Gnostic / History / Religion / Sufism

Sufism and female archetypes

Love and Self

Love and Self

Some say Sufism, or Tasawwuf as it is known in the Muslim world, is Islamic mysticism; others say it is the primordial mystical tradition, much older than Islam, using Islam as a structural frame as Gnostics usually did. In this article, we will use Jungian concepts, Sufi poetry, and myths to explore the relationship of female Archetypes and  the Sufi path. Although the leaders of tariqas and participants in public dhikrs are (almost) always men, there have been some well-known Sufi women adepts, e.g. Rābiʿah al-Baṣrī, and many others, less well-known. Women participate considerably in popular Sufism, especially in visits to the tombs of walis, mulids.

Perhaps Sufism is best defined as an universal path to union with God through self reflection – individuation. In Jungian psychology there are many concepts that illumine the relationship between soul and Absolute, human and God: the ego as the center of consciousness and the Self as a path to god; the individuation process whereby the ego increasingly realizes its source and dependence upon the Self; the alchemical conjunction of ego and Self.

Sufis understand themselves as the only heir of a spiritual heritage, which had been split in many religions and sects.  Like Tao, Sufi is eternal, and uses  words like “drunkenness” or “grape” or “heart” … As Rumi puts it: Before garden, vine or grape were in the world Our soul was drunken with immortal wine. 

I also found, to my astonishment, Sufism is addressing the greats belonging to a variety of cultures: Rumi, Shakespeare, Goethe and other influential thinkers and poets.  Goethe’s West-östlicher Divan, or West-East Divan, is a work with deep roots his knowledge of and love for Sufism. I regret to say, that Sufis even caught up with C.G. Jung, and the concept of individuation. C.G. Jung was aware, that any spiritual aware religion – for example Sufism and Catholicism – inherently resembles a psychoanalytic healing.

Boundaries of Sufism

Sufism in a hurry

Well, in any case lets define the boundaries first,  but be aware that my understanding of Sufism is deeply influenced by Idries Shah and the interpretation of it by C.G. Jung. This article is not an attempt to feminize Islam, but to explore Sufism from this particular point of view.

See above a slide show with some basic concepts of Sufism. You may press buttons to change slides manually or switch to full screen.

  •  Sufism is a dimension of Islam rather than a sect of Islam. Its mysticism and monastic order are hosted by Islam, but originating and reaching beyond Islam. The abstinence from pleasure, wealth, and prestige sought by most Sufi Masters, and their retiring from others to worship alone has of course a striking similarity to Christian monks. Sufi orders (Tariqas) can be found in Sunni, Shia and non-Islamic (or hardly Islamic) groups. Like the Christian monks Sufis were influential in spreading their belief, particularly to the furthest outpost world in Africa, India and the Far East.
  • Doris Lessing, stated once: “I found Sufism as taught by Idries Shah, which claims to be the reintroduction of an ancient teaching, suitable for this time and this place.” Arthur J. Deikman, a professor of psychiatry, expressed the view that Western psychotherapists could benefit from the perspective provided by Sufism”.
  • Sufis are emphatic, that knowledge should be learned from teachers and not exclusively from books. They view deceiving and fanatic fundamentalists seeing Sufis as haram and deceiving scholars as evil spirits, no wonder that these attempts to destroy Sufi heritage.
  • Tariqas can trace their teachers back through the generation. Modelling themselves on their teachers, students hope that they too will glean something of the Prophetic character. Although Sufis are relatively few in number they have shaped thought and history. Through the centuries Sufis contributed hugely to  literature for example Rumi, Omar Khayyám and Al-Ghazali’s is quoted by Western philosophers, writers and theologians.
  • This new voice of the Abrahamic tradition attempted to reestablish the recognition of the Unity of Being. It tried to address the imbalances that had arisen by the three religions of the books, advising respect and honor for the feminine as well as for the graciousness and harmony of nature.
  • From the early days onward, women have played an important role in the development of Sufism, which is classically claimed to have begun with the Prophet Muhammad, but Sufisms’s roots are most likely older. Within some Sufi circles, women were integrated with men in ceremonies; in other orders, women gathered in their own circles of remembrance and worshiped apart from men. Some women devoted themselves ascetic, apart from society, others chose the role of benefactress and fostered circles of worship and study. Many of the great masters had female teachers, students, and spiritual friends who greatly influenced their thought and being.  The Sufi Master Ibn Arabi (see below), tells of time he spent with one elderly woman mystic, Fatimah of Cordova:  “I served as a disciple one of the lovers of God, a gnostic, a lady of Seville called Fatimah bint Ibn al-Muthanna of Cordova. I served her for several years, she being over ninety-five years of age… “


panteistic god

panteistic god

Given the diversity of schools and the diversity of religious and philosophical ideas of their masters, it is very difficult to pin down the Sufi thoughts define. By some scholars Sufism is considered a perfect pantheism in the search for knowledge and reunion with the Divine. I prefer, therefore, not necessarily to speak of any religious doctrine in Sufism, as the Sufi belief system exceeds them Sufism is free because of its mindset of every religious limit. Rather, it seems to me an attitude, an enlightened philosophy of the individual search for God.  Ibn al-‘Arabi (Ibn’ Arabi) (se also below)  is the most rigorous Sufi panentheism. Many theologians were scandalized by the apparently blasphemous expressions that occur in his writings, and taxed him with holding heretical doctrines, e.g., the incarnation of God in man (ulúl) and the identification of man with God (ittiád). Centuries passed, but controversies continue. To Ibn al-‘Arab everything, that exists is a part of and a manifestation of the Oneness of God. Humans are part of God. To him the idea of a separate self is the result of ignorance. Ibn al-‘Arabi was born in Spain, in AD 1165. At the age of twenty he was initiated into Sufism. From the 1190s he engaged in three decades of travels as a wandering scholar, poet and mystic, visiting the Maghreb, Egypt, Arabia, Syria and Asia Minor and finally settled in Damascus. Ibn’ Arabi ascribes the source of his inspirations to an angel, which, in Jungian terms, is an archetypal inhabitant of the unconscious. Angels are particularly regarded as the messengers or intermediaries between God and the human world. With respect to the psyche, as intermediaries and messengers, angels are the very permeability of the division between the two zones of the psyche. Unconscious content, which cannot be directly apprehended by the conscious, is translated into terms the conscious can comprehend: language. Intermediaries between conscious and unconscious are necessary because, as Jung points out, [. . .] “psychic contents cannot be observed in their unconscious state, and moreover the psyche cannot know itself. The conscious can know the unconscious only so far as it has become conscious “( C. G. Jung). Insofar as God is beyond the categories of human thought and beyond language and concept, He is unknowable, unutterable. Commensurately, the Sufi experience of God is referred to as knowledge of the heart. The Sufi calls “knowledge” his own experience – in all areas of the senses and in the experience of own transcendence.  Important is the strength and the ability to leave the social frames of that limitation, religion to which we belong; then, suddenly, the consciousness understands the true core of any religion.  Any religion.

Sufi literature

We owe a lot Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866) , who was a German poet, translator, and one of the founders of the German Oriental Studies. Like Heine and Goethe was Friedrich Rückert a German Sufi ethics. As a translator of poetry Rückert devoted himself to the transmission of countless Sufi verses in the German language poets. 1818, the same year, as Goethe drew up a WestEastern Divan,  the eloquent young poet came to Vienna and began studying oriental languages. With its dual talent, poetic and philological“, Rückert translated Arabic and Persian poetry, notably the Sufi mysticism, amazingly accurate.

