Path of Perfection (صراط الكمال)
“Long live the Taliyah, long live the people on the Path of Perfection…” – Naj.One
Lesson 1 of the Level of Adam: The ONENESS of Allah. There are 8 Levels, as follows: Adam, Nuh, Ibrahim, Ishaq and Isma`il, Musa, Dawud, `Isa and Muhammad. Each level has 8 lessons. Each level takes various spans of time. You begin the first level with one lesson per day for 8 days. The level of Nuh is, according to its namesake, 40 days in length. Some levels will take years, others decades. Perfection is found in walking the Path, not in anticipation of the Destination. The journey is the experience and the refinement process for socio-spiritual evolution…
Chapter 1: The Level of Adam
Lesson 1: The Oneness of Allah
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Before any, there existed Something Formless yet Complete, before the Heavens and the Earth, without sound or substance – yet the Source of both – depending on Nothing, unchanging, yet constantly in-flux; in potentia. IT was, is and will be, That which is ALL-pervading, unfailing. For IT there was no beginning and shall be no end. For IT is the Beginning and the End. Its End is in Its Beginning and Its Beginning in its End. By IT the entire Universe was given form.
Why should we say “IT” and not “He” or “She?” Because IT contains both masculine and feminine in potentia. Thus, in Semitic languages, “Hu” is both used as “he” and as “it” – because there is simply no linguistic gender-neutral pronoun in this language family. As such, we say “Hu” to indicate the inclusion of both masculine and feminine potentialities within the Reality of the Creator. As it is written in the Tao Te Ching:
The Tao begot one.
One begot two.
Two begot three.
And three begot the ten thousand things.
The ten thousand things carry yin and embrace yang.
They achieve harmony by combining these forces.
Thus, all potential existence Exists within the Reality that is Hu. Imam `Ali, Amir al-Mu’minin, the Qutb of Allah, has thus said in his first khutbah, or sermon, from Nahj al-Balaghah, that “the foremost in the Din is the acknowledgement of Hu, the Perfection of acknowledging Hu is to testify Hu, the Perfection of testifying Hu is to believe in Hu’s Oneness, the Perfection of believing in Hu’s Oneness is to regard Hu Pure, and the Perfection of Hu’s purity is to deny Hu attributes, because every attribute is a proof that it is different from that to which it is attributed and everything to which something is attributed is different from the attribute. Thus, whoever attaches attributes to Allah recognizes Hu’s like, and who recognizes Hu’s like regards Hu two; and who regards Hu two recognizes parts for Hu; and who recognizes parts for Hu mistook Hu; and who mistook Hu pointed at Hu; and who pointed at Hu admitted limitations for Hu; and who admitted limitations for Hu numbered Hu.”
There is no “place” nor “time” within which Allah exists. For space-time is a dimension of the creation, the construct of Allah’s thought. What is there to say “of” Allah? For all that is “of” must come forth “from.” There is no- “where” devoid of Allah’s Infinite presence, and there is no-“thing” originating from something “else” be-“sides” Allah.
The “Name” of the Unnamable
What is this “Allah?” It is That which in the Torah calls “YHVH” in the Hebrew language – a Verb, not a noun. This YHVH is Perpetually-Ever-Existing – not “the” Perpetually-Ever-Existing, but instead, Perpetually-Ever-Existing, as a Verb, a Process. Thus, in Hebrew this Name is not a name at all, because Names are nouns, and This is a Verb. Yet, we refer to it and utilize it linguistically like a Name, so that we have a frame of reference and means of relaying conceptualization. It is thus commonly called “The Name” or “Ha’Shem” amongst the Children of Israel.
So, it bears repeating: There is no “place” nor “time” within which Ha’Shem exists. For space-time is a dimension of the creation, the construct of Ha’Shem’s thought. What is there to say “of” Ha’Shem? For all that is “of” must come forth “from.” There is no-“where” devoid of Ha’Shem’s Infinite presence, and there is no-”thing” originating from something “else” be-“sides” Ha’Shem. Thus, it is further written, in the Tao Te Ching, that:
The Tao that can be spoken of is not the true Tao.
The name that can be given name is not the Eternal Name.
