Victor Olsufiev. On «DEBT OF LOVE» (*1)
To M. T.
The work of a Sufi teacher is multi-faceted. One part of his functions may be known, another sometimes can be guessed, while yet another one is hidden.
What is usually discussed is the most explicit, “social” part of a teacher’s work: communication, mentoring, conducting meetings, exercises. All this can also be done by an imitator.
One of the less known (yet widely practiced) functions of a teacher is helping a student via a direct impact. During such an impact the teacher establishes a direct exchange, circulation of energy between his and the student’s “common presences”. During this process the student receives the most valuable possession of the teacher: his “higher hydrogens”, a part of his soul. These higher energies, filling in the intervals of the corresponding octaves, play the role of “shocks” (in Gurdjieff’s terminology) which allow a further development of certain processes in the student’s common presence. This results in a “purification” of the student, his ascent (even if a small one) to a higher stage. (*2).
At the same time the teacher extract from the student’s common presence the “dirt” which was contained in the corresponding parts of the centers. The teacher should be strong enough in order not to stain himself with this “dirt”. His task is to transform, transubstantiate these lower hydrogens obtained by him, into the higher ones. Otherwise the same may happen to him that happens to a person who is trying to lift a stone which is too heavy: not only he will not lift the stone, but he will also strain himself (*3).
There are no general recipes here: the teacher should have a precise knowledge of the student’s condition, type, strategy and tactics of his development (*4), as well as calculate correctly his own efforts.
Using the language of Christianity, the teacher takes upon himself the “sins” of the student. By approaching (even if temporarily) the level of the student, the teacher sacrifices the highest thing he has: his own further development, his salvation. Compared to this, a sacrifice of one’s health, even life, may be considered as inferior. The higher the teacher, the greater the sacrifice. This is why Christ’s sacrifice is sometimes called cosmic.
In some sense this action can be compared with sucking the venom out of a person bitten by a snake. But woe is upon him who at the same time has a sore in his mouth …
A particular case of such influence (directed at the physical body) is provided by the so-called “sorcerer’s” healing. During the process the healer provides the patient with his own energy directing it to the weakened organ. A precise “seeing” of the illness and a fast and complete restoration of the healer’s energy serve as an indication of his power. (*5)
Thus, the teacher establishes a contact with the student for transmitting spirituality to the latter on a deeper, finer level. This is their real, invisible and secret link. Through this “thread”, as through umbilical cord, the student eventually becomes capable of receiving help (power, blessing, baraka) from the teacher of his teacher and so on (*6). Given a certain degree of crystallization of the student’s astral body, this connection is preserved after the physical death of his teacher. Thus, at a certain stage of his development the seeker is included into a “chain” or “net” of his real brothers and sisters in order to complete a common task, which is a conscious realization of the meaning of his life. (*7)
This link is higher than blood kinship. Blood also contains higher hydrogens through which a connection is maintained, but the spiritual connection described above is conscious, and it carries the influences of a higher and more “refined” nature. (*8)
One Hasidic teacher has said that a teacher cannot just pull a student out of the mud by simply extending his hand from above. No, he will have to descend into the mud himself to help the student …
Offering this (as any other) sacrifice, a Sufi, be it a teacher or otherwise, does it with joy. By this he expresses his gratitude to the Source of his knowledge which has given a meaning and purpose to his life. Of course, only God is the giver of all blessings. But, being insufficiently perfect to behold God, the seeker expresses his gratitude through service. This is what is meant by his debt of Love. (*9)
The understanding acquired on the Path serves as a source to the generosity of soul which characterizes the Sufis. The development of this quality, which is necessary for a seeker, starts with generosity in a usual, worldly sense. This is why so many Sufi stories (including “Arabian Nights”) praise this quality. (*10)
With time, acquiring a better and better understanding of his place in the general process, the student, in his turn, cannot help but feel a deep gratitude to his teacher as a source of his growth, and a stronger and stronger desire to pay his debt of Love. However, not necessarily by teaching others.
Thus, by virtue of Love, a living esoteric Tradition is preserved in the course of centuries and even millennia. “There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.” (*11).
Annunciation, April 7, 2001
*1 The Russian original uses the word “dolg” which means both “duty” and “debt”.
*2 Naturally, this does not abolish in any way the conscious effort that should be applied by the student himself. The influence of the teacher is often exerted on those functions over which the student has no control (instinctive, Higher Emotional Center and other).
*3 Rabbi Naftali of Ropschitz said:
“I testify to this concerning my teacher, Rabbi Itzikel of Lublin: Whenever a new hasid came to him, he instantly took his soul out of him, cleansed it of all stain and rust, and put it back into him, restored to the state it had been in the hour he was born.” (Purification of Souls, "Tales of the Hasidim, Part 1” by Martin Buber).
*4 This question was raised in the end of the message “On Types of Essence”
*5 See the description by Fritz Peters of the healing applied to him by Gurdjieff (“Gurdjieff Remembered”)
*6 Rabbi Mordecai of Lekhovitz said to his disciples:
“The zaddik cannot say any words of the teaching unless he first links his soul to the soul of his dead teacher or to that of his teacher’s teacher. Only then is link joined to link, and the teachings flow from Moses to Joshua, from Joshua to the elders, and so on to the zaddik’s own teacher, and from his teacher to him.” (The Chain, "Tales of the Hasidim, Part 2” by Martin Buber).
*7 Some interesting ideas on the “chain” may be found in the end of the novel “The Angel of the West Window” by Gustav Meyrink.
*8 “But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? And who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew, 12, 48-50).
*9 “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew. 11, 30)
*10 See Idries Shah on this.
*11 Thornton Wilder “The Bridge of San Luis Rey”.
Translated from Russian by Vladimir B.