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The quintessence of religions according to Ostad Elahi: reflection (1)

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In his poem entitled “The Quintessence of Religions”, Ostad Elahi lays out in a few verses what he considers to be the result of a lifetime of experience. This “(quint)essential” summary brings to light, among other things, the relationship between ethical and divine principles. Leili Anvar made it the subject of a conference she gave in 2011 on the occasion of the “Day of human solidarity”, the video of which was posted on this very site. The text published in the proceedings of the symposium (Quelle sagesse pour notre temps ?) is a revised and more detailed version of her oral contribution. We begin here a series of articles that will present a few excerpts from this text. It will be the occasion to reflect and go deeper into some of the questions touched upon by Ostad Elahi’s poem.

Following the introduction in which she briefly presents the author of “The Quintessence of Religions” and some of the main characteristics of his teachings, Leili Anvar focuses, in this first excerpt, on the verses Ostad Elahi dedicates to “God”. What does God mean? For Carl Gustav Jung, He is the “symbol of symbols”. But how can we personally apprehend the “I am that I am” given to Moses? The Truth, God, the Source, the Creator, the Invisible, the One… so many ways to designate an ontological truth that unremittingly questions human beings, echoing their own truth. How does the premise of the divine–once it is accepted–translate into practice? What meaning does the reference to this Existence take in our own existence? It is up to each of us to ask ourselves these questions.

A starting point for reflection is suggested at the end of this article. As usual, please do not hesitate to share your thoughts, examples and experiences in the comments section.

About the “Quintessence of Religions” (excerpt 1)

Ostad Elahi was long considered one of the great unknown sages of the XXth century. The fact that he remains a relatively unfamiliar figure in the eyes of the general public today may precisely speak to his wisdom. Indeed, many of those who visited him while he was alive, sometimes from thousands of miles away, wished to give him more visibility, whether as a musician—he was a master of the Kurdish lute tanbur—or as a spiritual thinker. Yet he never desired to be in the spotlight, preferring to pursue his inner journey away from public attention. He was to leave a lifework for times to come, for those after him. Such self-effacement, such focus on what is essential, are those not signs of great wisdom?

Ostad Elahi’s wisdom is also apparent in his teachings, which are reflected in his works. He left us with a few published books, a number of manuscripts, and, above all, two collections of his oral teachings[1]. These collections allow us to enter the heart of his thought, to follow its subtleties, to grasp its coherence and unity beyond the profusion of themes, anecdotes and quotes. This oral unfolding of spiritual words is an ancient Persian tradition, inherited on the one hand from Greek wisdom (which is often passed on in and through dialogue), and on the other hand from the methods of Sufi masters. Indeed, many masters of the past have left what are called maqâlât (“the sayings”) or ma’âref (“words of wisdom”) in Persian literature, that is, notes conveying casual conversations with great spiritual figures, taken by people around them. These conversation touch on various topics, covering the full spectrum of human experiences They bear witness to the outpouring of a lively discourse, constructed through questions and answers, according to the needs of the moment. The stakes involved are no less than the possibility to provide each individual with the necessary spiritual tools and resources to travel the path of self-knowledge and thus travel toward God. The purpose of such a discourse is never to impose a system closed in on itself and rigidified into a dogma. Rather, it is a way to give step-by-step advice and answers to all in light of the context, a way to pass on an experience and enlighten the soul. This issue of “guidance” was absolutely central for Ostad Elahi. As he confessed himself, he was willing to spend countless hours with those who came to him seeking advice of wisdom or a remedy for the soul, in order to enlighten them:

“Although I am 77 years old [1972], if I had to spend an entire day and night without sleep to guide someone, I would still be happy to do so, for the effect of guidance remains eternally.” (Words of Truth, 462, draft of the forthcoming English translation)

