Great Learning, a Festival, and Aquinas and Islam

July 14th, 2017

The Great Learning (in Chinese Daxue), a very brief and poetic treatise, has been the cornerstone of Far Eastern social organisation and politics for thousands of years. The impact of its deep yet simple message over the centuries is immeasurable. Follow this link to read and listen to our original recordings of this jewel of wisdom.

From the Son of Heaven down to the mass of the people, all must consider the cultivation of the person the root of everything.

“The World of Islam Festival” was opened in London in 1976 by Queen Elizabeth II. Last year, the celebrations of its 40th anniversary included a talk by Ahmed Paul Keeler which we are happy to make available. It conveys directly the spirit of a cultural event whose many repercussions are still at work today.

• We complete our selection with “Thomas Aquinas and Islam”, a theological article by David B. Burrell C.S.C., explaining how St. Thomas’ classical synthesis of Christian philosophical theology was already an interfaith achievement, in a time when interculturality seemed rather to be the norm than the exception.

[Thomas] takes the opportunity of the objections to plumb more deeply what we already believe as Christians… his overall strategy with respect to other faiths is: we can learn from their questions better ways to elucidate our own set of beliefs.


A final reminder for next week lectures by Gray Henry: Monday on “Thomas Merton and Sufism”, and Tuesday on “The Spiritual Significance of the Defended Portal in World Art and Architecture According to A.K. Coomaraswamy”.

Your attention is also drawn to a September concert, the world premiere of one of Sir John Tavener’s works at Balliol College, Oxford.

The Garden, the Sibyl and a Conversation on Islam

June 13th, 2017

Our first library addition this month is a chapter by Jean Hani on “The Celestial Garden”, explaining its ancient macrocosmic and microcosmic symbolism and how the four ways of watering the garden correspond to the four types of prayer.

Amber Palace, Jaipur
Amber Palace, Jaipur

• A new addition to our Sacred Audio Collection is The Song of the Sibyl, a medieval apocalyptic chant which gives a striking testimony to the survival of ancient religious imagery in a Mediterranean Christian rite. Click here to listen.

• And we complete our selection with a video recorded conversation on Islam and the Qur’an, bringing together Karen Armstrong, John Esposito and Joseph Lumbard in an event organised by the Norwegian magazine Samtiden.


Your attention is drawn to our forthcoming July events, including a lecture on “Thomas Merton and Sufism” and another one on the geometric key to the Taj Mahal and other marvels of Mughal architecture.

We would also like to draw your attention to some of the activities of our colleagues at the PSTA and Temenos:
a lecture by Gray Henry on 18 July, “The Spiritual Significance of the Defended Portal in World Art and Architecture According to A.K. Coomaraswamy”, and a weekend workshop in October, “The Head, the Heart and the Hand: Geometry, Philosophy and the Music of the Spheres”.

Many Sides, Arhuaco Wisdom and a Personal Journey

May 14th, 2017

We open our library selections this month with an article by Alok Tandon, University of Pune, on one of the most important historical precedents of a deep approach to interreligious dialogue, the Jain doctrine of anekantavada or “many-sidedness” and its intimate relation to attaining peace.

The Jaina outlook towards the ideas of others combines tolerance with a certainty in commitment to Jaina cosmological and ethical views… The Jainas have shown great care to understand and respect the position of others. For this purpose, they have been engaged in a form of dialogue with other traditions that has broadened their knowledge without altering their own faith and commitment.

• Up in the holy mountain range of Santa Marta, Colombia, several indigenous communities struggle to resist the encroachment of modernity upon their ancestral lands and their deeply spiritual ecological worldview. Click here to read a small collection of documents penned by the “older brothers” themselves, “for humankind’s sake”.

Our thought is universal, for it encompasses all that exists; that is, the visible and the invisible; the great mysteries hidden in Nature, and which until the present most of humankind have been unable to know, since they turn everything into chemistry and science, ignoring that everything, plants and stones included, has its spirit. And all this composes a thought that pervades the Universe; all is united like a breath. This is a thought that has not been made up by me; it is thousands of years old.

• And we complete our selection with an engaging autobiographical account by Jacob Needleman, “My Father’s God”, about self-discovery and Self-discovery between a modern life and the life-long study of the great religious traditions.

If we lose all contact with this inner God-element in ourselves—our inner, wordless yearning to serve the Good and know the Truth… our thought and our action in the world will take us nowhere. Our thought will lead us either to cynicism or to an absurd overestimation of our mental powers.


Your attention is drawn to our forthcoming July events, including a lecture on “Thomas Merton and Sufism” and another one on the geometric key to the Taj Mahal and other marvels of Mughal architecture.

Among the many activities planned by our colleagues at the Temenos Academy for the coming months, we would also like to draw your attention to their weekend workshop “The Head, the Heart and the Hand: Geometry, Philosophy and the Music of the Spheres”.

Two Swords, and Songs of Joy and the Four Worlds

April 14th, 2017

Our two latest library additions, coming from very geographically and historically remote traditions, have to do with the meaning of the sword. The first one is a treatise on Japanese swordsmanship by Kimura Kyuho, “Ignorance in Swordsmanship” (Kenjutsu Fushiki Hen),

We have the sword of worship, of asceticism, as spiritual armor. Beyond this, there are spells which cause fever, spirit possession by foxes, curses of stopping the blood, pulling out fish bones and all sorts of other curses besides… However, doing these suspicious kinds of things and applying them to swordsmanship is a laughable notion. What is called wickedness is not the enemy of righteousness. Stick to the correct method: it is free of mystery. This form of wickedness cannot be used on those who hold to the truth: it is like ice melting in the sun.

• The second text is a very practical and technical text from the Christian Orthodox tradition, “The Sword of the Spirit: The Making of an Orthodox Rosary”,

The Jesus prayer is also associated with the beating of the heart, when the lips may be stilled and there is left to us only a listening, since the prayer says itself in the depth of the heart. We may find all this, and more, symbolized in the later stages of ‘tying the knot.’ Whatever we may learn it is integrated into a whole, but we only see it as such when the knot is finished.

• And finally, the latest addition to our acclaimed Sacred Audio Collection is a sample of Jewish mystical songs, nigunim, including two songs of joy, and the “Tune of the Four Gates”, a tune without words intended to lift the singer and the listener through each of the four spiritual worlds of the Kabbalah, for “Song is the soul of the universe,” and “in the high spheres there exist temples that can be opened through song only.” Click here to listen and for further references.

The Holy Mountain, Sacred Art and Progress

March 14th, 2017

Our library additions this month include an audio lecture by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, “Fifty-four Years as an Athonite Pilgrim”, with reflections and anecdotes of Mount Athos, “the Holy Mountain” (Agion Oros), about nature, silence and the importance of monastic life.

The primary task of the monk is prayer, not just intercessory prayer, but prayer in itself, all prayer, and this has value in itself. Today, as in the past, the Holy Mountain is supporting the outside world by acting as a powerhouse of living prayer… We may think of the monks as sentries, watchmen on the walls of the spiritual city, and because of them the inhabitants of the city within the walls are able to continue their lives in greater peace and security. How do the monks guard the walls? Through prayer, this is how the monks help the world: not actively, but existentially.

• In another audio lecture, “What is Sacred Art and does it have a place in the world today?”, Emma Clark shares reflections and insights from her years of experience as a teacher and student of sacred and traditional art.

What is tourism if not a disguised pilgrimage, a journey to the heart? if the traveller only knew!

• And in a remarkable chapter, “Progress in Retrospect”, renowned physicist Wolfgang Smith breaks through the barrier of scientistic belief to speak of a new and traditional science of the cosmos that includes transcendence and speaks to man as a whole.

Strange as it may sound, the traditional artist works not so much in time as in eternity. His art partakes somehow of the instantaneous ‘now’; and this explains its freshness, the conspicuous unity and animation of its productions. No matter how long it may take to fashion the external artefact, the work has been consummated internally in a trice, at a single stroke […] It follows from these considerations that there is a profound spiritual significance both in the enjoyment and in the practice of authentic art.

Adastra, the Cosmic Luth and Confessional Accounting

February 14th, 2017

Our first library novelty this month is a small selection of poems by Frithjof Schuon, including audio recordings of his original German. These poems belong to the numerous collections of contemplative and sapiential verse published by Schuon towards the end of his life.

O süsse Lied, das alles Sehnen stillt —
Das Gnadenlicht; schein in das Herz hinein!
Der Herr ist unsre Zuflucht, unser Schild —
Sei du mit Ihm, und Er wird mit dir sein.

O sweet song that stills all longing —
The Light of Grace; shine into my heart!
The Lord is our Refuge, our Shield —
Be thou with Him, and He will be with thee.

• A French article on the cosmology of string instrument design by Luc Breton, considered by some experts to be one of the greatest living authorities on the traditional craft and theory of lutherie. “The beauty of a work of art,” he explains, “is proportional to its degree of truth.”

L’habileté n’est pas traditionnellement un critère. «L’ouvrier habile n’a jamais suffi à faire le bon ouvrier», dit le compagnonnage. Si une œuvre est vraie, il se dégage toujours d’elle une beauté proportionnelle à son degré de vérité, sans rapport obligatoire avec l’habileté mise en œuvre pour son exécution.

• Finally, we have put together a selection of passages from Confession and Bookkeeping, a fascinating work by James Aho showing how what appears to be simply another mathematical technology, namely double-entry bookkeeping, once had great religious and moral significance. Among other facts, we learn how business ledgers used to be opened with the Cross, and business conducted in the “sweet name of Jesus.”

Presence, Elias Returning, and a Shared Saint

January 13th, 2017

Our first library addition this month is an article by William C. Chittick on a Sufi understanding of “Presence with God”, and how “being” is an aware and conscious “finding”.

Each part of the cosmos must find an intimacy with something, whether constantly, or by way of transferral to an intimacy that it finds with something else… A thing’s intimacy can only be with God, even if it does not know this.

• In his influential article “The Eliatic Function”, Leo Schaya opens up the very relevant symbolic associations of a passage from Malachi (3:22-24) regarding the presence and return of Elijah, Elias or Ilyas, one of the most exalted prophetic figures of the Abrahamic faiths.

When the terrestrial globe begins to crack, fissures occur not only “below”, but also “above”. Through the upper fissures, which represent openings of Good and of Grace in the face of the evil arising from the abysses, there penetrates a spiritual light which can enlighten the “hearts of the children” of Adam and bring them back to the “hearts of the fathers”, to the spirituality of the traditions.

• Lastly, we present a doctoral study on the history and repercussion of the tomb of a Muslim saint in the heart of the Punjab, as a centre of religious harmony not only between Muslims, Hindus and Sikh, but also between Shia and Sunni Muslims. “Sharing Saints, Shrines, and Stories” shows Haider Shaikh as a founder, protector, integrator, and exemplar of his community across religious boundaries and over the centuries.

He came to see that the world’s law was jutha (untrue) and that the Lord’s law was true. To adopt the rules of God, he did whatever Allah, Ishvar, Prabhu, Bhagwan, Paramatma, he did whatever pleased Allah Most High, and when God was happy then he was God’s and God was his.

Kintsugi, Hermetica and Beauty as State

December 13th, 2016

Our first contribution this month is a brief article on Kintsugi, the Japanese art of “gold joinery” or patching broken pottery with gold lacquer, repairing the brokenness in a way that makes the object even more beautiful for being broken. It is a long and laborious process which requires much patience and some gold.

 Blue Kintsugi bowl

• Another new addition is Poimandres, the famous first treatise of the Corpus Hermeticum, source and inspiration for countless artistic, mystical and philosophical endevours over centuries of European and Mediterranean history.

“I am Poimandres,” he said, “mind of sovereignty; I know what you want, and I am with you everywhere.” I said, “I wish to learn about the things that are, to understand their nature and to know God. How much I want to hear!” I said…
He changed his appearance, and in an instant everything was immediately opened to me. I saw an endless vision in which everything became light—clear and joyful—and in seeing the vision I came to love it.

• Finally, an early article by Ananda Coomaraswamy introduces us to the subtle understanding of beauty as a state, a timeless communion between subject and object.

The vision of beauty is spontaneous, in just the same sense as the inward light of the lover (bhakta). It is a state of grace that cannot be achieved by deliberate effort; though perhaps we can remove hindrances to its manifestation, for there are many witnesses that the secret of all art is to be found in self-forgetfulness.

Love Conversion, Timaeus and Hasidic Prayer

November 13th, 2016

Our first new library addition this month is an article by Kerrie Hide, “Insights from the Revelations of Divine Love and the Contemplation to Attain Love”, on religious “conversion” (metanoia) as an “other-worldly falling in love” and “one-ing”, where ultimately God’s love for us and ours for God includes all things, the totality of the self, every element of God’s world.

Prayer ones the soul to God in the sense of bringing together and joining us with what we already are. Prayer brings about the experience of oneing, of being knit in this knot and oned in this oneing, and made holy in this holiness.

• Rodney Blackhirst introduces us to “The Mythological & Ritualistic Background of Plato’s Timaeus”, meeting point between ancient Greek and Oriental traditions of wisdom, and wellspring for centuries of scientific and mystical cosmological studies.

The Timaeus behaves very much as a sacred text in the fullest sense—having a microcosmic completeness and adequacy—which indeed it is, but to a religion that is now defunct… the text’s array of symbols is so primordial and fundamental that it has remained an unsurpassed account of traditional cosmological doctrines.

• In the article “Hasidism and Prayer”, Rabbi Louis Jacobs describes the way of prayer of the tsaddikim towards “that high place in which comprehension is impossible, except in the manner that one smells something fragrant.”

The Hasid should never be ashamed to perform violent movements and to shout aloud during his prayers any more than a man in danger of drowning in a swiftly flowing river is ashamed to call for help and wave his arms about in order to save himself.

An ABC Garland, Sacred Masks and William of Tripoli

October 13th, 2016

Varna-mala, the “garland” or “rosary of letters”, is the ancient Hindu recitation of the Sanskrit alphabet, an image and human reenactment of the primordial tune to which Shiva created the universe. Two very good recordings of these Shiva Sutras are the latest addition to our internationally acclaimed Sacred Audio Collection.

• We are happy to publish yet another of the masterful pieces by Titus Burckhardt, “The Sacred Mask”, a compelling testimony to the unity between traditional art, rites and metaphysics.

In a certain sense, the sun is the divine mask par excellence. For it is like a mask in front of the divine light, which would blind and consume earthly beings if it were unveiled.

A study by Thomas F. O’Meara OP introduces us to the life and thought of Dominican friar William of Tripoli, a medieval precursor of comparative studies, and his theological attempts to understand Islam in the very midst of the Crusades.

William was not only a comparative phenomenologist of religions but a theologian of what he named the “via salutis,” the way of salvation. He located Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in one salvation history. God is the origin and destiny of the one way of saving knowledge.

Before Your Eyes, the Divine Vision, and Lover and Beloved

September 14th, 2016

• Our first new library addition this month is Genjo Koan, one of the best known chapters of Dogen’s Shobogenzo, the great early summa of Zen monastic teaching, and “the best text to start to study Dogen’s work”.

When someone has spiritually awakened, he resembles the moon’s ‘residing’ in water: the moon does not get wet nor is the water shattered. Although the moon is a great, broad light, it lodges in the tiniest bit of water. The moon at its fullest, as well as the whole of the heavens, lodges within the dewdrop poised on a blade of grass, just as it lodges in any single bit of water. Spiritual awakening does not tear a person asunder.

• An article by Prof. David Bradshaw, “The Vision of God in Philo of Alexandria”, relates ancient Greek and early Christian concepts of the purification of the soul and the ultimate vision of God.

The sort of purification he has in mind is not a ritual cleansing or ascetic discipline, but the education of the soul into virtue and wisdom. Philo holds that the best preparation for the pursuit of divine things is an active life of virtue, “for it is sheer folly to suppose that you will reach the greater while you are incapable of mastering the lesser.”

• And finally we bring the famous “Book of the Lover and the Beloved” by Ramon Llull, the great medieval Majorcan saint and scholar.

The Lover and the Beloved met, and the Beloved said to the Lover: “Thou needest not to speak to Me. Look at Me only, for thine eyes speak to My heart, that I may give thee what thou willest.”

Chinese Gleams, Language Depths, and Hindu and Christian Avatars

August 14th, 2016

• The latest item in our library is an article by William Chittick on dialogue between Chinese and Islamic civilizations, specifically about the place of one of the most widely read books among Chinese Muslims, the Tian Fang Xing Li, and its place in the Islamic tradition.

The intellect—the heart—once it is awakened through the great learning, does not belong to the realm of forms and images, but rather to the realm of reality and principle. The heart is the master of forms, it is not mastered by forms, so it can express itself in any form appropriate to the audience.

• A rich article by Moshe Idel, “Reification of Language in Jewish Mysticism”, takes us to the depths of Kabbalistic language doctrines in their many facets and manifestations.

Jews constantly rebuild the Temple by their daily prayer and study of the Torah, when performed properly. As God was able to create a world by means of letters, man is supposed to rebuild the Temple in his ritual usage of language.

• And a recent contribution by Dominique Wohlschlag discusses how the Hindu religion can be viewed as a ‘complementary/incommensurable other’ to Christianity, with particular attention to the doctrine of incarnation.

The more one relies on metaphysical “intuition”, free from denominational constraints, the more one is tempted to see what these two traditions have in common. The more one concentrates on the details of theological speculations, which are anxious to construct safeguards against heretical excesses, the more one is tempted to see differences. Metaphysics contra theology: it is the eternal conflict between the spirit and the letter. But, in substance, there is no choice to make: one only has to put everything in its proper place.

Christian Pilgrimage, Shugendo, and Seven Difficulties

July 14th, 2016

Meteora, Greece.

Ages pass, the rock remains. Like the rock, the spirit remains… In Subiaco, at the grotto of St Benedict, the Latin inscription carved in the rock by the entrance addresses Benedict, and the pilgrim: “Continue in the darkness to seek the shining light, for only on a dark night do the stars shine. Perge in tenebris radiorum quaerere lucem. Nonnisi ab oscura sidera nocte micant.

Our first new library addition this week is a documentary exploring the relation between landscape and Christian pilgrimage in three ancient Christian sacred sites.

• Also on the topic of pilgrimage, an article by Paul L. Swanson introduces the Japanese tradition of “Shugendo and the Yoshino-Kumano Pilgrimage.”

The head yamabushi explained the purpose of these dangerous maneuvers. ‘While you are concentrating on getting past these dangerous places,’ he said, ‘your mind is clear. You do not think of money, sex, drink, or any other distraction. Perhaps for only a second you think of no-thing [mu]. For a moment you are in the world of no-thing-ness [mu no sekai]. This is the state of mind you must cultivate. The purpose of shugendo is to realize this state of mind and cultivate it in everyday life.’

• Finally, in his important and concise “Comments on a Few Theological Issues in the Islamic-Christian Dialogue”, Prof. Seyyed Hossein Nasr identifies seven theological and metaphysical issues of particular difficulty, including Divine manifestation, the status of sacred scripture, sacred law and sexuality, and the life of Christ, for the attention and reflection of those “concerned with a deeper understanding between Christianity and Islam.”

Weighing the Word, the mystic OM, a little mystagogy and the five hearts

June 14th, 2016

• We are happy to announce the publication of our latest Matheson Monograph, Weighing the Word: Reasoning the Qur’an as Revelation, by Peter Samsel, available today from booksellers worldwide. This book is pioneering as an exercise in Muslim apologetics, exploring the many arguments, studies and traditions regarding the status of the Qur’an as a revealed text. Click here for more information, to read an excerpt and to buy a copy.

• Our Hinduism section has a new brief article by Swami Prabhavananda on “The Mystical Word OM”, introducing the Hindu doctrine of sphota-vada, “the way of utterance” or “philosophy of the word”, explaining why

The Yogis claim that through meditation one may hear this word OM vibrating through the universe.

• We also have a new article by Hieromonk Elisha (Hiéromoine Élisée) of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, the “Petite mystagogie de la Divine Liturgie”, a profound meditation on the inner aspects of time and space in the Christian liturgy.

Le chrétien doit se séparer de l’esprit du monde pour participer aux mystères, mais, en retour, ceux-ci refluent vers le monde pour le bénir, par la médiation des serviteurs du Verbe. Ainsi s’édifie mystérieusement le royaume de Dieu, espérance et but de l’univers.

