Sunday, January 8, 2017


Akbar's Tomb
Agra, India

In Islam, there’s a word ḥaqq, which means truth, reality, appropriateness, rightness, responsibility, and duty. 

It's said that one must discover the meaning of this word within oneself and for oneself. 

A man who does this attempts to fulfill his responsibility towards God and society on the basis of his own inner realizations, not by imitating what others say and do.

According to Ibn ‘Arabī, the human goal is to find the ḥaqq of the heart. That is to say, an individual is responsible for discovering this quality inside themselves.

Another word for this — one which could be, I think, a bit more accessible to those of the Western mind — is to understand the center of gravity of this question.

By this I don’t mean an intellectual (mental) center of gravity composed of words and definitions. I’m speaking of the center of gravity that one can physically feel in the gathered intention of the soul.

The gathered intention of the soul is a different thing than what one thinks. It has an actual weight that holds it together and draws both life and meaning into it, anchoring them. This is something that arises from the action of the inward flow of the Divine Intelligence, and a quality that takes many years of inner work to come into relationship with. 

If a person has heard of an inner center of gravity, they generally think they know what this means long before they have an actual physical experience of it. (Eventually, if it develops, they are shocked and stunned and see that they thought that they knew something which they actually had no idea at all about. Keep in mind that everything you think is like this. It will help.)

In Zen, having this experience is called having Zen in the marrow of the bones. There are a number of stages of Zen understanding: flesh, blood, bones, and marrow. Each one is valuable, but they represent successive penetrations deeper and deeper into the physical body of a certain kind of gathered energy of intention. (Keep in mind that the word intention also doesn't  mean what one thinks it does. It's necessary to discover a new practical meaning of this word which has nothing to do with the mental idea about it. If one develops that, one can understand much more about suffering as well.) 

For the sake of our own purposes in the Western world, I have renamed this the gathered intention of the soul so that Westerners can approach this idea from our own point of view. Islam and Zen both have an esoteric understanding of this principle, but it seems to have been somewhat lost in Christianity. The only place it is still mentioned is when, during the communion, it is mentioned that we receive Christ in the body and blood

Well, of course, this is the flesh and blood of Zen; but as to the bones and the marrow—well, in Christianity, the only place we encounter these ideas is in seeing Christ nailed on the cross; and perhaps the trauma of that moment too radically obscures the esoteric meaning, which has many different levels. Christ allowed himself to be crucified in order to give us a parable which would penetrate to the most excruciating, difficult, and meaningful parts of Being without obstruction; yet, of course, our emotions attached themselves to this so firmly that it is often difficult to separate from them.

Ḥaqq is a vital element of understanding what we ought to be responsible to. Of course, it’s closely related to the idea of the Dharma in Zen; and in Christianity, the way we might speak of it is drawing closer to the heart of Christ— an activity that walking the maze in Chartres is meant to mirror. 

Yet in all of these practices, what we are attempting to do is identify, with all of our parts — our mind, our body, and our feeling — what the rights of God and the rights of the world we live in are.  Not our own rights — the rights of others. In determining and understanding the rights of God and others, we ultimately determine what our own rights are as well, but we have to do it that way around — not starting from our own self.

We can do this through the gathered intention of the soul, which through its own center of gravity naturally concentrates itself in order to better understand its relationship to others. 

We can’t do it just through mental constructs, philosophies, or theories. Above all, we can’t do it by listening to all the things other people say and do, their opinions, their rules, and so on. We come to it by suffering the sight — the inward sight — of who we are and what we owe.

I think mankind has gradually abandoned the idea of the gathered intention of the soul, not just in the western world, but also in Buddhism and Islam. This is because there isn’t an understanding of it as a substantial and physical experience that transcends the thoughts we might have about life— a hidden realm which is mysterious, and which the Western mind and our sciences don’t know much about. Everything has become too outer and too grounded in materialist philosophies, which are infiltrating and compromising even the most nonmaterial esoteric practices.

Over the last centuries, humanity has been engaged in a wholesale abandonment of these fundamental principles of spiritual development which might lead us back to a real valuation of one another that is based on understanding, rather than instruction. We spend too much time trying to instruct one another and very little time trying to understand one another.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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