Ходжа Н. (hojja_nusreddin) wrote,
Ходжа Н.

John Renard, "In the Mirror of Creation: a Muslim Mystic's View of the Individual in the Cosmos"


In the encyclopedic poetry of one of Islam's most prominent mystics, Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207-73), one can discover a great deal about the main lines of classical Islamic cosmology and psychology. Conceiving of all of creation as a mirror with two sides, both of which have their reflective values, Rum! describes both the macrocosm and the microcosm as theaters of divine revelation. In the end, one must come to know God's reflection in the intimacy of the solitary heart; but the cosmos will do for a start. Through his classic understandings of space, time, causality, the evolution of consciousness, and the attractive power of like beings in creation, Rumi tells of Creation's potential for making known the Creator. And in his images of body, spirit, intellect, and heart, the poet limns the outlines of the essentially human. In the process, he proceeds from macrocosm to microcosm and back; for just as the heart of the individual is the locus of God's reflection in the person, His prophets are as Heart to the Body of the cosmos, in their function of revealing the divine presence and word.

Jalal ad-Dih Rumi (1207-73) is widely reputed to be one of Islam's foremost mystical poets. His works, written almost exclusively in Persian, include some 35,000 lines of lyric poetry; a fascinating 25,000 line "epic", called the "Spiritual Couplets" (usually known as the Masnavi); a book of prose discourses; and 150 letters. In the early 13th century, Rumi's family migrated westward from their Central Asian home of Balkh (now in north-central Afghanistan), through the central Middle East, and settled in the Turkish capital city of Konya (Iconium of Lycaonia in Paul's day). It was there that Rumi left the life of a professional academician and a position he had inherited from his father, for the more risky and perhaps less respectable life of a "seeker." A circle of followers gathered around the poet, and after his death that circle grew into one of Islam's most influential and famous religious orders. Rumi was the original "Whirling Dervish."

Had Rumi met his contemporaries Aquinas and Bonaventure, he would surely have advised them to think a little less and dance a lot more. But I suspect the Muslim mystic would have found in the work of another of his Christian contemporaries, Vincent of Beauvais (d. 1264), a view of the world not uncongenial to his own. Rumi's poetry is, of course, not at all "systematic" as is Vincent's "Speculum Majus"; but one of the key images in Rumi's anthropology (in the broad sense: his understanding of the microcosm within the macrocosm) is that of the mirror. My purpose here is to explore the cosmological and psychological imagery of a classic literary and religious figure whose stature is such that Muslims still refer to him by his honorific title, Mawlana (Our Master).

I. Rumi's COSMOLOGY: The View from Behind the Mirror

Creation as Revelatory

Rumi's cosmology rests firmly on a Quranic text revealed very early in Muhammad's prophetic career. Speaking of the cosmic quake that will herald the eschaton, Quran XCIX : 4-5 says:
'That day she (the Earth) will relate her chronicles, because your Lord inspires her."
The word "inspires" here translates a term that elsewhere in the Quran and throughout Rumi's works, has become associated with God's revelation to and through a prophet (wahy). In that sense, Mawlana envisions the cosmos as God's first prophet. A brief conversation between the Prophet Muhammad and God describes the Creator's motives:
Mustafa said: "O Lord, since thou hast no need for us, Say, then, what
wisdom was there in creating the two worlds?"

God said to him: "O temporal man, I was a hidden treasure; I sought
that the treasure of loving kindness and bounty should be revealed (peida).

I displayed a mirror—its face the heart, its back the world —
Its back is better than its face—if the face is unknown to thee
. [2]

As the text suggests, creation is composed of "two worlds." One is "formal," the other real; one is apparent, the other concealed. All events occur in both worlds, but the meaning of any given event is far different when perceived from the perspective of "this" world than when perceived from that of the "other" world. Creation is therefore bivalent: it has both negative and positive aspects; it both warns and entices.

In Rumi's own words, the other world is:
... neither inside of this world nor outside;
neither beneath it nor above it;

neither joined with it nor separate from it:
it is devoid of quality and relation.

At every moment thousands of signs
and types are displayed by it (in this world).

