Author Topic: Two Lovers, One Beloved - Margaret Laulor:  (Read 1131 times)

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Two Lovers, One Beloved - Margaret Laulor:
« on: March 20, 2017, 09:20:08 AM »
(A Study in the Mysticism of Rabi'a of Basara and St. Teresa of Avila:)

There is a deep rooted kinship which exists between the souls of East and West.  As Rudolph Otto has pointed out, 'There are strong primal impulses working in the human soul which as such are completely unaffected by differences of climate, of geographical position or race,  There are show in their similarity an inner relationship of types of human experience and spiritual life which is truly astonishing.  (Otto, Rudolph, Mysticism East and West, New York  The Macmillan Co. 1932.)

When we examine the spiritual experiences of mystics like Sufi saint Rabi's of Basra and St. Teresa of Avila we discover similarities. It is the purpose of this study to present these two saints from the perspective of their practical mysticism of divine love, that our own vision and understanding may be enhanced.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.           

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Re: Two Lovers, One Beloved - Margaret Laulor:
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2017, 01:35:04 AM »
Before examining their respective spiritual lives and teachings, it is important to consider certain characteristics of mysticism in general.  Common to the mystical state is an experience of God, a practical experience of the most intense and personal form.
Mysticism is simultaneously an act of the highest love, an act of surrender and an act of supreme perception.  Mysticism is not to be seen as a religion in itself; but rather that which is most vital in all religions, and which revolts against merely formal and lethargic religion.  It is not a philosophical system, although it subscribes to a scheme of things. It is an entirely spiritual activity which transcends the world of senses, yet it entails a definite psychological experience.

To achieve the unitive experience, the mystic must pass from the finite to infinite, from a lower reality to the highest Reality, from a sense of the personality or ego self to being Being itself.  'Mysticism claims that the soul can undertake this tremendous journey and pass from that which is temporal to that which is Eternal, and it bases its claims on certain postulates.' (The Way of the Mystics, Margaret Smith, Oxford University Press, New York.)               

The first one states that 'the soul can see and perceive by a spiritual sense... that
inner sense which is called intuition.'  In this state one receives direct revelation and knowledge of God. 'Mysticism, then, asserts.... that knowledge is not attained only by the sense or intellect or the normal processes of consciousness, but that the highest knowledge is attained... by this spiritual sense of intuition.

Secondly, mysticism maintains that the soul, in order to know God, must itself be a partaker of the Divine Nature. In this context it can be said that there is an inward light or divine spark which seeks to reunite with Eternal Flame.

The third point makes it clear that unless the soul is 'stripped of the veils of selfishness and sensuality' it cannot attain to the knowledge of God. The act of purification requires the seeker to surrender self will, self seeking, and also to still the
senses.

Finally, mysticism sees love as the guiding principle and inspiration of the soul journeying to God.  'The mystics, throughout the ages, have conceived of the Object of their search as the Beloved, and it is as lovers that they seek for the communication of their love in union with the One.'

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.         

Subramanian.R

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Re: Two Lovers, One Beloved - Margaret Laulor:
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2017, 09:54:13 AM »
The four points can be thought of as the Mystic Way, to be followed by all who seek the unitive experience.
There are stages of the Way; in this study a threshold division, which applies to the religious systems of both East and Wast, will be examined, particularly in the liver of Rabi'a and Teresa.  The three stages are the Purgative
life, the Illuminative life and the Unitive life. Though looking at these two mystics in a similar way and the Unitive life.  Through looking at these two mystics in a similar way we may derive a sense of Realty.

We are fortunate in having a well documented life of Teresa who was born of an aristocratic family of Avila, in
1515. In her thirteenth year she lost her mother, an experience that caused her to draw closer to the mother of Christ. She has recorded this incident in her Life:

'When I began to realize what I had lost, I went in my distress to an image of Our Lady and with many tears besought her to be a mother to me.  Though I did this in my simplicity, I believe it was of some avail to me.
For whenever I have commended myself to this Sovereign Virgin I have been conscious of her aid; and eventually she has brought me back to herself. (The Life of Teresa of Jesus, St. Teresa of Avila. Tr. E.  Alison Peers, Garden City: Image Books, 1960)/

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Arunachala Siva.       

