Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee – ADAB — Sufi Etiquette in the Outer and Inner Worlds

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee


published in Sufi: Journal of Mystical Philosophy and Pratice, December 2013

Good breeding is a mark of those God loves.

Sufism is good nature. He who has the better nature is the better Sufi.
—attributed to Ali ibn Abi Talib,  the fourth Muslim Caliph (1)


Adab is a code of behavior that is central to Sufism, a way to walk the Sufi path with the correct attitude and true courtesy. On the deepest level, adab is the attitude of the soul before God, the way the soul bows down before its Lord with utmost respect, and then lives that respect in the outer and inner worlds. It is a way of being with God in one’s actions and behavior. To quote Hujwiri, “Towards God one must keep oneself from disrespect in one’s private as well as public behavior.”(2) And the wayfarer on the Sufi path aspires to bring this innermost respect into daily life, into his way of being with others, with himself, and with God.

In early Sufism adab was connected with the ideal of Sufi chivalry and the futuwwah orders that grew out of the early mystical teachings of Islam. Futuwwah is the way of the fata, which in Arabic literally means a brave young man. After Islam, and the use of the word in the Holy Koran, fata:

came to mean the ideal, noble, and perfect man whose hospitality and generosity would extend until he had nothing left for himself; a man who would give all, including his life, for the sake of his friends. According to the Sufis, Futuwwah is a code of honorable conduct that follows the example of the prophets, saints, sages, and the intimate friends and lovers of Allah.(3)

This code of conduct as expressed by the early Sufis is a way to behave that embodies the inner nobility of the path. There were early Sufi textbooks that described these teachings, one of which was The Way of Sufi Chivalry compiled by the eleventh-century Sufi Abul-Husayn îbn Sam’un:

Futuwwah means opposing and arguing little, being fair; preventing errors in oneself and not criticizing the errors in others; lowering one’s ego; being pleasant both to the old and the young, doing good deeds, giving good advice, and accepting advice; loving one’s friends, and bearing peacefully with one’s enemies. These are the visible aspects of the path that are sufficient for us to know until we are able to hear and tell about the truths of futuwwah.(4)

These qualities of superior character and behavior reflect an inner purity, such that there is no difference between inner attitude and outer act. The Sufi does not do in private what he would be ashamed to do in public. Instead of seeking the faults of others, he looks for his own faults. And when trouble and suffering come, he accepts them and does not complain. To have a good nature and a positive disposition whatever happens is a central quality of adab.

Another important Sufi quality is ithar, which means putting others first, and is considered the ultimate sign of Sufi chivalry. It is exemplified at Sufi gatherings by darvishes sitting in the back row rather than the front seat, and also by not reserving a seat. It also means to avoid passing judgment and even to justify the actions of others even if they appear to be wrong. The followers of “the Path of Blame,” the Malamatis of Nishapur, laid down the rule: “Respect others, regard others with favor, justify the wrong-doings of others and rebuke your own self.”(5)

Following this code of character, the Sufi aspires to live to the highest ideal. And this is especially reflected in his interaction with other Sufis, brethren on the path. A principle of futuwwah is never to forget your brothers in the path. Muhammad al-Jurayri said: “Loyalty to and consideration for others is a means to awaken consciousness from the sleep of heedlessness and to prevent thoughts from the disasters of imagination.”(6) Thus the correct attitude and behavior are also seen as ways to stay awake and attentive, to remain in a state of remembrance rather than slipping into forgetfulness where one is caught by the illusions of the mind and the ego. The early Sufis especially felt that associating with other Sufis was a protection against being drawn into forgetfulness and heedlessness.(7) Being in the community of Sufis who share similar ideals and code of behavior helps the wayfarer to stay true to the sincerity of the heart. Sincerity felt and expressed outwardly toward your brethren is the basis of this morality. The governor Abu Ahmad al-Hafiz reports these words of a wise man:

One of the rules of the brethren is that they should love each other wholeheartedly, teach and educate each other with their words, aid each other with their property, straighten each other with their morals, and defend each other in their absence. Associate with those who are superior to you in your spiritual dealings and with those who are less fortunate than you in your worldly dealings.(8)

This code of behavior acts as a protection, helping one to avoid the pitfalls of the ego and negative character traits, such as pride or being judgmental, and to develop positive character traits, such as humility, generosity, and positive thinking. Adab is not a formal or imposed pattern of behavior like manners, which may differ according to different social or cultural standards, but comes from an inner attitude, which expresses itself naturally in outer behavior. It is an expression of the real nobility of the human spirit. For example, a generosity of spirit freely expresses itself as outer generosity; an inner attitude of humility becomes manifest in a natural act of putting others first. At the same time Sufis are only too aware of the danger of the ego subverting any spiritual behavior for its own self-promotion. Acting in a humble manner is easier than attaining real humility, and the ego can easily use it to lay claim to a spirituality it has not earned. The Malamatis were especially aware of this danger, and would often act in an “unspiritual” way in order to attract blame and negate the ego.



