Mirror of Consciousness


An American Ethnographer in a Sufi Community by John L. Caughey

“I was entranced.  It was like coming to a place I had dreamed about, a true home.”

And surprisingly right then on the first day, Shah Jii looked at me closely and asked if I wanted “to learn something.” I knew he was not talking about their customs.  He was asking me if I wanted to enter their world and participate in their spiritual path.  I had been there for ten minutes.  I didn’t know this person.  He seemed wildly powerful and charismatic but completely strange and unknown.  I had no idea what “learning something” might involve.  This was at the far edge of anything I would have imagined a few minutes earlier.  Surely one would need to consider this invitation very carefully.  And then I said, “Yes.”

One of the Sufi practices I learned was “the mirror of consciousness,” a particular way of attending to inner experience.  In dominant American culture, almost no attention is paid to the stream of consciousness, the flow of imagery and language that runs through our minds when we are not engaged in demanding tasks, focused rational thought or engrossing social interactions.  Commonly this half-conscious mental activity is labeled “daydreaming” and dismissed and disdained as trivial and unimportant.

Read the full narrative in Issue #86 SUFI

Visit the Store to Subscribe or Buy the Current Issue and Back Issues