THRESHOLD SOCIETY NEWSLETTER ~ JAN 2021
An international celebration of Mevlana Rumi’s union with the Beloved – the anniversary of his passing into the Unseen – with an online gathering of remembrance. Shaikh Kabir & Camille Helminski lead Mevlevi whirling dervishes in zhikr, music, and poetry on the theme of 'The Heart of Stillness'. Introduction by Fatimah Ashrif. Ney improvisation by Selcuk Gurez. Held on Sunday Dec 20th, 2020.
Remembering Suleyman Dede
January 19th is the Urs of Shaikh Suleyman Hayati Loras (1904-1985). Suleyman Dede was a great Mevlevi Shaikh of Konya, and the Mevlevi Murshid who first guided our Kabir Dede and Camille Ana. He travelled to America and planted the seed of Sufism in many hearts. His teachings and legacy continue to inspire to this day.
“In order to become human, we need to always be within the Divine Presence – to be aware of God, to hold Him in our hearts. When a human being performs zhikr, their spirit – their heart starts to open. Their intelligence becomes more refined and more expansive. Their bodies become healthier. A beautiful condition comes about – similar to the one that is brought about by good music. The whole being opens up like a flower, and the Divine Secret – the things you couldn’t understand or know about before – begin to be revealed to you.”
~ Suleyman Dede
May his soul be blessed.
It was forty years ago this past autumn that Kabir and Camille made their first journey to Turkey, a family journey, to visit Suleyman Dede and Hazrati Mevlana and Hazrati Shams in Konya. They had begun translating and publishing the words of Mevlana in 1978 and had met Dede in the United States in 1979; he had invited them to visit, saying, “Come, come!” And so they made arrangements and journeyed to Konya with their two small boys, Matthew, age 5, and Shams, age 2. They arrived home. We are so grateful to Dede and for this beautiful tradition that continues to nurture so many friends, grateful for this growing family of Spirit under the Light of Mevlana, abounding in Grace. Alhamdulillahi Rabbil ‘Alameen!
In Los Angeles, in 1976, a group of young people studying with Reshad Feild at the Institute for Conscious Life invited the Shaikh Suleyman Dede of Konya, Turkey – this recording, with a translator, captures the essence of the time.
In these days the breathings of God prevail. Turn your ear and mind toward these breathings. ~Muhammad (a.s.)
We welcome your reflections on this theme.
Reflection on December's theme: Sorrow is my friend; knowledge is my weapon; patience is my provision; contentment is my wealth; powerlessness is my pride; detachment is my trade; certainty is my strength, striving is my character, and prayer is my comfort. ~Muhammad (a.s.)
~Norma McOmber (Washington DC, USA)
One observation that has kept coming up for me is that the number of lines in this and last month’s theme totals 15. It became even more interesting to me when I recalled Kabir Dede telling us how Bektashis love odd numbers. He said: “They never let you rest.” Another observation followed Kabir Dede’s explanation that today we can understand Sufi metaphysics expressed through poetry because we have holograms: “[a] hologram of the portion can reflect the whole” (In the House of Remembering). The term “hologram” is from the Greek words holos (whole) and gramma (message). This hadith’s “whole message” shows a remarkable efficiency of words in its 15 lines.
Dede asked us to memorize this hadith. As I’m learning it by heart it is beginning to help me see more of the sacred momentum in my life, thanks be to God.
Muhammad says sorrow is his friend. Like most, I have a reflex to avoid sorrow and suffering. I remember sorrowful and painful parts of my life. I recall suffering during those experiences. I thought I alone was being unjustly allotted. There were feelings of indignation, anger and resentment.
Muhammad says that detachment is his trade. He uses detachment to acquire a different state. He trades one state for another. Muhammad seems to be encouraging me to trade my reflex against sorrow. If I trade in my reflex, I will be given the peace of detachment in exchange.
I know a separate part of me, my essential self, that can observe painful experiences when they arrive. This part is always in peace. With presence, I can see this part’s peace co-exist with my painful memories and experiences. Presence allows me to see the practice opportunity my sorrows provide. I welcome and embrace sorrow as my friend as it teaches and encourages my practice of presence. Mevlana also encourages me to tame my reflex against sorrow when he advises that:
Life’s waters flow from darkness.
Search the darkness, don’t run from it.