These traditional Sufi practices offer a valuable way to live the real nobility of the soul, to affirm the respect that belongs to a true human being. However, the practice of Sufism in the West today takes place within a very different cultural environment from that of the early Sufis in the Middle East. While baseness of character and selfish behavior have always been present in humanity, our present culture of global consumerism actively promotes the ego and its desires, encourages ambition rather than humility, and supports greed rather than generosity. The values of this era cultivate self-interest as opposed to real nobility of character, and appear to foster disrespect rather than ways of developing and practicing respect. Today’s materialistic wasteland presents special challenges for those who wish to practice the qualities that nourish the soul.

Furthermore, our Western focus on individualism with its attendant images of freedom makes any outwardly suggested pattern of behavior more difficult to embrace. We may devour self-help books, but learning codes of spiritual behavior is unfamiliar, and may even carry the taint of cultism or fundamentalism rather than coming across as a path to true humanity. What this means is that we have to rediscover what adab means to each of us. Rather than studying an eleventh-century manual, we need to return to values of the soul that are within us, learn what it means to live with God. In this era of individual responsibility, it means to take individual responsibility for our relationship with each other, with our own soul, and with God.

Outer practices may help us to avoid being dominated by the ego and our lower nature. But this inner adab creates the real container we need in order to carry the path into our everyday life in today’s culture. Without developing an inner adab we are easily swamped by the ego-driven values that surround us. We become lost in a culture of forgetfulness.

Inner adab is an affirmation of the qualities of our own soul and the real dignity that is within us. It has to do with a deep respect for the divine that is within our own hearts as well as within all of life. If we can live this respect for the divine, we will find a natural way of being that nourishes our own soul and the souls of those with whom we interact. We learn to live in the presence of God. The story of Moses and the burning bush in Exodus is an example of a basic attitude needed when approaching the divine. When God called to Moses out of the burning bush, Moses answered, “Here I am.” And God said, “Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”(9) Learning to take off one’s shoes, which symbolize one’s worldly attitudes and way of behaving, is necessary if one is to stand on holy ground. Otherwise, one does not have the right attitude of respect.

Spiritual life is about how to first approach and then make a relationship with the divine. We need, like Moses, to take off our shoes and leave behind the ways of the ego and our lower nature. If we are to hear the voice of God, we need to learn how to be in His presence with the correct attitude. This attitude comes from inner adab.



In order to make the journey towards God, we need to reclaim what it really means to be a human being: our nobility of spirit. This is a journey from the world of the ego and our lower nature to a life lived from the deeper qualities of the soul. It involves an inner transformation, an inner alchemical process that turns the lead of our own darkness into the gold of our true self.

Any inner transformation requires a container to insure that the process of transformation is not contaminated or disrupted. In alchemy this is called the vas bene clausum, or “well sealed vessel,” that is needed if the opus is to be completed. For the alchemist of the heart the attitude of character, especially of inner adab, is the container that stops base elements in the psyche or outside influences from disturbing or interrupting this vital process. The alchemists often warned that if the vessel is cracked or broken, the whole process has to begin again.

The wayfarer is often unaware of the subtleties of this journey, of the dangers in the process of transformation. We are given access to deeper energies within our own psyche, energies that require maturity of character and purity of intention if we are not to become unbalanced. For example, psychologically when we encounter the primal depths of the psyche, it is our steadfastness and good character that protects us from the amoral nature of the archetypal world and its often destructive powers.

On this journey any outwardly learned code of behavior is inadequate: the real guidance and discrimination have to come from within. It is our inner character that can be attacked or subverted by forces or energies outside of our control, and it is the inner qualities that we have developed that are needed to balance and contain us. For example, humility is necessary when we experience forces in the archetypal world that can easily lead to inflation. If our inner adab is not strong enough, we can easily become caught by these forces, and we can lose the connection that guides us and become lost. These forces may even psychologically damage us.

The Self, the divine light within us, is our real guide and protector. Through our aspirations and devotions, we create a connection with this light within the heart. The Self guides us through the maze of our own psyche and is the agent of our transformation. But how often does our lower nature interrupt our aspirations, veil us from our light? How often are we caught in anger or hostility? The ego leads us astray again and again, and the unconscious tries to seduce us. Without good character, we are at the mercy of our lower nature, as al-Hamawi observes:

If someone does not merely fail to observe the standards of behavior proper to togetherness with the Lord [adab al-ma ‘iyyal] but keeps company with his own lower self [nafs], that person is screened from his master by his own lower self, and it is the most seriously obstructive of all screens.

