REFLECTIONS ON THE PARADISO  -- FALL 2001

         Suppose that we reflect on the Paradiso with special attention to the mystical level.
         Suppose we keep in mind the question:

              How can we bring the QUALITIES OF HEAVEN (QUALITIES OF PARADISO) to our life
                                                                                                                                                    here and now?
              How can we bring GRACE AND GRATITUDE to our life here and now?
              How can we bring THE DEPTH DIMENSION of our interconnected life present here and now?
 
 1) Think of the ethical and the mystical as a theshold -- a theshold of before-after.
 
                   Before an action, we seek to give good advice -- seek to do 
                                                            what is good for the whole and fair to the participant-parts.
 
                   After an action, we seek to support the human being no matter what -- in an unconditional fashion.
                    We remeind them that they are more than any incident or action -- that they remmain beautiful
                    and of creation, a unique never-before and never-again manifestation of the mystery.. 

  Come, come, whoever you are,
  Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
   This is not a caravan of despair.
   It doesn't matter that you've broken
   Your vow a thousand times, still
   come, and yet again, come [home].
Rumi 
            Consider the "ripple dualisms" that prop up the ego-self.  Realize that we must break through these
          dualisms to experience Reality Itself:

            Call it small-minded faith -- faithful to Reward/Punishment; Praise/Blame thinking.
            Call it small-minded hope -- follow rules and success will be assured.
            Call it small-minded love  -- a "safe" love, a "pure" love in a restricted sense of "pure."

             All three modes of thinking and speaking and feeling and acting are part of the
            "ripple conversations" that are captured by the conventions of the reigning culture.

  Desire for security - fear of no security
  Desire for reward / praise - fear of no reward / no praise
  Desire for certainty - fear of uncertainty
  Desire to keep the rules perfectly - fear of not keeping the rules perfectly
  Desire to "be good" and love accordingly -- fear of not "being good" and loving fiercely
 Rabi'a is a Sufi woman saint who flourished around 800 C.E. -- about the time of Charlemange in the West.
 She has, I believe, broken through Reward/Punishment; Praise /Blame thinking in a remarkable way

Here are some of her words:  (I have updated the translations somewhat.)

           O God!  If I worship You in fear of Hell, burn me in Hell,
                        if I worship You in hopes of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise,
                        but if I worship You for your own sake,
                        come to me, come to me in Your everlasting beauty.
                                                                                                                 (Traveling the Path of Love, p. 77)

         O my Lord, whatever share of this world You bestow on me, bestow it on Your enemies,
                            whatever share of the next world You give to me, give it to Your friends --
                            You are enough for me."
                                                                                                                 (Traveling the Path of Love, p. 79)

         I will not serve God like a laborer, in expectation of my wages.
                                                                                                                 (Traveling the Path of Love, p. 110)
 

 Oh God, the stars are shining:
 All eyes have closed in sleep;
 The kings have locked their doors,
 Each lover is alone, in secret, with the one he loves,
 And I am here too:  alone, hidden from all of them --
 With You.           (Traveling the Path of Love, p. 127)


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SUFI AND CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY
The Purgative, Illuminative, Unitive Phases of the Way

The Sufi way is the WAY OF LOVE.  In this, Mohammad follows Jesus who said: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and soul, and mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22: 38-39) Yet love has its stages or phases.

THE PURGATIVE WAY:

         In her little book, Christian and Islamic Spirituality, Maria Jaoudi brings together Christian and Sufi mystic lovers.  She writes,  “Purification . . . is a deconditioning process, a path to self-knowledge and deepening love.” (p. 23)

        As I see it, over and over, with good humor, we must let go of all that is less than God -- or better, let go of Ways of Understanding and Responding which block seeing God in all.  “Die before you die,” the Sufis say.  Yet our clinging and justifying and defending and envy and jealousy keep returning. One can be greedy for God,  for heaven, for enlightenment.  We can be afraid of letting go of all sorts of things -- things that prop up the false self. We are so easily caught in the so-called “normality” of literalism wedded to reward / punishment thinking.  All this must be seen as illusion..

 THE ILLUMINATIVE WAY:

             When we let go of the false ego, resurrection occurs.  Rumi writes:
 
                    Wake up with the morning breeze and ask for a change.
                    Open and fill yourself with the wine that is your life  .  .  .
                    Give me your excitement, but let it ground me, so I don’t wander.
                    Watch the ripples on the surface.  Then launch me like a ship.    [p. 59]

THE UNITIVE WAY:

 The Christian mystic St. John of the Cross, in Spiritual Canticle, writes:

  My Beloved is the mountains, / And lovely wooded valleys,
  strange islands, / And resounding rivers,
  The whistling of love-stirring breezes.
  The tranquil night / At the time of the rising dawn, /Silent music, / Sounding solitude,
  The supper that refreshes, and deepens love. [quoted pp. 72-73]
 The Muslim mystic, Shabistari, in The Secret Rose Garden, writes:

              Each creature has its being / From the One Name,
              From which it comes forth, And to which it returns, With praises unending.  [p. 73]
 
             Maria Jaoudi speaks of a God-centered ecology.  The Christian St. Bonaventure wrote of St. Francis of Assisi:  “Francis sought occasion to love God in everything.  He delighted in all the works of God’s hands and from the vision of joy on earth, his mind soared aloft to the life-giving source and cause of all.  In everything beautiful, he saw [God] who is beauty itself, and he followed his Beloved everywhere by [God’s] likeness imprinted on creation.”  [quoted  p. 81]

         In Islam, a sacred tradition has Allah saying: “My servant ceases not to draw nigh to Me by works
of devotion, until I love him /her and when I love him /her, I am the eye by which she /he sees;
I am the ear by which she /he hears.”

 The Qur’an says:  “There is no God but [the One]; everything perishes except His Face.”

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