a subject of mental inquiry but rather a direct inquiry from within the longing of the Sufi's heart as he or she seeks to understand the Wisdom of Divine intellect.

Therefore, to explain something or to have veritable knowledge or science of it means to be able to relate it to Being itself, to relate all of the properties and qualities of that particular being to its ontological status. What is found by means of observation and logical inferences from it does not lead to the "metaphysical secrets"of things but rather to the discovery of certain aspects of their outward manifestation or to the relation of phenomena. True science is to relate these phenomena to their inner aspect, or noumena, which is the essence and the center relating them to Pure Being.(3)

This description relates to Bucke's level of Cosmic Consciousness, but in practice also includes the other two levels of Simple Consciousness and Self-Consciousness. The concept of existing on more than one level is an important aspect of Sufism. The levels of "simple," "self," and "cosmic consciousness"are not separate or distinct. Sufism is a path that leads toward agreement of intention, thought, and action. In the words of the Prophet Mohammad (swa), "Belief is the knowledge of the heart, the words of the tongue, and the actions of the body."(4) Belief in this quotation is not meant with the connotations of blind faith. Rather, it is another way of naming the understanding of a Unified reality. Belief, or knowledge of existence, comes when the heart, words, and actions are aligned with pure intention, honesty and
love. . .

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1 Hadrat Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, The Secret of Secrets, Interpreted by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti, (Cambridge, England: The Islamic Texts Society, 1992), p.120.
2 Richard Bucke, as cited in Mohammad Shafii, Freedom from the Self: Sufism, Meditation and Psychotherapy, New York: Human Sciences Press, 1985), pp. 163-164.
3 Seyyed Hossein Nasr, An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines (New York: State University of New York Press, 1993), pp. 233-234.
4 Nahid Angha, Deliverance: Words of the Prophet Mohammad (San Rafael, California: International Association of Sufism, 1995), p. 40.
5 Sufi Women: The Journey Towards the Beloved (collected essays). (San Rafael, California: International Association of Sufism, 1998), p. 11.
6 Mohammad Shafii, , Freedom from the Self: Sufism, Meditation and Psychotherapy, New York: Human Sciences Press, 1985), p. 49.
7 Referring to Allah as "Him" is due to the limitations of the English language.
8 Hadrat Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, The Secret of Secrets, Interpreted by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti, (Cambridge, England: The Islamic Texts Society, 1992), p. 45.
9 loc. cit. 10 op. cit., p. 47.