Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Hidden Conversation, and other groovy Sufi-like stuff

Here is a bunch of information on the subject of "The Hidden Conversation" ™

I pulled this off an eList that I created some years ago on the instruction of my Teacher.

One of the things he charged me with was to introduce some higher order ideas and observe the reactions of the people on the list as they were exposed to them.

When it came to the material of the "Hidden Conversation" one thing I discovered was that people could only discuss the material for about seven days without freaking out and dragging the list into chaos.

There were only a very few exceptions to this rule, one of which was my friend Jeff, who's questions were one of the reasons I kept the list going.

So here is a collection of material for anyone who is interested in the tools nessessary for breaking free of the "everyday trance" that we live in.

Sorry for its length, but it is better than having to join the list and then going through the Archives, yes?

Copyright 2002 Mushtaq Ali al Ansari, all rights reserved. No part of this document by be reprinted or reproduced in any fashion without the express fnord permission of the author.

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…………..This brings us (in a rather circuitous way) to the next question I found so interesting.

Someone asked (with malice of forethought no doubt) "What's wrong with generalizations?" After I picked myself up of the floor from laughing I realized that the question was probably serious and the poor fellow probably didn't know any better.

The answer is, nothing is wrong with generalizations under the correct circumstances and everything is wrong with them under the wrong circumstances.

For instance, if one were attempting to design a new model car, generalization would be an essential part of the process. It might even be said to be a process of distorting an almost Platonic generalization of "car-ness" to achieve the particular form you want. Then it is also necessary to create a generalization to understand that a "Volkswagen" and a "Cadillac" are both in the class of things we call "car".

On the other hand, generalization when it comes to certain aspects of the human condition is the worst kind of poison.

For instance, who can tell me what is wrong with these sentences:

  • Irishmen are Drunks.
  • Blacks are lazy.
  • Women are weaker.
  • Arabs are terrorists.
  • Junkies will steal from you.
  • White Men exploit the planet.
  • Real Sufis do not chant in foreign languages.

Now I could write a whole book on just the above, but others already have soI will just leave this dangling out here like a baited hook.

Instead let me introduce you to a Sufi concept that I have not seen much of in the West.

It is contained in the two phrases "Al lasun an Nafs" and "Al Lasun al Dhat" (The language of the Ego and the language of the Essence).

The only overt reference I can remember to this concept is in Gurdjieff's "Meetings With Remarkable Men" where he talks about the two brothers who go from monastery to monastery lecturing

"Understanding is acquired, as I have already said, from the totality of information intentionally learned and from personal experiencings; whereas
knowledge is only the automatic remembrance of words in a certain sequence.....

I must tell you that in our brotherhood there are two very old brethren; one is called Brother Ahl and the other Brother Sez. These brethren have undertaken the obligation of periodically visiting of all the monasteries of our order and explaining various aspects of the essence of divinity....

The sermons of these two brethren, who are to an almost equal degree holy men and who speak the same truths, have nevertheless a different effect on all our brethren and on me in particular.

When Brother Sez speaks it is indeed like the song of the birds in Paradise; from what he says one is quite, so to say, turned inside out; one becomes as though entranced. His speech 'purls' like a stream and one no longer wishes anything else in life but to listen to the voice of Brother Sez.

But Brother Ahl's speech has almost the opposite effect. He speaks badly and indistinctly, evidently because of his age. No one knows how old he is. Brother Sez is also very old - it said three hundred years old - but he is still a hale old man, whereas in Brother Ahl the weakness of old age is
clearly evident.

The stronger the impression made at the moment by the words of Brother Sez, the more this impression evaporates, until there ultimately remains in the hearer nothing at all.

But in the case of Brother Ahl, although at first what he says makes almost no impression, later, the gist of it takes on a different form, more and
more each day, and is instilled as a whole into the heart and remains there for ever.

When we became aware of this and tried to discover why it was so, we came to the unanimous conclusion that the sermons of Brother Sez proceeded only from his mind and therefore acted on our minds, whereas those of Brother Ahl proceeded from his being and acted on our being."

(Meetings With Remarkable Men, G.I Gurdjieff)


The whole idea behind the concepts of "Al lasun an Nafs" and "Al Lasun al Dhat" is that a person who is operating from Nafs (mechanical ego) will speak in a way that is very different from a person who is operating from Essence. It is further postulated that if one understands the process of each "language" that it is remarkably easy to tell where a person is operating from. Even more importantly, if one trains oneself to speak consciously from "Al Lasun al Dhat" then the Essence will be awakened just by the process of communicating.


