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Knowing God as Opposed to Knowing About God, The Varied Degrees or Psychic Circles Levels of Experiencing God

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Knowing God as Opposed to Knowing About God, The Varied Degrees or Psychic Circle Levels of Experiencing God Niann Emerson Chase Often I dance with abandon and joy when at a live performance, especially if the music has a beat that just will not allow you to be still, which includes many genres of music from many cultures—traditional and new. During those times of abandonment to joy, I feel such love for the musicians as well for those who are also dancing and swaying to the music. Even more, I feel love for life and for my First Lover, my First Beloved—God, the First Source and Center, the Infinite Creator and Upholder, the Universal Father. Love for the Creator is something experienced within many religions and races. In these present-day times of misunderstanding, distrust, fear, and even hatred between some Jews and Muslims and between some Christians and Muslims, I think that we who claim to know God/Yahweh/Allah need to come to better know some of His children whom we do not know or understand. We need to sing and dance with people of all races, cultures, nationalities, and religions, especially when we are dancing together for our love of the Divine Overcontroller of all. With this terrible religious and political tension between various Muslims and Jews as well as various Muslims and Christians, there has been centuries of conflict and warring—sometimes in the name of religion and in these contemporary times often in the name of freedom or human rights or justice or democracy or some other secular ideology. Usually decades-old or centuries-old conflicts between peoples have to do with all of the above and more, but unfortunately religion and “God” are pulled into these out-of-divine-pattern acts of violence and brutality that are often supported by the majority of whole nations of citizens. In my own search for expressions of genuine spirituality, I have discovered the light and brilliance of many individuals from many eras and religions and cultures. I often draw from the poetry and prose of Muslim mystics who have captured the true essence of Muslim spirituality that transcends religious dogma and doctrine and captures the presence of God among humans. One of these poets is Hafiz, whose works have been translated into English and other European languages and read and appreciated by many other people on a spiritual path in Western civilization. When thinking about dancing with abandon in the joy of loving life and music and people and God, a poem of Hafiz’s comes to my mind. The God Who Only Knows Four Words Every Child Has known God, Not the God of names, Not the God of don’ts, Not the God who ever does Anything weird, But the God who only knows four words And keeps repeating them, saying: “Come dance with Me.” Come Dance. The title of this article is “Knowing God as Opposed to Knowing About God, the Varied Degrees or Psychic Circle Levels of Experiencing God.” I think that spiritual ascension is a process of getting to know God, not just getting to know about Him. Again, I think of Hafiz and another poem he wrote. Skinning Your Knees on God Little by little You turn into stars. Even then, my dear, You will only be A crawling infant, Still skinning your knees on God. Little by little, You turn into The whole sweet, amorous Universe In heat On a wild spring night, And become so free In a wonderful, secret And pure Love That flows From a conscious, One-pointed, Infinite need for Light. Even then, my dear, The Beloved will have fulfilled Just a fraction, Just a fraction! Of a promise He wrote upon your heart. When your soul begins To ever bloom and laugh And spin in Eternal Ecstasy— O little by little, You will become like God. When I read the poetry of Shams-ud-din Muhammad Hafiz I know that this fourteenth century Persian Sufi poet knew God, that he experienced God almost daily in his life, that he knew many nuances, many faces of God. He recognized the difference between those who knew God and those who merely knew about God. He often spoke out against false religious leaders who talked a good talk but did not walk their talk. The Diamond Takes Shape Some parrots Have become so skilled with The human voice They could give a brilliant discourse About freedom and God And an unsighted man nearby might Even begin applauding with The thought: I just heard jewels fall from a Great man’s mouth, Though my Master used to say, “The diamond takes shape slowly With integrity’s great force, And from The profound courage to never relinquish love.” Some parrots have become so skilled With words, The blind turn over their gold And lives to caged Feathers. I like to use Hafiz because he was a devout Muslim who lived and expressed his spirituality with depth and genuiness. I use Hafiz because he was born, lived, and died in the land that today we call Iran, a land that is coveted by our government and corporations, a land that we Americans are supposed to consider as enemy territory. Many of the citizens of Iran are devout religionists who are searching to know God, and they love Hafiz, one of their favorite classical poets. Hafiz was born poor and had to work hard to pay for his schooling in theology, astronomy, mathematics, and Persian literature. He memorized the Quran (Koran) and mastered the art of caligraphy. As a young man it is said that the angel Gabriel appeared to him and directed him to the human spiritual teacher that he was to serve for more than 40 years. Often he struggled with his human elder, thinking that his teacher was too hard on him, too harsh. But Hafiz remained loyal to serving his spiritual leader because he believed that was what