Rick Archer: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually Awakening people. I’ve done over 430 of them now. And if this is new to you, and you’d like to check out previous ones, go to batgap.com and look under the past interviews menu where you’ll see all the previous ones organized in various ways. This show is made possible by the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. So if you appreciate it and feel like supporting it, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the site. Also another way to support the show is that about one quarter of the people who watch these videos on YouTube, actually subscribe to the channel, the BatGap channel and it helps us if you subscribe. You YouTube gives us more support and I don’t know I think it may be makes the interviews more so come up more prominently and people search results and stuff. So if you would like to do so please just click the subscribe button. And you’ll also get notified by YouTube via email whenever a new interview is posted if you’re subscribed, okay, thanks. So my guest today is Kabir how Minsky Kabir is a chic shake, excuse me in the lineage of Rumi and Co Co director of the threshold society. sufism.org is translations of Rumi and books on spirituality, living presence, and the knowing heart had been published in at least eight languages. living presence, which I read cover to cover, and we’ll be talking about a lot is now being published in a commemorative 25th Anniversary Edition. In 2009, and subsequent years, Kabir was named as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world by the Royal Strategic Studies Center in Jordan. He’s toured North America as shake with the Whirling Dervishes of Turkey, bringing Sufi culture to more than 100,000 people. His latest book is holistic Islam. So welcome, Kabir Good to have you here.
Kabir Helminski: Thank you, Rick, thanks for inviting me.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And as I often say, when I do these interviews, and it’s very true of you also, I thoroughly enjoyed preparing for this one, reading your book, in its entirety, that the living presence book, and listening to quite a few hours of your talks. And the impression I got in doing both of those things, was a lot of heart, a lot of tenderness, softness of heart, which is a quality I very much admire, and a lot of wisdom. And I don’t think those two are utterly disconnected from one another. But the wisdom as expressed in words and the heart as expressed in feeling very intertwined, and came through very nicely in your talks and your book. So I appreciate that. Thank
Kabir Helminski: you. Thank you so much.
Rick Archer: So these interviews usually consist of two main ingredients. One is the person’s story, you know, how they kind of got to be where they are today. And you know, some people dismiss stories, it’s always just the story. It’s about an individual, and I’m much so much more than that. But it helps people relate, you know, it helps people can kind of think, oh, yeah, that’s kind of like me, I went through that. And then look over here, look how he’s doing. And so maybe there’s hope for me. And another, obviously, is the knowledge or the wisdom, that the person wishes to impart the wisdom of a tradition or whatever they have gleaned from their own awakening. So hopefully, we’ll cover both of those quite thoroughly today. Let’s start with your story. So you’re about my age, I guess, late 60s, probably went through some of the same things I did in the 60s. And,
Kabir Helminski: yes, I get that.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And and like me, I imagine you really got sort of like inspired by the vision of possibilities that you somehow stumbled upon during those times and then took it from there, following your intuition and your experience and, and so on. Is that a fair summary of what happened?
Kabir Helminski: Well, well said Rick, you know, there was an opening that happened for me. One very cold night on a lake in New Hampshire, underneath magnificent stars and in which the world’s I had known dissolved and another The Universe opened up. And I saw, as I expressed at the time, the simple truth that it is, it’s that simple it is. And I was had some good friends who also understood the nature of this is. And I think I’ve spent the rest of my life embodying that finding ways to embody that, that truth that was beyond anything I had known beyond any human formulations beyond any religious theology that I
Rick Archer: knew was there a bit of chemical assistance and that it is exclusively
Kabir Helminski: or severe pure chemical Asst. This we’re talking now about maybe January of 1965. To put it into perspective, this was cut at least a couple of years before, you know, the psychedelic revolution, so called the hit mainstream. So I was fortunate enough to have this experience under the guidance of some very wise people and to be, you know, held and protected in that exploration. And shortly thereafter, I switched my major in college, from literature to Eastern religions. And I spent a few years I studied Sanskrit for two years. For a while my focus was on the Far Eastern traditions. And I met Baba rom das the week that he came back from India, that also brought with it a certain grace, I think that came from his guru. And, but it’s long journey. I don’t want to bore anybody there a lot of details, of course, but it began with this exploration in the Far Eastern traditions, and also living in San Francisco in the late 60s. And then coming back to New Hampshire, in the early 70s. And, and working in a school that I could describe as something like a Zen school of hard work, and mindfulness. And this was a practice that went on good for two days a week of pretty hard physical labor, and mindfulness. And it was like a boot camp of, of mindfulness. After a while, I felt that my heart was in a bit of a straightjacket. There was a quite a development of mindfulness and self awareness. But I felt that somehow when I looked at the relationships in this group, Something seemed missing to me. And though I was in a somewhat privileged position in that group, being sort of one of the sub teachers, one of the righthand people of the main teacher, I and my wife, Camille chose to leave and we didn’t know where we were headed. But before too long, we began to experience something of the Sufi world. And first with some teachers here in North America, but quite soon, it led us to Turkey. And in Turkey, in Konya, which is the hometown of Jalali and Rumi. I met a master there who I recognized as my teacher or I accepted as my teacher. And I, I found my connection with the Mevlevi tradition, which has been my spiritual home ever since since approximately 1980. And so, you know, this is Rumi’s tradition. And it’s a very broad comprehensive tradition that involves all kinds of practices from contemplation, meditation, chanting, whirling, or what what we call turning, and also a great intellectual tradition as well. So I’ve been at home on this path, and in later years, I branched out a little bit I was invited to be in a project called the spiritual paths, foundation. And this brought me together with some contemplatives in other traditions with for instance, We did a number, I don’t know over. I think it was eight years. We did at least one weekend a year working with other contemplative teachers like father, Thomas Keating,
Rick Archer: I just listened to an audio this morning of you and Thomas Keating having a talk.
Kabir Helminski: Yes, yes, a great, you know, one of the great little Catholic mystics. And Cynthia Bourgeault, another voice in the Catholic or in the Christian world, she’s not Catholic. And then various rabbis, including Rabbi Rami Shapiro, and people from the Ramakrishna tradition. And we work together and into spiritual mode. And the beauty of this was recognizing our commonality, recognizing that while we had traveled parallel paths, in many ways, we experienced parallel, many parallel experiences. As people, for the most part who were journeying outside are the traditions of our birth, and coming in contact with Asian traditions, mostly even including Rabbi Rami, who was a rabbi, but also he practice and for 10 years. It was a interesting time in terms of you know, discovering what was universal in our realization, and of course, I was, was wanted that, and yet I didn’t choose to be a Universalist. And the reason for that is the reason for that is that every time I found a teacher, some of whom were extraordinary beings, claiming this kind of universality or claiming to to offer a universal spiritual teaching, sooner or later, it always seemed to me to become a one man tradition. And so, I’ve accepted being part of the levy Sufi tradition. I think one advantage of that is, if I call people that, I’m not calling them to myself, exclusively, as as a teacher, I’m calling them two centuries of very refined and, and, and verified tradition of wisdom. That over the centuries, in this tradition, which has, has a universality within its own teachings within its own framework, it looks towards the infinite it doesn’t, Sufism and Islam, true Islam, for that matter, doesn’t claim a monopoly on truth. So it’s a wide enough framework in which to both be held in the Bhusundi tradition, and under the auspices of the beings who we feel are alive and, and with us all the time. And at the same time, opening up to something to a vision that is inclusive, and that can comprehend the truce, the value the beauty of other traditions.
Rick Archer: Well, quite a few things I get asked you based upon what you just said, first thing I want to do is extend my condolences for what happened in Egypt the other day, that was a Sufi mosque in which that massacre occurred. And I was reminded of that mind anyway, but what you said about claiming universality and claiming exclusivity, you know, of, of the truth. You can that was a horrible example of the consequences of that sort of attitude taken to extremes.
Kabir Helminski: Yes, that’s absolutely. You know, in reality, this is this what some people have called the war against consciousness. And it’s in every religion, it’s in every society, not to, you know, stoke up the idea that the metaphor of war, but in this case, a high price was paid people paid with their lives for being part of a community that emphasized emphasizes love, and tolerance and mutual understanding and inclusiveness. And they paid a great price for it.
Rick Archer: Yeah. The mystics have always had a hard time in most traditions, at least in the West. I mean, St. John of the Cross was locked in a closet for 14 years or something. And, you know, Meister Eckhart was on the verge of getting really messed up by the Inquisition, but he conveniently died in a time of natural causes. And so we go into dozens and dozens examples of people who were actually living what the founder of that religion was talking about why he came out to talk. And yet ironically, they are persecuted for actually having the experience that experience that the founder one of them to have,
Kabir Helminski: it sometimes happens that way. Yes. Yes.
