Self and Self-Transformation, III

III. Beyond the Self






Oidipous at Kolonos

Margalit Finkelberg



Visionary ... Tibetan

Janet Gyatso



Self ... in S.ufism

Sara Sviri



H.asidic Eros

Moshe Idel




Religion and Biography in Sophokles's Oidipous at Kolonos

Margalit Finkelberg


pp. 173-4 terminology









phthonos theon

jealousy of the gods



















ordered universe



Visionary Practice in Tibetan Buddhism

Janet Gyatso


p. 185 stages of self-transformation

"The first, the "creation stage" (utpattikrama), consists in a visualization of ..., say, the bodhisattva Tara ... . ... They cultivate the belief that by chanting prayers to themselves and imagining that the real Tara out there "out there" (jn~anasattva {'gnosis-being'}) comes and blesses the mere visualized image of Tara (samayasattva {'conventional-being'}) initially created in the meditation. When the now consecrated and authorized self-vision of Tara is stable, the ... creation stage would be said to have been achieved.

The second stage is called "completion" (sampannakrama). [p. 193, n. 8 : "One of the few detailed accounts of these practices ... in English is ... Gyatso 1982."] ... Special channels are visualized inside the body, with winds and seminal essences coursing through them. ... They are identified as the experiences of the deity whom the meditator is becoming."

Gyatso 1982 = Kelsang Gyatso : Clear Light of Bliss. London.



Self and Its Transformation in S.ufism

Sara Sviri


pp. 195-6 nafs

p. 195

According to >abu H.amid >al-Gazali (d. 1111), "The term nafs ... among the S.ufis ... means the element in man that includes all the blameworthy qualities."

p. 196

"the term nafs : should it be rendered ... lower soul, carnal soul, appetitive soul ... -- or any combination of these ...?"

"A prophetic tradition (h.adith nabawi) ... sums up ... : "Your worst enemy is the nafs ... .""

pp. 196, 208 >abdal -- the supplantng of beastly natures within one's self by spiritual ones

p. 196

"the abdal, the "Substitutes." These are holy men and women, usually forty in number, without whom the world cannot subsist. ... the abdal are so called because whenever one of them dies, God substitutes (baddala) another for him. Yet within S.ufi circles ... they are so because they have transformed (baddalu) their base qualities."

p. 208, n. 13

[quoted from >al-Makki 1310/1893, 86, ll. 12-14] "The seeker will not become a Substitute (badal) unless he substitutes (yubaddilu) ... the nature of beasts (baha>im) with the characterristics of pneumatics (ruh.aniyyun)."

p. 208, n. 14

[quoted from >al-Kubra 1957, 25-26] "the nafs inciting to evil ... is dark. ... Then she becomes blaming, for she sees that the house is full of polluted creatures, such as dogs, pigs, panthers, tigers, asses, oxen and elephants ... . Then she strives to chase them away."

p. 197 terminology of mysticism as journey/path

"asceticism (zuhd), in relation to mysticism (tas.awwuf) ... becomes ... a station, a stage -- manzila, maqam -- on a mystical journey (sayr) or path (t.ariqa)".

p. 198 nafs vs. ruh.

"S.ufi authors teach that the nafs is a vital energy that resides and operates within the body and is associated with the downward-pulling energies of earth and earthly inclinations. It is identified as an earth-bound force counteracting the spiritual energy (ruh.) that pulls man upward toward his ideal state of being."

p. 199 movement of nafs, according to the autobiographical Breaths of Beauty and Revelations of Majesty by Najm >al-Din >al-Kubra (d. 1221)

"The nafs is alive, she does not die, she resembles a viper. {cf. Kun.d.alini} Slaughter it, pulverize its head into tiny bits, take off its skin, cook its flesh, eat it, and then, years later, when you place [the skin] in the heat of the sun -- it will move. {cf. movement of Kun.d.alini} So also with the nafs : when she unites with the fires of the base inclination and desire ..., she, too, moves. And from then on ... she thrives."

p. 199 the 4 progressive stages of supererogatory <ibadat ('acts of worship') as performed by the >ahl >al-s.idq ('folk of sincerity')

"to transform the darkness (z.ulma) of their nature into light (nur), ... practices have to be exercised at each of four progressive stages :"

zuhd ('abstention'),

h^o^f ('fear'),

>al-s`o^q >ila->l-janna ('longing for paradise'), and

>al-mah.abba li->llah ('love for God')

pp. 200-2 details of the 4 stages of supererogatory worship, according to the >adab al-<ibadat ("Rules of Conduct for Acts of Worship") by S`aqiq >al-Balh^i (2nd century A.H. / 8th century Chr.E.)