• Finally, we have a new Italian article on the relation between the Sufi invocation and the body’s subtle centres (lata’if, chakras) as explained in some Urdu treatises: “Istruzioni sullo dhikr nei centri sottili in alcuni trattati in urdu sulla via mistica”, by Fabrizio Speziale, contains a wealth of references to little known doctrines found among Central Asian Sufi brotherhoods, such as the doctrine of the five hearts.

I cinque cuori (qulub) sono il cuore carnale, il cuore penitente, il cuore bello o grazioso, il cuore che testimonia e il cuore reale (qalb-i haqiqi).

Silence, Bach, Collective Work and Presence

May 16th, 2016

Our first new library addition is a rare audio lecture “On Silence” by Swami Prabhavananda, of the Ramakrishna Order, giving a powerful insight into the Vedantine way.

None of us has ever been satisfied with finite knowledge of the finite… But why is it that we do not find God? Of course it is ignorance, but what is this ignorance? That we are not interested in knowing the Creator; we are so interested in His creation. We are seeing the magic, and absorbed in this magic we don’t see the Magician.

• Complementing the talk on silence, an autobiographic and brief article by Rosalyn Tureck, one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century and a renowned expert in the work of J.S. Bach, gives a very personal answer to her life question “Why Bach?”.

My performances are the sum total of my work, thought and spirit… If my work has proved to to have been of aesthetic enlightenment and spiritual benefit to others, perhaps, then, I shall not have labored in vain.

• Finally, one of the articles in René Guénon’s posthumous collection Initiation and Spiritual Realisation, considering various aspects of the relation between “Collective Initiatic Work and Spiritual Presence”.

In the Hebrew Kabbalah it is said that when the sages converse about the divine mysteries, the Shekinah is present among them; thus, even in an initiatic form where the collective work does not in general seem to be an essential element, a spiritual “presence” is no less clearly averred when such a work takes place.


• There are still two places available for this year’s Sacred Gardens course, a practical and philosophical workshop led by Emma Clark, taking place from 4th to 5th June in Wells, Somerset. Follow this link for details and to register.

Dame Julian, the Chinese Sage and Architecture

April 10th, 2016

Our latest library additions include an original recording of selections of the Revelations of Divine Love, by Julian of Norwich, including some of the earliest and best known passages of mystical literature in the English language.

Julian-hazelnut      
He showed a little thing, the size of a hazel nut in the palm of my hand, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought, “What can this be?” And it was generally answered thus: “It is all that is made.”
(Icon by Mihai Cucu)
     

• An article by Dr Kim Sung-hae “The Sage in Chinese Tradition: Wisdom and Virtue Personified”, exploring traditional images of sainthood in Chinese religion.

The Sage is truly a man who has become one with the law of Heaven; he has become one whit Heaven. The Sage is nothing but a piece of the principle of Heaven. The Sage is nothing but a piece of the principle of Heaven standing in blood and bones… In spite of this unity, however, there is one distinction between the Sage and Heaven in their performances of transformation; the former works with heart, the latter, without heart (muxin).

• And finally some reflections on interfaith dialogue through architecture among the Abrahamic religions, by Prof. David Brown:

It is not just formal arguments for God’s existence that the three religions might share in common… one could explore the lived character of the three faiths and find in their actual practice of architecture shared elements in their approach to worship of, at least in some respects, the same God… Apparently competing symbols do not necessarily imply opposed religious claims.


• This year’s Sacred Gardens course, a practical and philosophical workshop led by Emma Clark, is taking place from 4th to 5th June in Wells, Somerset. Please follow this link for details and to register.

Islam without Sufism, Leibniz and an Old Master

March 15th, 2016

New to our library is a recent talk by Abdal Hakim Murad (T.J. Winter), answering the question “Is Orthodox Islam Possible without Sufism?”

The basic principle of self-awareness, of awareness of the needs and vulnerabilities of others, the duty to see the hand of God in nature and in other human beings, the obligation to be reflective about oneself and one’s motivations, the basic responsibilities of having a dhikr, of reading Qur’an, of being a kind of luminous person who walks “lightly on the earth” as the Qur’an says: these are incumbent whether or not we have the convenience of a Sufi lodge or a shaykh down the road.

• Also new to our shelves is an article on Leibniz and his theory of an innate, universal “rational religion” that would not supersede revelations, elucidating in a way the relations between universal esoterism and its manifold exoterisms.

Natural theology originates in the “seeds of truth embedded in the mind by God”… The religion of reason is eternal, and God engraved it into our hearts, our corruptions obscured it, and the goal of Jesus Christ was to restore its luster, to bring men back to the true knowledge of God and the soul, and to make them practice the virtue which constitutes true happiness.

• In his lecture “A New Encounter with an Old Master”, Roger Lipsey draws an intellectual and heartfelt portrait of Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, “that noble scholar upon whose shoulders we are still standing.”

Coomaraswamy’s passionate intellectuality is memorable. It presses against one, implicitly asks where one stands, what one cares for without compromise. It asks what, in our experience and intent, is the central cultural act. And among his many replies is this one: “It is not to enlarge our collection of bric-à-brac that we ought to study ancient or foreign arts, but to enlarge our own consciousness of being.”


• There are still places left for the Sacred Gardens course, a practical and philosophical workshop led by Emma Clark, taking place this year from 4th to 5th June in Wells, Somerset. Please follow this link for details.

Lady Philosophy, India and the Vale of the Soul

February 14th, 2016

This week we bring a collection of excerpts from The Consolation of Philosophy, one of the books that defined European intellectual life with its engaging blend of Neoplatonist and Christian ethics. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “To acquire a taste for it is almost to become naturalised in the Middle Ages.”

‘Now,’ said she, ‘I know the cause, or the chief cause, of your sickness. You have forgotten what you are. So now I really understand why you are ill, and I know how to cure you. You are overwhelmed by this forgetfulness of yourself…

Boethius and Philosophy

Lady Philosophy offers Boethius wings for his mind to fly aloft.
The French School (15th century).

• We present next a remarkably prescient article by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, “What Has India Contributed to Human Welfare?” showing the “application of religious philosophy to the problems of sociology”.

It is not sufficient for the English colonies and America to protect themselves by immigration laws against cheap Asiatic labour; that is a merely temporary device, and likely to do more harm than good, even apart from its injustice. Nor will it be possible for the European nationalist ideal that every nation should choose its own form of government, and lead its own life, to be realized, so long as the European nations have, or desire to have, possessions in Asia. What has to be secured is the conscious co-operation of East and West for common ends, not the subjection of either to the other, nor their lasting estrangement.

• And to complete our update, a dialogue with biologist Rupert Sheldrake on the idea and place of the soul within the current scientistic materialist worldview.

In the modern world, when people talk about the inner life, they mean a life somewhere inside their body and especially inside their brain. Then there’s the outer life which is the whole of the external realm. We’ve internalized this shrunken soul, and think that “the inner” means something inside our brains… The idea that there is an objective reality, totally free from any kind of psychic influence, is an extraordinary illusion.


• Our recent affiliation to the PayPal Giving Fund means that now you can contribute to our activities whenever you use eBay. Simply select The Matheson Trust as your favourite charity on eBay by following this link.


• Your attention is drawn to a new opportunity to join the acclaimed Sacred Gardens course, a practical and philosophical workshop led by Emma Clark, taking place this year from 4th to 5th June in Wells, Somerset. Please follow this link for details.

The Aim, Alchemy for Sisters, and Divine Help

January 12th, 2016

We start the new year with a translation of the very influential treatise by St Seraphim of Sarov on the “acquisition of the Holy Spirit”, a testament to the vitality of a truly genuine Christian esoterism.

The soul speaks and converses during prayer, but at the descent of the Holy Spirit we must remain in complete silence, in order to hear clearly and intelligibly all the words of eternal life which He will then deign to communicate.

• We follow with a selection of rare Chinese texts on feminine alchemy, or secret teachings on inner purification for women, “for the perfection of true harmony”.

In the science of essence and life, men and women are the same—there is no discrimination… What is most essential at the beginning of this study is self-refinement. Self-refinement is a matter of mind and breathing resting on each other. This means that the mind rests on the breathing and the breathing rests on the mind.

• And finally an introductory article, “Helping the Cosmos”, on the meaning of the Hindu avataras and their qualities, by Mary Brockington.

“Whenever there occurs a decline in righteousness and a surge in unrighteousness, then I send forth myself. To protect the good and to destroy evil-doers, in order to establish righteousness, I come into being from age to age.”

The Song of Songs of Divine Love, and a Modern Reform

December 15th, 2015

Our latest library additions include several approaches to the Song of Songs, considered for centuries the most direct expression of the deepest religious life, “where in love it is the same to give all, and receive all, and keep all forever.”

• In our Sacred Audio Collection we have an original Hebrew recitation by Fr Abraham Shmuelof (1913-1994).

• We have a selection from the sermons by St Bernard of Clairvaux on the Song, with helpful explanations on “The Various Meanings of the Kiss”, “Intimacies of Divine Love”, “The Breasts of Bride and Bridegroom” and “The Loves of Angels”.

A kiss, not indeed an adhering of the lips that can sometimes belie a union of hearts, but an unreserved infusion of joys, a revealing of mysteries, a marvelous and indistinguishable mingling of the divine light with the enlightened mind, which, joined in truth to God, is one spirit.

• An audio lecture on “Recovering the Song of Songs as a Text of Devotion”, by Stephanie Paulsell, with valuable insights on the Song and our times.

We too might turn to the Song looking for a path to cross the distance between ourselves and God, between ourselves and others, between ourselves and the world… In prayer we try to cross the distance between ourselves and God with language, and then (…) God breaks in upon our prayer before we have even finished uttering it…

• We also have a new addition to our articles by René Guénon, with his classic introductory essay on “The Reform of the Modern Mentality”.

Modern civilisation appears in history as a veritable anomaly; of all those we know about, our own is the only one which has developed in a purely material sense, and is also the only one which is not supported by any principle of a higher order.

The Underlying Religion, the Emperor’s Vigil and the Book of Formation

November 10th, 2015

Our latest library additions include an introduction by Clinton Minnaar to The Underlying Religion. Like the book itself, these pages are an introduction to the Perennial Philosophy in both width and depth, providing information on key authors and works, but most importantly bringing home the vital implications of the transcendent unity of religions for our times and our individual lives.

While the Truth requires the deployment of the intelligence—“with all thy mind”—, and the Way (or Prayer) requires the activity of the will—“with all thy strength”—, the Life (or Virtue) requires conformity of the sentiment—“with all thy soul”.

• We also have a new article by Carmen Blacker on the symbolism of the daijosai, one of the rites of enthronement of the Japanese emperor.

The legitimacy of the imperial line… depends not so much on hereditary blood succession as on the complete and correct transference of the imperial mitama from the old emperor to his successor… In the daijosai we have, marvelously preserved like a kind of spiritual fossil, one of the most complex and mysterious rituals for the consecration of a king to survive from the ancient world.

• And a reference page for the Sefer Yetzirah or “Book of Formation”, one of the most important works of Jewish traditional grammar-cosmology, including links to several translations and commentaries.

When Abraham was born, God consulted with the Sefer Yetzirah which said, “Give (me to him).” So God handed it over to Abraham, who sat alone and meditated… and could not understand it at all until there came a heavenly voice and said to him, “Do you seek to compare anything with me? I am One and I created Sefer Yetzirah and investigated it and made everything which is written in it.

Singing Birds, Abu Bakr’s Prayer and Cooking Instructions

October 2nd, 2015

We start this week’s selection with a now classic article by René Guénon on the symbolism of “The Language of the Birds”, which

can also be called “angelic language”, and is symbolized in the human world by rhythmic language, for the science of rhythm, which has many applications, is in fact ultimately the basis of all the means which can be brought into action in order to enter into communication with the higher states of being.

• Directly from the earliest times of Islam, as transmitted by Imam al-Ghazali, we present the translation of a prayer attributed to the first of the “righteous caliphs”, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq. Literally a world away from most contemporary portrayals of Islam, and yet as close to the source as could be.

By the Torah of Moses,
the Gospel of Jesus,
the Psalms of David,
and the Furqan of Muhammad!

• For dessert, here is one of the most famous of Zen Buddhist classics, the Instructions for the Cook (Tenzo Kyokun) by Dogen, explaining how the spiritual way is in deep harmony with the art of preparing food and serving others.

When you serve the monastic assembly, they and you should taste only the flavour of the Ocean of Reality, the Ocean of unobscured Awake Awareness, not whether or not the soup is creamy or made only of wild herbs.

Returning to the World, Indian Music and Stray Camels

September 10th, 2015

We come back to our library news with an article by Michio Tokunaga on the Pure Land Buddhist understanding of reaching Paradise and then “returning to the world”.

A “practicer of shinjin” lives in linear time when viewed from the perspective of living in this world with a limited physical existence, and, at the same time, transcends it when viewed from the perspective of Amida’s working beyond time.

• Another new addition is an introductory article on Indian Music by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, with precious insights into the foundations and spiritual symbolism of one of the world’s most ancient musical traditions.

Indian music is essentially impersonal: it reflects an emotion and an experience which are deeper and wider and older than the emotion or wisdom of any single individual. Its sorrow is without tears, its joy without exultation and it is passionate without any loss of serenity. It is in the deepest sense of the words all-human… The peace of the Abyss which underlies all art is one and the same, whether we find it in Europe or in Asia.

• Finally, in his essay “Stray Camels in China”, William Chittick articulates carefully an Islamic theological approach to dialogue in depth with other faiths.

In order to discuss first principles with followers of other traditions, Muslims need to recognize that the fundamental message of the Quran is God’s universal truth and universal reality, and this means the precedence and predominance of mercy in all things.

Bach’s Musical Geometry, Kabbalah Origins and The Dragon Gate

August 10th, 2015

Our recent library additions include an article by Dutch pianist Tjako van Schie, “Bach as Architect and Servant of the Spiritual: a closer look at the Goldberg Variations”, sharing a glimpse into the symbolic depth of one of the most popular works by J.S. Bach, with links to audio recordings.

Music reflects a large scale of human emotions, but it is also a lifetime philosophy that unites the humble man with the magnitude of the Cosmos. Bach is a skilled craftsman with only one goal: to serve.

• A pivotal article in the development of Kabbalah studies by Prof. Moshe Idel, “Rabbinism versus Kabbalism”.

The massive reliance on “the Gnostic thesis” has inflicted a major injury to the historical research of Jewish mysticism, for it has implicitly divorced the medieval Kabbalah from its organic sources in ancient Jewish traditions. It is by systematically ignoring the recurrent indications of the Kabbalists and by adopting a pseudo-critical attitude to classical Judaism that the modern scholarship of Kabbalah has been brought to a dead end regarding the origins of the Kabbalah.

• We are happy to provide access to a major work on the history and doctrines of Chinese religion, a thesis in French by the late Monica Esposito, on the “Dragon Gate” (Long Men) School and its alchemical practices. Click here to peruse the two volumes, which include previously untranslated material, extensive sections on “the universal doctrine of salvation of the Three Sages”, on feminine alchemy, a comprehensive bibliography and appendices. Click here for a detailed table of contents in French.

Gladsome Light, Kabbalistic Prayer and Heeding the Self

July 25th, 2015

Phos Hilaron, in Greek “Joyful Light” or “Gladdening Light” is the earliest known Christian hymn recorded outside of the Bible that is still in use today. It is the latest addition to our popular Sacred Audio Collection, including authentic recordings in Greek, Latin, Arabic, Armenian and English. Click here to visit the page and listen.

A recent translation of Abraham Abulafia’s Meditations on the Divine Name gives us a practical insight into the contemplative life of one of the most vital branches of the traditional Kabbalah:

Adorn yourself and seek solitude in a special place where no one can hear your voice. Purify your heart and soul from all thoughts of this world. Think that in the coming hour your soul will leave your body and you will die to this world and you will live in the next world… And chant the aleph, and every letter you recite, with terror, awe and fear, coupled with the gladness of the soul in its comprehension which is great.

• Studying an homily by St Basil (4th cent.), Olga Alieva shows the common ground between the Platonic and Christian understanding of the Delphic maxim: “Know thyself.”

‘Give heed to thyself’ – that is, attend neither to the goods you possess nor to the objects that are round about you, but to yourself alone. We ourselves are one thing; our possessions another; the objects that surround us, yet another. We are soul and intellect in that we have been made according to the image of the Creator.

New book: Primordial Meditation

July 21st, 2015

We are very pleased to announce the publication of our new book, Primordial Meditation: Contemplating Reality. This is the first book ever written by Frithjof Schuon, compiled from his personal notebooks in the early 1930s. It was written in his native German, and this is the first time it is published as a book in English.

Primordial cover

Primordial Meditation is a unique work within the Schuonian corpus, exhibiting a fiery prose in which all the fundamental themes addressed by the author throughout his life can be discerned. As the translator observes:

In these early writings it is as if an immense energy were forcing a passage through a narrow channel, or a huge mass were being compressed to its utmost. The sheer scope and power of the content constantly threaten to burst the confines of the verbal receptacle.

(…) Its doctrinal rigour is complemented and counterbalanced by passages of haunting imagery and lyricism. It powerfully engages our total intelligence, penetrating not only the thinking mind, but also the depths of the soul.

Or as the author himself explains in a Preface:

The profound nature of things is changeless; with regard to the one metaphysical Truth, this present book, too, is impersonal and timeless, despite having in places the characteristics of an early work.

Click here to read an excerpt of the book in PDF format.


Primordial Meditation (ISBN 978-1-908092-120) is available through all major internet retailers and can be ordered from your local bookshop too. Follow this link for more details.

This is a Matheson Trust Publication, click here to view other Matheson Trust Publications.

A Mustard Seed, Infinite Finitude and Calmness

July 9th, 2015

Considered one the greatest mystical poems of German medieval literature, and usually attributed to Meister Eckhart, the Granum Sinapis or “Grain of Mustard Seed of the Most Beautiful Deity” is presented here in three English translations, with an audio recording of the original poem.

It is, yet truly none knows what. ‘Tis there, ’tis here,
’tis far, ’tis near,
’tis high, ’tis low,
yet all we know
is: This it’s not and That it’s not.

A new audio lecture by Abdal Hakim Murad, “Infinite and Finite”, on the relation between Ramadan and the Qur’an.

A religion has to deal with the huge paradox of how the infinite intersects with the finite… and where, in Islam, the infinite and the finite most conspicuously intersect is with the book of Allah. Look at what our theologians all say about the book: kalam Allah al-qadim. That is something very strange to say about something you can hold in your hands, “Allah’s ancient uncreated word”… and it is particularly associated with the month of Ramadan.

• Finally we present a brief article on the two types of “Calmness” known to Aikido practitioners.

Being calm in a crisis may mean that you don’t understand the situation, or it may mean that you have had some excellent training, so similar is the outward appearance of living and dead calmness.

Musashi's Bird

A Master Gardener, the 24 Philosophers and Nation and Religion

June 22nd, 2015

Our selections this week include a video interview with renowned horticulturalist Alan Chadwick, filmed in Covelo, California, in 1978.

Man utterly belongs, is adored by nature, is utterly requisite in the ordination of the totality of nature, spiritual, mental and physical, as an absolute necessity for the procedure of destiny in the revolvement of the world and its growth… he cannot divorce himself and live in happiness, and build an environment that shuts out that connection.

• We also present a new translation of a medieval metaphysical gem, the influential Book of the 24 Philosophers, in a bilingual Latin-English edition.

Upon a gathering of twenty-four philosophers, only one question remained for them to answer:
what is God?

• And finally “Nichiren’s View of Nation and Religion”, an article by Prof. Sato Hiroo discussing a Japanese Buddhist view on the relation between state and faith.

For Nichiren, the Tenno is no more than the means to realize “peace of the nation.” The Tenno is an entity that is at the service of a higher and more sublime religious ideal (the Buddha Dharma) and, as such, comes to be affirmed and recognized as the nation’s sovereign.

Kiss of Life, Learning from Islam and the Power of Melancholy

May 31st, 2015

Our first new library addition this week is an article by Prof. Admiel Kosman on the Jewish traditions linking the breath of life with the revealed Word and the kisses of the Song of Songs.

For the Sages, the resurrection of the world at Mount Sinai was completely analogous to the bestowal of life to primordial man in Creation… The homilists refer to the revelation at Mount Sinai as a kiss… That is to say, the life-giving words of God were kisses… the kisses of God’s Word, of the Torah.