God wanted, and that was what Hafiz in his higher self wanted. In realizing the value of having a spiritual elder in his life, Hafiz also understood that everyone needs a “Master” who can keep them on the higher path, so he encouraged those he met to look for a human elder. That’s the Whole Idea Fire has a love for itself— It wants to keep burning. It is like a woman Who is at last making love To the person she most desires. Find a Master who is like the Sun. Go to his house In the middle of the night. Smash a window. Act like a great burglar— Jump in. Now, Gather all your courage— Throw yourself into his bed! He will probably kill you. Fantastic— That’s the whole idea! Of course, in the last lines of the poem above, Hafiz did not mean killing the body of the person, just the lower self, the ego, the false identity that is not part of the true personality of the person. He understood the need for a “soul surgeon” and that in order to become a spiritual leader yourself, you needed to submit first to your own spiritual elder(s) and undergo the “sword of truth” that will cut to the error and sin and bring it out. What Happens What happens when your soul Begins to awaken Your eyes And your heart And the cells of your body To the great Journey of Love? First there is wonderful laughter And probably precious tears And a hundred sweet promises And those heroic vows No one can ever keep. But still God is delighted and amused You once tried to be a saint. What happens when your soul Begins to awake in this world To our deep need to love And serve the Friend? O the Beloved Will send you One of His wonderful, wild companions— Like Hafiz. During his life Hafiz at times was in favor with those in political and religious power and at other times he was not. He was blacklisted, jailed, and even exiled at times because of his outspoken poetry and teachings that challenged the status quo of established thinking. He also at times in his life was a court poet, a college professor, and highly respected. In his later years Hafiz became a great spiritual teacher with a following of students who lived with him in a type of intentional community, a religious order. What made Hafiz so great a spiritual teacher was that he was first a student, understanding the need for spiritual eldership in his own life. He reportedly was very short and considered physically unattractive, and yet he attained great inner beauty. His poetry reflects his life-long process of unfolding into knowing God more intimately. Hafiz knew that God is indeed what a later English poet referred to as “the Hound of Heaven” and is continually reaching out to touch us, to awaken us, to invite us to sup with Him. In this next poem, we see God as The Friend whose love we cannot escape. Yet how we come to embrace that love is our choice. A Divine Invitation You have been invited to meet The Friend. No one can resist a Divine Invitation. That narrows down all our choices To just two: We can come to God Dressed for Dancing, Or Be carried on a stretcher To God’s Ward. You don’t have to act crazy anymore— We all know you were good at that. Now retire, my dear, From all that hard work you do Of bringing pain to your sweet eyes and heart. Look in a clear mountain mirror— See the Beautiful Ancient Warrior And the Divine elements You always carry inside That infused this Universe with sacred Life So long ago And join you Eternally With all Existence—with God! I think of the culture here in the religious community of Global Community Communications Alliance (at Avalon Organic Gardens & EcoVillage in Tumacácori, Arizona) as both a place for dancing and a rehabilitation ward. Wherever any of us aligned here happen to be psychospiritually in the moment will determine whether we are dancing or acting crazed and conflicted. Manic Screaming We should make all spiritual talk Simple today: God is trying to sell you something, But you don’t want to buy. That is what your suffering is: Your fantastic haggling, Your manic screaming over the price! In our negotiating with God over the proverbial “pearl of great price,” we sometimes just refuse to pay the high price of making the deep changes necessary for really knowing and dancing with Him. And Applaud Once a young man came to me and said, “Dear Master, I am feeling strong and brave today, And I would like to know the truth About all of my—attachments.” And I replied, “Attachments? Attachments! Sweet Heart, Do you really want me to speak to you About all your attachments, When I can see so clearly You have built, with so much care, Such a great brothel To house all of your pleasures. You have even surrounded the whole damn place With armed guards and vicious dogs To protect your desires So that you can sneak away From time to time And try to squeeze light Into your parched being From a source as fruitful As a dried date pit That even a bird Is wise enough to spit out. Your attachments! My dear, Let’s not speak of those, For Hafiz understands the sufferings Of your heart. Hafiz knows The torments and the agonies That every mind on the way to Annihilation in the Sun Must endure. So at night in my prayers I often stop And ask a thousand angels to join in And Applaud, And Applaud Anything, Anything in this world That can bring your heart comfort!” In my own walk in getting to know God more intimately, I too have had my moments of neurosis, my moments of being the “Dragon Lady.” Like Hafiz who said, “I know the way you can get” to those of his family, friends, and students, my own human friends have said to me, “I know the way you can get when you forget who you really are.” Another poem by Hafiz: I Know the Way You Can Get I know the way you can get When you have not had a drink of [God’s] Love: Your face hardens, Your sweet muscles cramp. Children become concerned About a strange look that appears