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Paths to the Heart
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Paths to the Heart: Sufism and the Christian East
Paths to the Heart: Sufism and the Christian East
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Author(s): 
Subjects(s): 
Christianity
Comparative Religion
Islam
Metaphysics
Sufism

Price:  $19.95

ISBN:  0-941532-43-7
Book Size:  6" x 9"
# of Pages:  288
Language:  English



Description

This book is a collection of essays concerning the mystical and contemplative dimensions of Eastern Christianity and Islam presented at the October 2001 conference on Hesychasm and Sufism at the University of South Carolina. Contributions from internationally recognized spiritual leaders and scholars include Kallistos Ware; Seyyed Hossien Nasr; John Chryssavgis; Reza Shah-Kazemi; Huston Smith; Williams Chittick and more.

Despite the long and well-known history of conflict between Christians and Muslims, their mystical traditions especially in the Christian East and in Sufism, have shared for centuries many of the same spiritual methods and goals. One thinks, for example, of the profound similarities between the practices of the Jesus Prayer among the Hesychast masters of the Philokalia and the Sufi practices of dhikr or invocation.

These commonalities suggest the possibility for a deeper kind of religious dialogue than is customary in our day, a dialogue which seeks to foster what Frithjof Schuon has called inward or "esoteric" ecumenism, and which, while respecting the integrity of traditional dogmas and rites, "calls into play the wisdom which can discern the one sole Truth under the veil of different forms."

The purpose of this book, the first major publication of its kind, is to promote precisely this more inward kind of ecumenical perspective. These essays point to a spiritual heart in which the deeper meaning of Christian and Muslim beliefs and practices come alive, and where spiritual pilgrims may discover, beyond the level of seemingly contradictory forms, an inner commonality with those who follow other paths.

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Detailed Description of Paths to the Heart

This book is a collection of essays concerning the mystical and contemplative dimensions of Eastern Christianity and Islam presented at the October 2001 conference on Hesychasm and Sufism at the University of South Carolina. Contributions from internationally recognized spiritual leaders and scholars include Kallistos Ware; Seyyed Hossien Nasr; John Chryssavgis; Reza Shah-Kazemi; Huston Smith; Williams Chittick and more.

Despite the long and well-known history of conflict between Christians and Muslims, their mystical traditions especially in the Christian East and in Sufism, have shared for centuries many of the same spiritual methods and goals. One thinks, for example, of the profound similarities between the practices of the Jesus Prayer among the Hesychast masters of the Philokalia and the Sufi practices of dhikr or invocation.

These commonalities suggest the possibility for a deeper kind of religious dialogue than is customary in our day, a dialogue which seeks to foster what Frithjof Schuon has called inward or "esoteric" ecumenism, and which, while respecting the integrity of traditional dogmas and rites, "calls into play the wisdom which can discern the one sole Truth under the veil of different forms."

The purpose of this book, the first major publication of its kind, is to promote precisely this more inward kind of ecumenical perspective. These essays point to a spiritual heart in which the deeper meaning of Christian and Muslim beliefs and practices come alive, and where spiritual pilgrims may discover, beyond the level of seemingly contradictory forms, an inner commonality with those who follow other paths.


About the Author(s)

James Cutsinger

James S. Cutsinger is an author, editor, and teacher whose writings focus primarily on Perennialism and the theology and spirituality of the Christian East. He is professor of Theology and Religious Thought at the University of South Carolina. Prof. Cutsinger has edited a series of new editions of books by Frithjof Schuon (click here to see the list of books). His other contributions to World Wisdom's books include:
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Reviews of Paths to the Heart


"Compiled and edited by James S. Cutsinger (Professor of Theology and Religious Thought, University of South Carolina), Paths to the Heart: Sufism And The Christian East is an informed and informative study of the common threads and traits shared between the traditions of the Christian East and Islamic Sufism. A valued and highly recommended anthology of essays by a series of learned and erudite authors contemplating a lasting dialogue and connection between Christianity and Islam, Paths To The Heart compares saints, gateways to the heart, remembrances of God, and much more as seen by religions with so much more in common than is usually acknowledged by their practitioners."

The Midwest Book Review


"Paths to the Heart is both timely and timeless. Timely in that the essays assembled here were delivered at a conference devoted to dialogue between scholars of Islam and scholars of Christianity held just a month after September 11, 2001. Timeless in that the conference participants reflect profoundly upon the ‘perennial wisdom’ that can be seen in the convergence of two distinct spiritual traditions: Sufism and the Hesychast tradition of Eastern Orthodoxy. These essays eloquently probe, synthesize, and comment on the practices by which Sufi and Hesychast masters have taught generations of followers to discover within the heart the loving presence of God. This book is a spiritual treasure to be read and to be lived.”