As Dhu’l-Nun once put it: The most seriously obstructive screen, and the hardest to detect, is attention paid to the lower self and its schemes.(10)

In Sufism “togetherness with God” means observing the correct adab for being with God, and is based on the Koranic verse, “He is with you wheresoever you are” (57:4). He is always with us. We walk the path with Him. And we need to be always on our best behavior for His sake, even if we are not aware of His presence.

In states of remembrance, when the heart is awake with Him, it is easier to practice our adab. Like any lover we want to be our best for our Beloved. But it is when we are in a state of forgetfulness, when He appears veiled or inaccessible, that we most need to remember our adab. Because it is in these times that we are most susceptible to the voice and deceptions of the ego and our lower nature. When He is veiled we are still connected to our own inner light, but if we become caught in the “schemes” of the ego, we can easily lose this connection and fall further into forgetfulness, even become lost in the darkness. And the ego has many “schemes,” many arguments and plans to subvert us. It is very inventive, and can so easily manipulate the illusions of the world to divert us from the path and keep us in its power.

The path is also full of unexpected happenings and difficulties. Life presents us with many opportunities. Without the light of the Self to guide us, it is so easy to lose our way and miss the opportunities we are given. It is so easy to get caught in dramas and distractions that take our energy or may even divert our whole life in an unnecessary direction. This is one of the reasons the Sufi practices watchfulness, to remain in a state of inner attention. But nobility of character also protects us, and keeps our connection to our inner light even in the most challenging times. Later, when we are merged more deeply within the heart, we come to a stage where we can never lose the light of the heart. It is always present in our life. But we still need the qualities of good character to help us to walk in the inner and outer world, to stay true to what is real amidst the many deceptions and challenges we encounter.

Practicing adab is learning what it means to live in the presence of God, how to be here for His sake. Without adab we are at the mercy of our lower nature, veiled by our ego. How then can we be His servant, attentive to His call? Adab is the container and protection we need, enabling us to walk together with Him and serve Him as He wills. We all have these qualities within us because they belong to our soul, to our divine nature. But we have to learn how to develop and live them, how to bring the innermost respect of the soul into everyday life. And we need to remember that we live in a culture that does not support these values, that seeks to pull us further into forgetfulness. That is why we need the company of friends, those who share the qualities of the heart, whose adab assists us on our journey, just as our good nature brings light to all around us.




Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee – Buddha at the Gas Pump Interview

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee – The Call of the Earth



The Call of the Earth

Excerpt from the anthology Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth, published in Parabola Magazine, August 2013


At this moment in time we are more and more consciously confronted by the reality of climate change, global pollution, acidification of the oceans, massive destruction of forests and wetlands and other natural habitat. All of it is contributing to the first man-made mass extinction of species that the planet has suffered, caused by industrialization and our addiction to a materialistic lifestyle. And we are all responsible—just by traveling in a car or a plane, we are actively participating in an ecologically destructive culture.

We all need to take responsibility for this pressing predicament. And although many individuals and groups have responded, little has really changed in substance on a collective, governmental level since the 2009 Copenhagen summit showed us putting short-term economic growth before the real and lasting concerns of carbon emissions and climate change.

Moreover, our materialistic culture has co-opted the concept of sustainability to its own ends. Our collective objective now appears to be to sustain our materialistic, energy-intensive way of life, rather than to sustain the ecosystem and its diversity of inhabitants. There are few signs that the world is prepared to give up its materialist pleasures.

And while many people are working to try to counter this imbalance, most are approaching it with the very same mind-set that has created this predicament. Before we can begin to redeem this crisis, we need to go to the root of our present paradigm—our sense of separation from our environment, the lack of awareness that we are all a part of one interdependent living organism that is our planet. This can be traced to the birth of the scientific era in the Age of Enlightenment and the emergence of Newtonian physics, in which humans were seen as separate from the physical world, which in turn was considered as unfeeling matter, a clockwork mechanism whose workings it was our right and duty to understand and control. While this attitude has given us the developments of science and technology, it has severed us from any relationship to the environment as a living whole of whose cycles we are a part. We have lost and entirely forgotten any spiritual relationship to life and the planet, a central reality to other cultures for millennia.(1) Where for indigenous peoples the world was a sacred, interconnected living whole that cares for us and for which we in turn need to care—our Mother the Earth—for our Western culture it became something to exploit.

And as we move into a global age, it is these Western materialistic values that are dominating more and more of our planet. Our increasingly global consumer-driven civilization is amplifying our exploitation and the resulting pollution to an unsustainable level. As the world grows more and more out of balance, we urgently need to regain a relationship with the planet based upon the understanding of the world as a sacred living whole, and to reclaim a consciousness that is centered in that understanding. Only if we redeem the problem at its root can we hope to heal and come back into balance with our environment. Would we rape and pillage the physical world if we understood and respected its sacred nature?