Rick Archer: So, um, help us. I mean, you know, Sufism is a branch of Islam. And, you know, in many people’s minds, Islam has a bad rap these days in the West, because of things I don’t even have to elaborate on, that have been happening. And so help us distinguish between Sufism and Islam in general, because a minute ago use the phrase pure Islam or I forget if that’s the way you phrased it, but obviously, there’s a there’s a beauty of purity to it if it’s properly understood and appreciated, and I believe Sufism probably comes closest closer than any other facet or branch of Islam to, to recognizing that.
Kabir Helminski: Yeah. Well, let me start talking about Islam first, and then I’ll bring Sufism into it. In these days, especially since 1979, when the Iranian revolution happened, and the Saudi monarchy reacted against it, by increasing its propaganda efforts. In, in exploiting Wahhabi Islam, Islam has been a toxic Islam has been spread throughout the world that is not classical Islam. It’s not traditional Islam. So without even trying to talk about a pure Islam, to even just be realistic and talk about traditional Islam, traditional Islam began as a radical interfaith movement. It’s it’s spread, right at the beginning, was happens so rapidly and so extensively, because it took into itself, other faith traditions, and it did not require, it never allowed forced conversions. That’s absolutely forbidden under Islamic law. So if ever it happens, it’s a violation of Islamic law. And so, Christians, especially throughout the Middle East, most Christians were not Byzantine, or Roman Christians. Most of them were subgroups of an historian, and sometimes Gnostic and so forth. Those people did very well, under Islam. The monasteries throughout Egypt and Syria flourished after the Arab conquest. Now, just going on in history, you know, in Spain, and also under the Ottoman Empire, Judaism flourished, and was protected. And Islam has a way of including people of the book, and this is all part of the Islamic framework. The Quran says, whether you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or whatever, if you believe in a final accounting, and live righteously, you will have nothing to fear from God. Basic teaching
Rick Archer: that juxtaposed with the statement, you know, there’s no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet or is that a mistranslation?
Kabir Helminski: There is no god but Allah, Allah is not the Muslim God, Allah is, is is. We could get into a discussion of what Allah means but Allah has, Allah is without gender, Allah is even the mystics recognize Allah in a completely non dual, a kind of understanding. And this is justified even in the Quran. So I’m not we could say that Allah is not a god. And by the way, everything I’m saying, I believe is supported by the Quran and even by a kind of Orthodox interpretation. Allah is not some god outside of existence. Allah is the oneness, intelligence and mercy of the of the whole of existence, and it cannot be separated. I think that If we if we had this conversation, if we had time to have it in depth, we would quickly come to an understanding that the concept of Allah is that it is a unified field of being out of which all of this arises and is never separate, it is engendered. It is fundamentally beneficent. This is Allah. And there have been 144,000 prophets that have come, of which Muhammad was simply the last, putting a seal, you might say, the Seal of authenticity on all those other many 1000s of prophets, and to every community prophet has been said, giving essentially the same truth, even if that truth is later distorted by human beings, which, which always happens. So, you know, if you look at the end, everything I’m saying is chronic, and pretty hard to dispute. So this is this is the framework of Islam. So traditional Islam was pretty good, you know, I mean, no human society, and so the no Empire is perfect. But there was a more tolerance, and even, in many cases, respect given to the other sacred traditions under Islamic law. So this is Islam. Now, within Islam, you know, most people are born into whatever they’re born, they don’t question what they’re born into. They don’t question their religion, their ethnicity, their their, their, I would say nationality, but nations are a relatively recent phenomenon. Most people don’t question that they just are what they are. Sufism is the esoteric dimension of Islam. It is not Sunni or Shia. In other words, it’s, it doesn’t have anything to do with the doctrinal divisions, there are Shia Sufis there are Sunni Sufis. And most of us wouldn’t pay much attention to these distinctions. Anyway, so Sufism, is that that intentional practice, of consciousness, of higher consciousness, of self awareness of self knowledge, of increasing our capacities for love, of awakening our subtle perceptive faculties, under the guidance of a tradition, and a teacher, a master there. Technically, I mean, properly speaking there. I don’t mean to sound dogmatic about this. But practically speaking, we’re not freelance Sufis. Because we’ve you view this as a, having the ability to accept a teacher, at least at a certain stage of one’s development is part of the process of coming to be free of our egoism and our false self. So it’s usually involves a master apprentice kind of relationship, and also a relationship with a community because it’s a very relational spirituality almost more than any other spirituality. Historically, Sufis have the whole setup is based in community and a respectful, loving relationship with brothers and sisters, with elders who were a little further along on the path. So that the, the reality of the oneness comes through this many Enos, the reality of understanding our unity, and comes from the work of acceptance and humility. And we, you know, mutual respect and service. So it’s always it’s, Sufism is almost never a tutorial, nor a practice for hermits. It’s usually involves, even the shakes are typically married and have families and have a profession. Sufism is not the profession of a shake, shakes almost always have their own trade their own livelihood. So basically, it’s the esoteric dimension of this lot of
Rick Archer: sounds like it’d be fair to summarize by saying that Sufism has a, an experiential orientation or developmental orientation, whereas, you know, the more conventional forms of Islam are religion are more about what you believe. And you know what doctrines you adhere to and so on. You may go on your whole life believing things in great detail, but not having any of the experience to which those things refer. So Sufis are all about having the experience.
Kabir Helminski: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
Rick Archer: And just while we’re on the history of it, you mentioned 144,000 prophets. And Raymond Schumann, from Olympia, Washington submitted a question asking about whether it’s a spiritual descendant of whether Sufism is a spiritual descendant of Zoroastrianism. And when you said 144,000, I thought, wow, how far back does that go? So maybe you can answer both those questions? Yes, yes.
Kabir Helminski: I wouldn’t say that Sufism is descended from zero Eastern ism, although we can recognize that Zoroastrianism had so much to contribute to the concepts of theistic tradition. But the way we understand it is that the Prophet Muhammad was something like a tabula rasa he was an empty slate. When his prophethood began, he was not the that part of the world. Arabia at that time, was more or less without a deep spirituality of any sort. And so Muhammad was not influenced very much by Christianity or Judaism or any Arab religiosity. He began, you might say, as an empty slate,
Rick Archer: as he got pretty heavily zapped by some angelic beings or something, and then had this huge metamorphosis.
Kabir Helminski: over 23 years, he began to have experiences of revelation of some vast intelligence, some something, a voice from outside of the human personality, speaking to Muhammad, and guiding him, sometimes even criticizing him. So, and that is the Quran or that that was all recorded, it was an inimitably beautiful language. And the final result is a profoundly coherent text. Although I’ll admit that many Westerners approaching the text at first, especially with what we’re projecting their expectations on on it, and even there, perhaps are allergies against the the religious conditioning of their backgrounds. People get into a muddle reading it but a great scholar, Great Western scholar normandeau Brown said that the West wasn’t really able to read the Quran until James Joyce wrote Finnegans Wake. And the reason he said that was he said the Quran like Finnegans Wake is a language event. It’s not a narrative. It’s not a rule book. It’s not systematic, but it is a language event that comes into human language and in a way blows it apart. And, and yet convinced thing in that totally cosmic and yet coherent series of revelations. And so it’s an unusual book and but it has been a book that has an ovum all the mystics of Sufism are deeply tied to the Quran, and found within it a language for their deepest non dual realization. So I want to underline that fact. It’s quite extraordinary in in that
Rick Archer: way, okay. I have to ask it, because people afterwards might pose this question and I want to have you address it. And that is, what do you what do you make the people like Sam Harris, who cherry pick a lot of verses out of the Quran, and make it seem rather brutal? Do you have an answer to that kind of critique?
Kabir Helminski: I do have an answer a thorough answer. I wrote a chapter in a book about that. And all of the verses of the Quran that involve fighting, have a context. And sometimes, first of all, the context was that the early Muslim community was under assault. And for a while it suffered, they suffered as pacifist. And at a certain point, they were given permission in the revelation to respond with fight and kill Ron says while fighting is bad, if it weren’t for those willing to take up arms, churches, synagogues and mosques would be wiped from the face of the earth. So, it was, was defensive. And there are many verses in the Quran that say things like, you know, you hear something quite like quite scary like chase the the unbelievers are called chase them and slay them where you find them. So Sam Harris, who I don’t consider really an intellectually honest person, if I may say so I’d be happy to debate him anytime he to another many points. But then then you find it says thereafter but if they stop attacking you, then the cyst right, you know. So I’ve looked at this, believe me if I felt that the Quran had a triumphalist stick aggressive message, I would, I would leave Islam, I would have nothing to do with it. I’ve looked at it very thoroughly. And I’m convinced that you don’t have to look very deeply or very far to find out that these verses that have to do with fighting are very limited in their context. And that Islam is not out to conquer the world and impose itself on the world. Okay, good.
