History. Culture. Islam

Louis Brenner
West African Sufi
The Religious Heritage and Spiritual Search of Cerno Bokar Saalif Taal

University of California Press
Berkeley & Los Angeles. 1984. 215 p.

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The Spiritual Discourses

1. Are the children of the same father, in spite of their physical differences, any less brothers and legitimate sons of their parents?

It is from contemplating this truth that we come to pity those who refuse to recognize the spiritual ideas of believers from religions [different from their own], and who deny them a place in the brotherhood of the one God, the unique and unchanging Creator. For us, with all due respect to those attached to the letter [of the law], only one thing counts above all other: to recognize the existence of God and His Oneness.
Thus, brother in God who comes to the threshold of our zawiya, abode of love and charity, do not provoke the follower of Moses. God has given witness that he said to his people:

... Seek help in Allah and endure. Lo! the earth is Allah's. He giveth it for an inheritance to whom He will. And lo! the sequel is for those who keep their duty (to Him) (VII, 128).

Neither should you provoke the follower of Jesus. God has said, in speaking of the miraculous child of Mary, the Virgin-Mother:

... and We gave Jesus, son of Mary, clear proofs (of Allah's Sovereignty) and We supported him with the holy Spirit (II, 253).

And as for the other humans? Certainly, let them enter and even greet them fraternally in order to honor in them their inheritance from Adam, of which God has said:

And when I have fashioned him and breathed into him of My Spirit, then fall down before him prostrate, … (XXXVIII, 72).

This verse suggests that in each [human] descendant, due to his inheritance from Adam, there is a particle of the spirit of God. How could we dare to scorn a vessel which contains a particle of the spirit of God?

You, who come to us and whom we consider not as a student but as a brother, reflect and meditate on this verse from the Book of Guidance:
There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower (II, 256). (VE, 147-8)

2. Do you know a part of the earth which receives neither the light of the sun nor that of the moon, nor that of any one of the numerous stars and planets which ornament the sky, nor the rays of dawn, nor the reddening glow of the setting sun?

It is only in this place that man might have the right to question the existence of God. In every other place where one perceives His wonders, the heart, the mind and the eyes with which we have been endowed must cause us to think upon the author of such beauty.
You who come to us and whom we consider not as a student but as a brother, reflect. Before entering the zdwiya where love and knowledge are sought, meditate on the lights of the verse and benefit from it:

And of His signs is this: He created you of dust, and behold you human beings, ranging widely! (XXX, 20).
(TB, 78; VE, 140-1)

3. There are only two categories of people in this world : those who believe in God and who are distributed among the diverse forms of religion, and those who doubt the existence of God and who are similarly distributed among the diverse forms of the negation of the existence of God.

These two groups are diametrically opposed. They form two camps in perpetual combat. What is tragically ridiculous and not to the honor of the human spirit is that the believers in God war among themselves as if they did not say the same thing and attest to the same truth.
As for us, we embrace the doctrine which states that all who believe in the existence of God form one family united by a single idea. The mutual opposition of various believers emerges from certain [lower] human causes the origin of which is to be found in extreme racism, in the diversity of languages, and especially in the egoism which pushes each to seek to maintain an exclusiveness.
As for you, brother in God, who comes to the threshold of our zâwiya hoping to find here the tranquility which is lacking in your heart, before allowing any utterance to leave your mouth, meditate on these verses of the Qur'an:

Turning unto Him [only]; and be careful of your duty unto Him, and establish worship, and be not of those who ascribe partners [unto Him];
Of those who split up their religion and became schismatics, each sect exulting in its tenets (XXX, 31, 32).
(TB, 20)

4. The coquette, in order to please her partners, cleans her teeth morning and night. She perfumes her mouth by chewing the resins of plants or pleasant-smelling roots.

Adepts, do the same thing on the spiritual level: perfume your breath by means of the emanations which result from the frequent citation of the divine name in order to please God, the most faithful and marvellous of lovers.
If you hear me and wish to lighten the material burden of your soul, before entering our zâwiya, which is a centre for the praising of God, meditate on the following verses:

So Glory be to Allah when ye enter the night and when ye enter the morning —
Unto Him be praise in the heavens and the earth! — and at the sun's decline and in the noonday (XXX, 17 - 18).

5. There are several methods for washing laundry, each of which depends on the nature of the material — whether it is coarse or fine.

A blanket of thick wool is stamped on with the feet or beaten with a cudgel. A boubou of fine European cloth is pressed between the hands.
It is the same with human souls. The trials through which they pass in order to attain the degree where the spirit is constantly occupied with reciting the name of the Lord are more or less violent in accordance with one's psychic state. But whatever the nature of the soul, the spoken recitation of the first formula of faith is recommended: “There is no god but God.”
It is considered the best mental devotion which one can perform in order to please God, whose primordial attribute is Being-Oneness.
Adept who comes to me, your brother in God and not your Master, as it pleases you to proclaim it, meditate on the twelve elements of this formula of faith in its triple division 1. This formula exalts the emanations of the Creative Entity; it establishes the differentiation of the essence, and plunges the soul into communion with the Source of all existences in God.
Being is One. The creative Entity is endowed with anteriority, with eternity, with plenitude and with originality. Differentiation establishes that life, wisdom, hearing, sight, will, speech and creation belong to the Being-Oneness. Meditate on the following verses:

He is the First and the Last, and the Outward and the Inward; and He is Knower of all things (LVII, 3).

6. Amkullel 2 has told us that the white men have discovered a way to diffuse written and verbal messages everywhere in the world at the same instant.

I do not doubt his assertion, nor does it surprise me. I know that the human mind, drawing upon divine strength as it does, has not yet spoken its last word, nor produced its final work.
This discovery leads me to the following reflection: how can man in future dare to doubt the divine omnipresence when man himself has been able to create a device capable of sending messages everywhere at the same moment? Allah, may He be glorified, was correct about His human creation, against whom He said:

7. The power of God is like a barrier which surrounds heaven and earth.

Everything has its origin within it and everything eventually collides with the eternal walls of this shell and returns to its point of departure. Our actions, good or bad, once in movement evolve and eventually strike against this barrier. This collision augments their force and changes their direction; formerly moving from the center outwards, their movement is reversed. Thus the effects of our actions return to us like the wave which having struck the shore returns toward the center of the stream.
Brother in God, who wishes to become an adept in this zdwiya of true communion, since our actions return to us, pronounce the sacred name 'Allah' ceaselessly day and night. Pronounce it gently in your heart, inwardly in your spirit, as if your lungs were filled while blowing the steer's horn trumpet. This name, more than any other, evokes the essence of divinity. It agitates and brings about the emanations from the "ether of [God's] attributes" in the form of waves of spiritual wellbeing. These will rise up and return toward your spirit, the center from which your invocation originated. Our happiness and our unhappiness depend on our own actions. God has said, and we must meditate on it:

8. Since the arrival of the Europeans, who among us could doubt that a large road must inevitably lead to an agglomeration of white man's houses?

