lover and beloved

The mystical relationship of lover and Beloved is one of humankind's greatest secrets. It embraces the whole of creation and yet takes place within the human heart. The love affair of the soul with God is a passion that transforms the whole human being and reveals the hid-den face of the world. The mystical journey is an unfolding of this love affair, a giving of oneself to God through love. There is nothing other than God, and God's oneness is stamped within the heart. The mystical journey takes the wayfarer from duality back to oneness, from separation to an experience of being merged into His oneness.

But this journey is only possible because of a substance within the heart, which the Sufis call sirr. Without this substance there would be no journey and no spiritual awareness. Sirr belongs only to God and is a gift of God to those who love Him. Sirr is given for the sake of realizing the truth. It is a quality of Divine love that is hidden from the world because it does not belong to the world. Sirr means secret and belongs to the mystery of Divine love, of the relationship of lover and Beloved that takes place within the innermost chamber of the heart, what the Sufis call the heart of hearts. The Sufis say that it is this substance within the heart of hearts that is both the pilgrim and the path. This substance is the essence of His love for us.

Much of the work of the path is a process of preparation, an inner purification to enable the heart of the lover to contain His secret, without its being contaminated by the ego or lower nature, the nafs. When the disciple is ready, then the sirr is given from heart to heart, usually through the presence of a living master, a sat guru. This substance of Divine love is infused into the heart of the lover, and activated by Divine love.

The secret substance within the heart is the organ of Divine consciousness, a consciousness of the oneness of God. A mystic is one who is able to bear this secret. The path prepares us, but His gift is always an act of grace, given with love by love. And it brings with it the responsibilities of the heart, to live according to the ways of love and not the ways of the mind or the ego. Love demands that we sacrifice our self, because, in the words of the great lover, al-Hallâj, When truth has taken hold of a heart she empties it of all but herself.

In order for His secret to be infused into our heart, we have to give our heart to God. Then our heart is held between the two fingers of God, and He turns it as He wills. A mystic is someone who is born to do this work, who was intoxicated by wine before the creation of the vine. Before we are born we are branded by love; we come into the world to be of service to love.

To be a lover of God is to be drawn into the mystery of love, into the unfolding essential unity that is hidden within the heart. This love that is given as a gift is born into consciousness with the tears of separation, with the longing that breaks open the heart. Love awakes us with the call of the reed that is torn from the reed bed, the anguish of the soul that comes to know that it is separate from its Beloved. Abû Sa'id said, Sufism was at first heartache. Only later it became something to talk about. To be a Sufi is to live this cry of the soul, this primal pain of separation. Longing takes us back to love, and the price is tears stained with the blood of the heart.

The journey of the lover is a one-way street of love, and our tears carry us into an abyss of longing, of aloneness and anguish. But in this desert of desolation when despair seems our only company, something is born, something infinitely precious and tender beyond our understanding. Our soul senses the intimacy of its Beloved, that He is as close as the tears that run between the eye and the eye-lid. We begin to experience a loveaffair that is as intoxicating as it is painful, as wondrous as it is terrifying.

These are the secrets of the mystic, of one who has been taken by love. For each lover, this love affair is unique and often too intimate to be told. It is what we have always wanted, what gives our life its real meaning. Whether in the sweetness of His touch or the intense pain of being without our Beloved, we are caught in the grip of a love that consumes our whole being. One friend described how her heart heard and answered His call:

This morning, there was such a deep peace in my heart, in its innermost centre, that I have no words to describe this stillness. It stayed the whole day and is still there. In this silence arose slowly His call. I could almost hear His call immanent in the silent peace. My heart answered with longing, sweet, painful, an ancient, slight, constant pain. So it is not only the joy that leads me Home. I am happy to feel this pain which is so sweet, so real.
Why are some chosen to live this life of love-longing? Because it is His will, because in the tapestry of His creation He has made some human beings to live the life of His lover. They are branded by God and can belong to no other. No other relationship will fulfill them, no human lover can take hold of their heart. They can fall in love with a human partner, but something is always missing. In a human relationship, an essential note is not being played. However much outer life seems to offer, only one thing really matters: the heart's love affair with God.

It is not easy to belong to God. He is a jealous lover and demands our complete attention. We give our whole life and our heart for the purpose of love. Pledged to love, we are emptied of everything that might interfere with the work of love. We are remade as a mirror for the love of God so that it can shine into His world. We are polished by our problems, by the difficulties of our life and the pain of our love for our Beloved.