As manual skill to the form of the hand,
or glances of the eye to the form of the eye,

or eloquence of the tongue to the form of the tongue,
(such is the relation of that world to this)
. [3]

To the extent that human beings imagine that "form" or appearance tells the whole story, the cosmos has negative value. The beguilements of physical attractiveness can turn the world into a trap, a well, an "abode of delusion." Form-worshippers regard the world as substantial, but it is in reality a "sleeper's dream," which inhabitants of the "other" world interpret very differently than do those who dwell in the world of form. Lovers of form hear no message from the world to apprise them of the meaning behind the form. To them the world is dead. It is a frozen "world of winter" that will melt only with the warm Zephyr of the Resurrection. [4]

Rumi is fond of the Tradition of Muhammad: "This world is a carcase." [5]
Many people believe, to their detriment,
that this world is alive in itself.

They refuse to look beyond form, for they fail to understand
that the world is 'like straws in the hand of the wind.'

The world full of forms becomes their idol-temple,
while the world is in reality full of His Image Who has no form
. [6]

From the perspective of the other world, every particle of the earth is alive and articulate and fully perceptive of the one reality behind multiple form:
The world is like a reed pipe, and He blows in its every hole;
truly its every lament derives from those two sugar-sweet lips.

Behold how, when He blows into every clod, every heart,
He bestows a need, He bestows a passion
which raises lamentation of anguish
. [7]

To those who are not satisfied with appearances, this world is the "seed-plot" of the other world.
"God revealed this present world in order that you may acknowledge the other stages which yet lie ahead.
He did not reveal it so that you should disbelieve and say: 'This is all that there is.' "

Just as one comes to know the full personality of a human being only initially by apprehending his physical presence, so by perceiving the form of the world one can gain an inchoate apprehension of its reality. Though the earth is externally composed of darkness, it is luminous within. Even its darkness, however, becomes a foil for God's light; for God "made the 6 directions a theatre for the display of his signs to the clairvoyant." In a world where every leaf and tree is a messenger (rasul), all creation may indeed be said to be "God's family." [9]

Creation's ultimate reason-for-being is the glorification of God. God also had a more curious motive for creating the two worlds:
"If God most High has created the heavens,
He has created them for the purpose of removing needs."

Where there is pain, a cure appears; where there is poverty, goods are supplied;
where there is a question, an answer comes to light.
Where there is nonexistence, something comes into existence:
"We were not, and there was no demand on our part, (yet) thy grace was
hearkening to our unspoken prayer (and calling us into existence)."

Alluding to Muhammad's ascension, Rumi suggests that deep contemplation of the world cannot but take one beyond it:
Go ye and think upon His wonders, become lost (to yourselves)
from the majesty and awe (of Him).

When he (who beholds the wonders of God) loses beard and moustache (abandons pride and egoism)
from (contemplating) His work, he will know his (proper) station and will be silent concerning the Worker.

He will only say from his soul, "I cannot (raise thee duly),"
because the declaration thereof is beyond reckoning and bound."

Basic Cosmological Concepts: Space, Time, Causality

Mawlana characterizes all that can be learned in this world as the "science of bodies," as distinguished from the "science of religions," which can be acquired only after death. However,"All bodies and all the world are maintained in being by forgetfulness," which is equivalent to unbelief. As a general description, Rumi says that all things that exist in this world are "bodies contained in a certain space and comprised in the 6 directions, created in time and subject to decay." [12]

In the final analysis it is not "natural" causes that maintain existent things in their respective spatio-temporal relationships. Forgetfulness alone makes existent things appear to be intrinsically and causally related, because the amnesia of unbelief causes people to deny that God is the only real cause. In this radically atomistic cosmos, beings are related to one another solely by virtue of their common relationship to the Cause.

"Horizontal" relationships in space and time are fundamentally illusory and untrustworthy. Of themselves such relationships can only remain secondary and without a primary link in the Creator. No existent thing derives its genuine value by reason of being juxtaposed with another of its own kind. God alone gives value. Neither do beings effect important changes in one another. God alone causes. Interaction of bodies in time and space is at most concomitant with, or an "occasion" for, divine action.

Discontinuity, fragmentation, sheer multiplicity are the marks of the world of forms. In the forgetfulness of unbelief, one can unfortunately be charmed into imagining that the very succession of impressions afforded by the world of sense is sufficient reason for considering that world substantial. It remains nevertheless merely a string of accidents issuing from the "six directions" and competing for the attention of sensate beings. Mawlana describes the situation in the "Fihi Ma Fihi":
As it is accident, one must not dwell upon accident. For this substance is like a musk-pod, and this material world and its delights are like the scent of the musk. This scent of the musk is but transient, for it is mere accident. He who has sought of this scent the musk itself and has not been content only with the scent, that man is good. But he who has been satisfied to possess the scent, that man is evil; for he has grasped after a thing that does not remain in his hand. For the scent is merely the attribute of the musk. So long as the musk is apparent in the world, its scent comes to the nostrils. When however it enters the veil and returns to the other world, all those who lived by its scent die. For the scent is attached to the musk, and departs whither the musk reveals itself.