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Re: Two Lovers, One Beloved - Margaret Laulor:
« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2017, 02:13:00 AM »
Three years later when her older half sister was no longer at home, Teresa was placed
as a boarder in a convent.  She was twenty one years old when she became a novice in the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation, Avila.

Due to laxity of the Carmelite orders at that time, she felt a call to restore a stricter rule. An unusually gifted woman, Teresa occupies a permanent place in the church's history for her successful efforts in advancing the monastic ideal.  She was an effective organizer and administrator, an insightful and independent thinker, an enduring writer, a compassionate and practical teacher and prioress, a superb judge of human characters and human nature.  She executed her many responsibilities in spite of serious and time consuming illness.  Teresa, who died in 1582, is revered rather for her innate gifts of spirit and authority.  She is considered by many to be the most popular Christian mystic and saint.   

It is held that Rabi'a al-Adawiyya, sometimes called 'a second spotless Mary', was the first saint of Islam.  It is a fact that hers is the first life from the history of Sufism to be introduced into European history.  In the thirteenth century the chancellor of Louis IX, Joinville brought a legend to Europe where her story has appeared in Western literature, with her as model of Divine Love. (Schimmel, Annamarie, Mystical Dimensions of Islam, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1975).

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.               

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Re: Two Lovers, One Beloved - Margaret Laulor:
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2017, 09:50:44 AM »
Unfortunately we do not have a biography of Rabi'a written from a writer close to her time. The details of her early life which were recorded more than four hundred years later, taken from sources such as chronicles of an earlier period and treatises on Sufism, may be seen more as legend than pure history.  Nevertheless, they give us an inkling of her personality and an estimation of the regard in which later generations held her.
(Smith, Margaret, Rabi'a, the Mystic and Her Fellow Saints.  Amsterdam, Philo Press, 1974.  This study first published in 1928, is a composite of many accounts Rabi'a not written in English.  It has become the source book for most writers in English who allude to Rabi'a, and so it is in this study.

Rabi'a's dates are given as circa 99/717 to 185/801.  Her birth into a poor but noble family of Basra was said to have been marked by certain miraculous events.  On the night she was born there was neither lamp nor swaddling clothes available. Her father was not at liberty to borrow from the neighbors because as a Sufi, he could not violate his vow of depending solely on God to provide his needs.  It is said that the Prophet Muhammad appeared to him in a dream that night and spoke these words:  'Do not be sorrowful, for this daughter who is born is a great saint, whose intercession will be desired by several thousand of my community.  (ibid.  Page 5-6).

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Arunachala Siva.                 

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Re: Two Lovers, One Beloved - Margaret Laulor:
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2017, 11:15:05 AM »
 Orphaned as a child she was scattered from her older sisters, kidnapped and sold into
slavery.  Nevertheless she manifested a certain strength of character in her life of faith. She carried out her duties as a slave and fasted during the day and prayed at night.  There is an interesting story told about the way through which she earned her freedom. One night her master observed her in prayer and reportedly heard her saying the following:

'Oh my Lord.  Thou knowest that the desire of my heart is to obey Thee,m and that the light of my eye is in the service of Thy court.  If the matter rested with me, I should not cease for one hour from Thy service, but Thou hast made me subject to a creature. (ibid. p 7)     

Her master observed a light or aura above her head which cast a radiance on her surroundings.  Pondering this strange phenomenon, he thought of setting her free.
Having  obtained her freedom she journeyed into the desert. She later settled into a cell, and subsequently built a place of retreat.

She received many offers of marriage but chose the celibate life as best suited to cultivate her single minded devotion to God. Rabi'a was known to have a number of disciples of her own and to associate with other Sufi leaders of her time.  In spite of the Oriental preference for exalting males, her biographers 'are prepared to grant to Rabi'a a position of equality with, even of preeminence above her contemporaries, including those who were accepted as leaders of thought and revered teachers of the Sufi doctrine.  (ibid. p. 19).

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Arunachala Siva.     