Rick Archer: Now, the question I want to ask you, before we get too far, you mentioned community and the value and tradition and the value of having a teacher. Many people will have read our Bina 20s book Daughter of Fire, which I unfortunately have not read yet. She was well into one Lee’s teacher. And as I understand it, her teacher was a real taskmaster. I mean, he said things about, you know, you have to become like dust under the Masters foot. And you know, he really broke it down, and it bore fruit, obviously, and there are people I think, who tried to pose as gurus and behave that way who are not qualified to do so. I’m sure that I ran a tweeze teacher was qualified to do so. But that’s a little bit of an aside, but is there any sort of particular teaching strategy in the tradition, which is perhaps typified by her teacher? Or does it really depend on the personality of the teacher and the student and it can be any anywhere from, you know, very gentle and sweet and, and easy going to, you know, really, really difficult depending on what the person needs.
Kabir Helminski: I think Irina Tweedie situation is rather unique. I would say that, from my own experience, there are occasions when an authentic teacher may confront the false self with with itself, but abusiveness is not a part of Sufism. Okay, abusiveness and even authoritarianism is not part of Sufism, we would rather rely on the example of the Prophet Muhammad in all matters related to character. And it said that Muhammad never even embarrassed a person. He was that respectful. And there’s an extraordinary teaching of, it’s called adab. It’s spiritual courtesy. This is at the heart of Sufism. And I’ve never met I’ve never experienced such a refinement of spiritual courtesy anywhere in the world, as I have among Sufi teachers, and they can be strong they can be you know, they can be sometimes anything. What can I say there in a way, there are no rules, but if it’s coming from love, and if it’s not imposing on another human beings will. It can be transformational, but we have no right to impose ourselves on another person’s will number one, and in general, abusiveness is not transformational, and it’s not part of civic teaching.
Rick Archer: Okay. I remember hearing a story one time that Muhammad once cut the sleeve of his coat because a cat was sleeping on it. You didn’t want to disturb the cat. I love that story because I love cats.
Kabir Helminski: so famous that story. You know, there’s, there’s an incredible, an extensive teaching on animal rights that goes back to Muhammad. And there’s a whole, you know, significant Slee sized book on animal rights in Islam. So this was unprecedented.
Rick Archer: That’s great. Yeah. And so as long I’m like, unlike Hinduism, and even Christianity, Islam didn’t have animal sacrifices, that sort of thing.
Kabir Helminski: No, I mean, we have, it may sound that way. Because, for instance, at certain times of the year, and on the pilgrimage, and sometimes before a retreat, you sacrifice a sheep,
Rick Archer: and then everybody eats it,
Kabir Helminski: you eat it for, but even the procedure for sacrificing a sheep, there are certain rules, it’s I suppose it’s similar to kosher rules, but I know what the Islamic rules are. First of all, you need a very, very sharp knife. You can you cannot kill the animal in the sight of any other animals. And you say the name of God and you do it with compassion. Yeah, so
Rick Archer: Native Americans, sometimes reverent, reverentially treated animals, they had to kill for their sustenance.
Kabir Helminski: How many even said, for instance, I’ll just give you a simple example. You’ve been traveling, you know, across the desert with your camels, and you finally arrive at your destination. And it’s it’s time for sunset prayer. And you’re supposed to take the times of prayer quite seriously. But you’re not allowed to pray, even though it’s a time of prayer until you’ve unburdened your animals.
Rick Archer: Nice. Okay, I’m going to shift gears here rather abruptly and read a series of questions that you put in an article that I read, called sacred space and conscious community. I thought they’re all great questions. I’m just gonna read them, and then have you riff on the answers. So here’s what he said, If we have realized the non dual nature of reality, if we have begun to perceive the interdependent nature of the self, the non local reality of mind, what do we do now? How is this going to be embodied? What is the moral imperative? If all is one capital? Oh, is this the purposeful universe? And what is the purpose are states of compassion, aspiration, unconditional love, an ecstatic Joy near epiphenomenon of our own electrochemical organisms, or emergent properties within the field? I love that I wrote the whole thing down, like to hear you respond to it.
Kabir Helminski: You know, are, the totality of my life isn’t attempted to respond to that? And I’m just like, I’m barely figuring these things out. And not necessarily having accomplished very much I asked, been asking myself questions lately, about how can we and community truly and by committed I mean, not a commune, not a community where we live together, but a community such as we have here in Louisville? How do we become more of a community? How do we support each other? How do we create perhaps the, you know, economic structures that would benefit us all on a very practical level, and allow us to live a more, you know, a life with more integrity, and sanity? So, you know, this is what can we do to increase our capacities for love? And what can we do to reduce whatever is in our hearts? That keeps us separate, in a false way from each other? This is an unending question what can we do to solve our problems with love when problems arise rather than anger or with withdrawing? So this I think, I could, I could sum it up by saying a phrase I saw recently on a t shirt, think cosmic act, human cosmic act. This is about becoming a fully human being. That’s how I see spirituality. It’s much more than realizing that those highly energized states of consciousness, which we may realize in Samadhi, or some form of enlightenment, but having realized those things, having experienced those things, to one extent or another How do we now embody that, as human beings? How do we integrate the spirituality? So I think Sufism is, is good in this respect. It’s a very integrated spirituality. And what I’m saying is that we have 14 centuries of integration to draw upon. There’s still a lot of things to figure out in this world at this time, in considering all the ways that our humaneness is under assault, considering that we now face an inflection point, I think where, as Katherine Austin Fitz says, we’re faced with a choice between a human or a non human civilization. How can we, as spiritual people, preserve our humaneness? And develop our humaneness? Because I see humaneness as something that’s infinitely developable. Yeah, it’s not what we’re born with. But it is a potential because we are the We Are The hologram of the of the, of the hole. And yet, we haven’t realized that as we could. So our realization of it will be in our humaneness. And sometimes I’ve said that what I really appreciated about the human beings that have been our mentors is that they were the kind of people you would like to sit down and have a cup of tea with. That the the, the enlightenment that I experienced from these people, and Rumi’s tradition, for instance, and other Sufi lineages was not some kind of abstract enlightenment. It was a very personal put personhood, or human character is part of that enlightenment. So not separate from it, and yet human character is an ongoing, that’s a work in progress. We’re souls in progress.
Rick Archer: Yeah, this whole thing that you’ve just been saying is something that’s been, I’d say, growing in the awareness of the so called non dual community, the kind of people who speak at the sand conference and attended, you know, over the last 510 years, it’s shifted from, you know, you’re, you’re not a person and hanging out in the transcendence and the world is an illusion, and, and that kind of thing to, hey, wait a minute, you are a person and, you know, you have to you’re living a life and you have to be more fully embodied. And, you know, to actually live this, this non dual realization, it’s not something to just marinate in, but it’s something that has to be sort of integrated and translated into the practicalities of daily life. And just one more point I’ll make and let you respond to, I gave a talk at this recent conference where I met you on the ethics of enlightenment. And one point I made was, you know, a teacher might be sitting up there claiming to have all sorts of wonderful, subjective experiences, and radiating a lot of Shakti and, you know, spiritual energy and so on. But if you look closely at how he or she is behaving, do you really, would you really like to be like that person? I mean, is that something that he could emulate and grow, hopefully, and you would like to grow into? And if not, maybe you should leave? Anyway? That’s my point. Yeah,
Kabir Helminski: I think it’s good to apply criteria, I’ve applied an even more basic criteria. One, once somebody was showing me was attempting to impress me with a video of their latest guru, and the guru status of OTs and I watched I, you know, I watched the video and afterwards they said, you know, what do you what do you think? And I said, Well, you know, very interesting, but which of these people would you trust as a babysitter? Yeah, yeah. So yes, sand the sand community, which I very much appreciate wonderful group of people. They are, have been on their own trajectory and over 10 years. And, as he said, moving from that undifferentiated oneness into an appreciation of the heart, and what they’re calling embodied newness. And, you know, as you know, I wrote a book called The knowing heart, to try to explore and express the cognitive dimension of the heart because in our understanding the heart is our greatest, you know, faculty for knowing much more than the brain. I don’t mean the physical heart, I mean, a quality within the human being that can experience relationship that can sense the universe. qualitatively, that can sense value. That’s all from the heart. It’s not from intellect. It’s not from the senses. And I see spirituality, I would like to see spirituality as the awakening, purification and maturing of the heart, which is the most essential part of the human being. That’s a tall order.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Well, one question I have about that is that, you know, on the one hand, spiritual development does tend to refine and sensitize and make more subtle, you know, one’s heart, one’s faculties of all of all kinds. And on the other hand, the world has a corresponding influence, it’s, you know, things are impacting us all the time. And, you know, you see people going to extremes of coarseness, and just really becoming very hardened. And, and, you know, spirit spiritual aspirants don’t want to be like that they want to be very, you know, sensitive and feeling. And you often hear people teaching this way to just feel everything and let it in. But there’s this kind of conundrum between, you know, being sensitive and being able to deal with the world and how do you culture the capacity to have both simultaneously?