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There is a discipline of "practical Sufism" taught in some (but not all) Tariqas (taught to some but not all students) called "Kalam al Batini" (the hidden conversation).

This discipline is predicated on the idea that a person does not speak one 'language' but has several possible 'languages' (modes of communication) both verbal and non-verbal that are mostly expressed 'unconsciously'.

These 'languages' can be broken down into two categories,
"Al lasun an Nafs" (the language of the 'ego')
and
"Al Lasun al Dhat" (the language of the Essence)

In training both of these broad categories are further refined, each being broken down into seven subsections.

The reconciling 'force' between these two types of communication is "Wukuf" (a very complex concept that is often glossed as "pause" or "awareness")

"Al Lasun al Dhat" / \"Al lasun an Nafs"
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"Wuquf"

Mr. Gurdjieff gave us this contrast between "Al Lasun al Dhat" and "Al lasun an Nafs"

"Understanding is acquired, as I have already said, from the totality of information intentionally learned and from personal experiencings; whereas knowledge is only the automatic remembrance of words in a certain sequence....."


One of the more important ways that a student begins to develop the skills of "Kalam al Batini" is through working with the "most beautiful Names", specifically with three of them;

  • Al Raqib "the Vigilant"
  • Al Muhsi "the Appraiser"
  • Al Khabir "the Aware"

This is done in such a way as to allow the student to "embody" the qualities.

Now I would like to add some more terms and concepts to the mix.

The first two are "Afaq" and "Anfus".

Though these two words traditionally are referred to as "worlds", they actually refer to modes of perception.

Afaq means "horizon" or "view", in this sense it refers to the "phenomenal world". It is perhaps best explained as what is given to the senses to
perceive from the Divine Reality. Anfaq is limited by the "constraints of the senses", that is to say, it is Only what is perceived from the senses and is limited to that which the senses can receive and process.

Anfus comes from the root Nun-Fe-Sin, "nafs", self, or ego. Anfus is the internally constructed world of the Ego. It is made up from memory, habit, conditioning, learning, and such like.

The Anfus is the 'veil' through which we see life. It projects its 'stories' onto what is received in the Afaq.

It is said that the Anfus 'wraps' the experiences of the senses in "Haweh" (another of those interesting Arabic words. It is usually translated as "container" or "wrapper" but from the same root comes a word for a "juggler" or "slight-of -hand artist. This is where I coined the term "slight of mind" (tm) from). I guess the best way to describe this is to say that "Haweh" are the "projections of conditioning" placed on phenomenal experience.

When the Anfus expresses itself in the consensual world (Alam al Mulk) it is called "Al lasun an Nafs".

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A quote from the Liber Proverbiorum of Raymondo Lull, where he describes "Al Lasun al Dhat"

THE SIXTH SENSE: VOICE OR AFFATUS
From Blessed Raymond Lull's Book of Proverbs


1. The Affatus is the unknown sixth sense.

2. The Affatus is the faculty for manifesting one's mental concepts.

3. The object of the Affatus is the manifestation of thought and its
instrument is the tongue.

4. The tongue is an instrument common to the acts of the Affatus and of the
sense of taste, in the same way as sound is an instrument for hearing and
speaking.

5. Through the Affatus, you participate more with the rational soul, than
through any other sense.

6. The Affatus stands between the mental concept, and the sense of hearing.

7. Through the Affatus, one person can communicate with another more than
through any other sense.

8. None of the other senses signifies as many things as the Affatus does.

9. The sense of hearing hears sound, but the Affatus produces it.

10. The Affatus produces the name of GOD in sound, and the sense of hearing
perceives it.

11. Through the Affatus, you can be more loved or hated than through any
other sense.

12. The Affatus communicates science to the sense of hearing.

13. The Affatus is a figure of the intellect, and the sense of hearing is a
figure of memory.

14. The sense of smell is not as necessary a sense as the Affatus.

15. In this world, you cannot participate with GOD without an act of the
Affatus.

16. The Affatus is such a noble faculty, and so very useful, that the Lord
of all nature would be doing it wrong, if it were not a sense.

17. With none of the other senses does the Son of GOD have a concordance as
great as with the Affatus.

18. The acts of the Affatus, and of speech are equivalent or convertible.

19. The words "Affatus" and "verbal speech" are synonyms.

20. The mechanical arts are made more manifest through the Affatus, than
through any other sense.


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"I was a Hidden Treasure and I desired to be known. So I created the universe so that I might be known."

This Hadith Qudsi is often used to illustrate one of the central themes of Sufism. That Allah wants to be known and has acted creatively to ensure that this will be the case. The action That Allah took was to create the universe from His attributes so as to reflect Him to Him. The prime "organ of perception" (at least in this neck of the galaxy) is Humans.

