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  • 7/11/2003

1- Spiritual Perspectives and Human Facts

n dir="ltr" xstyle="font-size: 10.0pt; font-family: tahoma">Frithof Schuon

"Man prays and prayer fashions man. The saint has himself become prayer, the meeting-place of earth and Heaven; and thereby he contains the universe and the universe prays with him. He is everywhere where nature prays and he prays with her and in her: in the peaks which touch the void and eternity, in a flower which scatters its scent or in the carefree song of a bird. He who lives in prayer has not lived in vain."
Man's most fundamental needs may be summed up as the need for Knowledge, for Love, and for a Way to salvation. At the present time many people feel cut off from any true meaning of existence, and the rush and personal worry of modern life as well as inner states appear to make it more and more difficult to satisfy these needs, to find a fundamental basis of living.
The habitual limitations of current modern thought are quickly dispersed and the spiritual perspectives normal for mankind are clearly set forth in this new translation of Schuon's second book. An extraordinary breadth of subjects rendered in an aphoristic style makes the wisdom of these reflections accessible to a wide range of readers. The "spiritual contours" of various traditions are seen in the light of their necessary divergences, Schuon's emphasis always being on the one hand the essential nature of things and on the other the great question of knowing what aspect of Truth or Reality it is that motivates the entire being of a given individual. For, as the author says, "metaphysical knowledge is one thing; its actualization ... quite another." Of particular interest here are the passages on the spiritual phenomenon of Ramakrishna and the interplay between knowledge, love and virtue in spiritual life.

"Prayer in the widest sense triumphs over the four accidents of our existence: the world, life, the body and the soul; we might also say: space, time, matter and desire. It is situated in existence like a shelter, like an islet. In it alone are we perfectly ourselves, because it puts us into the presence of God. It is like a miraculous diamond which nothing can tarnish and nothing can resist."


Excerpts from Part One: THOUGHT AND CIVILIZATION, Chapter One


Metaphysical knowledge is one thing; its actualization in the mind quite another. All the knowledge which the brain can hold, even if it is immeasurably rich from a human point of view, is as nothing in the sight of Truth. As for metaphysical knowledge, it is like a Divine seed in the heart; thoughts represent only faint glimmers of it. The imprint of the Divine Light on human darkness, the passage from the Infinite to the finite, the contact between the Absolute and the contingent — herein lies the whole mystery of intellection, of revelation, and of the Avatara.
Every truth can assuredly be proved, but not every proof is acceptable to every mind. Nothing is more arbitrary than a rejection of the classical proofs of God, each of which is valid in relation to a certain need for logical satisfaction. This need for logical satisfaction increases in proportion, not to knowledge, but to ignorance. For the sage every star, every flower, is metaphysically a proof of the Infinite.

Excerpts from Part Four: THE VEDANTA, Chapter One:

In spiritual realization the cosmic tendency of objectivation is captured by the Symbol: in the natural course of its drawing away from Alma the soul meets the objectivation, in this case direct and not indirect, of the pure ‘Subject’; the indirect objectivation is the world with its endless diversity, and the direct objectivation is the Symbol, which replaces the pure ‘Subject’ on the objectjvized plane. Atma resides in the centre of man as ‘Subject’, pure and infinite, and it surrounds man as the indefinitely differentiated objectivation of the ‘Subject’. The yogi or mukta, the ‘delivered one’, perceives Atma in everything, but the man who is undelivered has to superimpose on the world the synthetic and direct image of Atma in order to eliminate the superimposition in relation to Atma which the world itself, represents. A symbol is anything that serves as a direct support for spiritual realization, as, for example, a mantra or a Divine name, or, in a secondary way, a graphic, pictorial or sculptured symbol such as a sacred image (pratika).
Union’ (yoga): the Subject (Atma) becomes object (the Veda, theDharma) so that the object (the objectivized subject, man) may become the (absolute) Subject.
‘Deification’: God became man so that man might become God. ‘Man’ pre-exists in God — this is the ‘Son’ — and ‘God’ pre-exists in man — this is the Intellect. The point of contact between God and man is, objectively, Christ and, subjectively it is the purified heart, ‘intelligence-love’.
‘Unification’ (tawhid): the One (illa-Llah) became ‘nought’ (la ilaha), in order that the ‘nought’ might become the One; the One became separate and multiple (the Koran) in order that the separate and multiple (the soul) might become the One. The ‘multiple’ pre-exists in the One — this is the uncreated Koran, the eternal Word — and the ‘One’ pre-exists in the multiple: this is the heart-intellect, and in the macrocosm

it is the universal Spirit.

