Language, Light, and Intention

Shaharah Bridge, YemenThis is a fictional discussion on the nature of language that I wrote a few years ago. It’s part of a novel in progress that has been having rather a long holiday!

“Let’s look at language as an example.” Dan stood up, swivelled his chair around and sat astride with his elbow resting on the chair back. His excitement was obvious and Bridget could not resist a smile despite her hesitation about the risks they were about to embark on.

“Taking what we know about light, we can look at language in time and ask a few questions about the nature of knowledge acquisition. For example, who knows what is going to happen even within the next second?” He rose again and walked purposefully to the coffee machine talking as he went. “Do we really understand how we traverse this moment into the next? The spoken, or written word, for example, is it made of particles, an accumulation of moments added together that result in meaning, or is it like a wave, a continuous flow that contains an inherent teleology?”

Dan poured himself a coffee and added three spoonfuls of sugar. Gavin refilled the machine, switched it on, turned around and leant against the sink without once breaking his concentration on Dan’s words. Bridget noticed that Philip was fidgeting and frowning hard. Then Philip spoke up, “I think you mean the thought, dear boy. It’s the thought that makes the spoken, or written, sentence.”

“Ah, now that’s another matter. We are not talking origins at the moment. I want to keep this simple, Philip. Quantum physicists will tell you that what you find when you look at light depends on the observer. If you look for particles you find them, a world made of bits. If you look for a wave you find it, a world of continuity and unity. I prefer the latter. But what is happening if I speak or write, without pause, word-by-word? In one respect that seems like little more than particles randomly following one after the other. But there is teleology here, even though unthought. I can think it now as I speak without pause and it is called intention. That teleology is the desire to tap my creativity, to make room for that which otherwise might not emerge, a moment of inspiration that is uncensored and unformatted, simply allowed to transpire. What a great word, transpire, to breathe across. It reminds me of Blake, ‘He who kisses the joy as it flies…’”

“You do realise that you are coming very close to metaphysics, don’t you Dan?” Nanon had been so quiet during the past half hour, standing by the window, a little apart from the rest of the gathering, that her voice startled them all, coming calm and authoritative after the tense excitement of Dan’s narrative. While everyone participated in the breathless sense of wonder of Dan’s account, Nanon’s remarks moved them all to a level of grave attention that subtly altered the mood of the room to one that appeared to align itself with the changing weather. The room had darkened as storm clouds stretched above the peninsula. Through the window they could see the slate grey light that anticipated a storm. A little rain began to splatter against the pane and thunder could be heard in the distance. Nanon moved away from the window and came closer to the table. Gavin offered her a coffee, which she gratefully took.

“In the medieval universities of Baghdad and Cordoba there was no separation between physics and metaphysics. Philosophy was all about understanding the world in relation to humanity. The big questions, then, as now, were about our origins, our destiny, and the meaning of our lives, the ‘why’, ‘where’, and ‘how’. The difference between science then and science today is that up until the enlightenment that which is invisible, unknowable, and supratemporal, was not considered to be non-existent. The other significant difference is that some enlightened souls had some pretty stunning ideas on the matter of knowledge acquisition.”

“How do you mean?” queried Ben, looking as if he well knew the answer but that some of the others might be grateful for an explanation. Nanon remained silent for a moment, staring attentively at Ben.

“I’m hungry Ben. I’m sure we all are. I could also do with a change of scenery. Shall we go down to the Mermaid Inn and get a bite to eat?”

“Good idea.” Bridget slid off the table, “they’ve got a private room there. We can continue the conversation over supper, although to me it sounds more like a briefing. Am I right? Nanon? Daniel?”


A Poem of Sufi Love from Maryam

Sometimes I write about poetry here and sometimes I write poetry myself. Today I read the following poem on the tasawwuf blog of my sister on the path, Maryam It is beautiful and with its words it captures the impossibility of capturing the Ineffable, yet we can whisper the Names of the One and the soul can hear those words of love whispered from the silence of love, breath joining breath. Please go and visit Maryam’s site for more poems and thoughts on the Sufi path. Thank you Maryam.
This one sings the most beautiful love songs.
This one lost his voice; but he writes them.
This one weeps while he recites.
This one can’t speak a word,
so he just weeps.
The sky seems to be listening,
some stars sparkle quicker than others;
I don’t close my eyes. I just watch
The wonder of the sound of voices.
Silent voices, in the dark,
whispering countless names.
I breath in, breath out,
with a name forever in my tongue,
my lips,
my throat.
I breath Your name,
exhale Your name,
in, out,
and the effect it has on my dreams
reminds me of those songs I hear,
the weeping that conforts the heart,
and the silent voices in the dark.
I don’t get tired of saying it.
I only get surprised.
Because once more letters, numbers, sounds,
dance a perfect dance,
saying, like a secret,
that life is death, that death is life,
that mixture is balance,
that Love comes through untouchable matter.
The one who sings has retreated himself.
And the one who weeps is tired.
The one who whispers is confused now.
As for me,
I am asleep.
And your name is my breath.


