The Perfected Man

8 Nov

Why is there a huge bonfire blazing in the square before the Grand Mosque? The newcomer to Cordoba asked himself. He stopped to look at the crowd of men in Berber gray throwing what appeared to be books into the wildly flaming fire.

I had better move on and find the building where I am expected, the stranger named Zaair told himself. No use taking risks around such a disorderly event. He walked away from the aggregation of angry destroyers. On a narrow side street, he asked a passerby where the residence of El-Qadir, the teacher, was located. A short instruction oriented the scholar toward the man who had agreed by missive to direct his further education and enlightenment.

I will ask my new master what is going on in the great capital of Andalusia, resolved the traveler from the East.

A servant led Zaair to the tiny fruit tree garden behind the house. Here sat Qadir on a stool, a book in his hands. The tall, thin teacher, his hair snow white and his eyes cerulean blue put down the volume and rose to his feet as Zaair identified himself.

Smiling graciously, the Cordobian invited the student to take the seat beside his own.

When both of them were comfortable, Qadir stared directly into the walnut eyes of the individual he only knew from long, intimate letters.

“You are here to discover the path to the truth, according to what you wrote,” he stated in a clear, assuring tone.

“That is my reason, sir. I am seeking to find the purpose of my life and existence.”

Qadir smiled. “There are many who are attempting the exact same, my friend. Tell me this: why did decide to come all the way to Cordoba to study under me?”

“I have read several discourses of yours. The ideas that you present are extremely encouraging and impressive. For instance, the proposition that people are infinitely perfectible. That leads me to believe that we can attain spiritual harmony with all of the universe. Such a goal motivated me to come all the way here to learn what I can from you.”

For several moments, Quadir appeared to be in silent contemplation.

“My purpose is to learn to elevate others onto higher levels. But as all can see on the streets of this city, there are fanatic warriors who fight to destroy any attempt at enlightenment. I refer to the Berber forces we call the Almohads. Some call then unitarian fundamentalists. They are eager to stomp out all original thinking.”

“I passed gangs that were burning books in front of the Grand Mosque,” observed Zaair. “There men seemed to be in mad frenzy.”

“Every seeker of Truth is in danger of attack,” said Quadir with a moan. “I want you to take care whenever you are in public places. I have an empty chamber in my house that you may stay in. We shall be able to see each other and talk at all hours of the day, dear Zaair.”

Each morning the student went to the famed city library with a list of readings he was to complete. Upon his return in the afternoon, Quadir held private discussions with him. The usual location for such sessions was the isolated garden behind the residence.

“What of importance have you found in these philosophers, Zaair?” asked the teacher late one afternoon.

“I have had to accept that a single person exists on several different planes at once. That is described by different writers in various ways. The one that impressed me greatly was a comparison with different forms of movement. Basic is walking on land. Then comes standing on a ship, followed by riding a chariot. What if we could go beyond these, to additional dimensions? Walking on the sea? Or flying in the air?

“Each of these can be considered a different level with its own unique nature. But the same individual could be located on any of them.”

“Yes,” nodded the teacher, “even though walking on water and human flying are speculative dreams, they signify the high levels of the perfected ones. But there exists unknown dimensions within us that must be explored as well.”

“You mean the transcendental enlightenment that lifts one into the sphere of the divine, I take it,” softly said Zaair, his mind soaring upward as he continued.

“I, a Sufi, aim to become a wise arif, one of the Mature Ones who possess the deep knowledge that is called maarifat. That is the aim of one who would become a Perfected Man: inner knowledge and wisdom.”

The Cordoban frowned suddenly. “That is easier to conceive than achieve, my son. There are obstacles, especially human ones that will try to frustrate and defeat all such aspirations.”

“You are thinking of the Almohads, sir?”

“We must avoid any confrontation with such merciless persecutors,” warned Quadir. “Nothing but evil can come to seekers of the truth from such quarters.”

Zaair became acquainted with the other students who lived elsewhere in Cordova and came to the house of their Master for a lesson on spiritual enlightenment. From their names, he surmised that some of them were Jews and Christians. Qadir spoke to him of this at one of their meetings in the garden.

“I receive seekers from all three of the religious faiths that are followed here in Andalusia. And why not? Each of them can be likened to a road to be followed. Their destinations, in truth, are precisely the same. A Muslim, a Jew, or a Christian who has genuine faith is hunting for the same self-perfection. The identical wisdom is the goal of all of my students, regardless of their particulars. Do you understand what that means, Zaair?”

“Yes,” answered the latter, “All of us who came to you can share the same inner experience, the same edification and perfecting.”

Qadir suddenly frowned. “The Almohads hate me for how I teach students who are not Islamists of a fanatic character.”