How is it then that we cannot convince ourselves that the religious way created by God and maintained by His prophets leads to the divine residence? Do not refuse to God what you accord to man created by Him.
Brother in God, at the threshold of the zâwiya of knowledge, observe everything with the eyes of your profound intelligence and in the light of the law of analogy which connects the events and elements of the three kingdoms of nature one with another 3. Once you have discovered this secret mechanism, it will aid you in implanting within yourself the truth of divine matters which are situated beyond the letter of the Qur'an. Then you will know the significance of the verse:
[He] Teacheth man that which he knew not (XCVI, 5).

9. When sheep become agitated, the shepherd is no longer able to guide them. Then one sees him doing everything to prevent them from scattering.

What is true for the temporal shepherd is also useful for the spiritual shepherd. Each of us is a shepherd for his passions. Certainly it is necessary to master them. They are just another kind of sheep. We must avoid the possibility that they will leap over our heads, overrun us and drag us into a moral abyss, a valley where neither the soul nor the spirit can survive.
(TB, 86; VE, 166)

10. God has not imposed on us [the duty] to change the course of a great stream of water leading to the sea. He has taken charge of that Himself. He has charged us with the modification of the flow of our ideas in changing them from a bad to a good direction.

The fact that God has breathed into us a portion of His spirit gives us a means to orient ourselves. This gift ftom Him renders us somewhat responsible for the consequences of our orientation, good or bad. This truth is exemplified by the following verse, which we submit for the meditation of those of sound judgement:

Allah tasketh not a soul beyond its scope. For it [is only] that which it hath earned, and against it [only] that which it hath deserved (II, 286).
(TB, 87)

11. In order that one's heart should be filled with the remembrance of the Lord, one must look upon Him each day as a new discovery.

12. A straw hut in which a group of young men is sleeping catches fire during the night. The group awakens with a start and each jumps up to get out. People come to their aid and find them naked, but no one dreams of laughing at their nakedness.

On the contrary, everyone is in agreement in saying that nothing is lost since everyone has escaped alive.
In what way might this situation from earthly life aid in spiritual advancement?
What is the temporal world if not a burning hut where each individual should only be concerned with the safety of his soul, abandoning to the flames the trifles which we call riches, royalty, power and worldly pleasures?

13. A mother says to her child, an infant of five years, — “Go to bed.” The boy obeys. He lies down with his head toward the north and his feet toward the south.

His mother says to him,
— “I don't want to see you lying like this; turn the other way.”
The child obeys, but he curls up. His mother intervenes again,
— “I would like to see your body extended to full length and not curled up like a small shell.”
The obedient child straightens himself and asks, in his small, innocent voice which seeks only to please,
— “Are you happy, mother?”
— “Yes, my little father,” replies the mother.
— “Does my mother wish me to go to sleep?”
— “Of course, my little father,” she says.
The child closes his eyes and sleeps, after having said,
— “My mother, take care with the lamp, so that it doesn't go out, and watch over me so that the naughty mice don't come to nibble my toes.”
Brother in God, this story, rather than amusing you, should cause you to reflect. Be in the hands of God like this child in the hands of his mother. Seek nothing else but the desire to please God. Don't lose confidence in God. Accept the position He chooses for you; efface your own will and abandon yourself to His. When and how He wishes you to change, thus will you change without complaining. Ask Him to do with you as He pleases.
Ask Him, as evidence of His satisfaction, to keep watch over your sleep and over the interior light which illuminates you so that material temptations, which are also kinds of perfidious mice, do not slip among the shadows of laxity and gnaw on your two big toes: ‘Love and Charity.’

14. One night an automobile suddenly directed its headlights toward me and I was blinded. I did not know where to direct my step and stood frozen in my tracks ready to be hit.

This state only lasted a few seconds. Nonetheless it permitted me to transport myself to the divine plane, to the station which precedes that of “Life in God” where the light bursts suddenly upon the vision of the initiate, flooding his breast and holding him fast, immobile and stupefied.
Thus I was reminded of the light of mystical reality. When it surprises the soul in the shadows of this world, the soul is blinded to the point of being unable to discern men, beasts, buildings or roads. Everything disappears from one's eyes, giving way to the light. The soul becomes incapable of distinguishing one thing from another, and thus attains the stage where one is no longer able to see structures, where one is no longer able to preoccupy oneself with judging anything or anybody.

15. The worthy Sotoura, a woman of the quarter, came one day seeking Cerno and said to him, “I am very quick-tempered, the least thing affects me very deeply. I would like a blessing from you, a prayer which could render me pleasant, affable and patient.”

She had not completed relating her story when her son, a baby of three years who was waiting for her in the court yard entered, holding a board with which he struck a forceful blow on the head of the poor woman. She looked at the baby, smiling,
— “Oh what a naughty boy who mistreats his mother … !”
— “Why didn't you flare up at your son, you who are so quick-tempered and lament so for yourself?”
— “My son is but an infant — he does not know what he is doing. One cannot get angry with a child of this age.”
— “My good Sotoura,” Cerno said to her, “Go, return to your house. When someone irritates you, think of this board and say to yourself: ‘In spite of his age, this person is acting like a child of three years.’ Be indulgent; you can do it because you have just done so with your son. You will no longer be quick-tempered, and you will live in happiness, cured of your malady. The blessings which will come to you will be far superior to those which you could obtain from me; they will be those from God and the Prophet.
The person who withstands and pardons an offence is like a great tree which the vultures have fouled while resting on its branches. The repugnant appearance lasts only for a part of the year. During each rainy season God sends a series of downpours which wash it from the top to the roots, and He dresses it in new foliage. The love which you have for your child, try to spread it among all of God's creatures. God views His creatures like a father his children. You will be placed on a higher rung of the ladder, where by means of love and charity, the soul sees and weighs up an offence only in order to pardon it better.” (TB, 37-8; VE, 46-7)

16. A hideous worm is located in a cavity in the tooth of a pig. If he remembers the Lord who created him and implants this memory within himself, then his contingent state, no matter how repulsive it might be, will not be able to separate him from the source of all existence which is in God. He will be better off than the luminous worm who, because he is in the earth beneath some holy place 4, is complacent in himself because of the holiness of the place and thus forgets God.

The first obscure worm lives continually in God through his thought and spirit. The second spends his time congratulating himself and admiring his residence, which in spite of its sanctity is ephemeral due to its contingent state.

17. One night I was praying in a room which was lit by an oil lamp. Suddenly a wind entered the window and the light began to flicker. Instead of a clear light, the room was plunged alternately into semi-darkness and light. This change was so rapid that I could not even think “light” without seeing darkness, nor think “darkness” without seeing light. Under the effect of these regular and rapid combinations of light and darkness, my eyes were no longer able to discern anything. Due to my loss of concentration, my prayer became disrupted, first in my mind, then in my physical movements.
This state caused me to meditate on faith, that interior light which illuminates our soul. I said to myself, “Surely, one whose faith vacillates will find his soul plunged into the darkness of uncertainty. This darkness penetrates our soul and hinders the divine light from establishing itself and clearly illuminating the ‘hut of flesh’ which is our being. We must close our senses to dark things, which for the light of the spirit of the believer are a perfidious wind which penetrates through the open windows of our moral lapses, causing the light of faith within us to flicker.”
From that time I have been able carefully to close the openings of my soul and of my heart, and especially the gateway of my spirit, to all exterior winds except those which breathe in me the name of God and [the words] “love” and “charity.”

