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Stages Along the Way

by Dr. Stewart Bitkoff

Q: Along the Path, there are various stages. What is the significance of this?

The worlds keep spinning

Evolving upward;

Toward their higher destiny.

Yet travelers stay fixed in their worlds,

Not moving an inch forward;

Struggling to hold onto what they have.

No matter how painful or inefficient.

In time, these travelers too

must join the upward motion

and reach higher.


A: As in any endeavor there are levels of ability that are dependent upon a variety of factors. These include individual capacity, training, experience and good luck or fortune.

As an example, let us discuss learning how to swim. In order for learning to occur several things must be in place. You need someone who wants to learn, a teacher who is able to teach and a place (i.e., pool, lake) where swimming can occur. Also there must be an interaction between the student, the teacher and subject being taught. The student must want to learn, the teacher must have skills and correct temperament to impart the lesson; and the setting must be conducive to learning. Over time, as the student progresses, has certain experiences, completes various swimming exercises, he/she moves along the learning continuum.

It is similar along the Path and progress is dependent upon an interaction between the student, the teacher or teaching and the grace inherent in the Path. Students have the capacity to learn at different rates and understand what the teacher (or teaching) is trying to impart.

The teacher is one who has traveled the path to completion and has been selected to help others make the journey. Not all travelers who have completed the journey are designated as teachers. Also the teaching itself has the capacity to impart wisdom and learning. The teaching is a vibrant living entity which manifests through the teacher and life events, as well.

The magical element in all of this is the grace, or Baraka, inherent in the Path. Without this, which is the Divine element, none successfully make the journey. It is this magical element the teacher uses to call the student and confers, in a spiritual blessing, to begin the journey. The spiritual Baraka (of the Path) ensures that it remains a viable road to completion.

The different stages of the journey refer, in part, to the activation of specific capacities and spiritual centers within the student. In order for these spiritual centers to be activated without harm, this activation must occur under the guidance of a teacher. To activate these centers prematurely, through spiritual exercises that are not correctly prescribed, can result in lasting harm.

As with swimming, in spiritual studies, there are beginners, intermediates and advanced practitioners of all kinds.


Check-out my two new books: Sufism for Western Seekers: Path of the Spiritual Traveler in Everyday Life and The Ferryman’s Dream . Both books are available through Amazon.com or local bookstore.

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