A Sufi Novel by Irving Karchmar

This novel is written by Irving Karchmar who many of you may already know from his blog, Darvish. Exciting, informative, and uplifting, this is the kind of literature we need more of for everyone interested in the spiritual path. Irving also has a page about his novel here
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A Sufi Novel
Here is a tale set on the Path of the Heart, a beautifully written mystical adventure wherein a modern-day Sufi Master sends seven companions on a perilous quest for the greatest treasure of the ancient world- King Solomon’s ring. The legendary seal ring is said to control the Jinn, those terrifying demons of living fire, and in seeking it the companions discover not only the truth of the Jinn, but also the path of Love and the infinite mercy of God.
About the Author

Irving Karchmar, the author of Master of the Jinn, has been a writer, editor and publisher for many years, and a darvish of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order since 1992. He resides near New York City and is currently at work on his second novel, a sequel entitled Tale of the Jinn.

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Jewish/Muslim Dhikr

In Tel Aviv Jews and Muslims are doing dhikr (zikhr) together. This is a very encouraging story and well worth reading the entire article.
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TEL AVIV — In a warehouse district not far from central Tel Aviv, in an anonymous, quasi-industrial zone, a zikr – an Islamic Sufi prayer ritual – unfolds.
But most are from the tribe of Isaac – they are Israeli Jews.
Between lectures in Hebrew on the connection between Jewish and Muslim mysticisms, they join together in chanting Wa la illaha illallah – “from God we come and to God we return.” (NB This translation is unfortunately incorrect, it should read “No god but God”  (Yafiah) Then, this mainly Jewish group recites the 99 names of Allah in surprisingly good Arabic: al Rahim, (the Merciful), al Aziz (the Almighty), al Hadi (the Guide) … A skylight reveals a night sky full of stars and the chants seem to rise up and out of the room.
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Reading the Signs of God

Ship on the Mediterranean by I. Chatterjee

I live high in the Alpujarran mountains of Andalucia in Spain and the views across the mountains to the Mediterranean are stunning and give a great deal to reflect upon. The entire universe, including ourselves, is a great book filled with the signs of God waiting to be read. At this time of year, after the intense heat of summer, the weather is beginning to change. A pleasant drop in temperature, cooler breezes, a subtle change in the quality of the light are all harbingers of the coming Autumn and as I walk above the village and look out to sea I am reminded of the importance of rhythm in our lives and its connection with time.

From the beating of our hearts and the breathing of our lungs rhythm is an essential partner in the passing of time and the two link arms and appear throughout the natural and biological world and also manifest in cultural, religious, and social scenarios. If rhythm is honoured then the result can be a creative unfolding of divine surprises and moments of grace that reveal the true humanity of an individual. It is these divine surprises and blessings that suggest to me the melodies, keys, and chords for which rhythm builds the framework.
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Defining Sufi Poetry

In the whirling dance of the Mevlevi Sufis the position of the hands indicates the function of the ‘friend’ in connecting heaven and earth. One hand is raised with palm upwards and the other is lowered towards the earth. I believe this can also be the function of Sufi poetry. As the Sufi remembers God in her/his whirling, attaining a state of bliss, so the Sufi poet is expressing that bliss in words which in turn become a conduit of the divine. Poet and word are as one in the poem acting as a channel here, in the same way that dancer and dance are one in the whirling. This illustrates the ongoing task of the Sufi that has a metaphysical basis and is therefore timeless but which seeks to be anchored in the physical world. While the Sufi longs for union it is love that gives rise to this longing, and love that is the fuel for the journey, love is its destination, and love demands the return to the created world, and yet fana fi Allah, union with the divine, is the ineffable, the unspeakable, so how does the one who has returned deal with this paradox, and how does the one who has not yet attained speak about it? The attempt, even compulsion, to do so despite the inadequacy of any words is the defining factor of Sufi poetry.

This is the first entry of a new page, Poesis of Love: An Exploration of Sufi Poetry
which I have put here to let you know about the page. You can access the page from the top. I have just started so there is not a lot there yet but I plan, inshallah, to update regularly.