[Ghazel,The Pocket Rumi]
Muhammad says that knowledge is his weapon immediately after saying sorrow is his friend in the hadith. I know that sorrows will likely visit me again. The wisdom in and actions advised by Surah Al-Asr helped me understand this part of the hadith. The weapon of knowledge gained through my life experiences, spiritual education and practice of presence can help defend against dissipation. Knowledge anchors awareness of my essential self: I experience the stability and security of peace while life’s storms rage.
“Patience is my provision” reminded me of times when patience gave me what was needed. Patience helped me bear pain when eight people I loved died in quick succession. It also helps ease the strain of parenting my daughter during her adolescence. Patience pointed me to faith when I had to work full-time while also navigating a rough patch in my relationship with my daughter. I trust that if I am patient, God will provide me with what I need for positive psychological, physical, emotional and spiritual states. I am also encouraged that Mevlana tells us “[p]atience is the key to joy” (Mathnawi I:2908, Ninety-Nine Names of the Beloved).
“Certainty is my strength” reminds me of my regular prayer “for true certainty and unshakable following of the way” (Mevlevi Wird). I am learning to discern whether or not my heart’s at peace. When it’s s not, I see if I need to try to change what I’m doing. I might also examine how I’m looking at or thinking about something. Unease does not leave until I understand what is creating the need for something different and act on that. When my heart is at peace, I can more easily and with greater certainty practice presence, ablutions, salaat, zhikr, and meditation. This in turn increases my ability to discern the state of my heart more clearly. With greater authenticity and coherence, joy arrives.
“Striving is my character” highlights how, over time, my striving is shifting away from worldly pursuits and towards spiritual pursuits, alhamdulillah. Mevlana advises:
Don’t strive so much to complete your worldly affairs;
don’t strive in any affair that is not sacred.
Otherwise at the end, you’ll leave incomplete,
your spiritual affairs damaged and your bread unbaked.
[Mathnawi,The Pocket Rumi]
“Contentment is my wealth” is the reverse of what I used to believe. Imam Ali added his experience to this part of the hadith by saying, “Contentment is my inexhaustible wealth.”
Prayer is Muhammad’s comfort. When I pray with presence, tranquility and psychological comfort arrive. Praying during salaat renews me so I can return to work and life.
“Powerlessness is my pride” contrasts with the pride and power a younger and more inexperienced Norma felt with the life agenda she created for herself. Much of the agenda remains unaccomplished, yet I’m happier now than I‘ve ever been. God did “not leave my sustenance to anyone else’s hand but His own” (Mevlevi Wird).
The hadith and stories about Muhammad’s life provide a model, a whole message for becoming a perfected human being. It’s encouraging to know the state he reached is attainable, God willing.
~ Norma lives in the Washington DC area. She helps organize the Threshold DC Study Group and is grateful to Muhammad, Mevlana, Dede and Ana, and her Threshold brothers and sisters.
Gnosis is my stock-in-trade; intellect is the basis of my religion; love is my foundation; longing is my vehicle; remembrance of God is my comfort; trust is my treasure. ~Muhammad (a.s.)
(This was the November theme)
This hadith was new to me, so I looked into its source, and discovered it was believed to be narrated by Sayyiduna ‘Ali (cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet) as reported in Qadhi Iyadh’s Ash-Shifa’ Bi Ta’rif Huquqil Mustafa. Of course, we all know that the authenticity or otherwise of hadith is a tortuous issue, and this hadith was no exception, regarded as far as I could learn as a ‘fabrication’. However, I am not in the least deterred, because whether it is an accurate narration or not, it clearly encapsulates the centrality of the human faculties which lie at the heart of Islam: gnosis, intellect, love, longing, remembrance and trust. As always, let us rely as far as possible on our own faculties to draw out essential meanings, rather than the labyrinthine arguments and pedantic disputations of scholars.
I’m well aware of Shakespeare’s assertion that ‘brevity is the soul of wit’ (where ‘wit’ has the original sense of ‘intelligence’ rather than the ‘clever’ use of words for humour), but I feel that it is better to reflect in some depth on one of the virtues encompassed by the hadith rather than skate over all of them. The one that strikes me as potentially the most problematic is the assertion that ‘intellect is the basis of my religion’, since we may all be only too aware that Mevlana appears repeatedly to warn against the inflation of the intellect:
Sacrifice your intellect in love for the Friend…
The spiritually intelligent have sent their intellects back to Him…
If from bewilderment, this intellect of yours flies out of your head,
every tip of your hair will become a new knowing.
