SUFI Journal explores the diverse aspects of mysticism, spiritual thought and practice through articles, interviews, poetry, narratives, art, reviews and much more.
What’s in the Latest Issue? Click here to see.
THE NATURE OF THE SACRED
by Alireza Nurbakhsh
In sacred or mystical experiences, we escape our mundane existence by coming face-to-face with something much greater than ourselves. The religious traditions, by and large, dictate where and when one should have such experiences, namely, in sacred spaces such as churches, mosques, synagogues, Buddhist temples or Hindu ashrams and while engaged in contemplation of the divine or in prayer. Each religious tradition prescribes what is sacred and in doing so creates an acceptable pattern of what constitutes a sacred experience.
TAPPING INTO THE SACRED—PLACES, PLANTS & ENERGY
Kim Lisson in Conversation with Nyoongar Elders
Richard Walley and Carol Pettersen
What makes a place sacred? And how is the sacred defined? For Aboriginal Australians, sacred spaces are both tangible and intangible—some visible, some intuited; sometimes physical, often metaphysical. Sacredness is intimately bound up with the natural world and people’s relationship to it—in this life and beyond. Sacred sites are places of respect, stewardship, kinship, communion, ritual, healing, and they are far from homogenous.
SUFISM, SACRED SPACE, AND SPIRITUAL ANCESTRY
by John L. Caughey
In the 1970s, the Sufi teacher, Syed Mumtaz Hussain Shah, Shah Jii, and his small band of followers spent most of their time at their mountain shrine in the Margalla Hills of Pakistan high above the Indus Plain. In this sacred space, the meditation place of the Sufi Saint Buri Imam (1617-1705), they pursued their mystical practices and received the pilgrims who came up to worship and to seek help or guidance.
THE GREATER PRAYER OF BEING
by Mark Nepo
Each of us walks about in a cloud of affections: our love, our pain, our desires, our history. Then, we need help from each other to outwait the cloud, so we can regain our direct experience of life. We need to break the trance of what we want or wish for or regret. The task is not to replay what we go through, but to integrate what enters our heart. Not to linger in what might have been or what has fallen short, but to make the most of what’s before us. The challenge is to feel what’s real while it’s real.
For the Sufis the experience of the sacred can happen anywhere, at any time. Given the conjunction of spacetime in contemporary physics, this statement in Alireza Nurbakhsh’s discourse may be reassuring. The sacred is available, but it is also (and not just etymologically) “set apart”—not intrinsically, but because people usually do not perceive it, or do not know that they are in it. What all the authors in this issue of Sufi find is that it takes at least one of the five physical senses of the human body, in combination with a consciousness devoted to service to others, to detect and create sacred space.
Kim Lisson’s interview with Nyoongar Aboriginal Elders reveals the need to feel with the whole body and a whole history of stories and connections. Then perception shows the routes that lead to a person’s experience of a specific sacredness in specific places. The locations where this issue’s articles happen: Istanbul, England, Pakistan, Japan, Australia, New York, Oregon, the place of poetry, and the mother of them all, the space of the heart—are already sacred space. As Mark Nepo says, though, frequently we need another person or community to remind us of all this. When the going gets tough, the tough ask for help. Friends, teachers, ancestors, saints living and dead, will answer the call. Then we can remember to stop, look, listen, touch, smell, and taste Nature, the sacred space we already inhabit. How can that happen? According to 2014 United Nations figures, more than half (54%) of the people on Earth are stuck in cities. But our authors remind us that under the cities is pure planet, and anyone who has been to town knows that tiny leaves push up through cracks in the man-made. Like it or not, with then senses alive as we can feel them, it’s time to hit the road, or we won’t find the sacred space we can’t get away from anyway: “I set out on the journey to see my beloved; the wind carrying her scent reached me first and I passed out.” We took our first breath of sacred space before we knew it.
Slider Photos/Artwork: ©GUESHNI; ©PAUL ZWIRS; ©NILA NEWSOM; ©PIET FLOUR
Posts Photos/Artwork – Top left/Clockwise: ©NILA NEWSOM; ©H L PHOTO; ©JOHN L. CAUGHEY; ©PAUL ZWIRS