Ostad Elahi’s teachings are based on the “traditions” of the past, but also, and more importantly, on his own experiences. The “traditions” of the past refer here to religious traditions (more specifically the three monotheistic religions), gnostic traditions (particularly Sufism and the esoteric tradition of the ahl-e Haqq to which he belonged and which he researched extensively throughout his entire life), and philosophical traditions (in particular the Islamic philosophy of Avicenna and Mullâ Sadrâ’s). He also refers here and there to Zoroastrianism, the ancient religion of Iran, which is structured around the idea of a creator-God, God of light (Ahurâmazdâ), with ethics founded on the famous triple injunction that Ostad Elahi made his own: “Good thoughts, good words, good deeds” (we shall come back to this phrase below). But mostly, Ostad Elahi practiced, in his daily life, all forms of the most demanding spirituality: prayer and asceticism, life removed from society as well as life working amid society, ruthless struggle against all manifestations of the imperious self (see the introduction to the French translation of Words of Truth). Ostad spent his entire life “studying”, as he recounts himself, whether in book or life itself, continuously exploring the laws that govern the causal and metacausal worlds. Thus, he went all the way through the stages of the process of perfection of the soul. Summarising the dynamic that was always at work in his approach, he would say:

“[T]o reconcile that which I had observed and knew of the spiritual realm with the workings of the material world, I needed to engage in the study of formal knowledge. Thus, for thirty years, I would learn all that was needed to be fully versed in classical scholarly discourse. [Scholarly discourse in this context primarily refers to theological jurisprudence.] Having reconciled these two domains, I set out to pursue the spiritual realm, where I delved into each and every matter to the extent possible. […]

All this is to say that factual learning alone is not sufficient. In every matter, until such time as I had seen and witnessed something firsthand, I would not relay it to anyone with certitude; indeed, seeing is the ultimate stage. Thus, I can say that another world undeniably exists.” (WoT, 57, draft of the forthcoming English translation)

This saying illustrates how, for Ostad Elahi, the path toward knowledge involves one’s entire being. The pursuit of wisdom cannot be separated from that of knowledge. His intellectual approach (including the study of philosophical and spiritual texts, as well as theology) is combined with practice; it is nourished and enriched by the fact that every instant is spent practicing. Such practice he considers to be the “essential groundwork[2]”. In that sense, he can be viewed both as a mystic and as a sage—even though it may seem a paradoxical combination—, because he relies at the same time on the power of reasoning, characteristic of sophia, and on inner inspiration, which is at the core of mysticism. He used to explain that one had to develop sound reason[3] to get to know oneself and, hence, know the Truth. Because wisdom, here, cannot be dissociated from the question of the truth; what is true is closely linked to what is just. This is why the practice of ethics is the condition for accessing the Truth. Knowing the truths is inseparable from practicing what is good, because Goodness is how the Truth manifests itself in action. In the third century CE, Plotinus (whose works and thought permeated the spiritual movements born of the three monotheistic religions) had already had this powerful intuition:

“For it does no good to say, ‘Look towards God,’ unless we are taught how to look towards him… What is there to stop us, someone might say, from looking towards God without abstaining from any pleasure, and without suppressing our anger? What is to stop us, let us say, from keeping the name ‘God’ in mind, and yet being kept ensnared by every passion, and not trying to eliminate any of them? What shows God to us is virtue, as it comes to be in the soul, accompanied by wisdom. Without this genuine virtue, God is only a word.” (Quoted by Pierre Hadot in Plotinus or The Simplicity of Vision, transl. by Michael Chase, Chicago and London, The University of Chicago Press, 1993, p. 66.)

Wisdom is, above all and essentially, practice. Ostad Elahi managed to extract, from his own life, a thought that he then wished to pass on, and that represents the quintessence of spiritual progression. He proposed a mapping of what he calls “the path of perfection of the soul”, with its ups and downs, its difficulties and joys, its obstacles and achievements, its advances toward self-knowledge and hence toward the knowledge of God.