Ibn ‘Arabî – Sufism and heresy



Ibn `Arabî (1165-1240) has been one of the most influential Sufi authors, who deeply influenced the west. He wrote in Persian and Arabic clearly not only for the purposefully for a global readership of all beliefs, but was quite at odds with scholarly interpretations of religious thoughts.  Through Spain and Sicily, and in part by the Templars Cristian and Sufi  thoughts interrelated. The Sufis in the East, like the Christian mystics in the West were attracted the refreshing, deep old knowledge of the Oriental world. None of them apparently did not fear the danger of heresy, and many of them led a double life, so to speak: on the one hand, they lived as devout Christians or Muslims, on the other hand they thought as Sufi scholars.
In the 12th century the master Suhrawardi lived in Aleppo. He wrote the work “The knowledge of enlightenmentand was murdered by order of the orthodox Scholars. They publicly burned his writing, but some copies have survived: Suhrawardi
refers to the Sufi tradition as identical with the esoteric teachings of the old Egyptians, the Greeks and the Persians. Later the English scholar Roger Bacon, who spread this knowledge in Europe. Bacon confirmed in his writings that the Sufi ideas came from the ancient Egyptian era and later inherited Pythagoras, Zoroaster and Socrates thoughts.The Sufis have always called The Lovers”.



But behind the concept of Love hides rather the pursuit of truth, for the knowledge. In his book The Sufis” Idries Shah gives a brief history of the great masters Ibn `Arabî  and Sufi. Idries Shah finds many parallels between Francis and the Dervishes: the clothing with hood and wide sleeves, the exchange of secular dresses with a cowl and the Franciscan idea of the “holy prayer” and Francistypical Welcome: Pace a voi “Peace be with you” which is an Arabic greeting

Idries Shah suggests, based on the Spanish Priest Asin Palacios, that Dante had drawn on Ibn ‘Arabi’s writings for his Divine Comedy. That has to be interpreted differently not as a de-christianizing of Dante, as the central theme of comedy” is the Trinity, that very concept, which distinguishes Christianity from Islam. Not only this poem as such has a Trinitarian form, but also the process, by which the pilgrim Dante (and with it the reader) through purgatory ascends to heaven, “proves” the Trinity. Through the process of self-perfection of the pilgrim Dante, who gradually realizes the divine laws of the universe, he reached the entrance to the world of science, to paradise. The Earthly Paradise turns out at the end of the book about Purgatory as a chimera, and as a polemical contrast, the real paradise unfolds as a process, by which the individual understands the divine laws, as a science. Dante’s poem seems a proof of Jun’s individuation and the Sufi paths though. Both relate to the Christian idea of the imago viva Dei.

In the 13th century, the Scuola siciliana“, the Sicilian literary movement was established at the court of the Hohenstaufen. Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, a pupil of the Templars, founded this institution. The German Emperor Friederich II (Frederick) spoke and wrote Arabic perfectly, and the soldiers of his bodyguard were all Arabs. Sicily, then in charge of the Knights Templars was the center of the Arab sciences. The German Emperor was a close friend of the Sultan of Egypt, al-Kamil, the very same Sultan, who had also received the St. Francis of Assisi.

Rumi – Sufism and individuation

In his book The Sufis” Idries Shah gives a unique history of the great master Rumi. This is a typical example of Sufi central theme – love – therefore I would like to quote it here:

„Ein Mann kam zur Tür der Geliebten und klopfte. Eine Stimme fragte: – Wer ist da? –
-Ich bin es -, antwortete er.
Da sagte die Stimme: -Hier ist nicht genug Platz für mich und dich.- Und die Tür blieb geschlossen.
Nach einem Jahr der Einsamkeit unt Entbehrung kam der Mann wieder und klopfte.
Von drinnen fragte die Stimme: – Wer ist da?-
– Du bist es -, sagte der Mann. Und die Tür wurde geöffnet.“
(Jalauddin Rumi)

The  connection between the Troubadour movement and Sufis had been established long ago. The term “Troubadour”, the “Finder” can be originally derived from an Arabic root rbb”, as this certain Sufi community, whose members are the slaves of love”, played viola. And from the Arabic word for “Viola” came the European Troubadour”. The Sufis have always called The Lovers”. But behind the concept of Love hides rather the pursuit of truth and knowledge.

How is it that a thirteenth-century Sufi master, like  Rumi should become the darling of the West and Amazon Kindle books, in times with interest in neither poetry nor spiritual discipline?  His works include a massive collection of lyric poems (ghazels and rubaiyat) as well as the six-volume Mathnawi, a collection of rhymed couplets that weaves together a rich fabric of stories, humor, and spiritual teaching. In our Western literary tradition and empty churches we have lost this union of the sensual and the spiritual. Our own cultural history has discarded: religion and literature. The Sufis, especially, were neither puritanical nor sensual indulgent. In Rumi we have a model of the potential harmony between the physical and the spiritual, the animus and the anima, the Ego and the Self, the human and the Divine.  Two examples from Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks

When I am with you, we stay up all night,
When you’re not here, I can’t get to sleep.
Praise God for these two insomnias!
And the difference between them.

And an excerpt …

Could this be our real master?

The lover is forever like a drunkard whose secrets spill out,forever mad, frenzied, and in love.
To be self-conscious is to worry about everything, but once drunk, what will be will be.
If you desire the self, get out of the self.
Leave the shallow stream behind and flow into the river deep and wide.
Don’t be an ox pulling the wheel of the plow, turn with the stars that wheel above you.

Sufism and psychology

Source: Khalil Andani’s Concept of Tawhid in the Isma’ili & Sufi Thought

Source: Khalil Andani’s Concept of Tawhid in the Isma’ili & Sufi Thought

In Arabic, the words for ‘eye, ‘fountain’, and ‘self or identity (Self or Ego)’ all emerge from the same root.The specialty of having the same consonance for different words has given poets many opportunities for connections and word play, and Ibn ‘Arabi made masterly use of it.Gardens of paradise are beautiful metaphors for the heart; its center being this spring, which waters and vivifies all in the garden. Spreading out from this centre, according to this cosmological diagram (from Miguel Asin Palacios’ 1931 book on Ibn ‘Arabi  – El Islam cristianizado)  he compares the Ibn ‘Arabi’s vision of paradise to that of Dante: Self and Ego arr central concepts.

Every discipline – temporal or spriritual –  in the world has among its practitioners, those who engage the faith beyond the common boundaries of doctrine and dogma, seeking an unmediated relationship with reality and selfrealization. Sufism, as can be discerned from the writings of Ibn’ Arabi and Jelaluddin Rumi, can be discussed in the terms offered by C.G. Jung in his theories of the structures and functions of the human psyche. In Jung’s terms, Sufism can be seen as an example of how a healthy, integrated psyche might function, and what a living mythology might look like. Sufism as a psychological system has postulated the discoveries of Freud or C.G.Jung centuries before: the Sufi sheikh Ghasali wrote down the sexual knowledge of Freud around 1200 AD and C. G. Jung’s findings on psychological archetypes and the collective unconscious were formulated by the Sufi Master Ibn Arabi. C.G. Jung might have known that  therefore and wrote: „What we hold for a specifically western invention, namely the psychoanalysis and those of her outgoing suggestions, it is a beginner’s attempt in comparison to that what is old-skilled art in the east.“  He meant the Far East, but also the Middle East as he was well aware of the findings of the Nag Hammadi library (famous for the “fifth” Gospel of Thomas favored by the Sufis). C. G. Jung has shown a pronounced and informed interest in Gnosticism an Middle Eastern knowledge.  Sufism emphasises on the knowledge of transcendence arrived at by way of interior, intuitive means as Jung’s individuation. The importance of the Nag Hammadi library, discovered in upper Egypt in 1945, was pointed out by C.G. Jung. His Book “Antwort auf Hiob” (Answer to Job) is a downright  answer to the Bible´, but in accordance of Sufism’s answer to rigid religions.  In the light of such recognitions, one may ask: “Is Sufism a religion or a psychology?” The answer is that it may very-well be both, just like Jung’s thought may be interpreted religiously. One of the aeonial beings who bears the name Sophia (“Wisdom”), referred to by C.G. Jung many times,  is of great importance to the Gnostic world view and resembles closely the story of the human psyche that loses its connection with the collective unconscious and needs to be rescued by the Self. Analogies of this sort exist in great profusion.

Sufism and syncretic Gnosticism

Myth of the Baphomet derived from its usage in Provence the centre of the Cathar Church in France,

Myth of the Baphomet derived from its usage in Provence the centre of the Cathar Church in France,

We do not know for sure, why has Sufism so much common with Gnosticism. The reason is maybe, that both of these systems implanted their mystical ways, in the prophetic religion (Judaism,Christianity or Islam,) or in a deeper sense how to individually unite with God. We can also admit that the Gnostic Christianity could have influenced the early stage of Islam, particularly Arianism.