Albert J. Raboteau, Henry W. Putnam Professor of Religion, Princeton University


“The peace of the world in the new century may depend in no small measure on the ability of the Islamic world and historically Christian countries to communicate with one another. Perhaps the best hope for deeper understanding between Christians and Muslims lies in the fact that the finest thinkers in both religions have drawn on a common pool of imagery—the language of the heart—as they try to describe what is ultimately beyond words: the human encounter with God.”

Bruce Clark, International Security Editor, The Economist


“Speaking to both novices and adepts who are studying and/or practicing the Orthodox Christian and Sufi ways, this book opens the way for a deep healing of the wounds of ignorance that have arisen out of the clash between these two great traditions.”

Alan Godlas, Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Georgia


“Written by authors who are at once eminent scholars and earnest souls, the essays in Paths to the Heart evince a rare combination of intellectual rigor, breadth of spirit, and deep personal faith. Together these writers confirm for us that genuine love of the other is as much mediated by wisdom and truth as are wisdom and truth by this love.”

Scott C. Alexander, Director of Catholic-Muslim Studies, Catholic Theological Union


“Professor Cutsinger is to be congratulated for having organized such a memorable interchange of opinions at the level of all that is most profound in the human soul.”

Martin Lings, formerly Keeper of Oriental Manuscripts in the British Museum and author of Mohammed: His Life According to the Earliest Sources


Table of Contents for Paths to the Heart


Foreword

Dimensions of the Heart

  1. How Do We Enter the Heart?
    Kallistos Ware

  2. St Seraphim of Sarov in Sufic Perspective
    Gray Henry

  3. The Heart of the Faithful is the Throne ofthe All-Merciful
    Seyyed Hossein Nasr


The Path of Remembrance

  1. On the Cosmology of Dhikr
    William C. Chittick

  2. Presence, Participation, Performance: TheRemembrance of God in the Early Hesychast Fathers
    Vincent Rossi

  3. Paths of Continuity: Contemporary Witnesses ofthe Hesychast Experience
    John Chryssavgis


Toward an Esoteric Ecumenism

  1. The Metaphysics of Interfaith Dialogue:Sufi Perspectives on the Universality of theQuranic Message
    Reza Shah-Kazemi

  2. A Unity with Distinctions: Parallels in theThought of St Gregory Palamas and Ibn Arabi
    Peter Samsel

  3. Hesychia: An Orthodox Opening to EsotericEcumenism
    James S. Cutsinger


Conclusions

  1. The Long Way Home
    Huston Smith

  2. Panel Discussion


Contributors


Excerpts from Paths to the Heart

Excerpted from Chapter 1:

How Do We Enter the Heart?

by Kallistos Ware, Bishop of Diokleia


Within the heart is an unfathomable depth.

