Recommended reading Musa Askari’s reflection, “A Day Like Any Other” on the passing of his late mother Liaqat Begum.
The following is the Introduction to a remarkable book by the late Syed Hasan Askari entitled “Alone to Alone – From Awareness to Vision”, published 1991. It is a journey of self-discovery, inner path, a spiritual quest within & through an inter-religious dimension inspired by a vision to revive the classical discourse on Soul. This blog is dedicated to the universal, spiritual humanist vision of Prof. Syed Hasan Askari & contains various reflections from this book which is presented in seven chapters. Each chapter is known as a “Mirror”, there are Seven Mirrors.
Introduction narrated by Musa Askari
“You are now entering upon a path. As you continue your journey, you will come face to face with one mirror after another. The path and the mirrors are all inside you.
The images you see in each mirror are at times images of a discourse, at other times of one or another symbol. Sometimes a vision will open up before you. Sometimes a voice will be heard. All of it is an initiation into your own reality.
There are several straight discourses. Then there are stories. Both the discourses and the stories constitute one fabric. They intersect and interpret one another.
At times you may find certain things partly or even completely unintelligible, or vague and abstract. When you will return to them, they will gradually become transparent. You will experience an unbroken sense of inner perception even where you notice that the mirrors are veiled. You are a guest. There is an air of hospitality as you move from vision to vision.
It is now both your and my journey into the realm of the Soul. I request you to be cautious for the territory we now enter is totally different from our ordinary world. We shall be changing the habits of our thought and putting on new garments. You will notice the change in atmosphere as soon as you stand before the first mirror.
The journey begins in the name of Plotinus. We were invited by him a long time ago to make this ascent. The words, Alone to Alone, are his, and they sum up his entire call.
It was a couple of years ago one night while going through The Enneads that I had the experience of seeing in a flash all the implications of the Discourse on Soul for human thought and civilization for centuries to come. I felt within myself a convergence of the thought of Plotinus and that of my theistic faith nurtured by a consistent inter-religious perspective. The present work grew quite spontaneously out of that intuition over the last two years (1989 – 1991), and after much thought I place it into your hands both in trembling and trust, and in hope that it may ignite in your soul the same longing and in your mind a fresh zeal to rethink your conceptions about humanity, world, and God.” Syed Hasan Askari
For stories & reflections from the book Alone to Alone please click on the following titles available on this blog:
The Lord of the Humming Bird, I am that Tree, The Limit is the Threshold, The Seven Steps, Self Remembering, God is on Both the side, The Are Only Four Communities, The Feet of our Lady, Four Breaths, If You Find Me, Towards Unity, Rebirth Through My Son, Baba Nizamuddin, The Grand Canyon, The Snow The Cloud & The River, Prayer For My Parents, Seven Mirrors.
By Hasan Askari (Alone to Alone)
The moon and the stars were all there reflected in that still emerald lake that night as our boat slowly and respectfully floated across the lake. We were all silent. I felt for a moment or two a sense of complete union with the lake, its reflections, their originals.
The following morning as we sat under a tree beside the lake, we were amazed that we could hardly recognize that it was the very lake we had crossed last night. We hardly recognized ourselves to be those very persons who saw the moon and the stars reflected in the lake.
In the afternoon of that day we had a session with our teacher on Plato’s idea of Eternal Forms. The idea that There in the Ideal world are “forms” of everything we see here is hardly believed, our teacher started to reflect. One of the modes in which doubt is cast upon Plato’s Ideal Forms is rather amusing. Enchanted by the apparent solidity of things here and trusting our sense perception, we reverse the relationship. We regard Forms there as reflections of things here on the model of comparing the images in our mind with the things outside.
The idea of Plato’s Forms cannot be demonstrated as true on the exclusive testimony of senses and of reasoning based on sense-perception. We require another principle. Plato saw the reality of the forms not by his physical eye nor by his reason bound with his body and with the world. He saw them by the soul’s sight. He could see his own Form before and after embodiment, and when he looked at himself here, then he could recognise which form was real, and which a copy, feeble and ephemeral.
It was during one of the sessions of Zikr we used to hold every Thursday evening that I had a strange and over-whelming experience of having lived the entire cycle of life of diverse races and civilizations, of life-forms here on our planet and in other galaxies, and still reciting the Zikr.
