Zecher, Anamnesis, Zikr and Remembrance

Sufi Dervishes in Zikr Circle

Path of the Mystics is the Path of Heart and have always emphasized on one thing and one thing only, which is Remembrance. Even though among the living and embodied Path, Tasawwuf (Sufi Science of purification and union) emphasizes much on Remembrance, the same is equally true and important in the original message of almost every other religious / spiritual path, including that of the ancient Hebrew Path as well as that of Christ's original teachings. It is known that the Sufis are the door keepers (of truth, secret, mystery, practices and tradition) and the practice of Zikr (Remembering the One) and preservation of this ancient commandment is an example to understand the universality and continuation of the timeless practice found among the Sufis.

In this post we take a look how Remembrance was and still is central in Judeo-Christian streams of spiritual embodiment.

The Hebrew word, Zecher

Remembrance in Hebrew is the word zikrown, meaning also memorial, and comes from the root word Zakar, which includes both the sense of 'to remember' and 'to mention'.  Other variation of the word includes: Zachor: remember, Zecher (Zakar): in remembrance of, been mindful, bringing to remembrance, call to mind.

In Hebrew language, being verbs such as remember always denote an action. Remembering is not just a state of being, in Hebrew tradition one  remember in order to do.


Malachi, the Messenger, appears in the Jewish Tanakh as the last of the writings of the Hebrew Prophets and in the Christian Bible as the very last book of the Old Testament. According to the transmission of Malachi, "the Divine is the ultimate observer, observing and responding (a teaching shared and continued in Islamic tradition). Divine memory becomes action on our behalf. Action that anticipates our becoming. Action that supports our becoming. 

Those in fear blind to the possibilities of interaction, while thsoe in awe able from time to time to glimpse the possibilities of the divine dance. Observer becoming observed. Memory is the resulting flow of information from the eternal unfolding. Memory is always at this intersection of being and becoming. Memory as observation, witness to all that is, providing connection and direction to observer and observed... Remembrance occuring in every moment of our flow from pretension to form, we claim our never-ending promise to dynamic, divine remembrance. In awe of All That is."

Jews praying at the Western Wall

"... Then once again I fell prostrate before the LORD for forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water, because of all the wrongs you had committed, doing what was evil in the LORD’s sight and so arousing his mighty wrath. ... I lay prostrate before the LORD those forty days and forty nights because the LORD had said His wrath would destroy you. I prayed to the LORD and said, “Sovereign LORD, do not destroy Your people, Your own inheritance that You redeemed by Your Mighty Power and brought out of Egypt with a Mighty hand. Remember Your servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Overlook the stubbornness of this people, their wickedness and their going astray."
- Mighty Messenger Moses in Deuternomy 9

Remember the LORD your God.
- Deuteronomy 8:18

Yizkor: the Memorial Prayer

In Hebrew tradition of Remembrance, there is a special memorial prayer by that very name, Yizkor which is prayed over the departed soul and asks the Divine to remember the soul with grace. The names takes from the first word of the distinct prayer as well as it embodies the overall theme. Yizkor prayer is recited in the synagogue four times a year in gathering (this can also be prayed privately), following the Torah reading on the last day of Passover, on the second day of Shavuot, on Shemini Atzeret and on Yom Kippur. In this prayer God is implored to remember the souls of those who have passed on to the next life.

Hebrew path brings the consciousness down that When Yizkor is recited, it renews and strengthen the connection between those who recite, and the loved ones and God and  bringing merit to the departed souls, elevating them in their celestial homes. Yizkor remembrance is also comes with a component of doing wholesome action such as charity, donating and feeding the poor on behalf of the departed soul who can no longer take part in wholesome action. In this way a positive physical deed is performed in this world, something that the departed can no longer do.

This is a selection of the Yizkor prayer:

May G-d remember the soul of my father, my mother, my teacher who has gone to the supernal world, because I will - without obligating myself with a vow - donate charity for her sake. In this merit, may her soul be bound up in the bond of life with the souls of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, and with the other righteous men and women who are in Gan Eden; and let us say, Amen.

May the All-Merciful Father Who dwells in the supernal heights, in His profound compassion, remember with mercy the pious, the upright and the perfect ones, the holy communities who gave their lives for the sanctification of the Divine Name.

May our G-d remember them with favor together with the other righteous of the world. (credit)

Anamnesis: Remembrance
The Eucharist in Christian tradition in reality is a ceremony of Remembrance. The Apostles and early believers were instructed by their Guide: "Do this in remembrance (Greek word used in translation is anamnasin) of me"

The word Anamnesis ("remembrance", "recollection") occurs a number of times in New Testament and Greek Old Testament. In most of the occasions it is used in a sacrificial context (Hebrews 10:3, Leviticus 24:7, Numbers 10:10 and Psalm 38, 39 and 70, 70) which has to do with ceremony of remembrance. The root of the word comes from anamimneskesthai to remember, from ana- + mimneskesthai to remember more at mind. In these cases the term anamnesis can be translated as "memorial portion," "memorial offering," or "memorial sacrifice." Thus in the remaining two occurrences of anamnesis (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24), Christ’s words "Do this in remembrance of me," makes Eucharist as an event in point of time in Christian Spirituality when Remembrance of the master is renewed.