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Re: Two Lovers, One Beloved - Margaret Laulor:
« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2017, 08:05:26 AM »
We turn now to an examination of the lives of the two saints as each one passed through the three stages of the Mystic Way.  The first one, the Purgative Life, is purification from the fetters of sin, represented by sensuality and self will. A life of strict asceticism, prayer and self discipline was seen as the way to purge oneself of sin or weakness. 

Both women followed a celibate life, and each was cloistered in her own way.  Rabi'a went into solitude for a number of years in  the remote desert.  It was physical suffering which helped Teresa to make the decision to leave her comforts behind, and to enter a religious order, troubled as she was about the condition of her soul.  For a long time, Teresa was pulled towards the world, as she admits in her autobiography.   

'When I was in the midst of worldly pleasures, I was distressed by the remembrance of what I owed to God; when I was with God, I grew restless because of worldly affections. This is so grievous a conflict that I do not know how I managed to endure it for a month, much less for so many years.' (Life p.109).

Prayer was not easy for her; she persevered for fourteen years before she experienced facility of prayer. We are able to follow her journey in prayer because, out of obedience to her confessor, she recorded her life, as well as a classic on mystical theology, Interior Castle, and a practical guide to prayer for her nuns in The Way of Perfection, books that have to guide others in their own journeys because of the authentic spiritual life of the writer.                     

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Arunachala Siva.

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Re: Two Lovers, One Beloved - Margaret Laulor:
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2017, 12:53:41 PM »
In the  Interior Castle, written between June and November, 1577, she describes her vision of the soul as 'most beautiful crystal globe, made in the shape of a castle, and containing seven mansions, in the seventh of which was the King of Glory, in the greatest splendor, illumining and beautifying them all. The nearer one got to the center, the stronger was the light; outside the palace limits everything was foul, dark and infected with the toads, vipers and other venomous creatures.' (St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, Tr. E. Allison Peers, Garden City: Image Books, 1961).  The soul advances through the mansions, in its quest for perfection and communion with God. (Life, p. 109). The first three mansions correspond to the Purgative stage.

Teresa declares in the first mansion that we are made in the image and likeness of God, but through our own fault 'we do not understand ourselves or know who we are.'
If we understand ourselves we will 'strive to remove the pitch which blackens the crystal.'  In order to know ourselves we must seek to know God. That is to be achieved through embracing the cross:  'let her (him) who is capable of the greatest sufferings suffer most for Him.'  After much physical suffering in her own life she came to scorn her poor health: 'Even if I die it is of little consequence. Rest, indeed.. I need no rest; what I need is crosses.'

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.








                           

Subramanian.R

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Re: Two Lovers, One Beloved - Margaret Laulor:
« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2017, 12:17:50 PM »
In spite of, or perhaps because of, her own difficulties in prayer, she readily encourages others to practice mental prayer; it is the means by which one mends one's life. Although we are always in God's presence, according to Teresa, prayer is a way of remembering that fact.  People who do not practice prayer may not remember for several days. 

In the first mansions she urges us to surrender ourselves and our wills, to practice humility through looking at our own shortcomings, to practice obedience and virtues, to obtain mastery over our passions, and to choose, companions who are on the spiritual path.  Performance of good works should not be made so much of, as one is simply expected to do them as a Christian.

Prayer in Sufism is du'a or free prayer, and particularly munajat or loving converse with God when the mystic speaks from the depths of the heart,  Rabi'a's personality is known through her devotion to prayer.  There is an anecdote which describes the integrated life she followed in order to purify herself.

For seven days she had fasted and given up sleep to spend her time in prayer.  When it was time to break the fast she was given a cup of food which a cat upset while she was fetching a lamp.  Thinking she would break the fast on water she went to get her jug. Meanwhile the lamp went out, and in the darkness, she dropped and broke the water jug, 'O Lord,' she lamented, 'What is this Thou art doing to wretched me?' In response, she heard a voice:

'Have a care, if you desire it, I will endow you with all the pleasures of this world, but I shall take concern for Me out of your heart, for such a concern  and the pleasures of this world cannot dwell together in one heart.  O Rabi'a, you have a desire and I have a desire, I cannot combine My desire and your desire in one heart.  (Rabi'a p. 20).