18. Faith and Truth, in that they are connected with God, are not the prerogatives of one individual, nor one race, nor even one country. One who believes that these virtues are the privilege of his family is as foolish as one who might say, “The sun shines only for my family; the rains fall and the streams flow only for my people.” One who would like to keep for his own people all good and virtue will himself be impoverished and become an eternal invalid.
Why an eternal invalid? Because each day he will see appearing on the scene of life a person foreign to his family, and sometimes of less noble ancestry, who possesses the privilege he wishes to monopolise. To believe that all creatures are loved by God is a great step toward goodness and truth. To condemn iffevocably or dismiss a creature from the possibility of perfection or from the mercy of God is a giant stride toward the kind of thought which engenders the evil of egoism, a pitiable and incurable state of mind.

19. Some one told me that Salli Malal 5, a contemporary of al-Hajj Umar, contradicted the Pullo proverb which says: “The advantages which God dispenses unexpectedly are not held in a closed hand.”
Salli rejoined, “If these advantages were scattered as one says, the blind would have gathered them all up.”
This retort could only apply to material advantages, and such like. As for spiritual benefits, the proverb is sound. Certainly God accords his grace to everyone, without any consideration, neither physical, nor racial, nor continental.

20. Which is the human being who has nothing, will have nothing and will remain with nothing? He is the one who, knowing nothing, pretends to know everything. He will have nothing in the sense that his pride will prevent him from admitting his weakness and from requesting that he be instructed. And he who knows nothing, and who does nothing in order to know, will remain with nothing in the matter of knowledge.

21. Faith, like a capricious bird, escapes from time to time from its celestial nest. It flies down to earth, knocks on one door and another, alights on one roof and another. It finds refuge only in the heart of one who, before going to sleep, piously invokes the name of God. Faith enters the breast of such a man, who will awaken closer to God.

22. In truth, beauty of the body is only partly a favor, while beauty of the spirit is complete.
Whatever be the form of physical beauty, it erodes or fades with time. The handsome man of today will tomorrow be a withered old man, shrivelled with wrinkles like an ape.
Intelligence, one of the forms of spiritual beauty, produces fruits which once conveyed are perpetuated and transmitted from age to age with a vigor which can constantly augment their power.
The difference between these two is that material beauty appears on a screen which is subject to ageing, whereas spiritual beauty etches itself on an imperishable element which extends over a vast area. One is an allegory of the perishable, and the other the symbol of real existence: the eternal.

23. Brother in God, who comes to seek our advice, make your personal recitation of the name of God your amulet. Leave aside the man who wishes to play tricks with faith; at the end of the voyage of souls, there will be for him a disagreeable deception; for he will be frustrated of that which he believes he has gained.
To be sure, female trickery in this life can procure considerable material goods, but only one day of male trickery suffices to ruin the work of several years of the first.
The female ruse consists of commerce and of all means, honest or dishonest, employed to amass material advantage. The male ruse is war. Faith is the one fortune against which these two ruses, even united, can do nothing. It is the virtue of faith that it preoccupies common men, pushing them to the point of disputing among themselves, while leaving the true believer indifferent and serene. Strength of faith permits one to remain detached both from the army of the poor, who lament over their impoverished family, and thus rebel, and from the wealthy whose affluence makes them arrogant and who are poisoned by their [concern for] high rank and their [search for] pleasure.

24. One day Bokar Paté and I found our friend Kullel, the jovial and well-known raconteur, not feeling well. He was trembling and groaning.
— “What is the matter?” asked Bokar Paté. “Your condition suggests that you won't be recounting any stories this evening.”
— “I have a severe stomach upset.”
Bokar Pat6 said to him:
— “One pays dearly for having partaken of so many different dishes at once.”
Bokar Paté's observation on the material plane has its analogy on the spiritual level. Those who delude themselves with immoral enjoyments will one day be subject to an indigestion much more painful than that which gripped Kullel. Moral faults are like an array of various dishes, one seeming more delicious than the next, but with the added complication that the more one eats, the more one wants to eat.
One who stuffs his mind with unhealthy ideas constipates his faith and suffers from indigestion of God's religion. Instead of intensifying the interior flame which heats and maintains his faith, he will see it extinguished and transformed into a thick ash which will smother this sacred flame and obliterate its glow.
Would that love and charity for all were your preferred and regularly consumed dishes; then you would not cease to live in God and for God.

25. Man was created by the power of God. He is thus composed of a portion of divine matter which has melted and dissolved within him. The flesh which covers this divine matter is like a crust pierced with nine or eleven major openings and a multitude of minor ones.
Thus several blows of the ‘hoe of preaching’ will suffice to provoke a volcano of religious feelings.

26. Our planet is neither the largest nor the smallest of all those which our Lord has created. Those who inhabit it are therefore unable to escape from this law:

We must believe ourselves neither superior nor inferior to all other beings.
The best creatures among us will be those who are imbued with love and charity and with the proper consideration for their fellow-men. These creatures will be upright and luminous like a sun which rises straight up into the heavens.
(Monod, "Homme," 155)

27. As soon as the object of our physical activities exceeds [the three basic necessities] of drawing our nourishment from our mother earth and [seeking] the indispensible materials for the construction of our shelter and the manufacture of our clothing, then we are infected with a virus of trickery. This state predisposes us to disguised thievery, which in turn stimulates us toward shameless pillage, which in turn leads us to an unconscious condition in which one will even kill provided this will lead to fortune.
But, Brother in God! Ask yourself what one gains in winning only material fortune. The pure mind motivated by sound reason will tell you that what one gains can never be securely maintained. Material fortune is like the assorted débris which the winds of chance have just blown from one place and deposited temporarily in another. Only a moment later a gust will carry it once again to yet another distant, unknown place.

28. Who is better acquainted with butter 6 than He who created the animal and vegetable which produce it? When you are to be anointed, brother in God, request that it be God Himself who gives you the required substance. When it is God who gives the material for anointing His servant, the holy odor will persist forever. When this odor is given off into the air, it will attract the favors of superior forces charged with vigilance and protection. In conventional human language these forces are called aid, providence and mercy.

29. To neglect as much as possible the religious education of children, to smile at their lack of preference for study and pious exercises, and at the last moment to confide them to a grasping and poorly instructed teacher, all this will cripple their souls and make them inept in their movement toward God. At the very moment when they seem out of danger, the great wind of perdition will suddenly rise against them, swelling their breasts and dragging them into the vast lake of profligate life where, receiving no mercy, they will sink while fishing for forbidden fish.

30. An old man, in the company of a strong young man, is crossing a slippery plain 7. The young man is full of vigor. Each time he slips he allows himself to slide along, stopping himself just before he would fall. He manages to right himself each time and laughs at his athletic prowess. The old man is full of prudence. When he slips, trembling all over, he invokes the name of God in order not to fall. He succeeds nonetheless in righting himself after several awkward movements.
The young man says to him: “Here, old man, use me for support and you won't fall. I am young and vigorous.”
The old man replies: “I won't forsake the name of God which I invoke. He will serve me as support.”
Two steps further on the young man slips, fails to stop himself and falls sprawling at full length crying out, “Oh, my ribs!” Whereas the old man who has slipped at the same time succeeds in keeping himself upright and regaining his balance. The old man says to the younger, who is sprawled on the ground, “My good fellow, what would have become of us if I had held on to you for support?”
“We would have fallen on one another like ripe fruit from a tree,” replies the young man.
The old man adds: “My boy, one must never rely solely on one's own strength. It may let you down.”
Aspirant who comes to us, fear God and divert yourself from all belief in your self sufficiency. Don't scorn the correction that God gave to the pretentious young man in causing his vigor to fail him when at the same time He allowed the old man to overcome his weakness.