The work of the lover is to be attentive to love, to stay with the inner connection of the heart despite all of lifes difficulties, despite the distractions that surround us. The friend who wrote about loves call continued writing a few days later:

After the love and the joy and this reasonless, intensive and endless pain – now, three days later, I feel the thread of connection again getting thinner. A slight love and tenderness is still there. I try my best to put my energy there and not to give all of it to my outer obligations. I try to keep this tender, empty space, try to carry it into my daily work. I feel that I have to fight somehow for this connection, to fight against becoming distracted in all my outer things. The fight is about keeping the contact with Him. I know that there is only one direction for me, but it is difficult to go on.
It is not easy. We cry, we pray, we fight to remain looking towards our Beloved. We strive to keep our heart clean. We work upon our self diligently, with perseverance and patience. With the practices of the path, meditation, the dhikr (the repetition of the name of God), we aspire to remember Him with each and every breath. We live the fullness of our outer life, family and work, and at the same time struggle to keep our inner attention focused on the heart. For the one thing that really matters, that absorbs our inner attention, is the demands of our love for Him and His need for us. My friend wrote elsewhere:
I discover now more and more, that in my life I have so much: beautiful children, a wonderful work, good friends around me – but everything is nothing if He is not with me, if my heart is closed.

Love embraces us and love tears us apart. Love is a knife that cuts us and a softness that kills us. We are taken away from our self and given to our Beloved. We are given back to the oneness of love, His oneness which is stamped within the heart. Allh reveals Himself within the hearts of those who love Him. How this happens cannot be known to the mind. It is too deep a secret. The life of the mystic is to live this secret, to live a giving of oneself that is complete and absolute, until noth-ing remains of the lover but a shell, an outer covering in which love can unfold its purpose. In the words of Majnun:

Love is the essence of my being. Love is fire and I am wood burnt by the flame. Love has moved in and adorned the house, myself tied up its bundle and left. You imagine that you see me, but I no longer exist: what remains is the Beloved.
The mystery of lover and Beloved is hidden within the heart of every soul that is seeking God. His love is the thread that guides us back to Him, and our sorrow is the sweetness of our remembrance. And yet as a culture we have almost forgotten this love. Majnun was a lover whose passion for Layla drove him mad and took him to God, and his story is well known throughout the East. In the West, we have placed love solely within the sphere of personal relationships, and lost contact with the real passion that belongs to the soul.

But there are those who belong to Him, who have cried the tears of longing and looked for His face everywhere. They are destined to live this love, a love that is born in Divine oneness. They are called into the presence of love, are driven from the safety of their own self into the arena of love. Their hearts keep alive the flame of Divine love, a love that is as intoxicating as it is tender, as dangerous as it is cruel. The children of the secrets of love do not belong to themselves. They are here for the purpose of love, even though they may not know it.

As we wait on the borders of a new age, there is a great need for the mystical essence of love. There is a need to remind our self of our real nature, of the oneness that embraces every cell of our body and every sigh of our soul. We need to reclaim the sanctity of mystical love and make it conscious, to bring into the marketplace of our world this ancient secret.

His lovers are here for this purpose. They have come together from across millennia to awaken the world to its innermost connection of love. What is lived within their own heart belongs to humanity; it is an essential part of the mystery of humankind. Without this thread of Di-vine love, the song of the world would be lost, the music that gives meaning to our ordinary life would fade away.

And yet we stand on the edge of an abyss of forget-fulness. Caught up in consumerism, blinded by greed and rationalism, we have almost cut the thread of our souls devotion. We are lost to such a degree that we hardly even know that we are lost. We have forgotten our real nature and the sacredness of all that is created. We think that we are here for our own purpose, and have forgotten that the world belongs to God.

Mystical love has an essential purity because it looks only to God. It is awakened as a memory of when we were together with our Beloved, and His lover longs to return to this state. Mystical love cannot be caught in the desires of the ego or the patterns that imprison us. His love is too free; its fire burns too hot. Mystical love reminds us of that which is pure and unpolluted, of that which is sacred and sings the name of God. Mystical love opens a doorway between the worlds through which His grace can flow into this world. The essential one-ness of lover and Beloved reminds us of what we have almost forgotten, that there is nothing other than God.

He loves them and they love Him. His lovers are born to live this mystery and bring it into the world. When their hearts cry to God, His song is heard. When they melt in His embrace, His love is felt. When the memory of the heart is awakened, creation comes to know to whom it belongs. In the silence of our sorrow, we know Him. In the bliss of union, we celebrate His oneness. And the heart of His lover gives this secret of creation back to the world:

And in everything there is a witness for Him that points to the fact that He is One.

© 1999 The Golden Sufi Center Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Ph.D., is a Sufi teacher and author of a number of books, including Sufism: The Transformation of the Heart and The Face Before I Was Born: A Spiritual Autobiography. His most recent book is The Circle of Love. He can be contacted through The Golden Sufi Center, P.O. Box 428, Inverness, California 94937; phone (415) 663-8773; Web site:

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