Given the insubstantial nature of such a world of accidents, time becomes a series of discrete moments, space a configuration caused by the momentary collision of indivisible and impenetrable bodies called atoms. No single being moving through such discontinuous space and time can claim primary causality for itself. Lack of faith allows a person to be convinced that the forces of this world are causally efficacious. An unbeliever can therefore witness countless miracles and remain unmoved by them, for he can "explain them away" with a philosophy that claims a knowledge of all causes and connections.

For Mawlana, earth is above all the place "where means and causes are torn to shreds," where primary causes take precedence over secondary. Secondary means are the pen with which God writes. No mere instrument can provide its own meaning and continuity; the Mover must supply those things.[14] Just as it is the Creator who integrates all cause and effect with the unifying thread of His power, so does He unify time by constantly revealing Himself anew from moment to moment. In other words, God's power and manifestation are the only constants in a world that is otherwise absurdly variable.
"Every atom has become pregnant with the glow of His face,
every atom of that delight gives birth to a hundred atoms,"
but duration is only apparent.
Rumi's own description of discontinuous time is worth quoting in full:
Every moment the world is renewed, and we are unaware
of its being renewed whilst it remains (the same in appearance).

Life is ever arriving anew, like the stream,
though in the body it has the semblance of continuity.

From its swiftness it appears continuous,
like the spark which thou whirlest rapidly with thy hand.

If thou whirl a firebrand with dexterity,
it appears to the sight as a very long (line of) fire.

The swift motion produced by the action of God presents this length of duration (time)
as (a phenomenon arising) from the rapidity of Divine action
. [16]

Individuals, too, as part of the ever-new world, are constantly receiving fresh revelations from God in their hearts. Of those actions Rumi remarks:
"The first is in no way like the second, neither is the second like the third.
Only man is unconscious of himself and does not know himself."
For that reason the Lord of the Worlds continually sends messengers to invite each person back to the roots of self.

Viewed in the context of Muslim intellectual history, Mawlana's cosmology appears to derive from the Asharite school. Al-Ashari's successors developed an occasionalist metaphysics of atoms and accidents. Their doctrine was designed to explain God's unassailable omnipotence and to demonstrate how, at the same time, the appearances of things can make people imagine that there is power in natural causes and events. In the context of Rumi's own thought, his cosmological atomism is a way of highlighting the perils of believing that this world is permanent, dependable, and meaningful in itself. [18]

The Hierarchy of Created Beings and the "Evolution" of Consciousness

Creation is an ebb and flow, a dialectic of descent and ascent. Beginning with the highest of the three types of creatures, Rumi describes a kind of continuum from angel to human being to beast. Angels are pure intelligence with no admixture of lust. At the bottom of the spectrum are beasts, which are composed entirely of lust. Neither angels nor beasts experience struggle in their existence because they are simple and are not made up of contrary elements. Human beings, on the other hand, are composed of water and clay. As half intelligence and half lust, people are attracted simultaneously toward the water of speech by the fish of intelligence, and toward the clay of animality by the snake of lust.

As a consequence of their struggle, human beings are divided into 3 groups:
- some have so completely subdued their lust that they have become angelic. Jesus, for example, was "Adam" in form but "Gabriel" in reality.
- at the other extreme are those who have become "pure anger and absolute lust." These have become utterly bestial, but are far worse off than the beasts since they suffer the gnawing anxiety of knowing they have given up the fight. Allowing themselves to be duped by their inverted sense perceptions, such people spend their days devising ruses and amassing pseudo-knowledge for themselves.
- between the two extremes are the people who engage in the ongoing battle between intelligence and lust. These are the generality of believers, for whom the saints wait and to whom the prophets most hopefully deliver God's message.