Ostad Elahi spent his entire life in search of the quintessence of wisdoms, religions, spiritualities and ethics, both for himself and in his teachings. In Words of Truth, he stresses several times his concern for finding a quintessential formula that would enable individuals to grow, to live in society and make their way toward God at the same time. A formula that would hold together all these elements:

“My intention is not to recount stories, but to impart lessons. Until I have put something into practice myself, it is impossible for me to recommend it to others. Indeed, I will not utter anything unless I have first fathomed its depths, such that it cannot be disputed in this world or the next.

I have not imitated anyone—everything that I say is based on my own observation and experience. I have summarized the quintessence of all religions in a few words and have placed them at the disposal of all those who are in search of the Truth.” (WoT, 461, draft of the forthcoming English translation)

As traditionally required in Persian spiritual literature, he set out this “quintessence” of religions in a short poem that summarises in a very condensed manner the entire journey of the soul, from its origin to its destination, while mentioning its nature, duties and obligations too.

“In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate
If the essence of Religion is what you seek
Then embrace these principles and beliefs
First, place your faith in that One
Peerless and unique, visible to none
Without associate, birth, or mortality
That suffices to define Him with certainty
Second, consider every being in every time as good
For at its origin none is evil or malevolent
It’s not the agent but the act from which evil is conceived
Strive, in short, to combat such deeds
As for those deemed good in any rank or capacity
You must respect them as they are known to be
Third, in every time and in every place
The good that the wise contemplate
That engenders order and peace in society
And that emanates from what is Right
Practice toward yourself and others
And avoid all that is contrary to it
Beyond that, any faith that you should choose
That does not contradict these principles
Shall be acceptable provided that you apply
With conviction the precepts to which you adhere
Nur Ali[4] researched and found this to be
The quintessence of religions most certainly”

A linear commentary of this short text will allow us to better understand its implications. It is useful, first, to clarify what the expression “quintessence of religions” entails. It is the translation of the Persian expression djowhar-é adyân. Dîn (pl. adyân) refers to all beliefs relating to God (or gods), the world, human beings and life after death, as well as the rules and values governing the “good life” in this world. It does thus indeed mean “religion”. Yet this word’s connotations are far more subtle in Persian than in English, so that it designates something wider, more profound than “religion”. It refers just as much to the Divine as to the relationship human beings establish with Him, as well as the divine dimension within each human being. In that sense, dîn includes all spiritual endeavours and can sometimes be translated as “spirituality”. Moreover, there is for example one expression that Ostad Elahi uses several times, dard-é dîn, in which dîn cannot be translated by “religion” in the strict sense of the word. Dard-é dîn is a desiring pain, felt by every soul, that translates into both a form of nostalgia and a momentum toward the Truth, Wisdom, Goodness, the Source. This spiritual longing is the primordial desire underlying every quest. Ostad Elahi says the following in Words of Truth:

“Those who set out on this path[5] for the sake of recreation, divination, altered states of consciousness, supernatural powers, and the like will quickly tire and leave, whereas those who come with a genuine and persistent spiritual longing will remain steadfast and derive the greatest spiritual benefit. It is this longing alone that with sustained practice will increase one’s resilience and sense of affinity.

Our purpose is to come to know God and to undertake the process of spiritual perfection. […]” (WoT, 62, draft of the forthcoming English translation)

The “essence of religions” sought in this poem thus comprises all the foundational principles that can guide human beings toward spiritual perfection and the knowledge of God, which is the ultimate wisdom. These principles should be subscribed to through faith and conviction (this idea appears at the beginning and at the end of the text), the same way we subscribe to initial axioms to form the basis of any experimental endeavour. An axiom is “a self-evident or universally recognized truth” (According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language) and above all, in the context of spiritual practice, a truth that is confirmed by its effects.

God ?

