Art & Sufism

"Sufism looks at man as a heart and a spirit and a secret, and the secret is the deepest part. The secret of man is God's secret; therefore it is in God. My secret is God's innermost knowledge of me, which He/She* alone possesses. It is God's secret knowledge of myself in Him/Her* which is a beautiful concept. The heart is the faculty by which God and there Sufism develops the heart. This is a very important concept in the contemplative life, both in Sufism and in the Christian tradition: To develop a heart that knows God, not just a heart that loves God, but a heart that knows God. How does one know God in the heart ? By praying in the heart. The Sufis have ways of learning to pray so that you are really praying in the heart, from the heart, not just saying words, not just thinking good thoughts or making intentions or acts of Will, but from the heart."

______ Thomas Merton
speaking to a group of Catholic Sisters
in Alaska, two and a-half months before
his death
* denotes my edit
  Inside this
new love, die.
Your way begins
on the other side.
Become the sky.
Take an axe
to the prison wall.
Walk out
like someone
suddenly born
into color.
Do it now.
You're covered
with thick cloud.
Slide out the side.
Die and be quiet.
Quietness is
the surest sign
that you've died.
Your old life was
a frantic running
from silence.
The speechless
full moon
comes out now.

Rumi signature
Translated by Coleman Barks
  "As far as the plastic arts are concerned, in Persia, as in certain other civilizations such as the Christian West, the Hermetic sciences and particularly Alchemy played an intermediary role between the purely metaphysical and cosmological doctrines of religion and the making of things. The function of Art, according to it's Islamic conception, is to ennoble matter. Alchemy, likewise, is a symbolic science of material objects … in their connection with the psychic and spiritual worlds. This same intimate relationship exists between Islam in general and Sufism in particular to other forms of art. It is not accidental that the vast majority of the great musicians of Persia were connected in one way or another with Sufism or that the most universal poetry of the Persian language is Sufi Poetry."

_____ Seyyed Hossien Nasr
Islamic Art & Spirituality, SUNY Press,