Ostad Elahi was born on September 11, 1895. On the occasion of his 116th birthday, it was only natural to pay him homage by reviewing some of the salient aspects of his life and works. In the preface to his translation of Knowing the Spirit (SUNY, 2006), Prof. James Morris draws from various sources, including autobiographical conversations and remarks by Ostad himself. This lively portrait of an outstanding 20th century spiritual figure manages to uncover the inner connections between the rich and varied experiences of a lifetime and the central notions of a philosophy. The following excerpt is published with the kind authorization of the author and SUNY Press.
Nūr ‘Alī Elāhī—or Ostad Elahi (“Master” Elahi), the honorific by which he is most widely known today—was born on September 11, 1895 in Jeyhunabad, a village in western Iran(1). The outward course of his life, as he described it in autobiographical conversations and remarks during his later years,(2) falls into three distinct periods: his childhood and youth, entirely devoted to traditional forms of ascetic and religious training; his active public career, for almost thirty years, as a prosecutor, magistrate, and high-ranking judge; and the period of his retirement, more openly devoted to spiritual teaching and writing (including the composition of Knowing the Spirit), when he became well known as a religious thinker, philosopher, and theologian, as well as a musician. Ostad Elahi’s own later description of those outward events, summarized in a few of his sayings quoted further on, helps bring out the inner connections between those different periods of his life and the broader lessons he was able to draw from those very different activities and experiences.