The Sufi and also Gnostic view on the created world is sometimes very negative.“The world is a dunghill, and a gathering place of dogs; and meaner than a dog is that person who does not stay away from it.”  Sufi could not participate in secular affairs and he must know, that world is a merely an illusion. Even Jesus (highly considered by Sufis) said in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas: “Whoever has cometo understand the world has found (only) a corpse, and whoever has found a corpse is superior to the world.”  We can clearly say that Gnostics and Sufis are not interested in the world or they despise it. Not only, the world is seen in the negative light, but also the work of the heavens and the time. According to the Gnostics, the mundane world is influenced and ruled by the lower heavens – seven spheres with one planetary ruler( archon).
Gnosticism From ancient Oriental religion? Zoroastrian, Mesopotamian, Indian? From heterodox Judaism? Apocalyptic, mystical? From heterodox Christianity? From late Hellenistic philosophy? Neoplatonism?

From ancient Oriental religion?
Zoroastrian, Mesopotamian, Indian?
From heterodox Judaism?
Apocalyptic, mystical?
From heterodox Christianity?
From late Hellenistic philosophy?

While Sufi teachings have been influenced by various religions, their practices also bear close similarities to those of Hinduism and other mystical religions of the East. The Sufi orders are led by shaikhs, who play the same role as Hindu gurus.  Most Sufi orders still consider the five pillars of Islam to be essential, and practice them piously, however, they go far beyond this, aiming to spiritual awakening. Central to all of these practices are ritual “invocations of the Divine Name,” also known as dhikr, which can be done either silently or in a chant. Here similarities with Hindu mantras are unmistakable.  The evidence of Sufi borrowings from other Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Zoroastrianism is certain. The similarities in teachings and ritual are overwhelming. It is no surprise then that the goals of Sufism reflect their pantheism and monism.  Of course it is one of the characteristics of living traditions that they are ultimately oral. The spark that kindles the enlightenment is rarely captured on paper: it shifts its emphasis and context with the times and the individual. In matters of the heart and soul, it is the experience of love or of the Self that resonates – not dogmas or theories. This aspect of Sufism is the hardest to convey: In Sufism, great importance is given to the complete human being, the one who is considered activated. It is through the guidance of such a human being that the inner process unfolds. Any particular beliefs in dogmas dissolve as the complete one assists the seeker to fall fully into his or her relationship with God and to recognize the importance of that essential experience.

The socially approved knowledge of argumentation is not valid  – unless we have found it out ourself. The Sufi calls all things meaningless, if they are old or new, big or small, important or insignificant, because all things are separated in reality forms one and not. All things („the evident“) are merely bridges to the true reality. Rituals, symbols are representatives, are to reflexion of an internal truth they can be exterior dead and stereotyped; but they show that who can see a way to the internal truth. There is no external sign (like the Christians Cross or the Crescent of Islam) from which one could say this symbolises the Sufi being. Sufis use the most different symbols, quite knowingly that these are just represented phenomena.

Sufism and female archetypes

Fatimah – the primordial woman

Fatimah Zehra wife of Ali

Fatimah Zehra wife of Ali

Fatimah, beloved daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, is the most prominent female in the Islamic tradition. Islam is aniconic. In other words, images, effigies, or idols her are not allowed, although verbal depiction is elaborate. She is regarded as a  primordial woman, a symbol of divine womanhood giving her many holy names. Shias revere the person of Fatimah, mother of the line of inspired imams who embodied the divine truth for their generation. She was the wife of the fourth Caliph, wife of Ali, mother of Hasan and Hussein and defended Ali’s cause, fiercely opposed the election of Abu Bakr. Fatimah is often associated with Sophia, the divine wisdom, which gives birth to all knowledge of God. She has thus become another symbolic equivalent of the Great Mother. When Fatimah,  enters the throne all 124,000 Prophets stand in respect. Around the world men and women of Islam and Sufism look to Fatimah for comfort and inspiration. Because of her special beingness of personality and beyond, Fatimah is considered by many Muslims as divine in origin and several variations of a major hadith describe how she was conceived on the night of Mi’raj (ascension).

I heard the Apostle of Allah say, ‘I am a tree, Fatimah is its trunk and Ali is its pollen. Hassan and Hussein are its fruits, and our followers are its leaves. The roots of the tree are in the Garden of Eden, and its trunk, fruits and leaves are in Paradise.’ – Sacred tradition of Islam on the authority of ‘Abdu ‘r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf’

Fatimah tul Zehra (Fatimah the Radiant, Fatimah the Brightest Star, Fatimah-Star of Venus, Fatimah-The Evening Star), the daughter of the Prophet, is the secret in Sufism. She is the Hujjat of ‘Ali. In other words, she establishes the esoteric sense of his knowledge and guides those who attain to it. Through her perfume, we breathe paradise. Though she was his daughter, the Prophet Muhammad called her Um Abi’ha (mother of her father). While Fatimah Zehra was Muhammad’s daughter, the Rasulallah (Prophet of God – Muhammad) understood that his gnosis was bestowed upon him from the Divine Feminine.

In his allegorical book Herrman Hesse’s  “The Journey to the East” searches for a mystical woman named Fatima. Given that this is the author of Siddhartha, one might suppose that the league represents a group of individuals in search of eastern mysticism. The book has clear spiritual overtones.

Sophia – Sufism’s goddess of wisdom

At the very core of Sufism there is a vision of the gnostic Sophia. The philosopher Muid ad-Din ibn al-Arabi (1165-1240) saw a young girl in Mecca surrounded by light and realised that, for him, she was an incarnation of the divine Sophia. She is part of many mystical and religious currents and mentioned often by the psychoanalyst C.G. Jung.

  • Torah/Old Testament: Sophia is the Greek word for wisdom which is a “she” who personifies integrity, honesty, clear perception, the power by which kings and princes rule, and the creative power present with Yahweh at creation. (see also C. G. Jung’s Answer to Job about the “anamnesis of Sophia” referring to the recollection of God of Wisdom.)
  • Ancient Wisdom Goddesses: Isis as the “Black One.”
  • Iranian Sufism: Sophia is Perfect Nature, the object of ecstatic ideation, which was described in an 11th century text as “the philosopher’s angel.” (Cf. H. Corbin, Man of Light in Iranian Sufism.)
  • Gnosticism: Two Sophias, higher and lower: Ogdoad and Sophia Achamoth, the generative wisdom of the world. (Cf. also “The Thunder Perfect Mind” in Nag Hammadi Library.)
  • Alchemy: Sapientia (Latin for Sophia, Wisdom). Moon, tree, ogdoad, alchemical salt. (Cf. Jung’s writings on alchemy.)
  • Christian Black Madonnas in churches throughout Europe: may represent Sophia (often likened to Mary Magdalene) in exile, blackened by association with either the sun, solar principle, or the earth, as in alchemy, black earth.
  • Western mystical /philosophical/ humanistic tradition: Dante, Boethius, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Rudolph Steiner . . .
  • Nietzsche: “Supposing truth is a woman . . .” (Beyond Good and Evil)
  • Jungian psychology:  anima development in male psychology; individuation concept.


Sophia (Greek for “wisdom”) comes from Hellenistic philosophy (Platonism) and is important in Gnosticism, Orthodox Christianity and Christian mysticism. Sophia is honored as a goddess of wisdom by Gnostics, as well as by some Neopagan, New Age, and feminist-inspired Goddess spirituality groups. In Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity, Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), is an expression of understanding for the second person of the Holy Trinity  as seen in the Book of Proverbs 9:1, but not a goddess.

The earliest Gnostic forms of Sophia emphasized her power and influence on earth and in the human psyche.  In the ancient text of Hypostasis of the Archons, found at Nag Hammadi, it is written that Sophia preexisted and gave birth to the male godhead. She chastises his arrogance when he says there is no other god before him. She claims her spiritual authority. She says “you are wrong, Samuel” (meaning Lord of the blind) and stretches forth her finger to send light into matter. She then follows the light down into the region of “Chaos.”

