Interview: Inner Christianity and Esotericism With Richard Smoley

Richard Smoley is a consulting editor to Parabola magazine and the author of several books on esotericism, religion, and spirituality, including Supernatural: Writings on an Unknown History, How God Became God: What Scholars Are Really Saying about God and the Bible, and Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition.

During the 1980s, Smoley was a writer for the respected esoteric journal Gnosis, and in 1990 he became the journal’s editor. Under his editorship, Gnosis released issues on Gnosticism, Freemasonry, G.I. Gurdjieff, the spirituality of Russia, and more.

We spoke to him about the spiritual crisis of the West, alternative spirituality, and inner Christianity.  Continue reading “Interview: Inner Christianity and Esotericism With Richard Smoley”

The Mask of The Higher Self

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth [of what he thinks],” says Oscar Wilde in his Epigrams: Phrases and Philosophies for the Use of the Young. This is not strictly true. What Wilde really speaks of is not the mask (which has been a part of ritual and theater since ancient time) but, rather, anonymity.

Today we see the most obvious example of this online, with those individuals who, using fake names and cartoon avatars, post the kind of derogatory and inflammatory comments on social media and blogs that they would never say in person.

Yet, anonymity and society are partly the same thing. Those who are attacked are usually those who do not conform in dress, taste in music, beliefs, or opinions.

People often appear to be swept up in whatever is the latest “thing,” buying and wearing the latest fashion as it reaches a certain level of popularity, and ditching as it begins to lose popularity. The same applies, of course, to other aspects of society: cars, technology, cuisine, and even politics and social opinions. To be as fashionable as possible (whether in style or opinions) is contradictory: it is, in a sense, to make a display of conforming. It is, like fame itself, a kind of public anonymity in terms of the real self. Continue reading “The Mask of The Higher Self”

The Sufi Mysticism of Music, Sound, and Vibration

Within the sayings and practices of both Sufism and music, one can find all the necessary conditions that are needed to cultivate higher states of observation and consciousness.  Upon the attainment of these higher states, says scholar Irene Markoff, the seeker can finally achieve the desired “spiritual intoxication (wajd) and a unique and intimate union, even annihilation (fana’), in the supreme being.”

In Sufi music, this practice is known as Samāʿ (Arabic: “listening”). It is the mystical approach of practicing “listening” in order to achieve remembrance (Dhikr) of the divine spark in our heart of hearts. Through chanting — and while in a mystical trance — participants reinforce their ecstatic state with the aim of reaching a “direct knowledge (maʿrifah) of God or Reality (ḥaqq).” Continue reading “The Sufi Mysticism of Music, Sound, and Vibration”