The Nameless is the Origin of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
Ha’Shem is the Infinite, we are the finite. Ha’Shem is Independent, we are dependent. A cell within a body is NOT the Total Being; yet it IS within it. A drop of water is NOT the Ocean but it is a tiny, finite FACET of the Ocean. A grain of sand is NOT the Beach, but it is a finite particle of the Beach. We must understand this with discernment. The drops of water in the Ocean and the grains of sand on the Beach are Real, but ONLY when seen as part of the Totality. When limited to them‘selves’ they are not Real. When a grain of sand says that it can stand alone as the entire Beach, then it is deluded by its nefesh or nafs (ego-self), and has fallen into the false perception of duality, what is called shirk (polytheism) in Judeo-Arabic. Yet likewise, it is also incorrect to think that you are a grain of sand, separate from the Reality. Such a person perceives that around them are only other grains of sand, the Beach is real but it is off somewhere else where they have never seen, and “we” are absolutely unrelated to It. Only Ha’Shem is Self-Sufficient. Ha’Shem is the Independent; “we” are the dependent.
Thus, Imam `Ali said further that: “Whosoever said in what is Hu, held that Hu is contained; and whoever said on what is Hu held Hu is not on something else. Hu is a Being but not through phenomenon of coming into being. Hu exists but not from non-existence. Hu is with everything but not in physical nearness. Hu is different from everything but not in physical separation. Hu acts but without connotation of movements and instruments. Hu sees even when there is none to be looked at from among Hu’s creation. Hu is only One, such that there is none with whom Hu may keep company or whom Hu may miss in his absence.”
What does this mean? It means that Ha’Shem’s Nature is not that which can be defined by words or analogy, but through words and analogy we endeavor to provoke the Salik, the Seeker, to think of That which is Ha’Shem. In this way we define the Great Nothing of the Ayn Sof, by describing that which is. This is akin to a painter who renders the shape of a “thing” by painting “around” the negative space which thusly defines the “thing.” In this way we describe the nature of the relationship of particles to their Wholes, so that in defining that which is illusory, that which is part of the “construct” of the Mind, we define the “negative space” of That which is Real.
It is narrated from Imam Abu Ja`far who said when he was asked, “Is it permissible to say Allah is a thing?” that he answered: “Yes, it is permissible because it excludes Hu from being ignored altogether and from being analogized or considered similar to the creatures.”
Accordingly, it is written in the Torah that we are to meditate day and night upon the Reality of what we call the Shema`, and its commandment that we relate to the Verbal Reality that is YHVH as though it were “our God” (Elohenu). That is: “Shema` Yisrael, YHVH Elohenu, YHVH Echad.”
שמע ישראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה אחד
What does this mean? The aforementioned Shema` translates loosely to the sentence: “Listen Israel, Ha’Shem your God, Ha’Shem is One.” There is much more in this sentence, than such an overly simplistic translation. First, we must look at the word Shema` itself. To be sure, it means “hear” or “listen.” But it can only be contextually understood in relation to who it is instructing to listen…
Just as Rashi interprets the word “Yisrael” as deriving from “Sarita,” and Philo plays on the relationship of “seeing God,” Targum Onkelus translates Yeshurun (Devarim/Deuteronomy 32:15; 33:5,26; Yeshayahu/Isaiah 44:2) as Yisrael. “And He was king in Yeshurun, when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel were gathered together” (Devarim 33:5). A number of commentators have further noted the etymology of Yashar El, including Yehudah Ashlag, known as the Ba`al Ha’Sulam, in his commentary on the Zohar. He mentions this etymology, as in the expression “the crooked has become straight” (Vehaya he’aqov le’mishor) (Yeshayahu/Isaiah 40:4). Rabbi Eliezer of Germiza’s Kli Yakar explains similarly that the term Yisrael is composed of these two words; Yashar and El. Israel are thus those who are right in the sense of being just or straight in the Eyes of God; those who are on a path (derekh) straight to God and Godliness.
But as well, Yisrael refers to those who see God, because they are Yashar and Yosher.
