Caravanserai Magazine Archive

Published 1988-2000 semi-annually on behalf of the Sufi Movement International by the Sufi Movement in Canada.


1990 Volume 5. David Murray. "A Search Into the Meaning of the Service of the Universal Worship. A Geometric Pursuit into its Form and Symbolism"

Universal Worship in our last issue provoked strong and sharply divided reaction. Some readers congratulated us on it; others deplored it. Those who disliked it objected to several points, which deserve consideration. There was a feeling in some readers that the language or tone of David's notes implied a definition rather than an exploration; that is, that David was presenting his geometry as an absolute reality. This was an unfortunate misunderstanding; David himself considers the geometry as a sort of metaphorical spatial symbolic search for meaning in the Universal Worship, and makes no claim to having discovered a particular truth. Another objection had to do with the substance of his article. In the Universal Worship Guidebook, complied after the death of Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, it states that the candles stand in the form of a crescent, whereas, in the first article, David's geometry appears to depend upon arranging the candles in a straight line. There was concern, therefore, that Caravanserai was attempting to alter the form of the Universal Worship. This was not our intention, and if in fact anyone gained that impression we earnestly wish to erase it. In view of the criticisms, it may seem foolhardy to present a further deve1opment of this geometrical conception. However let us stress that this is merely a personal exploration, presented with the hope that it may spark the interest of other geometrically-inclined Sufis. In this article, the dot of Divine Origin evolves into the star and crescent, symbols at the core of the Sufi emblem; furthermore, the candles follow the accepted crescent shape. Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan once wrote that in the future all ritual and ceremony would become a play. If the ceremony of the Universal Worship is to remain free of dogma, we must be able to appreciate it from many points of view and the following is humbly offered in that spirit.

—The Editor
The dot is the most important of all figures, for every figure is the extension of the dot. It is the beginning. It is the One and All.

From the dot comes the line. From the line comes the cross. The vertical line represents Divine aspiration. The horizontal line represents material manifestation.

From the line and cross come the circle. The circle symbolizes the unity of the Divine and the material. It symbolizes motion, circular and spiral, in and out, the breath of life.

From the dot and circle come the Divine geometries, the mandalas. The eight-pointed star is derived from two squares set at an angel to each other, implying revolution and setting this symbol into dynamic motion. It corresponds to the musical scale of eight notes. It represents music as the universal language.
The mandala is a 'vehicle' on which the ceremony of the Universal Worship can travel to its destination.

Inside the eight-pointed star can be found a square, representing the altar of the Universal Worship. The vertical and horizontal lines bisect the square, symbolizing the known and unknown, the seen and the unseen. The centre of the square, the dot, represents the Divine at the centre of all things.

When projected into the third dimension, the dot (Divine Source) is located above the square (the altar). Joining the dot to the corners of the square creates a pyramid. The square plane represents man. The pyramid represents the relationship between God and man. The dotted back half of the square represents the unseen and the bottom pyramid, a reflection of the one above, represents the unknown.

A crystal has been formed encompassing all aspects of the Divine and material. This crystal represents the power of transformation. It transforms single while light to the spectrum and vice versa. Thus it is the symbol by which we can understand the One in All and All in One.

The altar for the Universal Worship is the half square at the centre of the mandala.

On the surface of the altar is located a crescent moon shape, symbolizing both the receptacle and the reflection.

It is within this crescent that the candles representing the world religions are placed. The candle representing the Divine Light is located at the back of the altar under the symbolic dot.

The crescent moon is created by the intersection of the circles relating to the geometry of the square and the circle of the mandala.

As the service of the Universal Worship proceeds, the pyramid over the altar becomes more solid, the unity of God and man closer to realization.

In front of the altar, described by the inner circle of the crescent, is a five-pointed star mandala, the symbol of illumination and the symbol of man.

As the pyramid becomes more solid, the centre point of the five-pointed star, the heart of man, becomes a receptor point for the energy of the Divine realization.

This point of reception is the location of the blessing at the culmination of the service. The star, symbolizing man with outstretched arms, also represents the blessing.

The solidification of the pyramid over the altar coincided with the giving of the blessing—the instantaneous link between man and God.

A large crescent shape is formed using the mandala circle as the inside circle of the crescent. In the service of the Universal Worship, the crescent represents those who are attending the service, the receivers of the Divine illumination, as represented by the five-pointed star, the point of the blessing as transmitted by an attending cherag.

The cherag giving the blessing is the messenger of the time, representing the heart of man in direct contact with the Divine.

Hence the symbol of the star in the crescent moon, when understood how derived, is a significant symbol of the Universal Worship. The practice of all religions as one has the power of Divine realization.

The Universal Worship is one such form, and to the Sufi, is a symbol of Sufism itself.


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