“Sufism is not a Species of “Positive Thinking“
I start of with these thought with an expression of my bias. The mystical path I know best is Sufism. I generally feel that at the core of all mystical paths the same drama unfolds. It would be nice to have people from other traditions come and speak and share and cure the afore-mentioned deficiency.
I will in the first part of this 2 part series offer you the sagacious words of Dr. Toussulis and then in the second part I will offer some thoughts.
“Positive thinking” is an outgrowth of a movement that began after the American Civil War that focused on pseduo-theology and then pop-psychology. It’s latest, New Age incarnation can be found in “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, and its making inroads into modern-day Turkey. As the social critic, Christopher Hitches, observes, the “faith” of positive thinkers subsides in the belief that, “by thinking about things, by visualizing them, by wanting them, we can make them happen.” This a species of magical thinking. Moreover, by finding shelter in more elaborate forms of (what amounts to) petitionary prayers, those who subscribe to this form of “faith” actually engage in forms of self-aggrandizement. The world-views of Sufism and Islam, like most in the ancient world, were essentially tragic. By “tragic,” I do not mean that these worldviews were conclusively pessimistic. In fact, they were cautiously optimistic about the prospects of further human awakening — but not without recognizing the pervasive effects of egoism and not without grappling with pervasive injustices in mundane world (dunya).
In “Homage to a Tragic Muse,” Angelos Terzakis writes, “The tragic spirit is born for unrelenting vigilance. It knows, sees, perceives a dark presence at the crucial core of life. It lives through feeling what is incurably exposed.”
To be “incurably exposed” is at the basis of Sufism, as reflected in these lines by Jalaluddin Rumi, “Nothing can be undertaken until pain, yearning, and love are awakened within you. [Mathnawi, 19;23]. One cannot arrive at the extraordinary, one-pointed desire to know God the Ineffable without suffering and disillusionment.
© Copyright 2011 Dr. Yannis Toussulis
Dr. Yannis Toussulis is the author of Sufism and the Way of Blame: Hidden Sources of a Sacred Psychology, and he currently serves director of Itlaq Foundation – AIWP, a non-denominational religious non-profit dedicated to Sufi Studies. Dr. Toussulis formerly served as an adjunct professor in political psychology at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and he was formerly director of the Consciousness Program, Antioch University/West. He can be reached at Itlaqfoundation.com .
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- Recommending Sufism and the Way of Blame by Dr. Toussulis (2) (mycaravanofdreams.com)
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