We thus must understand that those instructed to listen are those who are already assumed to have eyes to see. Thus, those called to listen are those amongst those who see who have ears to hear. We thus must not gloss over the significance of Yishmael and Yisrael ben Yitzhaq, and the relationship between them. A full discussion of this subject, from the Rabbinic literature, is beyond the scope of the discussion at hand. It will suffice here to mention it, and direct the observer to reflect upon it.
Those with eyes to see are told to turn their ears to hear. What must they listen to? The reality that Ha’Shem is, unto us, our God. That is, what we regard as a god, for us, elohenu, is the Tetragrammaton – a Verb – alone. What we conceive of as the noun of elohenu is actually – for us – this Verb of “Ever-Existing”. What else must we turn our ears to hear? That EverExistingness is to us our god, and this Ever-Existingness is One. That is, the Ever-Existingness is the Oneness of Existence itself; of Existingness itself. This then is a meditation on the Divine Reality, on what is called in Sufism Wahdat al-Wujud.
Now when this sentence of the shema` is written in a Sefer Torah, it is obligatory for it to be written with an over-sized ayin (ע) at the end of the shema` and an over-sized dalet at the end of the word echad (ד). If anyone knows the meaning of this for the עד in the prayer, they should realize that it is beyond just a sect of gematria or any subtle meaning such as “bearing witness”; all of which are true, and interesting, but not the issue at hand. How do we make use of these letters? This is essential for mantric use of the Shema`, in Selah or otherwise. Reflect upon the fact that originally the Shema` consisted only of these words alone (Sukkot 42a; Berakhot 13b). If you know what the sages said to do with these letters, and if you know the method of ancient Selah of the Am Ha’Suf, then the use for these letters should be clear to you.
And it was taught: Symmachos said: Anyone who prolongs the pronunciation of Eḥad, his days and years will likewise be prolonged. R. Aha b. Jacob said: This refers to the letter dalet. Rabbi Ashi said: Moreover, one should not shorten the letter chet. Rabbi
Jeremiach was seated before his teacher, Rabbi Hiyya ben Abba. (Berakhot 13b) And I, Asher ben Rabbi Yaqov ha’Levi, heard directly from Rabbi Eleazar Ha’Drashan, of blessed memory, they prolong the dalet of Eḥad in order to acknowledge His sovereignty in Heaven and on earth and in the four directions.
Thus, we read from Rabbi Abraham ben Isaac of Narbonne, the following on the authority of the eleventh century Babylonian sage Rabbi Chai Gaon the following lengthy passage, worth reproducing at length:
We have learned that one does well to shorten the alef, and it is commanded to do so. We can deduce this from Rabbi Ashi’s stipulation that specifically the chet should not be shorted. The fact that he did not mention the alef implies that one does well to shorten it. It has been stated that one should lengthen the chet to a count of three and the dalet to twice three. First, one should acknowledge sovereignty below and above while reciting the chet, and then do the four directions during the dalet.
When contemplating the four directions, one should nod one’s head first east, then west, then south, then north. We learn this practice from the Hilchot Yetzirah (The Laws of Creation), as taught there (chapter 1:13)…
At the fifth [stage], He chose three simple letters: yud, hey, vav, and fixed them for His Great Name. He sealed the six directions with them. He sealed the heights and turned upward and sealed it with yud, hey, vav. The sixth [stage] He sealed below and turned downward and sealed it with yud, vav, hey. The seventh [stage] He sealed the east and turned before Himself and sealed it with hey, yud, vav. The eighth [stage] He sealed the west and turned backwards and sealed it with hey, vav, yud. The ninth [stage] He sealed the south and turned to His right and sealed it with vav, yud, hey. The tenth [stage]
He sealed the north and turned to His left and sealed it with vav, hey, yud.”
Since we are taught this, it is proper that we acknowledge the sovereignty of the Creator of the Universe, during our recitation of the Shema`, following the same pattern with which the Creator created and sealed the Universe. And our teacher, Hai, of blessed memory explained [ that one should prolong the recitation of Eḥad] long enough to motion with one’s head in the six directions and thereby accept the dominion of Heaven. And Rabbi [Yehudah the Prince] would cover his eyes with his hands, [when facing his students during the recitation]. Our sages explain that he was protecting himself from having his students see his eyes when he was rotating them in the various directions.