Kabir Helminski: Yes, yes. The purpose, I mean, we are refining ourselves and we want to be more refined and sensitive human beings. At the same time, that refinement is not opposed to developing qualities like courage, perseverance, stability, you know, inner strength. So, maybe our purpose is to develop the whole spectrum of qualities. And when it comes to the coarseness of the world, we who are spiritual I don’t mean that as a claim, yeah, what I mean, we who aspire, you know, aspire to more consciousness have a transformative role in the coarseness of this world. And that transformation can happen. When we are awake to being when we are being true to that spiritual being, which is the heart and consciousness. And then any person who can sustain that state truly and with integrity and sincerity, enters into the coarseness of the world, and can have a transformative effect. I saw something just this last weekend, and I can’t really go into the details of it. But this last weekend, I was with a group, the Sufis and we were with one of the leading Neo Nazis in America who came to a Sufi circle. He came to a Sufi circle because his son had joined this community after the community had helped the son. After they got him out of jail, they got him out of jail. And in this community, his son began to flourish. And there was a had been a big separation between the Father and the Son. And just this weekend, the father had come to be with the son, the father and mother had come to be with the son and had to sit for three days in the Sufi community, and listen to what everything ends and be part of everything we were doing. Wow. And the son had on a a t shirt that said, Love loves love. And the father was someone who had actually gone to jail for, I believe, for his role in not murdering somebody directly but being an accessory. And Henry the mother was weeping through the course of the weekend, her heart was opening. The father was letting down his defenses and it appears that his state had changed. And this is an example of when the spiritual energy is There, it feels good. And people who hate are in great pain. And they’re not feeling very good. And the things they do that they think might make them feel better, like violence, et cetera. And it doesn’t help the soul, it doesn’t help the heart. So bring a person like that into an environment where they’re surrounded by nothing but love and acceptance. And extraordinary things happen.
Rick Archer: That’s beautiful story. I heard a story recently about a black man whose mission is to be friend Ku Klux Klan members to the point where they will give him their ropes. And he’s collected a lot of robes. Now, he goes to places where they hang out, sits down, starts talking to them. And just one thing leads to the next and he gets them to the point where they say, I’ve had enough of this. Here’s my robe.
Kabir Helminski: That’s it. What? What beautiful work.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I also heard you tell a story about how in these Sufi gatherings that go on for long periods of time, I forget what you call them. That there was a thing where people would bring invalids and mentally ill people and so on to just sort of sit them there, because it was a way of kind of babysitting them. But once they had sat there for a certain period of time, after a while, they say, Hey, can I go help in the kitchen? Or can I do this or do that and actually healed them just being in that atmosphere.
Kabir Helminski: That was an ongoing, whirling ceremony or a whirling retreat that would went on, in that case for 40 days, 24 hours a day, seven days a week of constant rolling, not the same people thinking. You’re taking shifts. We read about this in roomies time, and we didn’t, I never believed it until some friends and in Turkey said let’s do it. And first, they tried it for seven days. And that seemed like a monumental feat. I’ll admit that at first, I thought it was going to be a psychotic break down or you should do this. This is too much. But they went ahead and did it. And the results were just as you described, instead of people getting imbalanced or getting pushed over the edge. People were bringing catatonic people and people with no emotional imbalances, and just leaving them there. And just being in that energy, of constant whirling. And I’m not going to say it’s merely the physical act of whirling. It’s the state of mind and devotion that accompanies it. It’s an act of love and worship of the one. And in that atmosphere. These emotional imbalances were healed in extraordinary ways.
Rick Archer: That’s great. I want to ask you about healing in a minute. But first, a question came in from a gentleman in Tehran Sahand. And this harkens back to what we were talking about earlier with the history of Sufism and Islam, but maybe we can answer his question. He said, Do you believe that Sufism wouldn’t exist today if Islam had not emerged?
Kabir Helminski: Yes, I believe, I believe so. And I’ll tell you why. Even though I recognize that there is a pre Islamic tradition in Iran, in Horizont, that I’m well acquainted with, that worked in communities and was profoundly mystical. But I would say that the attributes of Sufism that we most appreciate today are, develop and come out of the example of the Prophet Muhammad, character and behavior, the groundedness, that he demonstrated, that became part of this mystical tradition, and also a very coherent metaphysical framework that makes it makes it clear that we have a profound need for the divine and the divine, you know, let’s not, let’s not underestimate what we mean by that word. But let’s say it’s the realm of value and unity that is inherent in existence. And we above all need to remember that, serve that, trust that and this is the essential message of the Quran, as we understand it, and it was also the essential message that Muhammad embodied and always expressed. So there have been mystics throughout all time with great respect, we honor them but With the Prophet Muhammad, I believe something new began in terms of an integration of that mystical state, so that it became the attainment of people who have a useful livelihood, who are engaged in marriage and family life, and that the highest spiritual attainments are no longer exclusive to people leading lots of acts of solitude, and ascetic practice, but became possible through the power of love, combined with that purification of the mind. Okay.
Rick Archer: So we’re really everyone has heard of the whirling dervishes. And I heard you explained it in a rather interesting way. And I, when you explained it, you said, the left foot never leaves the ground. And I thought, How in the world did they do that? You have to have your left foot on a lazy susan or something. So you could spin around, but then I tried it after lunch. And I thought, okay, just take your weight off the foot a little bit. And then you can you can kind of move around. But there’s a whole beautiful, esoteric significance to every aspect of it. And it’s a sounds to me like it’s a profound spiritual practice. So I’m sure people would like to hear more about it how it works.
Kabir Helminski: Yes, yes. So the first of all, the intention of turning what is called whirling we call it turning, the intention is to become closer to the divine. And it is an act of worship and contemplation meditation, at the same time. And as a method, it’s powerful and effective. Because as we know, we can sit down in meditation and we can delude ourselves we can, we can appear to be meditating. And yet, the mind may wander, when you’re turning, you have an almost instant feedback mechanism. Because if you’re not empty inside, if you don’t keep that interior space, open and free of inner dialogues, free of daydreaming, how you lose the balance in the turning. So we have that it acts as a mirror of our state, when, when we turn there are many, many different dimensions that have to be held in a single field of awareness. So okay, we start with the left leg, which, as you discovered, the weight is on the sort of ball of the foot, the front of the foot, the heel does slide around. But it’s as if your pivot point is on the ball of your foot. And that is your, that symbolizes our being rooted in the eternal, the right foot is stepping 360 degrees. And each time the person turning is saying, Oh law, Allah, Allah. So the right foot is in time, the right foot is in the world of change and transients. The left foot is an axis on which we turn and it is are the access of eternity. And then the arms are extended, and the right right arm is up. With the palm facing upward, receiving, you can say the divine energies, the heavenly grace, and that energy is coming through the right arm passing through the heart, moving to the left arm, which is palm down, bestowing that energy into the world.
Rick Archer: I presume this is not just symbolic, but this was actually happening. Right? On some subtle level.
Kabir Helminski: Yes, yeah, on some subtle level. So it’s an act of service. It’s not an attempt to get oneself incredibly high and, you know, corkscrew out of the world, it is really an act of, of, of, of service to bring those finer spiritual energies and bring them into our world and our environment. Because so that even the people who are witnessing the ceremony, as well as those participating, it will feel you might say the micro voltage of that pure vibration and and be affected by it and be have their their souls a little more awakened. How long
Rick Archer: before
Kabir Helminski: Well, In the ceremony itself, the ceremony has about 40 minutes of whirling, but it’s broken up into periods of approximately 10 minutes with a brief pause with a pause. It’s not not particularly so that we don’t get tired. It is it is. Because some people really could go for a very long could go much longer. But no, the pause actually has a more profound meaning than that. The pause that happens between the four movements of turning is in order to bring oneself back to recollection and affirm this is how this is the language we use to affirm one servanthood to the one, rather than to go and just dissolve and the one to keep coming back and affirming that servanthood while still standing, arms over the shoulders, like the letter aleph, which is the number one first letter of the alphabet, and the number one, it’s just saying 111. And there are four periods of turning each one. The first three are an ascension, toward ecstasy, towards intimacy with the divine, towards unity with the divine,
Rick Archer: just interrupt to ask is that the type of subjective experience one actually has is, while doing it, ecstasy is ascension, unity with the divine do most people experienced that kind of thing?