In some places the word in Christ's instruction (as transmitted from original Aramaic to later Greek translation) anamnesis, is wrongly translated as sacrifice The Greek words reserved and used in the New Testament for sacrifice is thusia and thuo. The Greek word anamnesis does not mean sacrifice. According to The Old/New Testament Greek lexicon based on Thayer's and Smith's Bible Dictionary, anamnesis simply means “a remembering, recollection.” Which is the same word and practice of Sufi Zikr or Hebrew Zecher.

In the New Testament, the same word is used in Hebrews 10:3. It is also used in the Septuagint to translate several Hebrew words (azkarah in Leviticus 24:7 meaning “a reminder; specifically remembrance-offering; memorial”; zikrown in Numbers 10:10 meaning “a memento or memorable thing, day or writing, memorial, record”; zakar, found in the titles of Psalms 38 and 70, meaning “to mark so as to be recognized, i.e. to remember).

We read in an early Christian Gnostic Text, the Apocryphal Acts of St. John, that Jesus led the Apostles in a hymn to the Father; its extraordinarily rhythm and hypnotic quality vibrates through the worlds of St. John:

And we all circled around him responded to him: Amen...
The twelfth of the numbers paces the round aloft, Amen ...
To each and all it is given to dance, Amen ...

That this was an initiatory spiral, a progressive attainment of the Knowledge, is clear in the words of Jesus, who says, "Even the passion that I revealed to thee and the others in the round dance (whirling), I would have called a mystery.'

St. John records: Now before he was taken by the lawless, who also were governed by (had their law from) the lawless serpent, he gathered all of us together and said: Before I am delivered up unto them let us sing an hymn to the Father, and so go forth to that which lieth before us. He bade us therefore make as it were a ring, holding each other's hands, and himself standing in the midst (this is exactly how Sufi dervishes still perform the whirling dance or sema!) he said: Answer Amen unto me. He began, then, to sing an hymn and to say:

Glory be to thee, Father.
And we, going about in a ring (encircling), answered him: Amen.

Glory be to thee, Word: Glory be to thee, Grace. Amen.
Glory be to thee, Spirit: Glory be to thee, Holy One:
Glory be to thy glory. Amen.

We praise thee, O Father; we give thanks to thee, O Light,
wherein darkness dwelleth not. Amen.

Now whereas we give thanks, I say: I would be saved, and I would save. Amen.
Grace danceth. I would pipe; dance ye all. Amen.
I would mourn: lament ye all. Amen.
The number Twelve danceth on high. Amen.
The Whole on high hath part in our dancing. Amen.

Whoso danceth not, knoweth not what cometh to pass. Amen.
I would flee, and I would stay. Amen.
I would adorn, and I would be adorned. Amen.

I would be united, and I would unite. Amen.
A house I have not, and I have houses. Amen.
A place I have not, and I have places. Amen.
A temple I have not, and I have temples. Amen.
A lamp am I to thee that beholdest me. Amen.
A mirror am I to thee that perceivest me. Amen.
A door am I to thee that knockest at me. Amen.
A way am I to thee a wayfarer. [amen]

Thus, my beloved, having danced with us the Lord went forth. And we as men gone astray or dazed with sleep fled this way and that. (Details and Reference: Spiral Dance and Hymn of Jesus)

Allah in every heart beat
Remember Me, I shall remember you

In the footstep of the original teachings of Abrahamic traditions as a seamless continuation, in Islam and particularly by the Mystics of Islam the practice of Remembrance is preserved, given life to and embodied in daily life with salaat (prayer appointed in harmony of the nature and cosmos following the same movement of celestial bodies as embodied and witnessed by bodily movement) and in zikr (remembrance).

The Last Testament Quran delcares:

And establish regular prayer, for prayer purifies from shameful and unjust deeds, and indeed the remembrance of the Divine is the greatest. (The Quran, 29:45)

O you who believe! Celebrate the praises of Allah, and do so frequently; and glorify Him morning and evening. (33:41-42)

Remember Me, I shall remember you. (2:152)

Those who believe in the Oneness of Allah, and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah, verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest. (13:28)

Look at Yourself and Remember me

You've no idea how hard
I've looked for a gift to bring You.
Nothing seemed right.

What's the point of bringing gold
to the gold mine, or water to the ocean.
Everything I came up with
was like taking spices to the orient.

It's no good giving my heart
and my soul because
You already have these.

So - I've brought You a mirror.

Look at Yourself and Remember me.

- Jalaluddin Rumi



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Technology of the Heart: Zecher, Anamnesis, Zikr and Remembrance
Zecher, Anamnesis, Zikr and Remembrance
Technology of the Heart
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