31. When certain misfortunes strike the world, some people can see, although helpless against them, the appearance of maleficent attitudes. These can stifle both the divine law and [ancient] customs which were instituted by a wisdom of which we are ignorant or which we fall to appreciate because of our inadequate knowledge.
Nowadays honest men who remain devoted to the ideals of good and moral action are seen by the libertines and the ignorant as people lacking any ability. They are sometimes accused of being stupid; some only see them as imbeciles, to whom one must pass some money in order to discharge their duty, and to exact from them some malleable yellow gold when they have to redeem a debt which they have often contracted without really knowing how.
Oh brother in God, who comes to us to seek the way which leads toward good, this is the time of the reign of Satan. He chases the name of God from our memories and the idea of pity from our thoughts. Nowadays all mouths conjugate the verb “to want to earn” in the first person, present indicative. “To earn” has become an imperative duty; the manner of doing this is only a means. One is little concerned to know if it is legal or not. The overseer of the market plunders the merchandise; the criminal avoids prison by financial means. He who gives a lot, even if he steals a lot, will be considered as most pious by religious leaders, and as the best of subjects by the officials and servants of the temporal chiefs. This a time when the poor, honest man lives and dies unknown. He will be lucky if he is not dishonoured by everyone, even by his own family.
This is a time when the aspirant should pray as follows: “Oh God, I am seized with embarrassment because of my sins and those of my contemporaries. Insure that Your holy name spreads the light and fills the human hearts with Your divine force. Only this can divert us from the road of evil and perdition.”

32. “Cerno, how many kinds of faith are there?
O, my brother, I do not know precisely how many. One cannot count up the kinds of faith as one can count domestic animals, nor can one measure it like the distance between Bandiagara and Mopti, or between Mopti and Sofara. Nor can faith be weighed like the millet of Bankass or the fruit in the market of Dourou. For me faith is, in part, the sum total of trust that we have in God, and in part our fidelity toward our Creator. Faith experiences both moments of elevation and moments of decline. It varies according to people and their circumstances.
I can only give a general outline of faith, which I would do as follows: There is sulb or solid faith; there is sâ'il or liquid faith, and finally there is ghâzî or gaseous faith, the most subtle of all the forms. Numerologically, faith can be written as 1342 of which the root is 1 + 3 + 4 + 2 = 10. In considering the constituent elements of 1342, one notes that it is formed by the first four numbers: 1,2,3,4. The secret of faith is to be found in these numbers, in other words, in unity, the binary, the triad and the quarternary. A numerological explanation is not within the grasp of everyone, so we will explain it in another way 8.
The first degree of faith, sulb, is solid faith. It is suitable for the common man — the masses — and for the teachers who are attached to the letter [of the law]. This faith is channelled by prescriptions imposed by a law drawn from revealed texts, be they Jewish, Christian or Islamic. At this level faith has a precise form. It is subject to a rigorous determination which admits no foreign element. It is intransigent and hard like the stone from which I draw its name. There is also another, more mystical, reason: the numerical value of sulb is 92. Faith at the degree of sulb is heavy and immobile like a mountain. At times it prescribes armed warfare if this is necessary to gain respect and to assure its position.
Sâ'il faith is that of men who have worked and successfully faced up to the trials of sulb, of the rigid law that admits no compromise. They have triumphed over their faults and have set out on the way which leads to truth. The constituent elements of this faith derive from understanding. It values truths from wherever they come, considering neither their origin nor the date of their existence. It gathers and assembles them in order to make from them a body in perpetual movement. The parts of this body do not arrange themselves in one particular form. They effect a flow which is constantly forward, like the flow of the molecules of water which emerge from the mountain hollows and trickle across varied terrains, flowing together and increasing in size to streams which finally, as rivers, are thrown into the ocean of Divine Truth. This faith, due to its subtle, liquid nature, is strong and undermines the faults of the soul, erodes the rocks of intolerance and spreads out, taking on a shape which is not fixed as in the case of sulb faith but borrows the form of its recipient. This faith penetrates individuals according to the accidents of their moral terrain, never changing its essence and never retreating whatever detour might be necessary to avoid temptation, an obstacle which Satan places on its road.
Sâ'il faith manifests itself as gigantic mystical waterfalls, falling from the mountain into the ravine of active life. It contracts into a sinuous thread in order to traverse the steep pass which Satan has placed on its route. It expands into a great flood, playing across a country worn flat by the adoration of God and made favourable to its full extension. Sâ'il faith disciplines the adept and makes of him a man of God capable of hearing, listening to and appreciating the voices of those who speak of God. This faith is vivifying. It is of the middle degree. It can solidify like hailstones when it must move to the range of souls of the degree of sulb. Similarly, it can become more subtle and rise as vapour toward ghâzî faith in the heaven of absolute truth. This faith is that of men who walk in the straight way which leads to the city of peace where man and animal live in common and in mutual respect, where the elements of the three kingdoms live in brotherhood, and the adepts of this faith stand against war. This faith is the ante-chamber of truth.
Ghâzî faith is the third and final form. It is decidedly more subtle, and it is the attribute of a specially chosen Elite. Its constituent elements are so pure that, void of all material weight which would hold them to the earth, they rise like smoke into the heaven of holy souls, expanding to fill them. The faith of the sphere of truth emerges entirely from this last form. Those who reach this faith adore God in truth in the light without colour. On this sublime plane sulb faith, which has emerged from revelation, and sâ'il faith, which has emerged in turn from this uncompromising way, both disappear to make a place for one sole thing, the Divine Truth which flourishes in the fields of Love and Truth.
(TB, 76-8; VE, 137-9)

33. Cerno, what do you say of those who have given themselves over solely to temporal matters?
One must pray for the safekeeping of these souls. Souls which confine themselves to material things alone will in the end find themselves vitiated by the noxious germs of materialist desire. At a given moment they enter a state of moral combustion. This state impoverishes them in relation to the love of God and enriches them with the cinders of desire. In order that these souls may not be pushed down this path toward death, one must not smother the voice in them which speaks of faith. One must soak such a soul in the vitalising element of love. For this one must open the soul to charity, so that one's thoughts can be aerated with the meditation and recitation of the name of God.
(TB, 87)

34. Cerno, is it true that faith can change?
My habit of observing and reflecting on changes of states permits me to say that the interior religious heat of man maintains his faith. The factors which cause this heat to vary are often external. If this heat augments its powe; under the effect of the enthusiasm of conviction, it heats the liquid sâ'il and renders it more subtle, which is to say that it transforms it into ghâzî faith. On the contrary, if the said heat diminishes in power, the faith cools. It congeals, becomes hard and later sinks.
As for the true essence of faith, we do not agree with those who believe it is subject to diminution. Certainly it does not vary [in essence], but its temperature can fall or it can rise so high that it will sublimate. In the latter case, it is transformed into a spiritual vapour. In our eyes, water, the element which God has used to give and maintain the lives of all beings, symbolises faith better than any other element. This is the major reason why our Lord Muhammad frequently appealed to the symbolism of water when teaching hidden mysteries. Water has neither colour, odor, taste nor form. It takes on the shape of those objects which contain it. The same is true of faith.

