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Australian Centre For Sufism


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Previous Events:

Religions' Sacred Teachings
and Their Inner Meanings
International Symposium
15th December 2013

Seeing God Everywhere:
Traversing the
Spiritual Journey
5th November 2011

An Ancient Psychology
for a Modern Era
The Journey of the ego self
to the Spiritual Self
International Symposium
4th December 2010

One Humanity, Many Faiths
Interfaith Summit
February 2009

Sufi Music and Zikr
by Al Madeheen
September 2008

Moulana Rumi and the
Perfume of Divine Love
International Symposium
December 2007

ABC Radio Interview
December 2007

UNESCO Moulana Congress
Tehran and Tabriz
October 2007

UNESCO Moulana Rumi
Istanbul and Konya
May 2007

Conference on the
Iranian Identity
December 2006

Dalai Lama meets
with Muslim and
Sufi leaders
April 2006

Sufi Meditation
on ABC Radio
April/May 2006

Life of Maryam (a.s.)
August 2005

The Unifying Role
Of Mysticism
International Symposium
October 2004

Peace and God Consciousness
- The Journey of the Soul
International Symposium
October 2003

Uniting & Dividing
Humanity - The role
politics & religion play
August 2003

Sufism & Self-Transformation
The Path of Knowledge
and Love
International Symposium
October 2002

An Evening with
Claudio Naranjo
September 2002

Unity Within Diversity
November 2001

The Message of Moulana Rumi
"Listen to the Reed
How it Tells its Tale...."
International Symposium
November 2000

The Need for Sufism in a
New Century - An Old
Tradition for a New World
International Symposium
May 2000

Previous Event:

International Sufi Symposium

Sufism & Self-Transformation
- The Path of Knowledge & Love

October 2002

Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr

Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr spoke via a special video presentation on the symposium theme of

"Sufism and Self-Transformation - The Path of Knowledge and Love".

Transformation is going from one form to another. Therefore, in self-transformation the question is: what is the form that self comes from and what is the form that self goes to. There is more than one self in us but we are usually aware and conscious of our self as this ego centre, which has now become ourselves and it is this which has to be transformed. Our ‘I’ ness has to be transformed from the limited, windowless ego which tries to assert itself, to the immortal soul whose windows are open into the infinite and who ultimately resides in the Divine Reality. Transformation therefore, means change from the form of this hardened and solidified ego, which is opaque to light, to the immortal soul, the immortal self, which resides in the proximity of the Divine Reality. The first step towards this perfection is the realisation of the imperfection.

There are only three possibilities of relationship with God - the level of action, the level of love and the level of knowledge. On the level of action our duty is to do the right act, to act according to the will of God, to submit ourselves to His will and to sacrifice our own egotistical tendencies for what is good in the ultimate sense. But what brings us to the very courtyard of God, to the very centre of our being, because that immortal self still resides in our heart-centre, is love and of course followed by knowledge. Love and knowledge are the grand paths for this ultimate transformation of the self to reach the proximity of the Divine Self.

From a Sufi perspective love alone is not enough, it must be combined with knowledge. In Sufism love is not simply emotion and sentiment, it also is related to knowledge in the supreme sense of the term. One might say that in reality what we love we must know and what we know we love and when it comes to the Divine Reality, one can not know God without loving Him and one can not love God without knowing Him.

Direct knowledge comes through the participation in the reality that ‘one knows’ and that is called ‘marifah’ in Islam. This means unitive knowledge, the knowledge which illuminates. God has allowed us to know Him through presence so that our knowledge of God is the presence of God in us. Therefore, that knowledge itself burns all otherness, burns all separation and burns all multiplicity from the consciousness of the knower. In the deeper sense of the term, of course, the knower is also God. It is not we who know God but God in us who knows Himself through us.

Ultimately God is the seer and the seen and what we have to do is to lift our ego from in between. So at the highest level of knowledge, what transformation means is our realisation of our nothingness before God, the lifting of the veil of the self from in between. The self is a key for the knowledge of God. It is a key for the understanding of existence itself.

The process of Sufism is what the spiritual path is, to gradually allow our consciousness to penetrate deeper into the levels of consciousness or into the levels of reality and to really know ourself and not to only live on the crust of the shell which we call our ego which determines our actions, our inclinations, even colours the way we know, the mode that we live and brings about selfishness, egotism, hatred and violence. Everything issues from this hardened heart and hardened ego. Of course the goal of Sufism, as for all authentic spirituality, is to make that transformation, that gradually we come to know ourselves. But that can never be done without the Grace of God, without revelation, without religion. Without the Grace that emanates from on high, we cannot reach God except through the path that comes from God. We have to have access to that transformative knowledge which illuminates the soul and that is not possible without the Grace that emanates from the source of revelation.

Authentic Sufism provides the means for that spiritual power for us to love God and to know God, which is the ultimate goal through these twin wings of love and knowledge.

Dr Karim Crow

Dr Karim Crow spoke on

“The Experience of Understanding from an Islamic Perspective”.

Original concepts of Muslim thought have been obscured by misunderstanding. The idea of knowledge and its role in human life and in human perception, and the notion of being or the transformation of the human person is often associated with the concept of the heart or the interior awareness or centre of perception. The link between these two levels of our own experience is the heart-mind.

