"O Allah! Show me all things as they are."
This is the constant heart prayer of the true gnostic and the vocal expression of the essence of the endless, ongoing quest.
To know, see, and be in reality at all times is, at least, to be free from the trap of our mental perceptions and it can be done, or at least asked for. This prayer, even though ongoing, is answerable, and here's how I feel the answer.
"Things as they are" are never as they seem. We are asking for a direct vision of reality. This certainly implies its possibility. And if the certainty is not granted immediately upon request, it implies the presence of veils, which are also part of the reality, and which must become known and recognized in order to be removed. So now we must accept the reality of "veils".
The removal of veils implies the removal of the visual impedances held in the outer, central and deeper regions of the hearts by incorrect or unreal beliefs in "other than" Allah, which are the results of and cause our personal distortions of reality. Distortions in perception are not changes in reality but misguided interpretations, incorrect assumptions and understandings that keep us "out of touch" with it. The singular "cure" for this is the seeking and following of guidance. This search for and following of guidance is called 'sulook', or 'traveling', or 'walking'. It is the long-honored process of self-education in the approach to reality, or on the pathway to God, as we like to say.
What is Reality? Reality can never be what we "think" it is simply because by the time we get a "mental" fix on it, it has changed and we are left with a flash picture, like a photograph. Our perception of reality is made up for the most part of photos in archive, and the only way we can ever get through it is to posit the existence of a transcendent, objective truth, a goal, and approach it. Otherwise we are left collecting pictures of ourselves, wading through our own archives, destroying pictures. That's why the Zen people teach the phrase, "Zen mind, beginner's mind", because every moment is a new beginning.
How, then, can we "trust" anything? You might well ask.
Reality is quite reliable on its own and neither asks of us nor needs of us any mental participation. It obviously does not exclude such, but the results of mental participation become "reality" too, "our contribution", so to speak. Hence the confusion and difficulty in distinguishing between what is "really" true, and what is just true for a moment. The mind is based on attainment, but the soul is already established in the love of God. Shifting our focus from one to the other is the process of the journey. Self-acceptance (Surrender to the reality of Soul) is what dissolves the illusion of conceptual self. It simply melts in its own reality. "I see who I am and surrender to that", is the first step of "seeing things as the are". Then we come to understand the phrase "The world is but a reflection of how we see ourselves in it."
Mental purification (God-realization through remembrance exercise) is the means and goal of Islamic Healing. So we start in our minds, positing the existence of God, the Divine Being from Whom and by Whom all things emanate. Then we investigate what religions and spiritual paths have to say about such a being. Upon conclusion that such a being exists, we set about our search for means of discovery. And soon we discover the heart of the matter, ourselves. When we realized that the depth of the secrets of reality lies within our own beings, we also realize what lies within the depths of other beings and we set out on our journey in earnest, to be healed and educated by others, and to thereby bring healing and education to others.
This necessity and quest for self-understanding is what brings humanity together. We approach those in whom we feel the healing energy and wisdom of truth, peace, love and, and while discovering them on our paths, we ourselves are discovered by others on a similar quest.
Among the religions and paths to be investigated, we will come across Islam. We in the West will investigate it in honest hopes that it is not for us but will conclude that there are in it some points of extreme value, particularly in the spiritual Psychology of the Sufis and the pathway to the knowledge of God (Allah) in our hearts. We will discover that there are some genuine masters of this science and that it is alive and doing very well, thank you. We may ignore it for extreme lengths of time, going in many directions and learning many things, but we will likely not forget, and see that all paths lead back to the central focus of the Sufis, Knowledge of God, through Love and knowledge of Self. And eventually, if we are lucky, we may set out on the quest to meet a Sufi Master.
It is this quest that brings centrality, unity and expansion to human endeavor. And we are all partaking in this quest for absolute security. But reality is seeing things as the are, and illusion is seeing things as we want them to be. This is why it is said that our desires and preferences, and the reasons for them, are what is standing in the way of reality, or our attainment of them.
We know our reality in two ways, by what we are and by what we are not. This is not a conceptual objective knowing in the mind but a perceptual, subjective one in the heart. Our reality in the outward can be know by the completion of our surrender, and our reality in the inward can be known by our completion of guidance. This is simple but not easy, and the completion of inward and outward self-education can only be confirmed or even gifted by an already recognized master.
This "education" or "seeking of completion in the Sufi way" is called sulook, and the seeker/traveler is called saalik. Completion of sulook is the beginning of traveling along the way but it is the guarantee of sufficiency to complete the journey.
It requires a firm belief that all things shown to you by Allah are indeed as they really are. But you must know that these things are shown to you by Allah and not from your self. So that requires ma`arifat, recognition by means of a skilled discernment, to distinguish the subtlest differences between the truth, reality and love of Allah, and the projected "realities" arising from the illusions of fear and mistrust coming from the self. Ma`arifat, or recognition of truth and reality as distinct from falsehood and illusion, is the first serious step and tool on the way to the completion of self-education.
Ma`arifat in another form is referred to as "Wisdom", or true "Knowledge of God". I say "true" because there is an abundance of misinformation about God, and the standards to which I refer are deepest esoteric knowledges of Holy Qur`an and the wisdom of realities in the hearts of the prophet and his receiving descendants. The prophet said, "I ask nothing of you but that you love my family". So this love for the "Ahli bait", or people of the house of the prophet, is the true love that is the opener and revealer of all the divine secrets of the hearts in which are found all the realities as they are. And without this love, there is no real knowing of all things.
We would do well to refine the phrase "Knowledge of God" to Knowledge of Allah" because in that there will be no doubt as to exactly what we mean. And even in that, the "true" knowledge of Allah, or the "truth and reality" of your "Knowing of Allah", comes from the verification by confirmation resulting from your actions and behavior towards seeking and being in the presence of the truly aware and confirmed gnostics of Allah. And all our jealousy and resentment of that fact does not change it in the least. La ilaha illa 'llah! Fa`alan li maa yureed! There is no God but Allah, Doer of what He pleases. There is nothing but blessing in the company of these people, and the overflowing is obvious, and attainable by all.