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Excerpted from Awakening: A Sufi Experience by Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan. Copyright 1999 by Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan. Excerpted by permission of Tarcher/Putnam, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"Meditation is the art of moving back and forth between two perspectives -- the human and the Divine -- downplaying one level in order to highlight the other."

Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, Awakening: A Sufi Experience, Part 3

Another way to picture this process is to think of consciousness as it were a pendulum. At one end is the dimension of our being that is transient and evanescent, or continually changing and transforming through a process of evolution. At the other end of this pendulum is that part of consciousness that remains immortal and unchanged. Thus our whole being could be said to be a continuity in change -- just as it's never the same water that passes under the bridge, yet at the same time it's the same river. Each of these poles embodies a specific mode of consciousness.

Sufis make a distinction between acquired knowledge and revealed knowledge. Acquired knowledge is the information that we accumulate during the course of our everyday experience of life. But when we begin to view life through the antipodal standpoint -- seeing through the eyes of God -- then we access an inborn, intuitive, revealed knowledge that exists irrespective of the human condition. Meditation is the art of moving back and forth between two perspectives -- the human and the Divine -- downplaying one level in order to highlight the other. Eventually, we learn to extrapolate meaning from the synthesis of these different levels. This state is what I call awakening in life. For the culmination of the soul's journey of awakening is not just returning to its original state. Instead, it is how the soul has evolved through its passage on earth: what meaning has been extracted from its experiences; what archetypal qualities have unfolded as a result of the immense difficulties it has endured; and the unique way each soul's unfoldment has contributed to the evolution of the Universe itself.

Some may wonder what relevance such metaphysical truths have for the modern world -- especially a world that appears to be moving farther away from the values of the ancient mystics and toward an increasingly impersonal, complex, and technological future. But it would seem that the times we live in underscore even more dramatically the need to distinguish between what has lasting value and what is only of passing worth; what takes the soul farther away from the Divine, and what brings it closer.

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