Editor's Choice

The Primordial Light, the Father in Heaven in the inner world (Kingdom of God/Sahasrara) that unites all souls

“God can be seen only through an inner eye, the spirit or the intellect, and this vision of God cannot be achieved by human effort alone. Rather, it is ultimately a gift of God, an illumination. God is not identical in essence with light, and natural light does not coincide with divine light, although light is the most inclusive attribute by which God is described. At the same time, light is the most exalted image by which the invisible God can be represented in a visible and temporal world, and the most powerful symbol by which the eternal God can be approached in the human realm of sense perception and intellectual insight.”— Gerhard Bowering

Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels

“In certain passages, then, the Gospel of Thomas interprets the kingdom of God as Tolstoy and Merton would do nearly two thousand years later. The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, also discovered in Egypt, but in 1896, about fifty years before the Nag Hammadi find, echoes this theme: Jesus tells his disciples,” Let no one lead you astray, saying, 'Lo, here!' or 'Lo, there!' For the Son of Man is within you. Follow after him!"[66] Yet after including his version of this saying at one point in his gospel, Luke retreats from this position and concludes his account with the kind of apocalyptic warnings found in Mark: the Son of Man is not a divine presence in all of us but a terrifying judge who is coming to summon everyone to the day of wrath that, Luke's Jesus warns, may catch you unexpectedly, like a trap; for it will come upon all who live upon the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, and pray that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will happen, and to stand before the Son of Man. [67]

The Gospels of Thomas and John, however, speak for those who understand Jesus' message quite differently. Both say that, instead of warning his disciples about the 'end of time', Jesus points them toward the 'beginning'. John opens with the famous prologue describing the beginning of the universe, when“The word was with God, and the word was God.”[68] John is referring, of course, to the opening verses of Genesis: “In the beginning“There was a vast, formless void, darkness, and“The abyss,” or deep water, and“A wind [or spirit] from God swept over the face of the waters.”[69] Yet before there were sun, moon, or stars, there was, first of all, light: “And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light.” [70] Thus John identifies Jesus not only with the 'word' that God spoke but also with the divine 'light' that it called into being—what he calls“The true light that enlightens everyone, coming into the world.”[71]

Thomas's Jesus also challenges those who persist in asking him about the"end time": “Have you found the beginning, then, that you look to the end?“Here, too, he directs them to go back to the beginning, "for whoever takes his place in the beginning will know the end, and will not taste death"[72]—that is, will be restored to the luminous state of creation before the fall. Thomas, like John, identifies Jesus with the light that existed before the dawn of creation. According to Thomas, Jesus says that this primordial light not only brought the entire universe into being but still shines through everything we see and touch. For this primordial light is not simply impersonal energy but a being that speaks with a human voice—with 'Jesus's' voice:

Jesus said,” I am the light which is before all things. It is I who am all things. From me all things came forth, and to me all things extend. Split a piece of wood, and I am there; lift up the stone, and you will find me.”[73]

(p.53) Yet, despite similarities between John's and Thomas's versions of Jesus' secret teaching, when we look more closely, we begin to see that John's understanding of Jesus'“Way“Is diametrically opposed to Thomas's on the practical and crucial question: How can we find that light?

Beyond Belief (The Secret Gospel of Thomas)
Elaine Pagels, Chapter 2, p. 51-53
Vintage Books, New York, U.S.A

Notes:
[66] Gospel of Mary 8:15-20. See the major new edition and commentary by Karen King, forthcoming (as of this writing) from Harvard University Press.
[67] Luke 21:34-36.
[68] John 1:1.
[69] Genesis 1:2.
[70] Genesis 1:3.
[71] John 1:9.
[72] Gospel of Thomas 16, in NHL 120.
[73] Ibid., 77, in NHL 126.



