PATHS TO THE HEART:
SUFISM AND THE CHRISTIAN EAST
The essays collected in this book, written by some of the world’s leading authorities on the mystical and contemplative dimensions of Islam and Eastern Christianity, were prepared for a major international conference at the University of South Carolina, October 18-20, 2001. Meeting just five weeks after the tragic events of September 11, the speakers and other conference guests were all keenly aware of the precariousness, but also the potential, of the present moment for the relationship between Christians and Muslims.
The aim of the conference was to do something new. Interfaith gatherings are common enough, but dialogue is almost always confined to the outward or exoteric level of doctrines and practices, and at this level, given the considerable differences among the teachings of the world’s religions, contradiction or compromise often appear to be the only alternatives.
Religions, however, are not just systems of exoteric beliefs and behaviors deployed on a plane, to be accepted (or rejected) by the reason and will. Each of the great traditions also has a third “dimension”, a spiritual heart, in which the deeper meaning of those beliefs and practices comes alive, and where the spiritual pilgrim may discover, beyond the level of seemingly contradictory forms, an inner commonality with those who follow other paths.
This is certainly true of the two religions here in question. Despite the long and well-known history of conflict between Christians and Muslims, one finds that their mystical traditions, especially in the Christian East and in Sufism, have for centuries shared many of the same spiritual methods and goals, and in certain exceptional cases Sufi shaykhs and their Christian counterparts have even accepted disciples in the others’ tradition. The essays collected in Paths to the Heart were written with these deep commonalities in mind.
Contributors include Bishop Kallistos Ware, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Huston Smith, John Chryssavgis, and William Chittick.
“This book is a spiritual treasure to be read and to be lived.”
Albert J. Raboteau, Henry W. Putnam Professor of Religion,
“Professor Cutsinger is to be congratulated for having organized such a memorable interchange of opinions at the level of all that is most profound in the human soul.”
Martin Lings, formerly Keeper of Oriental Manuscripts in the British Museum and author of A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century.