A new recorded audio lecture by Thomas Cleary, “Can the West Learn from Islam?”, exploring and illustrating Islamic traditions that might help reintroduce the idea of the Holy in everyday Western society.

Fanaticism, compulsiveness in religion tends to alienate the individual from other people, the group from the larger body of society and the individual from his own real self.

• And an article by Angela Voss, set to music, on the deepest connections between Elizabethan music, Neoplatonism and astrology, studying John Dowland’s set of seven pavans for viols and lute, Lachrimae or Seven Teares of 1604.

Melancholy music which reflected back to the listener his or her own earth-bound condition, and yet also invoked the cosmic spirit, would have immense power—the power to lift the consciousness of both performer and listener to a new level of perception.

Primordial Meditation, the Swiss Hermit and Birds and Flight

May 13th, 2015

We open our selection this week with a glimpse of our forthcoming publication of Frithjof Schuon’s Primordial Meditation, an arresting work of his early years, rich in symbolic power and metaphysical penetration.

The world is a silken pall, in which lies a king, rigid and deeply enshrouded. He loves the silk in which he is wrapped, without knowing that it is a shroud, his shroud, and that beyond this shroud extends a whole living world with an immeasurable heaven. He does not want to rend the shroud, nor shatter his gilded sarcophagus, because he loves it.

Every man is this enshrouded, buried king.

• We are also happy to offer an introduction to the life of Saint Nicholas of Flüe, or “Brother Klaus”, patron saint of Switzerland and one of the most famous European hermits.

Brother Klaus’ Contemplation Wheel

The soul lacks but one thing—God. What separates thee from Him and Him from thee and prevents Him from doing His work in thee is this, that thou desirest to be something of thyself, and to please God through thy works. God does not want thy works, but His work.

• Finally, an article by Carl Ernst on “The Symbolism of Birds and Flight in the Writings of Ruzbihan Baqli”, affording an insight into this important aspect of Sufi literature.

Ruzbihan reminds us that the flight of the bird covers the distance between heaven and earth; its arrival on earth and its departure to heaven imitate and embody the journey of the soul from its origin to its end, just as the bird’s song can praise God or deliver a scriptural epiphany to humanity. When we read Persian poets telling for the thousandth time of the nightingale’s song to the rose, or the bird who nests in eternity, we should not be lulled into dullness, anaesthetized by mere repetition. Mystical authors like Ruzbihan can help us recover the experiential power of a symbol…

Womanhood, Religious Craftsmen and Confucian Politics,

April 21st, 2015

We open our selection this week with a rare audio recorded lecture, “Womanhood, an Islamic Perspective”, by Thomas Cleary, the renowned translator of Far Eastern classics:

The instructive metaphors for meditative processes are in fact metaphors from the processes of gestation and nursing. There is the image of the man becoming pregnant… These are representations of the kind of moment-to-moment, very intimate, very intense inwardness and concentration that is naturally part of the process of carrying a baby and nursing a baby. And if we think in Islamic terms, of real nature being itself, real religion, we have to then believe that this faculty of this incredible patience and punctilious awareness is a natural inherent gift of womanhood… In this tradition the reverence for the woman is connected not only to the function of compassion but also to this power of concentration which the men try to imitate.

• We are happy to add to our growing collection of Ananda Coomaraswamy’s works his essay on the “Religious Ideas in Craftsmanship”, from his early work The Indian Craftsman:

The craftsman is not an individual expressing individual whims, but a part of the universe, giving expression to ideals of eternal beauty and unchanging laws, even as do the trees and flowers whose natural and less ordered beauty is no less God-given.

• Finally, we bring a new contributor, William Keli’i Akina, with an article on the “I Ching and the Metaphysical Roots of the Confucian Political Ideal”

Tianming (the “Mandate of Heaven”) creates a dual accountability for all rulers, one that is immanent as a duty to the people and metaphysical as a duty to tian (Heaven) and dao. In the Chinese worldview, the fulfillment of this duty is essential for the flourishing of unity and harmony within society as the outworking of dao. Its violation harms society.

Three Things, Ritual Prayer and Martial Arts

April 1st, 2015

We open our selection this week with an excerpt from The Sparkling Stone, by the Flemish medieval mystic John of Ruysbroeck:

The God-seeing man who has forsaken self and all things, and does not feel himself drawn away because he no longer possesses anything as his own, but stands empty of all, he can always enter, naked and unencumbered with images, into the inmost part of his spirit. There he finds revealed an Eternal Light, and in this light, he feels the eternal demand of the Divine Unity; and he feels himself to be an eternal fire of love, which craves above all else to be one with God.

Ruusbroec miniatuur
Ruysbroeck in the forest, from a 14th century miniature

• Ruggero Vimercati-Sanseverino contributes an article on the symbolism of Islamic ritual prayer (salat) according to two major Sufi masters: Hakim al-Tirmidhi and Ahmad Ibn ‘Ajiba:

…by the performance of ritual prayer man is able to fulfill the primordial covenant he took with God before creation. The obligatory character of prayer is only a consequence of the engagement which man’s spirit took with God.

• And a recent lecture by Juan Acevedo on the deep affinities between Kung Fu or Chinese Martial Arts and the visual arts and crafts:

The geometry of martial arts is the same geometry of other traditional Chinese disciplines: painting, geomancy, medicine, calligraphy… they are all derived from the source of Chinese civilisation, namely the trigrams and hexagrams that constitute the core of the Classic of Changes, the I Ching


• There are still a few places available on the Sacred Gardens course, a practical & philosophical workshop led by Emma Clark, taking place this year from 22nd to 25th May in the City of Wells, Somerset. Please follow this link for details.

Shinto Mediation, Liberating the Heart and Yogic Mindfulness

March 18th, 2015

Considered one of the traditional thirteen sects of Shinto, and called by some “the fulfilment of Shinto”, the Konko-Kyo school is based on the concept of “deliverance through mediation”. An article by Delwin B. Schneider gives us an introduction to this new and old Japanese faith:

When man becomes a living Kami, it follows that he becomes an agent of mediation between Kami and man. In this sense, Kami becomes man and man becomes Kami. It is this act of mediation which is performed both by priest and layman.

• We also have this week the audio recording of a recent talk by Reza Shah-Kazemi, “Liberating the Heart: Sufi Perspectives on Qur’anic Psychology”:

This oil, the Spirit hidden within the soul, which we can only get to once we crush these olives of the soul… is transparent, because the heart, which is like a mirror, has been polished by the remembrance of God, so that the one and only Light of God falls upon it.

• And finally a new article and translation of a very early short text on the yogic path, the Carakasamhita, with some surprising references to Buddhist meditation and a previously unknown eightfold path to the mindfulness which is key to liberation:

The Pali term sati (Sanskrit smrti) can denote memory in two quite distinct senses. First, it denotes memory as the simple bringing-to-mind of events that happened at an earlier period in time, the mental act required to answer such questions as “what did I have for breakfast?” In a second sense, it means the deepening of one’s consciousness, of one’s experiential awareness of the present moment. This is the alert self­ recollection that people experience at special or shocking moments in life, or as a result of deliberate forms of meditation practice.


• There are still a few places available on the Sacred Gardens course, a practical & philosophical workshop led by Emma Clark, taking place this year from 22nd to 25th May in the City of Wells, Somerset. Please follow this link for details.

Lent Joy, Tiantai Contemplation and Teaching Religion

February 28th, 2015

Our first new piece this week is a reflection on Lent by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, explaining how “contrary to what many think or feel, Lent is a time of joy”

It is a time when we come back to life… Unless we understand this quality of joy in Lent, we will make of it a monstrous caricature, a time when in God’s own name we make our life a misery.

• Prof. Hans-Rudolf Kantor discusses the basic concepts of lesser known Tiantai Buddhism in his article “Contemplation: Practice, Doctrine and Wisdom in the Teaching of Zhiyi”

The teaching aims at the unobstructed and pure comprehension of the absolute value of salvation within each concrete moment of existence, perceived by sentient beings. This perception is combined with the immediately proper acting and wholesome transformation caused through this comprehension.

• Finally an audio recording of Harry Oldmeadow’s recent talk on the teaching of religion, with a view in particular to the teaching of religious studies in secondary schools, and the puzzles and conundrums it poses.

One of the problems is that religion is thought of by an awful lot of people as just another form of ideology… just a kind of cultural construct.

Truth Loved, Buddhist-Christian Dialogue and Eastern Wisdom

February 12th, 2015

We open our selection this week with a brief article on the Russian philosopher and mystic Pavel Florensky, “Truth Is Not Known Unless It Is Loved”, by Fr Patrick Henry Reardon:

With few exceptions… the twentieth-century Western philosopher stands several steps removed from the ancient understanding of metaphysics, so that on the whole he does not realize exactly what, several centuries ago, he truly did lose. Long accustomed now to viewing the pursuit of knowledge solely in terms either of logical abstraction or empirical objectivity or some combination of both, most Western philosophers seem no longer familiar even with the essential nature of metaphysical thought.

• By Zen Master Akizuki Ryomin, an article exploring the possibility of a deep Buddhist-Christian dialogue.

As long as one has not experienced this intimately and of one’s own, the satori that takes place in the head through the mere toying with words, one is no more than a “scholar” drawing inferences and writing them up in books.

A little known introduction to René Guénon’s work by Ananda Coomaraswamy, where the basic tenets of the traditional philosophy (Philosophia Perennis et Universalis) are outlined with a striking relevancy to our contemporary situation.

Literacy is a practical necessity in an industrial society, where the keeping of accounts is all important. But… to have heard is far more important than to have read… it is not necessary that anyone should be literate; it is only necessary that there should be amongst the people philosophers (in the traditional, not the modern sense of the word), and that there should be preserved deep respect on the part of laymen for true learning.


• Your attention is drawn to a new opportunity to join the acclaimed Sacred Gardens course, a practical & philosophical workshop led by Emma Clark, taking place this year from 22nd to 25th May in the City of Wells, Somerset. Please follow this link for details.

What is Man, Music and Harmony, and Confucian Rites

January 20th, 2015

We open this week’s selection with a brief article by Fr Patrick Reardon, “What Is Man?”:

If we adhere to the full anthropology of divine revelation, it is strictly speaking not true that “human nature does not change.” Indeed, it is the very business of divine revelation to cause human nature to change.

“Music as Therapy: the analogy between music and medicine in Neoplatonism”, by our new collaborator Sebastián Moro-Tornese:

Instead of thinking in terms of attaining harmony as a “result” or “possession”, we can understand music as a work of disinterested love and knowledge that prepares us for the reception of inner Silence and harmony as an intuition or re-enactment of Unity, which liberates the soul from its multiple sense perceptions, passions and possessions…

• And finally by John Wu, Jr, an article on “Thomas Merton and Confucian Rites”, clearing some misconceptions about the Confucian tradition:

Disharmony and alienation occur when no one quite knows for certain who he or she is supposed to be; that is, when we have lost our identity or when, in the case of ideas, a concept such as love, for example, becomes for all practical purposes the dominant province of soap operas, ad agencies, and, most absurd and tragic of all, appropriated by totalitarian governments.

Intra-Religious Dialogue, a Cloistered Garden and Future Tradition

January 5th, 2015

We start the new year with our recent December lecture by Harry Oldmeadow, “Looking Forward to Tradition: Ancient Truths and Modern Delusions”, where the author examines the conventional notions of progress in contrast with the timelessness of the perennial wisdom:

No one will deny that modernity has its compensations, though these are often of a quite different order from the loudly trumpeted ‘benefits’ of science and technology—some of which are indubitable but many of which issue in consequences far worse than the ills which they are apparently repairing.

• Josep-Maria Mallarach brings us a detailed account of the reconstruction of the Cloister Garden at the Royal Monastery of Santa María de Poblet, the largest monastic complex in Western Europe, with attention to the symbolism and spiritual influence of its elements and the rich history of the building.

• Finally, in his “Inter or Intra-Religious Dialogue?”, Gerard V. Hall SM examines common obstacles to interfaith dialogue and possible avenues to mutual understanding, especially between Christianity and Islam.

The challenge of religious dialogue is compounded by several factors. Perhaps the most serious of these is lack of grounding in one’s own religious tradition. This has less to do with knowledge of doctrines than conversion of heart, mind and spirit—which is, after all, the objective of all religions. When faith is weak, then one’s religious tradition becomes an ideology.

Wisdom Mantra, Snakes and Ladders, and Chinese Harmony

December 16th, 2014

• The mantra of Transcendent Wisdom of Manjusri, widely recited in Tibetan and Chinese traditions, is this week’s latest addition to our Sacred Audio collection.

Tibetan Manjusri
Mañjusrikumarabhuta, “Ever Young Manjusri”

• In “Road Maps for the Soul”, an original article by Jacob Schmidt-Madsen, we have a glimpse into the origin and meaning of the popular game of Snakes and Ladders, the Indian gyan chaupar, or “game of knowledge”, where the playing board is

a representation of the manifested universe with Mount Meru at the center and the four main continents spreading out in each of the four cardinal directions. The playing pieces would represent the souls of the world, circling the wheel of life in search of final liberation at the center of creation.

• In “Harmony in Popular Belief and its Relation to Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism”, Prof. Cheng Chih-ming shares an insider’s view of the subtleties of the Triple Religion, focusing on the central role of the archaic native traditions.

Together man and the universe form an entity of common destiny, for which it is necessary to keep a mutual balance and harmony.

New Books, on Being-Time and Sufi Letters

November 28th, 2014

• We are very happy to announce the publication of the first titles of our Words of Wisdom Series, two sister volumes of lectures by Martin Lings: Enduring Utterance: Collected Lectures (1993–2001) and To Take Upon Us the Mystery of Things: The Shakespeare Lectures. Follow the title links for downloadable excerpts. These books can be ordered from any bookshop around the corner and also from all major online bookshops.

• New to our shelves this week: a brief excerpt from Zen master Dogen on Being Time (uji), one of the most challenging sections from the Shobogenzo, the “Mount Everest of Japanese Buddhism”.

These passages ought not to be read as abstract metaphysic. Dogen is not speculating about the character of time and being, but is speaking out of his deepest experience of that reality. “You must cease concerning yourself with the dialectics of Buddhism and in­stead learn how to look into your own mind in seclusion.”

• And a selection of Letters by the Sufi Shaykh al-‘Arabi al-Darqawi (1760–1823), as translated by Titus Burckhardt.

What a sorry creature, this son of Adam, who effaces the Cosmos until not a trace of it remains and whom the Cosmos in its turn will obliterate until not a trace of him remains, save a faint odour which in a little while fades away altogether.


Forthcoming events: A final reminder for next Monday’s Temenos lecture at the Lincoln Centre, our Thursday Cambridge lecture for RE teachers, and our weekend of seminars with Harry Oldmeadow. Click here for details and to register.

Oxherding, the University and Lasting Joy

November 6th, 2014

Our first new addition this week is a commentary by Zen master Shodo Harada on the ancient series of Ten Oxherding Pictures tracing the path to enlightenment and beyond.

If we are burning completely, nothing we do or see catches us. We have gathered it all into one, seeing with no sense of having seen, eating with no sense of having eaten, and walking with no sense of having walked. We have to pass through this great darkness once, gathering everything into this darkness, compressing everything into it, until there is no place for even a single thought to enter. If we realize this place we become totally transparent.

An article by Jean-Luc Marion on “The Universality of the University”, reflecting on the consequences of the professionalization and specialization of academia:

An animal knows within the limits of its desire and desires within the limits of what it knows, whereas man knows according to the measure of his limitless desire, and therefore desires what he does not know. To man belongs the privilege of asking questions without immediate answers.

“Everlasting Joy”, a brief homily by Fr Pavel Florensky on a cryptic excerpt of the Orthodox liturgy:

…with a treasure in our bosom everyone of us wanders with a longing over the face of the earth, and often we do not even believe that it is possible to find such a pearl—even far, far away. Blessed is he who has discovered his own treasure.


Forthcoming events: Less than a month now before our lecture and seminars with Harry Oldmeadow. Click here for details, including “Some Puzzles and Conundrums in the Teaching of Religion”, an evening conversation in Cambridge with RE teachers.

Yoga and Power, Survival and the Cherubinic Wanderer

October 16th, 2014

• Our first new addition this week is an article by James L. Fitzgerald on “A Prescription for Yoga and Power in the Mahabharata,” with a brief text on the truths relating to moksha, the “freedom of an arrow in flight”:

…as a pilot who concentrates intently guides his ocean-going ship swiftly into port, so he who knows the fundamental prin­ciples of the world and has engaged in concentration of his Self by means of yoga harnessing, reaches a position that is very hard to get to, once he leaves this body behind.

• An article by Lord Northbourne on “The Survival of Civilization”:

In exalting our own powers over Nature we diminish ourselves, for the realisation of our full potentiality does not depend on the development and exercise of those powers for our own terrestrial advantage; it depends entirely on the fulfilment by us of our spiritual function; for that alone can keep us in touch with the imperishable and finally bring us into union with it.

• And finally, adding to our Mystical Poetry Collection, we have a selection of poems by the German mystic Angelus Silesius, with original audio in German and English:

Freund, es ist auch genug. Im Fall du mehr willst lesen,
So geh und werde selbst die Schrift und selbst das Wesen.

Friend, it is now enough. Wouldst thou read more, go hence,
Become thyself the Writing and thyself the Essence.


• The Fellowship of St Alban & St Sergius invites you to a forthcoming talk by Fr Maximus Lavriotes on “Hesychasm and the Integrity of Human Nature.” Wednesday 22nd October at St James’s Church, Paddington. Please click here for full details.

Why Work, the Zen Lectures and Anatheism

October 3rd, 2014

This week, from our shelves, a now famous article by Dorothy Sayers, “Why Work?”, more than ever a timely reminder of what a normal relation between man and his work is:

…we should fight tooth and nail, not for mere employment, but for the quality of the work that we had to do. We should clamour to be engaged in work that was worth doing, and in which we could take pride… The greatest insult which a commercial age has offered to the worker has been to rob him of all interest in the end product of the work and to force him to dedicate his life to making badly things which were not worth making.

• One of the most authoritative and concise introductions to Zen and to the heart of the Buddhist way in general, the series of lectures by Yasutani Hakuun Roshi:

The first of the three essentials of Zen practice is strong faith… more than mere belief… a faith that is firmly and deeply rooted, immovable, like an immense tree or a huge boulder… The second indispensable quality is a feeling of strong doubt… From this feeling of doubt the third essential, strong determination, naturally arises, an overwhelming determination to dispel this doubt with the whole force of our energy and will. Believing with every pore of our being in the truth that we are all endowed with the immaculate Bodhi-mind we resolve to discover and experience the reality of this Mind for ourselves.

• And finally by Rupert Sheldrake, “Rediscovering God”, a candid and engaging talk about his own anatheistic path and possibly that of the contemporary scientific paradigm:

Everyone knows what theism is: belief in God. Everyone knows what atheism is: disbelief in God. “Anatheism” means returning to God or going back to God.

Human Body, the Temple at Ise and the Rose-Garden

September 15th, 2014

Our first article this week is an interpretation of “The Image of the Human Body in Premodern India” by Dominik Wujastyk, University of Vienna.

The Taittiriya Upanishad… posits five bodies, or “atmans”: annamaya, or the physical body derived from food; pranamaya, or the body of the vital breath or airs; manomaya, or the self of the mind; vijñanamaya, or the self as a locus of knowledge; and anandamaya, or the self made of joy.

• A report of an “Interfaith Visit to the Ise Temple”, Japan’s holiest shrine, which is demolished and rebuilt every two decades in accordance with Shinto notions of death and renewal. In 2,000 years, no foreigner had witnessed the sacred ceremonies involved, until now.

The bridge giving access to Ise Jingu
Approaching Ise Jingu

The Mystic Rose Garden (Gulshan-i Raz), a masterpiece of Sufi poetry by Mahmud Shabistari, available in annotated English translation and the Persian original.

The man who knows this secret, that all things are One, dies to self, and lives, with regenerate heart, in God. He sweeps away all that comes between God and the soul, and “breaks through to the oneness,” as Eckhart said. Good works, it is true, raise men to a “laudable station,” but so long as division and duality and “self” remain, true mystical union of knower and known is not attained.

