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The commentator observes that the Sunna, being general in scope, makes no distinction between individuals, e.g. seekers of Paradise and seekers of God, but that in reality it contains exactly what each person requires. The portion specially appropriate in every case is discerned either by means of gnosis, which God communicates to the heart, or by means of guidance imparted by a spiritual director.

"And He said to me, 'My exoteric revelation does not support My esoteric revelation.'"
This means that the gnostic need not be dismayed if his inner experience conflicts with the religious law. The contradiction is only apparent. Religion addresses itself to the common herd of men who are veiled by their minds, by logic, tradition, and so on; whereas gnosis belongs to the elect, whose bodies and spirits are bathed in the eternal Light. Religion sees things from the aspect of plurality, but gnosis regards the all-embracing Unity. Hence the same act is good in religion, but evil in gnosis--a truth which is briefly stated thus:

"The good deeds of the pious are the ill deeds of the favourites of God."

Although works of devotion are not incompatible with gnosis, no one who connects them in the slightest degree with himself is a gnostic. This is the theme of the following allegory. Niffari seldom writes so lucidly as he does here, yet I fancy that few of my readers will find the explanations printed within square brackets altogether superfluous.


"God bade me behold the Sea, and I saw the ships sinking and the planks floating; then the planks too were submerged."

[The Sea denotes the spiritual experiences through which the mystic passes in his journey to God. The point at issue is this: whether he should prefer the religious law or dis-interested love. Here he is warned not to rely on his good works, which are no better than sinking ships and will never bring him safely to port. No; if he would attain to God, he must rely on God alone. If he does not rely entirely on God, but lets himself trust ever so little in anything else, he is still clinging to a plank. Though his trust in God is greater than before, it is not yet complete.]

"And He said to me, 'Those who voyage are not saved.'"

[The voyager uses the ship as a means of crossing the sea: therefore he relies, not on the First Cause, but on secondary causes.]

"And He said to me, 'Those who instead of voyaging cast themselves into the Sea take a risk.'"

[To abandon all secondary causes is like plunging in the sea. The mystic who makes this venture is in jeopardy, for two reasons: he may regard himself, not God, as initiating and carrying out the action of abandonment, and one who renounces a thing through 'self' is in worse case than if he had not renounced it,--or he may abandon secondary causes (good works, hope of Paradise, etc.), not for God's sake, but from sheer indifference and lack of spiritual feeling.]

"And He said to me, 'Those who voyage and take no risk shall perish.'"

[Notwithstanding the dangers referred to, he must make God his sole object or fail.]

"And He said to me, 'In taking the risk there is a part of salvation.'"

[Only a part of salvation, because perfect selflessness has not yet been attained. The whole of salvation consists in the effacement of all secondary causes, all phenomena, through the rapture which results from vision of God. But this is gnosis, and the present revelation is addressed to mystics of a lower grade. The gnostic takes no risk, for he has nothing to lose.]

"And the wave came and lifted those beneath it and overran the shore."

[Those beneath the wave are they who voyage in ships and consequently suffer shipwreck. Their reliance on secondary causes casts them ashore, i.e. brings them back to the world of phenomena whereby they are veiled from God.]

"And He said to me, 'The surface of the Sea is a gleam that cannot be reached.'"

[Anyone who depends on external rites of worship to lead him to God is following a will-o'-the-wisp.]

"And its bottom is a darkness impenetrable."

[To discard positive religion, root and branch, is to wander in a pathless maze.]

"And between the two are fishes which are to be feared."

[He refers to the middle way between pure exotericism and pure esotericism. The 'fishes' are its perils and obstacles.]

"Do not voyage on the Sea, lest I cause thee to be veiled by the vehicle."

[The 'vehicle' signifies the 'ship,' i.e. reliance on something other than God.]

"And do not cast thyself into the Sea, lest I cause thee to be veiled by thy casting thyself."

[Whoever regards any act as his own act and attributes it to himself is far from God.]

"And He said to me, 'In the Sea are boundaries: which of them will bear thee on?'"

[The 'boundaries' are the various degrees of spiritual experience. The mystic ought not to rely on any of these, for they are all imperfect.]

"And He said to me, 'If thou givest thyself to the Sea and sinkest therein, thou wilt fall a prey to one of its beasts.'"

[If the mystic either relies on secondary causes or abandons them by his own act, he will go astray.]

"And He said to me, 'I deceive thee if I direct thee to aught save Myself.'"

[If the mystic's inward voice bids him turn to anything except God, it deceives him.]

"And He said to me, 'If thou perishest for the sake of other than Me, thou wilt belong to that for which thou hast perished.'

"And He said to me, 'This world belongs to him whom I have turned away from it and from whom I have turned it away; and the next world belongs to him towards whom have brought it and whom I have brought towards Myself.'"

[He means to say that everlasting joy is the portion of those whose hearts are turned away from this world and who have no worldly possessions. They really enjoy this world, because it cannot separate them from God. Similarly, the true owners of the next world are those who do not seek it, inasmuch as it is not the real object of their desire, but contemplate God alone.]

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