Question: I have been warned of frauds who purport to be Sufis but, in fact, present confusion at best and, at worst, lead us away from the Deen of Islam by purporting to present “short cuts” to the teaching. This be done by superficially mixing together ideas from different mystical traditions (for example, Islamic, Hindu, Native American Indian) to present a “Universalist” Sufism. Or it might even be done by presenting lines from a true Sufi Sheikh (such as Sheikh ibn al Arabi), but out of context and at a time when the student is not ready or prepared to grasp the ideas.
I have been advised to join a “proper”, Islamic Sufi school, that emphasizes, first and foremost, complete embodiment of exoteric aspects of the religion and provides, perhaps over years, a course of exercises, each building upon the other (and upon the foundation of the Shariah and Sunnah), eventually reaching the stage where the pupil can dive to the depths of the esoteric — to read ibn Arabi, for example. The “readiness” of the pupil here is determined by the teacher — not by the student’s whims. The idea here is that someone who isn’t prepared to process these ideas might do themselves serious harm.
The Tailor: There are, of course, parallels in other traditions — for example, particular Hasidic schools also prefer to keep schtum about detailed Kabbalah until the exoteric aspects of the law are grasped in detail.
You might be surprised to hear that I’ve come around to this perspective — but with a perverse qualification.
That is to say
Anyone who sees the process of reading Qur’an/Revelation as a kind of grade ranking schema (primary school certificate, junior high certificate, senior, BSc, PhD etc) is, in fact, still in primary school.
It’s not a question of being able to walk before running. It’s a question of adapting to fly (from here to Jerusalem) before you even know the meaning of what “legs” are.
There is a graduation System. But it is not composed of what we commonly think of as “grades” or “stations”: because these terms are taken within a misconceived, rather capitalist sense of “valuation”. The grades of the System are not concrete, fixed certificates of graduation for the seeker-as-student. Rather, the True grades and stations of our System are functors, mappings, transformative movements of change between categories of perception. And grasping this point is what is necessary to graduate from primary school into secondary school. Within our System, there are no values — values are illusion — there are only movements that produce valuation as a side-effect. To take a concrete example, we have shown before that the 7 levels of the nafs characterise movements of change, functions over relational functions.
Over the past few years, peddling my wares in the City of profits and losses, I have observed that if people aren’t “ready” for the Solution (any Solution!) — if they are still in primary school — they will either disagree violently without considering component sign of the Solution offered or else emotionally attach themselves to a fetishized, capitalist reading of the Solution as a valuative ranking system. They will either disagree or agree — ascribing value — rather than Reading, obeying the command to iqra, failing to enact the Ritual/Eucharist of Reading (true Ritual is, after all, another name for transformative process here, one that turns water into wine).
And that previous paragraph could itself so easily be taken the wrong way, and be interpreted as a valuative categorization of an undesirable mentality. The previous paragraph, taken in such a way, might be reacted to as again in agreement or disagreement. But it is not meant to be agreed with or disagreed with! I’m talking to you about “primary school”, “people”, “City”, “agreement” and “disagreement” — but these terms themselves are not fixed valuative signs — they are luminous trajectories, instantaneous enactments of transformation (whose velocities admittedly are a valuative side-effect). When these signs are configured and Read in the right way, they together constitute the means — the System — to graduate from the “primary” to “secondary”.