This power of Sophia within the earth realm was seen in early visions:  “I am nature, the universal mother, mistress of all the elements, primordial child of time, sovereign of all things spiritual, queen of the dead, queen of the immortals, My nod governs the shining heights of heaven, the wholesome sea breezes, the lamentable silences of the world below. I know the cycles of growth and decay.”  



Certainly Sophia has been derived by the Great Mother(s) from whom all life arises and is sustained. The Great Mother was worshipped from 25,000 to 5,000 BC. Themes of the intertwining of nature and spirit, and the paradox of life and death are everywhere in images of the Great Feminine.  Muid ad-Din ibn al-Arabi  believed that women were the most potent icons of the sacred, because they inspired a love in men, which must ultimately be directed to God, the only true object of love. Ibn al-Arabi argued that humans have a duty to create theophanies for themselves, by means of the creative imagination that pierces the imperfect exterior of mundane reality and glimpses the divine within.

The faculty of imagination is commonly associated with the Divine Feminine. The Sufi poetry teaches the feminine qualities of joy, love, tenderness and self sacrifice on a path of true knowledge derived from the spiritual heart. The spiritual rebirth of the individual is not unlike the trial and tribulation of physical childbirth, according to the Sufis. They take the principle of divine love and use it to facilitate the process of alchemical transformation from mundane human to spiritual being. Sophia is the mystical companion, which belongs to no race or religion exclusivly: ‘My place is the placeless, my trace is the traceless. ‘Tis neither body, nor soul, for I belong to the Soul of the Beloved.’40 Certainly, the Divine Feminine is so marginalized in Islam, that one might be forgiven for believing it to be totally absent.Both Mary and Fatimah are reverenced within esoteric Islam, for they are both mothers of the Logos, the Word. Fatimah inherits the role of Spenta Armaiti, within Shi’ism, for she is the mother of a lineage of imams. She is seen as symbolic of the ‘supracelestial earth.’  She is considered to be the source of the imam’s wisdom because she is lawh mahfuz or ‘the hidden tablet; upon which God has written.’  One of her titles in Ismaeli Shi’ism is Fatimah Fatir, or Fatimah the Creator, which recalls the Sophia Ergane of Proverbs.The nature of both the Black Goddess and Sophia are brought out in Islam. The exoteric fulminations about women, so similar to those found in Christianity and Judaism are, of course, negative polarizations of the devouring Goddess, yet this exists side by side with the positive image of the Ka’ba, Islam’s Black Madonna, preserves the veiled tradition of Sufism.

The Peacock Angel and Sufi’s Iblis



Considered a mystery by Orientalists, the Cult of the Snake and Peacock in Iraq was founded on the teaching of a Sufi Sheikh, Adi, son of Musafir, in the twelfth century, although they date their origin back 6,000 years or more.The Yezidi faith is syncretic and combines elements of Judaism, Christianity, Sufism, Manichaeism and the Persian Zoroastrianism faith in parallel and selectively.
In Arabic, ‘Peacock’ also stands for ‘adornment’; while ‘Snake’ has the same letter-form as ‘organism’ and ‘life’. Hence the symbolism of the cryptic Peacock Angel Cult—the Yezidis—is a way of indicating ‘The Interior and the External’, traditional Sufi formula. The Cult has adherents in the West, but was largely unknown,  before CNN put the spotlight on them, because of their recent persecution (together with the Christians).

In the Gnostic tradition (in which both Yezidi and Sufism have some roots), the Peacock Angel is analogous to the first son of the Goddess Sophia, who in the process of creating and governing the universe divided herself into seven rays or “sons.” Her seven sons were coeval with and governed one of the seven colors, tones, planets, etc. The  peacock was the first form of the Supreme God and one of the Seven Great Angels, named Tawsi Melek or Melek Tawus (the Ildabaoth of the Gnostic’s).

Aroused snake by the entrance to a Yezidee-temple. It is blackened by soot.

Aroused snake by the entrance to a Yezidee-temple. It is blackened by soot.

However the Angel’ other name — Shaytan — means “devil” not only in Arabic, even in German Scheitan means Satan. Therefore Yezidi, have often seen as Devil worshippers, also through the manifestation the Peacock Angel as as a snake. This is analogous with the gnostic understanding of the Serpent on the Tree in the Garden of Eden –  interpreted in Christianity as Satan. Furthermore, because to the connection to the Sufi Iblis tradition, some equate the Peacock Angel with their own unredeemed evil spirit Satan. Iblis is a supernatural being — either a fallen angel or a diabolical fiery creature known as a jinn. In his disobedience against God and his role as tempter of mankind, again resembling the rebellious Satan in the Christian tradition. In fact, they are more remnant of pre Christian religion: the peacock angel being the mysterious Phoenix. The picture above shows an aroused snake by the entrance to a Yezidee-temple. It is blackened by soot. Yezidees (today almost a million believers) think, that in the last judgement the devil will be reconciled with God, and even play an important role in the final judgement of man.

Mary – Sufism’s divine mother

Holy Mary

Mary – Divine Mother                       Maria-Hilf-Kirche. Murnau was the chosen residence of the famous painters – Blaue Reiter

Mary, mother of Christ, is regarded as the most marvelous of all women, a high adept and living example of the pure and holy life. Later commentaries describe Mary as an intervening force between God and humanity. When Muhammad retook Mecca, he removed many frescoes and images from Kaaba, that he considered inauspicious but he specifically left on the walls a fresco of the Virgin Mary and her child.
In one of the most powerful Hadiths ( prophetic sayings of Muhammad) it is reported that Muhammad said, “Paradise is at the feet of the Mother”. Muhammad was escorted by the archangel Gabriel (a masculine force) but the vehicle upon which he rode was the Buraq, a white horse with wings and the face of a woman, clearly suggesting a symbol Goddess or Divine Mother.

A Sufi Ode to the Divine Mother

On the face of the earth there is no one more beautiful than You
Wherever I go I wear your image in my heart
Whenever I fall in a despondent mood I remember your image
And my spirit rises a thousand fold
Your advent is the blossom time of the Universe
O Mother you have showered your choicest blessings upon me
Also remember me on the Day of Judgement
I don’t know if I will go to heaven or hell
But wherever I go, please always abide in me.

While Sophia has noteworthy archetypal qualities, she lacks in some of the most virtuous aspects. Within the areas they lack in virtue and morality, the Virgin Mary, who is from Christian religions, make up for them. The Virgin Mary is the mother of Jesus, the Son of God. Mary is not the wife of God though. She was chosen by God to give birth to Jesus. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus” (Luke 1:31). Mary represents everything good in the world. She has never been touched and is clean and pure. The Virgin Mary represents the woman that man wants. “She will conceive…a Son”. Mary is the subservient to man. She is not represented with any symbols, excepts for her pureness. She does not have any mystical powers, except for her conception of child without sex. The Virgin Mary is represented as a woman that has been graciously touched by God himself, and gives birth to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Yet she is still a “handmaid of the lord”(Luke 1:38). The church, the creator of this story, was apparently concerned with the idolization of the Virgin Mary and wrote:

God came down from heaven, the Word clothed Himself with flesh from a holy Virgin, not, assuredly, that the Virgin should be adored, nor to make her God, nor that we should offer sacrifice to her name, nor that, now after so many generations, women should once again be appointed priests…Let no one adore Mary. (Epiphanius 49)

Here we can see man coming into the monotheism, where Christian belief is today. The Virgin Mary does represent a mother archetype, although it is not as prevalent as Demeter and Isis. Mary’s character is more housed, in a way that can be controlled and can be put into guidelines. Just as times before, man wants what he can not have. In Mary’s case, the forever virgin.
Man needs to realize that men and women are different, and each has wonderful traits. Though many of these archetypes are brought on by the unconscious mind, which is the portion of one’s psyche which is outside of awareness, those thoughts should be left at the realization that they are thoughts. These goddess or mother archetypes are brought into our societies to teach man and woman the values in each other. To restore balance in one’s lives. Demeter, she helped to explain strange occurrences in Greece as well as reveal the importance of woman’s traits to give life. Isis, she kept the Egyptian nation strong and united during her reign by being everything at once. Mary, she has had mercy brought into the Christian beliefs against the sometimes stern male God. All three characters are important throughout history, and have managed to keep their legends alive.