“[…] First, place your faith in that One
Peerless and unique, visible to none
Without associate, birth, or mortality
That suffices to define Him with certainty […]”

All works of classical Persian literature begin by evoking God. However, in this case, it is not merely an imposed stylistic device. The idea is to begin at the beginning, by evoking the Source of everything that is, because the answer to the existential questions that determine action in this world—where am I from, where am I going and what should I do during the time I have been given to spend here?—depends on it. Also depending on the idea of divine eternity is the question of the immortality of the soul and thus of life after the death of the body. For Ostad Elahi, all wisdom begins with an act of faith in this Being who is beyond all definition, in the existence of whom everything originates and to whom everything returns. In a short treatise published in 1969, Knowing the Spirit[6], he explains in theologico-philosophical terms the metaphysics that underlie this first part of the “Quintessence of religions”. There is no need to go back over the complex argumentation presented by the author in the first chapter of his pamphlet, which is entirely devoted to the question of the existence of God. Suffice it to say that the structure of the book clearly shows that any knowledge of the soul or spirit follows from a number of premises regarding the existence of God and the nature of His attributes. The idea of an all-powerful and eternal creator-God is at the foundation not only of the soul’s immortality, but also of the fact that each of us will have to answer for what they will have done (or not done). The existence of an “account” or a “judgment”, leads to a whole series of consequences regarding how to approach wisdom; we will come back to this below.

What is our truth as human beings? This question cannot be dissociated from the questions relating to our origin and destination, for all beings return to their origin and it is in the interval separating those two points that freedom comes into play. From the answer to these questions follows the meaning we give to our lives and the direction we give to our thoughts and actions. In that sense, reflecting on the origin and destination of beings is not a merely theoretical endeavour; it involves using the theory to embark into practice. This is why any spirituality presupposes a discourse on the origins, a form of cosmogony, allowing one to view human nature within the context of the universe, and to thus give meaning to our existence. Among the numerous manuscripts Ostad Elahi has left us, his “account of creation” constitutes such a foundation stone (see the translation published in Bahram Elahi’s book The Path of Perfection, Paraview, 2005, pp. 227-230). It allows us to better grasp his conception of the spiritual destiny of all beings, and of human beings in particular. This gripping text belongs to the category of visionary mystical texts and deserves a study on its own. We will limit ourselves here to a few passages that provide clarification on the notion of God.

“[A]ll the universes belong to Him, but He is not subject to anything or anyone. He is without equal … invisible, and no one can discover his true essence. He has given his envoys the mission of guiding their people in their own languages. […] The Source is the Unique Creator of all creatures […] no one has discovered His true essence … only He knows who and what He is …” (Ibid., p. 227-228.)

The first axiom from which follow all prophetic missions, and hence all monotheistic religions, is thus the existence of the One, beyond time, space, form, imagination and naming. God is but a name given to the absolute Being. We are not talking about an imaginary god fabricated by man, but about the Source of everything that is. The “historical” gods are, so to speak, merely mirrors reflecting the thought and power of the One for the creatures, in other words, specific forms given in specific times, specific languages and specific cultures, to the Invisible[7]. It is also clear that He is the “cause of causes” from which the chain of causality will set off so that all creatures may come to exist. If in the text of the “Quintessence” a mere few words “suffice to define Him[8]”, it is because what Ostad Elahi considers to be essential is this minimum core that leads all revealed religions throughout time back to this primordial point of unicity from which the multiplicity of forms[9] originated. The notion of God reappears at the end of the text through the use of another term, the term Haqq, which means what is Right, the Truth, and is also one of the names of God (see the introduction by Clara Deville to the French translation of Knowing the Spirit: Ostad Elahi, Connaissance de l’âme, op. cit.). This explains why the word khodâ was not translated here by “God”, but by the “One”. Indeed the concept of God is in the end too firmly fixed in specific dogmas. It is thus better to talk about the divine One, as an Idea of the Truth. In any event, this divine One is for Ostad Elahi a basic premise and the spirit behind all spiritual endeavours.