Rumi explains further the condition of people engaged in the struggle for true knowledge:
Man has three spiritual states. In the first he pays no heed to God at all, but worships and pays service to everything; man and woman, wealth and children, stones and clods; God he does not worship.
When he acquires a little knowledge and awareness, then he serves nothing but God.
Again, when he progresses farther in this state he becomes silent; he does not say, "I do not serve God," neither does he say, "I serve God," for he has transcended these two degrees.
No sound from these people issues into the world
. [19]

Another short text from the Divan picks up the theme:
"Here a world and there a world: I am seated on the threshold.
On the threshold are they alone whose eloquence is mute."

At this point Mawlana has begun to describe the process of creation's ascent or return to God.
It is a process of refinement, of "spiritualization."
"It is not like the ascension of a mortal to the moon, but like the ascension of sugar-cane to sugar. It is not like the ascension of a vapour to the sky, but like the ascension of an embryo to rationality."

Humanity must own its humble beginnings in the organic or mineral state, and its passage through the plant or vegetal, then through animality to the human and even beyond. A passage in the "Fihi Ma Fihi" likens non-lovers, the majority of people, to cattle; but even these are candidates for evolutionary elevation. Rumi writes:
Though they are cattle, yet they are deserving of favour. Though they are in the stable, yet they are acceptable to the Lord of the stable. If He so desires, He transfers them from this stable and brings them into His private pen. So in the beginning when man was non-existent God brought him into existence, then transferred him from the pen of existence into the world inanimate, then from the pen of the world inanimate into the vegetable, then from the vegetable to the animal, then from the animal to man, then from man to angel, and so ad infinitum
. [22]

In each successive state no memory of the preceding level remains, but each state does retain an "inclination" or "sub-conscious" affinity with the foregoing stage. Humanity's upward journey does not end with the acquisition of intelligence. Higher states remain to be achieved, for human intelligence is only partial. Freedom from its confinement and partiality awaits those who take leave of their humanity and rise to become one with the angels, and even beyond that, to enter into "nonexistence" in the final reunion with the Creator. [23]

Rumi tells the story of the housewife boiling the chickpea in a pot and encouraging it to endure tribulation for the sake of the ascent from the inanimate state to the human, by being eaten and assimilated, and so on up. Rumi considers this evolutionary process to be the only genuine miracle. [24} He therefore counsels the seeker:
The caravan (of spirits) is incessantly arriving from heaven,
that they may traffic (on the earth) and go back again.

Go, then, sweetly and gladly with free-will,
not with bitterness and loathing, like a thief.

I am speaking bitter words to thee,
in order that I may wash thee (clean) of bitterness.

The frozen grape is thawed by (literally "is freed by") cold water
and lays aside its coldness and congealment.

When, from (having endured) bitterness (self-mortification), thy heart is fill with blood (like the grape),
then thou wilt escape from all bitterness
. [25]

The Cosmological Basis of Attractive Power

One of the fundamental principles in Rumi's thought is that like attracts like: every being gravitates towards its own kind. For example:
Each one of the atoms on atoms which exist in this earth and heaven
is like amber (a magnet) for its congener (that which is of its own kind).

The belly attracts bread to its resting place;
the heat of the liver attracts water.

The eye is an attractor of beautiful persons from these (different) quarters of the town;
the brain (nose) is seeking (to attract) scents from the rose-garden,

Because the sense peculiar to the eye is an attractor of colour,
while the brain and nose attract sweet perfumes.

O Lord who knowest the secret, do Thou preserve us
from these attractions by the attraction of Thy grace!

Thou, O Purchaser, art dominant over (all) attractors:
it would be fitting if Thou redeem the helpless.

The Creator, of course, is the ultimate attractor whose pull sets in motion the upward tendency of creation. On the level of creatures themselves, God has fashioned all things in pairs and has mated every being with its own kind. All results in the created world proceed from union. Even apparently evil effects are therefore also reinforced by the consorting of the evil such as the enemies of the prophets. Those who are homogeneous or "of like kind" with their prophets will be inherently better disposed to receive the prophetic message. Those who are homogeneous with the enviers of the prophets will be naturally loathe to give the messengers a hearing. Attractive force and its consequences form an important part of the dynamic of prophetic revelation.