[Mathnawi IV, 1424–25, Jewels of Remembrance]
Elsewhere he has no truck with the mere ‘cleverness’ of the rational mind or with the ‘mouse soul’ forever ‘nibbling’ at the minutiae of logical explanations in the search for what is supposedly ‘correct’.
Many times in the Mathnawi he appears to repeat the same dismissal of the ‘intellect’, as in this line: ‘The philosopher is a slave of intellectual perceptions.’ But let’s see how this passage unfolds:
the pure saint rides the Intellect of intellects like a prince.
The Intellect of the intellect is your kernel;
the intellect is only the husk.
The intellect blackens books with writing;
the Intellect of the intellect fills the universe
with light from the moon of reality.
[Mathnawi III, 2527–28, 2531, Jewels of Remembrance]
So here is the key to Mevlana’s teaching on the ‘intellect’: the distinction between what is translated by Kabir and Camille Helminski as the ‘intellect’ and the higher level of the ‘Intellect of the intellect’. Capitalisation here serves a clear purpose, in the same way as it may distinguish the spiritual Heart and the higher emotions from the heart-based physical and sentimental functions.
It’s always vital to be aware of the different levels of meaning conveyed by potentially ambiguous words such as the ‘intellect’ or ‘heart’. In the same way, the deep ‘emptiness’ in the core of the Heart is not the same as mere vacuity, any more than the ‘bewilderment’ born of spiritual ecstasy (for which Mevlana urges us to exchange our cleverness) is the same as mere confusion. Indeed, as he says, it is the lower intellect that may mislead one into thinking that ‘someone filled with spirit acts crazily’ (Mathnawi II, 3261).
Titus Burckhardt emphasizes that 'the word intellect (al-‘aql) is in practice applied at more than one level.’ On the lower level it refers to the logical, analytical mind (Latin ratio, Greek dianoia) but at the higher level it designates ‘the universal principle of all intelligence, a principle which transcends the limiting conditions of the mind.’ Cyril Glassé also points out that ‘in its highest and metaphysical sense, as used in Islamic philosophy’, al-'aql is the transcendent intellect corresponding to Greek nous, as understood in Platonism and Neoplatonism, and through which the human being is capable of the recognition of Reality. It is the faculty which the Qur'an calls ar-Ruh (‘spirit’), and ‘makes possible direct knowledge’, or ‘revelation on the plane of the microcosm.’
Despite the clear distinction Mevlana makes between the lower and higher levels of the intellect, it is perhaps important to note that he also acknowledges the direct reflection of Universal Intellect in rational thought, describing it as ‘a beam of Universal Intellect cast upon your senses’ (Mathnawi II, 711).
So it is surely appropriate to draw on the totality of all our faculties in the search for Truth. The reported saying of the Prophet gives foundational significance to both the Intellect and the Heart. And this is not contradicted by the saying of Mevlana that ‘Love is the sea where intellect drowns.’ With that I will leave you with the creative perplexity that this may arouse.
~ Jeremy Henzell-Thomas is an independent researcher, writer, speaker, educational consultant, and Visiting Fellow at the Centre of Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge.
The Journey of the Seeker
Rumi’s Teachings on the Spiritual Process
New pre-recorded video course (3 sessions, approx. 2 hours each)
This Self-Study Webinar will be available by Jan. 19th
(once we finish thoroughly testing it).
At Threshold we are continually looking for effective ways to share the beauties of the Sufi path.
The recommended donation is $50, but there will also be a “name your donation option” for anyone in need, or wishing to contribute more.
Experience this recorded in-person seminar, engage with the teachings, study the selections from Rumi, review the video or listen to the sound recordings, read the transcribed texts of the seminar.
These three videos were originally offered through the Open Center in New York to a group of spiritual seekers from various traditions. It was a lively and deep exploration of Sufi practice and Rumi’s teachings.
Shaikh Kabir has selected some of Rumi’s most beautiful and inspiring words to present an overview of the spiritual journey, from Mindfulness and Presence, to Heartfulness, to Intimacy with the Divine.