From all his works, as well as his daily practice of prayer (or more precisely, what he called “attention-dialogue”, fekr o zekr), it is clear that this first principle of the “quintessence of religions” does not represent a theoretical or abstract truth. It is already a matter of turning to action, of engaging into a practice, be it a purely internal one: “placing one’s faith in that One” means instigating a movement of the soul toward the One, but also, in every moment of life, considering in one’s heart of hearts that the ultimate and truly efficient factor is Him, and nothing else. He is the one and only support, the Cause of causes. Everything else is but a cog in the causal machinery that His will must necessarily use. In that sense, he is “without associate”, because the Cause of causes is the only acting force behind everything that is. It is this force that sets in motion the chain of causalities. For this force to intervene, we only need to become capable of catching it, receiving it and retaining it in every moment of our lives.

>> Reflection <<

The author indicates that for Ostad Elahi, “placing one’s faith in that One” also means “in every moment of life, considering in one’s heart of hearts that the ultimate and truly efficient factor is Him, and nothing else”. Do you have any concrete examples or experiences corresponding to this idea?

Feel free to share your thoughts, examples and experiences in the comments section.


[1] ^ These volumes were published posthumously by his son, Bahram Elahi, under the title Asâr ol-Haqq (“Words of Truth”), the first in 1977 and the second in 1991. They contain notes taken during informal gatherings between 1964 and 1974. Later on, Bahram Elahi published a selection of these “words” or “sayings” under the title Bargozideh (“Selection of texts”), Tehran, Nashr-é Pandj, 2008. This volume now exists in French (Paroles de Vérité, translation, notes and introduction by Leili Anvar, Paris, Albin Michel, 2014) [and in Italian (Parole di Verità, Mondadori, 2016). An English translation is forthcoming]. It will be referred to hereinafter as “WoT”, followed by the saying’s number.

[2] ^ See WoT, 469: “I have also analyzed the stages in the process of spiritual perfection and the realm of mysticism to the extent that was needed, which constitute the essential groundwork.” (draft of the forthcoming English translation).

[3] ^ According to Ostad Elahi, “sound reason” (aql-é salim) is the more mature form of habitual reason. It has the capacity to understand both the material and the spiritual dimension of things. See also, Élie During, “Qu’est-ce qu’une spiritualité naturelle ?”, in Quelle sagesse pour notre temps ?, L’Harmattan, 2015.

[4] ^ Nur Ali is Ostad Elahi’s first name.

[5] ^ By “this path”, Ostad Elahi refers to “the path of perfection of the soul”, the principles, foundations and method of which he has set forth in his oral teachings and in his writings.

[6] ^ Ma’refat or-rûh, translated into English under the title Knowing the Spirit, by James W. Morris, op. cit.; into French by Clara Deville, Connaissance de l’âme, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2000.

[7] ^ If this idea of a “unique God” seems more specifically founded on “monotheisms”, Ostad Elahi nevertheless approaches even polytheism in “unicist” terms, in the sense that even in the most asserted forms of polytheism does the diversity of gods proceed from a unique Principle.

[8] ^ As a matter of fact, creatures cannot truly conceive the Creator. In Bohrân ol-Haqq (“Demonstration of the Truth”), Ostad Elahi answers the following to a question about the possibility for human beings to comprehend God: “It is not possible for beings to comprehend the Essence of the One, who is the Creator of all beings; were it otherwise, the Creator would also be deemed a being. Even from a rational, scientific standpoint, it is evident that no object can come to know the essence of its creator. For example, it is impossible for a watchcase or a transmitter to comprehend the essence of its creator, regardless of how well it may function.” (Bohrân ol-Haqq, Tehran, Tahûri, 1963, p. 312).

[9] ^ In this regard he says: “the Truth I found at the point of Unicity” (Words of Faith: Prayers of Ostad Elahi, Paris, Robert Laffont, 1995, p. 33). And in Words of Truth: “How we invoke God matters little, for He is concerned with meaning. The Hebrews may call Him Elohim, the Turks Tanri, and the Persians Yazdan, yet they are all invoking the same entity. Even among idol-worshipers, there are those who have achieved prominence in the spiritual realm, for they merely use the idols as an intermediary to worship the true God.” (WoT, 38 [draft of the forthcoming English translation]). This idea can be found already in some writings of the great spiritual figures of the Persian tradition, in particular those of the mystical poets Attâr and Rûmî (see, Leili Anvar, “Moïse et le berger ou les vertus transformantes du Verbe”, in Comment la littérature change l’homme, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2009).