2-The Sacred Origin and Nature of Sports and Culture

HRH Ghazi bin Muhammad

Fons Vitae (1998)
ISBN 1887752-13-7, Paperback 144pp.

This unique study seeks to define two much-discussed aspects of modern society - sports and culture - from a traditional perspective, carefully examining their sacred origin and their relevance throughout history in philosophical and religious thought.
In "The Philosophy Behind Sports," the author explores both the history of sports and their potential connection with a higher or spiritual ideal (as in Zen archery), then discusses the importance - and abuses - of sports in contemporary society. He concludes: "Let it be said that sports are sacred or religious in origin, noble in nature, but secularized, abused, and misunderstood in the modern world, and that this is a great shame that could easily be rectified by awareness of their true origin and nature." Also included is an appendix on the ancient symbolism of the game of chess.
In "What Is Culture?" he similarly deconstructs the idea of culture, one of the most "thoroughly discussed and laboriously examined" concepts of the modern era since the Renaissance. Going far beyond the simplistic definition of culture as "pertaining to the fine arts" or a mere sociological construct, he posits the idea of a culture as an intellectual refinement that individuals as well as societies "cultivate" within and pass on through tradition. Not content to merely examine the cultures of the past, the author goes on to suggest what a proper understanding of culture can and should mean for our future: "Culture is the very envelope in which we journey through life, and to ignore it is to ignore the way in which this journey is progressing."
The author,

H.R.H. Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad

, was educated at Harrow School, received his B.A. from Princeton University summa cum laude and his Ph.D. from Trinity College, Cambridge University. He is currently Cultural Secretary to H.M. King Hussein of Jordan.
"From the very start, Prince Ghazi's provocative study awakens my interest in learning more about this grounded and universal approach to culture and sports. We should all be grateful to him for it."

David Appelbaum

"This scholarly and original work is the first to apply traditional principles to the study of 'sports' and 'culture' by whose desacralized versions today's world is so mesmerized. All those concerned with the appraisal, critique, and evaluation of the diverse aspects of the modern world in light of tradition will be interested in reading this elegantly written treatise."

Seyyed Hossein Nasr

3-Mary the Blessed Virgin of Islam

Aliah Schleifer

Fons Vitae (1997) ISBN 01887752021 paperback
Index 178 pp.

Why do Muslims revere the Virgin Mary? This book throws light on the reasons for the importance of Mary as a spiritual figure in Islam. It provides the background for an understanding of her symbolic importance to Muslim men and women, both as an individual and together with her son Jesus. It poses such questions as:Is Mary to be regarded not only as the highest woman in all creation, but is she also to be counted among the prophets who received revelation? The traditional scholarly discussions about Mary’s life and characteristics, from the perspective of Sunni Islam in the classical period which took place over the centuries in regions stretching from Central Asia to Spain, provide a fascinating debate on the subject, of interest to Muslims as well as non-Muslims and those concerned with comparative religion, interfaith dialogue and women’s studies.

Timothy Winter of Cambridge University’s Faculty of Divinity contributed a foreword as well as a useful list of short biographical notes on the scholars and commentators whose works were drawn upon. The introduction is by Dr. Ali Jum’a, Professor of Law at Al-Azhar University in Cairo.