"his heart becomes a glowing light, and the light of abstention settles within him. (18, ll. 6-10)"



"The practice here begins with contemplating death and educating the nafs to fear God ... . ... Moreover, when the practice is done ..., God rewards it by transforming the initial, self-willed fear into ... mahaba, awe ... that God himself implants within the heart. When awe settles within the heart, it goes on growing and ... the ... awe becomes apparent on the practitioner's face, and he, too, becomes an object of awe. ...

In Shaqiq words : "All this time ... his gratitude (shukr) does not diminish. ... He does not get weary ..., he does not tire" (p. 19, ll. 11-13)."

>al-s`o^q ...

"The practice here is to contemplate the everlasting bliss of paradise and its delights, such as the black-eyed beauties (al h.ur al-<in), that await the blessed ones. ...



Thus, "When you see him, he is always laughing, rejoicing ... . ..." (20, l .. . 7 ...)."

>al-mah.abba ...

"The highest, most noble, and most splendid is the stage ... reserved for those ... strengthened by certitude (yaqin) ... . ... This stage starts with the following practice : the seeker motivates his heart ... to detest all that God detests. {That which >al-lah detesteth is the accursed Christian infidel.} ... Outwardly, this results in the practitioner himself becoming an object of love for ... angels".

p. 205 successive stages of ascent for the mystic, according to >abu Sa<id >al-H^arraz, as recorded by >al-Qus`e^ri

[quoted from >al-Qus`e^ri 1410/1990, 263] "When God befriends one of his servants, He opens him the gate of Remembrance (dhikr).

... He opens for him the gate of Nearness (qurb).

Then He lifts him up to the assemblies of Intimacy with Him (al-uns bihi).

Then He seats him on the throne of Oneness (

Then He lifts up the veils in front of him and takes him into the abode of Singularity (fardaniyya) and reveals to him His Majesty and Might (al-jalal wa>l-<az.ama). ... When his sight falls on God's Majesty and Might, ... the servant becomes chronically lost [in God] (zaminan faniyan) ... . Then he becomes free".

pp. 205-6 successive stages for the mystic, accordting to the Sirat >al->o^liya> ("Journey of the Friends [of >al-lah]") [Radtke 1992, 35-6] by >al-H.akim >al-Tirmidi (cf. Radtke & O'Kane 1996, 94-5)



event experienced therein


mah.all >al-qurba ('place of Nearness')

"does not wish to carry out any act"


mulk >al-jabarut ('realm of Might')

"self ... withers and becomes humble"

mulk > (realm of Soverignty)

"to be improved"

mulk >al-jalal (realm of Majesty)

"to be educated"

mulk >al-jamal (realm of Beauty)

"to be cleansed"

mulk >al-<az.ama (realm of Magnificence)

"to be purified"

mulk >al-baha> (realm of Splendor)

"to be perfumed"

mulk >al-bahja (realm of Joy)

"to be expanded" {cf. /Brahma/ 'Expansion'}

mulk >al-he^ba (realm of Awe)

"to be reared"

mulk > (realm of Compassion)

"to be moistened"

mulk >al-fardiyya (realm of Singularity)

"Kindness nourishes him, Gentleness embraces him ..., and Love draws him near. Longing brings him close ... . ... then the most Gracious and Powerful ... communes with him ..., then grips him. ... When he reaches this place, all attributes end, and all discourse and expressions end."

Radtke 1992 = B. Radtke : Drei Schriften des Theosophen von Tirmid. Beirut.

Radtke & O'Kane 1996 = The Concept of Sainthood in Early Islamic Mysticism. Richmond Surrey.

p. 206 according to a h.adit qudsi (in Tirmidi 1992, 34; cf. Radtke & O'Kane 1996, 92-3), >al-lah saith concerning his mortal servant :

"I become his ear, his sight, his tongue, his hand, his foot and his heart. He hears by Me, he sees by Me, he speaks by Me, ... he grasps by Me. This is a servant whose mind has died away in the Supreme Mind".



From Platonic to H.asidic Eros

Moshe Idel


pp. 220-1 ascent (via trance) to the Divine World

p. 220

[translated from Fenton 1991, 41] "When a man separates himself from the objects of sensation ... and removes all the powers of the intellective soul from them, but gives them a powerful elevation in order to perceive Divinity, his thoughts shall draw down the abundance from above and it shall come to reside in his soul."

[translated from Venetianer 1894, 22 -- this being an <ibri^ paraphrase of Plotinos : Enneades 4:6:8:1] "Sometimes I become self-centered and remove my body and ... I am a spiritual substance, without a body. And I saw the beauty and the splendor and I became amazed and astonished. [Then] I knew that I am parts of the parts of the supernal world, the perfect and the sublime ... . When this became certain to me, I ascended in my thought from this

p. 221

world to the Divine Cause [ha-<illah ha->lohit] and I was ... there situated within it and united in it and united with it, and I was higher than the entire intellectual world and I was seeing myself ... standing within the world of the divine intellect".