35. He who has truly seen the Revealer has seen Him fully in the heaven of great visions. He has seen, and his heart, beating with charity, is not that of the evil one who refuses to communicate the mysteries to those who are worthy of them.
Enamored of God! Come to us; chase away Satan by stoning him, as Abraham did long ago. Make ready your soul so that like Isaac it can be offered in sacrifice. Heed the reply we give to those who, thirsting for God, ask us, “What is the element which most appropriately symbolises faith? Among the four “mothers” — earth, fire, air and water — none is better than the last for symbolising religion. Religion is for the soul what water is for nature.

  1. Water has been given by God a dissolving power. Religion is remarkable for the properties of destruction it exercises over ideas and custom which are anterior to it.
  2. Water in a state of complete purity is rarely found in nature, and no religion remains in the state of its original purity. Many social factors intervene to alter it.
  3. Even water which is drawn at its source contains matter which is dissolved in it, having penetrated through the strata of the earth. Religion, even in its original state, retains some vestiges of earlier local traditions.
  4. To obtain pure water, one must filter it. To purify one's religion, one must subject it to the effervescent action of the dogmatic science of initiation.
  5. Just as water is indispensable to the germination of the life of all beings, so religion is essential to the development and expansion of the spirit.
  6. Water dissolves nutrient materials from the soil and permits their absorption by plants. Religion dispenses a teaching which gives the soul the spiritual food which strengthens it.
  7. Water ensures material hygiene; religion ensures moral hygiene.

36. The sharî'a (the law) and mysticism, an initiatic teaching, are two different matters, but they complement one another and cannot proceed without each other.
The essential goal of the sharf'a is to deprive the faithful of the excessive liberty contained in the dissoluteness of iffeligion. The sharî'a thus obliges the faithful to ameliorate his conduct so as to prevent his falling into the unregulated life of the humid lowlands which are unfit for spiritual cultivation. Without a sharî'a, which punishes those exterior moral faults which wound one's sense of modesty and propriety, some will-less men would fall neglected and at the mercy of whatever fanatic wanders the streets where depraved morals are born and where the seed and roots of morality are rotting. The articles of the sharî'a are thus like “moral drains” whereby the misconduct which hearts imbibe must flow away.
If one compares the sharî'a to a network of drains, mysticism might be thought of as an irrigation system. In effect, the role of mysticism consists in imparting to the human spirit the knowledge of God, which is a sort of subtle water, the lack of which renders the spirit similar to dry and burning soil. Mysticism is the consequence of two things:

  1. a revelation given by God to a man of His choice, the prophet who teaches and propagates it;
  2. a lived experience in which the intuition might be activated as a result of a lengthy meditative observation by an individual predestined for the divine light.

The first form is an emanation obtained from the source and gathered into well-guarded and venerated books. In each form of religion these books are like reservoirs in which one gathers rainwater. These books, like the reservoirs of material water, must be guarded well in the interest of the very life of the community. The second form, or the other aspect of mysticism, is comparable to the water which, by his ingenuity, rnan has gathered by means of dams and canals.
In effect each theologian can draw from the holy books, these wellguarded reservoirs, the elements of a spiritual teaching, and then they can prepare the necessary diversions [as canals] which are best adapted to the mentality and evolution of his contemporaries in order to direct them as necessary in accordance with their development. This last aspect of mysticism suggests an auxiliary conductor between two points in a closed circuit.
Before giving out your teaching, brother in God who wishes to work for the propagation of the idea of God against the disorder of “to-livehowever-you-like,” take the measure of the people you intend to teach. If they are “flat” with regard to spiritual ideas you can employ the system which we call “inundation.” Whatever be the subtlety of your teaching, the people will be penetrated slowly or quickly according to the difference of their natures, and you are sure to bring them to the enviable degree of complete submersion. This state prepares the way for ghâzî faith, which tends to occupy the greatest space possible in rising upwards and always going higher to the center of all intelligence.
But when you feel your people are spiritually “slight,” instead of the
“inundation” method of teaching, practice what we call the “trickling” method, because in this case their spirit will be similar to a sloping terrain. Divide them up as if digging mystical terraces, each on a different level from the others, by means of which you divert your lessons. You will change the symbols of your teaching without changing its essence when passing from a superior terrace to one immediately below.
Rest assured that in this way your word will penetrate your students without obliging them to make a steep ascent on which even the most sincere might stumble.
(TB, 74-5; VE, 130-2)

37. The desire of man to acquire divine things is like water exposed to the sun. It evaporates and spreads into the atmosphere of love. It descends to earth again only in the form of vivifying rains. Whereas the desire of man to acquire terrestrial things is like a fog formed in the lower atmosphere. It can never move from its saturation point, the place where the idea of God becomes cool, and where mystical visibility remains always bad. Where does one observe this fog of the [carnal] soul and spirit? On the banks of unre-aulated and Godless lives which run in pernicious rivers and stagnate in filthy ponds, in cabarets, etc.

38. Cerno, how do you explain that people who do not live in the same place can conceive the same idea?
Men, both good and bad, communicate among themselves by the same means. Those who have the idea of God as their foundation perceive, in spite of time and distance, identical ideas of the same grandeur. Those who think evil do the same regardless of time and space.

39. The religious teaching of a prophet, or of a person enamored of God, is comparable to pure water. One may drink it without any danger to one's moral health. Such a teaching will be superior and intelligible. Like pure water, it will contain nothing of a flavour that could vitiate one's taste for the good. This teaching matures the spirit and purifies the heart because it contains no impurities which might obscure the soul and harden the heart. We cannot recommend strongly enough that one should learn the theology of the revealed religions. They are for everyone, like drinkable water. But we also counsel that they should be assimilated slowly, and that one should guard against accepting “murky” theologies, for they can infest the soul with a kind of moral Guinea worm.
It is commonly recommended that you do not drink cold water when you are perspiring. We suggest, for our part, that when your soul is in a state of mystical warmth you do not read just anything. just as it is necessary for our physical health not to drink muddy water which is swarming with all kinds of little creatures, for our spiritual health too it is necessary to avoid introducing just any teaching into our minds.
(TB, 83)

40. If one fills a canoe to the brim with sand and launches it iipon the Niger, what will happen?
It will sink, of course.
Because the water will give way under the weight of the sand, and the canoe will lose one of its essential virtues, buoyancy. The force which keeps the canoe afloat will be made less powerful than that which pushes it downward. The unavoidable result of these two forces no longer neutralising one another and thus establishing an equilibrium will be the sinking of the canoe.
That which is a visible fact for the canoe is also useful for our soul, this great canoe which God through His power has launched on the Niger River of our existence. The soul must traverse this river and in so doing run many risks. He who fills his soul to the brim with the sand of material desire will make it heavier than the spiritual stream upon which it must navigate. In this case, his effort, instead of being exercised from the material toward the spiritual — or, in other words, from the lower toward the higher under the influence of worship — will be effected in the contrary direction: from the spiritual into the obscurities of the material. This downward pressure will upset the canoe of the soul which will capsize in the course of its mystical crossing.
If the overloaded canoe of the soul cannot float and must capsize, I counsel you not to launch your canoe on the mystical Niger without loading it to a reasonable degree with material things; due to excessive lightness it would be at the mercy of the waves of temptation and would capsize in midstream. Reason is aided by dogma to prescribe judiciously how to load one's canoe in the precise manner necessary so as to be able to cut through the waves and clear one's way.