But there is an even deeper, and somewhat darker, side to our forgetfulness of the sacred within creation. When our monotheistic religions placed God in heaven they banished the many gods and goddesses of the Earth, of its rivers and mountains. We forgot the ancient wisdom contained in our understanding of the sacred in creation—its rhythms, its meaningful magic. For example, when early Christianity banished paganism and cut down its sacred groves, they forgot about nature devas, the powerful spirits and entities within nature, who understand the deeper patterns and properties of the natural world. Now how can we even begin the work of healing the natural world, of clearing out its toxins and pollutants, of bringing it back into balance, if we do not consciously work with these forces within nature? Nature is not unfeeling matter; it is full of invisible forces with their own intelligence and deep knowing. We need to reacknowledge the existence of the spiritual world within creation if we are even to begin the real work of bringing the world back into balance. Only then can we regain the wisdom of the shamans who understood how to communicate and work together with the spirit world.(2)

There has been a recent resurgence in spirituality in the West, what some would call an “awakening.” In the last few decades we have been made aware of previously hidden or esoteric techniques and practices to access the spiritual dimension of our self—to reconnect with our soul. Many individuals have followed an inner calling to use these practices and teachings to make a relationship with their soul or spiritual nature. Yet we still have little understanding of the spiritual dimension within the natural world, or of how our individual soul relates to the larger dimension of the world soul (what the ancients called the anima mundi). We have mostly lost the knowledge of the spiritual practices and rituals that keep the balance in the inner and outer worlds; we have even forgotten that such practices are needed. Instead we are caught within a contemporary consciousness that focuses on the individual self, no longer even aware of our deep bond to the sacred within creation.

We may have begun to reclaim an understanding of how to relate to our own soul and experienced the meaning and sense of purpose that can come into our life through this relationship. We may even be drawn to spiritual teachings and practices that can help us in this work, that take us beneath the surface of our life into the deeper dimensions of our own being and give us access to the spirit world. Those who have begun to make this journey feel and know the deep nourishment, the guidance that this can bring. We also may have become aware of a certain poverty in our daily life that results from our forgetting this inner reality, the absence of a certain joy or central note. But we have little awareness of the relationship between our individual soul and the world soul. We have forgotten the ancient teaching that says that the individual is the microcosm of the whole, the lesser Adam in relation to the greater Adam that is the whole of creation. We have lost the basic understanding of the ways our spiritual awareness, or our forgetfulness, affects the whole—of the subtle but powerful relationship between human consciousness and our inner and outer environment.

While there may be a growing awareness that the world forms a single living being—what has been called the Gaia principle—we don’t really understand that this being is also nourished by its soul, the anima mundi—or that we are a part of it, part of a much larger living, sacred being. Sadly, we remain cut off, isolated from this spiritual dimension of life itself. We have forgotten how to nourish or be nourished by the soul of the world…. (3)

How do we respond to such a hidden crisis? How can we awaken from our dream of forgetfulness? If we have a sense that something deep within our being, and within the being of the world, is out of balance, we can listen. We then may hear the cry of the world, its call to us. This is not just the call of creation as its physical ecosystem is being destroyed, but the cry of the world soul, the anguish of the anima mundi as it feels its sacred substance being depleted, its light going out.

And from hearing this cry we might begin to awaken, to sense a lack of the sacred, of this primal substance that gives meaning to all of life. We will each hear this cry in our own way, as it touches our own soul, but what matters is how we respond—whether we turn away, returning to our life of distractions, or whether we dare to follow the call and sense what it is telling us. Then, for an instant, we might catch a fragrance that is vanishing, a color that is fading. We might begin to notice what is happening.

In the outer world the signs are all around us. Daily we see the physical signs of our ecological crisis: the glaciers melting, the floods and droughts. We may also sense the deep anxiety of a civilization that has lost its way, forgotten its primal connection to the sacred that alone can give real meaning. If we are to take real responsibility for our present predicament we need to respond both outwardly and inwardly. We need to work to heal both the body and the soul of the world.

The first step is always to recognize what is happening. We can no longer afford to be blinkered by the surface values of our materialistic culture. Just as real sustainability embraces the biodiversity of the whole planet, it also includes the sacred within creation. We need to relearn the wisdom of listening to life, feeling its heartbeat, sensing its soul. But first there is a pressing need to reconnect matter and spirit. All of life is sacred, every breath and every stone. This is one of the great secrets of oneness—everything is included. Within our heart and soul we can reconnect with our primal knowing that the Divine is present in everything.