Fenton 1991 = P. B. Fenton (ed.) : Judah ben Nissim ibn Malka : Judaeo-Arabic commentary on the Pirkey Rabbi Eliezer. Jerusalem. [in <ibri^]

Venetianer 1894 = Ludwig Venetianer (ed.) : Sefer ha-Ma<alot, by S^em T.ob ben Yosep ibn Falaquera (of late 13th-century Spain). Berlin. [in <ibri^]

pp. 217-8, 224-5 whore-goddesses in cemeteries {cf., e.g., "Marpa, received his initiation at the hands of a “foul-smelling ‘funeral-place dakini’ … with long emaciated breasts and huge sex organs of offensive odor” (Walker, 1982, p. 75)." ("LA")}

p. 224

"In other words, the Shekinah invited the idle man to the cemetery when she was embodied in a princess; she is then visited by the intellect of the ascetic, which ascends to her spiritual realm."

p. 217 "And the princess answered ... that she meant for him to go to the graveyard to wait for her there, and that she would come to him and he would do with her as he wished. ... So that man rose and went to the graveyard and sat there, and he fixed the thought of his intellect to her, and always thought of her form. ... This he did for many days, and because of his separation from the objects of sensation, and the exclusive attachment of the thought of his soul to one object ..., his soul was separated from the sensibilia and attached only to the intelligibilia until ... after a short time he cast off all sensibilia ...,

[p. 218] and he became a ... holy man ..., so that his prayer was heard and his blessing was beneficial to all passersby, so that all ... who passed by him came to him to receive his blessing, until his fame spread far about."

"In my opinion, the corporeal princess is close to the Muse Polyhymnia, presented in Plato's Symposium 187d-e as embodying the eros pan-

p. 225

demos, the source of earthy, corporeal love. [p. 233, n. 44 : "see Feier 1990, 301 n. 155."] ... Polyhymnia is a prostitute of superhuman nature. ... Material love is a manner of inciting the later and more sublime attachment to the spiritual, which cannot otherwise be attained. The transcendental Urania needs the mundane Polyhymnia in order to be loved by mortals."

"LI" =

Feier 1990 = I. Feier : L'Eros Platonicien. Jerusalem.

pp. 228-30 staring at nude women as as spiritual exercise for men

p. 228 [translated from TYY, fol. 45b; see also his : S.P, foll. 49a, 83ab; BPY, fol. 21ab] "out of the desire of the lust of women [hes^eq <ahabat nas^im] he was separated from corporeality and turned to unite with the intelligibilia because of that separation".

p. 229 The S^kinah is designated as [>M, fol. 16cd] "the most beautiful of women, the images of all images [dmut l-kol ha-diminot] that are reflected in her."

p. 233, n. 63 "Tishby 1967, 27 n. 122 mentions the theme of tracing the beauty of a beautiful woman to its supernal source in R. Barukh of Kossov, Yesod ha-->Emunah (Chernovitz, 1864), fol. 100a".

p. 229 [(assertion by Dawid of Makow, concerning H.asidic men) translated from Wilensky 1970, 2:235] "They walk ... and talk ... saying that whoever walks in the market and gazes at women elevates his thought ..., and thus worships".

p. 230 [(declaration by Leib Melammed the crypto-Frankist, cited in the S^eber Pos^e<im by Dawid of Makow) translated from Wilensky 1970, 2:115] "Once I was alone with a woman and she was lying on a made bed, naked without a shirt. And she asked me to "be with her," ... But ... I only contemplated her flesh and her great beauty until a great holiness came upon me ... . Therefore, it is proper for a man when he sees a woman ... to contemplate her and look at her intensely and he will ... rise to a great rank."

TYY = Toledot Ya<qob Yosep. Koretz, 1780.

S.P = S.apnat Pa<an>ah. NY, 1976,

BPY = Ben Porat Yosep. Pietrkov, 1884.

>M = Ze>b (of Z^itomir) : >or ha-M>ir. NY, 1954.

Tishby 1967 = I. Tishby : "The Messianic Idea and Messianic Trends in the Growth of Has.idism". S.ION 32:1-45. [in <ibri^]

Wilensky 1970 = Mordechai Wilensky : H.asidim and Mitnagedim. Jerusalem. [in <ibri^]


David Shulman & Guy G. Strousma : Self and Self-Transformation in the History of Religions. Oxford U Pr, 2002.