by Nejmi Muhammed
DEVOTIONAL Religion often creates a situation in which people are on their scabby little knees constantly in “repentance” and wailing for forgiveness. And whenever they are back on their feet, well, there they go again, shopping at the maul, taking sides in elections and “sinning away to beat Hell!” as my friend si‘ Smit, er, Smeeth would put it in his Old Eagle Lake-Madison Lake southern Minnesota dialect. It is because of the existence of these closed feedback-loops that many people not-unreasonably are doubtful of religion and feel it is unnecessary and mainly a swindle to begin with. Nor when one reads in the paper of the destructive antics of some Tee Vee preachers and Muslim and Hindu fundamentalists can they be blamed for feeling dubious.
Part of the problem of people who condemn religion categorically is not having enough understanding.
The goal of religious development like any other matter in Sufism may be said to help people to lay claim for the first time in their adult lives to something like real freedom. Religion is properly speaking a stage in human development during which human beings in the first half of life may begin develop certain kinds of awareness such as “conscience,” ethics on a wider plane than transactional-ethics and so on. It is an early stage at that. When people persist then in cycles of drunkeness and frantic hangover for example something has gone wrong. Basically it is because everything on this molecular level in this “abode of decay” wears out. That fact applies to theology as much as anything else. This should go far to explain why people after excessive bouts of abjection and self-loathing do so often mail off all of their money to men with bad hairpieces and then rig themselves out in explosives and go out to blow someone else up. The bombers themselves have blown up under the inner unmet pressure of their souls needs for real nutrition.
The question of actual repentance then is the heart of the matter because only after repentance has effectively taken place can people for the first time exercise that famous “free will” of the Christian teachers. Up until that time everything is wholly determined by the push and pull of external material forces and that is all there is to it. (A corollary is that no really potentially transformative religion wastes any time on such secret pessimism as “original sin” and “infant damnation!” That sort of theology is crypto-pornography.)
In classical Islamic Sufism repentance is presented as an early stage of the soul’s journey in which the embodied human being above all feels something on behalf of other creatures — really, for the first time — of the harm they often have caused just by being around, driving all over the place and going shopping and being normal, not to mention having it off with the neighbors’ spouses, writing editor-letters and exercising in health-spas instead of doing real work.
If I have really been “forgiven” (THAT is supposed to be the actual object of all these postures and guilty yelps!) why do I find myself back in the same insurance-office or saloon talking to the one-and-the-same dope-peddler day after day and night after night? The answer of course is that the leaders of my church or mosque or synagogue have not given me the information I need to understand how to actually make amends to all whom I have damaged and thus be able to move forward and become myself for-once-and-for-all a less humanly-damaging factor. This mainly happens because religion has become a career and the professionals as a rule may even be carefully careful not have the information themselves.
Forgiveness is a direct result of being really and truly empathically sorry for what one has done while at the same time realizing that up to that point one had no choice in the matter. That is what I have written and you have not read it wrongly; it is a classical paradox of language:
Both are true at one and the same time, people are for all practical purposes conditioned automatons and because of that very fact they have the potential for freedom, “free will” and free choice — after some other activities have worn out. Choice only to a point however is a matter of selecting from an infinity of stuff at “Wal-Mart.”
ONLY When people one-by-one can bring themselves to sit still in all of their feelings of self-disgust and not be satisfied with magic and mechanical spells (“The Lord has forgiven you, my child!”) can people learn one-by-one to provide better for their individual shares of the universal anger, fear and greed, lust, and laziness, without “acting out.” For all of this of course a teacher is required on some level or other — one who has “realized” all of this already — for the purpose of learning then all of the ways in which one can individually “go back” and rescue their victims. Thus the stage is set for the next step, often called the “stage of the satisfied souls.” Again I would only close by drawing readers’ attention to the following helpful book:
Encounters With The Soul, by Barbara Hannah
THIS Title is widely-available online, through Amazon and Alibris booksellers.
[Emmett R Smith
[all transcription rights reserved
[2 August 2006]/