Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Paths to the Heart: Sufism and the Christian East

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Paths to the Heart: Sufism and the Christian East

Article excerpt

Paths to the Heart: Sufism and the Christian East. Edited by James S. Cutsinger. Bloomington, Ind.: World Wisdom Books, 2002. x + 278 pp. $19.95 (paper).

Paths to the Heart is a remarkable collection of essays from a conference held at the University of South Carolina in October 2001. The conference had an ecumenical aim: to promote better understanding between Islam and Christianity by comparing their mystical traditions. The matter of ecumenism was given greater urgency by the fact that the conference followed on the heels of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 by only a few weeks. As James S. Cutsinger writes, "interfaith understanding is today more important than ever, and no discussion is more urgently needed than that between Christians and Muslims" (p. 225).

Cutsinger organized the conference according to the conviction that within the "exoteric" traditions of both Islam and Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which differ on fundamental matters of doctrine and practice, there also exist "esoteric" mystical traditions which may not so differ. By following the course of these esoteric mystical traditions, "the spiritual pilgrim may discover, beyond the level of seemingly contradictory forms, an inner commonality" (p. vii).

Dialogue between Islam and Christianity devolves into "two parallel monologues" unless it penetrates the exoteric shell of these "contradictory forms" to the "spiritual heart" of each tradition (p. vii). According to Cutsinger and his late teacher the Perennial Philosopher Frithjof Schuon, the "spiritual heart" of religion-the "transcendent unity of religions"-is to be found in mysticism: in this case, Snfism in Islam and Hesychasm in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. "Snfism" is the name given to the entire Islamic mystical tradition, a name thought to derive from the word suf, meaning "wool," which the earliest Muslim saints wore as a mark of their asceticism. …

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