Meaning of Intellect and the Christian Desert

August 27th, 2014

This week we present a video recording of a lecture by Reza Shah-Kazemi, “Imam Ali and the Spiritual Meaning of ‘Intellect’”, given in Karachi in 2013:

Without hilm (forbearance, self-control, far-sightedness) there can be no intellect, without contentment there can be no intellectual activity, without kindness one cannot be called an intellectual, without generosity one cannot be called an intellectual; all of these dimensions have to be there if we are to conform to the criteria laid by Imam Ali for the deeper meaning of the Intellect.

• Two articles on the Christian symbolism and “practice” of the contemplative wastelands: “Desert Spirituality” by Fr Ernest Larkin, O. Carm.:

A special appeal to heroic souls was the belief that the demons infested the wastelands and could be met there in open combat. It did not take long for the desert dweller to discover that the demons were within and to be engaged on the battleground of the soul.

• And “The Desert as Reality and Symbol” by Fr Donald Goergen OP:

… uncontaminated nature has a revelatory power which is manifest in the beauty it expresses. In a strange contrast to the harshness of the desert, mountains, or sea, one is overwhelmed by their beauty as much as by one’s dependency… it is this beauty, as well as one’s dependency, which turns one’s heart and mind to God. The beauty reveals a beautiful face of God: God is beauty.

Know Thyself, Divine Energies and Human Perfection

August 11th, 2014

Our first addition this week is a brief homily by Demetrios, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America, on the ancient Delphic maxim, “Know Thyself”, and its place in Christian spirituality.

“If you give heed to yourself, you will not need to look for signs of the Creator in the structure of the universe; but in yourself, as in a miniature replica of cosmic order, you will contemplate the great wisdom of the Creator.” In other words, man is a microcosm…

An article by David Bradshaw on the relation between the reality of the divine glory and the divine energies, and on the place of this concept in Orthodox theology and in Christian theology in general.

The Christian tradition has always contained the resources for a view of God that is both philosophically cogent and Scripturally sound. All we have to do is look to the East.

• Finally, an article by William Chittick on “The Islamic Concept of Human Perfection”, considering the profound relevance and the contemporary fate of this crucial Islamic doctrine in which metaphysics and traditional psychology converge:

The Islamic concept of human perfection has been banished from the stage, to be replaced by various types of outwardly orientated human endeavour borrowed from contemporary ideologies. The traditional Muslim quietly set out on a personal quest, while the modern zealot shouts slogans from the pulpits with the aim of reforming everyone but himself.

The Roman Philosopher, Sherrard and Nature

July 25th, 2014

Our new library additions include a selection of letters by Seneca “the Younger”, one of the favourite Roman authors of medieval Christendom, in whose works ancient philosophy is clearly seen as a way of inner purification and self-transcendence, akin to the contemplative lives of the religious traditions.

Let us become intimate with poverty, so that Fortune may not catch us off our guard. We shall be rich with all the more comfort, if we once learn how far poverty is from being a burden.

• In a brief chapter entitled “The Rape of Nature”, Philip Sherrard addresses concisely the current “desanctification” of nature and its profound causes in the “dehumanization” of man:

Once we repossess a sense of our own holiness, we will recover a sense of the holiness of the world about us as well and we will then act towards the world about us with the awe and humility that we should possess when we enter a sacred shrine, a temple of love and beauty in which we are to worship and adore the Creator.

• Complementing the above, we have a video recorded interview in which Bishop Kallistos Ware shares his memories and reflections on Philip Sherrard’s life and work:

He said that “tradition” is the preservation and handing on of a method of contemplation. Not just texts written in books, but a way of looking at the wholeness of reality.


• Preparations are under way for a week of events in December with Prof. Harry Oldmeadow from Australia. Please follow this link for details and to register your interest.

• Your attention is drawn to the Covenants Initiative, an acclaimed interfaith initiative based on ancient and little known texts attributed to the Prophet Muhammad.

Yudhishthira and His Dog, Exploring Interiority and the Classic on the Ka‘bah

July 11th, 2014

The high-souled Pandavas and Draupadi of great fame, having observed the preliminary fast, set out with their faces towards the east. Setting themselves on Yoga, those high-souled ones resolved to observe the religion of Renunciation, traversed through various countries and reached diverse rivers and seas… While the Pandavas set out for the forest, a dog followed them.

So begins the shortest book of the Mahabharata, the “Book of the Great Journey” (Mahaprasthanika Parva), where the most curious and profound story of “Yudhishthira and His Dog” unfolds between Heaven and earth.

From Fr Giuseppe Scattolin, “Exploring Human Interiority”, a new article where the need for a deeper interreligious dialogue is argued for:

It is specifically in the taking of a stance before the Absolute that every religion reveals its most characteristic originality but also surprising matches with other religions.

• Finally, we present a rare translation of a Chinese Muslim poem from the 18th century, the Three-Character Rhymed Classic on the Ka‘bah, where “the Revelations of the Indian, the Chinese and the Semitic worlds” converge to produce a truly original work of art.

The doctrines of the Ka‘bah
pervade the Confucian Classics
and have been handed down over a myriad ages
to dispel ignorance and obscurity.

Bhagavad Gita, Intellectual Freedom and Interreligious Dialogue

June 25th, 2014

This week we are giving access through our shelves to an English translation of the Bhagavad Gita with the famous commentary by Shankara. Following this link you will be able to read a short selection and also to download the entire work, including the original Sanskrit text.

Whatever fruit of merit is declared by the scriptures to be attainable when the Vedas are properly studied, when the sacrifices are performed in all their parts, when austerities are well practised, —beyond all this multitude of fruits rises the Yogin who rightly understands and follows the teaching imparted by the Lord in His answers to the seven questions, and he then attains to the highest abode of Ishvara, which existed even in the beginning. He attains Brahman, the Cause.

• We also bring a new article by Lord Northbourne on “Intellectual Freedom”, looking dispassionately at many of our modern superstitions:

Anyone who clings to religion is clinging, not to an arbitrary framework of man’s devising, but to the only framework that can serve as a starting-point for the realization of an inward freedom that is independent of terrestrial contingencies. Moreover this inward freedom is a truly intellectual freedom in so far as it is founded on an integral vision of truth, on a vision which is unified at its source because it comes from within and is not derived exclusively from the observation of the dispersed and fugitive relativities of this world.

• Finally, Fr Giuseppe Scattolin shares from Cairo his reflections on the relevance of “Spirituality in Interreligious Dialogue”:

Dialogue, in fact, does not involve only theoretical thinking, necessary as it may be. It must be, in the first place, a meeting at the level of spiritual life and religious experience which are the heart of all religions.

Walking as Duty, Common Ground and Confucian Analects

June 6th, 2014

Our latest library additions include an article by Elliot Wolfson on the symbolism of walking in the Jewish tradition, especially as elaborated in Hasidic writings:

The proper worship of God was said to be realized even as one physically walked about and was engaged in social commerce. As such, halikhah, walking, became a popular metaphor for following the spiritual path.

• In the wake of our “Common Ground: Islam-Buddhism” event, we offer the contributions of our speakers, Rev. Kemmyo Taira Sato and Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi, dealing with Pure Land Buddhism and Islam:

In Mahayana Buddhism the bodhisattva’s ideal is ‘benefiting oneself and at the same time benefiting others.’ In this context ‘benefiting’ means ‘awakening to the truth of life’. In other words, to love others as much as you love yourself is an imperative for any seeker after truth, whatever tradition they belong to.

• A bilingual excerpt of the Confucian Analects (Lun Yu), with access to audio recordings, as a glimpse into this seminal text of the Far Eastern tradition:

The Master said, ‘At fifteen I set my heart on learning; at thirty I took my stand; at forty I came to be free from doubts; at fifty I understood the Decree of Heaven; at sixty my ear became subtly perceptive; at seventy I followed my heart’s desire without overstepping the line.’

The Temple, Beauty and the Wisdom of a Cat

May 16th, 2014

This week our library additions include an article by Leo Schaya on “The Meaning of the Temple” in the Jewish tradition:

One with God’s entire creation, man’s sanctified soul (neshamah) rises like incense from the golden altar of his heart and presses through the most inward curtain of his being to the Holy of Holies within it. Here, over the sacred Ark of its intimacy with God, the soul finds the redeeming cover of the reconciliation of all duality.

• An audio recorded Friday sermon (khutbah) delivered in Cambridge by T.J. Winter on the theme of “Beauty and the Sunna”:

We need the fatwas of the ulama’, but we also need the fatwas of the heart, guided and uplifted by the people of hearts, of the people who help us to overcome the ego, to shut that infernal trapdoor, and to rise to that level in which alone we can find true peace.

• And a concise Japanese swordmanship treatise, handed down from master to master of a Kendo lineage for centuries, where the heart of the Far Eastern Triple Religion is explicated by an old cat:

“I am only an animal and the rat is my food. How should I know about human affairs? All I know is this: the meaning of the art of combat is not merely a matter of vanquishing one’s opponent. It is rather an art by which at a given time one enters into the great clarity of the primal light of death and life.”

Monastic Rules and the Death of a Sufi Saint

April 30th, 2014

This week we bring to our library some of the rich Vinaya literature—guidance for the monastic life—of the Theravada Buddhist tradition, in parallel with a Christian counterpart from the Carmelite order.

The two volumes of translations from the Pali encompass the rules and the customs of the monks.

Discipline is for the sake of restraint, restraint for the sake of freedom from remorse, freedom from remorse for the sake of joy, joy for the sake of rapture, rapture for the sake of tranquility, tranquility for the sake of pleasure, pleasure for the sake of concentration, concentration for the sake of knowledge and vision of things as they have come to be, knowledge and vision of things as they have come to be for the sake of disenchantment, disenchantment for the sake of dispassion, dispassion for the sake of release, release for the sake of knowledge and vision of release, knowledge and vision of release for the sake of total unbinding through non-clinging.

• And the ancient Rule of St Albert Avogadro is presented along with an excerpt from The Ten Books on the Way of Life and Great Deeds of the Carmelites:

Although an understanding of this way of life consists in experience alone—and this understanding cannot be given fully in words alone unless from someone who is experienced, nor can it be completely grasped by you unless with equal application and toil you strive to learn it through experience—nevertheless, you will be able to follow the teaching of this way of life much better and be encouraged to practise it more fervently if you understand the worthiness of its members and founders, and are acquainted with the original pattern of life of the Order.

• Finally, an original French article by Eric Geoffroy about the deaths of the saints in Islam, with attention to the symbolism and the ascetic implications of the Sufi ars moriendi: “La mort du saint en Islam”:

“ Conduis-toi dans ce monde comme un homme qui jeûne, et envisage ton dernier jour comme la fête de la rupture du jeûne (‘îd al-fitr) ”.

• Your attention is drawn to the upcoming: Sacred Gardens course, a practical & philosophical workshop with Emma Clark, from 9th to 11th May in Wells, UK..

The Passion, Anitas, the Jewel in the Lotus

April 15th, 2014

Our first addition this week is “Praying the Passion”, a Catholic meditation on the spiritual exercises related to the Passion of Christ, by Fr Donal O’Sullivan:

“It is not abundance of knowledge that fills and satisfies the soul, but the inward sense and taste of things”… the man who has thoroughly soaked his understanding and imagination in the sufferings of the Son of God will ultimately —with God’s grace— “smell and taste, with the senses of smell and taste, the infinite fragrance and sweetness of the Godhead, of the soul and its virtues, and of all else…”

• Next, a foundational article for the study of medieval metaphysics, tracing the origin and development of the curious term anitas, the Divine “thatness”, through the shared efforts of Greek, Jewish, Christian and Muslim philosophers over the centuries. Text in French, with lengthy quotations from Avicenna and Aquinas.

L’être, depuis son extrémité supérieure jusqu’à son extrémité inférieure occupe quatre degrés différents qui sont : le que, le quoi, le comment et le pourquoi. Le degré supérieur est le que, qui n’a ni quoi, ni comment, ni pourquoi, et c’est l’Un véritable, le Très Haut.

• We note finally the addition of a new item to our Sacred Audio collection: the “mantra of Compassion”, Om Mani Padme Hum, which is said to summarise all the teachings of the Buddha, including two select recordings and an explanatory video clip by HH the Dalai Lama.

• Upcoming events: —26 April, Vancouver, Sacred Web 2014 Conference on the theme of “Rediscovering the Sacred in our Lives and in our Times.” —From 9th to 11th May, Sacred Gardens, practical & philosophical workshop with Emma Clark.

Flowers, Pure Land and Indian Saints

March 31st, 2014

Our latest library additions include a now classic article by Lord Northbourne on the symbolism of flowers:

…we are speaking of the world, and that is exactly what the world is, perfection manifested in imperfection, the absolute in the relative, the infinite in the finite; every part of the world mirrors the whole. The paradoxical or mysterious or miraculous character of the world is reflected in the gaiety, the subtlety and the extravagance of its floral adornment.

An article by Harold Stewart on the development and essential teachings of True Pure Land school of Buddhism:

Faith is distinguished by three qualities: it is sincere without admixture of doubt or endeavour; it is single-minded in its reliance on the Other Power; and it is continuous in its trust and longing for Rebirth. The characteristics of Faith are clarity, calm, and happiness, and on no account should it be confused with mere belief, a wishful attachment of the mind and emotions to an ideology or dogma, which may be true or false… What then can be done to acquire that pure selfless Faith which we lack and which alone can extricate us from our human predicament?

• And a brief article by D.M. Matheson on the lives of “Two Indian Saints”, bearing witness to the peaceful and fruitful coexistence of Hinduism and Buddhism over the centuries.

• Upcoming events: —This is the last reminder for our Islam-Buddhism Common Ground event with Rev. Kemmyo Taira Sato and Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi. —26 April, Vancouver, Sacred Web 2014 Conference on the theme of “Rediscovering the Sacred in our Lives and in our Times.” —From 9th to 11th May, Sacred Gardens, practical & philosophical workshop with Emma Clark.

Common Word Conversation, Psycho-Analysis and Arabic Wisdom

March 14th, 2014

This week we present the video recording of our “Common Word” 2013 conversation, as it took place at Clare College Cambridge last November, involving Rowan Williams, Abdal Hakim Murad (T.J. Winter) and David Ford in deep and convivial shared reflections on the theology and implications of Christian-Islamic dialogue.

• From the rare articles penned by D.M. Matheson, we bring “Psycho-Analysis and Spirituality”, with particular attention to the Hindu tradition and its relation to modernist ideas:

Words have not only such private and personal associations as psychologists lay stress on in their free association tests, they also often have “historical” associations for a given society and at least some have a well nigh universal significance as symbols. “The Tao which can be named is no longer the Tao,” and the nearer to the Tao, we might say, the less can words directly serve to define.

• Our readers will appreciate the addition of Arabic audio readings and an original Arabic PDF to our existing translation of the famous Hikam (Sufi Aphorisms) of Ibn Ata’ Allah of Alexandria. Regarding the musicality of the Hikam, a centuries-old Islamic saying affirms that “If it were allowed to recite anything other than the Quran during the canonic prayer, it would be the Hikam.”

The cosmos is large in respect to your body but is not large in respect to your soul.

• Upcoming events: 26 April, Vancouver, Sacred Web 2014 Conference on the theme of “Rediscovering the Sacred in our Lives and in our Times.” —Our April Islam-Buddhism Common Ground event: film screening followed by a question and answer session with Rev. Kemmyo Taira Sato and Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi. —From 9th to 11th May, Sacred Gardens, practical & philosophical workshop with Emma Clark.

Knowledge, Gold and Principles of Nature

February 28th, 2014

Our latest library additions include the first of a series of articles by the founder of our Trust, Donald Macleod Matheson, on “Knowledge and KNOWLEDGE”:

If, as has been said, this new kind of knowledge is indescribable, its nature has none the less been indicated through the use of paradox and symbols and its quality has been described as Bliss.

• A new audio recording of a Cambridge Friday sermon by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad (T.J. Winter), on the symbolism of gold and its dangers and virtues:

The negative aspect of gold, or its pursuit is shown in the stories of the Israelites, that ‘show what we can be when we are our best and our worst.’

A foundational chapter by Seyyed Hossein Nasr on the resacralisation of nature in view of the metaphysical and unanimous traditional approach to science:

Only the revival of a spiritual conception of nature that is based on intellectual and metaphysical doctrines can hope to neutralize the havoc brought about by the applications of modern science and integrate this science itself into a more universal perspective.

Upcoming events: On April 4th, to celebrate the World Interfaith Harmony Week, we host in London an Islam-Buddhism Common Ground event: film screening followed by a question and answer session with Rev. Kemmyo Taira Sato and Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi. —And from 9th to 11th May, a practical & philosophical workshop on Sacred Gardens with Emma Clark (click here for details).

Ajahn Chah, the Name of Jesus, and Enlightenment for Ordinary People

February 10th, 2014

Our first new addition this week is a video clip with the Thai Forest Buddhist master Ajahn Chah, recorded while on a visit to England during the 1970s.

The ultimate truth is like the flavour of an apple: you can’t see it with the eye, or hear it with the ear. The only way to experience it is to put the teaching into practice.

“A Sermon on the Glorious Name of Jesus Christ” by Saint Bernadine of Siena.

“ask and you shall receive that your joy may be complete”. “Ask”, He says, “and receive”—that is, through the power of My Name… this Name, not visualized, not appended to a request—just the Name alone, and He adds: “that your joy might be complete”… Now eternal glory is called a joy for three reasons. First, every desire of the soul is filled to excess… Second, it consists in the vision, fruition and possession, in its entirety, of the consummation of goodness, which is the Triune God… Third, this joy is so great, and of such a nature, that it cannot be lost, whence John says to his disciples: “and no one will take away your joy from you”.

• In a lecture entitled “Enlightenment for Ordinary People”, Daiei Kaneko (1881-1976) introduces several basic aspects of the Jodo Shinshu tradition:

…there are many types of power. For example, it is not too difficult to subdue or subjugate bandits in the mountains; but it is hard to subdue the bandits in our mind. The power and force needed to subjugate these different kinds of bandits are not the same. The nuclear power that might destroy the entire human race doesn’t seem to be able to destroy human anger.

• Upcoming events: a practical & philosophical workshop on Sacred Gardens with Emma Clark: three-day event in Wells, Somerset, from 9th to 11th May (click here for details). And an evening on the Islam-Buddhism Common Ground project, initiated by the Dalai Lama and Prince Ghazi of Jordan (click here for details): film screening followed by a question and answer session with Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi.

Julius Caesar, Blessed Passion, Endless Travelling and Sacred Gardens

January 23rd, 2014

Recent additions to our library include an article by Adrian Paterson, on a subtle point relating to Roman history and politics, Divus Julius Caesar (Julius Caesar the Divine):

…combien peu importantes pour Jules César étaient ses conquêtes et ses œuvres littéraires par comparaison avec son rôle de chef spirituel de tout l’empire romain et avec ce que ceci implique de qualités spirituelles. Si cette interprétation de son rôle d’intermédiaire est admise, plusieurs faits de sa vie sont expliqués par là.

• An article on traditional psychology by Bronwen Neil, “The Blessed Passion of Holy Love”, with particular reference to the writings of Maximus the Confessor:

The aim of the ascetic struggle is dispassion, or disinterestedness (apatheia)… detachment from the irrational parts of the soul… not detachment for its own sake, “but only so that, in their purified state, they can be reintegrated into the whole human being.” Only through such reintegration can Christians fully and truly love God, and consequently love themselves (for we are made in the image of God) and the rest of the created world.

• And “The Endless Voyage”, an article by Michel Chodkiewicz on the symbolism of travel as developed by Ibn ‘Arabi:

Thus, willingly or not, knowingly or not, each creature is travelling on a path. But, as an untranslatable play on words in the Arabic title suggests, this path cannot properly be called a “voyage” (safar) unless it is also a disclosure or an unveiling (isfar)

• We would like to draw your attention to an upcoming “practical & philosophical workshop” on Sacred Gardens by Emma Clark. This three-day event will take place in Wells, Somerset, from 9th to 11th May. Please follow this link for more details.

From Religious Form, Chinese Time and the Redemption of the Sparks

January 8th, 2014

This week our first contribution is a recent talk by Reza Shah-Kazemi, “From Religious Form to Spiritual Essence: Esoteric Perspectives on Islam and Christianity,” dealing in particular with insights from Ibn Arabi and Meister Eckhart:

We call this humility ‘radical’ because it goes to the very root of our existence, or rather, it uncovers the fundamental ambiguity of our existence: that we are at once pure nothingness and pure Being. The gnostics, the true knowers, are aware that their true identity is the Real… they recognize themselves in the Light which they discover in the depths of their hearts.

