Studies in Comparative Religion
The First English Journal on Traditional Studies - established 1963
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Martin Lings
Martin Lings was an author, editor, translator, and specialist in Islamic art and esoterism. From 1970-74 he was Keeper of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Books at the British Museum (in 1973 his Department became part of the British Library) where he had been in special charge of the Qur’an manuscripts, amongst other treasures, since 1955. His authoritative biography of the Prophet Muhammad, Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, has become a classic and is widely read in both East and West as an unbiased, clear, and profound source on the prophet of Islam.


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Type TitleAuthor/
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Book Review
This review of the 2007 World Wisdom book The Underlying Religion, summarizes the various sections, highlights some compelling ideas, gives a few quotations, and concludes that "The beauty of this book is that it provides an introduction to the essential features of the Perennial Philosophy in an understandable and digestible depth and format.…"
The Underlying Religion: An Introduction to the Perennial PhilosophyLings, Martin *Mason, Wendy 2008 - Web Edition Comparative Religion
St. Malachy’s Prophecy of the PopesLings, Martin Vol. 16, No. 3 and 4. ( Summer-Autumn, 1984) Christianity
In Memoriam - Titus BurckhardtLings, Martin Vol. 16, No. 1 and 2. ( Winter-Spring, 1984) Comparative Religion
This is a translation into English blank verse of the great Sufi poet Ibn al-Farid's "Wine Ode" or "Wine-Song" (al-Khamriyyah). Translator Martin Lings renders what is perhaps Ibn al-Farid's most famous poem into a highly poetic English, though without rhyme. Lings sparingly adds some notes, which are very useful, to help modern readers understand the allegory of wine and mystical attraction to God, and the symbols often used in Sufi poetry.
The Wine-Song (al-Khamriyyah) of ‘Umar Ibn al-FaridLings, Martin Vol. 14, No. 3 and 4. ( Summer-Autumn, 1980) Islam
Sufi Answers to Questions on Ultimate RealityLings, Martin Vol. 13, No. 3 and 4. ( Summer-Autumn, 1979) Islam
Book Review
This review by Martin Lings of Frithjof Schuon's book Islam and the Perennial Philosophy identifies some of the highlights of the book's topics, such as the phenomenon of Shi‘ism within Islam, the question of how evil can exist in God's creation, a broad survey of many aspects of "Paradise", the limitations but also the adequateness of revealed religious form, and an examination of spiritual hyperbole versus 'logical' thinking.
Islam and the Perennial PhilosophySchuon, Frithjof *Lings, Martin Vol. 10, No. 4. ( Autumn, 1976) Islam
In nearly all dimensions of society, the modern rationalist mentality is playing an increasingly greater role in determining how man approaches the various aspects of his life, religion being no exception. This new perspective inevitably leads to a dilemma in the minds of spiritual practitioners: how does one reconcile the apparent conflicts between the religions without simply affirming one and denouncing all others as false? Focusing primarily on the dialogue between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Martin Lings explains how a follower of each of these traditions can recognize the legitimacy of the others. Lings challenges the possibility that God could provide only one path to Salvation while simultaneously allowing such widespread diversity of belief.
'With All Thy Mind'Lings, Martin Vol. 10, No. 1. ( Winter, 1976) Comparative Religion
Lings discusses spiritual alchemy as it is affected by the seven deadly sins. By first playing with the opposite significance of the numbers seven and eight—seven representing life and holiness, eight representing death—Lings illustrates how the seven deadly sins are both holy and evil. He suggests that the sources of these sins are latent spiritual energy and when one sets out on a spiritual journey, one awakens these desires. For instance, the passion of anger is able to become holy anger as it is to become sinful anger. Lings makes the point that in the case of sincerity, the object of sincerity is just as important as the subject, for to be sincere about the wrong thing is more dangerous that general insincerity. He illustrates that the danger of the spiritual journey is that one is as likely to become a miser as one is to become a saint.
The Seven Deadly SinsLings, Martin Vol. 5, No. 1. ( Winter, 1971) Comparative Religion
Book Review
Martin Lings reviews this book by Frithjof Schuon which is a complement to Understanding Islam and which explains in depth some of the problems that Christianity sees in Islam in the sanctity of the Prophet, for example, or the belittling of the human. Schuon explains that to be truly human and thus sanctified is to fit the divine mould which is Origin, Archetype, Norm and Goal. In Sufism this is expressed in a quaternary of divine Names: The First, the Last, the Outward and the Inward. Lings points out that these, “form the basis of this book, whose every chapter flows, as it were, along one or more of these dimensions.” Chapters under review include those on Jesus, Mary, the Archangels and the Five Divine Presences.
