A spirituality adequate to the times we live in must first of all be centered in the reality of human completion itself. If it is based instead on any partial version of humanness, it will be insufficient. No matter what is sought to supplement this insufficiency, if the starting point is less than human wholeness, the result will only be distorted version of humanness. Sufism can be considered a path of completion in two important senses: First, it is a way that proceeds from and leads to human completion, the Completed Human Being (Insani Kamil). Second, it is a complete way that uses every possible effective means to orchestrate the transformation of a human being. Both of these facts--the completeness of the method and the completeness of the result--are of the highest significance.
Anyone who has probed the inner life to a certain extent, who has sat in silence long enough to experience the stillness of the mind behind its apparent noise, is faced with a mystery. Apart from all the outer attractions of life in the world, there exists at the heart of human consciousness something else, something quite satisfying and beautiful in itself, a beauty without features. The mystery is not so much that these two dimensions exist--an outer world and the mystery of the inner world--but that the human being is suspended between them--as a space in which both meet. It is as if the human being is the meeting point, the threshold between two worlds. Anyone who has explored this inwardness to a certain degree will know that it holds a great beauty and power. In fact, to be unaware of this mystery of inwardness is to be incomplete.
Adab is courtesy, respect, appropriateness. Adab is not formality; it helps to create the context in which we develop our humanness. Every situation and relationship has its proper adab: between students on the path, in relation to family members and elders, in relation to one's shaikh. Every level of being also has its adab, including coming into the presence of Truth (Al-Haqq).
There was once a time, perhaps, when people felt themselves to be part of a cosmic order which offered a straight path to salvation, truth, or enlightenment. In that time before spiritual truth was relativized, God's love and mercy was extended to anyone, no matter what his or her circumstances, who fulfilled the necessary moral and religious duties. Almost every person could find in his or her own humanness the pre-condition of hope.
It has become an accepted spiritual idea that each part of the universe in some way reflects the whole. Contemporary spirituality has borrowed the holographic model from contemporary science. This notion has always existed within Sufism and is expressed, for instance, in the idea that the human being is not merely a drop that can merge with the Ocean, but a drop thatcontains the Ocean. Every divine attribute is latent within the human heart, and by the cooperation of human will with divine grace these attributes can be awakened and manifested. We human beings contain within ourselves the potential to experience completion, to know our intimate relationship to the whole of Being in such a way that we reflect this completion through ourselves. The highest spiritual attainment has been expressed by the phrase insân-i kâmil , the Completed Human Being.
A dervish is an apprentice, one who is learning the profession that will provide eternal livelihood. This profession is still taught in certain "schools of higher learning." While there are many skills that can be self-taught or learned alone, the skills of dervishood are learned by being in relationship to a shaikh, or guide, and within a spiritual family, a Sufi circle. There will always be much to learn on one's own, through one's own efforts, and within one's own understanding. The final responsibility, of course, lies with ourselves, and in reality there is no intermediary between us and our God. And yet one can no more become a dervish alone than one can become a lover alone.
We are all students in the school of love, although it may take us a long time and much suffering to admit this fact. Something obstinately refuses to see the obvious. Its amazing how stubborn and slow we are, and how often we still forget. We forget whenever we think ourselves more important than others, whenever we see our own desires and goals as more important than the feelings and well-being of those we love. We forget whenever we blame others for what we ourselves have been guilty of. We forget whenever we lose sight of the fact that in this school of love it is love that we all are trying to learn.
The greatest truths and aspirations are perpetually at risk of being subverted from their highest possibilities. We see tendencies arising these days which are rationalized through a spiritual rhetoric yet lack a spiritual center and which therefore are at the mercy of distortion by the ego and its narcissistic demands. This is especially true when there is any opportunism, any possibility of telling the ego what it wants to hear, rather than telling the Truth. These can take the form of celebrity spirituality, quantum affluence, psychological polytheism, mythological paganism, mystical eroticism, ego-empowerment, get-what-you-want-mysticism. Each in subtle and not so subtle ways misplaces the center, and is therefore out of balance.
Is it possible for humanity, or even a portion of it, to embrace a truly universal spirituality? If so, what would a universal spirituality be based on? And would such a spirituality be able to offer a path to complete spiritual realization? The answers to these questions have become more urgent as the world becomes smaller through technologies of communication and transportation. While we can appreciate the need for greater understanding and acceptance of our differences and greater recognition of our common humanity, should this spell the end of religion as we know it? Is it time for a spirituality that is founded upon universal principles, or upon a scientific spiritual psychology? Can we dispense with forms if we have found the essence? Can we separate spirituality from religion?
Let's begin by considering the world we live in, the society and culture that we live in; particularly in North America but more or less all over the modern world we have societies which are based on the individual. Particularly in North America and Europe but in the modern world as a whole, the individual is taken as the center of reality, the most important unit of reality. And this pervades everything. But in the modern world, meaning the world of the last few centuries for the West, this individual that is the center of reality, is in a sense an individual -- unlike the individual of traditional societies and of many eastern societies -- it's an individual cut off from the transcendent, it is a crippled individual, a separated individual and sometimes an emotionally toxic and wounded individual; and yet it's this individual that they base everything on, and that is taken as the norm of reality.