41. Cerno, why is it that certain men, despite their shameless public conduct, do not fall under the occult law conforming to verses 7 and 8 of Sûra 99 (And whoso doeth good an atom's weight will see it then; And who so doeth ill an atom's weight will see it then)?
My friend and brother in God, do not doubt a letter of the Holy Book, all the more so two verses composed of twenty-two letters each. The fact that these two verses are formed by twenty-two letters is a profound sign to indicate the secret of the order of harmony they symbolise. Know that God Eternal is not limited; consequently He has no need to hurry like we do.
The divine law is well-tempered, although inflexible. God caused a rain of passions to shower upon the original human principle which He planted in our father Adam; these are estimated to comprise ninetenths of the states of the [carnal] soul. The Lord, in not punishing us immediately after each misdeed, is taking into account our weakness resulting from these passions which have been injected into us. In order that a man shall be publicly punished and put to shame, his hidden bad actions which escape the reproaches of his fellow-men must attain, analogously speaking, a weight greater than that of his good actions, both visible and hidden, together with that of his visible bad actions. When a man is in this state, one says that the hidden bad actions are heavier than the sum of the hidden and visible good and the visible bad. Then he will capsize, and the exterior world becomes a witness to his sinking, or, in other words, his public shame.

42. Cerno, what is your opinion of a defense attorney? What is his professional activity?
He pleads for justice in return for a salary.
A muhamîn! 9 Here, in truth, we have a person with one foot in paradise and the other in hell. Heaped up before him he sees the truth and lies, the law and blasphemy. How he comes out of this situation depends on his retracting one foot to join it with the other. As for me, I see this profession from several angles. On the whole it seems rather useless. If it is not useless, it casts a terrible slur, first on the integrity of the judges in applying the law, and second on the steadfastness of the law itself. If the judge is truly upright and the law is steadfast in its application with respect to everyone, the intercession of the lawyer loses its purpose. The parties should be able to go before a magistrate who will do his duty equitably and strictly, without failure or prejudice. He should render such a judgment as is in the interest of public morality, which a steadfast law is charged with protecting. Such a situation makes the lawyer's role unnecessary.
If, on the other hand, the judge has a soul which is rotten, I believe it is more expedient to buy the judge, who will settle the matter, rather than to pay a lawyer who can only seek to influence the judge in favour of his own client. A Pullo proverb says: “Rather than pay someone to argue a case, better to retain the one who pronounces sentence.” This second situation makes the lawyer no less useless.
Cerno, were not the prophets all lawyers, analogously speaking?
O my friend, may God open your intelligence! It is a tempting comparison, which is not without good sense, but there is a great difference which makes it collapse under examination: the salary. Here is verse 20 of Sûra XXVIII:

A man came running from the furthest part of the city; he said: “O my people, follow the apostles. Follow those who demand no salary from you and who are guided in the right path.”10
The phrase “who demand no salary from you,” placed in the mouth of a man by God on behalf of the apostles, is explicit. If the prophets intercede like lawyers, they do not do it in consideration of a salary. Another lesson which we can draw from this example is that to resemble something is not the same as being identical to it. Symbolism follows an immutable law which one must not pervert.

43. The soul of a human being, of whatever race, is transformed into the state of mystical diamond from the time that worship crystallizes his spirit. His colour or birth plays no part whatever with regard to the production of the light of faith: no matter what the social conditions or the weight of birth of a person who has reached this degree, no external element will be strong enough to disintegrate or corrupt it. To the adepts who have reached this degree, one has only one recommendation to make: that they should beware of their own dust, that is, of admiring that which comes from them. Admiration of oneself is among the most powerful mystical faults which can pervert the soul of the worshipper, even if he has arrived at the spiritual level called the “diamond,” where the lights of the hidden name appear in colourless rays.

44. Cerno, what do you think of traditions?
Respect them. They constitute a goodly sum of the spiritual element arising from the decomposition of the spirit of those who have gone before us and who happily have not broken with God as we have done. One must meditate on the traditions, whether they be shorter or longer stories, whether they be more or less important or didactic, and so on.. One must seek to uncover the secret which is enveloped within them. One must dig deeply in them as do the seekers for gold in the mines of Bout& Each story, each vignette, is a gallery, and in their impressive entirety they form a mine of information which the ancients have bequeathed to the moderns by region, race, family and often by an individual. Of course, to work profitably in this mine, to move about there in every direction, one must have a lamp — or, in plain language, a key or a master. (TB, 91; VE, 184)

45. When the flames of ambition burn in the heart and cause the waters there to boil to the point that they dry up, then man is perverted from his noble nature and he turns only toward that which will procure him what he desires without consideration for the legitimacy of the means, nor the moral consequences of his acquisition.

46. Language is a fruit of which the skin is called chatter, the flesh eloquence, and the seed good sense. Those whose profession it is to flatter the masses 11 know the uses of all these parts, and they employ them in a marvellous fashion.

47. Cerno, I have heard people speak well of you and of the efficacy of your teaching. I wish to choose you as my master.
O brother in God. Flattered though I am, before anything else I am a human being, subject to physical and moral contingencies. I have some advice to give you which is worth months of fruitful study. A man never conforms exactly to his reputation. Admirers falsify it by exaggerating his real merits, while antagonists disparage them whenever possible. To avoid acting according to one of these preconceptions, it would be good for you, and perhaps for me too, if you would listen to me for days, examine me for weeks and stay near me for months before deciding to choose me as your mentor and your brother.
(TB, 39; VE, 48)

48. One day I had a vision of two young women. They had the same name but were completely different from one another.
“Who are you?” I said to them.
“We are Deference,” they replied.
“Why do you have the same name although you differ from one another?”
The one who seemed more endowed with good sense said to me, “I am the Deference born of respect, while my companion is Deference born of fear. We inhabit the same royal palace …” 12