The West is, as Herrman Hesses wrote 1920 in “The Longing of Our Time for a Worldview”.  We, in the West, “understand” Sufism, like the group of blind men (or men in the dark) who touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement. Some see Sufism as Neo-platonic, some connected with Manicheanism, some see Sufism as heretic Christianity and others as Persian sect (the latter three all may be interpreted as Gnosticism).  To me, Idries Shah’s presentation of Sufism as a form of timeless wisdom, that predated Islam makes sense. Sufis are connected with sacred sex and the movement of troubadours; quite a few important Sufi scholars were women. Sufism has often called the concept and denomination to love. Clearly the role of the Divine Feminine,  its principle has been described and explored at length in the tradition of Sufism. Sufism emphasizes passionate, mystical and individual adoration of God. Many Sufis (and other mystics in other religions) seek a spiritual union between themselves and the divine principle not unlike that between a child (the Sufi) and his mother (God) or a bride (Sufi) and the husband (God).


  • Idries Shah The Sufis 1964, Translated 1980 „Die Sufis“, Diederich’s Gelbe Reihe
  • West-östlicher Divan. In: Project Gutenberg.
  • Philip Jenkins  Baylor University, History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia — and How It Died
  • “The Other God”.  Yuri Soyanov, Yale University Press, 2000
  • neo-sufism-the-case-of-idries-shah-reprint
  • Women and Sufism, by Camille Adams Helminski
  • Ibn ‘Arabi, SELECTED POEMS
  • KABIR HELMINSKI, THE POCKET RUMI 2011 Shambhala Publication
  • Mystische Dimensionen des Islam, Annemarie Simmel 3rd Edition, Munich 1995
  • CW9(i) = Jung, C.G. The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol.9, Part I, The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious  Zürich 1951, Rascher
  • CW9(ii) = Jung, C.G. The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol.9, Part II, Aion Zürich 1951, Rascher
  • Jacobi, J. The Psychology of C.G. Jung.  Zürich 1961
  • Jung, C.G. Memories, Dreams, Reflections, London: Harper Collins, 1995, PG213.
  • The Yezidis


I encountered this fairly good paper and Hesses essay after I finished my article, which also investigated the fact that spiritual Sufi training is very similar to the process of Individuation.

Spiritual Sufi Training is a Process of Individuation Leading Into the Infinite

This paper was presented to the VIII International Conference of the International Transpersonal Association at Davos, Switzerland, Sept 1st, 1983, by Irina Tweedie

In his writings C.G. Jung emphasized repeatedly that the process of individuation is purely a psychological and not a spiritual one. Consequently, the title of my talk, “Spiritual Sufi training is a process of individuation leading into the infinite” would appear misleading. Still, there are far too many similarities between both of these processes not to allow us to draw significant parallels.

As we all know well, the ultimate goal of individuation is to make a human being whole, complete so to say; in order that all the conscious and the unconscious contents of his psyche may work in unison; the ultimate result should be that he becomes a valid member of human society. The ultimate goal of Sufi training is to live a guided life, guided from within by that which is the Infinite, able to catch the Divine Hint and act accordingly.

From the moment that my Teacher took me seriously in hand, it became increasingly clear to me that the spiritual training was a continuation of the Jungian integration process, but on a higher octave, if I may put it this way. Especially when happenings began to gather momentum, I became more and more fascinated by the discovery that the training devised by the tradition of Yoga thousands of years ago is absolutely identical with certain modern psychological criteria of today.
Jung says—as quoted in The Way of Individuation by Jolande Jacobi:

The experience of God in the form of an encounter or ‘unio mystica’ is the only possible and authentic way to a genuine belief in God for modern man. The individuation process can ‘prepare’ a man for such an experience. It can open him to the influence of a world beyond his rational consciousness, and give him insight into it. One might say that in the course of the individuation process a man arrives at the entrance to the house of God.
The Teacher takes the human being further along the way. That is all.

It is not my intention to bore you with the description as to how this is done; all I will try to do is to show you that the Teacher is apt to use the same methods as an analyst—or more correctly, the Teacher will invariably use his yogic powers to help the pupil step by step on the steep ladder of spiritual unfoldment.

How many of us know how the energies work? And how to use them to get the human being exactly to the point needed at this particular moment? I think very, very few.

Every analyst knows about the dangers of inflation. Again and again Jung draws our attention to the danger of being “puffed up.”

The inflation has nothing to do with the kind of knowledge, but simply and solely with the fact that any new knowledge can so seize hold of a weak head that he no longer sees and hears anything else. He is hypnotized by it, and instantly believes he has solved the riddle of the universe. But that is equivalent to almighty self-deceit. (Collected Works, Volume 7, p. 243)

I often wondered how many Cleopatras and Napoleons are in mental hospitals because of this inflation turning a weak mind if left unchecked.

Jung himself had his personal battle with inflated Ego. He tells us in his posthumous work Memories, Dreams, Reflections, how, on awakening from a dream in which he killed ‘Siegfried’, he felt an irresistible urge to fathom out the meaning of the dream which at first eluded him. He knew that his whole future depended on his right understanding of it. It soon dawned on him that he had absolutely to abandon the Siegfried attitude, the arrogance and confidence of the self-important ego, for Siegfried was himself, his conscious, cock-sure ego; unless that was completely eliminated it would spell disaster in any confrontation with the unconscious. Commenting upon this Helen Luke remarks:

Thinking to conquer and mould the forces of the unconscious to his will, Jung himself would most probably have been psychically “killed”. In the imagery of Dante, he was in great danger, as he stood upon this threshold of looking upon the Gorgon’s head; and so he would have turned to stone, his humanity lost in the coldness of insanity, or despair or uncontrollable inflation. The gate of Dis (a classical name for the underworld) can only be safely passed by those who have come to the kind of faith and humility which brought the angel to Dante’s aid. This Jung knew the moment he understood his dream. (“Dark wood to white rose, a study of meanings in Dante’s Divine Comedy”, 1975, p. 22)
In my case it was slightly different. The Teacher was there, pointing in the right direction. Here is one example:

A time came when I thought that I was progressing only because much understanding had come to me. One day, on a lovely and cool morning, I was sitting in his garden, My Teacher was in his big chair, the beads of his mala (a kind of rosary) were gliding soundlessly through his fingers. Only two or three people were around, immersed in a deep state of dhyana. The air was fragrant. A bird was singing on a nearby tree. Slow peaceful thoughts were drifting through my mind.
Suddenly he made a quick movement with his wrist, gathered the mala in his hand and said:

“Why are you trying to become a human being?”

The sudden sentence and the tone of the voice startled me, it was as if he had thrown a ball right into my face.

“Am I not a human being?” I stammered. Could not see what he was driving at…

I stared at his stern, forbidding face.

“Hm,” he said. Once more the mala began to glide rhythmically, bead after bead through his slender fingers; and slowly came the words.
“What you are I don’t know, but a human being you are not. Only when you will become less than the dust under my feet, only then will you be balanced, only then can you rightly be called a human being.”

I went cold. I instantly understood. Of course, inflation, I thought… Merciful God! How on earth did I not see it? Thinking that I was progressing, the moment of elation, of greatness, fleeting feelings of divinity… How dangerous… The word “balanced” gave me the clue. Of course, less than the dust under his feet, in deep humility, how can there be any inflation then?

Boundless was my admiration for him at that moment…
On another occasion when I was complaining a great deal about the excessive suffering to which he was subjecting me, he remarked “Your situation was the worst possible one; past karmas are part and parcel of the blood; it all has to be cleared, all of it, otherwise how will you be free?”

The phrase “Unconscious memories are stored in the bloodstream” flashed into my mind. I had read this sentence in Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Here were two identical statements, one by a Yogi who had no idea of modern psychology, and the other by one of the greatest psychiatrists of our time.

I would like to say something about the synchronicity of events which was especially evident when I was with my Teacher.

