Sufism in America
Honoring the One God in All Religions
By Azima Lila Forest
As a longtime student of the Edgar Cayce readings, and a longtime journeyer on the path of Sufism, I was delighted to read Peter Woodbury’s article "The Way of the Sufi" in the Jan-Mar 2015 issue of Venture Inward magazine. I find such a strong correspondence and harmony between the principles and practices given in the readings and the principles and practices I receive in my Sufi context. Unity, the loving nature of the Creator, the importance of living a balanced life, the practices of prayer, meditation, and service—all of these are common to these two wisdom traditions. I am grateful indeed for having stumbled upon both of them. But then, both of them teach me that there are no accidents!
Peter Woodbury’s article "The Way of the Sufi"
I was inspired to offer some follow-up information on Sufism in America.
Sufism was first brought to the West in the teens of the last century by Hazrat Inayat Khan, a Sufi master from India. From that first beginning, five brother/sister Sufi orders have sprung up and taken root in the United Sates: The Sufi Order International, The Sufi Ruhaniat International, The Sufi Movement, The Fraternity of Light, and The Sufi Way. Each one has a bit of a different flavor and emphasis. I am an initiate of the Ruhaniat, and so I will draw most extensively on the practices and atmosphere, we might say, of that order.
All five of these Sufi orders draw upon the teachings of our common ancestor Hazrat Inayat Khan. This brand of Sufism might be called universal Sufism, as it acknowledges and honors the truth and wisdom to be found in all the world’s major religions and spiritual paths. There are American Sufis who are also Buddhists, and Jews, and Christians, and Muslims, and devotees of the Great Mother, and followers of the Red Road (Native American spirituality). Sufis meditate and chant and sing and dance and pray. Some do more of one than another.
Since the birth of this universal path of Sufism on American soil, several more traditional Islamic Sufi orders have established branches here as well, among them the Mevlevis, who are well known for the dervish whirling; the Helveti-Jerrahis, and the Naqshbandis. While all these orders may differ somewhat in their practices and teachings, there is a bond of commonality that unites us all. The annual Sufism Symposium held each spring in California is a beautiful demonstration of the mutual respect and affection one finds in the larger Sufi community. Speakers from many different orders may be heard, as well as recitation of the poetry of Rumi in Persian and English. One may participate in Dances of Universal Peace (more about that later). The grand finale of the Symposium, the zikr, has everyone participating.
Zikr is an Arabic word that means remembrance. Remembrance of what? Of the truth that we and all and everything—all are part of One God. Zikr also refers to the Arabic phrase la ilaha illa’llah, which is most often translated by universal Sufis as "there is nothing but the one Reality." Sound familiar? It’s another formulation of Edgar Cayce’s Law of One. The zikr phrase is often used in the individual practices of Sufi initiates, and it is also used all over the world in group ceremonies of chanting and/or singing the phrase together. Some groups chant together seated in circles; others move in circles, and in a few cases, squares and lines.
Music is an important part of the heritage of Sufism as practiced in India; Hazrat Inayat Khan was a great musician who sang and played the vina, a stringed instrument of Indian origin. It is perhaps no accident then that his student Samuel Lewis, the first Sufi master born in the West, would give birth to the Dances of Universal Peace, also sometimes called Sufi dancing. Murshid (teacher) SAM, as we lovingly refer to him, was a native San Franciscan and an early student of Inayat Khan. In the late 1960s, he received the inspiration to set sacred phrases from the world’s spiritual traditions to simple melodies and dance movements to be done in circles. By the time of his passing in 1971, he had brought through some dozens of these dances. His students have carried on this work, and now there are Dance circles all over the world, and at last count, I knew of over 500 dances, with phrases in Arabic, Sanskrit, Hebrew, Aramaic, Hawaiian, Spanish, Yoruba, English, and more. Finding a dance circle in the U.S. is a simple matter: go to the website dancesofuniversalpeacena.org and click on "Find The Dances."
