On the symbolism of letters, on death, and on divine pedagogy

This week we have two particularly esoteric approaches to the powerful symbolism of the written word. In “The Symbolism of the Letters of the Alphabet”, Martin Lings partially translates and comments on a brief treatise, Al-Unmudhaj al-Farid, by the Algerian Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi, widely recognised in the Islamic world as a Sufi saint of first magnitude:

“Whenever I speak of the Point I mean the Secret of the Essence which is named the Oneness of Perception (Wahdat al-Shuhud), and whenever I speak of the Alif I mean the One Who Alone is (Wahid al-Wujud)”

Then from an early Christian perspective, we bring a fresh translation from the Coptic of an enigmatic and rather cosmological work entitled “The Mysteries of the Greek Alphabet”, attributed to Saint Sabas of Palestine (439–532):

“These letters are called ‘elements’, not because they are composed of elements… but, because of their form, the elements of the creation of the world are in them when they are written.”

From the Metropolitan Anthony Archive, we bring a lecture “On Death”:

“Only awareness of death will give life this immediacy and depth, will bring life to life, will make it so intense that its totality is summed up in the present moment… All life is at every moment an ultimate act.”

Finally, we welcome a new article by Damien Casey, where the Buddhist concept of upaya (a skilful means or stratagem) is looked at from the point of view of the early Fathers of the Church, as a means of Divine Pedagogy. In the light of St John’s Gospel, the article concludes that

“The Johannine vision of Truth as a person turns out not to be an obstacle for interfaith dialogue, but enables, empowers and perhaps even commands it.”