This is my testamony regarding the experience that occurred to the writer of the posting here named The Absolute.
It has occurred to me from time to time, and it appears to be coming to me more often, more strongly (if such a thing can be said) and more poignantly. Poignant, indeed; it pierces my being, which flows out from the wound like superfluid helium trying to escape.
I would like to think that my years of technical writing will help.
There is no harder experience to explain, as it is different and similar to us all, for each, together and separately, intimate and also transcendent, above and beyond, and below and under, and then making all these words rattle like dead bones in a dice cup, compared to Him.
Yet the blind men must drag in the 500-megaton elephant in the continuum and point out its parts yet again.
I was praying in the shower, in the dark. I must explain.
When I encountered the Sufis for the first time, I was exhilarated and eager to be invited into their company. I lived at that time in an unheated house in one of the coldest California Winters in memory. You could see your breath in the house, and when I dashed into the shower each morning, it took no great piety to thank God for the hot water. And as it happened, I never lost that sentiment. How many eremites prayed for just such a bounty? And I like the darkness.
I sent out my thanks, feeling it groping the dark, as it were, finding its way home. And it did.
I found myself overtaken with a quality that defies description: but I must try.
The thing that I must somehow convey is the experience of total intimacy united with total transcendence. This is not dictation from some Zeus speaking in thunderbolts; this is not the murmur of Gaia on the buzzing of a dragonfly’s wings, or the waves breaking on the distant shore that Wordsworth heard. This is the voice of YOUR heart’s desire that YOU never could have dreamed of being fulfilled so utterly. But beyond all imagination and hope, there you are, filled and overflowing, as our master Ibn al-Arabi says, “Eradicated and made present”. This is experience that erases your past and future under the impact of a state so profound that your humanity is punctured and drained away and replaced by His viewpoint.
What is that viewpoint? It is beyond the separation necessary for viewpoints, eye here, vista there. What I am invited to share with Him is the very moment of His emergence into our physical universe. He is not high overhead, or down in the water. He is right in front of me, pouring into the Universe like a titanic Niagara Falls of pure Being. In the words of the Prophet of Islam, sallahu alahi wa salaam, “two bows-length” from Him. The impact of Him is obliterating; it is hard to form long-term memory in this State, so it has a very strange, shimmering quality as I look back at it from this distance. But here is the thing.
It is His Face.
As personal as it is for me, it is for Him. This is Him without form, without halos, crowns, tridents, flutes, spears, hammers, funny hats, anything but Being. And his Being is not separate from Him; His effulgence creating the universe is as natural to Him and effortless as our breath, though He is Breathing 60 trillion times a second. Or 60 quadrillion; it does not matter if it were once in 60 trillion years. In His movement into matter, He creates His own Body.
And in that moment, I realized again, much more profoundly than ever, that here was the end of my search, the Source of all, the Ding an sich, the hypokeimenon , the Immovable Mover; my Lord. My mind’s satisfaction, my heart’s desires, my body’s assumption into His.
And He had come to me, with heartrending love and desire seeming to equal my own. With the same tremendous satisfaction and relief that we were together again after separation.
And I realized that “sin” is whatever turns you away from that transcendent Love that wants you always to Be there with Him, sharing His own Existence, Living in Him. The agony of separation from Him I felt is the only loss that He can know, the only pain that He can feel. His is the pain I felt my whole life.
I stood weeping in the wet dark shower.
And from me was torn the affirmation that the Sufis say we made on that day at the birth of time, when all of creation was there, looking at His Face. He asked of us, “Who is your Lord?”, and we all said, “You are our Lord!” And I whispered “You are my Lord!” aloud.
Nietzsche wrote, “The mind says ‘I’, but the body performs ‘I’.” After my attestation, I was dumbfounded to suddenly hear silence in myself. The rumour of billions of cells, each going about their celly lives, was stilled. And then I distinctly heard every living cell in my body shout, “You are our Lord!”
And I wept in the wet dark shower again.
I must confess: I remember the life before this and what it was like to be pure spirit, and not a being trapped in a bag of warm salty mud. I have hated being a human being. According to the Sufis, though we are “here” with our bodies, we have really never left sitting in His presence. We remain there. To leave Him would result in the extinguishing of our existence, like a candle flame winking out. So we can say that remembering Him here leads to remembering Him there and what part we play in it all. Our forgetting puts illusory distance between us. That is why I have a rock before me, here on my desk, that has a word burnt into it with a laser: remember. Pull the member-ies of yourself together, yoke them with yoga, re-tie them with re-ligion where they cannot be lost.
Our master, Ibn al-Arabi, the Greatest Shaykh, says, “The knowledge of Him, that you receive from Him, you will realize in the next life. Your vision will conform to that knowledge, and there is no increase; the form remains the same. So it were better if you were engaged in labor outwardly, while receiving knowledge of Him, from Him, inwardly.”
For now, the words that illuminate my life: Everything perishes but His Face.