We cannot return to the simplicity of an indigenous lifestyle, but we can become aware that what we do and how we are at an individual level affects the global environment, both outer and inner. We can learn how to live in a more sustainable way, not to be drawn into unnecessary materialism. We can also work to heal the spiritual imbalance in the world. Our individual conscious awareness of the sacred within creation reconnects the split between spirit and matter within our own soul and also within the soul of the world: we are part of the spiritual body of the Earth more than we know.

We will each have our own way of making this offering. There is, for example, a simple prayer for the Earth: the act of placing the world as a living being within our hearts when we inwardly remember the Divine. We become aware in our hearts of the sorrow and suffering of the world, and ask that divine love and healing flow where needed. And through our prayers the power of the Divine will help us and help the world—help to bring the Earth back into balance. We need to remember that the power of the Divine is more than that of all the global corporations that continue to make the world a wasteland, even more than the global forces of consumerism that demand the lifeblood of the planet. We need to reawaken to the power of love in the world.

Sometimes it is easier to feel this connection when we feel the earth in our hands, when we work in the garden tending our flowers or vegetables. Or when we cook, preparing the vegetables that the earth has given us, mixing in the herbs and spices that provide flavor. Making love, as we share our body and bliss with our lover, we may feel the tenderness and power of creation, how a single spark can give birth. Then our lovemaking can be an offering to life itself, a fully felt remembrance of the ecstasy of creation.

The divine oneness of life is within and all around us. Sometimes walking alone in nature we can feel its heartbeat and its wonder, and our steps become steps of remembrance. The simple practice of “walking in a sacred manner”—in which with every step we take we feel the connection with the sacred Earth—is one way to reconnect with the living spirit of the Earth.

There are so many ways to reconnect with the sacred within creation, to listen within and include the Earth in our spiritual practice and daily life. When we hear the morning chorus of birds, we may sense that deeper joy of life and awake to its divine nature; at night the stars can remind us of what is infinite and eternal within us and within the world. Watching the simple wonder of a dawn or a sunset can be an offering in itself. Whatever way we are drawn to wonder, to recognize the sacred, what matters is always the attitude we bring to this intimate exchange. It is through the heart that a real connection is made, even if we first make it in our feet or hands. Do we really feel our self as a part of this beautiful and suffering planet, do we sense its need? Then this connection comes alive, a living stream that flows from our heart as it embraces all of life. Then every step, every touch, will be a prayer for the Earth, a remembrance of what is sacred.

Our present ecological crisis is calling to us and it is for each of us to respond. This crisis is not a problem to be solved, because the world is not a problem but a living being in a state of dangerous imbalance and deep distress. This distress belongs to its body and soul, and as the voices in this book show, there are different ways we can respond to this calling. What matters is how through our own response we reconnect to what is sacred, and return to a sense of deep belonging, here in this place of wonder we call the Earth.

There is action to be taken in the outer world, but it must be action that comes from a reconnection with the sacred—otherwise we will just be reconstellating the patterns that have created this imbalance. And there is work to be done within our hearts and souls, the foundational work of healing the soul of the world, of replenishing the spiritual substance of creation—of bringing the healing power of divine love and remembrance where it is most needed. The crisis we face now is dire, but it is also an opportunity for humanity to reclaim its role as guardian of the planet, to take responsibility for the wonder and mystery of this living, sacred world.




Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee – Reclaiming The Feminine Mystery Of Creation – 6-14-14



The feminine is the matrix of creation.  This truth is something profound and elemental, and every woman knows it in the cells of her body, in her instinctual depths.  Out of the substance of her very being life comes forth.  She can conceive and give birth, participate in the greatest mystery of bringing a soul into life.  And yet we have forgotten, or been denied, the depths of this mystery, of how the divine light of the soul creates a body in the womb of a woman, and how the mother shares in this wonder, giving her own blood, her own body, to what will be born.  Our culture’s focus on a disembodied, transcendent God has left women bereft, denying them the sacredness of this simple mystery of divine love.

What we do not realize is that this patriarchal denial affects not only every woman, but also life itself.  When we deny the divine mystery of the feminine we also deny something fundamental to life.  We separate life from its sacred core, from the matrix that nourishes all of creation.  We cut our world off from the source that alone can heal, nourish and transform it.  The same sacred source that gave birth to each of us is needed to give meaning to our life, to nourish it with what is real, and to reveal to us the mystery, the divine purpose to being alive.

Because humanity has a central function in the whole of creation, what we deny to ourself we deny to all of life.  In denying the feminine her sacred power and purpose we have impoverished life in ways we do not understand.  We have denied life its sacred source of meaning and divine purpose, which was understood by the ancient priestesses.  We may think that their fertility rites and other ceremonies belonged only to the need for procreation or a successful harvest.  In our contemporary culture we cannot understand how a deeper mystery was enacted, one that consciously connected life to its source in the inner worlds, a source that held the wholeness of life as an embodiment of the divine, allowing the wonder of the divine to be present in every moment.