From the Philippines, an article by Manuel Dy, Jr. on “The Chinese View of Time”:

Just as a good teacher “reviews the old so as to find out the new,” so also time creatively reappropriates or recuperates the past, instead of merely reinstalling or destroying it.

And finally an article by Louis Jacobs surveying and explaining the crucial kabbalistic doctrine of the “uplifting of sparks” (birur hanitzutzot), as part of the ongoing “reparation of the world” (tikun olam):

We find many a hasidic tale of a master being propelled by a force beyond his control to journey to distant places for no other purpose than to carry out there some task, otherwise neutral or insignificant, that would have the effect of rescuing the holy sparks held there captive by the kelipot—these sparks awaiting the coming of the one rescuer whose soul-root is close to them in the divine scheme.

Basho’s Narrow Road, Beowulf, the Axis Mundi and the Wine Song

December 20th, 2013

• This week our library news include an introduction and audio recording of one of the most revered works in Japanese contemplative literature, Basho’s Narrow Road to the Interior (Oku no Hosomichi), called by some “a study in Eternity”, under the guise of a poet’s travel diary.

• A rare gem, one of the only two articles penned by Adrian Paterson, in the original French, as published in Études Traditionelles in 1939: “L’Ésotérisme de Béowulf” gives an original exegesis of the famous Old English epic, asserting that one of the main themes of the poem is “la réalisation de «l’Identité Suprême» par le héros”. Click here to access the PDF.

• An article by Arthur Green on the cosmic role of the “Just” or Zaddiq in Jewish tradition.

The zaddiq is no longer the dreaming observer of the angels who go up and down the ladder’s rungs, as was the biblical Jacob. Nor is he a participant in the constant movement along the ladder… Here the zaddiq himself is the ladder; it is through him that others may ascend to God.

• Finally, our readers’ attention is drawn to the recent addition of a new Arabic original recording of the famous Wine-Song of Umar Ibn al-Farid (Sharibna ala dhikri al-habib). Click here to go to the post.

Giqatila, Sufi Encounters, Tibetan Wisdom, Metaphysics of Beauty

December 5th, 2013

• From Rabbi Shlomo Blickstein, a dissertation on the Philosophical-Qabbalistic Writings of Joseph Giqatila, a key figure in the development of the Kabbalah in the Middle Ages, author of the seminal Ginnat Egoz (The Garden of the Nut).

Any person who is considered Perfect Man conjoins with the name of YHWH; there is no intermediary between them. And this is the esoteric meaning (sod) of “Let us make man in Our image.” He is called adam amiti because he is near the First Cause.

• In a now classic article, “The Marriage of Wisdom and Method”, Marco Pallis gives an intimate view of Tibetan Buddhism and its particular approach to the relation between doctrine and the spiritual way.

Orthodoxy (not pharisaism) can speak to orthodoxy; neither heterodoxy nor a diluted faith is able to speak effectively to anyone. Contemplative intelligence, the “eye of the heart”, can render all forms transparent, including one’s own form; it does not do away with those forms—indeed far from it—nor does it encourage, in the name of so-called charity, an attitude of intellectual flabbiness as deadly to mutual understanding as it is to faith.

• After our recent Cambridge event, Michael Sugich has kindly contributed some excerpts of his vivid Signs on the Horizons, a memoir full of insights into the recent decades and the contemporary living tradition of Sufism across the Muslim world.

• Finally, in a rich talk on the metaphysics of aesthetics in the Islamic tradition, Reza Shah-Kazemi interprets and develops the Prophetic saying “God is beautiful and He loves beauty.” This audio recording, made possible by the Prince’s School for Traditional Arts, includes a particularly illuminating question and answer session at the end.

God is not only beautiful by nature; He is continuously overflowing with beauty, just as the sun ceaselessly radiates and illuminates by its very nature. This Beauty is cast into the mirrors of creation, which thereby display the innumerable, kaleidoscopic expressions of this One and Only Beauty.

Divine Love, Science Dogmas, Leonard Cohen and the Metaphysics of Money

November 21st, 2013

• Our latest library additions include a Temenos Academy video recorded lecture by Prof. William C. Chittick, speaking about “Divine Love in Early Persian Prose”:

Know that in reality no fragant herb subtler than the herb of love grew in the meadows of lordhood and servanthood. It is Love that conveys a man to the Beloved—everything else is a highway robber on the path. All the attributes of the tawhid-voicers fall apart in tawhid. All the attributes of the lovers come to nothing in Love.

• In his article “Setting Science Free From Materialism,” Rupert Sheldrake shows how a science that remained closer to its own ideal would at the same time be closer to traditional world views:

The sciences as taught in Asia, Africa, the Islamic countries, and elsewhere are still packaged in an ideology shaped by their European past. Materialism gains its persuasive power from the technological applications of science. But the successes of these applications do not prove that this ideology is true.

“New Jerusalem Glowing”, an article by Elliot R. Wolfson on the works of Leonard Cohen, touching on many facets and the mystical side of the poet’s work:

The one who has no tears to weep has no song to sing. Between desolation and elation is the still-point where the poet finds his footing.

• Finally, an insightful article by Prof. David C. Schindler “Why Socrates Didn’t Charge: Plato and the Metaphysics of Money,” shedding light on the deep causes of contemporary financial debacle:

A strictly money-based economy can grow only in a purely “horizontal” sense, which means in terms of geographical expansion or the multiplication of non-necessary desires. To use money to produce money, in abstraction from the limits determined by real goods, is necessarily at some level to betray the order of the good.

Shaykh Yusuf, Wisdom of Animals, Pico’s Secret and Chinese and Hindu Art

November 6th, 2013

• Recent additions to our library include a rare collection of Sufi writings by the influential Southeast Asian Shaykh Yusuf al-Khalwati al-Maqassari (d. 1699):

So make good the transformation of your soul and the flow of entry into your soul and confine it to the remembrance of Allah, ponder on the glorious Name of the Most High in the depth of your heart, and its light will radiate and it will encompass all your limbs and everything else.

• An audio lecture by William Chittick on “The Wisdom of Animals”, elucidating a passage from Ibn Arabi’s Meccan Revelations:

Animals, who are ruled by the Name “Abaser” (al-Mudhill), have a much more exalted position with God than most human beings. This is precisely because animals gladly accept their “abasement”, whereas human beings tend to forget they are nothing.

• From UCLA Professor Brian Copenhaver, a crucial article on the history of European philosophy, “The Secret of Pico’s Oration: Cabala and Renaissance Philosophy”, which clarifies the nature and intent of what has been called the “Manifesto of the Renaissance”, dissociating it from Enlightenment philosophy and worldview.

As angels of contemplation, the Cherubs live at this summit of divinity, but their way of life reaches down to the first ethical exercises required of those who emulate them. Thus, having chosen the Cherubic way of life as the best way to form a formless human nature, Pico finds himself at the lower philosophical stages of an ascetic and mystical ascent to ecstasy. Once he has made this choice, philosophy is his obligation…

• Finally, another seminal article on comparative studies by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy: “What is Common to Indian and Chinese Art?”

However much your mentality may be opposed to the method of induction from First Principles, there is no other method by which Oriental civilizations can be made intelligible. The method of deduction from observed fact… leads only to description and classification, which may be “accurate”, but need not imply any comprehension of or assimilation to the thing described and classified. Description and classification are acts of the mind; comprehension an act of the pure intellect.

American Indian Ways, Health for Scholars and the Art of Dying

October 22nd, 2013

• Our latest library addition is an exclusive and generous audio recorded interview with Chief James Trosper, Sun Dance Chief of the Shoshone people in Wyoming, who tells us about Native American spirituality, history and perspectives:

There is a lot of good blessings that have come to our people through this way of praying. It has been a really good way for us to get the help that we need, and also to be able to get close to Him, to be able to understand Him, to be able to learn and to become more like Him.

Click here to listen to or download several podcasts totalling more than 100 minutes recording.

• Socrates famously and poignantly said in the Phaedo that philosophers really pursue nothing other than “dying and being dead.” Jeremy Taylor, sometimes called the “Shakespeare of Divines,” wrote the classic English treatise on the Christian theory and discipline of Ars Moriendi (“the art of dying”).

We shall find that the computations of a man’s life are busy as the tables of sines and tangents, and intricate as the accounts of eastern merchants; and therefore it were but reason we should sum up our accounts at the foot of every page, I mean that we call ourselves to scrutiny every night, when we compose ourselves to the little images of death.

• From the Florentine Platonist and priest Marsilio Ficino, we bring excerpts of his very original work Three Books on Life (De vita libri tres), conceived as a medical companion for scholars, full of salutary advice within the framework of the ancient Greek and Hermetic tradition.

If lovers of truth ought to care for the corporeal spirit with such great efforts lest it either prove a hindrance in their pursuit of truth, or else serve them inadequately, then no doubt they must try still harder to cultivate with the teachings of moral philosophy the incorporeal
spirit, the intellect by which alone truth, being itself incorporeal, is apprehended.

• We would finally like to bring to your attention a book launch taking place in Cambridge on the 30th October: Michael Sugich, an American writer who was initiated into a traditional Sufi order over forty years ago has authored a unique eye-witness narrative of a mystical tradition that today hides in plain sight, a book based on the realization that for so many people the idea of sainthood is remote, historical and almost mythical. “I wanted to show a contemporary audience that these people are among us and what the transaction between a seeker and a saint looks like in our time.” Please follow this link for more details.

The 33 Questions, the Stone, Beauty and Three Sufi Poems

October 2nd, 2013

Our latest library additions include the famous Yaksha Prashna, a passage from the Mahabharata forest exile section, where king Yudhishthira must go through a climactic interrogation in the direst circumstances:

“Who is truly happy? What is most wonderful?” Yudhishthira answered, “A man who cooketh in his own house, on the fifth or the sixth part of the day, with scanty vegetables, but who is not in debt and who stirreth not from home, is truly happy. Day after day countless creatures are going to the abode of Yama, yet those that remain behind believe themselves to be immortal. What can be more wonderful than this?”

• From the legendary Hasidic leader Menachem Mendel Schneerson (the Lubavitcher Rebbe), a brief lecture, “Reasoning the Stone”, with insights into the Jewish hermeneutics of the sacred words and letters of the Torah:

Not only is every law and testimonial essentially a supra-rational decree, but also their written surface, also our intellectual-emotional quest to comprehend and appreciate them, is to be undertaken in supra-rational obedience to the divine will.

• A set of two lectures on “Theology and Beauty” by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, of interest to students of art and aesthetics, as also to anyone interested in the place of beauty in the spiritual life.

There is something equivocal, ambiguous, dangerous in beauty and in love because when we see the stained glass window, we may be enthralled, made prisoners, captives of its beauty and forget that the very condition for this beauty is the light beyond.

• Finally, we bring three mystical poems by Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi, translated into English by Martin Lings, available both in PDF format and as MP3 files recorded for the Matheson Trust.

Full near I came unto where dwelleth
Layla, when I heard her call.
That voice, would I might ever hear it!
(…)
My star shines in her firmament.
Where is my life, and where my body,
Where my wilful soul? From her
The truth of these shone out to me,
Secrets that had been hidden from me.

On Women, Cosmogony and Sacred Doctrine, with Two Lectures

September 15th, 2013

• This week our selections include a lecture by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom “On the Creation of Women”, with many insights into the symbolism of marriage and the depths of love.

We are like a damaged icon; we are an image of God which has been badly damaged, but potentially can be brought back to perfection

A lecture by Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr, “In the Beginning Was Consciousness”, with both original Harvard video and a transcript.

The environmental crisis has a religious, theological, spiritual basis, and is not just a result of bad engineering, as some people still think. It has a deeper root (…) it has everything to do with what we think of the world around us. What is this tree that I am looking at through the window? If it is just wood for my fireplace, or if the fox is just skin to put around my wife’s neck, or if this mountain is just the place from which to extract iron ore and make cars, that is a very different attitude than if I look upon these things as sharing my own reality, including consciousness.

An article with some “Reflections on the Relation Between Philosophy and Theology”, by Fr Gerald van Ackeren, S.J., elucidating the meaning of the expression Sacra Doctrina in the works of St Thomas Aquinas, with implications for the traditional notion of “metaphysics”, and the limits of “theology”.

Because sacred teaching is a science of the ultimate end, it is the only science which is at one and the same time speculative and practical. For not only all things to be known participate in this order of finality, but also all things to be done.

• We would like to bring to your attention two forthcoming lectures: one hosted by the Temenos Academy in London, Thursday 19th September, on the “Symbolism of the Plains Indian Sun Dance,” given by Chief James Trosper, from the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. For more details, click here to see the lecture flyer.

• The second lecture, hosted by the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme, Monday 28th October, will combine the screening of a new documentary on the Common Word interfaith initiative with a commentary and a round of questions and answers with Rowan Williams and Tim Winter (Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad). For more details, and to register, click here, or visit Cambridge University’s Festival of Ideas website.

The Principle of Love, Radha and Krishna, Scholars vs Mystics and Sufi Wine

August 31st, 2013

Here are the latest additions to our online library:

• By Joseph L. Cumming, “The Principle of Love as the Key to Peacemaking in the Abrahamic Faiths and in the Teaching of Jesus”

The word “love” sounds nice, but what practical implications does it have in every day life? What would a “policy of love” look like?… In the teaching of Jesus, true love must be self-giving. That is, if we truly love another person, we will not only give them things, but we will be willing to give ourselves to them and for them.

A classical collection of Hindu Songs of Love between Radha and Krishna, by Vidyapati Thakur (c. 1352–1448), with an introduction by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy on the relation between erotic and mystical love poetry.

“The narration is not the real point”; His Lila in Brindaban is eternal, and Brindaban is the heart of man.
It is not till the ear ceases to hear the outside world, that it is open to the music in the heart, the flute of Krishna.

“Buddhist Scholars & Mystics”—from the pages of the Theravada canon (Anguttara Nikaya), a succinct vignette characterising “meditators” (jhana monks) and “those who devote themselves to the study of the sacred scriptures” (Dhamma-devotee monks), and showing why the world needs both.

• And finally two translations of classical Arabic Sufi poems by Martin Lings (Shaykh Abu Bakr Siraj al-Din), recited in English for our Mystical Poetry Collection: the famous Khamriyya or Wine-Song by Umar Ibn al-Farid, and the also famous poem said to have been found at Al-Ghazali’s deathbed. Follow the links above to listen and to access the bilingual PDFs.

Sahaja, Sacrifice, the Garden and the Phoenix

August 16th, 2013

This week our new additions include an unusual article by Ananda Coomaraswamy where he expounds the Hindu concept of Sahaja, reaching deeply into the mystery of love, both in its metaphysical reality and in its earthly manifestations:

In reading of romantic love we are apt to ponder over what is left unsaid. What did the writers really mean? What was the actual physical relation of the Provençal lover to his mistress, of Chandidas to Rami? I have come to see now that even if we knew this to the last detail it would tell us nothing.

From the late French philosopher Jean Hani, a chapter tracking the notion of sacrifice in general, and the Eucharist in particular, through its historical sources and back to its first cause:

In order to understand in its ultimate profundity the meaning of this sacrifice, at one and the same time expiatory and transfiguring, and in a general manner, the real meaning and function of all sacrifice, it is necessary to know its metaphysical basis.

• In “A Contemplation of the Herbs”, a sermon by Thomas Adams (1583–1653), the “Shakespeare of the Puritans”, we have a very particular combination of a treatise on spiritual psychology and the symbolisms of gardening, because, among other things “A good life is a good salad.”

Labour we then to be fruitful gardens, and to abound with gracious herbs, that God may in this world shower upon us the dews of his mercy, and after this life transplant us to his heavenly paradise.

• Finally, Shakespeare’s enigmatic poem on the tragic love between the Phoenix and the Turtle-dove, “allegorically shadowing the truth of Love,” is read aloud for our collection of mystical poetry, and accompanied by several interpretative articles that illumine the profound meaning of “the bird of loudest lay”, the Phoenix of “the sole Arabian tree”. Click here to listen and read.

Intention, “Son of God”, al-Shadhili and Om and Amen

July 24th, 2013

• Our first new work for this week is an article by Elliot R. Wolfson, “Iconic Visualization and the Imaginal Body of God”, on the role of kawwanah or “intentionality” in prayer, affording precious glimpses into the Jewish life of prayer:

“Through the proper kawwanah the heart of the devotee becomes the throne upon which God dwells at the same time that God is transformed into the throne upon which the devotee dwells.”

• In a new contribution by Joseph Cumming, “The Meaning of the Expression ‘Son of God’” is examined, with reference to Greek and Arabic texts, clearing the linguistic sources of many misunderstandings, because, for example, “everyone knows the term ‘son of the road’ (ibn al-sabil),… does not mean literally that the road took a wife and sired a son by her!”

• Prof. Kenneth Honerkamp summarises the contents of a rare manuscript found in Fes, containing hitherto unknown materials on the life of Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili, the founder of one of the most vital and widespread Sufi orders.

“Why do you ponder the state of the wali?… I would say, “It is greater than you imagine, the dust or even the least of his words on traditional views of divine unity (tawhid) would suffice you. The Law outwardly conceals him. If you ask him of subtleties of journeying (raqa’iq), he will efface them for you with subtleties of divine realities (daqa’iq).”

• Finally, in a new translation, Michel Valsan explains with many illustrations how the “two sacred terms Om and Amen coincide both in their adverbial meaning (of affirmation or confirmation) and the corresponding ritual use, and in the meaning of the symbol of the universal Word and the name of the supreme Truth.” Click here to read the PDF in A4 or e-book format.

Fasting, on Translation, the Problem of Evil and the Parliament of Religions

July 9th, 2013

• This week, the first new addition to our library is a talk by Abdal Hakim Murad (T. J. Winter), delivered on the 1st of Ramadan 2009, where he elaborates on the divine saying “fasting is mine.”

… but still, there is this illa siyam, “except for fasting”, fa innahu li, “for it is mine”, and we need to understand this; and we can understand it most easily not by using our brains… but by using our hearts. What does the heart feel in Ramadan?

Click here to listen.

• By Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, the lesser known article “On Translation: Maya, Deva, Tapas”, where three key terms in Hindu and religious studies in general are examined and exemplified.

“What Europe has understood by ‘religious tolerance’ is a merely negative conception, reached by way of scepticism and political convenience. The basic principle of tolerance is positive… ‘Because of his incomprehensible nobility and sublimity, which we cannot rightly name nor wholly express, we give Him all these names.’”

• From the many insightful articles authored by Marco Pallis, a foremost authority on Tibetan Buddhism, “Is There a Problem of Evil?”

“Did we but know it, all the desires beings experience, all their attempts to snatch satisfaction from this thing or that thing, are but signs of a deep-seated homesickness for the Tree of Life, man’s true homeland. The one and only ‘problem,’ in our situation, is to find the way home.”

• Finally, a fundamental text in the study of comparative religion: Swami Vivekananda’s famous addresses at the Parliament of the World’s Religions (1893), widely recognised as the occasion of the birth of formal interreligious dialogue worldwide.

“The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of the others and yet preserve his individuality and grow according to his own law of growth. If the Parliament of Religions has shown anything to the world it is this: It has proved to the world that holiness, purity and charity are not the exclusive possessions of any church in the world, and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character.”

Mirror of Gesture, Ibn Gabirol, Imam Ali and Wabi-Sabi

June 20th, 2013

The Mirror of Gesture (Abhinaya Darpana) is a 2nd century CE classic of Indian dramatic art. Translated and introduced by A.K. Coomaraswamy, it is invaluable reference for all those interested in the performance arts or arts in general. This book includes many plates illustrating the different mudras, and the details of the twenty-four movements of the head and the forty-four glances. Click here to read.

“The arts are not for our instruction, but for our delight, and this delight is something more than pleasure, it is the godlike ecstasy of liberation from the restless activity of the mind and the senses, which are the veils of all reality, transparent only when we are at peace with ourselves. From the love of many things we are led to the experience of Union: and for this reason Tiruvenkatacari does not hesitate to compare the actor’s or dancer’s art with the practice of Yoga. The secret of all art is self-forgetfulness.”