Editor’s note: Some notes and bibliographical references included in the original version of the text reproduced here were deleted or moved for ease of reading.


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15 comments

  1. David Sep 19, 2017 3:13 pm 1

    How do we reconcile these apparently conflicting statements “the ultimate and truly efficient factor is Him, and nothing else. He is the one and only support, the Cause of causes” and “For this force to intervene, we only need to become capable of catching it, receiving it and retaining it in every moment of our lives.”

    1. A. Sep 20, 2017 9:05 am 1.1

      “For this force to intervene, we only need to become capable of catching it, receiving it and retaining it in every moment of our lives.”
      I think that this last sentence refers to the fact the Source is like a mirror and reflects upon us, our own actions and deeds. So, in this case, the more attention you have towards the Source (meaning that your “receivers” are turned on), the more it will intervene in your life.

    2. yocto Sep 21, 2017 5:33 pm 1.2

      Great question David! Why do you think, despite being Almighty, His presence is so subtle? I guess He just doesn’t like to show off and impose His power.

    3. tom Nov 17, 2017 2:42 pm 1.3

      if i understand this right, it means that built into the spiritual system is the mechanism by which we can only see Him when we are ready/able to see Him. Like a stem cell being ‘ready’ to become a brain cell, and as is said in biology, becomes ‘competent’ to respond to signals that already exist in the environment. Maybe it’s kind of a blessing, because it means that while His energy is constantly there and around us, only if we are spiritually conscious — and thus able to understand and take advantage of this energy — can we actually capture it.

  2. mandee Sep 19, 2017 5:38 pm 2

    Thank you so much for providing us with such a wonderful article.

  3. A. Sep 20, 2017 9:19 am 3

    “The author indicates that for Ostad Elahi, “placing one’s faith in that One” also means “in every moment of life, considering in one’s heart of hearts that the ultimate and truly efficient factor is Him, and nothing else”. Do you have any concrete examples or experiences corresponding to this idea?”

    There are times in our lives where the One, to perfect our faith, shows us that only He/She can make something happen. For instance:

    a) you look for a new job maybe for many years, but you end up finding one only after truly giving up any hope in the “cogs” of life; for instance you have used all the contacts you had, sent hundreds of letters to all sorts companies, for all sorts of job, attended all sorts of conferences, networking events, etc., and nothing worked, nothing happened until you had given up hope in these “cogs”;

    b) (similar to experience a) you run out of money and despite trying hard to find a job, or a better paid one, or to find new customers, etc., you have not managed and you are in a situation where you are not able pay the bills at the end of the month. Here again, you may come to a point where you give up hope in the cogs of life and … suddenly an invisible hand solves all your financial problems in a completely unexpected way;

    c) you are ill, seriously ill, you have tried and sought advice with numerous doctors, but nobody understands what you have. Here again, as soon as you give up on the “cogs” you may experience a sudden inexplicable recovery, or finally meet the right doctor etc…

  4. NAGHME Sep 21, 2017 3:18 am 4

    I’ve experienced that sometimes He closes doors because it’s time to move forward. He knows I won’t move unless circumstances force me to trust the transition. When He gives me a “no”, I’ve learnt to give Him a “thank you” despite how hard it is. His way is better than my way and His plan for my spiritual life is bigger than my plan. His plans for my life are more rewarding, more fulfilling, better. So I just try to stay and at least let Him show me His way .

  5. Homayoun Sep 23, 2017 7:05 pm 5

    Placing one’s faith in the Divine One & knowing the ultimate and truly efficient factor is Him and nothing else. I have many experiences but will limit them to 4:

    1. I lost jobs that was performing greatly, just to be given other jobs that were beyond my qualifications – it was obvious to me that it was due to Him, without any doubts.