When my Teacher subjected me to a test I always had the uncanny feeling that there were three of us; my Teacher, myself and a third factor, a “mysterious Something” which one could perhaps call God, or destiny, or could it be a “meaningful coincidence”? Each time it happened in such a way that all the circumstances came together, in perfect meaningful order, exactly as it was required by the situation. I will give you one example as to how it worked.

The last two tests at the end of the training are the test of hunger and the test of acceptance of death. I would like to mention the first one, the test of hunger, because in this case the synchronistic events were really astounding.

To transfer money to India via bank draft took about six weeks. I had found out that if I sent to my friend in London a cheque on my bank, she would cash it and make out a postal order of the same amount addressed to me in India; then the whole transaction would take only three to four days. That is how we did it and I received my pension regularly this way. Now, it happened that my friend in London had builders repairing a wall in her house and she was also otherwise busy and not being able to go to the Post office personally, she asked an acquaintance of hers to do it for her, and to send the amount by registered air mail to my address in India. The woman did send the money registered, but by sea mail, which takes six weeks. I was waiting and waiting for the money to arrive, not understanding why it did not come… I was reduced to eating only potatoes, then the peelings of the potatoes left over, and after that, only water to drink. The attitude of my Teacher gave me a clear indication that he was subjecting me to a test.

I thought that I passed this test and I told him so a few weeks afterwards. He only laughed and changed the subject.

And it was always so; the circumstances arranged themselves in such a way that not only tests, but the whole of my life, were regulated by them to a far more obvious degree than happens ordinarily.

At that time it was a great mystery to me; I did not understand it. Now when more than twenty years have passed and with the knowledge I have acquired, it seems to me that there is really nothing to understand, it is all quite natural. Coincidences do not exist, all is part of the Wholeness, ourselves, our environment, our state of mind, everything! Subjected to an unusual psychological pressure as I was, my own psyche created the necessary conditions at that particular moment.

Anyone of us who has had at least a glimpse of the interlinkedness that underlies all things in the universe; or, to put differently, anyone who has had the experience of the absolute one-ness of all life, of causation, transition, time, space, in one word, anyone who has embraced the whole as one glorious chord resounding forever in eternity, such a one, I think, might get at least an idea of how it works.

The Upanishads tell us:

Brahma before you, Brahma behind you, Brahma above and below you,
Brahma to the right and to the left, and there is nothing but Brahma.

It is outside and inside you and you cannot see it, nor touch it,
nor smell it, but you can realize it, if you desire realization.
Similarly says the Bhagavad Gita:

I am the beginning, the middle and also the end of all beings (10.20)
Nor is there aught, moving or unmoving, that may exist bereft of me. (10.39)
And Saint Paul said (I quote from memory): “Like fish in water are we in Him and have our being.”

Perhaps we can grasp this intellectually; but then it means little. Only if it is for us a living experience, a widening of our horizon, without frontiers, without borders, losing ourselves into the endlessness, then and only then could we understand. It is said somewhere, “Like the dewdrop slipping into the shining sea.” I would rather put it, Alike the shining sea flowing into the dew drop.” And you feel yourself flowing out like a river, flowing out endlessly without ever diminishing… It is the most one can say, it is impossible for the mind to grasp it entirely, nor can one express it adequately in words.

On this subject C. G. Jung in volume 8 of his Collected Works, quotes Pico della Mirandola:

Firstly there is the unity in things whereby each thing is at one with itself, consists of itself, and coheres with itself. Secondly, there is the unity whereby one creature is united with the others and all parts of the world constitute one world. The third and most important (unity) is that whereby the whole universe is one with the Creator, as an army with its commander. (Heptaplus VI proem, in Opera omnia, Basel 1557, p. 40; Jung, Collected Works, Volume 8, pp. 490-1.)
Jung comments thus:

For him the world is One being, a visible God, in which everything is naturally arranged from the very beginning like the parts of a living organism. The world appears as the Corpus Mysticum of God… Just as in a living body the different parts work in harmony and are meaningfully adjusted to one another, so events in the world stand in a meaningful relationship which cannot be derived from any immanent causality. The reason for this is that in either case the behaviour of the parts depends on a central control which is supraordinate to them. (Collected Works, Volume 8, p. 491)
In fact Jung defines synchronicity as a “meaningful coincidence”. All happens within the oneness, that Oneness which Plotinus, the greatest of the Neo-Platonic School of philosophy, described thus:

For there (in the oneness) everything is transparent, nothing dark, nothing resistant: every being is lucid to every other, in breadth and depth, light runs through light. And each of them contains all within itself, and at the same times sees all in every other, so that everywhere there is all, all is all, and each all, and infinite the glory. Each of them is great; the small is great; the sun, there, is all the stars, and every star again is all the stars and sun…”(Ennead, V. 8)
As one proceeds on the path of Spirituality one realizes more and more the meaningful relation of the One to its parts. I think the secret is to see the detail as part of the whole.

What is the inner mechanism of synchronicity? How does it work?

It works by mirroring, by reflection. Everything mirrors itself into everything else. We are exposed to impressions from morning to evening from everyone with whom we come into contact.

At this moment my mind mirrors itself into your mind and your mind into my mind. It helps me to speak to you and it helps you to understand what I am talking about. Only, in reality, the understanding does not depend on speech; it is the atmosphere that matters. Speech, language, are external means by which we communicate with each other at the mental level, but the natural communication is this reflection which is mirrored from one to another.

For instance, if we are with peaceful people we feel peaceful, the aura of peace is around them. If we are among restless people, or gloomy people, we will feel restless or gloomy; one does not even need to speak to another or show one’s gloom, everyone can feel it.

Very often we develop the attribute belonging to the object which we hold in our thought. Reflection always works unconsciously but one can become aware of it and influence it with the conscious mind. We will be that which has come from the impression that we have received from someone else. We must not forget how creative the mind is. If you think of failure, failure will be attracted to you and you will fail constantly whatever you do. If there is anything that is reflected in our mind, we reflect it in outer life; and every sphere that our heart has touched is charged with the heart’s impression. As my teacher said:

What is in the heart becomes expressed outwardly. The exterior reflects the inner attitude. (Daughter of Fire, p. 222)
The Upanishads tell us that what one thinks, that one becomes; it is true; we become identified with the object of our thought; it becomes our own property, our own quality. Therefore the Upanishads add: Meditate on God.

After the death of my Teacher, when I was in the solitude of the Himalayan hills undergoing an inner transformation, even Nature around me reflected my state of mind; the storms, the cloud-capped peaks, the mists, the rainbows, the incredibly still nights full of stars, so near; all of it nearly always reflected what I felt within. And I was perfectly aware of the fact that it was not I reflecting happenings around myself; no; it was Nature mirroring outwardly what was happening within myself.

The mind becomes more and more one-pointed like an arrow pointing to its target. Very powerful is the one-pointed mind. The mind of every human being is powerful, but the mind aimed directly towards its goal is omnipotent.

“Unto the Eternal verily shall he go who, in his action reflects wholly upon the Eternal” says the Bhagavad Gita (4.24).

One has to be careful how one thinks because that which we have thought actually becomes! Here lies the explanation of the so-called miracles and wonder-working. These are nothing else but the very one-pointed mind at work.

Synchronicity is a fact. Chance does not exist. Cannot exist; it only looks to us, in our ignorance, like chance. It only looks thus to those of us who do not know the inner workings of the Law.

At the time when the darkness in me was rapidly coming up and the worst in my character was being brought out and had to be faced—otherwise how would it be possible to go ahead on the way my Teacher was leading me?—he would switch off my mind; yes, switch it off, I mean it literally. His repeated assertions that this path is effortless only served to increase my rebellion. Did I not know how much and how great an effort it cost me? But he was right. It is effortless. What is given is an act of Grace; a gift; how can a gift be an act of effort on the part of the one who receives it? The effort lies somewhere else… “in the power or endurance, the capacity for sacrifice, the will to go on, to hold out at any cost…” (Daughter of Fire, p. 194) One has to be worthy of the Grace. The cup has to be cleaned and emptied.