Jesus: The Last Great Initiate
“We may also imagine the child Jesus amongst his young companions, exercising over them the strange prestige given by a precocious intelligence joined to active sympathy and the feeling of justice. We follow him to the synagogue, where he heard the Scribes and Pharisees discuss together, and where he himself was to exercise his dialectical powers. We see him quickly repelled by the arid teachings of these doctors of the law, who tortured the letter to such an extent as to do away with the spirit. And again, we see him brought into contact with pagan life as he visited the wealthy Sephoris, capital of Galilee, residence of Antipas, guarded by Herod's mercenaries, Gauls, Thracians, and barbarians of every kind. In one of those frequent journeys to visit Jewish families, he might well have pushed on to a Phoenician town, one of those veritable hives of human beings, swarming with life, by the seaside. He would see from afar the low temples, with their thick sturdy columns, surrounded with dark groves, whence issued the songs of the priestesses of Astarte, to the doleful accompaniment of the flute; their voluptuous shrieks, piercing as a cry of pain, would awaken in his heart a deep groan of anguish and pity. Then Mary's son returned to his beloved mountains with the feeling of deliverance. He mounted the steps of Nazareth, gazing around on the vast horizon towards Galilee and Samaria, and cast lingering eyes on Carmel, Gilboa, Tabor, and Sichem, old-standing witnesses of the patriarchs and prophets.

However powerful might have been the impressions of the outer world on the soul of Jesus, they all grew pale before the sovereign and inexpressible truth in his inner world. This Truth was expanding in the depths of his nature, like some lovely flower emerging from a dark pool. It resembled a growing light which appeared to him when alone in silent meditation. At such times men and things, whether near or far away, appeared as though transparent in their essence. He read thoughts and saw souls; then, in memory, he caught glimpses, as though through a thin veil, of divinely beautiful and shining beings bending over him, or assembled in adoration of a dazzling light. Wonderful visions came in his sleep, or interposed themselves between himself and reality by a veritable duplication of his consciousness. In these transports of rapture which carried him from zone to zone as though towards other other skies, he at times felt himself attracted by a mighty dazzling light, and then plunged into an incandescent sun. These ravishing experiences left behind in him a spring of ineffable tenderness, a source of wonderful strength. How perfect was the reconciliation he felt with the universe! But what was this mysterious light—though even more familiar and living than the other—which sprang forth from the depths of his nature, carrying him away to the most distant tracts of space, and yet uniting him by secret vibrations with all souls? Was it not the source of souls and worlds?

He named it: His Father in Heaven.”

Edouard Schure, Jesus: The Last Great Initiate, pg. 33-34
Kessinger Publishing; Facsimile edition edition (March 1997)



The Niche of Lights (Mishkat al-anwar)

“The Niche of Lights (Mishkat al-anwar) is an accessible and richly rewarding text by one of the most fascinating and important thinkers in the history of Islam.

Born in the eastern Iranian city of Tus in 450 A.H. (1058 C.E.), Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali also died there, relatively young, in 505 A.H. (1111 C.E.). Between those two dates, however, he established himself as a pivotal figure throughout the Islamic world. By his early thirties he was a pre-eminent legal scholar and teacher in Baghdad. But then, overcome by skepticism and finding no other satisfactory way to combat his doubts, he abandoned his academic position to devote himself to reattaining religious certainty through the practice of Sufi mysticism. By his own account, he succeeded. After somewhat more than a decade of travel and ascetic contemplation, and at the instance of the sultan at that time, he emerged again into public life and teaching during his final years.

In The Niche of Lights, al-Ghazali maintains that one who truly desires to understand the relationship between God and the world must recognize not only His distance and absolute transcendence, as emphasized in Islamic theology and jurisprudence, but also His proximity to His creation—His inherent presence. The"symbolism"of the Qur'n, suggests al-Ghazali, should not be thought of primarily as literary imagery, as mere similes and metaphors. On the contrary, God employs the language that He does in order to clarify the actual nature of reality. An understanding of the structure of the cosmos and of the human soul depends upon how accurately one perceives that reality.”

Middle Eastern Text Initiative
METI Review of The Niche of Lights (Mishkat al-anwar), by al-Ghazali, a parallel English-Arabic text translated, introduced, and annotated by David Buchman

Biography of Translator
David Buchman received his Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he also earned his master's degree. For his dissertation he completed two years of field research on the beliefs and practices of a Sufi order in Yemen. As a Stony Brook undergraduate, he majored in religious studies with an emphasis on Islam. He has traveled throughout the Middle East pursuing the study of Arabic, Islam, and the status of contemporary Sufism. He is currently an assistant professor of anthropology and Middle East studies at Hanover College in Indiana.