• As a rare acoustic approach to medieval Andalusia, we also bring this week a selection of Jewish mystical poetry, including excerpts from the famous “Kingdom’s Crown” (Keter Malchut) by Ibn Gabirol, and a poem by Abraham Abulafia, all read in the original Hebrew and in English. Click here to listen.

• In a video-recorded lecture, “Imam Ali and the Power of Compassion”, Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi explores the role played by Rahma—loving compassion and mercy—in the teachings of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib, stressing the relationship between intellect and compassion.

“Just as the operation of the intellect requires the participation of all the cardinal virtues—with compassion at their heart—the deeper meaning and transformative power of the virtue of compassion can only be unlocked by the spiritual and ethical application of the faculty of the intellect.”

• Finally, with thanks to Robyn Griggs Lawrence, we have an article on the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi, or the Zen inspired mind-set that prepares us for “an active aesthetical appreciation of poverty,” subtly pervading daily life with the spiritual values of naturalness and submission to the cycles of growth, decay, and death.

The Vedanta, the Chariot, a Qur’anic Response and Christian-Muslim Dialogue

May 28th, 2013

This week we bring four new additions to our online library. From Frithjof Schuon’s classic Spiritual Perspectives and Human Facts, an audio recording of two chapters on “The Vedanta”, affording precious insight into the heart of the Sanatana Dharma:

The sacred formula, the mantra, symbolizes and incarnates the Subject by objectivizing It; and by ‘covering’ the objective world, this dark cavern of ignorance, or rather by ‘substituting’ itself for it, the mantra leads the spirit lost in the labyrinth of objectivation back to the pure Subject.

By Elliot R. Wolfson, a world authority on the essence of the Jewish tradition, we present gratefully his article “Letter Symbolism and Merkavah Imagery in the Zohar”, dealing with some of the most central themes of sacred linguistics, the “cosmogonic mystery of the Name of God”.

“…man is said to be able to recreate the creative process by combining through prayer the various levels of reality… Language—and in particular liturgical language—is the medium by which one can again participate in the creative process of uniting cosmic forces, the act of ma’aseh merkavah.”

By highlighting and interpreting some key Qur’anic themes, Reza Shah-Kazemi offers an interiorizing response to the contemporary crises of fanaticism, fundamentalism and extremism that we are all facing. Click here to watch the video of this recent lecture given in Karachi in December 2012.

Finally, drawing from his experience at the front-lines of Christian-Muslim dialogue, Julian Bond offers his article “Religion, Prayer, Dialogue and Appreciating the Other”:

When extremists take over, when excessive (impersonal) religious demands are made which do not respect and value others, when there is no place for the ‘other’—and we are all ‘other’—there is an urgent need for us to speak well of each other, to be gracious and generous, to model good relations, to be loving people committed to dialogue and living the heart of our traditions.

Native audio recordings / Paths to the Same Summit

May 9th, 2013

After months of selection and editing, we can finally present the Native Religions section of our Sacred Audio collection. Needless to say, and while still a representative sample, this remains only an introduction to a vast field, somehow reflecting the fact that indigenous traditions worldwide mirror the pervasiveness of nature. Our selection includes authentic recordings from New Zealand, the Central Asian steppes, the Amazonia, the forests of Congo and other locations. Please click here to browse and listen.

From the pages of The Bugbear of Literacy, by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, we bring a seminal chapter on comparative religion: “Paths That Lead to the Same Summit”. First published in 1943, this brief article is still foundational reading for the discipline, giving many valuable insights and basic reference works.

It is mainly because religion has been offered to modern men in nauseatingly sentimental terms (“Be good, sweet child,” etc.), and no longer as an intellectual challenge, that so many have been revolted, thinking that that “is all there is to” religion.

Finally, we would like to remind our readers of our now impending London symposium: “A Search for the Time-less in Sacred Art and Architecture.” Full details of this unique event taking place on May 18 are available following this link.

On the symbolism of letters, on death, and on divine pedagogy

April 22nd, 2013

This week we have two particularly esoteric approaches to the powerful symbolism of the written word. In “The Symbolism of the Letters of the Alphabet”, Martin Lings partially translates and comments on a brief treatise, Al-Unmudhaj al-Farid, by the Algerian Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi, widely recognised in the Islamic world as a Sufi saint of first magnitude:

“Whenever I speak of the Point I mean the Secret of the Essence which is named the Oneness of Perception (Wahdat al-Shuhud), and whenever I speak of the Alif I mean the One Who Alone is (Wahid al-Wujud)”

Then from an early Christian perspective, we bring a fresh translation from the Coptic of an enigmatic and rather cosmological work entitled “The Mysteries of the Greek Alphabet”, attributed to Saint Sabas of Palestine (439–532):

“These letters are called ‘elements’, not because they are composed of elements… but, because of their form, the elements of the creation of the world are in them when they are written.”

From the Metropolitan Anthony Archive, we bring a lecture “On Death”:

“Only awareness of death will give life this immediacy and depth, will bring life to life, will make it so intense that its totality is summed up in the present moment… All life is at every moment an ultimate act.”

Finally, we welcome a new article by Damien Casey, where the Buddhist concept of upaya (a skilful means or stratagem) is looked at from the point of view of the early Fathers of the Church, as a means of Divine Pedagogy. In the light of St John’s Gospel, the article concludes that

“The Johannine vision of Truth as a person turns out not to be an obstacle for interfaith dialogue, but enables, empowers and perhaps even commands it.”

The “Word of God”, Acceptance, Forgiveness & a Chinese Mantra

April 8th, 2013

Our first new library addition is an enlightening article by Joseph L. Cumming, from Yale University, showing the range of meanings and implications of the expression “the Word of God” (Kalam Allah) in Semitic languages. This article, coupling compassion to rigorous discernment, is fundamental reading for anyone working on interfaith relations, especially between the Abrahamic faiths.

An original article by Patrick Laude, “Acceptance as a Door of Mercy”, explores the metaphysical reaches of the Islamic concept of rida, “acceptance” or “contentment”, considering its implications for the understanding of the plurality of religions:

Rida is the grace of the recognition that alterity is none other than identity, and the fulfilling satisfaction therein. Thus, metaphysically, rida is a coincidence of opposites, the height of tawhid; morally, it means humility and forgiveness…”

In his article “Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Justice”, Miroslav Volf carefully establishes the idea that “the cure against religiously induced or legitimized violence is not less religion, but, in a carefully qualified sense, more religion,” and he argues thus with hope in “a reconstruction of politics” that draws on an transcendent notion of justice.

And finally, a new addition to our Sacred Audio Collection: the Zhunti Mantra (Cundi Dharani), one of the most popular Buddhist recitations throughout the Far East, dedicated to the “mother of the buddhas”, Zhunti Guanyin, “who hears the cries of sentient beings, and who works tirelessly to help those who call upon her name.”

The Heart / Emir Abdelkader / Iroha Song

March 18th, 2013

Our new library additions include “The Heart”, one of the most important chapters from Martin Lings’ What is Sufism?, which we are pleased to offer both as a PDF file and as an original audio recording. You can access and download both clicking here.

In virtue of being the centre of the body, the heart may be said to transcend the rest of the body… While the body as a whole is “horizontal”… the heart has, in addition, a certain “verticality” for being the lower end of the “vertical” axis which passes from the Divinity Itself through the centres of all the degrees of the Universe.

From his Mawaqif, a series of mystical comments on Qur’anic verses by Amir Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza’iri (Emir Abdelkader), we bring a new English translation of the brief and condensed “Diversity of Divine Self-Disclosures.”

Ultimately, the worshiper does not seek, through the form which he worships, but the Reality which deserves to be worshiped and which is none other than God. For this is what God has decided and decreed from pre-eternity.

And finally a rare jewel from the Japanese tradition: the archaic Iroha song, in which the spirituality of Buddhism is refracted through the heart of the Japanese language in the Goju-on sillabary. We offer here an exquisite audio recording contributed by the Japanese Classical Literature Podcast.

Doubt & Questioning · Forgiveness · In the Shade of the Leaves

March 6th, 2013

This week we have a new video talk with Metropolitan Anthony Bloom on “Doubt & Questioning”, giving answers to the questions:

Can one claim to be a sincere and honest believer and question things? Can one claim to be a believer that is to believe in God and say: “I can’t understand You”?

A sermon by Father Alexander Schmemann on “Forgiveness”, explaining how

Lent is not a kind of painful medicine that helps only inasmuch as it is painful… [but] a gift from God to us, a gift which is admirable, marvelous, one that we desire.

And from Japan, a classic of the Way of the Samurai (Bushido), the famous Hagakure or In the Shade of the Leaves, containing much advice ranging from the way to raise children and social behaviour, to practical strategy advice, and many subtleties of the contemplative life:

This is the essence of the Way of the Samurai: you must die anew every morning and every night. If you continually preserve the state of death in everyday life, you will understand the essence of Bushido, and you will gain freedom in the Way.

May 2013 Symposium: A Search for the Time-Less in Sacred Art and Architecture

March 1st, 2013

A Search for the Time-Less in Sacred Art and Architecture:
The Case of an Architectural Practice in Lahore & an Arts and Crafts Institution in London

This symposium is to discuss the place of traditional art and architecture in the contemporary world together with its underlying language of geometry, and to examine the different challenges faced by the East (Pakistan) and the West (United Kingdom).

LECTURES:

• Kamil Khan Mumtaz (Kamil Khan Mumtaz, Architects)
‘Continuing Tradition: Four Decades of Architectural Practice in Lahore, Pakistan’

• Taimoor Khan Mumtaz (Hast-o-Neest Institute)
‘In Search of the ‘Time-less’: Geometric Proportioning in Mughal Architecture’

• Paul Marchant (The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts)
‘Polishing the Mirror’—The Eternal Archetype reflected in Natural and Cosmic Order.
The Discipline of Geometry and the Continuous Renewal of the Traditional Arts and Crafts

Saturday May 18th, 2013
9.15am–4.30pm

Royal Asiatic Society
14 Stephenson Way
London NW1 2HD
(nearest underground Euston / Euston Square)

Click here to view or download our full day programme.

Cost of day to include the three lectures, coffee/tea in the morning and afternoon: £15.00. Students and other concessions: £10.00. Payment can be made on the day of the event in cash or cheque, or through our donations page (click here), but places are limited so please book early.

For more details, and to register, please click here to contact us.

St Malachy, Metropolitan Anthony, Tolkien and the Dark Night

February 19th, 2013

St Malachy’s Prophecy of the Popes (Prophetia de Summis Pontificibus) has been again in the news after Pope Benedict’s resignation. We bring you this week the original Latin text together with an illuminating interpretation by Martin Lings, who examines soberly the import of the prophecy for our times.

“St. Malachy was a man of so many undoubted miracles, and so many visions which had proved true in his lifetime, that by comparison the prophecy of the Popes was not worth mentioning… Who would have been interested to hear that there would be 112 more Popes between then and Doomsday? It would have seemed incredible to almost everyone that the second coming of Christ could be so far off.”

From the Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh Archive, we bring the first of hopefully many other texts by this reverend master of Orthodox spirituality: “Mysticism”.

“…the certainty of things unseen. What is no longer the object of contemplation; what is no longer love possessed, but the certainty that it exists, that it is there, that it can come back, but that it is willingly, freely discarded in an act of love which is more important than the possession of the experience. This is, I believe, the touchstone of a true mystical experience.”

Shedding light on the Christian theology underlying J.R.R. Tolkien’s fiction, including “The Lord of the Rings”, Damien Casey brings us his article “The Gift of Iluvatar”.

“If the world is fallen, it is also graced. The relationship between human frailty and grace is clearly encapsulated in the climax of The Lord of the Rings. It is crucial to the theological logic of the story that Frodo ultimately fails in his quest. The quest succeeds, ultimately, because it is taken out of his hands. Success, and ultimately redemption, is not the result of strength but of forgiveness.”

Finally, we start a new series of readings of mystical poetry with St John of the Cross and his “Dark Night of the Soul”, read in English and Spanish. Click here to listen or download.

Concerning Prayer, Peace, Certainty and Silence

January 23rd, 2013

This week we have four new additions to our library: a chapter from The Book of Certainty, by Martin Lings, plumbing the depths of Qur’anic and Sufi doctrine with an elucidation of “The Truth of Certainty” (haqq al-yaqin).

“…this nothingness and poverty is the key by which alone one may have access to the Infinite Riches of the Truth; and yet since the being is utterly extinguished in the Truth he cannot be said to have gained possession of Its Riches, for in Reality He has never ceased to possess Them.”

By Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, a new audio lecture, “For the Peace from Above”, explaining how peace, that “state of inner peace, of wholeness, of single pointed concentration is the essential context in which all our prayer is expressed.” You can listen online or download the MP3 file for free.

We welcome a new author with an article by Kerrie Hide: “Silence Enflamed: John of the Cross and Prayer”, giving us a genuine insight into the essence of St John of the Cross’s mystical poetry:

“Night is the womb of solitude where Beloved and lover are transformed into each other. ‘Night’ infuses us in eternal wisdom and sustains us as we take the way of the darker nights of contemplation.”

Finally, with thanks to our friends at the Prometheus Trust, we bring a rare selection of Platonist selections “Concerning Prayer”, including original texts from Proclus, Iamblichus and Hierocles. This is a first hand account of the religious life of the Greek philosophers, allowing us to appreciate the pious depths of ancient theurgy:

“To a perfect and true prayer there is required in the first place, a knowledge of all the divine orders to which he who prays approaches…But in the second place, there is required a conformation of our life with that which is divine; and this accompanied with all purity, chastity, discipline, and order.”

The Icon, the Labyrinth, the Cross and the Song of Enlightenment

December 27th, 2012

This month we bring by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware a new lecture titled “The Holy Icon – Doorway into Heaven”:

The art of the icon is not only a liturgical art and not only a theological art: it is also sacramental… the icon performs a mediating function: it makes present.

By Sarah Jane Boss, a rich article exploring the many Christian resonances of the symbolism of the labyrinth, especially in its Marian associations: “The Cosmic Womb: Labyrinths and Rebirth in Christian Symbolism”.

On a new instalment of our Hear! audio recordings project, we have the chapter “Of the Cross” from Frithjof Schuon’s Gnosis–Divine Wisdom:

“The cross is the divine fissure through which Mercy flows from the Infinite. The centre of the cross, where the two dimensions intersect, is the mystery of foresakenness: it is the spiritual moment’ when the soul loses itself, when it ‘is no more’ and when it ‘is not yet’.”

And finally, an 8th century classic from the Zen Buddhist tradition which is still very much in use today, The Song of Enlightenment, by Yongjia Xuanjue.

“From a very early age I took to accumulating knowledge, always brashly inserting myself into discussions on the Scriptures and commentaries, unrelenting in making distinctions over terms and their meanings… and then, for many years, just as vainly played the role of wanderer upon the winds, guest of the dusty road…”

How to Enter the Heart, the Hindu Sacraments and the Oneness of Being

November 22nd, 2012

From the late Islamic scholar and Sufi master, Dr Martin Lings, we publish this week an article long considered to be “an unsurpassed distillation” of the doctrine of wahdat al-wujud. “Oneness of Being” is published as a chapter of the now classic A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century, and its brief and dense pages demonstrate powerfully how by plumbing the depths of a given tradition, in this case Islam, an opening is reached where the “transcendent unity of religions” is no longer an abstraction but a compelling and demanding realisation.

From Fr Sebastian Painadath, head of the Sameeksha Ashram in Kalady, South India:
“Hindu Rites of Passage and the Christian Sacraments,” an overview of the four basic samskaras or Hindu rites of passage, and a Christian theological reflection in the hope that “understanding the Hindu samskaras may inspire us to make our sacramental practice more experiential and relevant to life.”

Finally, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, in a talk delivered for the Paths to the Heart conference in 2001, explains “How do we enter the heart” and for what purpose.

“…they did not think of the heart as a pump. They thought of the heart as full of space and air. Makarius speaks of ‘grace possessing the pasturages of the heart.’ So, when you enter into the heart it’s like going up to Edmonton and looking at the vast prairies stretching out round you.”

You can listen to it or download the MP3 audio recording following this link.

Prayer, Poetry, the True Eye beyond Words

October 23rd, 2012

This week, with a lively and enlightening audio lecture entitled “What is Prayer?”, we introduce a series of lectures by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware.

“…it is not necessary always to be asking for things, it is not necessary always to be using words: the deepest prayer is simply to wait on God.”

Some reflections by Fr. Graeme Watson on the poetry of the metaphysical poets and George Herbert (1593-1633) in particular: “Poetry and Prayer Beyond Words”.

“…we are drawn by the poet into that apophatic ‘space’ that takes us beyond all images, concepts and human formulations… towards nothing less than the beatific vision of God.”

By the late Zen Master Jiyu Kennet, the second volume of The Roar of the Tigress, “Zen for Spiritual Adults”, a collection of lectures inspired by the Shobogenzo of Eihei Dogen.

“…while these lectures were given to listeners who were within the Zen Buddhist tradition, the heart-to-heart message which they provide should be accessible to any person of faith…”

Finally, with thanks to Shasta Abbey, we offer a full translation of Dogen’s Shobogenzo itself, dense with challenging insights and powerful intimations.

“An enlightened one of long ago once said in a poem, ‘The blue lotus blooms amidst the fire.’ Thus it is that the blue lotus invariably blossoms forth in the midst of the fire. If you wish to know where ‘being in the midst of the fire’ is, it is the very place where the blue lotus blossoms forth. Do not neglect investigating ‘being in the midst of the fire’…”

A spiritual vademecum, a board game and others

September 24th, 2012

After some weeks of work behind the scenes, we are glad to announce the latest additions to our library:

By the Sufi master Ibn Ata Allah from Alexandria, third in the line of the Tariqa Shadhiliyya, we have added to our library an English translation of his Kitab al-Hikam, or Book of Aphorisms. Victor Danner, praised for his translation of this little classic, writes, “The Hikam exists in another dimension. It is a thing in itself and works deeply on one, especially when repeatedly read over many years. It contains timeless and profound wisdoms for seekers of spiritual success and illumination based on the teachings of the Quran and Sunna.”

In a remarkable article entitled “The Way of Go”, Desmond Meraz shares his research and insights into the ancient game of Go (or Weiqi, in China), elaborating on the metaphysical, cosmological and psychological aspects of the game:

…mastery of Go is not limited to the acquisition of technical skill and strategic prowess predicated upon the memorization of common patterns. It also depends upon the ability to overcome deficiencies and weaknesses in the soul…

From the monastery of Saint Moses the Abyssinian (Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi), in one of the fruits of his decade-long peregrination into the common ground uniting Christians and Muslims, Father Paolo Dalloglio shares his profound reflections on the prayer of the heart in a truly original article: “The Prayer of an Islamic-Christian Heart”.

Finally, we republish with gratitude a penetrating article by Ali Lakhani: “What Thirst is For”, from the archives of the Sacred Web journal, dealing with the traditional view and significance of human desires, obscured as they are by a hedonistic modernity:

Modern man has an insatiable thirst for the gifts of God, but is blind to His Presence.

Volf: Allah, a Christian Response / More from the Hear! project

July 6th, 2012

Following the publication of his book Allah: A Christian Response, Miroslav Volf, from Yale University, explains how some typical misconceptions of the Trinity hinder the dialogue between Christians and Muslims, while a better understanding of the doctrine reveals fundamental agreement. The talk, given at Wheaton College, can be listened to or downloaded here with an interesting round of questions and answers.

On another front, continuing with our Hear! project recordings, Reza Shah-Kazemi reads for our Library “The Prophet”, a seminal chapter from Understanding Islam by Frithjof Schuon.

“Love of the Prophet constitutes a fundamental element in Islamic spirituality… It arises because Muslims see in the Prophet the prototype and model of the virtues which constitute the theomorphism of man and the beauty and equilibrium of the Universe, and which are so many keys or paths towards liberating Unity – this is why they love him and imitate him even in the very smallest details of daily life. The Prophet, like Islam as a whole, is as it were a heavenly mould ready to receive the influx of the intelligence and will of the believer and one wherein even effort becomes a kind of supernatural repose.”

The Universality of the Qur’an / KJV Theology / Shin Buddhism

June 23rd, 2012

This week we have three new additions to our library: a talk by Martin Lings on The Universality of the Qur’an, recorded by the Temenos Academy in London, October 2003, followed by an interesting round of questions and answers:

When did God ever send a religion which was not a religion of truth? Did He ever send a religion of falsehood? … The Qur’an by its universality proclaims that God has not neglected any section of the world from the point of view of religion, that each part of the world has been given a religion that suited it best.