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                                     

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Re: Two Lovers, One Beloved - Margaret Laulor:
« Reply #9 on: March 29, 2017, 12:37:24 PM »
Her response was to cut herself off from others, lest they should distract her, and intensify her prayer. It is an echo of Teresa's warning that souls become paralyzed when we are too caught up in the worldly affairs.

Both traditions believed in purgation through purifying the soul of sin which has roots in selfish desires.  Sufis held the belief that asceticism need be practiced only in the beginning stages, however we are told that Rabi'a continued it to the end of her life, thereby coming closer to the fulfillment of the ideal of Christian sainthood.  The Sufi practices of asceticism and pietism at this time were a reaction to an environment of luxury and worldly enjoyments, and legal formalities in Islam. Rabi'a is among the first Sufis to exalt the path of divine love at a time when the mystical path mostly followed self denial.

contd.,

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Re: Two Lovers, One Beloved - Margaret Laulor:
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2017, 11:54:10 AM »
When the outward life of senses has been purified, it is necessary to bring the inward faculties of thought, feeling and will into conformity with the Divine will in order to be transformed wholly into the likeness of the Beloved.  The individual soul has no desire or wish, having renounced all save the will of God.  Love of God must first be present. Then only can the lover obey.  It is for this reason that Rabi'a said: 'Hadst thou been true in love, thou wouldst have surely obeyed Him. For the love is always obedient to his Beloved.'

When asked what she desired, she replied: 'I am a servant, and what has a servant to do with the desire?  If I will anything and my Lord does not will it, this would be unbelief.  That should be willed which He wills, in order to be His true servant. (Way, p.221).

Prayer for Rabi'a was not merely a matter of intercession; rather it was a time of communion with God that she might discover His will for her.  She allowed no created thing to distract her from the Creator.  Her love, then, went far beyond the love of God, which is obligatory of all Muslims.

contd.,

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Re: Two Lovers, One Beloved - Margaret Laulor:
« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2017, 12:32:04 PM »
In Teresa's example we find that she stressed love of God without the motive of self
interest; one should desire to suffer in imitation of Christ.  To be transformed into the likeness of the divine is one way to purify the will.  Teresa also defined the place of reasoning in this approach to God.

'We should contrive not to use our reasoning power, but be intent upon discovering what  the Lord is working in the soul..., It is best to put a stop to all discursive reasoning, yet not to suspend the understanding nor to cease from all thought.'  (Interior Castle p 87).

contd.,

Arunnachala Siva.     

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Re: Two Lovers, One Beloved - Margaret Laulor:
« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2017, 02:41:35 PM »
In showing how the soul is united to God in prayer she uses the image of silk worm which, when full grown, begins to spin its silk and build the cocoon in which it will die.
Christ is like cocoon which is attained through weaving and spinning, or the practice of spiritual qualities. When the soul, like the silkworm, has become dead to itself and the world, transformation takes place. A beautiful butterfly emerges which no longer has ties with its former appearance or existence.  Similarly the soul is no longer bound by ties of relationship, friendship or possession, yet the soul is in a state of restlessness because the experience of union are very brief.

As the soul advances towards perfection it attains to longer periods of union, but it also has to endure states of aridity, temptations from the devil, infirmities of soul
which are sufferings far worse but more precious than those of the body.  It seems that closer one comes to mystical union, the more intense is purification.  There is grace, however, as the soul is awakened through means of locutions, ecstasies and visions.  When the soul leaves them behind the sixth mansion, the place of spiritual betrothal, when it spiritual betrothal, it passes into spiritual marriage.  It is in the seventh mansion that the Unitive stage is realized, in the deepest center of the soul.
The butterfly which had come out of the cocoon now dies 'because Christ is now its life.... It is endowed with life by God.' There are several effects of this marriage in Teresa's mystical theology: self forgetfulness, desire to suffer if divinely willed, special                     
love for enemies, tranquility, absence of aridity, fewer raptures, indescribable pace,
Martha and Mary working together. (Interior Castle pages, 219-231)

The same kind of all absorbing love is seen in Rabia's life. As was stated earlier she was among the first to lay stress on the doctrine of divine love, and she combined
'with its doctrine of kashf,  the unveiling at the end of the Way, of the Beloved to His lovers... She was one of the first to teach the doctrine of disinterested love to God, a new conception to may of her fellow Sufis, who for the most part served God in hope
of eternal reward or in fear of eternal punishment.  (Rabi'a - page 96-97).