    2. Even though English is my 2nd language, and not having any professional training in giving presentations or speeches to small or large audiences, I have given many presentations and experts in the field considered I was a natural speaker and knew how to connect with the audience. There was nothing natural about it; I felt Him with me before, during and after, as if He was giving the speech for me and I was just a vehicle.

    3. I was working with a senior executive team in the industry. Many people were having difficulties connecting with them at the personal level, but I was able to win them over and accomplish my goals, and not because I am such a great salesperson (I am not) – it was so obvious and clear to me that it was all Him.

    4. I was placed in very tough situations where I could have been physically harmed and nothing happened to me; just because He was with me in my heart and soul. I’ve dealt with illness that could have led to my death and came out of them without any harm. All signs of the One.

  6. Coco Sep 24, 2017 12:08 am 6

    “Dard-é dîn is a desiring pain, felt by every soul, that translates into both a form of nostalgia and a momentum toward the Truth, Wisdom, Goodness, the Source. This spiritual longing is the primordial desire underlying every quest.”

    As I’ve been reading this article, totally absorbed, I feel like a parched person coming upon a cool drink of water. I find it refreshing me and I feel encouraged about continuing my journey forward in my quest to come to know the Truth.

    Thank you for an inspiring article.

  7. A. Sep 27, 2017 7:45 am 7

    “Dard-é dîn is a desiring pain, felt by every soul, that translates into both a form of nostalgia and a momentum toward the Truth, Wisdom, Goodness, the Source. This spiritual longing is the primordial desire underlying every quest.”

    I also felt this pain at times in my life. It was so intense, so intense … that it permeated my whole life over entire days. I was full of regret for not having worked enough on applying ethics and for not having fought enough against my imperious self. This longing came from not being able to get closer to Him as a result of my base nature.

    That is when I understood what it must feel like to arrive in the other world, after a life where one has not worked hard enough to apply ethics in one’s daily life, and to not be able to get close to Him because of one’s lowly nature. It must be really hard.

  8. kbld Sep 30, 2017 12:41 pm 8

    Something bothers me when I read most of the examples given here of Him as the efficient factor, because they seem mostly focused on material help. I do believe that His merciful presence encompasses everything, and that material help is like a sign, a remembrance of the idea that is stated in the poem (God as the truly efficient factor). But, to me, the true blessing is not there. It is when He helps you to do good. We are fallible and insignificant beings, and yet He places us in situations in which we can do real good deeds. We don’t master causality, and it can be quite messy, but His benevolence is such that if we are sincere in our devotion to others, our mistakes are not really harmful, and often our insignificant actions produce good results. It is difficult to give specific examples of that, but that kind of blessing is the true blessing I think.
    I tend to agree more with J, who gave examples, in a comment on another article (https://www.e-ostadelahi.com/eoe-en/this-feeling-of-injustice/#comment-813841), of the spiritual education given by the Efficient One, and that it is a true blessing.
    As for materiality, I don’t think the state of mind that consists in thinking “I have a material benefit there, God helped me then, but not there, God did not help me, perhaps another time…” is correct. Trusting God is not like betting on a horse. I think we should try rather to develop a truer vision, and understand that the spiritual benefit of something has no link with the purely material benefit of it. For example in my life, I clearly see that some big material losses have led to big material benefits, but I think it would be deeply wrong for me to think of it as some sort of financial trading where in the end you benefit materially even if you suffer some losses along the way. Of course, it does not mean that we cannot see God’s hand in our material successes, thank him for that and see them as blessings too. But I think we should try to move beyond that kind of relation with Him, and be ready to be happy of His will whatever it is (see for example the comment I posted there [https://www.e-ostadelahi.com/eoe-en/this-feeling-of-injustice/#comment-813719]).

