The insights revealed by literature are sometimes more powerful and incisive than the best of sciences…
I have found many extracts from Rumi’s spiritual outpourings that expand and illuminate on the current topic of this blog.
My interspersed commentary is an attempt to both link the extracts and make them more accessible to readers. Note that any underlining in the excerpted poetry is mine.
Rumi on the true versus the weak sources of real knowledge↓:
1. A QUATRAIN
Ignorent men are the soul’s enemy
Shatter the jar of smug words
Cling for life to those who know
Prop a mirror in water, it rusts
We are coming straight from a discussion with the upshot that how science, despite all the progress it has incurred, must still fall short on revealing the true nature of this world and the truest guidelines for human living. It’s the divine which makes up for this lack in our lives, not the human. The wordy lectures and papers of the self-claimed ‘learned’ men while ‘informative’, actually tell us nothing about what we really need to know.
2. A QUATRAIN
Reason, leave now! You’ll not find wisdom here!
Were you thin as a hair, there’d still be no room.
The Sun is risen! In its vast dazzle
Every lamp is drowned.
3. STORY WATER
Water, stories, the body,
all the things we do, are mediums
that hide and show what’s hidden.
and enjoy this being washed
with a secret we sometimes know
and then not.
GOD IN NATURE
Ascend from materiality into the world of spirits, hearken to the loud voice of the universe;
Then thou wilt know that God is glorified by all inanimate things: the doubts raised by false interpreters will not beguile thee.
Come, recognize that your sensation and imagination and understanding are like the reed-cane on which children ride.
The spiritual man’s knowledge bears him aloft; the sensual man’s knowledge is a burden.
God hath said, Like an ass laden with books: heavy is the knowledge that is not inspired by Him;
But if you carry it for no selfish ends, the load will be lifted and you will feel delight.
God with His Brilliance and Actuality certainly pales any other source of enlightenment and illumination possible. Not only that, Our Creator’s mysterious workings and intricate powers seem to have enmeshed themselves with the fabric of the ‘apparent’ world created for our temporary existence. Such that the closest possible examination of any corner or pattern on the tapestry of this world either blinds us (given the Dazzle of the Source of things). Burdened by the contradictory and mutative conclusions from our observations and the enigma of explaining what we can see and can’t see in the terms of our limited understanding, we remain ignorant and indifferent to the Light. Or, we experience a touch of the dazzle ourselves in form of awe, wonderment, a sense of being in the presence of the Sacred, and a sweet and submissive urge to bow down our heads before this Source.
6. A QUATRAIN
Body of earth, don’t talk of earth
Tell the story of pure mirrors
The Creator has given you this splendour —
Why talk of anything else?
7. IF YOU DON”T HAVE
you’ve carved a wooden horse
riding and calling it real
fooling yourself in life
though only a wooden horse
ride it again my friend
and gallop to the next post
you’ve never really listened
to what God has always
tried to tell you
In the physical world, every level of existence (such as the cultural, the individual, the biological, the chemical, and the subatomical) requires it’s own set of explanatory processes and phenomena. How can we claim to deduce understandings of how this world was created by restricting ourselves to the level of this earth? This will never be possible, unless we stop taking the things of this earth as the end of the road, as the literal reality itself. We must take them instead as signs, pointers or mirrors to the deeper nature of things at a level far far beyond the earthly. Instead of restricting ourselves to the details of this earth, we should move ahead to what this detail signifies: the magnificence, the splendour, the sublimity of how it all came to be.
8. A QUATRAIN
I have lived on the lip
of insanity, wanting to know reasons,
knocking on a door. It opens.
I’ve been knocking from the inside!
And so external observations are not the end of the road for the one earnest seeker of the Truth. After you’ve completed your observations, then, like Ibrahim, you must close the door of externality and turn on the fountain of contemplation from within.
9. THE TRUTH WITHIN US
‘Twas a fair orchard, full of trees and fruit
And vines and greenery. A Sufi there
Sat with eyes closed, his head upon his knee,
Sunk deep in meditation mystical.
‘Why,’ asked another, ‘dost thou not behold
These Signs of God the Merciful displayed
Around thee, which He bids us contemplate?’
‘The signs,’ he answered, I behold within;
Without is naught but symbols of the Signs.’
God has already planted the germs for recognizing the truth within us. When we trun inwards, rather than remaining blinded by the tangled mechanisms of the outer world, we come to access and reinstill these germs.
10. THE TREASURE-SEEKER
That which is real is nearer than the neck-artery, and you have shot the arrow of thought far afield.
The philosopher kills himself with thinking. Let him run on: his back is turned to the treasure.
Most of those destined for Paradise are simpletons, so that they escape from the mischief of philosophy.
While the clever ones are pleased with the device, the simple ones rest, like babes, in the bosom of the Deviser.
The huge enterprise of science is not even needed to unlock the mysteries of the universe. Those who know the art of looking within (rather than remaining stuck on the without) for answers, even if they lack the material sophistication of the externalists, have more easily acquired that personal and intimate connection with our God that we either are magnetically attracted to or crazily run away from.
I finish with an ayah and a quatrain…
إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّـهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ
OF ALL His servants, only such as are endowed with [innate] knowledge stand [truly] in awe of God. (in Sura Fatir, 28)
11. A QUATRAIN
I know nothing any more, except
That knowing you, I know the source
Of Knowing ; this fire-spring you pull me in
Sometimes, where ‘you’ and ‘I’ burn.
All translations have been taken from the Rumi edition of the Everyman’s Library of Pocket Poets. In order of appearance of quoted poems, here are the translaters with page number references.
- Andrew Harvey, p. 60
- Andrew Harvey, p. 62
- Coleman Barks, p. 86
- Nicholson, p. 128
- Nicholson, p.130
- same as 2
- Nader Khalili, pp. 76-7
- Coleman Barks, p.84
- Nicholson, p. 93
- Nicholson, p. 96-7
- Andrew Harvey, p. 163