in your eyes Which even begins to worry your own mirror And nose. Squirrels and birds sense your sadness And call an important conference in a tall tree. They decide which secret code to chant To help your mind and soul. Even angels fear that brand of madness That arrays itself against the world And throws sharp stones and spears into The innocent And into one’s self. O I know the way you can get If you have not been out drinking [God’s] Love. You might rip apart Every sentence your friends and teachers say, Looking for hidden clauses. You might weigh every word on a scale Like a dead fish. You might pull out a ruler to measure From every angle in your darkness The beautiful dimensions of a heart you once Trusted. I know the way you can get If you have not had a drink from Love’s Hands. That is why all the Great Ones speak of The vital need To keep remembering God, So you will come to know and see Him As being so Playful And wanting, Just wanting to help. I think all of us who are on a spiritual path can recognize that we have at times fled God. Actually we still do that when we fear what He wants of us, and Hafiz speaks of this: Too Beautiful The fire Has roared near you. The most intimate parts of your body God scorched, So Of course you have run From your marriages into a Different House That will shelter you From embracing every aspect of Him. God has Roared near us. The lashes on our heart’s eye got burnt. Of course we have Run away From His Sweet flaming breath That proposed an annihilation Too real, Too Beautiful. God’s roaring and scorching, His annihilation, is part of our growth process, part of our healing and rehabilitation process, part of our ascension. This process has been referred to in the Christian tradition as “the dark night of the soul.” In order to continue to know God, we have to continue to dwell in the dark nights of the soul, which results in health, dance, and joy. Hafiz tells us to stay in those dark nights of the soul. My Eyes So Soft Don’t Surrender Your loneliness so quickly. Let it cut more Deep. Let it ferment and season you As few human Or even Divine ingredients can. Something missing in my heart tonight Has made my eyes so soft, My voice so Tender, My need of God Absolutely Clear. We need to overcome our temptations to regress, to go backwards into our old madness. We need to continue to accept God’s constant invitations for us to rejoin Him. Hafiz tells us: Divine Invitation to Dance I know the voice of depression Still calls to you. I know those habits that can ruin your life Still send their invitations. But you are with the Friend now And look so much stronger. You can stay that way And even bloom! Keep squeezing drops of the Sun From your prayers and work and music And from your companions’ beautiful laughter. Keep squeezing drops of the Sun From the sacred hands and glance of your Beloved And, my dear, From the most insignificant movements Of your own holy body. Learn to recognize the counterfeit coins That may buy you just a moment of pleasure, But then drag you for days Like a broken man Behind a farting camel. You are with the Friend now. Learn what actions of yours delight Him, What actions of yours bring freedom And Love. Whenever you say God’s name, dear pilgrim, My ears wish my head was missing So they could finally kiss each other And applaud your nourishing wisdom. O keep squeezing drops of the Sun From your prayers and work and music And from your companions’ beautiful laughter And from the most insignificant movements Of your own holy body. Now, sweet one, Be wise. Cast all your votes for Dancing. In spite of our discomfort at the sharp cutting of the soul surgeon and our struggles to die to our lower selves, the spiritual elder, the soul surgeon, the true minister, the true friend also calls out to our real selves, our higher selves. We Should Talk About This Problem There is a Beautiful Creature Living in a hole you have dug. So at night I set fruit and grains And little pots of wine and milk Beside your soft earthen mounds, And I often sing. But still, my dear, You do not come out. I have fallen in love with Someone Who hides inside you. We should talk about this problem— Otherwise, I will never leave you alone. As we ascend and become stabilized in our higher psychic circles, we become more compassionate and loving, caring deeply about others’ well-being, experiencing grief and sadness over other people’s suffering. Yet we are lightened, as Hafiz was, and have humor and joy, loving music and dance and poetry and good stories and food and nature and each other. We celebrate life every day, for we have the Beloved within us and all around us. A Wild, Holy Band Your breath is a sacred clock, my dear— Why not use it to keep time with God’s Name? And if your feet are ever mobile Upon this ancient drum, the earth, O do not let your precious movements Come to naught. Let your steps dance silently To the rhythm of the Beloved’s Name! My fingers and my hands Never move through empty space, For there are Invisible golden lute strings all around, Sending Resplendent Chords Throughout the Universe. I hear the voice Of every creature and plant, Every world and sun and galaxy— Singing the Beloved’s Name! I have awakened to find violin and cello, Flute, harp and trumpet, Cymbal, bell and drum— All with me! From head to toe, every part of my body Is chanting and clapping! My dear, The Beloved has made you Such a Luminous Person! For with constant remembrance of God, One’s whole body will become A Wonderful and Wild Holy Band!     PAGE   PAGE \* MERGEFORMAT 2  The renderings in English of Hafiz’s poems in this article by Daniel Ladinsky are based upon the translation from Persian to English by H. Wilberforce Clark (originally published in 1891). The intent of Ladinsky was to capture the living spirit of Hafiz’s poetry.