Thus, it is written “Gal (roll) my eyes that I might see the wonders of Your Torah” (Tehillim/Psalms 119:18), indicating the origins of raising the hands in front of the eyes at the conclusion of Salat in the Muslim world. This method is also found in Daoist Zhan Zhuang standing meditation, at the conclusion thereof, for the purposes of sealing the qi in the body, so that it does not escape from the eye-sockets, following the pressurized reverse breathing and sinking of qi. We can thus interpret these esoteric practices as a form of such energy-sealing, in concert, to an extent, with the Qi Kung methods of Abu Lafia, which are beyond the scope of this work.
One must NEVER say that a particle is the Whole. Ha’Shem is the Whole “we” are the particle. But Ha’Shem tells us “we” cannot divide the Whole of Hu; so far be it from the Mamin, the Mu’min to consider anything as “separate” from Hu. Thus, by analogy we can speak of a sand and Beach, or drop and Ocean, but these speak of what is, not what is Not. To approach the matter more appropriately, we must approach our relationship to Ha’Shem as that which is dreamed within the Mind of The Dreamer.
Thus, Imam `Ali said, in his eighty-fourth Khutbah or sermon of Nahj al-Balaghah, that: “I stand witness that there is no god but Allah, Hu is One and there is no partner with Hu. Hu is the First, such that nothing was before Hu. Hu is the Last, such that there is not limit for Hu. Imagination cannot catch any of Hu’s qualities. Hearts cannot entertain belief about Hu’s Nature. Analysis and division cannot be applied to Hu. Eyes and hearts cannot compare Hu.”
Hu neither begets (i.e. “creates outside of Hu’self”), nor is begotten (i.e. “there is Nothing else for Hu to be created out of”). Ha’Shem did NOT “break off” a piece of Hu’self. For “where” would this piece be broken off too? What would lie between the cracks that would signify the “break?” Where else could Hu “put” those broken pieces other than within Hu’s Infinite and Omnipresent Existence? Where else could the Tzimzum be, but within the Mind of Ha’Shem?
The Primordial Adam
The Midrash `Aggadah, Vayikra Rabba compares Moshe to three previous prophets, beginning with Adam, which it includes as the first of the prophets (1.9). “Thus, it is written: ‘And Ha’Shem called unto Moshe.’ But had It not also called Adam? Why, it is already said, ‘And Ha’Shem called unto Adam’ (Berashit/Genesis 3.8)! Well, it is not undignified for a King to speak with his sharecrop.” Direct communication with the Divine has typically characterized prophethood. In addition to Adam, Noah and Abraham are compared to Moshe, thus for this reason, in the Qur’an, 3:30, we read, “Verily, God has chosen Adam, and Noah, and Abraham’s people, and Imram’s people” following this Midrash, as the Qur’an so often follows the patterns laid down in rabbinic materials.
The passages of the Qur’an itself which indicate prophethood for Adam are no different than the traditional Jewish source material on the same matter. God speaks to Adam repeatedly, and for this reason also, Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler explains that, even Cain was a prophet (Michtav Me’Eliyahu, Jerusalem. 5742, Vol. 1, p. 164). As for insights and foresight associated with prophecy, this is demonstrated in the ability found in Adam’s correct naming of the animals Naming battle (Midrash Rabbah 17:4).
We see the indication of Adam’s prophethood in the Torah itself, wherein we read the verbal infinitive l’mareh, “to look at” which can be read as the noun, preceded by a preposition as l’marah, “for visionary revelation” (2:9) For proof of this matter, we need look no further than Seder `Olam Rabbah wherein Adam is specified as a prophet (21). We also read in Shu`aib ki-Tissa that “Adam received five crowns; he was king, prophet, high priest, his face shone in heavenly splendor, and God revealed Torah to him” (39a). Thus, the sages taught in the Talmud Yerushalmi that “Even that which a gifted student was destined to teach in the presence of his master was already revealed to Moshe at Sinai” (Peah 17a). The Torah revealed at Sinai was the Torah of all things, and we see that the written Torah itself teaches that Abraham followed the Torahs (תורתי) and mitzvot of Ha’Shem long before Sinai (Berashit 26.5)
Who was this Adam? He was a perfect being, a complete being. He was the insan al-kamil, he was mushlam. He was created with a spirit, a neshamah, that was both male and female simultaneously. Thus, we read in Berashit Rabbah 8.1 and in Berakhot 61a and Eruvim 18a of the Bavli, that Rabbi Sh’muel taught “God created man as a single creature with two faces and then split him in two.” That is, the primordial Adam was both male and female and could show either face. In Midrash Tehillim “God had fashioned mankind as one being with two faces, male and female, Then divided them into two” (139:5).
