gift of miracles

Gift of Miracles: a Sufi Allegory

“There is a Sufi story about a man who is so good that the angels ask God to give him the gift of miracles. God wisely tells them to ask him if that is what he would wish.

“So the angels visit this good man and offer him first the gift of healing by hands, then the gift of conversion of souls, and lastly the gift of virtue. He refuses them all. They insist that he choose a gift or they will choose one for him. ‘Very well,’ he replies, ‘I ask that I may do a great deal of good without ever knowing it.’ The story ends this way:

“The angels were perplexed. They took counsel and resolved upon the following plan: Every time the saint’s shadow fell behind him it would have the power to cure disease, sooth pain, and comfort sorrow. As he walked, behind him his shadow made arid paths green, caused withered plants to bloom, gave clear water to dried up brooks, fresh color to pale children, and joy to unhappy men and women. The saint simply went about his daily life diffusing virtue as the stars diffuse light and the flowers scent, without ever being aware of it. The people respecting his humility followed him silently, never speaking to him about his miracles. Soon they even forgot his name and called him ‘the Holy Shadow’.” ~Rachel Naomi Remen

Gift of Miracles

This Sufi tale has one great flaw: in reality, the angels would have understood that the gift of humility was the greatest gift God could give the man, or that he could give himself. But then it is just a tale, a parable, intended to make a point. Like most scripture, it is not history and is not intended to be taken as literal truth.

God understood when he told the angels to ask the man if he wanted to be given a gift of miracles. The man did want to do good, as he probably had been doing for a long time, but he didn’t want to know he was doing it. The reason is humility. He knew that if the angels made him a miracle worker, it might puff up his ego and he would lose the important gift of humility. Virtually all spiritual schools teach that humility is necessary for any significant spiritual advancement. We must be doing it for the good of all, not just to give ourselves the idea that we are better than others because we have developed our spiritual facilities and gained in some way, the gift of miracles.

Three Specific Gifts

The angels offered the holy man three specific gifts: healing, conversion of souls, and virtue. This is a curious group of miraculous abilities. First, spiritual healing usually is just a matter of awakening in the other person the ability to heal themselves. Although there are cases of individuals having the ability to channel God’s healing energy through them and into others, it is rare. Further, it comes at a cost, like everything in the material realm. Those who do channel healing through themselves may find that they get the illness also, at least for a while. In other cases, channeling that energy may shorten their own lives. Because of that, those who truly have the gift to channel healing into other use it sparingly and only to help those who are truly deserving.

As for the conversion of souls, it is unclear what is meant by this. If it simply means getting people to believe in a particular faith or church, that is dealing more with the mind than the soul. The soul needs to be awakened, not converted, and that we must each do ourselves with the help of God. A spiritual teacher or holy person can only guide us to the correct path, not do it for us.

As for the gift of virtue, that is a vague one and includes the others. Certainly, spiritual healing is a virtue, as is the ability to help others awaken their souls. Yet the continuation of this Sufi tale gives more ideas about what is meant by this particular gift of miracles.

The Holy Shadow

When the angels give the man the gift of virtue in his shadow, we see that where his shadow touches, plants grow in bad soil, dry land becomes wet again, flowering plants burst into bloom, etc. This is way beyond what we generally think of as virtue. This gift of miracles is not just allowing the holy man to heal sick people, but to heal all of nature. This is indeed a great gift, one I have never heard of any individual having in real life. But then, this tale is an allegory for the importance of humility to live a truly holy life and have the real gift of miracles. For more about the importance of humility, click here to read an older post on the subject.

sense of the presence

Sense of the Presence of God

Sense of The Presence of God

“Modern psychologists have struggled hard to discredit the ‘sense of the presence’ [of God], sometimes attributing it to the psychic mechanism of projection, sometimes to ‘wish-fulfilments’ of a more unpleasant origin. The mystics, however, who discriminate so much more delicately than their critics between true and false transcendental experience, never feel any doubt about its validity. Even when their experience seems inconsistent with their theology, they refuse to be disturbed.

“Thus St. Teresa writes of her own experience, with her usual simplicity and directness, ‘In the beginning, it happened to me that I was ignorant of one thing—I did not know that God was in all things: and when He seemed to me to be so near, I thought it impossible. Not to believe that He was present was not in my power; for it seemed to me, as it were, evident that I felt there His very presence. Some unearned men used to say to me, that He was present only by His grace. I could not believe that, because, as I am saying, He seemed to me to be present Himself: so I was distressed. A most learned man, of the Order of the glorious Patriarch St. Dominic, delivered me from this doubt, for he told me that He was present, and how He communed with us: this was a great comfort to me. …

“Such a sense of the divine presence may go side by side with the daily life and normal mental activities of its possessor; who is not necessarily an ecstatic or an abstracted visionary, remote from the work of the world.” ~Evelyn Underhill

The presence of God

So what Underhill is saying is that men of material science say that a feeling that God is actually present is having hallucinations, wishful thinking, or a mental breakdown. Mystics, on the other hand, believe that it is real. While that is largely true, I think it may be an oversimplification.

The psychologists are not wrong. In many cases, perhaps a majority, the people who claim to feel the presence of God do fall in with those who claim they have been abducted by aliens or who say they themselves are aliens from another planet. Only a small fraction of those claiming to sense the presence of God is actually doing so, and mystics would naturally be among them. Of course, when I say mystics, I mean real mystics just as Underhill does, not the pretend mystics and spiritual adepts of today’s New Age movement.