Dimensions of IslamSchuon, Frithjof *Lings, Martin Vol. 4, No. 4. ( Autumn, 1970) Islam
In this article, Lings discusses the idea of the Uncreated Principial Substance in relation to the Christian doctrine of original sin, as well as common 20th century attitudes towards human evolution. The author claims that it is a “sign of the times” that most modern people capitulate unconsciously and blithely to a diminished awareness of the divine presence. Rather than reacting strongly to this critical deprivation, which has been brought about through the actions of some who are not held accountable, instead modern men believe that they are now better than at any time in history.
Signs of the TimesLings, Martin Vol. 4, No. 1. ( Winter, 1970) Comparative Religion
Book Review
After giving a short introduction to the history of thought surrounding evolutionism and religious doctrine, Martin Lings discusses and criticizes Dewar’s condemnation of evolutionism. Lings then presents and summarizes the ways in which Dewar constructs and supports his argument, approaching it from many different angles (physical, geological, paleontological, geographical, etc.). In the conclusion of his review, Lings says, “Most people are altogether ignorant of this [Ed.: i.e. that the theory of evolution requires its own 'miraculous' leaps of faith] and other equally significant facts that The Transformist Illusion lays bare. One result of this ignorance is the flood of books by non-scientists about the history of mankind, books for adults and books for children, which take evolution altogether for granted…”
The Transformist IllusionDewar, Douglas *Lings, Martin Vol. 4, No. 1. ( Winter, 1970) Comparative Religion
Martin Lings discusses the symbolism of several Lithuanian songs passed down through oral tradition. Though part of the “Lithuanian folklore” tradition, these songs contain symbolism from diverse spiritual, cultural, and religious traditions. He addresses the misconception that folklore in general is “popular” in origin, emphasizing that a great deal of folklore is derived from preserved relics of former traditions. The selected Lithuanian songs are used to illustrate his points about the diverse origins of folklore traditions and the “subconscious collective memory” that often informs them.
Old Lithuanian SongsLings, Martin Vol. 3, No. 1. ( Winter, 1969) Misc
Martin Lings discusses the symbolism of water found in the Qu'ran, particularly its ‘inseparable’ connotations to mercy and revelation. Lings examines several passages from the Qu'ran, citing numerous examples and explaining the spiritual significance of each selection. He also engages in a broader discussion of the water symbolism in the Holy Scripture as a whole, reconciling the imagery with more negative connotations such as the great flood.
The Qoranic Symbolism of WaterLings, Martin Vol. 2, No. 3. ( Summer, 1968) Islam
Book Review
Martin Lings reviews the book The Eastern Key by Kitab al–ifadah wa l-i’tibar of Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi, which was translated from the Arabic into English by K Hafuth Zand, John A and Ivy E Videan. According to the reviewer, this combination of original Arabic, and English translation, is an abridged version of a more lengthy work by the author. This book has essentially been divided into two parts, “the first is a general description of Egypt, its fauna and flora, the Egyptians themselves and the food they eat and above all the remains of the civilization of Ancient Egypt”. While the second part “is about the Nile and about the terrible famine which took place at the turn of the century”.
The Eastern Keyauthor(s), various *Lings, Martin Vol. 1, No. 4. ( Autumn, 1967) Islam
The text begins with a short introduction by Martin Lings to the geographical presence of Sufi branches having Darqawi lineage. The Shaikh Al-`Arabi Ad-Darqawi (1760-1823) was a great Moroccan saint, from whose disciples many branchings of his Sufi Order spread. The Letters of this great Muslim sage contain wonderful spiritual and mystical counsel to his disciples. Titus Burckhardt's translations from the Arabic of the original were compiled into a short book, and this text provides several representative samples from that book.
Extracts from the Letters of Shaikh Al-`Arabi Ad-DarqawiAd-Darqawi, Shaikh Al-`Arabi Lings, Martin Vol. 1, No. 1. ( Winter, 1967) Islam
Book Review
Martin Lings reviews the book Born in Tibet, by Chogyam Trungpa. It is a "unique autobiography [which] falls into two parts, the story of the upbringing and education of a young Tibetan Lama from his earliest years until the age of nineteen, and the story of his escape to India when his country was invaded by the communists." In the review, Dr. Lings both summarizes the book and cites its major strength: The book "has succeeded in painting a vast canvas in which the human individuals and their paths and the bridges that they cross are dwarfed and overshadowed by the setting itself. That setting is the civilization of Buddhist Tibet." Chogyam Trungpa's book, Lings says, leaves us "especially struck by the sheer quantity of spiritual riches" of that time and place.
Born in TibetTrungpa, Chogyam *Lings, Martin Vol. 1, No. 1. ( Winter, 1967) Buddhism
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