Participants can view these sessions at their own pace and, inshallah, have the opportunity to engage in the quarterly “Question and Answer” live zoom calls with Shaikh Kabir.
A heart opening
in the clouds—
we are awash
with your Love
that graces these hills—
their beauty in the dawn!
You kiss us
in the Unseen
and we feel it
where we sojourn
under the blanket
of this skin,
we can awaken
and come Home.
~ Excerpt from Sketches from the Unseen by Camille Hamilton Adams Helminski
Letter from Portuguese Translator
I must say it was a very special work for me, translating your Living Presence into Portuguese. This is actually the best thing about working with translation, when I get to translate a text that really completely interests me and makes me consider what really matters, and realize some very important things.
I myself am a student in the Sufi path, in fact from a family of Sufi seekers. So the things that you write about in the book are very familiar to me, and it's very good to read them while already being in a group, being part of the Work, having the conditions and context to put it all into practice. For me, it felt somehow like a new approach, a different way of saying things that are already essential in the way I live life.
I was trying to remember some parts of the book that specially made me beam with happiness while translating it. I remember having this feeling when translating the chapter “Mysteries of the Body,” as well as many other parts, in which the things you say so clearly and with such familiarity sank into me like a light, as if opening an internal space. I don't know if I'm making myself clear, but this is how it felt at many moments during this work of translating the book.
And also, all throughout the translation, I was happy to contribute to making this book available to people in general. I felt like being a part of the channel for this form of love to reach many other people. I find it quite a challenge to talk about the Sufi work to people who don't have this experience, and in Living Presence you manage to do so in a clear and vibrant way; it can really be an eye-opener and heart awakener to many people. People, of course, who are curious and interested enough to start reading the book… and who may get a real gift from this reading. At many moments, when I was translating the book, I felt that it really was like a jewel.
I hope to have been able to express myself well… I thank you very much, first of all for having written this book, and for having granted us the possibility of translating it into Portuguese. For me it felt like a real present.
With my warmest regards,
Threshold Books COVID-19 Care Package
Choose any three items from this list of paperback books and CD’s
and receive all three at the discounted price of $25 including shipping.
Or choose one hardcover book and two of any of the others for $30 including shipping.
Ship to yourself or to cheer a friend.
(See our bookstore pages for item descriptions)
Jewels of Remembrance; The Rumi Collection.
Paperback book options:
Unseen Rain; Love Is a Stranger; The Light of Dawn; Inspirations on the Path of Blame; Happiness without Death.
Praise by Ahmet Tijani and friends; Embracing Both Worlds (Music of Sema)
Sunday Meditation: 1st & 3rd Sunday of the month
An online meditation with Shaikh Kabir Helminski, Camille, and other members of the Threshold community. Held on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month at 11am EST / 4pm GMT.
Join us on Zoom: https://zoom.us/j/435138208
[If you have not used Zoom before, please allow time to install and test the software before the meeting time. Click the above link and you will be prompted to download.]
Watch all the previous meditations on our YouTube channel.
The Threshold Society, rooted within the traditions of Sufism and inspired by the life and work of Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi, is a non-profit educational foundation with the purpose of facilitating the experience of Divine Unity, Love, and Truth in the world. Sufism is a living tradition of human transformation through love and higher consciousness. Our fundamental framework is classical Sufism and the Qur’an as it has been understood over the centuries by the great Sufis. The Society is affiliated with the Mevlevi Order, and offers training programs, seminars and retreats around the world.
Each month we intend to highlight an article about our lineage and its principles. This month we offer: Adab; The Courtesy of the Path.
The Sufis created a system of human development grounded in love and using the power of love to awaken and transform human beings. Rumi taught that it is everyone’s potential to master the art of loving. Love is the answer to the problem of human existence.
The way to God passes through servanthood. The point is to love and be connected with others in that love. The form of Sufi work is typically a group, or spiritual family. The Sufis created a milieu in which human love was so strong that it naturally elevated itself to the level of cosmic love. All forms of love eventually lead to spiritual love. “Ashq olsun,” they say. “May it become love.” They cultivated a kindness and refinement in which love fermented into a fine wine. They encouraged service to humanity as an expression of the love they felt. They accepted a rigorous discipline in order to keep the fire of love burning strongly.
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