This division does not merely refer to the creation of the human Havah from the prophet Adam, but to the division of human beings from the perfect spirit of Adam Qadmon, the primordial, celestial Adam, into the world of duality and ego-identity, where one asserts “I am a man” and another asserts “I am a woman”. This notion of duality is instilled in us from birth, where we are told to respond to a name that imprints into us various intentions and ideas of who we are; whereby we are later told to distinguish ourselves and our identity from others.
In Berashit Rabbah we read: “Neither man without woman, nor woman without man, and neither of them without the Divine Spirit.” (8:9) Why? Because man and woman are to perfect one another until the illusions of duality are destroyed through their interaction. Thus, the Torah teaches that “the two will become one (והיו לבשר אחד)” (2:24), not “the two will become as one.”
Rabbi Eliezar disagrees with Rabbi Jeremiah, saying that a female witness in court “is endowed with more understanding than a man”. He cites as proof that a twelve-year-old girl is allowed to testify, whereas a boy her same age is not. Indeed, the Talmud teaches “God endowed women with more intelligence than man” (Niddah 45b), whereas Rabbi Yose ben Yochanan also explains in the Mishnah Avot that “so long as a man talks too much with women, he brings evil upon himself, neglects the study of Torah, and in the end, Gehenna is his portion.” Why? Because if he is speaking with women, he is speaking in duality; he is not speaking in unity, in yechidut, in tawhid. He is speaking in dualism of “male” and “female”; of “my penis” and “your vagina.” He is speaking in the context of gender identity, sex and ego-identity. Thus, it is taught that it is a mistake to teach a woman Talmud (Qiddushin 1:7), and that we should “let the words of the Torah rather be destroyed by fire than imparted to a woman” (Sotah 19a) and yet the rabbis taught in the Mishnah that every man must teach his daughter Torah, both written and oral Torah of the Mishnah (Sotah 3:4). Why? Because a man does not see his daughter as a sex object, nor does he see her as separate from himself. He does not see “my penis” and “your vagina”, he sees Oneness, and in this Oneness, it is obligatory to teach Torah.
Rabbeinu Bachya ibn Paqudah explained this notion of tawhid by imparting that “the Duties of the Hearts are to believe that the world had a Creator and that there is none like unto It; to accept Its Unity; to worship It with our hearts; to meditate on the marvels exhibited in Its creatures, that these may serve us as evidences of It; that we put our trust in It; that we humble ourselves before It; and reveres It; that we tremble and be abashed when we consider that It observes our visible and our hidden activities; that we yearn for Its favor; that we devote our works to the glory of Its Name; that we love It and love those that love It, and thus draw near to It.”
Brothers and Sisters, Ikhwah and Akhawaat, THIS is the beginning of Understanding…
 Al-Kulayni, ‘Usul al-Kafi, Hadith 221, Ch. 2, h 7
 Lekh Lekha, 68 items 183-185
 Kli Yakar Bereshit 32:29
 Rabbi Avraham Gombiner, Magen Avraham, on “Orach Chayim” 32.1; Ba`al Haturim on Deuteronomy 6.4 28 The Siddur of Rabbeinu Shelomoh ben Rabbi Shimshon of Worms, 93
 Tehilim/Psalms 84.5, cited in Berakhot 32b; Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 91b
 This translation by Mark Verman, from the printed edition of Sefer ha’Eshkol, corrected by referring to Paris ms. H-91A, 3b; cited in Verman 154