The days of the priestesses, their temples and ceremonies are over, and because the wisdom of the feminine was not written down but transmitted orally (logos is a masculine principle), this sacred knowledge is lost.  We cannot reclaim the past, but we can witness a world without her presence, a world which we exploit for greed and power, which we rape and pollute without real concern.  And then we can begin the work of welcoming her back, of reconnecting with the divine that is at the core of creation, and learning once again how to work with the sacred principles of life.  Without the intercession of the divine feminine we will remain in this physical and spiritual wasteland we have created, passing on to our children a diseased and desecrated world.

The choice is simple.  Can we remember the wholeness that is within us, the wholeness that unites spirit and matter?  Or will we continue walking down this road that has abandoned the divine feminine, that has cut women off from their sacred power and knowledge?  If we choose the former we can begin to reclaim the world, not with masculine plans, but with the wisdom of the feminine, the wisdom that belongs to life itself.  If we choose the latter we may attempt some surface solutions with new technology.  We may combat global warming and pollution with scientific plans.  But there will be no real change.  A world that is not connected to its soul cannot heal.  Without the participation of the divine feminine nothing new can be born.


If the knowledge of the sacred feminine has been lost how can we know what to do?  Part of the wisdom of the feminine is to wait, to listen, to be receptive.  A woman does not consciously know how to bring the light of a soul into her womb and help it to form a body.  And yet this mystery takes place within her.  Nor does she consciously know how to nourish this light with her own light, in the same way that she gives her blood to help the body to grow.  She is the mystery of light being born into matter, and her pregnancy is a time of receptivity, waiting, listening and feeling what is happening within her.  She and the Great Mother are one being, and if she listens within she is given the knowledge she needs.

We may have forsaken this simple feminine wisdom of listening, and in this information age awash with so many words it is easy to undervalue an instinctual knowledge that comes from within.  But the sacred principles of life have never been written down: they belong to the heartbeat, to the rhythm of the breath and the flow of blood.  They are alive like the rain and the rivers, the waxing and waning of the moon.  If we learn to listen we will discover that life, the Great Mother, is speaking to us, telling us what we need to know.  We are present at a time when the world is dying and waiting to be reborn, and all the words in our libraries and on the internet will not tell us what to do.  But the sacred feminine can share with us her secrets, tell us how to be, how to midwife her rebirth.  And because we are her children she can speak to each of us, if we have the humility to listen.

How can we listen to what we do not know?  How can we reclaim what we have lost so long ago?  Every moment is new.  The present moment is not just a progression of past moments, but is alive in its own way, complete and perfect.  And it is the moment that demands our attention.  Only in the moment can we be fully awake and respond to the real need.  Only in the present moment can we be fully attentive.  Only in the present moment can the divine come into existence.  Men may make plans, but a mother attentive to her children knows the real need of the moment.  She feels in her being the interconnectedness of all of life in a way that is veiled from the masculine.  She knows one cannot make plans when there are so many variables, but one can respond with the wisdom that includes the whole and all of its connections.  The divine feminine is asking us to be present in life in all of its wholeness, without judgment or plans.  Then she can speak to us, reveal the mystery of her rebirth.

And because this is a birth, the feminine has to be present, not just as an idea but as a living presence within us, within both men and women; because although woman most fully embodies the divine feminine, part of her secret is also shared with men, just as a son carries part of his mother in a way hidden from her daughters.  Yet to live the feminine is something we have almost forgotten: our patriarchal culture has denied her power and real wisdom, has sanitized her as much as it has divorced her from her magic that belongs to the rhythms of creation.  But we need her, more than we dare realize.

However, to fully encounter the divine feminine, the creative principle of life, we must be prepared for her anger, for the pain that has come from her abuse.  For centuries our masculine culture has repressed her natural power, has burnt her temples, killed her priestesses.  Through his drive for mastery, and his fear of the feminine, of what he cannot understand or control, the patriarchy has not just neglected her, but deliberately tortured and destroyed.  He has not just raped her, but torn the very fabric of life, the primal wholeness of which she is always the guardian.  And the feminine is angry, even if her anger has been repressed along with her magic.

To welcome the feminine is to acknowledge and accept her pain and anger, and the part we have played in this desecration.  Women too have often colluded with the masculine, denied their own power and natural magic, instead accepted masculine values, ways of thinking.  They have betrayed their own deepest self.  But we must also be careful not to become caught in this darkness, in the dynamics of abuse, the anger and betrayal.