“They are dangerous militants who destroy the city’s libraries,” said the pupil with a groan. “Such people can do a lot of harm to others.”

Zaair, reading many works assigned to him by his Master, came to the latter with questions about the centering of the various stages of enlightenment in different areas of the body. Qadir revealed to him the innermost secrets of his teachings at this point.

“At the primary level, the Mind is dominant, and it is located on the left side of the body. In the secondary stage, the Spirit rises and resides on the right side. When the individual soars to the level of self-consciousness, the solar plexus comes to dominate the person. Only a very few will ever attain the height of Intuitive Knowledge, centered on the forehead.  And the final level of the Perfected One is the condition of Deep Wisdom, located at the center of the chest. The last one is the destination of all our striving for knowledge.”

“That is a glorious vision, sir!” exclaimed Zaair with joy, his eyes afire.

The Master went on, revealing his most intimate plans.

“In time to come, I intend to set up a fraternal lodge of seekers. At each level of existence, the members will wear headgear and clothing colors to distinguish their degree of attainment. For instance, the beginner of the Mind stage shall be given yellow marks. Those at the level Spirit will have red. At the Self-Consciousness location, white will be used, and at the Intuitive stage, black. The Perfected will have green turbans and robes that set them apart.

“Each member of the fraternity will be recognizable.”

“When do you plan to initiate such a project, sir?” inquired Zaair with ardent curiosity.

“Not immediately, but in time to come,” replied the Master with a placid grin.

“I know that I have risen beyond Mind to the dimension of Spirit,” the new student told himself while resting on his pallet in the middle of the night. “All my efforts have taken me to the threshold of full Self-Consciousness.

“It will take time and concentration to rise further. Can I finally attain the perfection of Deep Wisdom? Qadir assures me it is possible, and with each passing day and night I became more confident that I shall succeed in my goals.

“Then, I intend to help the Master create the great universal school that he dreams of. Far wide, beyond Andalusia and Hispania we will spread our teachings in all directions. We shall be everywhere, enlightening minds and souls.

There will be houses of the Perfected Ones in all lands and religions.”

Zaaid dwelt on this elevated vision all the rest of the night.

Increasingly, a sense of being watched and followed each day as he went to the Cordoba library grew in the student. The house of Qadir was under surveillance, there could be no question about that at all.

Zaaid lay awake on his pallet, deep in thought, when the midnight attack occurred. He heard the hoof beats of horses on the street cobbles. Louder and louder they sounded.

Then came the crash of the objects striking the front of the wooden house. What could they be? The student leaped up and went through the corridor to the entrance.

He saw Qadir standing in the open doorway in the midst of burning yellow flames.

In a flash, Zaaid realized that Berber horsemen were carrying out a raid of night destruction, their principle weapon the flaming torches they hurled at the house.

Punishment of Qadir for his independence and tolerance!

In a second, the student saw how fire jumped from the wooden door to the sleeping robe of his Master. Uncontrollable flames engulfed all of the teacher’s body.

Running forward, Zaair reached the entrance too late to save or rescue the victim. The door itself was ablaze with reddish fire. Was the entire house soon to be destroyed?

There was no question of what was coming, realized Zaair as he reached the fallen one.

What could he do for him? It was evident that his teacher was soon to expire.

The Almohads, all of them on horses, had swiftly left, their monstrous purpose achieved. An unnatural silence swallowed the gutted building.

Zaaid saw that the lower body of Qadir was turning into dead flesh. The face of the Master looked up from the doorway, a certain serenity in the cerulean eyes.

“I am going to perish,” murmured the Master to the student bending over him. “You must continue and carry out my plans.”

“I am not the one to do so. It must be someone else,” shouted the desperate Zaaid. “You do not truly know me. My nature is a synthetic one. I was not born of woman, but fabricated in a Baghdad workshop by adepts. My appearance is an artificial one. I am not what I appear to be.

“My life goes back for ages. I do not sleep, because I cannot. My personal existence is only a pretense. I am but an approximation of a true human being. My dream is to attain the enlightenment that results in Perfection. Does not a being such as me deserve the prize of spiritual salvation sought by all Sufi seekers?”

The dying man suddenly gave a strange smile.

“You think I did not recognize that you were not one of us naturals, Zaaid? Nevertheless, you can make yourself a perfected being, my son. You must seek till you reach Deep Wisdom. It can be your goal, as it has been mine.

“And I need you to complete the dream I told you of.”

Those were the last words of Qadir as the breath of life left him.

Certain that his Master was now dead, the constructed one fled into the street in his night robe.

He had to escape from Cordoba and settle elsewhere in order the fulfill the aspirations of his teacher.

Zaaid realized that he had no alternative if he were ever to attain Perfection.


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