So from time to time my Teacher switched off my mind, the result being that the mind would work to a quarter of its strength or half according as it was switched off, twenty-five percent, or fifty percent or sometimes even seventy-five percent. In the latter case one could hardly think. It was never done for a long time; one cannot live without the mind! It was done to help me so that the quality of the Higher Principle, the spiritual insight, could come through, otherwise the mind clutters the channel of communication with its restless modifications.

The state of mindlessness is quite painless and very peaceful; one just cannot think. That is all.

The world around me became so lovely, full of light, a strange luminosity, a kind of elevated feeling, of special meaning. But it was also quite bewildering. Two very important factors were:

1. Firstly, the restricted physical vision. When it happens one cannot see except right in front as if one had blinkers such as are seen on horses. Also if I tried to look sideways turning my eyes either to the right or to the left, I became giddy.

2. Secondly, the mind itself, the thinking process would work in a kind of slow motion. To give an example: When leaving my Teacher’s garden where I usually sat, and walking down the street to go to my small Indian-style dwelling, all I could do was to be careful where to put my feet and watch the traffic, the crazy traffic of an Indian street. Cycles, rickshaws dashing along furiously ringing their bells non stop, cows wandering about aimlessly, chickens darting in and out between all and everything, taxis weaving about to avoid dogs and rickshaws and pedestrians, and hooting wildly, and I just able to look straight ahead, hardly taking anything in, only vaguely conscious of my surroundings.

To go home was a rather complicated undertaking. My Indian style accommodation consisted of a small courtyard round a tiny kitchen, a shower and a toilet cubicle, a small veranda and two small rooms opening onto the veranda. All surrounded by a nine foot wall which made it very private. To judge by Indian standards it was a very nice flat.

Arrived at the narrow door leading to the courtyard, I would stop. A door… it must be my door… It is familiar, so it must be mine. I kept thinking. To open it I would need a key. A key… a key… Ah! yes, in my bag… I began to rummage my bag in search of the key. Found it… Put it into the key hole, opened and closed the door behind me. Kept standing at the door… Am hungry… If hungry I must eat… eat… eat…. What? I did not remember what I had at home. I stared in front of me at the kitchen which had no door, was open to all elements. See some potatoes on the shelf. Stare at the potatoes. At first do not register what they are… Oh, yes, potatoes. Potatoes one has to cook… To cook them one has to peel them. To peel… to peel. Oh yes, one needs a knife… a knife, a knife… I keep looking at the knife before I am able to understand what it is. When I realise that it is what I want, I can begin to peel the potatoes. And so it went on with every action, with every thought. Everything was very much slowed down, for when I looked at things it took time to understand what they were, or what they were for, and what to do with them, and what the next action should be.

Life becomes rather complicated, but as I said it never lasted too long. Never longer than half a day and sometimes only for a few hours. And it is painless, as I have already mentioned.

When back in London, I was giving a lecture and explaining all that I have just said here. At the end of my talk a Canadian psychiatrist, who happened to be in the audience, asked me if I knew what was happening. I did not know; all I knew was that my Teacher was switching off my mind.

“Those symptoms you were describing,” explained the psychiatrist, Aare symptoms of schizophrenia. Thinking in slow motion, tunnel vision above all, sensation of light, of brilliance, of unreality. Your Teacher was creating an artificial schizophrenia. When a human being is standing with both feet firmly on the ground, with both legs on this earth, he is ‘quite normal’ as we medical practitioners call it, spiritual life is very difficult, perhaps even impossible. But if something is not quite right in the mind, a little wheel not properly working in the clockwork of the mind, then spiritual life is easy.”

We in the West have no idea of what the spiritual life implies in reality. Spiritual life is hard and rough; it means that one is taken into the arena, to fight one’s ultimate battle… The Master who knows his job will make one bite the dust; training is an analysis “plus”, in the sense that yogic power is used to bring the human being to the “cooking point”, at the maturity point the Teacher wants him to be.

For the self will not go in gladness and with caresses; it must be chased with sorrow, drowned in tears… (a Persian song)
When my Teacher sent me back to London in the spring of 1963 his wish was that I should lecture. When I asked him what he wanted me to speak on: “About Sufism, of course,” he answered. I had never lectured in my life before. I knew hardly anything about Sufism when I came to him, and I felt he taught me practically nothing. I told him so. I had a smattering of Hindu Scriptures, knew something about Hindu philosophy, but Sufism is different and I was puzzled. “If you are in despair you will cry for help and… it is always there.”

I had to be content with that.

In England many people knew that I had been in India with a Teacher, so it happened that I was asked to talk about India, about my Teacher and as the time went on, I found myself speaking on all sorts of subjects.

Later, when I had the opportunity to read some Sufi books I found that on whatever subject I happened to lecture, the point of view I presented was always the Sufi point of view. I wrote about it to my Teacher, but in his few letters to me he never commented on it. This, however, was not unusual; as a rule he explained very little to us.

After the death of my Teacher I stayed for a few months in a Vedic Sadhak Ashram in North India, near Dehra Dun. Twice a day a fire ceremony was performed with the chanting of the sacred Gayatri mantra. In the lovely, warm evenings, at dusk, I had interesting discussions with the learned, orange-robed swamis. Many spoke good English. I talked a lot about my Teacher who had died so recently. I felt so bereft. Once I happened to mention in conversation the fact that though I knew nothing about Sufism, its philosophy, it metaphysics, somehow it seemed to be quite naturally part of my mind as if I always knew it.

“Oh yes,” said one of the swamis, “It is hirdambara buddhi; the knowledge which is not learned, it is reflected into the tranquil mind of a yogi when the animal tendencies of like and dislike have ceased to be.”

I must confess, I did not particularly think that my mind was all that tranquil, but after all a certain amount of yogic detachment must have been achieved after being several years with my Teacher.

There exists a knowledge which is not learned. It is infused, or rather reflected directly into the mind from another plane of being. As everything in the universe is reflected from the Inner plane, the Unmanifested plane into the plane of Manifestation, so knowledge can also be directly reflected into the mind of an individual. The Upanishads have a beautiful symbolic expression for this:

Under the banyan tree sits the boy teacher amidst his aged disciples.
Silent remains the Teacher, and all the doubts of the disciples dissolve.
Through the tranquil pool of his mind the disciple learns to reflect the mind of his teacher, to catch his hint and finally to catch the Divine Hint. As my Teacher himself put it:

First one learns how to catch the hint of the guru, and afterwards, when one is well merged, the Divine Hint, which is faster than lightning. The guru will hint first; if the hint is not understood, then he orders. An order is easy to understand, but the guru trains the disciple to catch the Divine Hint rather. The guru can give orders again and again if the disciple does not understand; but God does not do so and the Hint is lost, and one may wait for a long time to get it again.

To grasp it one must be deeply merged, so merged that one even looks for a place to stand upon, but there seems to be none.

To grasp the hint is to act accordingly, and not even try to understand it. Acting accordingly is necessary rather than understanding. The Grace of God cannot be seized; it descends.
All of us must have seen the old black and white film of Carl Jung being interviewed by a journalist of the BBC. In it Jung is asked if he believes in God and his answer is: “I don’t believe; I know.” In the same film toward the end Carl Jung says: “Trust the meaning and make the meaning your Goal.”

I think this is the message to humanity for centuries to come. It does not matter whether the meaning be to become a successful greengrocer—or to realize the Truth. It is the Meaning which makes the whole of life worth while. Yes; to trust the meaning and to make it the goal; and the world thereby could be changed.

