On this Saturday morning my thoughts turn to mysteries. Not the mystery one finds on Masterpiece Theater or in the novels I’m writing, but the mysteries we experience in life and in our relationship with God. I have a sense that Sufis as well are fascinated with mystery, and I’d be interested in your take on this morning’s meditations. I know my EFM friends know about my fascination with mystery in theology.
This week’s events have to leave Christians, Jews, and Muslims troubled. Even if you are of a totally different faith or find your faith lacking, senseless violence and hatred has to trouble. I understand that God “makes the sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45) But, no explanation of why is quite satisfactory. Thus, the only answer for a logical mind has to be it is beyond our understanding. It must remain a mystery. Our role is to sift among the wreckage, looking for life and the miracles that always accompany tragedy. It is a glimmer into the solution of the ultimate puzzle – God always brings life out of death and joy out of sorrow.
My mathematical mind always goes to another mystery the number pi and its only partial solution to the mathematical problems of calculating circumference, area of a circle or sphere. Since the number never is finite no matter how far we take it out in decimals there is always a mystery and an unsolved incalculable piece of the solution. I like to believe that it is in that piece that mysteries of the universe lie, but I digress.
The other mystery I meditate on often is Jesus’s call for denial. (Mark 8:24). I am sure that Eastern philosophies contain as similar concept. What hit me today was the fact that for each and every person there is something in their life, their past, or their future that comes between them and God — often it is a mystery why this one thing has such a hold. The obvious one people talk about is material wealth, but as I get older I have come to believe that limits the denial to a few. We are all called to reorient our relationships with people and possessions until we fit the profile God intended for us at our birth. I meditate on what I need to deny myself to shape my life the way it should and was intended to be.
Thank you for putting up with my musings dear friend. Webb
You ask about how Sufis relate to mystery. As everyone that reads your blog should know by now, I am truly a beginner on this path. So I consulted several sources before daring to respond to your question.
The first thing I was led to is a poem from Rumi, the 13th century Sufi mystic:
When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you’re not here, I can’t go to sleep.
Praise God for these two insomnias!
And the difference between them.
One contemporary Rumi scholar suggested that Rumi was NOT talking about the differences between the highs and lows of worshipping God, but that both the presence and the absence of God in the moment were different opportunities for celebrating one’s connection with his/her Beloved. And there isn’t a lot of mystery in that!
The more I read, the more I was struck by the perspective that there is little or no mystery in the Sufi’s relationship with God. There seems to be a broad acceptance that God is who God is and that the actions of God, if any can be determined to be the actions of God, are beyond our ability to understand… or judge. The mystery, rather, is in finding one’s purpose in this life. And our purpose in life begins with understanding and accepting that we were divinely created by God to be imperfect. Hazrat Inayat Khan (the Sufi that brought Sufism to the West in the early part of the 20th century) said,
“…(I)f we expected every person to be perfect and conditions to be perfect, then there would be no joy in living and no purpose in coming here. … When in this world of imperfection we seek for all that is good and beautiful, there are many chances of disappointment. But at the same time if we keep on looking for it, not looking at the dust but looking for the gold, we shall find it.”
Hazrat Khan says more about the purpose of our lives, providing an insight to cut through the mystery:
“The purpose of one’s whole life is to make God a reality. … if you will seek for good in everything, you will always find it, for God is in all things, and still more He is in all beings. Seek Him in all souls, good and bad, wise and foolish, attractive or unattractive, for in the depth of each there is God. … He is all around and about us at every moment, we are living His life, we are breathing His breath, and yet we are ignorant of the perfection of beauty which unites and inspires every soul.”
So, what I take from this is that for me, the mystery is in understanding and accepting my imperfection, the imperfection that distances me from God, and knowing deep down that God is always there next to me, that I just have to get over myself.