So the mystics are correct when speaking about themselves and fellow mystics or spiritual adepts, but the psychologists are correct for the vast majority of other people. Continue reading “Sense of the Presence of God”

secret magic

Secret Magic of the Mystics and Wisemen

“Many persons have endeavoured to investigate and make use of the secret magic of these wise men; but it has not yet been accomplished. Many even of our own age exalt Trithemius, others Bacon and Agrippa; for magic and the cabala – two things apparently quite distinct – not knowing why they do so. Magic, indeed, is an art and faculty whereby the elementary bodies, their fruits, properties, virtues, and hidden operations are comprehended. But the cabala, by a subtle understanding of the Scriptures, seems to trace out the way to God for men, to show them how they may act with Him, and prophecy from Him; for the cabala is full of divine mysteries, even as magic is full of natural secrets. It teaches of and foretells from the nature of things to come as well as of things present, since its operation consists in knowing the inner constitution of all creatures, of celestial as well as terrestrial bodies: what is latent within them; what are their occult virtues; for what they were originally designed, and with what properties they are endowed. These and the like subjects are the bonds wherewith things celestial are bound up with things of the earth, as may sometimes be seen in their operations even with the bodily eyes.” ~Paracelsus

Secret Magic of the Wiseman

The magic Paracelsus is writing about is not simple stage magic. Neither is it the use of healing herbs or putting spells on people to heel or harm them. He is talking about spiritual magic. It is secret magic because it is not taught in public schools, or even in universities. It is taught only in mystery schools and advanced spiritual schools. It is not about tricking or controlling others. The secret magic is about self-transformation and transformation of the world.

Secret Magic and the Kabbala

Paracelsus says that Bacon, Agrippa, and Trithemius were exalted by some for their knowledge of magic and the Kabbala (which he spells “cabala”). He then states that these are two “apparently” distinct disciplines. I think the keyword in that phrase is “apparently”. I believe he is wording it that way to tell us that they are not so different, and in some ways may be the same thing. He doesn’t seem to truly explain the statement, yet follows it with two sentences stating what each discipline is.

He says that magic is an art for understanding the physical world and the properties of the things in it, both obvious properties and hidden ones. Then he says the Kabbala is more about leading people to God by showing them the path to God and the higher dimensions where God and the angels and found. Hat sounds like they are two very different things, but not so fast.

By learning through magic the secret properties of physical things, we find that those secret properties are spiritual in nature. So magic is also a form of awakening to the spiritual. So secret magic may be thought of as an early stage of the Path to God and enlightenment, and the Kabbala is a further continuation of that training and discipline. So they are different, but only in the way that grade school is different from high school.

Things to Come and Things Present

It is understandable why someone would want to belong to a discipline or learn a secret magic that allowed them to know at least some future events and trends, but why the present? It is because while the present is all around us, we are aware of only a tiny part of it. Often the part we are aware of, the part we are dealing with on a daily basis is not the most important part, or the most meaningful part. On a personal level, we may feel perfectly healthy, but have a dangerous disease beginning to grow in us. Or we may think we are perfectly safe walking down a street, not aware that a driver has lost control of his car and is about to slam into us. The ones with secret magic on their side, or as Paracelsus says, the ones who study the Kabbala would know.

And in addition to knowing about personal things in the present and future, the secret magic can help us know how the world is changing, how our country is changing, and how the entire physical universe is changing (which it is!). Having that knowledge can be of great advantage. It allows you to prepare for what is coming, and even participate when it is something good.

Gaining Secret Magic

Fortunately, the secret magic is not something found only in the mystery schools of the distant past or in secret mountain monasteries in Tibet. It is available to nearly all of us with the right training and the right disciplines. The most important discipline is to practice spiritual sun-gazing. Not ordinary sun gazing, but a spiritual variation of it. That is the secret magic of sun gazing. One can do ordinary sun-gazing and get some physical benefits, but you can also go beyond that to spiritual sun gazing that awakens and nourishes the spiritual faculties. The secret magic comes to those who have awakened and developed those faculties with devotion and dedication.

unreal world

Unreal World of Appearance and Opinion

An Unreal World of Appearance

“Why take as our standard a material world where existence is affirmed by nothing more trustworthy than the sense impressions of ‘normal men’; those imperfect and easily cheated channels of communication? The mystics have always declared, implicitly or explicitly, their distrust in these channels of communication. They have never been deceived by phenomena, nor by the careful logic of the industrious intellect. One after another, with extraordinary unanimity, they have rejected that appeal to the unreal world of appearance which is the standard of sensible men; affirming that there is another way, another secret, by which the conscious self may reach the actuality which it seeks. More complete in their grasp of experience than the votaries of intellect or of sense, they accept as central for life those spiritual messages which are mediated by religion, by beauty, and by pain. More reasonable than the rationalists, they find in that very hunger for reality which is the mother of all metaphysics, an implicit proof that such reality exists; that there is something else, some final satisfaction, beyond the ceaseless stream of sensation which besieges consciousness. ‘In that thou hast sought me, thou hast already found me,’ says the voice of Absolute Truth in their ears. This is the first doctrine of mysticism. Its next is that only is so far as the self is real can it hope to know reality.” ~Evelyn Underhill

World of Appearance

Many people do not realize that the world we live in, the world of matter, is not what is seems to be. That is not just the beliefs of mystics, but science—or at least the science of Quantum Physics—agrees with them. It isn’t that the physical world doesn’t exist, but what it actually is may be quite different than what we think it is.

As Ms. Underhill says, the existence of things in this world is affirmed by nothing more than the opinions and the physical senses of ordinary men. Senses and beliefs which are easily fooled. So it is an unreal world because it isn’t what the vast majority of us think it is, not because it doesn’t exist. Of course, there are some spiritual schools and gurus that say that anything that is temporary is unreal, so in that sense, the realm of matter is an unreal world. Continue reading “Unreal World of Appearance and Opinion”