It is especially easy for women to become identified with the suffering of the feminine, her treatment by the masculine, to project one’s own pain and anger onto men.  Then we are caught even more securely in this web that denies us any transformation.  If we identify with the pain of the feminine we easily become an agent of her anger, rather than going deeper into the mystery of suffering, into the light that is always hidden in the darkness.  Because in the depths of the feminine there is a deep knowledge that the abuse is also part of the cycle of creation.  The Great Mother embodies a wholeness that contains even the denial of herself, and we need her wholeness if we are to survive and be reborn. 

Real transformation, like any birth, needs the darkness as much as the light.  We know that the feminine has been abused, just as the planet continues to be polluted.  But the woman who has experienced the pain of childbirth, who knows the blood that belongs to birth, is always initiated in the darkness; she knows the cycles of creation in ways that are hidden to the masculine.  She needs to give herself and her knowing to this present cycle of death and rebirth, and in so doing honor the pain she has suffered.  Then she will discover that her magic and power is also being reborn in a new way, is being returned to her in ways that can no longer be contaminated by the masculine and its power drive.  But without her full participation there is the danger of a still birth; then this present cycle of creation will not realize its potential.

First we need to acknowledge the suffering of the feminine, of the earth itself, or the light within the feminine will be hidden from us.  We have to pay the price of our desires to dominate nature, of our acts of hubris.  We are not separate from life, from the winds and the weather.  We are a part of creation and we have to ask her forgiveness, to take responsibility for our attitudes and actions.  We need to go consciously into the next era, recognizing our mistakes.  Only then can we fully honor and hear her.  But there is always the possibility that we will not take this step.  That like defiant children we will not acknowledge the pain we have done to our mother, and will not reclaim the wholeness that she embodies.  Then we will remain within the darkness that is beginning to devour our souls: the empty promises of materialism, the fractured world of fanaticism.  To take a step into maturity is always to acknowledge our mistakes, the wrongs we have done.


It is a real challenge to step into this matrix of the feminine, to honor something so sacred and simple as the real wisdom of life.  But as we stand at the edge of our present global abyss we need this wisdom more than we realize.  How many times has this world been brought to the edge of extinction, how many times in its millions of years has it faced disaster?  Now we have created our own disaster with our ignorance and greed, and the first step is to ask for the help of our mother and to listen to her wisdom.  Then we will find ourselves in a very different environment than that which we presently imagine.  We will discover that there are changes happening in the depths of creation of which we are a part, and that the pollution and pain we have caused are part of a cycle of life that involves its own apparent destruction.  We are not isolated, even in our mistakes.  We are part of the whole of creation even as we have denied the whole.  In our hubris we have separated ourselves from life, and yet we can never be separate.  That is just an illusion of masculine thinking.  There is no such thing as separation.  It is just a myth created by the ego.

Everything is part of the whole, even in its mistakes and disasters.  Once we return to this simple awareness we will discover that there are changes taking place that demand our participation, that need us to be present.  We will see that the axis of creation is shifting and something is coming alive in a new way.  We are being reborn, not in any separate sense but as a complete whole.  We do not have images in our masculine consciousness to think what this could be like, but this does not mean it is not happening.  Something within us knowsthat the present era is over, that our time of separation is coming to an end.  At present we sense it most apparently in the negative, knowing that the images of life no longer sustain us, that consumerism is killing our soul as well as the planet.  And yet there is also something just beyond the horizon, like a dawn that we can sense even if we cannot see.

And this dawn carries a light, and this light is calling to us, calling to our souls if not yet to our minds.  And it is asking for us to welcome it, to bring it into being.  And if we dare to do this, to say “yes” to this dawn, we will discover that this light is within us, and that something within each of us is being brought into being.  We are part of a shared mystery: we are the light hidden within matter that is being awakened.

For too many centuries we have been caught in the myth of separation, until we have become isolated from each other and from the energies of creation that sustain us.  But now there is a growing light that carries the knowing of oneness, the oneness that is alive with the imprint of the divine.  This is what is being given back to us.  This is the light that is awakening.  The light of oneness is a reflection of the divine oneness of life, and we are each a direct expression of this oneness.  And this oneness is not a metaphysical idea but something so simple and ordinary.  It is in every breath, in the wing beat of every butterfly, in every piece of garbage left on city streets.  This oneness is life, life no longer experienced solely through the fragmented vision of the ego, but known within the heart, felt in the soul.  This oneness is the heartbeat of life.  It is creation’s recognition of its Creator.  In this oneness life celebrates itself and its divine origin.

The feminine knows this oneness.  She feels it in her body, in her instinctual wisdom.  She knows its interconnectedness just as she knows how to nourish her own children.  And yet until now this knowing has not carried the bright light of masculine consciousness.  It has remained hidden within her, in the darkness of her instinctual self.  And part of her pain has been that she has not known how to use her knowing in the rational and scientific world we inhabit.  Instead of valuing her own knowledge she has played the games of the masculine, imitating his thinking, putting aside her knowledge of relationships and her sense of the patterns that belong to creation.