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.     

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Re: Two Lovers, One Beloved - Margaret Laulor:
« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2017, 02:22:46 PM »
To conclude the examination of Rabi's a' life, her verse on the two types of love is quoted:

I have loved Thee with two loves,
a selfish love and a love that is worthy of Thee,
As for the love which is selfish,
I occupy myself therein with remembrance of Thee
to the exclusion of all others,
As for that which is worthy of Thee,
Therein Thou raisest the veil that I may see Thee.
Yet there is no praise to me in this or that,
But the praise to Thee, whether in that or this.

(Rabi'a pp. 102-103)

We can understand the selfish love as a love which seeks a return through joy in the thought or presence of God.  The worthy love is the bliss which comes from seeing
God, face to face, and delighting in that revelation.

In this study we have examined two mystics and the doctrine of pure love which they followed. It remains for us to make a few statements about Sufism.  What has been
said of the Sufism often describes Christian mysticism.  That is largely true  in the following observations:  'It stresses the individual rather than society, the eternal rather than the historical, God's love rather than His Power, and the state of one's heart rather than behavior.  It is more concerned that one's pure than one's actions be correct.  Some Sufis thought the Law unimporant.  Most regarded it as a private discipline guiding the person towards transcendent fulfillment, and paid little heed to its function in ordering society in marshaling history into a prescribed pattern.

(Smith, Wilfred Cantwell, Islam in Modern History, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1977).

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                           

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Re: Two Lovers, One Beloved - Margaret Laulor:
« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2017, 04:29:21 PM »
It should be remembered that Rabi'a's dates are very early in the history of Sufism.  As was mentioned earlier the environment was one of worldliness, due to the consolidation of the new empire.  The new ruling dynasty of the Umayyads displayed a secular attitude in contrast to the piety and simplicity of the four early Caliphs. There was not yet a separation between the Ulama or community, and the ascetics; however, there was among some people an emphasis on personal piety and abstinence. Those who were to become what we now call Sufis stressed a deepening of ethical motivation, and developed isolationism in reaction to political controversies, giving to religion a more personal basis in religious devotion.  The Ulama were pure theologians and legists, consequently remaining more impersonal.  We have, then, the Sufi challenge of love and pure devotion to the legists' concept of obedience and observance of the Law.  (Fazlur Rahman, Islam, Garden City, Anchor Books, 1968)

During the first two centuries Sufism was a spontaneous individual phenomenon, but as the class of Ulama evolved out of the formal disciplines of Islamic law and theology,
Sufism became tremendously popular.  The challenge of early Sufism to formal Islam was insignificant compared with later Sufism to formal Islam was insignificant compared with later Sufism after music and dance were added.  The position of the mosque as religious center was threatened.

Finally, scholars have investigated the influences of Christianity and Gnosticism on Sufism, and of Sufism on Christian mysticism.  It seems that there is basis for both beliefs. It is not entirely unlikely that the two saints we have examined in this study followed a tradition that had been influenced by the others.  It should be noted that for seven centuries Christians had fought against the Moors to keep Spain a Christian country.  After the country had finally achieved military and political power in the early sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Spanish mystical movement, of which Teresa  was a part, flourished.  Influence of Sufism has been noted in this phenomenon.

Whatever the influences were, we have seen more that unites Rabi'a and Teresa that separates them.  It has been said that in the mystical experience of Oneness, the     
Universal is to be found. It is only in the effort to record the most profound of spiritual experiences those differences sometimes appear, as each mystic uses the language of her/his own faith.  The power of that experience cannot be denied.

'Those who could speak like this had a persuasiveness that lay not in their logic, but in themselves and their practice.  And the ones to whom they spoke listened not merely with interest of an observer but with the painstaking attention of the apprentice; the one who learned, learned something that she/he would try to do.  (Furse, Margaret Lewis, Mysticism: Window on a World View: Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1977)

concluded.

Arunachala Siva.