In addition to the zikr phrase, Sufi practitioners often work with wazaif (singular wazifa), also called the Beautiful Names of God. These are divine qualities, and repetition of their names is a way of calling upon them to manifest in one’s life or in the world as a whole. Some of these qualities are Mercy, Compassion, Truth, Life, Peace, Healing, Love, Strength, and Beauty. The usual list of wazaif contains 99 qualities, but it is said that in truth there are 999 beautiful names, and even more beyond those.
If you were to attend a Sufi event such as a camp, a retreat, or a workshop, you might have the opportunity to participate in a morning meditation, a dream group, a workshop, or all of these—very much like an A.R.E. Camp or an A.R.E. Conference or retreat.
Azima Lila Forest is a longtime student of the Cayce readings and longtime initiate and Sheikha (teacher) in the Sufi Ruhaniat International. She is a dreamworker, a Reiki healing practitioner, a far memory (past/future life) guide, and a Unitarian Universalist minister. Azima lives in Silver City in southwestern New Mexico. Her website is Zianet.com/Azima.
A.R.E. Members will find the current issue and past issues of Venture Inward magazine in the online member section at EdgarCayce.org/members.
WANT TO BE HAPPY?
Then Stop Chasing After Happiness
By Josie Varga
If I asked you, do you want to be happy, you'd, of course, say yes. We all want to feel happiness, no exceptions. In fact, most of us spend a lifetime searching for meaning and happiness in our lives. Why do so many never get there? Why are so many unhappy?
We are all accustomed to the idea that happiness is something that we need to pursue but, ironically, the more we chase after happiness, the further we are from it. Happiness cannot be pursued or chased, because it comes from within and is all a matter of how we think.
True, money is important. Let's face it, we have to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. But according to a recent study, after about $75,000 a year, money does not increase or decrease your level of happiness.
We have all heard people say things like, "I'll be happy when I get a better job" or "I'll be happy when I buy a bigger house," etc. I call this the I'll Be Happy When scenario. But what happens when you get that job and you're still not happy? What happens when you finally get that dream house and feel no happier? "Stuff" does not make you happy. It might bring you pleasure for a while, but it can't bring you true happiness. True happiness is a choice and a state of mind. In other words, it can never be bought.
I can remember when I was a little girl growing up with a disability (I was born with cerebral palsy and suffer from bilateral hearing loss)—there were many times when I looked in the mirror and didn't like that girl with the kinky hair and overbite looking back at me.
It took me a long time to realize that the little girl I saw in the mirror was just a reflection of my mind. In other words, I was creating her by my own negative attitude. Life doesn't just happen. Life is a response to your way of thinking. Like Edgar Cayce said, our thoughts create our reality. Change your thinking; change your life.
Helen Keller with dog, Kamikaze
Author: Perkins School
for the Blind Archives
As many of you know, Helen Keller was both blind and deaf, and yet she went on to graduate from college and become one of the 20th century's leading humanitarians. Keller once wrote, "I have for many years endeavored to make this vital truth clear; and still people marvel when I tell them that I am happy. They imagine that my limitations weigh heavily upon my spirit, and chain me to the rock of despair. Yet, it seems to me, happiness has very little to do with the senses. If we make up our minds that this is a drab and purposeless universe, it will be that, and nothing else. On the other hand, if we believe that the earth is ours, and that the sun and moon hang in the sky for our delight, there will be joy upon the hills and gladness in the fields because the artist in our souls glorifies creation. Surely, it gives dignity to life to believe that we are born into this world for noble ends, and that we have a higher destiny than can be accomplished within the narrow limits of this physical life."
Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor stated, "Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose." If you believe that life is defined by your circumstances, you will never rediscover the happiness within. Nothing will ever be enough, because you will always be searching for more.