When we look at the Islamic exposition of the creation of humans we can see that "man" contains the entire spectrum of creation "from the highest of the high to the lowest of the low", a set of attributes contained in no other aspect of creation mentioned. It has been suggested that Allah created us in this way so as to have the potential for perfect reflection. This is because humans are designed to be able to not only reflect the entire spectrum of Allah's attributes but also to be able to reflect Allah's Essence. (this particular observation has gotten Sufis into no end of trouble with the fundamentalist/legalist branch of Islam)

It has been observed (by experts and others of course) that much of the "Sufic Sciences" are based around working consciously with the "Most beautiful Names" (Asma al Husna) which are "descriptors" for the attributes of Allah (and the gateway to His Essence).

For instance in the "Kalam al Batini" (the hidden conversation) which is the Sufi way of understanding the subtle levels of human verbal and nonverbal communication (and leading, it is said to communication at the level of essence) Three of the "Divine Names" are considered essential.

They are

  • Al Raqib
  • Al Muhsi
  • Al Khabir

Through working with these names in the proper order and with the correct techniques* a particular "yaqin" (certainty) can be developed which is essential to the process.

* (no I am not going to tell you the order or techniques for working with these names. If you were to make even the smallest mistake, strange bestial forms would manifest, coming not through the spaces we know but from the angles between them, to suck your soul out through your left ear and carry it to the outer realms to be forever tormented by the Great Old Ones...... Or it would give you a really bad headache, I forget which)

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The Prophet (saws) said:
"Man is asleep. He will not awaken until Death."

And he (saws) also said:
"Die before you die."

Obviously, the "sleep" that the Prophet (saws) is referring to here is not the sleep we have at night in our beds, (though it may include that).

I would like to suggest that the sleep that is referred to here is something rather specific and freeing oneself from this "sleep" is central to the process of transformation that leads to the Insan-i-Kamal.

Unfortunately I have to slip at times into the realm of metaphor in an attempt to describe my understanding of what happens here, so please bear with me. The English language is sometimes short on words that accurately describe what is being talked about for things Sufic. So I will endeavor to "point at the moon" through metaphor and simile while building a vocabulary of traditional technical terms in Arabic (for the most part), as that has been the language that Sufis have used for most of the last 1400 years to communicate these ideas.

It has been suggested (by experts and Sufis and plumbers and others) that each of the "parts" of a person, the Nafs, the Dhat, the various Souls, the body, has its appropriate "food". Without sufficient amount of the right type of "food" a given "part" cannot generate enough energy to develop, and if one "part' lags behind the person as a whole is stunted.

My understanding is that a person's dhat (essential self) needs a very particular stimulus in order to grow. Unfortunately, the kind of sensory stimulus needed is "short circuited" by the nafs when it is in the "Ammara" (commanding) phase.

This being the case the essential self stays (in most people) in an "embryonic state".

The nafs, in its "un-repaired" state, functions by stealing attention. Attention, (which is the rightful material of dhat), is fixated on the "objects' of Anfus. This "fixation of attention" follows a pattern of "crystallization" around core "objects", which I suspect may be what Mr. Gurdjieff was talking about with his idea of the "Chief Feature". The nafs uses this pattern of fixation to set up the criteria for making a "heuristic matrix" of choice. When a person operates at this level of "consciousness" (for lack of a better term) they tend to react to people and events that have only one or two points of similarity to the "objects" of the "heuristic matrix" AS IF those one or two points of similarity made them identical to the Anfus "object" in its entirety.

So when you run across phrases like

  • "Arabs are terrorists"
  • "Idries Shah is the worlds foremost authority on Sufism"
  • "Islam is the Enemy"
  • "Black People are Lazy"
  • " White Men exploit the planet"
  • "My Tariqa says (X) is true/false"
  • "My wife/husband doesn't understand me"
  • "Don't worry, be happy"
  • "Idries Shah is a Wanker"

This comes from Al Lasun al Nafs and what responds to these phrases in the listener is most often (unless one has done considerable work on oneself) the Nafs.

In the technical language of (some) Sufis (and others) the unconscious reaction from within the heuristic matrix that produces an uncontrolled "emotional" and physical response based on a random point of similarity from within the anfus is called "Khatir an Nafs".

Khatir is another of those "interesting" Arabic words. In this context it means "A thought, or idea complex which is given to the conscious mind seemingly in a random way that affects the emotions in its passing"

Using tools like the Naqsh-i-Kabir (enneagram), a skilled person can plot out the process by which Nafs fixates attention on the objects of Anfus and what sort of content will be displayed. This also allows for the information necessary to interrupt and redirect this process in such a way to give attention back to Dhat.

