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Expected Wisdom Left With Horror
on July 13, 2015
Twenty plus years ago, a good friend and fellow spiritual aspirant gave me a copy of this book.
I loved her dearly and was eager to explore a book that meant so much to her. I was receptive.
Instead, I began to feel puzzled, and then as I read further and yet further, my puzzlement gave way to a stomach
sick feeling of utter dismay.
In the pages, I could see or feel nothing of God's glory, God's majesty, God's loving care, God's creativity, or subtlety.
Instead I felt myself inside a claustrophobic, suffocating dark and dank room that reeked of a long term battering relationship,
rationalized by the punching bag as being for her own good, as though by being human, she was some sort of ghastly
monster that needed to be tormented into submission and subjection.
Nothing is said about how the guru *merited* his authority, beyond his having had a guru. Nothing comes through in Tweedie's descriptions
of any Godly magnificence leaking through her guru.
What I find of the utmost interest is to compare the episode where Tweedie is told by the guru to post a letter and then is cruelly tongue
lashed by him when he claims she messed up the task.
If one compares this episode between Tweedie and her guru and then reads the book Face Before I Was Born, written by her student,
Vaughn-Lee, I suggest this episode between Tweedie and this ornery guru is eerily re-enacted by Tweedie herself.,
Toward the end of Face Before I Was Born, Vaughn Lee, sent by Tweedie to teach in America, describes an innocent mistake he made.
Amid the heavy workload of teaching in America and looking for a good location for a spiritual center, Vaughn-Lee forgot to
do what was needed to keep Daughter of Fire in print. Vaughn-Lee described how important this task had been, and
what he did to inform Tweedie (those days, only FAX and telephone were available) and took immediate steps to
rectify the error to get the book back in print just as soon as possible.
As described in My Face Before I was Born, Tweedies response was to make a declaration to the student body
.that V-L had "deceived her, that I was trying purposefully to stop her book from being in print...."
(Face Before I Was Born, page 288, 1998)
Vaughn Lee saw this as a necessary spiritual lesson.
As Ms Tweedie's student and successor, Mr Lee is entitled to his opinion.
To my unenlightened and peasant level understanding, I have reached my own opinion,
which I stand by, and with which no one need agree.
What I see is this:
The way Tweedie described her own guru verbally accusing and bullying her and her belief this was for her spiritual progress matches with how Tweedie reacted out of all proportion of her student's error and how he rationalized her anger and ingratitude as a necessary spiritual lesson.
To this unenlightened reader, all this reeks of ordinary bullying and quite ordinary abuse, passed from one generation
of practitioner to another. And worse, rationalized from one generation to another.
My friend who did love this book went on to become involved in a group (unaffiliated with Tweedie)
that was later revealed to be exploitative and abusive.
I have at times wondered whether Daughter of Fire, or its abridged version, Chasm of Fire, might even be used
to test prospective recruits for an authoritarian and abusive group or relationship.
Anyone put off by this book would not be a submissive and malleable recruit. Anyone who convinces themselves
that the relationship between Tweedie and her guru was something wonderful would reveal themselves as
quite a promising recruit into an abusive, authoritarian relationship.
To my mind, to inflict cruelty and to rationalize cruelty as necessary for our spiritual growth is to defame God.
To suggest that human persons must be tormented this way to improve our souls is to insult God by suggesting God
erred in creating us.
Erred by forming us to be so loathsome , so lacking as to need torture before we are fit for intimacy with God.
To learn as best as words convey about actual Sufi instruction, I heartily suggest that readers obtain and read at least one of
these two books, both available on Amazon.com
God's magnificence and delicacy permeate their pages. Both authors give a multitude of
stories of sufi aspirants and teachers. And give instructions on courtesy and good manners.
Al-Qushayri's Epistle on Sufism: Al-Risala al-qushayriyya fi 'ilm al-tasawwuf
The Kashf A l-M ahjúb, the Oldest Persian Treatise on Súfiism RA Nicholson
(First published in the early 1900s and reprinted in facsimile in its original small font. Older style of English may require
an adjustment on part of reader. Well worth it.)
For information on the actual background of the Sufism in which Tweedie's instructor claimed authority,
This book, also available on Amazon is of the utmost importance. It references Tweedie.
Change and Continuity in Indian Sufism: A Naqshbandi-Mujaddidi Branch in the Hindu Environment (Islamic Heritage in Cross-cultural Perspectives)
One may object that these books are expensive.
The fees and various donations required by many Sufi teachers add up to very much more than the cost of all
three of these books.