49. One day I was going to the fields, accompanied by my faithful dog, guardian of our farms and sworn enemy of those monkeys who devastate them. It was the time of the great heat of April. My dog and I were so hot that it was only with great pain that we were able to breathe properly. I had no doubt that in the end one of us, perhaps myself, would faint. Thanks to God, we came upon a thicket of clustered branches, with a thick covering of green leaves. My dog, whimpering slightly, raced toward the shadow. But when he reached it, he did not stay there, but returned to me, his tongue hanging out, his lips sagging, his pointed, white teeth bared. His sides throbbed rapidly making me realise how exhausted he was. I moved toward the shade, and the dog became happier. But I decided to continue on my way. He whined plaintively, but nonetheless followed me, his head more bowed, his tail curled between his legs. He was visibly in despair, but decided to follow me whatever the consequences.
This faithfulness touched me deeply. I did not know how to appreciate the act of this animal, ready to follow me to the death without any need of his own, and without being constrained to do it by anything whatever. He was loyal just because he considered me his master. He proved his attachment to me by risking his life with the sole aim of following me and being at my side.
“Lord,” I cried in an outburst of feeling, “cure my troubled soul. Make my fidelity similar to that of this being whom I disparagingly call 'dog'. Give me, like him, the strength to be able to scorn my life when it is a question of accomplishing Your will. And give me the strength to follow the road on which You place me without asking where I am going. I am not the creator of this dog, and yet he obeys me blindly and follows me docilely at the cost of a thousand pains which weigh heavily on his life. It is You, Lord, who has endowed him with this virtue. Give, Lord, to all those who ask You, and to me in particular, the virtue of love and the courage of charity.”
I retraced my steps and sat down in the shade. My companion, now very happy, lay down in front of me so that his eyes were turned toward mine as if to have a serious conversation with me. He extended his two front paws, raised his head up, and while lying there, kept watch on me so as not to miss any of my movements. A few minutes later we had no more trace of fatigue.
God has no need of reason nor of human intelligence. He gave them to us for use in this life. We are not therefore to bring them untouched to the grave, that is, to live and die without meditating on and drawing spiritual profit from the events which happen to us and from the things which we ascertain. I began to meditate. Where am I? I am under a tree with thick foliage. The words “thick foliage” caused my mind to reflect on verses 13 to 16 of Sûra LXXVIII:

The two last words forcefully hold my attention. They constitute the subject of my meditation. Since I have been under this thickly foliated tree I have begun to feel relaxed and restored. When I was in the sun, I was beginning to lose my sensibility and my capacity for movement and to lapse into a state of faintness, death's younger brother. I can say as much about it as about my companion.
Why these two states? They are the result of two phenomena. Far from the tree — that is, in the sun — there is an atmosphere which boils with heat and compresses the chests of both humans and animals. Under the tree there is a temperate atmosphere which restores our physical organs to their normal functions. Additional data or reflection are not required to enable us to realise the existence of two elements. In the sun there is an element which can kill men or animals by acting against their organs or respiration. In the shade of the plant there is a vivifying element which destroys the unbreatheable element spread by the solar heat.
In Fulfulde the first element is called olowere and the second yarara. Olowere derives from the overheating of breatheable air by the sun's rays. This phenomenon is identical to what occurs when food is overheated and cannot be consumed without danger. Similarly, air which is overheated by the sun cannot normally be breathed without burning the passages of the respiratory organs. Yarara in this case is inherent in the green leaves of the foliage. Why green? Because (according to my experience) the tree covered with dead leaves does not provide the same wellbeing. From all this, I draw the conclusion that green plants contain a vivifying property with the power to transform an atmosphere that has been overheated by the sun into breatheable and comforting air. Therefore, in a green plant there is a principle necessary for the maintenance of the life of men and animals.
This principle which emanates from green plants awoke in me another idea, this time on the immaterial plane: paradise, as it is metaphysically described in the Qur'an. In my opinion, the green of paradise is a spiritualisation of the green plants of the material world. This comparison caused a brilliant flame of comprehension to spring up in my mind, which allows me to say that paradise, as it is described, is a symbolic garden of eternal verdure. This eternal verdure attenuates the rays of divine light which are too strong to be supported by our vision. In this garden, which is forever green, the elect can look on the Essential Light and assimilate the emanations of the source of eternal life while listening to the voice of their Lord with ears purified from all materialism. They thus enter into the state of beatitude described in verses 10 and 11 of Surâ LXXXVIII: “In a high Garden/ Where they hear no idle speech.”
Brother in God, while awaiting the opportunity to enter the celestial garden of tomorrow, respect the present great garden which constitutes the vegetable kingdom. Refrain from uselessly destroying the least plant, for it is an allegory which God causes to emerge from the earth for our instruction, our nourishment and our comfort.
(VE, 162-5)

50. In a vision I saw two cultivators, sowing and working side by side in two different fields. They were right next to one another at the edge of the fields without either one paying any attention to his comrade.
What were these two sowers? Two symbolic preparers, one broadcasting his seed on the material field, the other confiding the seed of divine truth by the handful to the spiritual field. The seed which they plant, although watered by the same rain, the word, will produce shoots which bear different fruit. The shoots in the field of the first sower will bear the “seeds of partiality,” that is of discord and hatred among those who eat it. The shoots in the other field will bear the “seeds of sympathy and abnegation,” bringing altruism and unity to those who eat them.
A luminous being intercedes each time between the two cultivators. It is Sound Reason, eldest daughter of Providence, who watches over the border in order that Error, the youngest daughter of Gloom, does not cause the two sowers to plant in one another's fields. If that occurred, the order of things. would be upset, and the affairs of God and of the devil would be so confused that the world would enter into chaos.

51. The physical beauty of women is a trick which Satan constantly employs in order to disguise the trap he sets daily against man. It is one of the great miracles when man is attracted to it but does not get caught.

52. Every believer is able to ascertain for himself that there are times when his worship is very alert and others when it is less so, even with the best will in the world. This is because there is a mystical heat which comes from God through the multiple citation of His name and penetrates the adept, heating his soul, which, like an iron being heated in a forge, has its laudatory capacity mystically augmented. To fail to mention the divine name cools the heat which warms the soul; and the soul then loses its capacity, just like the iron, when cooled, is reduced in volume.
Mystical cooling and heating are thus produced in us through the number of times and the manner in which we repeat the divine name and His attributes. Happy is he who in the course of the day can recite the name Allah 34,500 times at the most or 960 times at the least.
(VE, 173-4),

53. The light which springs forth from the name Allah when one mentions it augments the power of the mystical spark which God puts in every soul as it comes into the world. To repeat constantly the name Allah or the formula attesting to the unity of the Divinity is a sure way to introduce into ourselves the breath of air which will maintain the mystical heat without which the spiritual ember ignited in us will smother and be transformed into black coal, that is into a bitter material containing enough acid, morally speaking, to poison our entire spiritual organism. (VE, 174)

54. According to some well-informed persons, God, in creating us, placed in the centre of our hearts a black point. Onlyjesus and his mother were not charged with this weighty burden, but the point remains in the rest of us, who are less favoured than them. But God in His mercy has turned it into charcoal, that is into a material capable of becoming red hot. And it is left to us to make it red hot through prayer, love and charity.