I have both good and bad news. The bad news is our brains are actually prewired to pay more attention to negative experiences. It is part of our natural protective instinct or the body's fight or flight response. But the good news is positive thinking has been proved to literally change the makeup of the brain (a science called neuroplasticity).
One of the ways we do this is by repetition. We are how we think. Focusing on the positive stimulates the growth of nerve connections in the brain, which in turn leads to more positive thoughts.
As an author and motivational speaker, people always ask me, "How do you stay so positive?" Well, to be honest, being happy doesn't mean we are never unhappy. Let's face it, bad things happen. What it does mean, however, is that we acknowledge the bad but still choose the positive.
Josie Varga is a motivational speaker and the author of five books. Her most recent book, Divine Visits, highlights true angelic and divine interventions from around the world. For more information, please visit her website at JosieVarga.com.
Join Josie Varga online for the upcoming mentored eGroup Rediscover the Happiness Within: Train Your Mind to Think Positive, from Mar 25-Apr 21, 2015. The course reminds us that happiness lies within with topics including acceptance, appreciation, forgiveness, and action. To learn more, visit EdgarCayce.org/egroups.
February 2015 Update
From the Desk of Kevin J. Todeschi
This is my update for February 2015 to A.R.E. members and friends who are interested in the new and exciting
trends occurring within Edgar Cayce’s A.R.E. and Atlantic University. A number of exciting things are happening
this month! Please share the following with your friends:
YOUR MONTHLY CREATE CAMPAIGN UPDATE
We have just moved into the final year of our $30 million CREATE Comprehensive Campaign
(capital, endowment, and programs)… and we have raised nearly $27 million – just over $3
million to go! With the Cayce Hospital renovations successfully completed and $6 million
raised already toward our $7.5 million capital projects goal, we now need to raise an
additional $1.5 million to renovate our Library and Conference Center; new restrooms,
HVAC system, Library carpeting, expanding the auditorium, parking improvements, and
upgrades throughout the building. Donors of $500 or more to the project will be listed on
our Stairway to Heaven. You are still supporting our day-to-day program operations through
your annual donations as well. We have raised almost $20 million for these great programs already! Join us for our
CREATE Campaign “Capstone Year” Celebration event on Friday, March 27 from 5:00-7:00 in the Cayce/Miller Café to
get inspired and throw in your support to help us reach the goal.
ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY – NEW DEGREE PROGRAM!
There are so many new and exciting things going on at Atlantic University right now. The University has just been
approved to launch a Master of Arts in Leadership Studies! The first cohort will begin Spring semester 2016. Also, we
have just hosted a group of outstanding students who are finishing their Integrated Imagery: Regression Hypnosis
certificates. These students not only completed three difficult courses to obtain this certificate,
they also had to make the trek to Virginia Beach for a four-day in-depth residential.
Congratulations to all of these dedicated students for completing all three levels of Regression
We are accepting applications for Summer 2015! The deadline is March 15, 2015. For more
information, go to www.AtlanticUniv.edu.
CAYCE/REILLY® SCHOOL OF MASSAGE
The Cayce/Reilly School of Massage continues to attract students from all backgrounds and ages, including military
veterans, to our exciting program. We recently welcomed 14 new day and evening students to the School this past
January. Students can complete their training in as little as 8 months – our next programs will begin
in June and September 2015. We are the only school in the Tidewater region that has a
specialized, institutional accreditation in massage and bodywork and we also accept Federal
financial aid and GI Bill® educational benefits. We are excited about massage student community
outreach at local sports events, EMT meetings, and senior care facilities. Our Continuing Education
program is also thriving, with a number of new courses available to the general public. Please click the link:http://www.edgarcayce.org/ce/ for more information.
Headquarters Conferences is very excited to have Caroline Myss and Dr. C. Norman Shealy return with their program Medical Intuition: Self-Diagnosis and Healing with Your Body's Energy Systems, April 17-19. They will help you learn how to balance your own psychological, physiological, and physical states to create a life filled with greater health, energy, and vitality, creating within you a whole, healed and balanced state of being. Early registration is encourages as this program is on track to sell out! Additionally, we have a very limited number of spots left for our popular Foundation in Hypnosis Training and Certification Course with Dr. Jason Parker. After successful completion of this course, you will be certified in Hypnosis by the A.R.E.
