Self-knowledge – as gnosis or ma’rifa’

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In Holistic Education I have suggested HERE that the three ways we come to know are Creativity, Criticality, and Caring. These three correspond to Arts, Sciences and Humanities and in our expression to I, WE and IT voices. In each of the three we can reflect the spiritual or not. Each of the three ways can be to the good or it’s opposite. In other words all ways can lead the individual to the spiritual or to the opposite. Each can be a portal to or from the spiritual if we have the sensibility and at-one-ness.

Spiritual knowing is called Gnosis in Christianity or ma’rifa, or irfan, in Sufism.

Gnosis signifies a knowledge or insight into man’s real nature as Divine, leading to the deliverance of the Divine spark within man from the constraints of earthly existence.

This reasonably well sums up the spiritual life, or mysticism, or spirituality in our ‘One Garden: interfaith as interspiritual living’ groups.

IRFAN Definition of Sufism by William C Chittick gnosis

‘One of the terms used in the classical texts to designate what I call “Sufism” is ma’rifa (or irfan), a term that literally means ‘knowledge’ or ‘recognition’.  

However, the term connotes a special, deeper knowledge of things that can only be achieved by personal transformation, and hence it is often translated as ‘gnosis’.  The goal and fruit of this type of knowledge is commonly explained by citing the Prophet’s saying, “He who knows (arifa) himself knows his Lord”

As the hadith suggests this sort of knowledge demands a simultaneous acquisition of both self-knowledge and God-knowledge.  The text tell us repeatedly that it cannot be found in books.  

Rather, it is already present in the heart, but it is hidden deep beneath the dross of ignorance, forgetfulness, outwardly oriented activity, and rational articulation.  Access to this knowledge comes only by following the path that leads to human perfection.’  

p39  ‘Sufism’ William C Chittick.  

To learn more about Chittick and his writings see HERE

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