In our Christianity section, we have an interesting lecture by Archbishop Rowan Williams on the theological issues raised by the translation of scriptures in general, and the King James Version of the Bible in particular. How can theology make sense of the apparent discord between traditions which in their reverent attachment to one sacred language do away with translations, and those which have depended on translations, at times even “inspired” translations, to exist from early times? Dr Williams’ insightful reflections shed some light on this difficult issue. Follow this link to read more.

Finally, thanks to World Wisdom books, we are offering access to two excerpts from a classic on Shin (or “Pure Land”) Buddhism: Naturalness, by Japanese author Kenryo Kanamatsu. This little gem has long been recognised as a beautiful and penetrating introduction to the teachings, practice and spiritual “climate” of the Pure Land:

…shut up within the narrow walls of our limited self, we lose our simplicity and turn a deaf ear to the call welling up from the inmost depths of our heart. We are not quite conscious of our inherent long­ing, for it is hidden under so many layers of pride and self-deception. Just as we are not ordinarily conscious of the air, so we are apt to overlook the claims of the heart demanding our foremost attention.

The Winter’s Tale & an Isma‘ili Muslim view of the Crucifixion

June 1st, 2012

Continuing with our series of Martin Lings Temenos recordings, this week we have added to our library The Winter’s Tale, a play considered by Dr Lings to be the closest of all Shakespeare’s to Dante’s Divine Comedy, dealing symbolically with the rediscovery and then purification and reintegration of the human soul. Please follow this link to listen or download.

In our Islam section we welcome an article by Khalil Andani on the Isma’ili Muslim view of the Crucifixion and death of Christ, with a very interesting collection of traditional sources on this subject, like the following:

Jesus, on whom be peace, informed his community that the Lord of Resurrection, of whom he was the harbinger, will unveil the realities hidden in the forms of the religious laws, the people will know them and be unable to deny them. This would be like a whole population seeing someone crucified.
(Abu Yaqub al-Sijistani, 10th cent.)

Please click here to access the article.

“Death, Resurrection & Human Destiny: Christian and Muslim Perspectives” / Testimonials

May 19th, 2012

This week we are grateful to have seven new audio talks belonging to the public day of lectures of the 11th Building Bridges Seminar, chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury at King’s College London, on 23 April 2012. With the title “Death, Resurrection & Human Destiny: Christian and Muslim Perspectives”, the conference comprises six lectures followed by Dr Williams’ concluding reflections, all dealing with theological, ritual, mystical and devotional views on “the last things”. Speakers include Tom Wright, Mona Siddiqui, Geoffrey Rowell, Asma Afsaruddin, Sajjad Rizvi and Harriet Harris. You can download the MP3 files or listen to them by following this link.

Videos of the conference will soon be available from this official page at Georgetown University.

We have started collecting in a single page several appraisals of our work coming from religious and scholarly authorities as well as from occasional researchers and visitors. This new Testimonials page is a good way to understand and appreciate our work from different perspectives. You can visit following this link.

King Lear / Zen Autobiography

April 24th, 2012

This week we have a new Martin Lings lecture: King Lear, recorded in London in 1994 by The Temenos Academy. Dr Lings explains how with King Lear “we are kept conscious throughout of the presence of the allegory, that is, of the play as an image of the history of mankind.”

We also have this week an addition to our Far Eastern and Buddhist collections: the autobiography of Yamada Mumon Roshi, an influential 20th century master of the Japanese Rinzai Zen tradition. This short and valuable document gives, in addition to spiritual instruction, a remarkable insight into the spiritual effervescence of urban Japan by the beginning of the 20th century.

Sacred Audio Collection

April 16th, 2012

We are pleased to make public, after months of preparation, an entire new section of our audio library: the Matheson Trust Sacred Audio Collection, bringing together a “unique selection of live recordings from the world’s major religious traditions: prayers, hymns and scriptural recitations performed in all corners of the world for thousands of years, mostly in their original ancient languages.”

We hope you will enjoy browsing our careful selection of Hindu, Taoist, Buddhist, Shinto, Jewish, Christian and Islamic MP3 recordings from temples, monasteries and oratories all over the world. Feel free to download the collection, which is certainly worth attentive and, as it were, “active” listening.

Look out for updates to this collection over the coming months, as we add to the initial selection and expand into other traditions and other branches and denominations within the major religions.

We shall be grateful for donations, suggestions, comments and contributions that help us improve this and other areas of our online library. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch through our contact page.

Macbeth / The Metaphysics of Relativity

April 10th, 2012

This week we have a new Temenos lecture by Martin Lings: “Macbeth”, which, Dr Lings explains: “unfolds before us the whole panorama of human history, from the primordial age represented by the reign of Duncan to the millenium represented by the reign of Malcolm.”

In addition to this we have a new article by Patrick Laude: “Shimmering Reality: The Metaphysics of Relativity in Mystical Traditions,” where the author, using as a starting point the foundational texts of Advaita Vedanta, elaborates on “the mystery of universal metaphysical relativity, or universal existence,” trying to ascertain what is the latter’s ontological status according to wisdom and mystical traditions, across religious boundaries. We are grateful to the author and to Philosophy East and West for permission to publish this article.

Hear! Project / Cymbeline

April 1st, 2012

We are pleased to announce the launch of our Hear! project, which aims to make available for the first time audio recordings of some foundational texts in comparative studies, including works by Frithjof Schuon, Martin Lings and others. Our first recording, read by Emma Clark especially for our website, is “The Symbolist Mind”, an important chapter from The Feathered Sun by Schuon.

“It is not a question of projecting a supersaturated and disillusioned individualism into a desecrated Nature but, on the contrary, of rediscovering in Nature, on the basis of the traditional outlook, the divine substance which is inherent in it; in other words, to “see God everywhere,” and to see nothing apart from His mysterious presence.”

We also bring this week a new Shakespeare lecture by Martin Lings: Cymbeline, of which Dr Lings has the following to say:

“That happiness of the recovery of something thought irretrievably lost, is probably more intense in Cymbeline… it is in Cymbeline that Shakespeare expresses more than in any other play something of the truth that, as was said by Christ to St. Julian of Norwich: ‘All shall be well; all manner of thing shall be well’, referring to the Reality that will prevail ultimately.”

In addition to these, we have a new article by Reza Shah-Kazemi on our Islam section: “The Prophetic Paradigm,” from the book The Spirit of Tolerance in Islam (London: IB Tauris/IIS, 2012):

“The quality of hilm entails avoiding conflict, and seeking instead peace, reconciliation and justice. It calls for wisdom, an objective view of what is required in each situation, an ability to be detached from self-interest, as well from one’s own anger, sentiment or desire. It… enables one to resist the pressures of tribalism, nationalism, or any other prejudice which might distort one’s perception of justice and propriety… A correct understanding of hilm takes us to the very heart of Islamic virtue, and one cannot fully appreciate the roots of tolerance in Islam without understanding the meaning, the influence, and the radiance of this key prophetic virtue.”

Measure for Measure and a lecture undelivered

March 9th, 2012

We have two new talks on our audio library this week: in The Sound of a Lecture Undelivered: Jesus and the World’s Religions, Prof. James Cutsinger, from the University of South Carolina, makes use of an ingenious rhetorical device to elucidate a penetrating Christian view of the plurality of religions. A PDF version of this talk is already available from our website following this link.

In our second talk, following with our Martin Lings Shakespeare lectures series, we have Measure for Measure, of which Dr Lings has this to say: “In no play does Shakespeare represent more clearly than in Measure for Measure the dangers of the spiritual path. At the outset of the path the perverted psychic elements are more or less dormant and remote from the centre of consciousness. They must first of all be woken and then redeemed, for they cannot be purified in their sleep; and it is when they wake in a state of raging perversion that there is always the risk that they will overpower the whole soul…”

Two New Talks: “Othello” and “Seeing God Everywhere”

March 2nd, 2012

This week we continue to expand our Martin Lings Shakespeare lectures collection with the addition of Othello, a lecture organised in London in the late 1990’s by The Temenos Academy. Referring to this play, Dr Lings explains that “Shakespeare achieves here an overwhelming impact of a kind which drama alone, of all the arts, makes posible… [the] instantaneous and dazzlingly clear proof that white is white and black is black, comes as a fiat lux, an irresistible Divine command: ‘Let there be light!’. The blind eye is filled with light and takes its rightful place at the summit of the soul.”

“Seeing God Everywhere: Traversing the Spiritual Path”: Thanks to our friends at the  Australian Centre for Sufism and Irfanic Studies we have a brand new video in which Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi elaborates on the expression “Seeing God Everywhere”, explaining what is the deepest way of understanding this from within the Qur’anic, hence Islamic and Sufi perspective.

World Interfaith Harmony Week 2012 Gathering

February 20th, 2012

Last Tuesday 7 February The Matheson Trust and The Woolf Institute celebrated together the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week 2012. On the grounds of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, representatives of five major religious traditions joined us to share with the audience live performances of some of their most significant prayers and sacred songs.

gathering 2012 collage

After a brief welcome and introduction by Josef Meri and Juan Acevedo, the different presenters gave voice to the Vedas, the Buddhist scriptures, the Torah, Christian hymns and the Qur’an for a truly exceptional and inspiring afternoon.

This is an excerpt from the opening words:

“The pitfalls of expression are always lurking in interfaith exchanges, and those engaged feel as if treading on thin ice lest they are misinterpreted and then misquoted and misjudged… how could it be otherwise, if what is involved is trying to express what is beyond words and even beyond language?

“…music easily presents itself as a sufficient vehicle, or in any case as a subtler vehicle… reaching inwards, or upwards, or at least, through its rhythm, closer in language to our beating hearts, and even closer when use is made of the human voice as an instrument. True and timeless bridges between the corporeal and the subtle realms, we don’t seem to be able to determine exactly where is it that our intonations and invocations spring from, and how far they reach in their subtle repercussions.”

Please follow this link to our Library for full details and to listen to the audio recordings.

Cambridge Interfaith Gathering of Voices

February 1st, 2012

In an effort to promote the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week initiative, we have teamed up with the Woolf Institute for a unique event to be held next week, on Tuesday 7 February, in the grounds of St Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge.

Representatives of five major religious traditions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, will be performing for each other and the general public some of the most important recitations and chants of their respective traditions. With a brief introduction giving the context and particular importance of each piece, we will listen to traditional recitations of the Vedas, Buddhist sutras, Jewish Torah recitation and chants, Christian chants and Islamic Qur’an recitation and Sufi chants.

For more information, please follow this link to our announcement, or click here to see the Woolf Institute announcement.

Keats and Shakespeare

January 27th, 2012

As we continue to add to our library the lectures given by Martin Lings at the Temenos Academy, we have uploaded the following two this week:

Keats & Shakespeare: the brief life of Keats and his works are considered in detail and on their deepest dimensions, having as a constant reference Shakespeare’s plays and poems, and drawing on Dr Lings’ own experience as a musician and poet.

Hamlet: this is the first of a series of lectures dedicated to the major plays of Shakespeare. Here Martin Lings draws not only on his studies of symbolism and his spiritual knowledge, but also on his stage experience. During the 1940s, for more than a decade, his work at the Cairo University gave him the opportunity to produce Shakespeare plays every year. This experience culminated years later in the publication of his The Secret of Shakespeare (click here for US distributor).

Martin Lings Talks

January 20th, 2012

We are glad to bring to our audio library a collection of talks by Martin Lings. Most of them were recorded in London at The Temenos Academy, and are republished here with their kind permission. Delivered over the last two decades, these talks cover a wide range of themes, from Sufism and comparative mysticism to detailed analysis of Shakespeare’s plays and their symbolism.

The first title, “Aspects of Sufism”, is an introduction to Sufism for a Western audience, giving glimpses of the crystalline facets of this inner side of Islam.

“Human Origins and Destinies According to the Great Religions of the World” is a penetrating overview of what could be called a spiritual anthropology, including also an eschatology, with a special view to the doctrinal points of contact among the different religions.

And these are the remaining talks:

Frithjof Schuon and René Guénon

Keats and Shakespeare

Metaphysics and The Perennial Philosophy

The Qur’anic Doctrine of the Afterlife

The Universality of the Qur’an

And finally the Shakespeare lectures: Cymbeline, Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, Measure for Measure, Othello, The Winter’s Tale.

New Website / New Author: John Bussanich

January 17th, 2012

We are very happy to announce the launch of our new website design which, apart from obvious visual improvements, introduces a more dynamic structure better suited to our library of different media.

It is hoped that by introducing these aesthetic and structural improvements we are bringing the appearance of the website a little closer to its content, aspiring to conform to Plato’s dictum that “Beauty is the splendour of the True”.

Please take a look at the new design by clicking on this link. The library is now interconnected in a more organic way and this should make it easier to access related topics and authors. Our search tool continues to work as before with a few improvements to speed things up. We look forward to receiving your comments and any questions through our Contact page.

We would also like to welcome our latest Library addition, a remarkable article entitled “Socrates the Mystic”, giving a rare insight into the centuries-old discussion about the nature of Socrates’ daimon and trance-like experiences. Many thanks to Prof. John Bussanich, from the University of New Mexico, for his contribution.


Apologies to our subscribers for the recent re-duplication of a November news issue. Please ignore it as an unexpected outcome of our website overhaul.

Christ Through Jewish Eyes / The Syrian Diaspora

December 5th, 2011

Our Judaism section welcomes a new article by Rabbi Mark L. Solomon. In a candid attempt to formulate a Jewish theological understanding of the significance of Jesus Christ for Christians, the author traces the illuminating parallelisms between some of the roles played by the Torah and Jesus Christ in their respective traditions.

Additionally, in our Audio Library you will find a new talk by Sebastian Brock on the Syrian Orthodox Church and its Diaspora, considering its modern history and contemporary challenges. With thanks to Heythrop College, University of London, for permission to record and publish this talk.

New Monograph: Orpheus and the Roots of Platonism

November 21st, 2011

We are pleased to announce the publication of our most recent title by the late Lithuanian scholar Algis Uždavinys: Orpheus and the Roots of Platonism. Orpheus is both a mythical hero and an important figure in the development of Greek religion and philosophy. Uždavinys provides us in this book with a dense survey of ancient and contemporary sources on Orpheus and Orphic lore and scholarship. As usual, this Matheson Monograph is available from both high street and internet book sellers, and a sizeable PDF excerpt is available through our Publications page. This book presents fascinating insights into the usually downplaid relations between Egyptian initiation, Greek mysteries and Plato’s philosophy and followers, right into Hellenistic Neoplatonic and Hermetic developments.

New Monograph: Sacred Royalty / BESHT on Prayer

November 10th, 2011

Our Matheson Monographs series is honoured to include now Sacred Royalty: From The Pharaoh to The Most Christian King, one of the few previously untranslated works by Jean Hani, the well known French classicist and metaphysician. This work is a vast and profound account of monarchies worldwide, explaining their exalted intrinsic character and shedding a new light on many related historical events and practices, thus allowing us to see modern history, sociology and politics in a truly cosmic context.

As our other publications, this book should now be available from major retail and wholesalers, but do contact us if you have any problem getting hold of it.

Additionally, we have a new book excerpt in our Judaism section. Thanks to the generosity of our friends at Fons Vitae, we have made available a chapter on “Prayer, Preaching and Reproof” by Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the famous Baal Shem Tov, affording unusual access to the deepest contemplative aspects of Jewish life in prayer.

Theravada Buddhism, Christianity and Atheism

October 24th, 2011

Last week our Buddhism section welcomed the addition of two contributions from the Thai Theravada tradition: a collection of aphorisms by Venerable Ajahn Chah (1918-1992), and the Autobiography of a Forest Monk by Venerable Ajahn Thate, with thanks to Dhamma Talks and Amaravati Monastery.

In our Christianity section we gratefully acknowledge a new contribution on The Inner Dimension of Pilgrimage to Mount Athos by Dr Marco Toti.

Finally, in our Comparative Religion page, we have two new articles by Dr Rowan Williams, one on atheism and another one on Christian theology in its relations to other faiths. As usual, our gratitude goes to the
Archbishop’s Press office.

Prayer of the Heart, Love, Jihad and Tolerance

October 14th, 2011

With a major redesign of our website under way, we continue to build our online library. Over the last few weeks we have added two new audio lectures and some articles.

In our Audio section we have first, a double talk by Sebastian Brock and Ahmad Achtar on the Prayer of the Heart, as viewed from the Syriac Christian and Islamic perspectives, and second, a recent lecture by Reza Shah-Kazemi on Tawhid and Love in Islam, as part of a recent conference at Heythrop College.

Our Islam section can now count with an article by Imam Zaid Shakir (Zaytuna College), Jihad is not Perpetual Warfare”, and also with a new article By Shaykh Hamza Yusuf: “Generous Tolerance in Islam and its Effects on the Life of a Muslim”. These two articles, firmly grounded as they are in the traditional exegetic methods of Islamic sciences, could safely be considered required reading for any serious treatment of the concepts of jihad and Islamic tolerance in English scholarly literature. Our thanks to the authors, Sandala.org and Zaytuna College for making this possible.

New Audio and Articles on Islam / Building Bridges 2011

September 23rd, 2011

With thanks to Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and the friends at Sandala, we have two new articles in our Islam page: “Climbing Mount Purgatorio” and “Foundations of the Spiritual Path”, a translation from Qawa’id al-Tasawwuf by Sidi Ahmad Zarruq (1442–1493), one of the masters of the Shadhili lineage.

In our audio library we have an insightful new talk by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad (T.J. Winter) on “The Presence of the Qur’an”, shedding light on the phenomenon of Islamic civilisation by conveying the believers’ experience of the presence of their sacred book, with its ability to reach into the mysterious depths of the soul.

Finally, thanks to the Archbishop of Canterbury and The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University, we have in our Video page new direct links to the lectures recorded this year in Qatar at the Building Bridges Seminar. The speakers include Michael Plekon, Reza Shah-Kazemi, Philip Sheldrake, Dheen Mohamed, Caner Dagli and Daniel Madigan.

Adyan Articles / Nasr Lectures

August 26th, 2011

This week we have completed uploading our S.H. Nasr audio lectures, with renewed thanks to The Foundation for Traditional Studies. The last two lectures are: “The Prophet of Islam, the Chain of Prophecy, and the Relationship between Religions Today” (2010) and “Islam and Ecology” (2011).

We are happy to include for the first time five new articles from our friends at the journal Religions (Adyan), based in Qatar. These articles include a “Conversation on Love with Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz” and “The Oneness of God’s Community” by Archbishop George Khodr, as also original articles by David Burrell, Ibrahim Kalin and Reza Shah-Kazemi. All these articles are freely available as PDF documents.

New Monograph: Ascent to Heaven / Chief Rabbi Lectures

August 19th, 2011

We are pleased to announce the publication of the latest title in our Matheson Monographs: Ascent to Heaven in Islamic and Jewish Mysticism, by the late Lithuanian scholar Algis Uždavinys. A downloadable excerpt and more details are available as usual from our Publications page.Ascent cover

Thanks to the kindness of the Chief Rabbi office, we have recently uploaded our first two lectures by Dr Jonathan Sacks, one dealing with the relation between religion and science in our times, and another with the religious roots of tolerance. As usual with Dr Sacks, his lectures deliver their rich message through a gripping combination of humour and grace with an erudite, philosophic and deeply pious discourse. These lectures, and hopefully more to come, can be accessed through our Audio Library.

Finally, this week we have two new recordings with Seyyed Hossein Nasr: a dialogue on “Religion, Modernity and the Future” with Harvey Cox, and a “Confucian-Islamic Dialogue” with Tu Weiming. Free to listen to or download from our Audio Library.

Growing in Prayer / Beijing Forum

August 12th, 2011

With thanks to the Archbishop’s Press office, we have a new audio lecture by Rowan Williams: Growing in Prayer: what the saints tell us about the spiritual journey. Dr Williams delivered this series through Holy Week (2009) in three parts: “The Early Church”, “Reformers, Catholic & Protestant”, and “The Quest for God in the Modern Age”. This lecture aims to address the question: “There must be a bit more to it than just asking God for things. What is that something more?”