Kabir Helminski: It is experienced, of course, it’s everybody has their own degrees of degrees and capacities for it. I’m not saying that everyone, or even the majority of Turner’s will experience, you know, the absolute oneness in the third period. But that’s the that’s the structure of the ceremony. And, and it has its experiential truth. So what’s interesting, so there are three, three stages of ascension. And the third, they’re called salatu, salam for salaams. In the third one, it’s the most ecstatic that the music and the rhythm kind of really carries you it’s it’s very blissful and beautiful and, and energized. And that’s when the, you might say the limited self dissolves in the Divine. But then the fourth Salam comes after that, and it’s it’s slower, it’s more majestic, it’s more sober in a way, in the fourth Salam. It’s says if that the Turner is being given his or her self back, it’s as if the self is dissolved. And now you’re coming back to your softness. It’s as if you know, you’re being told, Okay, try it on one more time, see what you do with it. Now, a purified self, a new state of the self. That’s the sort of archetypal journey that’s embodied in in the whirling ceremony, and that fourth salaam goes on. It’s actually quite beautiful and dramatic, because, by way, all of this is accompanied by a very sophisticated classical music, composition, we have many compositions, but there may be 70 of them that are extant today. And each of them is like a symphony unto itself, with chorus and words of Rumi. But you come to the force Salaam and the at one point, the music ends except for a single instrument, improvising. It may be a stringed instrument. It’s a very sort of delicate, like almost sparkly kind of improvisation. Meanwhile, the dervishes are turning, turning, turning, you hear the swish of their robes and their feet. And this very light, improv, improvised music, and it goes on and you’re waiting for it to and you know, something is about to happen. And then suddenly, the voice of the Quran reciter breaks into it, and begins to recite this very majestic recitation, which is typically the verse of the Quran that says, To God belongs the east and the west. And wheresoever you turn is the face of God. So, upon hearing the Quran recited all of the dervishes, just stop suddenly and back off the floor, and kneel down to listen to the full recitation of the Quran, which goes on a bit longer. And it’s as if the whole ceremony has prepared them to let those words into their heart. So all of that emptying has prepared them to hear the revelation. So that’s the that’s the core of the ceremony.
Rick Archer: Okay? I guess there’s two free centers around the world, where are people? Or non Sufis welcome to come and sit and observe the thing or sort of, you know,
Kabir Helminski: you know, we are told, we called Rumi, our pier. That’s the title of Pierre means to sort of the, the source of the tradition. We say anyone who walks across the threshold of the Sufi Lodge has been invited by the pier. Okay. So if you show up, you’re welcome to welcome.
Rick Archer: Yes. Okay. I have six pages of notes here, I want to ask you more questions. And they won’t necessarily flow in perfect logical order from what we’ve been talking about. But I just want to get them out there. And each one will stimulate some interesting conversation. Here’s one thing I found from all this is all now from, from your book, living presence, you said, is our essential self capitalist, which is our point of contact with Infinite Spirit. And I’m wondering what the distinction is some people would say, well, our essential self is Infinite Spirit. But you seem to be drawing a difference between them.
Kabir Helminski: Yes, yes, a very important, subtle distinction. We would say that, when we use this term, essential self return, talking about the absolute foundation of our witnessing consciousness, the self awareness of ourselves. Now, probably the best formulation of this or expression of this is from the great even r&b One of another great, great Sufi, Mohiuddin, even r&b, he said, My journey was entirely within myself. And when I came to the intimate presence of my Lord, my Sustainer, I, I saw that I was nothing but servanthood. Without a Trace of Lordship, without a trace of sovereignty. I was nothing but servanthood, without a trace of sovereignty. So let us settle with a nuanced formulation to say that he was one of the greatest Sufis of all time, coming to that intimate union with the divine, yet experiencing his own eyeness. At the same time, as he experiences that, there is nothing that all power or agency is vested in the Divine. So this is how we express it. And rather than saying, your God, I’m God. You know, it’s, it’s, it’s a delicious and beautiful relationship, to be that servanthood. Knowing that you’re nothing, that you are essentially nothing, but it may take a lifetime of arriving at that nothingness.
Rick Archer: Okay, next question. Again, from your book, many of our human attributes have atrophied through disuse, they have become latent faculties rather than functioning ones. So my question is, what are some of these latent faculties or human attributes that have atrophied? Are you talking about like cities or sort of, kind of supernormal abilities? Or are you talking about more, you know, natural human things such as, you know, really profound development of the heart or refinement of the senses or things like that?
Kabir Helminski: I’m talking mostly about the ladder, but we can’t really put any limits on it. I was trained by a teacher who claimed to be in a 26,000 year tradition. And I challenged him from the Caucasus, and I challenged him I said, How do you know, why do you say 26? How can you say 26,000 years? He said, Because we can count. Anyway, that’s the precession of the equinoxes.
Rick Archer: Today. That’s yeah. 26,000 Yeah. And
Kabir Helminski: so anyway, this is some people high up in the mountains of the Caucasus. It’s a real tradition. It exists. And for five years, I was I was trained in that tradition as part of my Sufi training. It was this Ceman who said, For all this period of time, human beings have been losing the latent there, they’ve been losing the human capacity so that the capacities have become more and more latent. In other words, we have them, but they’re latent. Is he does he defined Sufism as the awakening, and developing wakening and developing latent human capacities under divine grace and guidance? And he said, If you left off under divine grace, and I said, What do you mean by divine grace and guidance? He said, under the auspices of love. I said, Okay. He said, If you left out under divine grace and guidance, if you’re only developing latent human capacities, that would merely be occultism. Yes. Okay.
Rick Archer: So you could be a psychic, or you could become a black magician, who has good executive abilities, but is using it for ILL purposes.
Kabir Helminski: Yes, yes. So the capabilities of human Well, of human perception of human creativity are hypothetically infinite. And I like to leave it that way, I would like to see that there’s no limit on what can be developed and awakened, and made unlighted, to spiritual practice.
Rick Archer: This is an interesting point to bring out though, because a lot of times spirituality is thought of more in terms of a subjective realization, which may or may not be that evident on the outside, or you might seem kind of remarkable, in certain ways, you might seem to be very loving mother teresa type or something. But you know, I think that there is a huge range of possibilities for what a human being can be. I mean, if we take some of the ancient traditions, literally, such as the things Christ was said to have done, or the things the timeslot, talks about, in the Yoga Sutras, and so on, you know, it not only indicates that human beings are capable, much more than we now see them able to do. But it also raises really interesting questions about what our relationship is to the laws of nature. If Christ really were able to walk on water, or to turn water into wine, or, and use other things, if he really did that. And if it’s not just some kind of fanciful story, then, you know, how does he How does consciousness relate to the law of gravity, you know, or to capture it and chemical laws that could enable something like that to happen?
Kabir Helminski: Rick, you bring up in this is an extremely important point. And I’m, I’m very happy. You brought up this question, I would say, more important than developing extraordinary possibilities, which human beings are capable of. I mean, if you just look at the world of sports, and many different areas, people are doing unbelievable things. But I think it would be more important to ask ourselves of all the things a human being can develop. And all that is developable in a human being, what attributes are of the greatest value to be developed, because we can spend a lifetime developing some rather peculiar and perhaps irrelevant things. There’s a story about a Sultan, who offered a huge prize for the person in his realm, who could do that throughout the most incredible skill. And he gave his people a year. And then he had the contest. And so there was one person who developed the skill of being able to throw a piece of thread all the way across the room and have it go through the eye of the needle.
Rick Archer: Whoa, that’s a pretty cool party trick. Pretty
Kabir Helminski: cool. And the Sultan said, alright, this man takes the prize, that take him away, and cut off his head. Because anybody who was stupid enough to spend a year doing that does deserve to live. It was not a Sufi story. But anyway, you get the point. So I think this is memorable. You know, my, one of my teachers said, if you have a horse, and he wanted to develop a horse to be the best horse possible, you wouldn’t treat it like a cow. You wouldn’t say a good horse is a fatter horse, right? You know, so to know what is most developable in a human being and worthy of development, this takes wisdom. Maybe it even takes revelation maybe it takes some Yeah, some some profound supernatural source to give us a little guidance from wandering too far astray into different nonsensical things that we might pride ourselves in developing.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I have a friend named Dana Sawyer, who’s been on BatGap a couple of times who has been to India 20 times and speaks fluent Hindi, and everything has been all over the country. And in his travels, he’s always sort of looked to see if there’s anybody who actually is able to do anything extraordinary, or if they’re all just sort of magicians. And he concludes that pretty much all of them are, they have all their little tricks, like you can put a wall knot on your armpit and squeeze it and make your pot stop and things like that. But he met one guy who was actually capable of, of swallowing a live snake and then regurgitating it. And he wasn’t, it wasn’t a trick. So your example of something totally dead? Yeah, okay. Another abrupt segue here to our next point, he said, the false self is unable to perceive the meaningfulness of events and is unaware of the Divine Mercy operating in every detail of existence. Like that one jumped out at me, because I like the notion that the divine permeates and orchestrates every particle of existence and, and has a sort of a merciful agenda, even though it may not seem like it at times. But in the big in the big picture in the long run. That’s the that’s the trajectory of the divine intelligence. So like you to sort of elaborate on that a bit.
Kabir Helminski: You know, this is very important. And I would contrast this to an attitude we sometimes meet, in spirituality, or in certain spiritual teachings, that the human story can just be dismissed, that ordinary human emotions are garbage or irrelevant or trivial.
Rick Archer: And we’re talking about that earlier, in terms of the way the non dual community was 10 years ago.
