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An Esoteric Perspective on Jihad

Jon Darrall-Rew
November 2010

Scorpio is the sign of spiritual tests and trials. It is the sign of the warrior, and the sign, par excellence, of spiritual warfare. Today, this notion of spiritual warfare, or 'holy war', is one that is definitely misunderstood, owing to its superficial and gross misrepresentation by a minority. Indeed, there are numerous examples of this in the current media. In order to consider the deep, esoteric understanding of this concept, perhaps it is wise to go to the heart of the modern day debate, the concept of 'jihad'. But let us consider it from a Sufi perspective, or that of esoteric Islam.

Sufism is the esoteric core of the Islamic tradition, and it is truly one of the most noble, beautiful, and philosophically rich non-dual traditions of the world. Its core realisation is rooted in a non-dual understanding of Allah as the One Existence that pervades the All, the need to surrender to the Will of the Divine, and in LOVE as the resonance of the divine in man that resolves the apparent two into the Primordial One. Such thoughts are wonderfully expressed in the poetry of the great Sufi mystic, Rumi, who is perhaps the most well known of the Sufi masters.

Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr, one of the world's leading experts and practitioners of Sufi mysticism, has given a detailed consideration of the Sufi perspective on jihad ( Here, he notes that the actual root of the term is 'jhd', meaning "to strive or exert oneself". Echoing the points of importance learned in Libra (see last month's article), he goes on to elaborate how central the concept of balance is to Islamic spirituality, and Islamic society. He notes,

"If Christian morality sees the aim of the spiritual life and its own morality as based on the vertical flight towards that perfection and ideal which is embodied in Christ, Islam sees it in the establishment of an equilibrium both outward and inward as the necessary basis for the vertical ascent."

Here we again find resonance with that perspective that will characterise the New Age, where the dualities of existence are not seen as cause for battle, but as the two polarities of a magnetic field in which an established balance can bring learning, intimacy, shared journeying and love, through their interplay.

Most pertinently, he notes that though outward warfare did play a role in the earliest days of Islam, in order to maintain its own life from persecution, the Prophet is said to have told his companions, when they returned from such conflict, that they had,

"…returned from the lesser holy war to the greater holy war, the greater jihad being the inner battle against all the forces which would prevent man from living according to the theomorphic norm which is his primordial and God given nature."

Professor Nasr defines jihad as "striving". This striving relates to a deep commitment to work for one's own growth and development, and that of one's community. This must be balanced though by an inner striving, and yet simultaneous surrender, to the divine within one's heart, at the core of our being.

H. P. Blavatsky once wrote, "Man is both an animal, and a God, and herein lies his problem". The Sufi Islamic perspective here would surely suggest that it is not through the destruction of one of these facets of human nature that the Divine is realised, but through the right balance of the two. Indeed, according to the Theosophical perspective, humanity, as the fourth kingdom of nature, is the only kingdom in which all three divine aspects, spirit, soul, or pure consciousness, and form, are simultaneously present. In the third kingdom, the animal, the divine spark of spirit is present, as is form, but the soul nature is still to be birthed. In the kingdom beyond the human, that of the Enlightened Ones, for many, we are told, there is spirit and soul, but no form, for the need to physically incarnate has been left behind. Only in the human kingdom do the three aspects meet, and it is said to be this fact that allows humanity to play such a profoundly important role, both on this planet and in Kosmos, in the anchoring and full expression of Divinity, on Earth.

Owing to the demands of our daily lives, between these different aspects of our nature, spiritual and terrestrial, there can often be an imbalance. The outer jihad, or striving to serve, give and to stand in greater and greater usefulness to one's family, community, nation and ultimately humanity as a whole, must be matched with the inner jihad, in which one journeys always higher and deeper, towards the One Existence found in the inner Ka'bah or Holy Cube, the Heart. This is the ultimate pilgrimage, and it is the deeper meaning of the Hajj that the Prophet called on every man and woman to make. It is to this deep understanding of the spiritual effort that the most esoteric understanding of jihad refers. In the words of Professor Nasr,

"For the spiritual man, every breath is a reminder that he should continue the inner jihad until he awakens from all dreaming and until the very rhythm of his heart echoes that primordial sacred Name by which all things were made and through which all things return to their Origin."

The qualities of the three divine aspects of our being, spirit, soul and form, are described in the esoteric literature as will and power, love-wisdom and creative intelligence respectively. These are the qualities of the three major rays, of the three major planetary chakras (Shamballa, Hierarchy and Humanity) and also, on a deep level, the essential qualities of the three Abrahamic religions that are playing such massive roles in the world today: Islam (divine will), Christianity (divine love) and Judaism (divine intelligence and creativity).

Fundamental to humanity being able to fulfill its cosmic role in the anchoring of divinity on Earth, is the establishment of right energetic relationship between these three aspects of our being, and of the planetary Life. This is the inner balance for which we must strive. In terms of our outer striving, which will necessarily be an expression of our inner process, the focus here must be on the bringing of the spiritual soul of humanity into balance with its material surface expression, and eventually in bringing the divine identification of the one being that IS humanity into the equation as well. It is through this process that humanity may eventually arise as the triumphant phoenix, ablaze in the glory of its Kosmic inheritance and service.

The new Aquarian spirituality that is emerging is one that will not replace the great traditions of today, but will take its root in their one esoteric core; preserving their essential features as providing vehicles for different types of people in different places, back into the ever-present Reality of the One. The three Abrahamic religions will thus have a definite part to play in that process, once they have passed through their current trials and have emerged, purified by the fires of the burning ground. It is on establishing such a threefold balance, and on a number of other deep truths of the Scorpio experience, that the worldwide group will be meditating at this time.
Blessings of the Scorpio full moon.

This piece first appeared in the North Wales monthly publication, Network News: a guide to inspiring events in north wales, and is reproduced here with grateful thanks to the publishers.

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