Physicians of the Heart

Heal my soul by the all-sufficient power that comes from the glance of Thy Messiah. –Inayat Khan

Wali Ali Meyer and friends have written a book for the ages:  Physicians of the Heart:  a Sufi View of the Ninety-Nine Names of Allah.  Awhile back I wrote a post here on the psychological effects of the Divine Names (, but this wonderful and HUGE book blows that out of the water, and also shows that I am not alone in my perception that the ultimate healing is, as my beloved Pir Vilayat would say, when “God creates and recreates God’s own self in and through us, in the measure that we reverse our vantage point and grasp the divine operation in us.”  A tall order to those of us who have emerged from the “quick fix” generation, still needing to be fixed and still feeling the pain of that.  I myself certainly have been and still am an example of that way of doing things, but I have learned, and so can anyone who is ready to acquiesce to the reality, as Al Hallaj says, that  “I have been invited to the divine banquet and the divine host has offered me to drink of the wine, the poison, that is His beverage. How can I refuse?  It is the beverage that gives eternal life.”  Not quite the same as sitting in the office of some sympathetic person who just keeps saying “you’re okay.”  How okay do we want to be? This is why Inayat Khan said that “the message is a call to awakening for those who are meant to awaken, and a lullabye for those who are still meant to sleep.”  In my case, I found that I could not transcend my personal suffering without that ultimate Cure, and in the end nothing else was worthwhile.

Many of us American Sufis, I think, grasped the essence of Sufism, but took a longer time to understand the framework and the context of that framework.  This is only partly to be found in traditional Islam, although the teachers I have had have stressed this more and less, depending on what they saw as the need of their time.  Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, for instance, was directed to take the Message of spiritual unity from his native India to the West in 1910 by his teacher, and he came to a world that didn’t understand his music and its deeper meaning at all, and he had to learn the words that would convey the essence of his teaching to a world that was only just beginning to get ready for it; and therefore he placed his message within the context of his own spiritual upbringing, but he focused on conveying the Message of spiritual liberty to his audiences, and while he taught the traditional practices to his students, he gave them in a fairly traditional, classic methodology, and in the simplest and most practical form.  His successor and my lifelong teacher, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, was a poet and a visionary. He inherited us, the hippie generation, the “tune in, turn on and drop out” generation, and we were ready for his visionary grasp of that essence, which he framed in the poetry engendered by his visions.  Others of his close followers stressed different aspects of the Message:  “Sufi Sam,” the one who was designated by God, he said, to be “teacher to the hippies,” to some extent superceded the intellectual framework by teaching his followers a direct musical transmission of the essence of the message, in the form of  Sacred Dance.  It was in that context that I first met Wali Ali, at a time when we were all united in our spiritual work, and it was Sam’s “kids” who brought me up in my early years as a Sufi, even though my teacher was Pir Vilayat.  But it didn’t matter, and it doesn’t matter:  it is all the same teaching, and as Murshid S.A.M. (Sufi Ahmed Murad) said, “Sufism can’t be taught; it has to be caught.”  And so we have done our best to field those ecstatic flies that have come at us through the years.  And we have grown, and the teaching has grown, as has the “unity without uniformity” that Murshid taught.

S.A.M. once said “my secret is controlled schizophrenia.”  As for me, my life is an endless digression.  I return to Physicians of the Heart, wherein is a most marvelous explication of the Divine Names, both in terms of their origins, pronunciations, and a deeply lyrical interweaving of the spiritual and the psychological, and the psychology of the spirit.  Wali Ali takes the reader far beyond the surface understandings of the divine qualities:  when I first began to learn them, I learned that al Jamil, for instance, was about Beauty, and al Majid  as about majesty, and al Haqq meant truth, and on and on. . .  yet one finds, if one gives oneself deeply to recitation of these names, that each is in itself a dhikr, an open door to an aspect of the Divine Being that precludes one’s personal wishes and projections, and aids in remembrance of one’s divine heritage, in that the practitioner must symbolically die to the quality that is being invoked in order that one might come to individual understanding through the Divine understanding as compared to one’s personal constructs.  Each is different, the 99 and then some, and each invokes the proliferation of the flowering of God’s unfoldment in the person, in an alchemical process of awakening. . . but it is not the person who awakes, it is God, whatever God is.  In his book Wali Ali invokes this precious, fragrant flowering of divinity in humanity through the divine qualities.  He explicates the deeper meanings of the Names, he tells stories and weaves webs of possibilities and potentials.  He takes the student into the deepest heart of each, yet conversely demonstrates their efficacy in daily life.  Through the many years of work he and his colleagues have done with students, he shows how the Names heal and awaken both psyche and spirit.

In my own inner work, I have been astounded, again and again, with how each name becomes a sort of homeopathic remedy, in that if the right one at the right time is prescribed, and to the extent to which I am able to surrender to its reality, the places where I am wounded are healed, in the areas where I am stuck become unstuck, and even more:  I am afforded the opportunity to become the instrument of the Divine Voice, if I am dedicated enough to put aside my ideas and surrender to the true reality of the Name I invoke.  And it all goes back to the casual suggestion of the Prophet, peace be upon Him, that the disciple ought to recite the Names in order to know God’s qualities.  A simple instruction which became a Divine Science.

When you feel full of worth and value, because you have identified your self with the eternal reality of the soul, strength arises spontaneously from within.  It is something to be cherished and it gives you the courage to be, the strength and dignity to protect the divine quality within, and to honor it throughout your life.  When you let down your ego defenses, you are able to see that you don’t personally have the power to do what needs to be done in order to heal the wound of being disconnected from God.  The dawning of this light of self-value comes when you truly surrender the healing into God’s hands.  (Wali Ali Meyer, et al., p. 15)

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