Dhat expresses itself (at its most basic level) by three qualities,

  • Attention ('Intabah) ***
  • Intention (Niya) **
  • Presence (Hadra) *


(Yes, the dots are there for a reason)

One could say that when these three qualities are "connected" to the afaq, and in balance with each other, that the essential self is "awake".

Think of the "fire triangle" that most people learn about in elementary school, where if you remove any one point (heat, fuel, oxygen) the fire goes out. In just such a way, when one of these three "points of being" are removed/inhibited, the person's "awake-ness" goes out.

Now, as I said nafs "steals" attention for its own purpose, and in doing so removes one of the corners of the "awake triangle". The problem is to recover attention and then integrate it with the other two points in such a way that a state of "heightened consciousness" is developed. As one might imagine, this is easier said than done.

A great deal has been written about the aphorisms of the Khwaghan over the centuries but little of that writing has been "practical".

Each of the three points of the "essence" triangle relates to one or more of the aphorisms.

Attention had three parts:

Attention works in "three dimensions" it has a sort of "volume".

Attention ('Intabah) ***

Hosh dar dam
Awareness of breath

Bringing ones attention to the breath is the first step to awakening the essence. So the first part of attention is placed in the breath, this does not mean that one changes ones breathing in any way, it is just breathing with awareness.

Nigah Dasht
Watchfulness

The second part of attention is placed on the immediate perceivable environment. This is done in "soft focus", taking in everything as a whole, without making comment on any one part of the environment, being careful to avoid allowing ones attention to fixate on any object or group of objects.

Yad Dasht
Recollection

The third part of attention is turned reflexively onto your own awareness.

--

Intention has two parts:

Intention works in two dimensions, it joins two points into a fiels.

Intention (Niya) **

Baz Gasht
Restraint, Return, travel one way, be single-minded

When attention has become focused then intention is engaged naturally. When intention is made the consciousness of the person must make a kind of "field", one pole of which is the present state, with the other pole being the state of the intention fulfilled. The essence "goes" to the completed intention and then makes a path back to the starting point thereby "blazing the trail" for the intention to complete itself.

Nazar bar qadam
Watch your steps

At every moment be conscious of your actions in respect to fulfilling your intention. Make sure that you do not become lost or distracted and be aware of the future consequences of each action.

--
Presence has one part:

Presence is like a single point.

Presence (Hadra) *

Yad Kard
Remembrance

Remembrance is the state where individual being is connected to universal being (Allah)

When all three of these qualities are "awake" and functioning together, dhat (essence) begins to generate the necessary "energies" to form around itself four "souls", called
  • Ruhani Ruh ("spiritual Soul")
  • Sultani Ruh ("Authoritative Soul")
  • Seyreni Ruh ("Moving Soul")
  • Jismani Ruh ("corporeal Soul")

Which are quite important to the development of the person.

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Interlude, Sacred Movement

"It is illusion to say our movements are voluntary.
All our movements are automatic. Our thoughts and feelings are just as automatic. The automatism of thought and feeling is definitely connected with the automatism of movement. One cannot be changed without the other.

So that if a man's attention is concentrated, let us say, on changing automatic thoughts, then habitual movements and habitual postures will interfere with this new course of thought by attaching to it old habitual associations."
(G. I. Gurdjieff)


Up to this point we have been addressing the "Hidden Conversation" from, by in large, the point of view of language.

Mr. Gurdjieff's comments above point out that verbalization is only a small part of "The conversation", and in fact real transformation cannot take place unless the body in engaged.

This of course is one of the ways that the path protects itself. You would be amazed at the number of "seekers" that go elsewhere when they find out that part of their training entails breaking a sweat daily.

The basic premise is this. Most movement, in most people, most of the time, is unconscious and habitual.

Try this little experement.

Sit in a chair and place your dominant hand on your knee.

Count to three and on "three" quickly reach up and touch your ear.

Now do the same thing with your other hand.

Do this a few times with each hand.

Carry out the exercise before reading the rest of the message.
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Unless you have had some significant training, you will most likely experience an instant of "awareness of movement" at the beginning and at the end of the exercise, but all of the "in-between" will be pretty much "empty".


Now, for a moment entertain the possibility that there are an infinite number of possible points of consciousness between the start of the movement and the end of it, and that each of these points can be filled with "attention, intention, and presence".