Additionally, we continue to enrich our collection of S.H. Nasr lectures with the following three recordings: “Dialog between Islam and Confucianism” (with Tu Weiming), “Forgiveness and Mercy, Judgment and Justice”, and “Harmony of Heaven, Earth and Man: Harmony of Civilizations”.

New S. H. Nasr Lectures

August 5th, 2011

Throughout this month we will be uploading ten new lectures by Seyyed Hossein Nasr to our Audio Library, with much gratitude to our friends at the Foundation for Traditional Studies and the journal Sophia for making this possible. The first three lectures are now online: “Reading the Cosmic Qur’an” (2008), “The State of Religious Dialogue: 40 years after Nostra Aetate (2008), and “Theoria and Praxis” (2009).

In addition to this, we have just posted a recent lecture by Reza Shah-Kazemi on “The Prophet of Islam and the Spirit of Tolerance”, also available to download or listen online.

New Monograph: Sacred Royalty / BESHT on Prayer

July 13th, 2011

Our Matheson Monographs series is honoured to include now Sacred Royalty: From The Pharaoh to The Most Christian King, one of the few previously untranslated works by Jean Hani, the well known French classicist and metaphysician. This work is a vast and profound account of monarchies worldwide, explaining their exalted intrinsic character and shedding a new light on many related historical events and practices, thus allowing us to see modern history, sociology and politics in a truly cosmic context.

As our other publications, this book should now be available from major retail and wholesalers, but do contact us if you have any problem getting hold of it.

Additionally, we have a new book excerpt in our Judaism section. Thanks to the generosity of our friends at Fons Vitae, we have made available a chapter on “Prayer, Preaching and Reproof” by Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the famous Baal Shem Tov, affording unusual access to the deepest contemplative aspects of Jewish life in prayer.

New Issue of Sacred Web

July 6th, 2011

Our friends at Sacred Web have just released a new issue, packed with interesting articles. Here is their announcement:

Volume 27 of Sacred Web is now available through www.sacredweb.com. Please follow this link for abstracts, links to download free contents and more information.

This volume contains the following articles:

Editorial:
On Freedom and Necessity
by M. Ali Lakhani

A Qur’anic Response to ‘An Inconvenient Truth’
by Reza Shah-Kazemi

Majma’ an-Nurayn: Fatimah in the Esoteric Shi’ite Tradition
by ‘Abd al-Hakeem Carney

The Metaphysics of the Common Word:
A Dialogue of Eckhartian and Isma’ili Gnosis
Part Two: Intellectual and Emanative Reality
by Khalil Andani

Were René Guénon and Frithjof Schuon Biased against Love?
by Charles Upton

On Traditionalism, Vedanta and Hinduism
by Renaud Fabbri

Barzakh, the Opened Field
by Tom Cheetham

Special Section on Poetry: A Selection of Poems
by Charles Upton, Barry McDonald, Iain T. Benson, and M. Ali Lakhani

In Memoriam: Algis Uždavinys (1962-2010) and his Antipodean Sojourn
by Harry Oldmeadow

Book Reviews

Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World
By HRH The Prince of Wales, with Tony Juniper and Ian Skelly
Reviewed by M. Ali Lakhani

Allah: A Christian Response
By Miroslav Volf
Reviewed by M. Ali Lakhani

Sufism and the Way of Blame: Hidden Sources of a Sacred Psychology
By Yannis Toussulis,
Foreword by Robert Abdul Hayy Darr
Reviewed by Samuel Bendeck Sotillos

Letters to the Editor

Confessions of a Lutheran Perennialist
by Larry Rinehart

A Question on Schuon
by Charles Upton

Sacred Web is a journal that presents traditional wisdom from all faith traditions and explores the relevance of this wisdom to issues of the modern world. You may click here to go directly to this issue’s page.

Two New Lectures

June 30th, 2011

We are grateful to have in our audio library one new lecture by Archbishop Rowan Williams: “The Finality of Jesus Christ,” elucidating the doctrine of the finality and uniqueness of Christ in a way that shows its potential of divine compassion and understanding within our contemporary interfaith societies.

We are also happy to announce the addition to our audio library of one of the first events sponsored by the trust: the third Martin Lings centenary lecture, delivered by Reza Shah-Kazemi in London in November 2009. “Martin Lings: The Sanctity of Sincerity” is at once a moving testimony and an objective explication of the discreet yet powerful impact of Shaykh Abu Bakr Siraj al-Din, of his unpublished spiritual guidance and of his published works.

Impossible Pluralism

June 28th, 2011

In a very illuminating article by Gavin D’Costa, the notion of “religious pluralism” is probed and found to be misguided, pointing instead, and rigorously, towards the need for a really transcendental understanding at the basis of interfaith approaches.

In our Audio library we have a new lecture by Archbishop Rowan Williams, an examination of the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity based on the insights of St John of the Cross.

And finally, in our Judaism section, the prominent Jewish scholar Edward Kessler, from the Woolf Institute, shares with us a recent and candid article on the need to carefully reappraise the virtues of Abraham if we are to have real positive engagement between Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Martin Lings Poems

June 20th, 2011

With the addition of ten new poems in MP3 format, we have now made available from our audio page all currently extant recordings of Martin Lings reading his own poems. This collection includes all but one of those published in his Collected Poems (available from Archetype). All the poems are free to listen to online or download.

On the Philokalia and the Vision of God

June 13th, 2011

Our Audio Library has been recently enriched with the addition of a lecture by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, on “The Image of Humanity in the Philokalia”, delivered at St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in 2010. We plan to be adding other selected talks and sermons by the Archbishop over the oncoming weeks, with thanks to his Press Office.

We are also gratefully making public a double talk on “The Vision of God in the Hebrew Scriptures”, recorded in London in May 2011, delivered jointly by Margaret Barker, and by Jonathan Gorsky of Heythrop College.

Finally, we have some newly uploaded poems by Martin Lings, read by himself, including some of his alliterative poems, like “Midsummer” and “Autumn”.

Donate Online to Support The Matheson Trust

May 18th, 2011

From now on it is possible to make donations online to support the work of The Matheson trust. Following the link to Charity Choice in our donations page will take you to a secure server where a few standard steps let you donate directly to further our projects. We shall be glad to give detailed information to potential donors who want to sponsor particular projects, be they related to website development, our growing Monographs collection or related events.

We would also like to encourage our current subscribers to spread the word and invite anyone interested to subscribe to our mailing list. It is as easy and unobtrusive as adding an email address to the little box on the right. No spam email, no commercial offers, only our fortnightly or monthly updates with information about our ongoing activities, especially in relation to our online library.

New Content: Poems, Book of Tea …

May 9th, 2011

Our library keeps growing slowly and steadily, and we encourage you to have a look at some of our recent additions:

In the Audio section we have three new poems by Martin Lings, read by himself, including “The Legend of Seyis and Halcyon”.

In the Far Eastern section of our Library, you will now find a beautiful edition of The Book of Tea, a well-known seminal work by Okakura Kakuzo.

The Editorial Board of Dilatato Corde, the International, multi-lingual journal of DIMMID (Monastic Interreligious Dialogue), recently granted us permission to share through our library some of their articles. The first fruit if this exchange is an article by Rev Michael Ipgrave: “The God Who Provokes Us All to Holiness”. Available through our Christianity section.

Searching the Matheson Library

April 12th, 2011

We are pleased to announce that our growing online library is now searchable (courtesy of Google), thus providing an invaluable research tool to all those interested in our selection of documents and texts.

You will find a new small search box on top of our Library menu, which allows you to do a basic search, and also to take advantage of Google advanced search conventions: you can search complete phrases, use wildcards and various search operators as required.

Other recent updates to our site include small but significant additions to the About Us section, including a dedicated page for donations, and some new content for our Links and Christianity pages.

The Gospel of Thomas published

March 31st, 2011

The fourth title in our Monographs series is now available:

The Gospel of Thomas
by Samuel Zinner,
with the subtitle:
In the Light of Early Jewish, Christian and Islamic Esoteric Trajectories.

This is a new translation of the short collection of Christic aphorisms found among the Gnostic texts at Nag Hammadi in 1945, with attention to Greek and Coptic sources. The translation itself is preceded by the bulk of the book, where light is shed on the many threads that converged to produce works as the Gospel in question, and on the intricate relation between Judaism and early Christianity, especially between their respective esoterisms. This book is full of fresh and at times unexpected insights on the nature of early Christian and Kabbalistic cosmologies, including several sections on the little known Ebionite community and faith.

An excerpt of the book can be downloaded from our Publications page, and it can be ordered from booksellers worldwide, both through the internet and through wholesale and retail bookshops.

Matheson Monographs: first three volumes published

March 10th, 2011

We are happy to announce the publication of our first three Monographs: they include some translations and some original English works, ranging from the deep philological analysis to the lighthearted and lyrical Jewish parable.

Louis Massignon: The Vow and the Oath
by Patrick Laude, translated by Edin Q. Lohja.

The Living Palm Tree: Parables, Stories, and Teachings from the Kabbalah
by Mario Satz, translated by Juan Acevedo.

Christianity & Islam:
Essays on Ontology and Archetype

by Samuel Zinner.

Details and excerpts of the books can be found in our Publications page. They can be ordered from booksellers worldwide, both through the internet and through wholesale and retail bookshops.

Matheson Website Launched

March 4th, 2011

We are pleased to announce that our website is now open to the public. You can access it by following this link.

Although this is a first version of the site and many details need to be adjusted, we think that the resources so far included will help further the Trust’s aims, as they constitute a representative selection of texts and media. We expect to be adding and updating the website contents on a regular basis, and of course comments and suggestions are most welcome either through this blog page or directly through our contact page.

Chartwell Interfaith Tea

March 3rd, 2011

As part of the events celebrating the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week, The Matheson Trust hosted on Friday 4 February an Interfaith Tea at the former home of Sir Winston Churchill, a few miles away from Westerham, Kent.

This event brought together local church leaders—Anglican, Catholic and Evangelical—to initiate in a relaxed atmosphere an interfaith dialogue between Muslim residents, church leaders and Christian residents of the local community.

‘St John Climacus of Sinai and the Ladder of Spiritual Ascent in Iconography’ – Dr Elena Ene D-Vasilescu

November 22nd, 2010

‘St John Climacus of Sinai and the Ladder of Spiritual Ascent in Iconography’ – Dr Elena Ene D-Vasilescu from Matheson Trust on Vimeo.

A pictorial exploration of this formative text for Orthodox monasticism, the work of ‘St John of the Ladder’, Abbot of St Catherine’s monastery, Sinai in the late sixth century. (The Ladder of Divine Ascent)

This film was made possible with the support of The Matheson Trust.

Filmed at the St. Theosevia Centre for Christian Spirituality, Oxford. 6th November, 2010.

Part of the “Drawing from the Wellsprings of the Desert” lecture series. Dr Elena Ene D-Vasilescu and Revd Dr Liz Carmichael

‘Cuthbert, Guthlac and the Life of St Antony’ – Dr Benedicta Ward SLG

November 22nd, 2010

‘Cuthbert, Guthlac and the Life of St Antony’ – Dr Benedicta Ward SLG from Matheson Trust2 on Vimeo.

Christians far from Egypt have drawn inspiration from the Life of St Antony, including England’s two most popular pre-Conquest hermit saints: Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (c.634-687) and Guthlac (c.673-714) whose hermitage in the fens became the Abbey of Crowland.

This film was made possible with the support of The Matheson Trust.

Filmed at the St. Theosevia Centre for Christian Spirituality, Oxford. 6th November, 2010.

Part of the “Drawing from the Wellsprings of the Desert” lecture series. Dr Benedicta Ward SLG and Revd Dr Liz Carmichael

International Symposium on Islam, Salvation, and the fate of others

April 14th, 2010

On April 16 and 17, 2010, the University of Illinois Department of Religion will host an international symposium entitled “Islam, Salvation, and the Fate of Others.” The purpose of this symposium is to explore views on salvation in Islamic thought, particularly as it pertains to “Others,” i.e., non-Muslims. The participants of this conference (and book project) are among the most prominent academics engaged in this discourse.

Following the symposium there will be an edited volume available on ‘Islam, Salvation and the fate of others’ .

All lectures are free and open to the public, for more information follow this link.

Martin Lings Remembered

January 16th, 2010

An account of the Martin Lings Centenary Lecture delivered by Dr Reza Shah Kazemi at the Royal Asiatic Society, November 28, 2009

The Royal Asiatic Society auditorium was filled to capacity with people who had come to hear the third and final lecture in commemoration of the centenary of the birth of the late Dr Martin Lings. As the clock approached seven, those who had been unable to secure tickets before they sold out were ushered in, relieved not to have been turned away. The white marble statue of Sir Henry Thomas Colebrooke, founder of the Royal Asiatic Society, gazed impenetrably at the audience as Emma Clark introduced Dr Shah Kazemi on behalf of the Matheson Trust and the Temenos Academy, co-sponsors of the event.

There is perhaps no one better qualified to deliver the talk than Dr Shah-Kazemi, a long time friend, student and disciple of Dr Lings who was also his next-door neighbour for fifteen years. He delivered an account of Dr Lings —Shaykh Abu Bakr Siraj al-Din as he is also known— that was at the same time intimate, objective, and illuminating. Dr Shah-Kazemi centered his talk on the notion of spiritual sincerity (sidq in Arabic) and illustrated how Dr Lings was the perfect embodiment of this sincerity in every aspect of his life — his mind, character and heart. The leitmotif of the talk was one of Dr Lings’s poems, “Self Portrait,” in which he apparently laments his birth, so late in the historical cycle, that prevented him from witnessing first-hand the prophets and avataras of the great religions, including King David, Krishna, Jesus, the Buddha and the Prophet Muhammad. But the poem ends with the stirring lines:

No more I say: Would it had been!
For I have seen what I have seen,
And I have heard what I have heard.
So if to tears ye see me stirred,
Presume not that they spring from woe:
In thankful wonderment they flow.
Praise be to Him, the Lord, the King,
Who gives beyond all reckoning.

This mysterious and powerful allusion to that which Dr Lings has ‘seen’ and ‘heard’ is none other than the concomitance of the deep spiritual sincerity which he attained by God’s grace and which Dr Shah-Kazemi beautifully illustrated with a combination of extracts from Dr Lings’s writings, his lectures and teachings and small jewels of wisdom that Dr Shah-Kazemi witnessed in his everyday actions.

This was a lecture unlike so many lectures that are merely accounts of historical facts and theses. The very nature of the man demanded that the audience taste of the sincerity in question, directly. Just as Dr Lings spoke of how the saints drank directly from the fountains of divine mercy and grace that lie in Paradise, Dr Shah Kazemi transmitted to the audience the perfume of this concrete spiritual presence that he experienced in his contact with Dr Lings.

There was an almost cathartic effect on the audience, accompanied by gasps and sighs of inner joy and insight, as the greatness of a man that they may or may not have had the chance to meet in the flesh was remembered. By the end of the talk several of the audience were themselves in tears, but it was evident that these were not born of sorrow, but rather from that ‘thankful wonderment’ that Dr Lings himself mentions in his poem.

Dr Shah-Kazemi, paraphrasing Lings’s writings, summed up the experience, “when you are in contact with actualised perfection, that can have an actualising impact on your own soul — it can help you to bring to fruition the sanctity that is waiting to be realised within you.”

As Dr Shah-Kazemi remarked in his talk, one of the testaments to the greatness and legacy of Dr Lings is the influence he had on many people, not just during his lifetime, but even now after his passing. The lecture provided an opportunity to meet with some of the attendees, some of whom had come from abroad for the occasion. Dr Shah Kazemi personally thanked them at the beginning of his talk, remarking that they illustrated the strong magnetism that Dr Lings continues to exert on spiritual seekers.

This thought was echoed by another attendee, Slimane A. from Oxford. “The first thing that comes to mind when I think of him is his gentleness, his kindness. But as a spiritual master he saw in you what you needed most and he gave you that. There was a certain luminance to Shaykh Abu Bakr, especially towards the last years and months of his life and everyone perceived that. There was a kind of special gentleness for his spiritual children and even all human beings.”

Ovidio Salazar knew Lings for many years and worked with him to produce a film on his 1948 pilgrimage to Mecca. “I couldn’t begin to describe the immense influence he had on my life. He is someone who would constantly remind us of what we should strive to become.”

Other attendees spoke of the influence that Lings’s life and thought had upon themselves and the world. Keith Critchlow, co-founder of the Temenos Academy and lifelong lover of the traditional arts, summarised his thoughts on Dr Lings: “Dr Lings was the most extraordinary balance and mixture between one of my ideals as an English gentleman and an unfathomable Sufi, a man of faith. His particular contribution was to get twentieth century human beings to rethink what symbolism is and what it means because we’ve reached a stage where the media has reduced language to its lowest possible level.” Lings also had a deep impact on Critchlow’s inner life, “I learned from him the spiritual way of silence.”

For Sebastian Moro, an Argentinian student of neoplatonic philosophy, Lings and his teachers furnish a key to unlocking the true meaning of philosophia. “Perennialism helps me understand ancient philosophy much better than any academic point of view or approach. So when I cannot understand Plato or the neoplatonists, I read Guenon, Schuon and Martin Lings. Professor Shah-Kazemi is a representative of a living tradition, and that is why I came to this lecture.” This was an echo of the point that Dr Shah-Kazemi made during the lecture when he discussed Lings’s own adamant assertion about himself, “Lings is nothing without Schuon.”

Another philosopher, John Varnes said, “ I’m primarily a student of Whitehead. When you look at other traditions you find many common elements and I’m trying to keep as open a view as possible —that’s the whole idea of Whitehead, not to consider anything outside a unity. There aren’t two —only one in the Universe.”

During the period of time when Lings was Keeper of Oriental Manuscripts at the British Museum, he had a great influence on the young Tajammul Hussain, an aspiring artist who, thanks to the guidance of Dr Lings, came to specialise in the nearly lost art of Quranic Illumination. “He was instrumental in helping me to develop my understanding of the art of Quranic illumination, which is what I now teach at the Ashmolean, based on the lectures he used to give. I attended every one of his lectures, even if it was repeated over and over again, because great truths would come out spontaneously.”

Others spoke of their personal encounters with Lings. For Justin Majzub, “the key thing that happened in my life was my providential meeting with Martin Lings. I heard his voice as he spoke to a young man who was asking questions on Islam. And just from those few moments hearing his beautiful voice, I was transformed, so to speak, melted down to the core. I was amazed to find out that this wonderful saintly Muslim didn’t live on top of a mountain somewhere in the Yemen, but actually lived in Kent and that I could actually have access to him. And that was the beginning of the most wonderful period in my life.”

Justin’s mother, Margaret Majzub, had the privilege of entertaining Dr Lings in her home during one of his trips with Justin. “I loved the man. He visited my house just once. He left an odour of sanctity in the house, literally. He had such a soft, lovely voice. I hear his voice in my ear now.”

Perhaps the most personal account came from Jean and Gerry Kittel, Dr Lings’s next door neighbours of over twenty years. Shortly after Lings died, Jean’s doctor discovered a serious tumour in her body and said she would have to go in for immediate surgery. “The x rays looked really awful —so awful that the doctor wouldn’t even stick a needle in me because he said it was too invasive. I went to Dr Lings’s grave and said to him, ‘I need some help here!’ I went in to have the operation and when I woke up, the doctor was standing next to me saying, ‘there’s nothing there!’ They really couldn’t understand it. It was pretty amazing. So we have been affected a lot by him. He was a lovely, lovely man, and we miss him.”

A recording of Dr Shah-Kazemi’s talk is now available through this link.

The Martin Lings Centenary Lecture – The Temenos Academy

April 16th, 2009

This special lecture by Seyyed Hossein Nasr is in memory of Dr Martin Lings, who was born in 1909 and died in 2005.

Friday 15 May 2009 at 1.30pm

The Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London SW7
Doors open at 1pm

The lecture will be followed by refreshments and the sale of books by Dr Lings and Prof. Nasr
Admission £10 or £8 Members of the Temenos Academy / Concessions

TEMENOS ACADEMY
Patron HRH The Prince of Wales
The Martin Lings Centenary Lecture
Seyyed Hossein Nasr
University Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University

Chairman
Prof. Keith Critchlow
President Emeritus The Temenos Academy

Further information
Telephone: 01233 813663
Email: temenosacademy@myfastmail.com

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The Temenos Academy gratefully acknowledges the support of The Matheson Trust