Oriental Mysticism, by E.H. Palmer, , at sacred-texts.com
Fellowship"FELLOWSHIP has many qualities and effects both of good and evil. The fellowship of the wise is the only thing that can conduct the Traveller safely to the Goal; therefore all the submission, earnestness and discipline that have been hitherto inculcated are merely in order to render him worthy of such
fellowship. Provided he have the capacity, a single day, nay, a single hour, in the society of the wise, tends more to his improvement than years of self-discipline without it. "Verily one day with thy Lord is better than a thousand years." (Cor. cap. 22, v. 46.)
It is however possible to frequent the society of the wise without receiving any benefit therefrom, but this must proceed either from want of capacity or want of will. In order then to avoid such a result, the Sufis have laid down the following rules for the conduct of the disciple when in the presence of his teachers.
Never answer a question not addressed to you; but if asked, answer promptly and concisely, never feeling ashamed to say, "I know not."
Do not dispute for disputation's sake.
Never boast before your elders.
Never seek the highest place, nor even accept it if it be offered to you.
Do not be over-ceremonious, for this will compel your elders to act in the same manner towards you, and give them needless annoyance.
Observe in all cases the etiquette appropriate to the time, place and persons present.
In indifferent matters, that is, matters involving no breach of duty by their omission or commission, conform to the practice and wishes of those with whom you are associating.
Renunciation.This leads us to the subject of Renunciation, which is of two kinds, external and internal. The former is the renunciation of worldly wealth; the latter, the renunciation of worldly desires. Everything that hinders or veils the Traveller's path must be renounced, whether it relate to this world or the next. Wealth and dignity are great hindrances; but too much praying and fasting are often hindrances too. The one is a shroud of darkness, the other a veil of light. The Traveller must renounce idolatry, if he desire to reach the Goal, and everything that bars his progress is an idol. All men have some idol, which they worship; with one it is wealth and dignity, with another overmuch prayer and fasting. If a man sit always upon his prayer-carpet his prayer-carpet becomes his idol. And so on with a great number of instances.
What ought and ought not to be renounced. Renunciation must not be performed without the advice and permission of an elder. It should be the renunciation of trifles, not of necessaries, such as food, clothing and dwelling place which are indispensable to man; for without them he would be obliged to rely on the aid of others, and this would beget avarice, which is "the mother of vice." The renunciation of necessaries produces as corrupting
an influence upon the mind as the possession of too much wealth. The greatest of blessings is to have a sufficiency, but to over-step this limit is to gain nought but additional trouble.
Renunciation is the practice of those who know Renunciation how recognized. God, and the characteristic mark of the wise. Every individual fancies that he alone possesses this knowledge, but knowledge is an attribute of the mind, and there is no approach from unaided sense to the attributes of the mind, by which we can discover who is, or who is not, possessed of this knowledge. Qualities however are the sources of action; therefore a man's practice is an infallible indication of the qualities he possesses; if, for instance, a man asserts that he is a baker, a carpenter, or a blacksmith, we can judge at once if he possesses skill in these crafts by the perfection of his handiwork. In a word, theory is internal, and practice external, the presence of the practice, therefore, is a proof that the theory too is there.
Renunciation is necessary to the real confession Application of this test. of faith; for the formula "There is no God but God," involves two things, negation and proof. Negation is the renunciation of other Gods, and proof is the knowledge of God. Wealth and dignity have led many from the right path, they are the gods the people worship; if then you see that one has renounced these, you may be sure that he has expelled the love of this world from his heart, and completed the negation; and whosoever has attained to the knowledge of God has completed the proofs.
This is really confessing that "there is no God but God;" and he who has not attained to the knowledge of God, has never really repeated the confession of faith. Early prejudices are a great stumblingblock to many people; for the first principles of Monotheism are contained in the words of the Hadís: "Every one is born with a disposition [for the true faith], but his parents make him a Jew, a Christian, or a Magian." The Unitarians also say, that the real confession of faith consists in negation and proof; but they explain negation by renunciation of self, and proof by acknowledgement of God.
Conclusion.Thus, according to the Sufis, confession of faith, prayer and fasting contain two distinct features, namely, form and truth; the former being entirely inefficacious without the latter. Renunciation and the knowledge of God are like a tree; the knowledge of God is the root, renunciation the branches, and all good principles and qualities are the fruit.-To sum up, the lesson to be learnt is that in repeating the formula the Traveller must acknowledge in his heart that God only always was, God only always will be. This world and the next, nay, the very existence of the Traveller, may vanish, but God alone remains. This is the true confession of faith; and although the Traveller before was blind, the moment he is assured of this his eyes are opened, and he seeth.