55. Cerno, how many kinds of mystical light are there?
O, my friend, I am not such as you believe me to be — a man who has seen all these lights. I will nonetheless speak to you of three symbolic lights, two material and one spiritual. Their sources are distinct from one another.
The first, and least elevated, is that which we draw from material when we ignite it. This light is individual; it can heat and illuminate only a strictly limited space or body. This light coffesponds symbolically to the faith of the mass of individuals who have not climbed very far up the mystical ladder. At this degree the adepts are not able to move beyond the imitation of the letter. The gloom of superstition surrounds them, the cold of incomprehension causes them to shiver. Frightened and paralysed by so many contingencies, they continue to crouch in a little corner of the tradition where they move as little as possible. This light is that which animates the religious persons who are at the degree of law and faith called sulb.
The second light is that of the sun. It is above the first in the sense that it is more general and its power is more extensive. It illuminates and heats everything which exists on earth. This light symbolises the faith of middle degree on the mystical path. This second mystical light, like the material sun, dissipates all shadows from the time it comes into contact with them. This dissipation of shadows, no matter how dense and durable, is not its only characteristic, but it is a vivifying source for all creatures and has no consideration except to exercise this role. This light symbolises the light of adepts at the mystical degree of faith called sd'il. They know that the way is one, like the unity of the sun is one for our universe.
Like the material sun which illuminates and heats all beings, the adepts who have achieved the middle degree of light proceed and treat as brothers all those who live under the sun and receive its light. They do not scorn the first light, because it plays an indispensible preparatory role. But they are no longer like little insects who dance around a flame and sometimes inadvertently get burned. The difference between these two lights is that the first, like the light which it symbolises, can — according to circumstances — be extinguished and relit. It can be transported from one place to another, and it can change its form and power. Whereas the second light, like that of the sun, remains ftxed and immutable in perpetuity. It will always come from the same source and will remain consistent throughout the centuries.
The third light is that of the center of all existence — namely God. Who would dare to describe it? It is a darkness more brilliant than all lights combined. It is the light of truth. Those who have the good fortune to reach the degree of this light lose their identity and become like a drop of water which has fallen into the Niger, or into a sea of infinitely vast extent and depth. At this degree Jesus became the spirit of God, Moses his interlocutor, Abraham his friend, and finally Muhammad the Seal of His Messengers 13.
(TB, 75-6; VE, 135-7)

56. The four elements — earth, water, air and fire — also symbolise the human condition. When God created human souls, he distributed them among these materials, and He beamed the rays of divine truth upon them. All souls dominated by matter stopped the pure light due to their opacity; this light could only play upon their surfaces. Souls whose nature was like water, because of their transparency, were easily traversed by this light of truth, whereas souls whose nature was like fire and air became two variable lights, themselves capable of emitting rays which illumine the way leading from the shadows toward the light.

57. When the rays of faith — this light which comes to us from God — penetrates the dark interior of our human nature, the laudatory soul awakens 14. But not all souls awaken in the same manner from the sleep of irreligion. Some are like those men who in the morning, instead of quickly opening their eyes and spontaneously getting up, toss and turn on their beds. They do not get up until late, and even then against their inclination. Whereas others are like the dog, cat and other wild animals which at the least sensation wake up and in one bound are on their feet.
Faith is one of the great favours which God, in His kindness, dispenses to human beings. This gift can come to us in two different ways: through the mediation of a master's teaching or directly, penetrating us like the rays of the sun when one partly opens the door on a sunny day. This latter kind of faith is radiant, but it might be poorly appreciated by others because it is personal. Whereas the first kind is like a light which we see in a reflective surface, such as water or a mirror. The difference between these two states of faith is considerable, although the essence of faith itself remains the same.

58. Initiation places a fundamental importance on one's name. The individual's given name, or the name by which he is customarily known, can be used according to the science of mystkal analogy to situate him in relation to the four elements: water, air, earth, fire. Each of these four elements is composed of other subtler elements, four for earth and two for each of the three other elements.

59. Cerno, what does the sand teach us?
Sand symbolises a soul which quickly learns to worship but lacks the elements suitable for longlasting faith. A “sandy” soul can produce a beautiful faith, even decorated with multi-coloured flowers, but it lasts only a short time.

60. There are souls which are analogous to clayey soil. These souls, when in contact with the rains of preaching, become compact. When the preaching stops for a time, they harden and finally rebel against religious discipline. Before beginning a religious enterprise, one must know the nature of those with whom one is concerned. With a group of an individual whose soul is “clayey,” a “tuberous” form of teaching is required, that is to say, one which is discreet but tenacious and which penetrates to the interior of the soul.

61. The human spirit has the nature of metals which are more or less oxydisable. There are men who have a precious splirit, like gold or silver. These are the elect who can be exposed to the air of material temptations without suffering its oxydising action. Their senses are obedient to them instead of dragging them along. Those who have a spirit of the nature of iron must guard against exposing themselves to the air of material pleasures and especially against burying themselves under the humid soil of debauchery and intemperance. In these kinds of places an organic agent will develop which gives birth to the moral rust which will attack their defenseless spirit. It is not given to everyone to comprehend the mechanism by which the invisible rust of profligate materialism leads to the moral destruction of the soul, but everyone can observe and understand the effect of material rust, this deep red “disease” which attacks iron and progressively destroys it, silently and unremittingly.
One must combat the rust of the soul. It attacks faith, corrupts morality, perverts the spirit of nations and thiows them into the atrocious conflicts which makes them more savage than the carnivores of the forest. This rust distorts men to the extent that they celebrate and rejoice over having caused many deaths. They go to the extent of affixing insignia on the chests of those who have been the most impetuous in the work of destruction so that no one can be unaware of their macabre exploits.

1. The first portion of the shahâda, or Muslim formula of faith, Lâ ilah illâ Allah, is composed of only three different Arabic letters; lam, alif, ha', the entire phrase consisting of twelve letters:
2. Nickname given to Amadou Hampâté Bâ, meaning “little Kullel.” Kullel was a well-known raconteur in the household of Hampâté Bâ's adoptive father. See D. 24 and Hampâté Bâ, L'étrange Destin de Wangrin, 7-8.
3. The animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms.
4. Bakka in the original; I have been unable to discover the meaning of this word and have translated it contextually.
5. See Henri Gaden, Proverbes et maximes peuls et toucouleurs (Paris, 1931), 91.
6. Butter of traditional West African manufacture is not congealed, but viscous like vegetable oil.
7. The clayey soil of Masina becomes very slippery when wet.
8. The number 1342 is obtained by totalling the numerical value of the letters in the words sulb (92), sâ'il (332) and ghâzî (918).
9. Arabic for lawyer. Cerno Bokar's view of the dispensation of justice is an Islamic one.
10. This Qur'anic reference is very confused. The original text of the discourse gives the reference of Sûra XXX, verses 19-20. But the passage seems to refer to Sûra XX-VIII, verse 20, which is as follows: “And a man came from the uttermost part of the city, running. He said: ‘Moses! Lo! the chiefs take counsel against thee to slay thee; therefore escape. Lo! I am of those who give thee good advice.’”
This passage of the Qur'an continues with Moses actually being hired for a set period of time by a family, although he does not originally demand a wage for his servkes. In another passage (Sûra XVIII, verse 65) Moses is in the company of Khidr, to whom he suggests he could have demanded money in return for repairing a wall. (For Khidr, see Schimmel, 105-6)
11. The reference here is to the griots or praise singer-musicians.
12. The following note appeared after this discourse: “The master was interrupted by a visitor and, alas, we never heard the rest of the story.”
13. These prophetic attributcs arc all derived from the Qur'an. For a fuller discussion of them, see Muhyi'd-d7in Ibn 'Arabli, The lVisdom of the Prophets, 1975.
14. Whether Cerno Bokar was here making a reference to a specific transformation of the soul is not cicar. Sufis designated several different stages through which the soul progressed in its mystkal path. See Trimingham, The Sufi Orders.

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