HERMANN HESSE, “The Longing of Our Time for a Worldview”

First published as “Die Sehnsucht unser Zeit nach einer Weltanschauung,” Uhu 2 (1926), 3-14 – Source: The Weimar Republic Sourcebook. University of California Press, 1994. pp. 365 – 368

The new image of the earth’s surface, completely transformed and recast in just a few decades, and the enormous changes manifest in every city and every landscape of the world since industrialization, correspond to an upheaval in the human mind and soul. This development has so accelerated in the years since the outbreak of the world war that one can already, without exaggeration, identify the death and dismantling of the culture into which the elder among us were raised as children and which then seemed to us eternal and indestructible. If the individual has not himself changed (he can do this within two generations no more than any animal species could), then at least the ideals and fictions, the wishes and dreams, and the mythologies and theories that rule our intellectual life have; they have changed utterly and completely. Irreplaceable things have been lost and destroyed forever; new, unheard-of things are being imagined in their place. Destroyed and lost for the greater part of the civilized world are, beyond all else, the two universal foundations of life, culture and morality: religion and customary morals. Our life is lacking in morals, in a traditional, sacred, unwritten understanding about what is proper and becoming between people. /366/

One need only undertake a short journey to be able to observe in living examples the decay of morals. Wherever industrialization is still in its beginnings, wherever peasant and small-town traditions are still stronger than the modern forms of transportation and work, there the influence and emotional power of the church is quite essentially stronger as well. And in all of these places we continue to come across, more or less intact, that which were once called morals. In such backward regions one still finds forms of interaction—greeting, entertainment, festivals, and games—which have long since been lost to modern life. As a weak substitute for lost morals, the modern individual has fashion. Changing from season to season, it supplies him with the most indispensable prescriptions for social life, tosses off the requisite phrases, catchwords, dances, melodies—better than nothing, but still a mere gathering of the transitory values of the day. No more popular festivals, but the fashionable entertainment of the season. No more popular ballads, but the hit tune of the current month.

Now, what morals are to the exterior shaping of a life, the agreeable and comfortable guidance of tradition and convention, religion and philosophy are to more profound human needs. The individual has not only the need—in customs and morals, dress and entertainment, sports and conversation—to be ruled and guided by a valid model by some kind of ideal, be it merely the daily ideal of fashion. He has as well in the deeper recesses of his being the need to see meaning attached to all that he does and strives for, to his existence, his life, and the inevitability of death. This religious or metaphysical need, as old and as important as the need for food, love, and shelter, is satisfied in calm, culturally secure times by the churches and the systems of itinerant thinkers. In times like the present a general impatience and disillusion with both received religious creeds and scholarly philosophies grow; the demand for new formulations, new interpretations, new symbols, new explanations is infinitely great. These are the signs of the mental life of our times: a weakening of received systems, a wild searching for new interpretations of human life, a flourishing of popular sects, prophets, communities, and a blossoming of the most fantastic superstitions. For even those who are superficial, not at all spiritual, and disinclined to thought still have the primal need to know that there is meaning to their lifes. And when they are no longer able to find a meaning, morals decay, and private life is ruled by wildly intensified selfishness and an increased fear of death. All of these signs of the are clearly legible, for those who care to see, in every sanatorium, in every asylum, and in the material reported everyday by psychoanalysts.

But our life is an uninterrupted fabric of up and down, decay and regeneration, demise and resurrection. Thus are all the dismal and lamentable signs of cultural decline matched by other, brighter signs that point to a reawakening of metaphysical needs, to the formation of a new intellectuality, and to a passionate concern for the creation of new meaning for our lives. Modern literature is full of these signs, modern art no less so. Making itself felt with particular urgency, however, is the need for a replacement for the values of the vanishing culture, for new forms of religiosity and community. That there is no shortage of tasteless, silly, even dangerous and bad substitute candidates is obvious. We are teeming with seers and founders; charlatans and quacks are mistaken for saints; vanity and greed leap at this new, promising area—but we must not allow these facts alone to fool us. In itself this awakening of the soul, this burning resurgence of longings for the divine, this fever heightened by war and distress, is a phenomenon of marvelous power and intensity that cannot be taken seriously enough. That there lurks alongside this mighty current of desire flowing through the souls of all the peoples a crowd of industrious entrepreneurs making a business of religion must not be allowed to confuse us as to the greatness, dignity, /367/ and importance of the movement. In a thousand different forms and degrees, from a naive belief in ghosts to genuine philosophical speculation, from primitive county-fair ersatz religion to the presentiment of truly new interpretations of life, a gigantic wave is surging over the earth; it encompasses American Christian Science and English theosophy, Mazdaznan [neo-Zoroastrian cult] and neo-Sufism , [Rudolf] Steiner’s anthroposophy, and a hundred similar creeds; it takes Count Keyserling around the world and leads him to his Darmstadt experiments [a spiritual School of Wisdom], supplies him with such a serious and important collaborator as Richard Wilhelm, and concurrently gives rise to a whole host of necromancers, sharpers, and clowns. I do not dare draw the line between that which is worthy of discussion and the utterly farcical. But, aside from the dubious promoters of modern secret orders, lodges, and fraternities, the unabashed superficiality of fashionable American religions, and the ignorance of unflinching spiritualists, there are other, sometimes supremely worthy phenomena, like [Karl Eugen] Neumann’s [1922] translation and dissemination of sacred Buddhist texts, Wilhelm’s translations of the great Chinese thinkers; there is the great and splendid return of Lao Tse, who, unknown for centuries in Europe, has appeared within three decades in countless translations in nearly all European languages, and conquered a place in European thought. Just as there arose within the chaos and irritating bustle of the German revolution a few pure, noble, unforgettable figures, like Gustav Landauer and Rosa Luxemburg, likewise there stands amid the raging, murky flood of modern attempts at religion a number both noble and pure: theologians like the Swiss pastor Ragaz; figures like Frederik van Eeden, who returned to Catholicism in old age; men, quite singular in Germany, like Hugo Ball, once a dramaturge and one of the founders of dadaism, then unabashed opponent of the war and critic of the German war mentality, then recluse and author of the wonderful book, Byzantinisches Christentum; and, so as not to forget the Jews, Martin Buber, who points modern Judaism toward profounder goals and has reacquainted us with the piety of the Hasidim, one of the most charming of all the blossoms in the garden of religions.

“And now,” some readers will ask, “where is it all leading? What will be the result, the final destination? What might we expect of it in general? Has one of the new sects the prospect of becoming a new world religion? Will one of the new thinkers be able to put forward a new, broad-minded philosophy?”

In some circles these questions will be answered in the affirmative. Among some adherents of the new doctrines, in particular the young, the happy mood of devotees confident of victory reigns, as if our epoch were destined to give birth to the savior, to give the world new certainties, new faiths, and new moral orientations for a new period of culture. That black mood of decline of some older, disillusioned critics of our time corresponds to this youthful credulity of the newly converted as its antipode. And still these youthful voices resound more pleasantly than those of the ill-humored and old. Nevertheless, these believers might be in error.

It is proper that we meet the longing of our time—this yearning search, these experiments, some blinded with passion, others coolly bold—with respect. Even if they are all condemned to failure, they nonetheless remain serious concerns with supreme goals; should none at all of them survive our time, they fulfill an essential function while they live. All of these fictions, these religious elaborations, these new doctrines of faith help people live, help them not only to endure this difficult, questionable life but to value it highly and hold it sacred. And if they were nothing but a lovely stimulus or a sweet anesthesia, then even that perhaps would not be so little. But they are more, infinitely more. They are the schools through which the intellectual elite of our times must pass. For every intellectualism and /368/ culture has a twofold task: first to give security and encouragement to the many, to console them, and to bestow meaning on their lives and second the more secret but no less important task for the few, for the great minds of tomorrow and the day after: to make possible for them to mature, to lend protection and care to their beginnings, to give them air to breathe.

The intellectualism of our time is infinitely different from the one that our elders once took up as our heritage. It is more turbulent, wilder, and poorer in tradition; it is less well schooled and has little in the way of method. But all in all, this contemporary intellectualism, including its powerful bent for mysticism, is certainly in no way worse off than the better trained, more learned, richer in traditional heritage, although less powerful intellectualism of that time in which aged liberalism and youthful monism were the leading tendencies. To me personally even the intellectualism in today’s leading currents from Steiner to Keyserling, remains a few degrees too rational, too little bold, too little prepared to enter upon chaos, upon the underworld, there to overhear from the “mothers” of Faust the longed-for occult doctrine of the new humanity. None of today’s leaders, however enthusiastic or clever they might be, has the breadth and the significance of Nietzsche, whose true inheritors we have not yet learned to be. The thousand intersecting voices and paths of our time, however, have this one valuable thing in common: a coiled desire, a will born of the need to surrender. And these are the preconditions of all greatness.