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The Completed Human Being:

The Drop that Contains the Ocean

by Kabir Helminski




A spirituality adequate to the times we live in must first of all be centered in the reality of human completion itself. If it is based instead on any partial version of humanness, it will be insufficient. No matter what is sought to supplement this insufficiency, if the starting point is less than human wholeness, the result will only be distorted version of humanness.

The attributes of the complete human being are the attributes of God appropriately reflected in human nature. God has innumerable qualities, ninety-nine of which are mentioned in the Qur’an. Some of these are the everyday attributes of a human being: seeing, hearing, speech, will, life, awareness. The Sufi recognizes that these qualities are reflected through the human being from the Absolute Being. Becoming completely human is being able to reflect more and more of the divine qualities in everyday life.

This world is viewed as the mirror of divine qualities, the site of their manifestation. The human heart is even more so a site of their manifestation. Recognizing these qualities in the heart is at the same time recognizing them in life. There is no separation in the field of Oneness. There is, therefore, no antagonism between the human life and the spiritual life. Only when human life has become shaped by the demands and illusions of the isolated ego is it reduced to a caricature, a particularized distortion of its wholeness. Otherwise, to be fully human is to fulfill our spiritual destiny.

Sufism can be considered a path of completion in two important senses: First, it is a way that proceeds from and leads to the Completed Human Being. Second, it is a complete way that uses every possible effective means to orchestrate the transformation of a human being. It can thus multiply its effectiveness by using multiple channels of experience to achieve its purpose. Both of these facts -the completeness of the method and the completeness of the result- are of the highest significance.

The completeness of the Sufi method proceeds from the completeness of its apprehension of human nature. The means by which the human being will be transformed depend on our understanding of what a human being is and is designed to be.

Human completion is not glimpsed from the eye-level of the average human being; nor is it successfully theorized or described by science, sociology, philosophy, or psychology; it is a gift from the Creator of the human being. It is a proposal that comes from the Heart of Nature through its revelatory dialog with humanity. When Nature bears its final fruit, it is the Completed Human, who speaks with the voice and intelligence of Nature itself, describing the attributes of Completion. Human completion is our innate destiny, which, however, requires our conscious cooperation with divine grace. What we can know about our essential humanness comes from those who have become completed human beings and who could listen within their own hearts to the guidance of the Creative Power.

The human being implies his or her own completion, as a plant implies the existence of the sun, as man implies the existence of woman. Sufism received the implicit knowledge of completion first from the Qur’an, which describes itself as "a mercy and a guidance for humanity," a "reminder" confirming and clarifying previous revelations to humanity, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Sufism also draws upon the ever more explicit understanding of this completion as witnessed in the lives and teachings of its many saints and masters beginning with Muhammad.



What Essential Sufism Is Not

The idea of completion is so important, because without it we may settle for less than human maturity. Without it we might mistake some part for the whole. Just as egoism can reduce our humanity, various distortions of spirituality can produce impressive human attainments that are incomplete, restrictive, imbalanced, or even pathological.

Essential Sufism is not a specialization apart from life that requires the renunciation of human interests and desires. In other words, it does not aim at the absolute transcendence of the human condition.

Sufism does not focus primarily on a single-pointed inner concentration on the Divine through which all the created world falls away.

It is not concerned with developing a micro-attention to the minutiae of consciousness in order to deconstruct the ego.

Nor is it concerned especially with altered states of consciousness, soul travel, or shamanic ecstasies. Although a mature human being may incidentally have the facility to enter other realms of consciousness and states of being, one's submission to and trust in the Absolute Compassion significantly reduces the need for and preoccupation with such explorations.

Nor is Sufism necessarily characterized by bewilderment and intoxication, although one may pass through such states before attaining the sobriety that embraces and transcends all intoxication.

Sufism is not a way of making the ordinary seem miraculous, but of integrating the truly miraculous into ordinary human life.



Enlightenment and Maturity

What is a Spiritually Complete Human Being? Even the words with which we ask this question contain assumptions about what is attainable for us and how it is attained. Some of these assumptions are: that some kind of attainment or perfection is possible, and that we become complete through spirituality. Other ways we could ask this question: What is human perfection, enlightenment, or spiritual attainment? What are the ultimate criteria for human development? What is a full-spectrum development for the human being?

I do not claim that the following list is the ultimate answer to these questions only that it represents my own present level of understanding.

Qualities of a Spiritually Complete Human Being:


Self-knowledge. The degree to which we know ourselves our weaknesses, limitations, characteristics, motivations.

Self-control. The ability to guide and transcend the promptings of the self.

Objective knowledge. A knowledge that is in accord both with the practical needs of life and an objective Reality that can be known through an awakened and purified heart.

Inner wisdom. The ability to access guidance and meaning from within oneself.

Being. The capacity to remain in a state of presence, to consciously witness experience.

Selfless Love. A love for God and His creations without selfish motives.

Sustaining the Divine Perspective. The ability to always see events and people from the highest perspective of Love and Unity and to not slip into egoistic judgment and opinion.

Divine Intimacy. Awareness of one’s connection to the Divine Source.


So many people have been engaged in a search for a spirituality adequate to the times we live in. This means, first of all, that it should be able to offer some orientation to the psyche after the doors of perception had been opened through the awakening of consciousness and spiritual emergence that many people have experienced in recent decades. Furthermore, a spirituality adequate to the times would have to offer a way of living in harmony with human nature itself, in a partnership of man and woman, and within the ecological balance of this planet.

Sufism is the reconciliation of all opposites: the outer and the inner, the material and the spiritual, the finite and the infinite, the here and the hereafter, freedom and servanthood, the human and the divine. Enlightenment in this tradition does not prevent us from functioning in a practical and humble way in life, does not entitle us to special treatment, does not exclude us from the inevitable joys and griefs of life. The Sufi's union with God does not cancel servanthood.

What I found through Sufism far exceeded my hopes. As an example, one poet said to me: "All of my reading, study, and creative writing could not have prepared me for the poetry of Rumi." And yet all Rumi's poetry is just the wave on the surface of the ocean of Sufi spirituality. Perhaps it is consistent with the idea of Divine generosity that it should exceed in actuality the gift we had foreseen in our imagination. The Source is not only infinitely generous, it is infinitely creative, and its gifts surpass human imagination.

Kabir Helminski

Excerpt from The Knowing Heart, A Sufi Path of Transformation, 1999


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