CAFÉ IS NOW OPEN
The Leaping Lizard, a popular Virginia Beach restaurant once featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives featuring Guy Fieri, has opened in the Cayce/Miller Café offering healthy and delicious lunches to A.R.E. visitors, spa clients, conferees, and staff. Menu items include a soup of the day, chicken and tuna salads, hummus, tofu, quinoa, sweet potato biscuits, and much more. Learn more here: http://www.edgarcayce.org/cafe/
"CONTEMPORARY CAYCE" and COAST-TO-COAST
Earlier this month, I sat down with A.R.E.’s Marketing Director, Jennie Taylor Martin, to talk about the book I co-authored with Henry Reed, Contemporary Cayce. That interview has been posted on our YouTube Channel at the following link: http://youtu.be/kQCWHfW1Kbc?list=UUnyct2HCC6Q-brUcs6_iO-A.
Last week, I got a call from the popular Coast-to-Coast Radio program and was asked if I would discuss the book this upcoming Saturday, February 21 from 10 pm to 11 pm Pacific Time (1 am to 2 am Eastern Time). The program is the #1 late night radio talk show in the US and is heard by millions of listeners each night. Their website is: www.coasttocoastam.com.
WALK THE LAND OF YOUR DREAMS – A.R.E. 2015 TOURS
These mystical adventures could soon be featured in your scrapbook or on your Facebook Wall…
- Southern Spain & Morocco –Led by Peter Woodbury,
April 11 -22, 2015. Also offering an optional extension to the Atlas Mountains and into the Sahara Desert,
April 22-26, 2015.
- Old Quebec & Montreal – Led by Patrick and Jane Belisle, August 10-16, 2015. Also in the works: an optional extension with a visit to the breathtaking Algonquin Park and a 3-day stay at the nearby Lodge of Sidney and
Nancy Kirkpatrick (authors of An American Prophet)!
August 16 – 20, 2015!
- China & Tibet – Led by John Van Auken,
September 15-28, 2015.
- New Mexico and Mesa Verde – Led by Don Carroll,
October 24-31, 2015.
If you would like additional information about any of our travel programs, contact our Travel Programs Administrator, Cheryl Bernath, at email@example.com or by phone at 1-888-273-3339!
Thank you for your ongoing support of this great Work!
Ever the same,
Kevin J. Todeschi
Executive Director and CEO
An Easy Passage
You and I have taken this journey before. We know all the traffic signals, all the landmarks. Once we set out on this path, we begin to remember each step. We see lighted passageways and familiar faces. We know that we have done this before. Departing on this trip should be like any other important leave-taking. It should be a comfortable, even a peaceful takeoff. And yet, facing death brings up many fears. Is this truly the end, or a new beginning? Is there a hell and is that where I’m headed? What about all the mistakes I’ve made? Can they be forgiven? Will I see anyone familiar or will I be all
According to Edgar Cayce we don’t die at all: we just leave one lifetime with its gains and losses and move to another realm to prepare for the next one. The soul never dies. The brain may die but consciousness continues. The truth of this is corroborated in many exciting stories of near-death experiences.
Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon, who has spoken here several times, tells the story of his own near-death experience. His book is entitled, "Proof of Heaven." If you have any doubts about the next world, read this book.
Dr. Alexander had believed that the brain is the beginning and the end of consciousness. After a severe case of meningitis he was pronounced dead. He could see his body on the bed, with the doctors and family members standing around, the life supports removed. His brain was dead and yet he was aware of all that was going on in that hospital room. How could that be? Then he found himself traveling in the beautiful life-after-death-mode. His story is inspiring and this experience completely changed his understanding of death, the brain, and consciousness.
