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The Bond With The Beloved: The Inner Relationsh...

This book explores the relationship between the lover and the Beloved, that profound inner bond of love which is central to every mystical path. Drawing on sources both Christian and Sufi, author Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee details the stages of this relationship as it unfolds in the heart of the seeker, from effort to grace. He describes how the heart is dynamically activated by this powerful inner love, which gradually awakens the lover to a new level of consciousness, an awareness of the oneness of life.

The Bond with the Beloved: The Inner Relationsh...

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Paradoxically, in order to realize this state of consciousness we have to lose it. We have to experience separation from God in order to realize that we are never separate from God. The mystic is one who comes into this world with the prime purpose of rediscovering this state of union and then living it. In being born he surrenders himself to the pain of separation in order that he may come to know God more fully, may come to know God as He has revealed Himself in His creation. In His creation God has manifested both His eternal Majesty (jalâl) and His eternal Beauty (jamâl), and so allowed Himself to be known more completely. At the core of creation He has hidden an innermost secret aspect of Himself. The mystic's purpose is to discover this secret and offer it back to the Beloved. This secret cannot be told in words, but it is contained in the whole mystery of the mystic's return journey.

The journey from God back to God embraces the painful process of separation. Leaving the state of uncreated oneness we come into this world and are engulfed in forgetfulness. In being born we give ourself into this unknowing, this separation from the direct knowledge of God. But at the same time we carry within us the deep bond of the lover and the Beloved; "In memory of the Beloved we quaffed a vintage that made us drunk before the creation of the vine."(4) This bond manifests as the sigh of the soul, the longing which is not only the pain of separation but also the knowledge of Him from whom we are separated. Without this knowledge there would be no pain. At the core of the longing is the knowledge that there is no separation, that the lover and the Beloved are always united. It is this paradox that burns within the heart of the seeker: we are united and yet we are separate, there is only oneness and yet we are caught in duality. This is the same as the paradox that consciousness necessitates separation and yet the highest form of consciousness is that there is no separation.

One friend waited till she was over forty before she reconnected with an inner closeness that she had as a child. Then she dreamt a long and complicated psychological dream at the end of which she saw a figure standing in a doorway. Working with the dream she recognized that this figure was her "first love." First she associated her father as this first love, but then realized that it was not he but her relationship to God. As a child she had a very direct relationship with the Beloved. But her father, wanting her love for himself, sensed this deeper love, grew jealous of it and thus caused her to repress it. For many painful empty years she lived isolated from the one relationship that had real meaning. But then her first love returned, standing in a doorway, silently calling her back inside herself. He had always been waiting there, waiting for her to turn back to the bliss and the pain that is love's promise:

This saying was like a key that opened an inner door, and for two weeks I laughed with the joy of the soul at what I saw. I started to meditate and discovered a reality that was more powerful and more meaningful than an outer world in which I came to realize I had long felt a stranger. Many years later I discovered that this was also a favorite saying of Bhai Sahib, the Sufi Master in Daughter of Fire. He would also often liken the enigmatic nature of the path to that of birds in flight, "Look at the birds in the sky. Can you trace the path of their flight?"

Turning away from the world is embodied in the first part of the shahâda, Lâ ilâha, "there is no God." This is the principle of negation, for every spiritual path teaches that the goal is not to be found in the outer world, but within: "the kingdom of God is within you." Thus when we step upon the path our attention is turned from the outer world to the inner world. From the depths of our heart He calls us and through the spiritual techniques of the path we learn how to come towards Him, how to enter the inner world. Meditation is usually the most important practice, for it refocuses the seeker, first by stilling the outward activity of the mind and then awakening him to inner experiences. Other spiritual practices can have a similar effect. In particular the dhikr, the repetition of the name of God, keeps the inner attention of the wayfarer away from the world and turned towards God.