—The Macarian Homilies

Le Point Vierge

     In the experience of almost everyone there have surely been certain texts—passages in poetry or prose—which, once heard or read, have never been forgotten. For most of us, these decisive texts are probably few in number; but, rare though they may be, they have permanently altered our lives, and they have helped to make us what we are. One such text, so far as my own life journey is concerned, is a paragraph on le point vierge, “the virgin point”, in Thomas Merton’s Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (definitely my firm favorite among his many books):
At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak his name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our sonship. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely. . . . I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere.(1)
     Here Thomas Merton is seeking to elucidate the moment of disclosure which came to him on 18 March 1958, and which he recorded in his journal on the following day: “Yesterday, in Louisville, at the corner of 4th and Walnut, suddenly realized that I loved all the people and that none of them were or could be totally alien to me. As if waking from a dream—the dream of my separateness.” (2) It is noteworthy that, when attempting later on in his Conjectures to understand what was clearly for him an experience of intense visionary insight, Merton makes use of a term, le point vierge, which he had derived from Sufi sources. He had come across this phrase in the writings of the renowned French Orientalist Louis Massignon, with whom he had been in correspondence during the year 1960. Massignon in his turn employed the phrase when expounding the mystical psychology of the tenth-century Muslim saint and martyr al-Hallâj, whose custom it was to say, “Our hearts are a virgin that God’s truth alone opens.” (3)
     Significantly al-Hallâj refers in this context to the heart. This word does not actually occur in the passage quoted above from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, but Merton is in fact describing precisely what the Christian East has in view when it speaks in its ascetic and mystical theology about the “deep heart” (see Psalm 63:7 [64:6]). By “the virgin point” Massignon, interpreting al-Hallâj, means “the last, irreducible, secret center of the heart”, “the latent personality, the deep subconscious, the secret cell walled up [and hidden] to every creature, the ‘inviolate virgin’”, which “remains unformed” until visited by God; to discover this virgin point is to return to our origin. (4) Thus le point vierge or the innermost heart is, in the words of Dorothy C. Buck, the place “where God alone has access and human and Divine meet”; it embodies “the sacredness hidden in the depth of every human soul”. (5)
     This is exactly what is signified by the “deep heart” in the neptic(6) theology of the Orthodox Church. St Mark the Monk (? fifth century), for example, speaks of “the innermost, secret and uncontaminated chamber of the heart . . . the innermost and untroubled treasury of the heart, where the winds of evil spirits do not blow”. According to Mark the Monk, it is to this hidden temenos that Christ is alluding when he states, “The Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21), and when he talks about “the good treasure of the heart” (Luke 6:45). (7) A similar understanding of the heart is beautifully expressed by the Roman Catholic Benedictine Henri le Saux, who wrote under the name Swami Abishiktananda, when he terms it “the place of our origin . . . in which the soul is, as it were, coming from the hands of God and waking up to itself”. (8) In the words of another Roman Catholic author, the Dominican Richard Kehoe, “The ‘heart’ is the very deepest and truest self, not attained except through sacrifice, through death.” (9)
     It is immediately apparent that St Mark the Monk, al-Hallâj, and Merton share in common an all-important conviction concerning the character of this deep or innermost heart. For all three of them it is something pure, inviolate, inaccessible to evil; and specifically for this reason it can rightly be described as “the virgin point”. Thus Mark says of the “secret chamber of the heart” that it is “uncontaminated”, “untroubled”, a hidden sanctuary “where the winds of evil spirits do not blow”. For al-Hallâj it is opened by “God’s truth alone”. Likewise Merton insists that it is “untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God”. While the outer levels of the heart are a battleground between the forces of good and evil, this is not true of the innermost depth of the heart. As “the virgin point” the deep heart belongs only to God. It is pre-eminently the place of Divine immanence, the locus of God’s indwelling.


1.  Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (New York: Doubleday, 1966), p. 142.
2.  The Intimate Merton: His Life from His Journals, ed. Patrick Hart and Jonathan Montaldo (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2001), p. 124.
3.  See Sidney H. Griffith, “Merton, Massignon, and the Challenge of Islam”, in Merton and Sufism: The Untold Story: A Complete Compendium, ed. Rob Baker and Gray Henry (Louisville: Fons Vitae, 1999), pp. 63-64.
4.  Griffith, p. 65.
5.   “Mary and the Virgin Heart: A Reflection on the Writings of Louis Massignon and Hallaj”, Sufi, 24 (1994-95), p. 8; Sufi, 28 (1995-96), p. 8.
6.   “Neptic”: from the word nepsis, meaning sobriety, vigilance, spiritual insight. “Neptic theology”, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, includes the realms of both “ascetical theology” and “mystical theology”, as these are understood in the Roman Catholic tradition. For the importance of the term nepsis, note the
Greek title of The Philokalia, a classic collection of Orthodox spiritual writings from the fourth to the fifteenth centuries: “The Philokalia of the Holy Neptic [Fathers]”.
7.  Mark the Monk (alias Mark the Ascetic or Marcus Eremita), “On Baptism”, §§4, 5, 11 (Patrologia Graeca [PG] 65: 996C, 1005 BCD, 1016 D), ed. Georges-Matthieu de Durand, Sources chrétiennes 445 (Paris: Cerf, 1999), pp. 322, 342-43, 368.
8.  Abishiktananda, Prayer (London: SPCK, 1972), p. 54.
9.   “The Scriptures as Word of God”, in The Eastern Churches Quarterly, VII, Supplementary Issue on “Tradition and Scripture” (1947), p. 78.

Selection from our Library about Paths to the Heart
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The Metaphysics of Interfaith Dialogue: Sufi Perspectives on the Universality of the Quranic MessagePaths to the Heart: Sufism and the Christian EastShah-Kazemi, Reza Inter-faith dialogue
Panel Discussions from Paths to the Heart ConferencePaths to the Heart: Sufism and the Christian EastCutsinger, James Sufism
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