Thursday, December 07, 2023


Artwork: “Swallows Gathering” by Niki Bowers

This Advent I’m reading a collection of the late Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan’s writings entitled Awakening: A Sufi Experience.

A “Sufi” experience is, of course, a mystical experience, and for quite some time now I’ve described my spiritual path as “mystico/prophetic.”

I first encountered the mystico/prophetic tradition when reading theologian Albert Nolan’s book, Jesus Today: A Spirituality of Radical Freedom.

Reading the signs of the times, Nolan says, is prophetic work, and such work was integral to Jesus’ spirituality. We know this because Jesus recognized and spoke out against the oppressive assumptions and practices of the social and religious establishment of his time. He “turned their world upside down,” Nolan reminds us, and “the conflict that this created became so intense that in the end they killed him to keep him quiet.”

Jesus was also a mystic, a person who longs to experience oneness with God. Because he was both mystic and prophet, Jesus, says Nolan, was rooted in a mystico-prophetic spiritual tradition, one embodied by the Jewish prophets who came before him and which lives on to this day in those whose perspectives and actions provide a powerful example of prophesy and mysticism forming an inseparable whole.

Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan reminds us that Sufism, like all mystical traditions, seeks first and foremost to awaken us to our oneness with God; or, in the words of Marianne Williamson, to align us with the Living Light. Meditation, which involves cultivating stillness, plays an important role in this type of awakening and aligning.

Following is an excerpt from Khan’s book Awakening that speaks to and synthesizes all of the above – meditation, awakenment, alignment, and the transformation of oneself and the world in ways that are both mystical and prophetic. It’s an excerpt I find particularly meaningful and helpful. Perhaps you will too.


Mediation is the art of moving back and forth between two perspectives – the human and the Divine – downplaying one level in order to highlight the other. Eventually, we learn to extrapolate meaning from the synthesis of these different levels. This state is what I call awakening in life. For the culmination of the soul's journey of awakening is not just returning to [an awareness of its] original state [of oneness with the Divine]. Instead, it is how the soul has evolved through its passage on earth: what meaning has been extracted from its experience; what archetypal qualities have unfolded as a result of the immense difficulties it has endured; and the unique way each soul’s unfoldment has contributed to the evolution of the Universe itself.

Some may wonder what relevance such metaphysical truths have for the modern world – especially a world that appears to be moving further away from the values of the ancient mystics and toward an increasingly impersonal, complex, and technological future. But it would seem that the times we live in underscore even more dramatically the need to distinguish between what has lasting value and what is only of passing worth; what takes the soul farther away from the Divine, and what brings it closer. The whole Cosmos moves as a pendulum: the past and the future, transiency and eternity, human and Divine. It is not of the ever-constant back-and-forth dialogue between these two poles that the future is created. I believe that the future is not just something waiting for us; it is something that is built by sorting through the past for that which belongs to tomorrow.; it is a continual work-in-progress that takes place in every era and that occurs through each individual's innovative, imaginative, and conscious participation. It is what I call spiritual evolution.

As history proves, this process is one that stirs enormous resistance and difficulty. That the future is something we create, rather than passively endure, fills many with a sense of tripidation. To abandon the comfortable but worn-out values of the past feels like a free-fall into chaotic upheaval. But to fall back upon the comfort of the past, rather than move forward into the future, is to miss the rare cosmic opening that occurs in the flash of time between the past and the future in which it is possible to begin a new chapter in the evolutionary story of humankind.

– Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan
Excerpted from Awakening: A Sufi Experience
Tarcher/Putnam, 2000
pp. 5-6

Part II – An Extraordinary, Precious Gift

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Sufism: A Call to Awaken
Don’t Go Back to Sleep
Sufism: Way of Love, Tradition of Enlightenment, and Antidote to Fanaticism
The Sufi Way
Clarity, Hope, and Courage
“Joined at the Heart”: Robert Thompson on Christianity and Sufism
Doris Lessing on the Sufi Way
Sufism: A Living Twenty-First Century Tradition
In the Dance of Light, Eyes of Fiery Passion
The Winged Heart
The Most Sacred and Simple Mystery of All
The Source Is Within You
Jesus: Mystic and Prophet
Called to the Field of Compassion
Michael Morwood on the Divine Presence
Prayer and the Experience of God in an Ever-Unfolding Universe
Prayer of the Week – October 28, 2013
In the Garden of Spirituality – Hazrat Inayat Khan
In the Garden of Spirituality – Doris Lessing
In the Garden of Spirituality – Kabir Helminski
Neil Douglas-Klotz: Quote of the Day – December 29, 2011
Advent: Renewing Our Connection to the Sacred
Advent Thoughts
Cultivating Stillness
A New Beginning
As the Last Walls Dissolve . . . Everything Is Possible

Opening image: “Swallows Gathering” by Niki Bowers.

1 comment:

Kate Kulas said...

Powerful, inspiring words full of hope.
I find myself rereading the final paragraph several times.
It is just what I needed tonight. Thank you.