Books-and-Authors.net: Where did you grow up and who were your earliest influences?
Sharon Marcus: Growing up in the downtown Toronto of a largely working, soon to be middle-class neighborhood, I found myself surrounded by young, fiercely intellectual friends, most of whom grew up to be doctors, lawyers, and accountants.
Everyone read everything, which for myself at that time meant nineteenth and twentieth-century Russian and French novelists, contemporary American and English fiction and poetry, surrealist poetry from any source, and the occasional smattering of philosophy.
I have always looked upon Shakespeare and James Joyce as my singing masters, my original and ultimate teachers in the art of writing, for their flawless conjunction of form with the exploration of the human condition.
In poetry, the Eliot/Pound axis was amplified by Apollinaire, Po Chu I, and a few Canadian poets with whom the language, the practice of the writing process was examined. As a student of Northrop Frye, I learned the aesthetic or literary language of mysticism.
Books-and-Authors.net: Why do you write?
Sharon Marcus: Who was it who first said, “Ich schreibe weil ich muss.” The need to express verbally what it’s all about seems to be inherent, part of the package, what amounts to a genetic insistence.
That seems to be the beginning which, in my case, was followed by the interminable silence while I search for the great theme, the story I knew I had to tell.
Then once I had finally discovered the subject and developed the voice to speak the right words in the right way, there was an inescapable obligation to give back what had been given to me.
Books-and-Authors.net: Discuss your book new book “The Next Step – A Sufi Primer“.
Sharon Marcus: The Next Step, A Sufi Primer represents my own best understanding bestowed upon me by the great twentieth-century Sufi master, M.R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen.
As I have written in my book, My Years With The Qutb: A Walk In Paradise, after many years of struggle and search to find meaningful answers to the who am I, why am I here range of self-examining questions, I had the immeasurable grace to be connected to this luminous teacher of wisdom.
Bawa Muhaiyaddeen teaches the consciousness and the qualities necessary to satisfy the mystical hunger of the soul, the longing to return to the divine source we call God, the cause who is both the origin and the end.
The Next Step is addressed primarily to aspirants who have already accepted their challenge to know themselves and to know God, who have at least accepted a first step, the need to change the unacceptable within their own hearts.
Now they are undertaking the acts, words, and prayers of transformation to learn the wisdom and qualities of purity.
All this is the preparation to acknowledge not just the one God, but the Oneness of God, to become the prayer with every breath which establishes His unique omnipresence, His totality.
The surrender of everything which attaches us to the outer and blinds us to the inner culminates in the annihilation of ego, individuation, the eclipse of selfhood in the great totality of Oneness.
In addition to looking at the steps in wisdom or consciousness identified for us by Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, what we can see and know as we proceed to work on the uphill climb, this book also contemplates the great obstacles we encounter within ourselves as we try to balance living with God and the world at the same time.
There is no retreat from worldly responsibility, the obligations of family and society, but there is the urgent need to live appropriately for the divine presence and the divine kingdom while we encounter and deal with the world.
We must satisfy the soul with the food it requires, even as we satisfy the body with the food it requires.
The Next Step is sprinkled with a little lighthearted anecdotal input to clarify and illuminate the exposition of such solemn and weighty concerns.
Books-and-Authors.net: What is your personal explanation/definition of the ‘Soul’?
Sharon Marcus: To understand the soul, that ray of light from God within each human heart, we need to recognize both our corporeal, elemental aspects, as well as the not corporeal, the nonmaterial.
We have a body which is controlled by mind and desire, by the intellect which reigns supreme over the elements, the thoughts, emotions, and desires the physical gives rise to.
But the intellect can neither recognize nor make sense of what lies beyond the mental or physical, in fact, it has a hard time acknowledging anything beyond its own sphere of competence.
To learn something about this essentially human gift, the soul, we need the wisdom of the heart, levels of consciousness with the divine attributes such as love, mercy, compassion, patience, forgiveness, justice, humility, generosity, kindness, the existent seeds of the divine waiting for the nourishment which will bring them to life in flowers of radiant grace.
Wisdom feeds these qualities, these qualities grant access to the wisdom inseparable from divine consciousness.
The interplay of intention, wisdom and God’s qualities allows His divine permission to know this light we call the soul.