A letter to a Sufi friend

If I sometimes sound as though I am against Islam, or against this or that political stance, you should know that I am not. I am against any radicalization, as it separates us from each other.

Attendants from dozens of countries and from all religions participating in the World Kabbalah Convention at Ganei Hataarucha, Tel-Aviv (photo credit: Courtesy)
Attendants from dozens of countries and from all religions participating in the World Kabbalah Convention at Ganei Hataarucha, Tel-Aviv
(photo credit: Courtesy)
About two weeks ago, I received a letter from a friend I didn’t know I had. His name is Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, and he is co-director of The Association of British Muslims, and director of Khilafah Online, Ltd. In the letter, he shared with me his concerns that some of my recent statements regarding current events might be misconstrued as political and would turn people away from me. The concern in the letter moved me.
I met with Sufis before and always found that we have many things in common, including the most vital aspect of the wisdom of Kabbalah, that correcting our world requires uniting our hearts. This letter was no different, and I concur with Paul’s words: “Between them, Kabbalah and Sufism have the potential to unite the hearts of our Human Family.”
Paul added that commenting on politics is “obviously a necessary aspect of any society,” but that it is “a very divisive area on which many people have very strongly held views.” I could not agree more. He also wrote that “should a teacher of spiritual wisdom be seen to too strongly identify with or support a particular political stance, it can drive people away who otherwise agree with their overall message, but cannot accept or support their political views.” Again, I fully concur and I am well aware of this.
At first, I planned to reply with a personal thank you letter and leave it at that. But then, I realized that Paul’s bold approach was an opportunity to explain in greater detail to a broad readership how the wisdom of Kabbalah relates to current events, and why it is so vitally important that we do not ignore what is happening in the world, as correction of our souls takes place right here, among us, in this very physical world.
On that note, I share with you my reply to my Sufi friend, Mr. Paul Salahuddin Armstrong.
Dearest Paul,
First, I want to thank you for sharing your concerns; it is always helpful to get another perspective and to make precisions where required.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, I commend you on your courage and resolve to help spread the message of unity. Coming forward in both your own name and the name of your organization is truly praiseworthy in times when hatred drives people out of their senses.
It might indeed sound as though I am leaning toward this or that political side, but I am not. I am leaning toward the side of unity above all conflicts. Regrettably, at the moment, neither side in the political arena subscribes to this view.
That said, the rapid deterioration in the state of the world is prompting me to warn more harshly than before, and sometimes at the risk of sounding critical toward this or that side in particular. As I see it, we are facing a systemic crisis that is threatening to lead humankind to untold catastrophes, but we lack the required knowledge to deal with such a predicament.
At the same time, the world’s leaders are standing idly by—not because they do not want to make things better, but because they don’t know how. Their uncertainty reflects on their countries, which in turn leads to social and political unrest and instability.
Indeed, humanity is at a new phase. The world has become interconnected and interdependent, yet we have no idea how to operate in an environment where everything I do affects every other person in the world very literally.
Until now, we largely lived by the winner-takes-all mentality. In the animal kingdom, there is balance between prey and predator and each prospers precisely when, and because the other prospers. But among humans, blind self-centeredness has taken over and we are tangled up in a last-one-standing type of brawl, seeking the ruin of our adversaries instead of harmonious coexistence. Why can’t we all live in peace? Because human nature does not allow it. We have become selfish to the core.
Yet, in an interdependent world, a fight to the death means that if you die, I die, too. And while many people already realize this, we have yet to find a way to change human nature so as to prevent this seemingly inevitable bitter end, hence my sense of urgency.
Our mission, the mission of all humanity, but certainly of those who understand the gravity of the situation, is to introduce a balancing influence to our human society. If our ailment is excessive egoism, then the treatment should be a good dose of consideration and care for others. In Kabbalah, as you probably know, we refer to this balance between giving and receiving as “the middle line.”
We cannot restrain our egoism, or even arrest its intensification. Instead, we should acknowledge who we are, and decide to connect above our differences, first covering our alienation with mutual consideration, and finally covering it with love.
Among my students in Israel and around the world, there are people from every religion, race, gender, culture, and political affiliation. Yet, our desire to connect above all that separates us is so strong that these differences form no barriers. In fact, they increase our vitality, and intensify our connection and unity.
Baal HaSulam (Rav Yehuda Ashlag, author of the Sulam [ladder] commentary on The Book of Zohar) writes that when humanity reaches its corrected state, “the collective religion of all the nations” will be “love your neighbor as yourself” (The Writings of the Last Generation & The Nation). Moreover, he adds that “each nation will follow its own religion and tradition, and one must not interfere with the other.” We try to live by this principle.
Therefore, if I sometimes sound as though I am against Islam, or against this or that political stance, you should know that I am not. I am against any radicalization by any party and from any religion, as it separates us from each other. And accordingly, I welcome anyone who wishes to unite above all differences.
My dear friend, I hope I managed to shed some light on why I feel compelled at times to speak with apparent admonition. In truth, I have complaints against no one; it is human nature, but now is the time we must urge ourselves to change it.
May you go from strength to strength in all that you do, and may our efforts to bring unity and love to our tormented human family bear fruit soon in our days, Amen.
My warmest regards,
Michael Laitman is a Professor of Ontology, a PhD in Philosophy and Kabbalah, an MSc in Medical Bio-Cybernetics, and was the prime disciple of Kabbalist, Rav Baruch Shalom Ashlag (the RABASH). He has written over 40 books, which have been translated into dozens of languages. Click Here to visit his author page.