This volume presents writing of the great sufi masters concerning ten spiritual 'stations' and ‘states’, which are usually discussed in pairs. The spiritual traveler experiences these inward transformations as opposites - like left and right feet -- which propel and balance his movement on the path toward God. Like the wings of a bird, 'fear' of lapsing from God, and 'hope' in Divine mercy aid the flight of beginners in the sufi path. Alternations of 'contraction' and 'expansion' draw the heart of the intermediate aspirant away from himself and toward God. 'Gathering' absorbs the more advanced traveler toward God while 'dispersion' scatters his attention back into the world. Although different masters have been characterized by 'sobriety' or 'intoxication', and have expressed preference for one or the other, these are shown to be spiritual states bestowed by God and beyond personal choice. Finally, the sufis' 'annihilation' or passing away of the human side of their nature is followed by 'subsistence' through the attributes of God.
The subject of the spiritual states of "intoxicaton" (sokr, masti) and "sobriety" (sahv, hoshyari) is an important and complicated one in Sufism. Sufi masters have held different opinions concerning these states in keeping with their own spiritual attainments. Some of them have held that intoxication is superior, while others have spoken of the preeminence of sobriety. This chapter will attempt to clarify the meaning of these two terms and to present the views of various masters concerning them. The hope is that these words will be agreeable to the travelers on the path toward God and aid them on the way.
When you have become headless and footless
in the way of the Almightly,
You will be transformed into His light
from head to foot.
The word sokr means "intoxication" or "drunkenness." In sufi terminology, it refers to a spiritual state in which the sufi loses awareness of everything except the Beloved.
More generally, it can be said that there are two kinds of intoxication: one of which is "artificial" and the other of which is "natural." Artificial intoxication results from the drinking of alcoholic beverages or the consuming of certain natural or man-made poisons. It is referred to here as "artificial" since it poisons the brain and produces an unnatural or artificial feeling of well-being.
Even kinds are the slaves
of Thy drunken eyes,
And the sober ruined
by the wine of Thy lips.
The word sahv signifies the return to sobriety after intoxication. As a sufi term, it refers to the sobriety of the traveler after his return form the spiritual state of intoxication. Sahv also means the dispersal of clouds or a clear day. In this sense, one could say that sobriety signifies the clearing of the clouds of intoxication from the traveler's mind. Thus, sobriety is a spiritual state beyond and more exalted than intoxication.