Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook
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The Food of Impressions
Rock crystal ewer, late 10th century, Fatimid Egypt. Click for larger image.

A teacher can, in a sense, provide us with a certain type of food. There is the physical food that we eat and there is also the food of impressions coming through awareness. In eating a carrot, much more is coming through the carrot if we are awake to the color of the carrot and to many other things.

Also, there is food through the word. Within the word and within each moment, all truth is contained. He has limitless attributes and each attribute is shown through His Name; each word is His Name. Each word, each name, each phrase can be vital for understanding. People think they have an intuition of the truth, but we know nothing in this world unless we are told it. We can experience it within, but until somebody comes to confirm it in this world, we do not know it. That is why to miss a chance to be together is a tremendous waste.

The average human being stuffs food down one end and excretes it out the other. That is all he does and it keeps him going. The possibility exists that he may have an impression. He might eat in silence and feel the impression of that coming through. If he is in a state of love, he may also realize that he is redeeming that which he eats. So, to the extent to which he is awake to impressions, to his breathing and other things, he takes in a further form of food.

The other type of food can only come when we are awake to the words spoken from and through an individual who has reached a point of freedom, who is manifesting that which is necessary and true. Then there is a possibility of a whole human being, a wholeness coming into play. If we understand life and really come into yearning, what is it we want? We want the word of truth. We want confirmation of the truth within us.

Glass beaker, Mamluk era, late 13th-early 14th century. Click for larger image.

We need to learn how to eat properly. We also need to purify the nafs, the false ego. This is not done by fighting it with negative things but by working with the positive. Little by little we become clear channels for what is called in the Sufi tradition the "light of pure intelligence." It comes when we eat the food in a state of love. Only then can we share what comes through the word. Otherwise it is prattle and means nothing at all. What is contained in the word is potentially the most important thing in this world. It will manifest in each of us differently, in the unique aspect of God as one within the One.

The food we take in is so important. It cannot be stressed enough. When we feed the body, we need to be awake to the knowledge that through love, by loving and because of love we redeem that which we eat. There are two sorts of screams a carrot can make. One is, "It hurts;" the other is, "Thank God." There are two sorts of screams you make if I attempt to heal you. One is, "Let me out of this;" the other is, "Thank God, here I go." There are two sorts of screams we can make each moment of our lives. One leads us to redemption and finally to resurrection. A seed can be sown where there is land it can grow in. The other is a scream of pain and all the things that go with it because we will not let go, we will not surrender and we will not be awake to the need.

Glass bowl. Egypt, 11th century.

Impressions are living beings without the degree of consciousness needed to know what is necessary. Only through human beings can food of all types be redeemed, transmuted, and brought into Spirit. Otherwise it is the endless process of the continuous, unpleasant scream. What we eat through the word is the food needed for the seed within us to grow. Otherwise it will not grow. It cannot grow without that which comes through the word.