02 May Kim Stanley Robinson

“A talib is a seeker. And the seeker’s tariquat is his path, his special path you know, on the road to reality.”


Inside the building, a party of about twenty people greeted him, both men and women alike.  The women were bare-headed and behaved just like the men, which again surprised John, and alerted him to the fact that things among the Sufis were different than they were among Arabs generally.  He sat down and drank coffee with them, and started asking questions again.  They were Qadarite Sufis, they told him, pantheists influenced by early Greek philosophy and modern existentialism, trying by modern science and the ru yat al-qalb, the vision of the heart, to become one with theat ultimate reality that was God.  “There are four mystical journeys,” Dhu said to him. “The first begins with gnosis and ends with fana, or passing away from all phenomenal things.  The second begins with fana is succeeded by baqa, or abiding.  At this point you journey in the real, by the real, to the real, and you yourself are a reality, a haqq.  And after that you move on to the center of the spirit universe, and become one with all others who have done likewise.”

“I guess I haven’t begun the first journey yet,” John said.  “I don’t know anything.”

They were pleased by this response, he could see.  You can start, they told him, and poured him more coffee.  You can always start.