Dr. Aliah Schleifer lived, studied and worked in the Middle East for thirty years. Her interests and publications in the field of Islamic Studies range from the classical commentaries on the Qur’an, the prophetic traditions and Islamic jurisprudence, to Morisco Studies and Islamic mysticism. A previous work,Motherhood in Islam, is a popular reference on the subject, and has been used as a textbook at the American University in Cairo where Dr. Schleifer was a professor for many years. The present work on Mary is the text of her doctoral dissertation at The University of Exeter in England.

"Christians often find it curious that Mary figures so prominently in the Qur’an and in Muslim spiritual life. She is seen as the faithful servant of the Lord who allows God’s Word to bring Jesus to life in her miraculously, and so give the world a prophet whom Muslims revere. This work shows in inspiring detail the manner in which Muslim life and practice brings Mary to life as a faithful servant of the one God."

David Burrell

, C.S.C., Hesburgh Professor of Philosophy and Theology, University of Notre Dame

"As a Catholic priest it quite surprised me to find that it was the sacred words found in the Qur’an of Islam that provided me with what I was yearning to know about the Blessed Mary. As one who seeks to make the role of the Blessed Mary better known, the Qur’an brought home to me the gifts of this amazing creature. It is very beautiful to know that when any Muslim mentions Mary, he or she always refers to her as, ‘Our Lady Mary – May the peace of God be upon her.’ In this important book, Mary has been described as possessing ‘the perfection of human spiritual attainment’ and as being ‘amongst the first group of prophets to enter Paradise.’ She is ‘preferred above the women of all nations and all times and of those in Paradise.’ The book emphasizes that she is ‘a spiritual example for mankind.’"

Fr. Vernon Robertson

, The Oratory of Our Lady and Saint Phillip, Louisville, Kentucky



Titus Burckhardt

Fons Vitae (1997) ISBN 1887752110 paperback

Fons Vitae is pleased to announce the publication of a new edition of Alchemy,dedicated to Madame Edith Burckhardt. Spiritual attainment has frequently been described in the terminology of the alchemical tradition whereby man’s leaden dull nature is returned to its golden original state. This has often been referred to as ‘spiritual alchemy.’ In this wonderfully insightful volume, we are treated to some of these metaphors which have been found useful for establishing certain attitudes in the soul, including: trust, confidence, hope and detachment. For example, there is a clear symbolic relevance in the following analogy: When any substance or entity undergoes dissolution (this could be even a relationship), it must eventually be resolved or re-crystalized in a new form. This opens the possibility that the new entity could re-congeal in a higher and nobler form. This what


means by, "Feel joy in the heart at the coming of sorrow."

Ibn ‘Arabi

mentions in hisWisdom of the Prophets that distress is to be welcomed as it incites the soul to move forward.


Muhyi’d-Din ibn ‘Arabi

regards gold as the symbol of the original and uncorrupted state(al-fitrah) of the soul, the form in which the human soul was created at the beginning. According to the Islamic conception, the soul of every child unconsciously approaches this Adamic state, before being led away from it again by the errors imposed on it by adults. The uncorrupted state possesses an inward equilibrium of forces. This is expressed by the stability of gold."

Titus Burckhardt, Alchemy

". . . since nearly all traditional forms in life are now destroyed, it is seldom vouchsafed to the conservative man to participate in a universally useful and meaningful work. But every loss spells gain: the disappearance of forms calls for a trial and a discernment; and the confusion in the surrounding world is a summons to turn, by passing all accidents, to the essential."

Titus Burckhardt, Avaloka V

Titus Burckhardt

, the son of Swiss sculptor Carl Burckhardt, was born in 1908. His youth was devoted to studies in art, art history, and oriental languages and to journeys through North Africa and the Near East. In 1942, he became director of Urs Graf-Verlag, a publishing house specializing in facsimile editions of ancient manuscripts. He remained there until 1968. In addition to writing books in German, he has translated many important works from the Arabic. Of his own books,An Introduction to Sufi Doctrine,Sacred Art in East and West,Moorish Culture in Spain, The Art of Islam, Sienna,Fez, City of Islam, Chartres, and a collection of his essaysMirror of the Intellect have all appeared in English. The last three, as well asAlchemy, were translated from the German by Dr.William Stoddart.

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