Being part of a spiritual group and sitting in the presence of a teacher can also help to keep the wayfarer focused on the inner direction of his quest. The teacher and the group, charged with the energy of the path, function as a magnet, attracting the inner attention of the seeker and pointing it towards the heart. On a more conscious level the presence of others for whom the inner quest is a real and serious undertaking helps to reinforce the individual's sense of purpose. Sitting with a group in meditation is a powerful reminder of a shared vision which beckons from the inner world. Similarly, the tradition and spiritual lineage of the teacher and the group support the wayfarer with the invisible presence of all those who have travelled this path in preceding centuries. The world's spiritual literature, which is now available as never before, also helps the individual to realize that his own desire for the beyond is a part of mankind's collective spiritual journey, which has always affirmed that Truth is an inner reality far transcending anything that can be found in the outer world.

All this support is particularly important in our Western materialistic culture which collectively denies the value if not the very existence of the inner world. It gives the wayfarer an identity and a sense of belonging which is needed in the most difficult first stages of the path. The initial experience of tauba turns our attention away from the world. We then consciously take up the role of the seeker, the spiritual wayfarer making the journey back to the Beloved. This journey appears to begin with His call that awakens us, and yet He only calls those who already belong to Him, whom He has sent out into the world in order to reveal the secret hidden in creation. Once I attended a conference in which someone asked, "How do you become a Sufi?" A member of the audience who consciously knew nothing about Sufism instinctively answered, "As far as I understand you do not become a Sufi. You always were a Sufi but didn't know it." Three years later the woman who gave this correct reply had a dream in which she was invited to join a circle of white-clad figures. When she told the dream she suddenly realized what she had long suspected, that she had always been a Sufi. But this dream signalled that now was the time for her to fully recognize this.

The journey home began the moment we left the state in which we knew we were not other than He. We surrendered ourselves into forgetfulness in order that He can know Himself more fully when we open our eyes and return to Him. Yet although this return journey begins with the moment of separation, for many years it is unconscious, hidden beneath the illusion of the world. The experience of tauba is the shock that brings this journey into consciousness. When the Beloved calls to us, the bond that exists and has always existed, outside of time and space, between the lover and the Beloved, is charged with the energy of love, allowing the higher consciousness of the Self to break through into ordinary consciousness. This creates a momentary awareness of our union with the Beloved that awakens us to the pain of our separation and forgetfulness.

The path that begins and ends in oneness confronts the wayfarer with the duality of the world and God. Seeking the Beloved we have turned away from the world and now turn back to God. This is the second part of the shahâda, illâ 'llâh (but God), the affirmation. It evokes an intense struggle as the ego and the mind hold onto the known values and structures of the outer world, resisting the pull of the heart and its deep desire for the formless inner world.

When the Buddhist scriptures were first taken from India to China it was discovered before they were delivered that the scrolls were blank. These blank scrolls contained the real spiritual Truth, but just as only Ananda understood when Buddha silently held up a flower, humanity needs to approach the great void more gradually. Scrolls with writing were substituted to help the seeker define the inner path.

An essential part of this "crossing" is the focus on the Beloved. We cannot turn away from the world unless we turn towards God. We can only free ourselves from the desires that imprison us in this world through the greater desire that we have for God. We escape from the gravitational pull of the earth by consciously aligning ourselves with the greater gravitational pull of the sun of suns. The affirmation, illâ 'llâh, is a one-hundred-eighty-degree turn in which we realign ourselves with the energy of the Self that transforms us. Part of this realigning is the conscious recognition that Truth is an inner reality. The one-hundred-eighty-degree turn is thus a turn from the outer world to the inner world. It is a conscious commitment to an inner journey. In the words of Saint Augustine, "Return within yourself. In the inward man dwells truth."(13)

A friend who was confronted with accepting her spirituality had a dream in which she let a cat out of a bag. She revealed her secret which had been contained in guilt. At the same time an unconscious feeling that she would be punished surfaced, for the collective shadow carries the danger of persecution; and our collective history is only too full of persecuting true spirituality. During the period of owning one's inner aspirations the support of a spiritual group is invaluable, for then the shameful feelings are shared and taken away. The seeker is accepted within a circle of friends, within a peer group of souls. 041b061a72


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