by Anat Vaughan-Lee
Transcription of a Closing Reflection for the Conference “The Global Peace Initiative for Women” in Jaipur, India, March 2008
My name is Anat and I belong to the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Order of Sufism that came to the West from India on the death of our Sufi Teacher in 1966. It was brought to the West by Irina Tweedie who was the first woman to be trained according to this ancient Sufi tradition.
We are known as the silent Sufis as all our practices are done in silence. We practice a silent meditation of the heart and the silent repetition of the name of God. We believe in the Oneness of Being, which appears by countless names and attributes.
It is an honor and a special feeling to be here in India, and to be here together with all of you and share your incredible experiences, so many which are so painful, and all make me want to go down on my knees each time I hear them. I have found listening to all the shared stories and experiences I was able to hear – that underneath each of them there is a common thread, or a return to a core within ourselves that honors life, in spite of everything that has happened to each, that reaches out to the other, in spite of everything, and underneath it there is a CRY. To quote Ali, from Palestine who said, “The human being in me was crying out and said I can not live like this anymore.”
Life is crying to be heard again, humanity is crying, the earth is crying. It is not a metaphor. Two years ago in my meditation I heard the earth cry. It was something I will never forget. It is in my body. I never thought that the earth could cry like that. It was the most physical experience. Some people might think that I may be a little cuckoo if I say that, but I know that I am not. It is real. There is a great reason why we are all gathering here together. On one level or another you also heard a cry consciously or unconsciously. Otherwise you would not be here. So what is here? So what is this gathering here and what are we called for?
To begin, I would like to share with you three quotes:
One hundred years ago the great Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan said: “I can see as clear as a daylight that the hour is coming when women will lead humanity to a higher evolution.”
This was written between 1914-18.
Fifty years ago the great metaphysical English painter and writer Cecil Collins, whom I was so fortunate to have as a teacher said:
“We have denied the spirit of the earth, and that spirit of the earth has to appear in woman. The meeting of the spirit of the earth and the spirit of the other world is one of the great moments that, I believe, will come in the future history of culture.”
My teacher, Irina Tweedie who passed away eight years ago and was a great Sufi woman and a great lover of God, simply said to me just before her passing, “Anati, she said, the women are coming back.”
Now, the qualities that are constantly repeated here in this gathering and are called for as guidelines are “reflect the themes,” so reflection is the first, then “listening,” “sharing way of being,” “gathering,” “inclusive,” “communicating,” “natural forces,” and “resources”, which are all by their nature are feminine qualities and qualities of the earth…
In the light of our gathering when asked to reflect, I recognized it first and foremost as a calling, a calling to remember. Also, the request to reflect immediately attracted my attention to two things. First, what does reflection really mean and second, what is the real root meaning of the word responsibility that we are called for at this time as women, as human beings and custodians of the earth. The image of reflection for me came first as the image of the surface of water, the source of life without we cannot live, that when clear allows the reflection of whatever is near and above to reflect on it. It is a feminine quality and it is very mysterious. So by its nature it connects us to the mystery of life.
But one cannot speak of the surface of water without speaking about water itself. As water is the source of life, the resource of life, the agent of regeneration, the foundation of all life, if water is contaminated all creatures would be denied their existence. So one has to return to the core. To the essence, to that reality on all levels!!!!!!!!
Now reflection, to quote Helen Luke who says: “The first thing that strikes me in the word reflection – is that’s what a mirror is. It reflects back to you. It means really bending back, also it means, “manifest or bring back.” Like water manifests and always brings back and gives life. Reflection comes from an instinct within us and it is the only instinct that is solely human. It is that which creates consciousness.”
In other words “A human being’s reflective powers not only separate him from the animal world, they also allow him to look into the depth of the unconscious without being assimilated back into the primal world.” (1) Again, reflection implies consciousness. So our first responsibility is the recognition that consciousness is part of the divine life process. In other words God BECOMES MANIFEST IN THE HUMAN ACT OF REFLECTION.
Now, the word responsibility, which, in my opinion, has taken a masculine form, really means something that we have forgotten: its root. It means to promise again. “Re” means again and “spondre” means to promise. So to respond means to promise again. To make anew. It is the remembrance of the original “Yes” to life, to creation, to your ultimate purpose, your sacred most necessary task.(2) So the word reflection in its true meaning — and responsibility in its true meaning — is the YES of creation and in creation. Therefore the natural consciousness, that innate instinct of reflection of the purpose of creation, the imprint, the yes, that is feminine sacredness, the consciousness of life itself, that is what needs to be restored.
The feminine, whether the feminine quality or women themselves, holds the secret of creation, which is the light hidden in matter. This is very important to understand; that if one is to do any real spiritual work at this time of global and ecological crisis, one has to realize that the feminine holds the unique understanding of the sacredness in matter and also how we need to reawaken this aspect in life.
My teacher used to say, woman is like gold. Whatever happens to her, she is like gold. If you put gold in the latrine it still remains gold. This might sound rather simplistic but it is an eternal truth. And truth is a simple essence. The Sufis say: the woman will never get old otherwise creation will die. Women have this magical substance in their being that has to do with the real mystery of creation. As only women can give birth to a human being, can bring a light of a divine soul into this world. The creative energy of all YES. To bring forth is always a YES it can never be a no. And thus: “All creativity is to do with the relationship with life, with each other. It is not a product that can be rationalized. It is about is the mystery of being.”(3)
So woman has this knowledge, this real language of life, and the language of oneness in her body. So, to quote Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee, who is a Sufi teacher: “We have to realize that when we deny the divine mystery of the feminine, we also deny something fundamental to life. We separate life from its sacred core, from the matrix that nourishes all creation. We cut ourselves from the source that alone can heal, nourish, and transform. The same sacred source that gave birth to each of us is needed to give meaning to our life, to nourish it with what is real and to reveal to us the mystery, the purpose of being alive. Because humanity has a central function in the whole of creation, what we deny ourselves we deny to all of life. In denying the feminine her sacred power and purpose, we have impoverished life on personal and global levels in ways we do not understand. Yes, we see now the outer effects on the earth, but it is so much more difficult to recognize the inner effects, which have been devastating.”(4)
So at this present time I am reminded of the saying of Jesus talking to Martha: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”’ Luke 41
Woman has to remember, reclaim who she is and by doing so, reclaim, midwife, the reawakening of the spiritual understanding of life. And I am also reminded of what Mother Teresa said: “We serve life not because it is broken but because it is Holy.”
I believe unless we return to the remembrance, to the realization that we are a soul,that the earth is a living being, that the rich soil (which is the darkness that allows all things to grow) is sacred, to the organic sense of life, to the fact that water is the source of life and that we are also water, to this knowledge, which is held naturally within the woman’s body as a sacred space, within the feminine feeling values of the heart, both in man and woman, until then nothing can or will happen. Only then, all feminine qualities will rise as a natural follow-up from a sacred space and can be implemented in the outer world as service to humanity, as an agent of change in consciousness, a revitalizing force of a new life.
This is the one thing needful!
Then tending, caring, attention, listening, nurturing, and devotion follow naturally. Then action and feeling can become one, the relationship between the inner and outer can be restored, spirit and matter are one, masculine and feminine are in service to life. Earth and woman are one. Only then a new earth can emerge, reflection in its true meaning be lived, and responsibility will become a living force.
© 2008 The Golden Sufi Center
1. Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Moshkel Gosha, chapter 8.
2. Inspired by a talk given by Pir Zia Inayat-Khan
3. Cecil Collins.
4. Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.