While invoking the Zikr on another occassion for the benefit of the souls of my parent, I was taken aback by a sudden realization of unity between their post-death soul-status and my pre-birth soul status, a state which remained unchanged even now while I was in body.
As I prayed for them and as I recalled them, my eyes were full of tears. My heart was drowned in that sorrow, in my longing and love for them. Many things became clear.
Some say why should one really pray for anybody in particular because all things are interconnected and under the direct and unfailing providence of God. I agree. But while one prays for some loved one, the heart melts; its hardness disappears; its doors open; a gentle wind coming from nowhere envelops the heart bathed and purified by sorrow. Then the universal truths enter and find their true home there; otherwise those truths come, find the door of the heart closed, and they leave.
Muslims thought that Kabir was a Muslim. Hindus regarded him as Hindu. But he was independent of them both.
When the hour of his death drew near, the Muslims asked him whether he would prefer to be buried. He replied: If you find me. Hindus asked whether he would like to be cremated. He replied to them also: If you find me!
When that moment came, Kabir locked himself in his room. When it was opened, there were just a few flowers lying on his bed!
Kabir once cooked some bread, and as he sat down at his doorstep to eat, a stray dog came from nowhere and took away that bread from his plate. He ran after the dog with a cake of butter in his hand saying: Take the butter as well, for the bread will taste good with the butter. The people who saw this ridiculous sight started wondering that Kabir had gone mad. Yes, he said, Kabir is gone mad exactly as copper goes mad and turns to gold in the hand of the alchemist, or as an ordinary tree starts smelling sweet in the company of a sandal-tree, or as a river goes mad when it merges with the sea.
Kabir also said: A servant is his servanthood should be like a stone lying on the road. But it should not be so, he later corrected himself, for in that case it will injure the travellers. The servant should then be like dust. No, he said, this also is not proper, for it will rest on the hands and the feet of the travellers. The servant should then be like the lord. But of what use, he questioned, for the lord has power over all things. The servant, in truth, should be unable to do anything.
Baba Lal, one of the disciples of Kabir, once said to *Dara Shikoh: The Masters are of four kinds: Some are like gold and they, like gold, cannot transform others into gold; some are like the alchemists; whoever comes into contact with them turns into gold; some are like sandal-trees, and whosoever remains in their company becomes like them, and some are like the lamps from which thousand lamps are lighted.
(Alone to Alone: From Awareness to Vision, by Hasan Askari)
*Dara Shikoh: eldest son of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan builder of the Taj Mahal)
from “Alone to Alone” by Hasan Askari published 1991
He has left his home and children. He wandered like a prodigal father in search of another family, another home. His secret was hidden from himself.
His children, now grown up, often wondered about their father. He was a mystery to them.
He would have stayed at home but it was so destined that he should leave causing so much pain and misery to himself and to his family. His children hardly knew him.
He loved them though far from them. He believed that all things were near in love.
His youngest son often visited him. There was some deep bond between them however unexpressed.
“You speak so clearly and fluently while you are in the company of your friends” his son once said to him, “Whereas when I am with you, just you and me, you become self-conscious and talk superficially which is almost non-speech.” It was that evening that all of a sudden he felt that he was renewed deep from within. His son’s remark had demolished his shyness before his son. He felt that they were now brothers.
After a couple of days he told his son an old story relating to how a son initiated his father into an esoteric order. Once a visitor called and said to his father, “I have come to see your son. May I know where he is?” His father replied: “Do not call him my son. I am his son!”
Once his son asked him about the strange titles of Fatima. “The strangest of them all,” he said, “is Umm-e-Abi-ha” meaning, “the mother of her father!”
By Musa Askari 17th October 1991 – such was the feeling of expansion within my Soul as I lifted for first time “Alone to Alone” by Hasan Askari
The book is opened, A story is read, The reader leans back , And watches a mystery unfold. The book is fresh, The pages are crisp and firm, It is natural for the pages to return to their usual posture, They are strong.
As the reader leans away, A page from the left rises, As though helped by an invisible hand. At first it is a struggle to breakaway, To rise and swim against the current, But it is determined
Just past midway it comes to rest, A solitary leaf of a book stands in the middle. Then suddenly it crosses over, And comes to rest, Gently gliding down to the right of the book, As though crossing from one world to the next.
It will have to make this journey again and again, From moment to moment, For every reader that comes across it. For throughout their life the pages will re-enact this display, To remind us of the greater journey will all must make.
There are only the pages, What of the words? And of the narrator of the words