Note/update: I previously noted the idea that soul questions in sufism are so advanced they must come from a source far advanced from human technology. How can that be: J.B. Bennett figured it out (or else Gurdjieff suspected as much), and spoke of the demiurgic powers of nature: beings fully material in some sense (but without human type bodies), and almost by definition to deal with complex ‘spiritual/material’ questions where homo sapiens even at the Adept level is very limited. More later. My point seems confirmed: NK speaks of the Adepts guiding human evolution. I doubt it. An Adept would depart from human life without having ever known about ‘biological evolution’. You can see this from the way figures like Gurdjieff in the era of Darwin confuse biological and spiritual evolution. The ancient legacies did not grasp the question.
Such a question requires beings who can have intersected with evolution since the dawn of planetary life. The ‘spiritual evolution’ of man is merely the evolution of man as he is: his acquisition of mind, soul, and language, with a complex consciousness that can transform into Turiya. I suspect this evolution, pace Bennett, was partly guided by the only beings who could be relevant to discussion: demmiurgic powers. These are probably the beings mentioned by Gurdjieff as being ‘immortal within the limits of the solar system’. This discussion is purely hypothetical, but is useful to bypass creationist confusions. This discussion is important because we can’t assume that enlightened buddhas turn around and design biological creatures. They have left samsara. And they wouldn’t have omniscient knowledge of biological systems, or for that matter any close understanding of ‘evolution’ in the general sense. As noted there is stage beyond enlightenment about which we know nothing.
The comments of NK have been brought to a post level with my commentary.
3 responses so far ?
1 Nk // Feb 26, 2015 at 10:42 am
“so we are talking about something that has eluded all scholars of religion and all scholars of sufism.”
Uhh…are you suggesting that we’re supposed to make stuff up & impute ideas to the classic sources that were never there? I don’t buy the dubious claim that Gurdjieff had access to esoteric knowledge that isn’t in public sources. All of the people creating esoteric religions in that era seem to have been influenced by similar Theosophical ideas (Max Heindel, Steiner, etc.).
As for the connection with Lataif and “growing a soul,” the connection with classic sources is dubious:
2 Nk // Feb 26, 2015 at 10:54 am
These great Adepts, belonging to human evolution but having already advanced far beyond the cycle of rebirth, are reported as being among those exalted Beings who guide mankind’s evolution, the Compassionate Ones.
3 nemo // Feb 26, 2015 at 12:27 pm
NK, you need to step carefully here. You have a considerable scholarship of buddhism, but sufis are strange, and have outsmarted everyone. I am no fan of sufis or Gurdjieff, but buddhist analysis is not sufficient here. Period. Buddhists are going to fumble here, because they think they represent the core of true religion. But buddhism leads beyond samsara. Other forms of spirituality examine historical action and its nature. There the religions of monotheism play a unique role disguised by their frequent muddle. And their failure to understand their own theology, here the issue of soul.
I have been as critical of Gurdjieff as anyone, and I have criticized his theosophical borrowings. But I didn’t get this from Gurdjieff. I have navigated sufi schools and learned at first hand that ‘sufism’ contains something not known to anyone outside, including buddhists. However, I suspect that the synchrony of Xtianity and Mahayana leaves a suspicion, which only occurred to me recently, suggests that buddhism changed gears and that the boddhisattwa had to adopt a ‘soul’ of some kind to be just short of final enlightenment: he would stay in the world. I don’t know if that is true, but in any case, I find it unlikely that those who created Mahyana didn’t discover what Xtianity was really up to.
But that is another issue. I can’t speak for Gurdjieff. I suspect he was aware of the sufi ‘soul’ question, but his curious style of discussion makes this unclear. You are right: he is borrowing theosophical jargon. But he is a difficult man to evaluate. He was using his material to attract people.
Whatever the case sufis have their own probably very ancient ‘soul’ initiation process. I passed through it, without staying with it, so I know it exists, that noone has ever openly discussed it to my knowledge (even Gurdjieff is in cover up mode)
These quotations misuse the term evolution, in the biological sense, and reaching enlightenment is not evolution.
The issue of ‘soul’ in the sufi sense is a tremendous elusive riddle, but, strangely, it is very concrete. I have no proof that Adepts guide human evolution. In their cycle of lives they never studied biochemistry. The evidence for evolution, leaving out the later confusions of Darwin, in the general era of Buffon to Lamark created human knowledge that was a first in human history. …..I am going to transfer this to post level…..
It is very difficult to handle this question, and I think I have indirectly asked to comment here, I am not sure of the source. I think sufis tend to get confused themselves here and are unable to figure out their own situation. Buddhist cliches must seem tempting at that point. But buddhism, despite my sudden suspicion about Hahayana, is a different case.
The question of Gurdjieff’s hidden knowledge, despite my harsh criticisms, is hard to evaluate. You might retrace my steps from last week when I reviewed the book on Gurdjieff: I stated out critically and ended up discussing the question of Egyptian religion and the suspected link with Xtianity and then Islam. That issue is up in the air, but I suspect Gurdjieff was aware of the sufi legacy here and rightly called it something ancient. You have studied religion long enough to know that some speak of ‘esotericism’. This is surely an example.
I think the sufi world is trying to issue a warning: moslems are not dumb sods. Their religion hides a very deep and ancient lore that Xtianity seems to have lost. And secularists should be wary here: Islam isn’t bible belt Xtianity: its outer form is very complex, and its sufism ranks as a major sector of practice related distantly to yoga.
Your reference to Lataif/etc, is not a part of my knowledge. I don’t think it has anything to do with what I am talking about. As I said before, this form of soul practice comes without an explicit literature of any kind. That means that noone in the legacy of Islam has spoken of this in the open. I could be wrong. It was never intended that those who enter this process should be muslims, necessarily. Hard to say. We have no facts.
Anyway, enough for now. But I would be wary of rejecting this out of hand. That Gurdjieff sought out Theosophical texts is hardly surprising. What’s a sufi teacher to do. The reality is not in the open and there are no documentary sources of any kind. It is just icy silence.
In any case, my strategy is blow the gaskets here, and make the issue enter the public domain.
– See more at: http://darwiniana.com/2015/02/25/nk-comments-the-strangeness-of-the-soul-question/comment-page-1/#comment-728969