Category: Issue 82


by Alireza Nurbakhsh

The Sufis refer to God as the Friend (dūst). This is based on the Koranic verse yuhibbuhum wa yuhibbuhunah (God loves them and they love Him, 5:45), which is interpreted by the Sufis as meaning that it is God’s love for us that gives rise to our love for Him.

Sufi Symbolism


by Lahleh Bakhtiar

The centrality of symbolism in Sufi teaching remains a consuming topic for scholars as well as practitioners. Lahleh Bakhtiar’s discourse on the subject in her book Sufi: Expressions of The Mystic Quest invokes the tapestry of Sufi symbolism as an expanding visual language, rich with ritual and hidden archetypes—an inner path to understanding.


(Photo Prof. Richard T. Mortel – Riyadh)

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Guides of Light


by Yousef Daoud

The east Asian traditions and Sufism have in common the tradition of working with a guide or master. As many of the great wisdom traditions have been migrating from the East to the West since the beginning of the 20th century, to cultures that are less traditional than those of Asia and the Middle East, the ancient role of the spiritual guide or teacher is being questioned and tested.

(Photo © Himberry/


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Visions of Love


by Sajidah Abdus Sattar

In 13th century Europe, when the men of the Church preached about God as the almighty power who required pain and penance from sinful man, a remarkable movement known as Minnemystiek (love mysticism) emerged. Instigated by devout and courageous women of noble birth searching for a God who was tender and loving, these “beguines,” were particularly inspired by the writing and spiritual guidance of one exceptionally gifted woman, Hadewych (or Hadewijch) of Antwerp.


(Hadewijch article photo © Gate Gustafson 2011)

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Riding the Waves of Chaos


by Michele Rousseau

What is the spiritual meaning of surrender? Can we understand surrender as a matter of immanence? Transcendence? What does it honestly mean to surrender to (overwhelming) events as they arise—and why should we? Michelle Rousseau seeks the answers to these questions in her interview with Jen Fox, a Tibetan Buddhist who made an extraordinary journey last year to meet with her spiritual teacher Khandro Thrinlay Chodon, the great granddaughter of Togden Shakya Shri (1853-1919).



(Riding the Waves of Chaos–Interview photo of Khandro Thrinlay Chodon courtesy of Jane Miknius)

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Heech – Poems in Three Dimensions


by Sholeh Johnston
Parviz Tanavoli is undoubtedly one of Iran’s greatest modern and contemporary artists, and the father of Iranian modern sculpture. His work is housed in art collections, museums and public spaces around the world, as well as in his native Iran, and is one of the most significant collectors of traditional Iranian arts and crafts in the world. An acknowledged expert, Tanavoli’s collections and publications are contributions to preserving the history of Iranian art as valuable as his contemporary work.
Tanavoli, currently residing between Vancouver, Canada, and Tehran, Iran, was born in 1937 and was one of the very first students to enroll and graduate from Tehran’s newly-established School of Fine Arts in 1955. Following his further studies in sculpture at the Brera Academy of Milan (Italy) under the renowned Italian sculptor, Marino Marini, Tanavoli returned to Iran and established a studio, Atelier Kaboud, which was the birth place of one of the most significant movements in Iranian modern art, the saqqakhaneh movement – referred to by some as “Spiritual Pop Art.” It was during this time that Tanavoli conceived of his first Heech sculpture, based on the Persian word for “nothingness,” and since then the series has been developing through Tanavoli’s experimentations with different materials, size, position and context.
“Heech has multiple layers of meaning – in Persian Sufism it has a great meaning: God created the universe out of nothing, so if the universe is made of nothing then nothingness is everywhere, in every part of the universe, in all creatures. That’s one way of looking at it, and the other is that as a physical shape it has an appealing volume to me; it has a head, eyes and a very beautiful body. So, from both angles it was a perfect word for me to choose and work on.”
Tanavoli has been teaching sculpture since his graduation from Brera, including a residency at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and eighteen years as director of the sculpture department at the University of Tehran (1961 – 1979). His teaching continues into his 75th year as Tanavoli still holds studio tutorials and workshops for students in his Tehran studio.
For more insight into Parviz Tanavoli’s work, and the man behind the artist, read ‘Heech: poems in three dimensions’ based on an extensive interview with Tanavoli, in Issue 82 of Sufi
(Heech – Parviz Tanavoli photo courtesy of Abrinksky / Flickr)

Archives Issue #82


Issue 82 of SUFI welcomes back renowned poet, Robert Bly ponders the meaning of love in the writings of medieval Christian Mystic Hadewych, reflects on some teaching strategies of Sufi and Buddhist teachers, and explores the significance of Symbols — both traditional and contemporary — in our understanding and experience of Sufism.


FRIENDSHIP Discourse by Alireza Nurbakhsh, Read Entire Discourse>

RIDING THE WAVES OF CHAOS Interview of Tibetan Buddhist Jen Fox by Michele Rousseau

VISIONS OF LOVE Hadewych of Antwerp–Poet, Mystic and Spiritual Guide by Sajidah Abdus Sattar

GUIDES OF LIGHT Teachers of Sufi and Buddhist Traditions by Yousef Daoud

SUFI SYMBOLISM and the Mystic Quest by Lahleh Bakhtiar

HEECH Poems in Three Dimensions: Parviz Tanavoli’s Sculptures of Nothingness by Sholeh Johnston


TODAY, TOMORROW AND THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, An Award-winning Piece of Puppet Theatre about Hallaj from an Iranian Theatre Company by Sholeh Johnston

FILM REVIEW Men of Faith: Of Gods and Men/ 2010 by Peter Valentyne

CULTUREWATCH BOOK REVIEWS by David Paquiot and Peter Valentyne
Sufism and The Way of Blame / Hidden Sources of a Sacred Psychology by Yannis Toussulis, PhD
The Rumi Tarot Kit, Text and Tarot Card illustration by Jackson Woodbury


There is No One Other Than God by Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh
Dissolved by Roger Loff
The Secret of the Beloved by Shah Nimatullah/Translation by Alireza Nurbakhsh
I Sang to the Wind by Jennifer Lively
Plan for a Year by Robert Bly
Fish in the Sundays River by Jeni Couzyn
Be Still My Hands by Patricia Sweeney
Conjurer by Roger Loff




ELENA RAY Photographer – Artist (

(Cover Photo by Elena Ray)

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