Kabir Helminski: Right. Right. And that, you know, to focus purely on the transcendence, and to just regard the human story as unimportant. Now, it may be that sometimes a teacher will. We’ll take that approach, I was just with one of my dear students. And she said, she said to me, you know, I remember so well, that day, when you and I were traveling in a bus across Turkey, and I spoke to you for about an hour. And I told you all about my sorrows. And I was feeling very sorry for myself. And and I told you my whole sets story, and you listen quietly for an hour. And then at the end, you simply said, it’s a story. And it’s your story. Forget
Rick Archer: it. You said that to her.
Kabir Helminski: Just forget it. Well, I said that to her at that point. And that was the right. Apparently, she’s now telling me that was very important to hear that. I would also say something very different, and equally true, which is that if we are awake enough, every detail of our story is imbued with mercy. Every there is a purposefulness in our lives that we can discern. And I guess the distinction here is that this woman was telling me her story, we write our stories, and many of the stories we write are are nonsense. They’re a falsehood that we’ve created. I think that’s what I was pointing to. But when you get down to the truth of every individual human life, every detail is imbued with the Divine Mercy. This is a sort of fundamental axiom. That because takes a little bit
Rick Archer: of philosophical juggling to really get to Jakarta to reconcile that with some of the things we see happening, you know, I mean, these massacres, are children born with horrible diseases and so on. It’s in the Holocaust. And, you know, I mean, how do you respond to that kind of critique?
Kabir Helminski: The way I would respond to that is, first of all, let us look to our own experience, and not be imagining what it’s like to be a child with some disease. But let’s be honest, and look at our own experience, because we all have enough grief and suffering to look at. Okay, now, in every situation, no matter how painful no matter how great the loss This is a, let’s call this a postulate, to be tested, not to be believed. But there’s the possibility of a channel back to the infinite mercy to the infinite grace, within every experience is the possibility of finding the comfort, the blessing in the pain. And the the blessing that is found in moments of extreme pain is sometimes the greatest blessing. And sometimes what really shapes character. In other words, these are soul making events. But they’re only that they’re more likely to be so making events, if we are awake, and if we have trust in the divine, to find the blessing that’s in that pain. So this tool is really very much at the heart of the Quranic revelation, which says that the nature of reality is fundamentally compassionate, and merciful. The compassionate the Rockman in Arabic, is that the, the existence is, is being created, it’s overflowing as an act of divine compassion, the the infinite Divine is breathing all the worlds into existence, as an act of of bestowal and beneficence. within this existence, every witnessing agent can experience at the mercy or the Rahim, which is the channel back to the one. So that’s always there in potential. And sometimes the potential is only fully realized, when we are in extraordinary pain or loss. So this is the balance of existence. This is not to deny that they’re the extraordinary pain and suffering but there’s also another postulate which is that we will never be given more than we can bear. And, but every human being, and every witnessing being that has freewill can go either way can either become embittered by the suffering of life, or can become spiritualized, by the suffering of life. In that way, it’s not as if the Divine is necessarily creating all this suffering, in order to cook us, you know, but in fact, most of the suffering is created by human beings through their own freewill and their collective evils that require of us resistance and courage and, and mercy and service. But the suffering of life that is inevitable, such as disease and death and loss, that cannot be avoided, even if everybody we’re being kind, that that suffering that’s inherent in the nature of existence, is still always a channel, a, and an element that contributes to the perfection of the soul.
Rick Archer: I’m sure some people might argue that but I think you’re right. I’ve interviewed a few people who for whom suffering was their primary path, there’s a woman named Shruti, people can look this up on BatGap, who, you know, had some medical condition which caused so much pain that she would literally black out on the bathroom floor from the pain. And she attributes what she went through to have had a very instrumental in her awakening. And that’s one example.
Kabir Helminski: I just want to respond to what you just said about that. There may be some people who would argue with me about that, or arguably can
Rick Archer: get into philosophical debates about Yeah,
Kabir Helminski: so I don’t know I, I would just say it’s not something to argue about. But I would just refer people to their own experience and find out for themselves honestly, when you are in that pain, how are you going to deal with it? When you’re in that pain? How can How To what extent can you transform that pain or transcend that pain? Not through denying it? I mean, there are certain principles, you will get nowhere through denial, but through acceptance through consciousness
Rick Archer: The next point I’m gonna raise is somewhat related to something you were just saying about freedom of choice and where we put our attention and steering the the course of our life this way in that you say, There are, however, ideas of a higher order that originate through contact with a deeper reality. And if these ideas are learned and thoroughly assimilated by our intellects, then their significance may be transferred to the subconscious mind. And it kind of reminds me like, if you eat junk food all the time, then junk is going to sort of be what builds up your body tissues, you know, and it’s going to result in various health problems. And so what you’re saying here, I think, is that, you know, contacting a deeper reality, and, you know, having your attention there, gets assimilated by our intellects and is then transferred to the subconscious mind, much the way what we eat is transferred to our tissues. And it becomes sort of like, kind of our, our deeper makeup, you know, and just kind of governs the day to day course of our life, even if we’re not consciously remembering all these things that we’ve imbibed.
Kabir Helminski: Yes, yes. Well, a simple example of this would be learning gratitude. I remember, many years ago, the first time I heard about gratitude as a spiritual possibility, and I was maybe 22 years old, perhaps something like that. And I, I had had a religious education. I was raised as a Catholic. I don’t ever honestly, no one told me about gratitude. Which I believe now is the foundation of all virtues. But when I first heard in fact, it was my own shake. Suliman did a lovely shake, who first expressed the value of gratitude. Well, starting with that very simple idea, it was so new, it’s shocking to think of it now that that could have been a new idea. But since that time, gratitude has been a practice more and more, I’m still working at it. Not grateful all the time. But it’s become more of my natural response to the world and to events, it’s almost second nature, to be in that state of gratitude for everything, for everything that comes everything that happens. And that took time, and a certain training of the mind, to where you don’t immediately resist resent complain. And
Rick Archer: that because of what we were talking about previously, Divine Mercy, I mean, if because if you really, if you really in your bones, have a knowing that everything is Divine Mercy, then you’re going to be grateful for whatever happens.
Kabir Helminski: That’s the metaphysical foundation. I was it, yes. But it also has to be experiential, you have to have enough experiences of the truth of that right? To be convinced to be convinced of
Rick Archer: it. Yeah. I haven’t asked you much about your personal experience. And some people are reticent to talk about that Buddhists are reticent to talk about it. But I mean, you know, you’ve been doing this for decades now. And what has that what has it done to your day to day, hour to hour 24/7 state of consciousness.
Kabir Helminski: I recognize in myself a self a personality self, or an egoic self that has its reactions, its preferences, its annoyances, its pleasures, all of that stuff. And then I recognize in myself another aspect of my being, that is deeper, that is prior to all of that stuff. And more and more, I live with these two in relationship and the one with the primary one, which is the deeper I choose to call it the essential self which has is closer to the divine qualities of patience and gratitude and forgiveness, etc. is exercising an influence on the personality level. To both restrain it with necessary and to cultivate the personality as an instrument of expression. Almost like an I guess the way an actor would cultivate a role, but it’s not just a role. It’s it’s, it’s the, the, the social self, the personality self is there to engage in relationship with other people. And you have your own intrinsic qualities that are personal to you. I’m you know, I’m basically an intern, I’m somewhat of an introvert, even though as much as I do, teaching in public, I’m basically an introvert. And I don’t particularly like attention, but I find myself in that role. So I have my own attributes. And I, that essential self is living more and more in a state of trust, less fear, let’s see, best resentment. This seems to be where the process leads. And I also think that if I were to put this into a sort of more theoretical framework, I would say that I believe I say, I know that everything that I am, all with my best qualities, I wouldn’t even call them what I find, insofar as they threw me are sourced. in something else, they are sourced in the divine source, you know, to use a simple, fairly neutral term, they’re sourced in the source, I have no, I have no gratitude, I have no patience, I have no power of forgiveness, I have no strength. All of these things are sourced in that source. And to the extent I can activate those things, they gain expression through me. Yeah. So I see, I see my life as really the awakening and expression of those divine qualities in everyday life. And I also see my most immediate practice for me, the constant practice is removing the obstacles to love to everything that gets in the way of the simple, non judgmental, state as being in relationship to everyone in this world and everything in this world.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I mean, an analogy I would use to describe what you just said is that, you know, all the things that we use, in our daily lives that run off electricity, don’t work without the electricity. I mean, light bulbs don’t create light with electricity, refrigerators, don’t create coldness, and so on. And so you know, the qualities that these things are designed to display, they can only do if they are plugged in properly to the electrical source. And so same with same with human beings accepted, you know, the analogy is not so I mean, the analogy is simplistic, because that source we’re referring to here is a infinite repository of all sorts of beautiful qualities. And I imagine you can, you can elaborate on this. There, there. It’s not just sort of pure plain vanilla oneness, there are all all the laws of nature, all the qualities of nature, everything in the whole universe resides there and seed form and gets expressed or manifested or channeled through the various instruments of the Divine that we regard as the
Kabir Helminski: world. Exactly. So we can think of the Divine as spirituality or consciousness as plugging ourselves into the outlet of divine energy.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Yeah. And there are all sorts of beautiful qualities that can radiate through us once we’ve done that.
