>> Sunday, January 11, 2009
"the only true aristocracy is that of consciousness."
- d.h. lawrence as quoted by brian browne walker in his translation of the i-ching
i had a lovely conversation with a poet acquaintance of mine in which i remembered an aspect of sufism that makes me feel strange. there is this myth in sufism of the hidden masters, the super-elites, the inner circle who using their substantial psychic powers battle the "evil" mages of the world and ultimately keep their awareness on many things and shape the world.
on the one hand i am quite aware of the superior powers that can be wielded with higher states of consciousness. on the other hand though, i am supremely skeptical of the possibility of higher powers existing uncorrupted, existing in a non-deluded state. i'm not saying that good is only done by the weak, just that the strong sometimes sit around kissing their biceps.
part of this discomfort of mine surely stems from my anarchism... elites by their very existence toss anarchism's white whale of non-hierarchy out the window... no government is needed to deny folks autonomy when people by their own skill and wisdom control the world by sheer superiority. it is a prison, whether from the "evil" mage or the hidden sufi lover.
"more harm is done by fools through foolishness than is done by evildoers through wickedness"
- the prophet as quoted here
on the one hand are these qualms, this nausea i feel whenever i notice that people can be (and sometimes want to be) pawns. i play a good chess game, but in real life, people die, and i don't want to be king. on the other hand, much of the justice in the world has come from people who earned their wings proudly; powerlessness/nonintervention can be a copout.
a big difficulty in determining the effects of power is embodied in this quote. i have my criticisms of barrack obama, for example, but my position to judge his choices isn't his. his short-sightedness to me may be great vision to him and vice versa. it is said that a sufi signed the death warrant of hallaj... fulfilling the needs of each to teach their lesson...
i am both worthy and unworthy of power, i both wield it and it wields me... knowing these paradoxes, i try to accept it when i'm called upon to be powerful, and cede it when i'm called upon to be a pawn. like pistons in an engine of agency, the universe allows for tyrants and rebellions... power creates ugliness no more than powerlessness creates beauty.
in defense of the sufis, the deification of individual power enshrined in thelema, laveyan satanism, monopolist capitalism and certain forms of individualist anarchism isn't to be found in sufism. laura put it very simply: where as the listed ideologies are like, "power... let's get some!", sufism is more like "power... since we keep finding some, let's use it wisely."
"power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. great men are often bad men."
- lord acton as quoted here
"i wonder at a lover who in conceit of his merits walks proudly among the flowers of the garden"
- ibn al-arabi, the interpreter of desires, as quoted by peter lamborn wilson in scandal - essays in islamic heresy
i mentioned above that powerlessness and nonintervention can be a real copout. naturally i don't believe that everyone who is powerless is so by choice, or even that all of those who eschew power for a monastic lifestyle are cowards or worse... i just think that sometimes the willful pursuit of power can be a loving act, a necessary act even, despite my fears of it.
but note: one of the best acts that can be committed by the powerful is to share that power with those who don't have it. education, charity, and healing are all children of that impulse. at other times, the best act that can be committed by the powerful is to annihilate the power itself. finally, i believe love is knowing when to walk these lines and when to cross them.