Movement of this kind is called Harakah Qudsi (sacred movement). It is movement outside of the habitual and unconscious. It is intentional and spontaneous. It frees energy that has been trapped in the body through conditioned movement. It is an absolutely necessary part of becoming a "Conscious Being".

There are only a very few disciplines left that promote this kind of movement, a handful of martial arts, a couple of yoga styles, a very few dance styles, The "Turn" of the Mevlevis (when taught correctly by someone who has been deeply trained in that tradition) And one or two others.

This is an area of work that has almost been lost. I remember reading a book years ago by a Norwegian athlete named Torlif Sheldroup (I have probably spelled it wrong) Who predicted that there would come a time when people would have to take classes to learn things a basic as how to walk correctly. Well this seems to have started to come to pass.

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There is an old Turkish Proverb which (very roughly) translated says;

"If you make yourself a donkey there are plenty of people willing to throw a saddle on your back."

One way to understand this could be,

If you don't learn to think for yourself there are plenty of people who are quite happy to do your thinking for you.

I am reminded of a kid from India who somehow ended up being hailed as an "enlightened master". He was about sixteen years old when I became aware of him. I remember seeing a picture if him, quite pudgy and sort of cross eyed, sitting on some sort of throne with a caption that said "Does your mind bother you? Then give it to me, it won't bother me."

It was at that moment that I first understood the concept of "The War of the Magicians".

There is an old tradition that runs through Sufism. Most people, if they ever run across it, find it in the writings of Mr. Gurdjieff. He talks about "The catastrophe not according to law by which mankind was split into two streams the greater of which could only live together more or less comfortably as masters and slaves" (boy did he love his run-on sentences).

Now this is the "$64,000.00 question. It is quite obvious to me that the "lasun al nafs" is an extremely powerful survival strategy for the biological organism, arguably more so than the "lasun al dhat".

(Who as it who said "You must be as gentle as doves and as cunning as serpents"?)

One of my interests is in "Spanish Circle" Fencing, called "La Destreza". Pretty much all of the existent literature on the subject agrees that the Duelists of the Spanish School were extremely formidable and one crossed blades with them at great risk. Even the irascible George Silver esq. (who hated rapier fencing with a passion) respected the Spanish School (while observing one of their chief weaknesses).

So I wondered, "if the Spanish School were so formidable, and so obviously superior to the Italian and French Schools of the time, why did the Spanish School die out and the Italian And French Schools become dominant?".

The answer, I believe is to be found in learning curves. At five years of training, a fencer of the Spanish School was most often the dominant player, but at two years of training the Italian and French fencers could beat the Spanish quite often. So it was perhaps a case of the "quick fix" winning out over "mastery"

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Here is a question for the group.

What is the LEAST complex level of simulation you can experience and describe in such a way that another person can understand (simulate) your experience with the least amount of lost/projected information?
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(By now some people may be wondering what this all has to do with Sufism. I would suggest that it IS a description of facets of Tasawwuf couched in modern terminology *for the moment*. I am trying this approach because I have noticed that when I use the natural language of Sufism (which comes out of and is intimately connected to Islam) some people seem to get edgy. I have noticed that when I say *Allah* some members of this list chime in with statements like "But...but but ...... Sufism fnord predated Islam..... Sufism is not an Islamic phenomena....... Shah says fnord we don't have to be Muslim to be Sufis.......etc, etc, etc.......... Which I am more bored with than words can express. Mostly because I hear it as the same kind of smug, sanctimonious, self-satisfied drivel that I get from "fundamentalists", just coming from a different point on the "close-mindedness" graph.

The fact of the matter is that this material is best understood in its natural language. I am basically trying to reinterpret 1400 years of developed technical language on the fly into something that does not set off people with rigid views about Islam.

Of course in doing so I seem to have set off another rigidly sedimented group. Those being the smug, sanctimonious, self-satisfied idiots who think Sufism should be fnord seen as fundamentalist Islam with some chanting tacked on the end.

To both groups I have good news. I have put in a request with Allah (the mighty, the glorious, who is the lord of the two universes, most exalted) (tm)

I am attempting to arrange a visit from the clue fairy for all of you. She is a bit over worked just now so please be patient.

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"Sens produir no pot nuyl hom amar,
ni pot home entendre ni remembrar,
ni ha home poder de sentir e estar."

("Without producing, no man can love,
nor can he understand or remember,
nor have the power of feeling and being.")

(Ramon Llull, Cent noms de Déu.)

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You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird...So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing -- that's what counts. Ilearned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.
Richard Feynman (1918 - 1988)
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If there turns out to be interest in this subject I will add more information from time to time, if not then on to other things.

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