Kabir Helminski: Yes, yes. Yeah, there’s a lot of truth in that. There is a fundamental energy that is fundamentally electromagnetic, and it runs on a spectrum from sexual to spiritual is so fundamentally one energy. And people get sometimes confused about, you know, what to do with that energy and how to how to use it, how to transform it, what to use it for.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And this sounds a lot like you know, the Hindu or tantric ideas of Kundalini energy and the various chakras that it can rise through and so on. Yeah, yes. So, my previous earlier question was about attention and where we put our attention and how the qualities of the of that we imbibe through where we put our attention get ultimately digested and to and stored in the subconscious mind. There are a number of other points you made about attention that I thought would be worth elaborating on here, you can see said it could almost be said that a human being is whatever his or her attention is focused on, I guess no way of phrasing it is that to which we give our attention grows stronger in our life.
Kabir Helminski: Yes. So imagine, I mean, that’s a pretty absolute statement that I made. But I think I would justify it by saying, if we could truly give our attention to the Divine, we would reflect the divine. Rumi says, if your thought is a rose, you are the Rose Garden. So whatever we hold in our attention, we become that. And Sufi practice involves work with the divine attributes through the Divine Names that are in Arabic and Trent and also present in all the languages of Sufism, Turkish, Persian, etc, etc. But Sufis will, or a shake will give to a student, a certain divine name to focus on, maybe if they need to, maybe it’s a quality that needs strengthening in them, like awareness, maybe it’s something they have naturally, and which you want to develop it even more, or in some cases, it might be an attribute, like, a person may be very shy, you want to give them some strength, so you give them an attribute related to the divine strength. So it’s as if we live, we live in a world of qualities, not just the world of things, senses and the mind know the world of things, the heart knows the world of qualities. So if we focus our heart, on these different qualities, then we make those qualities more real, and ourselves, they become part of our, of who we are, and of our character, of our very being. So the qualitative development of the human being, which is going on, in many ways, unconsciously it can go on to in art, you know, when you read a great novel, for instance, or music, and you’re inspired by, you know, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and shoulders, words of freedom, you know, the soul is developing qualitatively. So this would be an interesting approach to spiritual education to, to think of it in terms of, you know, the qualitative development of the human being through the heart.
Rick Archer: That’s very interesting approach. And, and the point that comes across is that it’s, it’s cumulative. And it’s, it’s not necessarily instantaneous. So there’s going to be accumulation over time of the qualities which, to which we give our attention.
Kabir Helminski: Yes, yes. And we can, we can live our lives this way. I mean, what else is there to do,
Rick Archer: really, continuing on this theme, you say, we not only need attention, we also need balance, balance between the narrow and the wide, the outer and the inner, the material and the spiritual. And this brings up an interesting point, maybe you can riff on this a little bit, which is that, you know, on the one hand, we need routine and habit and training and so on to accomplish things. You know, you can’t reinvent the wheel every time we want to do something there. So, so routine work is kind of, you know, involved in almost every occupation and everything else we do. But retain work can be very routine can be very narrowing to the awareness. And so it has to be kind of counterbalanced with unboundedness. And then in with that, bound with that deeper foundation of unboundedness routines are no longer binding. So there’s this sort of, you know, boundless and boundaries, seesaw balance that is achieved?
Kabir Helminski: Yes, yes. Our practice, for instance, has its routines. And its unboundedness. The routines in, in traditional Sufi practice, for instance, is a ritual prayer five times a day and the ritual prayer, it’s the same thing again, and again, and again, it’s certain series of postures, the but the wisdom in the ritual prayer, is that there’s also an element in the ritual prayer where you, you have the option to recite a verses of the Quran that you’ve memorized, that are your own choice. So theoretically, you can add you know, those particulars that those unique choices into the ongoing, repetitive ritual, and also the beauty of the ritual and its repetitiveness is that it becomes a A reference point, and as to travel through stages of awareness or depths of awareness, your experience of that repetitive ritual changes. But meanwhile, that is something in Sufism that you only eat, do it five times a day. And maybe it takes you five to 10 minutes each for each of those times of prayer, it doesn’t take a lot of time. Meanwhile, between those times of the ritual prayer, you’re living your life. But because you have those inflection points in your day where you’re called to remembrance of the Divine, then the periods in between, have more remembrance with them. Yeah, and you’re living your life. You’re not, you’re not, you know, Sufis don’t spend huge amounts of time. In meditation, they don’t see meditation as the purpose of life, or they don’t even see it as the as the primary means of reaching realization. I mean, it has its place, don’t get me wrong. In a certain measure, there should be, I mean, there’s meditation and daily Sufi practice, and maybe it’s half hour, maybe it’s an hour, plus the ritual prayer and chanting and other things. But But rarely do Sufis, except for limited periods of retreat, which might be 40 days long, and that’s pretty long. But generally, the, it’s considered to be a perfectly comprehensive spiritual practice, to pray five times a day, to be in a state of remembrance in between, to do some zikr or chanting, but then to live your life in remembrance, and to have that freedom, for your relationships, for your creativity for for whatever your freewill chooses. So but it’s all in a sense, contained in that matrix of regular ritual worship.
Rick Archer: You don’t take a shower all day long, either, you know, but you take one at least once, and it keeps you clean as your cleaner all day by virtue of having taken it. And maybe if you do a lot of physical work, you take a couple of them, you know, and each one kind of reestablishes cleanliness. And, you know, actually, a better analogy might be dyeing a cloth where they used to do it in India, dip it in the dye bleach in the sun dip in the dye bleach in the sun each time, it bleaches, it loses its color, but it gets more and more and more color fast through that alternating practice and eventually can’t lose its color in the brightest sunlight.
Kabir Helminski: Yes, yes.
Rick Archer: Okay, continuing on the theme of attention, and I picked out all these quotes for your book that I liked. This was a good one competition competition between the higher and lower energies of our psyche, I think a lot of people can relate to this, when we feel centered, the higher energies of our psyche are able to organize the lower energies and lend them a coherence that they normally lack. At the same time, however, the lower energies are able to disorganize the higher ones and introduce into them something of the incoherence of the lower levels. So you know, this is kind of tug of war thing that can happen. Have you and elaborate before I say anything else?
Kabir Helminski: Well to have our spiritual practices our way of centering ourselves. And in Sufism, we think quite explicitly, for instance, in the ritual prayer, there’s a moment when your forehead touches the ground, that’s a moment of complete total bodily and emotional and intellectual spiritual submission, submission to the oneness. It’s a very single pointed practice. So imagine practicing that again, and again, and again, it’s like, focusing right into the deepest center. And all spiritual practices can be like that. And we often talk of the a dimension, this point within our own being. And dimensionless means it’s nowhere but we say it’s within ourselves. If we could place our attention on that dimensionless point within our own being, we have connected to something that is profoundly magnetic. And, and it induces coherence, in our emotions, in our thoughts. So this is the idea of, of, you know, it’s actually interesting for people to hear what’s going on when they see Muslims standing, bowing and prostrating. What are they prostrating to? First of all, they’re not prostrating to a hierarchy. They’re not prostrating to a theology or a concept. They’re not prostrating to an institution or church. They are prostrating to the infinite. And the most common synonym for Allah is a hoc which means the real. So the real and Allah are synonymous. They’re prostrating to the real. Now, they’re praying at, ideally at roughly five times a day. So imagine their five waves of prayer of ritual prayer circling the planet at all times. Got that? Yeah. Can you imagine? So there are people bowing and prostrating to the real five waves circling the planet at all times. Also, they are oriented towards Mecca. In other words, they’re all in their intention, is to orient themselves to an empty cube, an empty cube in Mecca, there’s nothing in that cube. And everybody knows, there’s nothing in that cube. That two is the dimension this point. Now, if you were to place yourself in that empty cube, these five waves of humanity in worship circling the globe, all of those souls would be in a sense of meeting themselves, they’re in that empty cube. So this is an energetic phenomenon. And by virtue of connecting into that emptiness, that purity, which is the divine alone, and Islam is one of the beauties of Islam is that it’s very fastidious about not allowing any idols, you know, no, no human idols, no theological idols, it’s a kind of art, trust, the divine and the divine alone. And that’s what people are bowing to. That’s what people are bound to in themselves. That’s what they are remembering. And, and the Quran, Islam teaches, the greatest practice is remembrance of God, for truly, in the remembrance of God, hearts, find tranquility. That’s the essence of the whole thing.