Now it is time for this wisdom of the feminine to be combined with masculine consciousness, so that a new understanding of the wholeness of life can be used to help us to heal our world.  Our present scientific solutions come from the masculine tools of analysis, the very mind set of separation that has caused the problems.  We cannot afford to isolate ourself from the whole any more, and the fact that our problems are global illustrate this.  Global warming is not just a scientific image but a dramatic reality.  Combining masculine and feminine wisdom we can come to understand the relationships between the parts and the whole, and if we listen we can hear life telling us how to redress this imbalance.

There is a light within life, known to the alchemists as the lumen naturae, that can speak to us, speak to the light of our own awareness.  There is a primal dialogue of light to light, which is known to every healer as she listens to the body of her patient and allows it to communicate with her, allows its light to speak to the light within her.  Through this dialogue of light she comes to know where to place her hands, the herbs that are needed, the pressure points to be touched.  This direct communication is combined with the knowledge of healing she has learned, allowing an alchemy to take place that can reawaken energy within the patient, realign the body and soul.  This is how real healing happens, and what is true for the individual is also true for the world, except that we are both the patient and the healer.  The world’s wounds and imbalance are our wounds and imbalance, and we have within us the knowledge and understanding to realign ourselves and the world.  This is part of the mystery of life’s wholeness.

The feminine can give us an understanding of how all the diverse parts of life relate together, their patterns of relationship, the interconnections that nourish life.  She can help us to see consciously what she knows instinctively, that all is part of a living, organic whole, in which all the parts of creation communicate together, and how each cell of creation expresses the whole in a unique way.  An understanding of the organic wholeness of life belongs to the instinctual knowing of the feminine, but combined with masculine consciousness this can be communicated in words, not just feelings.  We can combine the science of the mind and the senses with inner knowing.  We can be given a blueprint of the planet that will enable us to live in creative harmony with all of life.


What does it mean to reclaim the feminine?  It means to honor our sacred connection to life that is present in every moment.  It means to realize that life is one whole and begin to recognize the interconnections that form the web of life.  It means to realize that everything, every act, even every thought, affects the whole.  And it also means to allow life to speak to us.  We are constantly bombarded by so many impressions, by so much media and advertising, that it is not easy to hear the simple voice of life itself.  But it is present, even within the mirage of our fears and desires, our anxieties and expectations.  And life is waiting for us to listen: it just needs us to be present and attentive.  It is trying to communicate to us the secrets of creation so that we can participate in the wonder that is being born.

We have been exiled from our own home, sold a barren landscape full of soulless fantasies.  It is time to return home, to claim what belongs to us, the sacred life of which we are a part.  This is what is waiting for us, and its signs are appearing around us.  They are not just in our discontent, in our sense that we have been exploited and lied to.  They are in a quality of magic that is beginning to appear, like the wing beats of angels we cannot see but can feel.  We are being reminded of what we really are, of the divine presence that is within ourself and within life.  We long for this magic, for a life that unites the inner and outer worlds.  And this other is already with us in ways we would not expect.  We just have to be open and receptive, to say yes to what we cannot see or touch, but can feel and respond to.  And for each of us this meeting of the worlds will be different, unique, because we are each different, unique.  It is the sacred within life speaking to us in our own language.  Maybe for the gardener it speaks in the magic of plants, for the mother in something unexpected in the ways of her children—always it is something glimpsed but not yet known—a promise we know we have been waiting for.  Children themselves feel it first, but for them it is not so unusual; it is part of the air they breathe, the light they live in.  They have not yet been completely banished, and maybe they will grow into a world in which this magic remains.

The mystery of the divine feminine speaks to us from within her creation.  She is not a distant god in heaven, but a presence that is here with us, needing our response.  She is the divine returning to claim her creation, the real wonder of what it means to be alive.  We have forgotten her, just as we have forgotten so much of what is sacred, and yet she is always part of us.  But now she needs to be known again, not just as a myth, as a spiritual image, but as something that belongs to the blood and the breath.  She can awaken us to an expectancy in the air, to an ancient memory coming alive in a new way.  She can help us to give birth to the divine that is within us, to the oneness that is all around us.  She can help us to remember our real nature.

We Are All One – Interview with Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee – One the Movie

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“It is time for the world to remember that it belongs to God.”
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee was interviewed in Fall 2002 as part of an independent film project titled ONE The Movie. The project, an exploration of spirituality in the new millennium, began in 2002. The filmmakers interviewed over 100 people across the world. Asking the same thirty questions of all interviewees, from spiritual teachers to atheists to the homeless, they sought to produce and promote messages of mutual respect, understanding, love, and oneness. This is the full interview with Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, excerpts of which were used in the final film.