A question was asked at his last conference here. "Did Edgar Cayce ever have a near-death experience?" There were serious accidents in Edgar’s childhood when he might have had one, but I had seen Edgar Cayce go into his prayer/trance state and I was aware of his disciplined focus and complete offering to God of his body, mind, and spirit.
Hugh Lynn Cayce told my husband Harmon and me that every time his father gave a reading, he moved into a prayerful, focused state that was more like a death state than anything else.
When he was giving a reading, he was in the Spirit and it would have been very easy for him to leave his body for good: the threads between this life and the next were very delicate in this trance state and needed to be treated with the greatest respect and prayer. The vibrations around Edgar always needed to be of the highest order. The pull of the ‘other side’ with its freedom from the responsibilities of the physical realm, and the peace and joyful atmosphere of the spiritual realm, could be very enticing,
Hugh Lynn also told us about a time at the end of a reading period, when Gertrude was slow in giving Edgar the suggestion to return to consciousness, and his breathing became slower and slower and more and more shallow, until Gertrude, Gladys and Hugh Lynn all got down on their knees beside the cot to pray for his life. Finally, his breathing became more normal and he returned to consciousness.
There is no way that Edgar Cayce was afraid of death. On his own deathbed he heard the music of the spheres—heavenly choirs. For him, the passage to the other side was easy. He had been practicing it for most of his life.
Some of you will remember Jim Dixon who was bead of the Study Group Department for many years. When his wife was dying of cancer, he invited my husband and me to visit them in Arizona. His wife Beth and I were very close because she had a beautiful soprano voice and whenever we got together we would spend hours at the piano making music together. I had a dream shortly after this visit.
Jim and Beth
In the dream, I saw Beth sitting on their king-size bed. In front of her lay shells of all sizes, colors, and shapes which she had arranged in beautiful designs. In the dream I started to weep. I turned to Jim who sat on a chair near the bed and I said through my tears, "Beth is not afraid of dying, Jim. Look at these designs! She trusts the beauty of the process. But there are so many people who don’t know how to die!" Jim nodded in agreement. I awoke, my face wet with tears.
"Then there should not be sorrow and sadness in those periods
when the physical turmoils and strifes of the body are laid aside, for the moment, for the closer walk with Him.
For indeed to be absent from the material body is to be present with the Lord…
And then when…there is the meeting at the river, there will be indeed no sorrow when this barque puts out to sea." (Edgar Cayce Reading 1824-1)
Excerpt from June Bro's The Art of Living from the Jan-Mar 2015 issue of Venture Inward magazine available to A.R.E. members at EdgarCayce.org/members.
Dr. June Avis Bro found her life deeply affected by working daily with Edgar Cayce when she and her husband, Harmon, came to Virginia Beach in 1943. She set about sharing her interests with others as a pastoral counselor and minister, as well as by using her skills in the performing arts. She has a graduate ministerial degree from Andover-Newton Theological School, near Boston, and a doctorate from Chicago Theological Seminary. In addition to teaching on six campuses while raising five children, she has been a research assistant at Harvard, lectured and held workshops in many cities, led overseas tours to the Near East and China, and served as pastor. A concert pianist, she has served on the music staff in churches of most of the major Protestant denominations and draws on her background in the arts to illuminate myths, symbols, and dreams. At age ninety, she released her first piano CD called “Soul Soundings,” which is being sold in the A.R.E. Bookstore. Her column for A.R.E.’s Venture Inward Magazine, "The Art of Living" is based on her life reading given by Mr. Cayce in 1944. She wrote the forward to the recently re-released book A Seer Out of Season written by Harmon Bro.
Edgar Cayce’s A.R.E. blog offers opinion pieces from contributors with a wide variety of backgrounds. These opinions are valued and create points of discussion. Opinions expressed in our blog may not necessarily represent the opinion of A.R.E.