Rick Archer: Nice. Of course, that idols thing that was taken to extreme and this distorted, you know, the cartoonist, and that whole, we don’t even get into it. We’ve talked in the beginning about that sort of fundamentalist attitude. Alright, so I have a lot of notes here still, but I can’t, we won’t have time to do them all. But here’s one that is a little different than the other things I’ve talked about, which I thought was interesting. It’s one of the sayings transmitted by the Prophet Muhammad, God says, take refuge in my mercy from my wrath, take refuge in Me, from me. And I thought that was cool, because I think that in a way, you know, God is all there is really I mean, if God is omnipresent, then how can there be anything other than God? And if there is something other than God, then he’s not on the present, there’s a hole in him, you know? And, and so the whole notion of, you know, taking refuge in Me from me, just intrigued me.
Kabir Helminski: Well, it could be confusing and intriguing and confusing, or it could be evidence of this non dual reality that I’ve been trying to point to. But let’s take this apart a little bit. In this cosmic existence that we find ourselves in, we can recognize that there are qualities of wrath or stringency and power on the one hand, and on the other hand, there are the qualities of beauty, mercy, compassion, tenderness. So we have two great categories. Let’s call one the attributes of beauty. And the other the are traditionally called the attributes of power, but with that power is also the destructive power of the wrath, the wrath not as a personal emotion, but as that which is just blows things away. And so this is these, it would be false and overly sentimental to ignore that. Wrath and stringency is an aspect of reality. It is part of the makeup of reality, there are hurricanes, there are earthquakes, just as there are tropical basis, you know, and beautiful, you know, forest ponds. So, this is the situation we’re in. But the teaching is, and this is said in another Islamic saying, My Mercy prevails over my rights. In other words, My Mercy is the bottom line, everything finally adds up to Mercy. Even the wrath is just mercy with a little veneer of wrath.
Rick Archer: Like Keller strict parent who really loves you, and this Yeah, it’s full
Kabir Helminski: of love. And even the strictness is an aspect of the love and will bring you back. Sometimes it’s brings you back to the straight path. Sometimes it brings you back to reality. So that’s how it’s viewed now. It’s kind of a charming and scary way to say it, you know, what you just read, take, take refuge in Me, in front of me. So that’s just a very sobering, very direct way of telling us that the refuge is always possible. And that’s called Rahim, that’s the Mercy quality that I was talking about before. It’s that there’s always a channel back to the mercy in every moment in every circumstance.
Rick Archer: Yeah, here’s a quote that I think related this, I think this is from the Quran. It’s the unsuspecting child first wipes the tablet, then right, and then writes the letters on it. God turns the heart into blood and desperate tears, then writes the spiritual mysteries on it.
Kabir Helminski: That’s from Rumi. It’s the same idea. Okay, that’s, that’s some poetry of Rumi, and associate very well, doesn’t it seem even more poetic
Rick Archer: relates to the whole suffering thing we were talking about earlier?
Kabir Helminski: Yeah. Yeah. Okay.
Rick Archer: And this Harrison Knight is a nice wrap up point for something that we discussed earlier also, that you wrote this in your book, presence allows us to open to the suffering of the world, compassion is being able to feel the world suffering, without being drowned by it. I love them.
Kabir Helminski: Yeah, yeah. Well, all I can say to that, Rick is, presence is a human attribute to be developed, it is our perhaps most fundamental and important spiritual attribute, because everything we will ever attain, everything we will ever truly know and experience will be experienced and known more fully, and presence. Presence is that comprehensive self awareness, I want to define it. It’s not just some, you know, vague term, presence is a state above our thinking or feeling or sense impressions or behavior. It’s a comprehensive state of self awareness, that comprehensively gathers all of those other kinds of experience, thought feeling, sensing, into a single field of awareness. And also included in that is our direct spiritual experience. So this is the, you know, what’s absolutely necessary in order for us to be able to receive the divine wisdom and grace that is always showering upon us. And by the very nature of reality itself, that reality itself is showering the conscious witness with qualities with insights with meaning with beauty. And there is no greater work than to awaken the presence to be aware of that.
Rick Archer: Incidentally, I was impressed by the fact that you wrote this book 25 years ago. I mean, if I had written anything, 25 years ago, it would be a far cry from anything I would be capable of writing today. So pretty good. Well, thank you. Yeah. Here’s another point of view on presence for your book. As we learn to make our home in consciousness or presence. We feel more freedom within our circumstances, even without changing them. Like that one. And okay, so again, the word presents been in a different context here, and I find this one interesting, within ourselves, we are surrounded by presences. The saints and masters are here within us, as is the presence of spirit. And you alluded to this elsewhere too. Earlier in the interview. Do you feel that the saints and masters who have died are still still exist in some form and are kind of overseeing or helping humanity?
Kabir Helminski: Yes, that’s sometimes very tangible. Something we’re aware of. And I, personally I feel that I we owe so much, for instance, to the presence of Rumi. I think they is no other explanation for the kinds of transformation that I’ve witnessed in others, but that there is some kind of flow of an influence, a blessing that comes from certain sources and that these qualities or this these presences are eternal they are, they are not bound by time and space. So, there are morphogenetic fields of quite a qualitative morphogenetic fields, to use Sheldrake term, which makes sense if you’re aware of what it means. And so this is such an important part of spirituality and it’s, it’s one of the reasons why our respect for the traditions should humble us and make us more receptive and not, you know, as, as independent and practical as we Americans are. We shouldn’t get to go too far with that. to neglect that we need help. And, and there is spiritual help.
Rick Archer: Nice. Okay, here’s the final quote from your book. It’ll be a good one to end on. This divine, this divine essence is nearer to us than our jugular vein. The Divine faces everywhere to be seen. Its qualities surround us.
Kabir Helminski: Yes, yes. And that’s straight from the Quran. Okay, great. Yeah, that’s, that’s an example of the mysticism of the Quran and how close it is to the surface. I mean, it’s right there. It’s right explicit. The Quran is a deeply mystical text, and we’re serving you look as the face of God and,
Rick Archer: and that kind of quote, you’d get give everyone hope and inspiration. I mean, you know, the Divine is not somewhere far off in a place that we couldn’t reach. It’s nearer to us than our jugular vein, it permeates every cell in our body. And it’s just a matter of tuning into something that’s already completely within us.
Kabir Helminski: It’s infinitely near. And the word for St. And our tradition is Wally. And while he means the one who is near to, in this case, near to God, a friend is a wildly so the saint, we don’t have a word like Saint that comes from Santos and Latin, the meaning of the equivalent of a saint. And the Islamic Sufi tradition is the one who is the friend of God because of being near near to the divine. Nice. That’s a nice a nice way to consider that
Rick Archer: we can all be that because we are we’re all near to the divine. We just have to become aware of our nearness,
Kabir Helminski: every human being. And everything I’m saying is not there’s no, nobody holds the franchise on this doesn’t belong to any one religion. Truth is truth. You know, Muhammad says it’s so beautiful. He says, truth is the believers last camel. Meaning when you recognize it, you recognize it as your own. Like nobody would mistake the last camel. I look at that camera camera was mine. So choose wherever you find it is your last camel. Nice.
Rick Archer: Well, on that note, let’s end. I really appreciate it spending this time with you. And I think people really appreciate this. Yeah, this is I you know, the book that I’ve been quoting from mostly here is what was it living presence. And I’ll link to it from your page on bat gap calm I I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s all good stuff. And I’ll also link to your website and anything else you want me to link to.
Kabir Helminski: So there’s one other book I’ll mention. I mean, there are a lot of that one too. But what was the other one? The knowing
Rick Archer: heart and knowing our
Kabir Helminski: living isn’t so the knowing harder, almost like a pair. living presence is more universal. But the knowing heart is more explicitly about the Sufi tradition. It’s pretty universal too. But it’s about the heart but it’s also about the knowing heart and and about the issues of bringing an ancient tradition into the contemporary world. Great. All right.
Rick Archer: Well, I hope this has been a you know, hope a lot of people will be introduced to you through this interview. And I think most of the listeners to the show would really enjoy reading your books or tuning into what you’re doing in whatever way they can do. Yeah,
Kabir Helminski: appreciate the time you’ve taken right. I think this is the longest interview I’ve ever given. And I appreciate your allowing the depth that in God willing, that there may be some depth in this, or at least a tiny amount of time to do justice to some of these ideas.
Rick Archer: Well, that’s what I tried to do, you know, I’ve got nothing better to do really, except my wife doesn’t have to chase down the UPS truck, because there’s something very important that we needed. It didn’t leave. So I’m going to do that in a minute. But in any case, I love to do that with these interviews is prepare for them as much as they can during the week, and then really spend a couple hours going as deep and as comprehensively as possible with the person so that, you know, so that people can really, and get more than just dip their toe in.
Kabir Helminski: Well, thank you. I feel like it was a really good dialogue between us. So thank you. So
Rick Archer: thanks. So let me just make a couple of quick concluding remarks. And then I’m going to go chase the UPS truck. This is an ongoing series, as most of you watching will be aware, go to batgap.com Bat gap and just check out the different menus. And you’ll see everything that we have to offer and all the past interviews and the upcoming ones that are scheduled and so on. So thanks for listening or watching. And thank you again Kabir and we’ll see you all next week.
Kabir Helminski: Thank you