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Titus Burckhardt: The Spirit and the soul engage in battle

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Titus Burckhardt: The Spirit and the soul engage in battle

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Photo:  Titus  Burckhardt in Fez (Far right).


The Spirit (ar-Rūḥ) and the soul (an-nafs) engage in battle for the possession of their common son the heart (al-qalb). By ar-Rūḥ is here to be understood the intellectual principle which transcends the individual nature and by an-nafs the psyche, the centrifugal tendencies of which determine the diffuse and inconstant domain of the “I”. As for al-qalb, the heart, this represents the central organ of the soul, corresponding to the vital center of the physical organism. Al-qalb is in a sense the point of intersection of the “vertical” ray, which is ar-Rūḥ, with the “horizontal” plane, which is an-nafs.
Now it is said that the heart takes on the nature of that one of the two elements generating it which gains the victory in this battle. Inasmuch as the nafs has the upper hand the heart is “veiled” by her, for the soul, which takes herself to be an autonomous whole, in a way envelops it in her “veil” (ḥijāb). At the same time the nafs is an accomplice of the “world” in its multiple and changing aspect be cause she passively espouses the cosmic condition of form. Now form divides and binds whereas the Spirit, which is above form, unites and at the same time distinguishes reality from appearance. If, on the contrary, the Spirit gains the victory over the soul, then the heart will be transformed into Spirit and will at the same time transmute the soul suffusing her with spiritual light. Then too the heart reveals itself as what it really is, that is as the tabernacle (mishkāh) of the Divine Mystery (sirr) in man.
(Titus Burckhardt)
Recommended Reading:

'Introduction to Sufi Doctrine' 

By Titus Burckhardt (Author), William C. Chittick (Foreword)

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Titus Burckhardt's masterpiece, Introduction to Sufi Doctrine, explores the essence of Islamic mysticism, or Sufism, presenting its central doctrines and methods to a Western audience in a highly intelligible form.

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