In the Qur’an we find there is a definite scale of cognition. Not just hearing and sight leading to understanding, but a more subtle spectrum, including fiqr (thought), aql (cogitation, pondering, and thinking), zikr (remembrance), leading to yaqin (certainty, which also involves faith). So we are talking about the cognitive dimension of faith. That is to say, deep faith and unshakable certainty actually points to the tradition of knowledge and of comprehension.

Dr Crow was asked: “How can we establish an effective communication between the heart and the reality?” He responded: Let me just give you a few key words about that. First is sincerity. Start by being utterly sincere with ourselves, by looking at ourselves the way others see us. Next is by sacrificing our little petty preferences and insisting upon certain ways of seeing and doing things that we think are the best because they agree with our own predilections. We pay a price. It’s not for free you know. What are you willing to sacrifice? Can you make that sacrifice? Whether it means giving up your favourite little thing that has become a habit. Whether it is just some little crutch you use to deflect the demands from outside or from others or even from a deeper level within yourself. So sincerity, sacrifice and also perseverance. It is something that you should try to make a living force within yourself and find what blocks that force, what leads you away from it, what tends to make you withdraw from it or deflect from it or find an excuse not to pay attention to it. That itself is an obstacle. You have to work on that to see it, to be aware of it and to sacrifice it. So those are just three little things.

Fleur Nassery Bonnin

Fleur Nassery Bonnin spoke on

“Sufi Psychology and Self-transformation”.

Sufi psychology is a well detailed map of the totality of man’s journey of life. It contains the means in which the soul can understand its own structure. It contains the realisation that is needed in order to bring about transformation. It encompasses traditional spirituality, metaphysics, ontology and it is grounded in the teaching of the Qur’an and Hadiths, but it also uses the inner meaning of the teaching as well as the outer.

The Sufi view of the purpose of creation of man is the return journey of the human self to the knowledge and love of God. Based on the Hadith Qudsi, in relation to creation, God had said to the Prophet (pbuh), 'I was a hidden treasure and I loved that I be known, so I created the creation in order to be known'.

She explained the four levels of self transformation according to the Sufi path and their requirements.

Man's journey of life is about re-gaining that state of God consciousness that he has forgotten. The Hadith, 'he who knows his self knows his Lord', points at two things at once: that the purpose of life is knowledge and consciousness of God, and that the way or the means to achieve it is to know one's self. The self is not the ego-self but this microcosmic self that is the loci of Divine names and the mirror of God.

Being aware of God requires knowledge of God and knowledge of God requires knowledge of self and knowledge of self requires embarking on the path of servant-hood, since it is only in servanthood that we regain our original Ultimate Self.

Islam is based on one sentence which is called the Shahada, meaning to testify that 'there is no god but God'. It is not difficult to realise that a sentence that is on the lips of a billion people so many times a day cannot just be an ordinary sentence. In its outer dimension it is pointing to and setting apart certain people as Muslims. But in its inner dimension it is uniting people and humankind in their journey for which they have been created - to regain the knowledge and consciousness of God. It is in this transformation of self to Self, by negating the ego-self that one reaches the ultimate Self and God consciouness. There is no god but God - La ilaha ill'Allah.

Dr Karim Crow, Dr Harry Oldmeadow, Fleur Nassery Bonnin

Dr Harry Oldmeadow spoke on

“Modes of Knowledge: Metaphysics, Theology and Philosophy”.

Intellect is not to be understood in its modern and popular sense of ‘mental power’. Rather it is a precise technical term that means ‘the faculty which perceives the transcendent’.

Today we find ourselves in a very different situation, one in which the traditional hierarchy has been inverted. So instead of having metaphysics, revelation and theology at the top, then philosophy underneath them and finally what we call science, dependent on sense data underneath that, the whole thing has been turned upside down. The most mundane level of reality has become all encompassing and totalitarian in the modern world.

Dr Oldmeadow was asked: “Does religion need to be supported by philosophy?” He responded: If we take philosophy in its fuller meaning, in its traditional meaning, which is the pursuit of wisdom including the use of the mind, well then of course religion has need of that. That kind of philosophy grows up within all religious traditions. The danger is that the theological enthusiasm, which is a kind of dogmatic enthusiasm, and attachment to the particular forms of ones own tradition become rigid, that they become ossified, that they obscure rather than reveal. Each tradition always has need within it for people who can revivify those forms and can point us to the light which those forms contain. Ultimately we can see that the forms are pointers, they are like signposts, they are signals. But as they say in the old Zen story, you want to see the full moon - I am pointing to the full moon, you look at the full moon, you want me to keep pointing, how long will I keep pointing, there is no point in pointing.

Persian Musicians

The day was concluded with Persian Sufi poetry and music. In Persian music the play of the instruments reflects the conversation between lover and beloved that eventually culminates in ecstatic union.

Fleur Nassery Bonnin recited some of the heart melting poetry of Moulana Rumi in Persian and in English, accompanied by the bemoaning of the Ney (reed). Finally the day ended in a celebration of Persian Sufi music with three generations of musicians playing Ney, Tar and Daf.


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For further information contact the
Australian Centre for Sufism and Irfanic Studies (ACS)
Phone: (02) 9955 SUFI (7834)
or email: acs@australiansuficentre.org

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