    1. tom Oct 04, 2017 1:43 pm 8.1

      While i agree with you in principle, I think that being in this material world, the best way for us to understand and comprehend His Effect is through our material lives. In many ways He intervenes in our lives to help us (or even save us!) at our most dire moments maybe so that we learn and understand His signs. I can also think of moments He intervenes in a way that may not seem ‘good’ for us materially/psychologically. I can think of a time that I felt that He intervened in my life to show me a mistake I was making and it happened in a way that embarrassed me tremendously. The moment I understood that He was trying to teach me something, I instantly felt better and was happy that He even cares to intervene and teach me. The love I felt at that moment was so sincere and pure. I immediately felt His presence and so believe that the most potent and robust ways we feel the Efficient is through our material life.

  9. chat31 Oct 15, 2017 4:14 pm 9

    Thank you for this article and for the experiences shared in the comments above, they are very accurate and I relate to many of them. I have witnessed His efficiency in all things through the “ethical tests” I go through in my daily life. I believe they have been set for me to learn more about myself and my flaws, and it’s undeniable that these tests come from Him.

    For example, about a month ago, one of my bosses was organizing a gala with his non-profit and invited all the associates that work for him, except me. I was upset about it, especially since he would be talking about it in front of me to other associates – I thought it was incredibly unsubtle. I was already a bit sensitive to this superior’s conduct and always felt that he was more considerate of my male colleagues and gave them more substantive work than to me, so the fact that he did not invite me made it worse.It became the source of many negative thoughts towards my superior, and deeply affected my working relationship with him – every comment or criticism he made on my work would be a reason for me to think that he sees me as inferior and doesn’t like me, and I would suffer from it.

    I tried to look at the situation with a more spiritual outlook. I realized that I was being tested on my “negative seeing”, and in particular on the fact that I was assigning negative intentions to another person without knowing if it were actually true or not. I told myself two things: first, that my boss does not have a duty to invite me. I am just here to work for him, and whether he invites me to social events should not affect my work relationship with him. Second, I did not know the actual reason as to why I had not been invited, and so long as I didn’t know, I could not judge him. So I decided to ask a senior associate whom I knew was invited what his opinion was. When I asked him, he said “You are invited! He asked me who we should invite, and when I told him your name he said you were already on the guest list. He probably just forgot to send you the email.” All my negative thoughts and speculations for the course of one week could have easily been resolved with this one question.

    I was thankful that He, as my Educator, staged this situation to make me realize how unhealthy being so negative is, both in my spiritual and material life. It comes from Him because my boss could have just sent me that email, and that would have been the end of it. But here it really gave me an opportunity to be more tolerant of others when they don’t act towards me the way I want them to, and to stop thinking that I am owed any privileges. And in fact, my work relationship with my boss has improved since then because I have stopped thinking that he wants to hurt me. I hope that He will always help us be attentive to His signs and put in every effort to work on those flaws He wants us to correct.

  10. Nooshie Dec 21, 2017 4:42 am 10

    I have come to know that He truly is the efficient in all things. I can recite dozens of examples from my own experiences. The following are just a few examples from the seemingly minor to the extremely profound:
    1- Being reminded to take my office keys before leaving for work when I had forgotten all about them;
    2- Getting a flat tire while driving right across the street from a famous tire repair shop;
    3- Being cut off on a highway by another car which caused me to slow down and thus avoid getting a speeding ticket by highway police a very short distance later. My first instinctive reaction to both of the latter examples was anger and worry but I soon recognized His grace.
    4- After trying countless times unsuccessfully to quit smoking on my own, I finally gave up my own will and left it to Him and the next day I quit smoking.
    5- Finally, the most profound example I can cite is Him saving my life when I was at death’s door and in a coma for more than 2 weeks due to my own negligence and all the best doctors gave me no chance of survival, He chose to give me yet another opportunity to redeem myself.
    He is everything!!!

  11. Hope28 Feb 27, 2018 9:28 pm 11

    *Can someone explain this footnote better? I assume it relates to religions such as “Hinduism”?

    ” If this idea of a “unique God” seems more specifically founded on “monotheisms”, Ostad Elahi nevertheless approaches even polytheism in “unicist” terms, in the sense that even in the most asserted forms of polytheism does the diversity of gods proceed from a unique Principle”

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