“The Mishkat al-Anwar, an examination of the Light-Verse in the Koran and the symbolism of the Veils-Tradition, was written in the eleventh century by al-Ghazzali, a man of formidable intellect working in the Muslim tradition, who understood that spiritual realization entailed making a jump from the limitations of the mind and sensory experience. Abdullah discusses the inner teaching of the Mishkat al-Anwar, explaining truths which are as relevant to twenty-first century man as to seekers a thousand years ago.” (Review)

Abdullah Dougan, The Glimpse: The inner teaching of Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazzali's Mishkat al-Anwar (The Niche for Lights)



The Spiritual Monsoon Begins

It was in early November 1993, that the drizzle of Divine Consciousness began. A Sahaja Yogi friend, Bhupinder, asked permission from the father if he could teach his sons Kash (13 year- old) and Shah (11 year-old) how to meditate. To allay any fears he explained that it was a simple, extremely harmless, newly discovered method of spiritual awakening.

Both children were given Self-Realization after which all three of them meditated. When they finished Kash went straight to his father and exclaimed that he had reached a beautiful land far away. The father skeptically listened, occasionally glancing at his friend to see if it made any sense to him.

Kash told that the very instant he closed his eyes and went into meditation, he found himself standing on a soft carpet of clouds—hues of blue and white not seen on Earth—spreading in all directions as far as the eye could see. Some distance away there was a very bright Light of Great Beauty shining above and illuminating the entire vastness. In spite of its dazzling brilliance he could gaze at it without hurting his eyes. He just stood and looked around in amazement and awe at the tranquillity and stunning beauty of the surroundings. For a long time he continued gazing around this strange serene land, wondering where he really was. Kash did not even take one step in any direction. The sheer splendor of this awesome scene illumined by a single dazzling Light and his inability to comprehend where he was kept him mesmerized and rooted to one spot.

After gazing around for about twenty minutes Kash closed his eyes again, and descended back to Earth.

His ignorant father just took it as a figment of a child's imagination. Unknown to him his Sahaja Yogi friend had just awakened his son's Kundalini, the potential divine energy of the Holy Spirit residing within humans. (This is nothing short of a stupendous revolutionary spiritual breakthrough achieved by Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, who bestows such priceless powers to any human desiring a Higher Consciousness.)

Shri Adi Shakti: The Kingdom Of God, page 122, 1999



The Light Verse: Quranic Text and Sufi Interpretation

"Throughout the ages, light has been valued as the most beautiful phenomenon of creation and the eye that perceives it as the most important human organ of sense perception. Monotheistic religions such as Islam seek the origin of natural light in God, the eternal source of light, an unapproachable light without darkness, and they actualize the desire to know God in an act of seeing the divine light. Maintaining the distinction between Creator and creation, earthly light is understood as an image of eternal light, though following the principle of like drawing to like, light can only be known through light. God can be seen only through an inner eye, the spirit or the intellect, and this vision of God cannot be achieved by human effort alone. Rather, it is ultimately a gift of God, an illumination. God is not identical in essence with light, and natural light does not coincide with divine light, although light is the most inclusive attribute by which God is described. At the same time, light is the most exalted image by which the invisible God can be represented in a visible and temporal world, and the most powerful symbol by which the eternal God can be approached in the human realm of sense perception and intellectual insight.”

Gerhard Bowering

Gerhard Bwering
Professor of Religious Studies and Islamic Studies
Gerhard Bwering has been Professor of Religious Studies in Islamic Studies since 1984. He taught previously at the University of Pennsylvania and has been a visiting professor at the University of Innsbruck, Princeton University, and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. He has published Mystical Vision of Existence in Classical Islam: The Qur'nic Hermeneutics of the Sufi Sahl at-Tustari (d. 283/896), The Minor Quar'n Commentay of al-Sulami (Ziyadat haq'iq al-tafsir), Beirut 1995, 2nd ed. 1997, as well as numerous articles, including those in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, the Encyclopedia of the Qur'n, and the Encyclopaedia Iranica. Work in progress includes the following books: Islam and Christianity: the Inner Dymanics of Two Cultures of Belief, Notre Dame University Press 2007; and The Dreams and Labors of a Central Asian Muslim Mystic. He was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (2005-2006) and fellowships from the Institute for the Advanced Study, Princeton (1992 and 2006). In 2004-2005 he gave the Erasmus Lectures at Notre Dame.




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