Humanity in Relation to the Cosmos

Fruit appears to derive from the branch, but in reality the branch grows for the sake of the fruit.
Similarly, humanity is the final object of all creation: that for which the cosmos came into being. The human is like a river and the world like a jar; the heart is an entire city, the world a single room. All human faculties are the model of the universe. Thus the heavens may be said to reflect human rationality, for God created reason before he made the two worlds. [27]

Mawlana clarifies his views in the "Fihi Ma Fihi"
When God most High wishes to produce in this world all manner of rare and wonderful things, orchards, gardens, meadows, sciences, compositions of various kinds, He first implants the desire and demand for them in the inward hearts, so that thence they may become visible.
Similarly every thing which you see in this world, be sure that it exists in that world. For instance, whatever you see in the dew, be sure that it will be in the ocean.
In the same way this creation of heaven and earth, Throne and Footstool, and the other marvels — God implanted the demand for that in the spirits of the ancients, and so of course the world became visible accordingly
. [28]

From the perspective of this world, therefore, the human person is the cosmos in miniature. From an other-worldly perspective, however, the person precedes and transcends the cosmos as its model and as the one for whom all was created.

God's Involvement in the World

Everything in creation is the work of God. There are no exceptions to that rule. All human acts, both good and evil, are God's creations. Although God wills evil, He does not approve of it; even as a doctor may will the sickness of his patients so that he might practice his art, and yet does not approve of their sickness.
Rumi has devised some very strong imagery to convey the notion of God's absolute control over the world and humanity:
Man is like a bow in the hand of the grip of God's omnipotence. God most High employs him upon various tasks, and the agent in reality is God, not the bow. The bow is the instrument and the medium, but it is unaware and unconscious of God, that the world's order may be maintained. Mighty indeed is the bow that is aware in whose hand it is!

Mawlana nevertheless insists that God does not compel the person. Everyone is left utterly free to accept or to reject God's grace. Overpowering grace may itself be viewed as compelling; but one is free not to surrender one's free will to that overpowering grace. So, for example, the women of Egypt who cut their hands in astonishment at the beauty of Joseph, did so freely. They were not coerced by Joseph's appearance, as Zulaykha had hoped to prove in order to acquit herself of guilt. [30]

Rumi is constant in his rejection of all forms of determinism, while firmly maintaining that the ethical ideal of love demands the abandonment of free will:
"He who has not escaped out of free will, no free will has he."

Divine intervention in human affairs is admirably capsulized in Rumi's most complete statement on the matter:
If receptivity were a necessary condition for God's action,
no nonexistent thing would come into existence.

He (God) hath established a (customary) law and causes and means
for the sake of those who seek (Him) under this blue veil (of heaven).

Most happenings come to pass according to the (customary) law,
(but) sometimes the (Divine) power breaks the law.

He hath established a goodly law and custom;
then He hath made the (evidentiary) miracle a breach of the custom.

If honor does not reach us without a (mediating) cause,
(yet) the (Divine) Power is not remote from the removal of the cause (i.e., can remove and act without it).

O thou who are caught by the cause, do not fly outside (of causation);
but (at the same time) do not suppose the removal of the Causer.

The Causer brings (into existence) whatsoever He will:
the absolute Power tears up (destroys) the causes;

But, for the most part, he lets the execution (of His will) follow the course of causation,
in order that a seeker may be able to pursue the object of his desire.

When there is no cause, what way should the seeker pursue?
Therefore he must have a visible cause in the way (that he is pursuing).

These causes are veils on the eyes,
for not every eye is worthy of (contemplating) His work.

An eye that can penetrate the cause is needed
to extirpate (these) veils from root and bottom,

So that it may behold the Cause in (the world of) non-spatiality
and regard exertion and earnings and shops as (mere) nonsense.

Everything good or evil comes from the Causer

II Rumi's PSYCHOLOGY: Polishing the Face of the Mirror

Humanity's active role in relation to the rest of creation is eloquently set forth in the "Fihi Ma Fihi". Alluding to Quran XXXIII : 72, Mawlana says:
" 'We offered that trust to the heavens, but they were unable to accept it.' Consider how many tasks are performed by the heavens, whereat the human reason is bewildered. The heavens convert common stones into rubies and carnelians; they make mountains into mines of gold and silver; they cause the herbs of the earth to germinate and spring into life, making a veritable Garden of Eden. The earth too receives the seeds and bears fruit; it covers up blemishes; it accepts and reveals a hundred thousand marvels such as can never be told in full. The mountains too give forth all those multifarious mines. All these things they do, yet that one thing is not performed by them; that task is performed by man
. [33]

"That one thing"
is to carry the secret of acquaintance with God in the inmost heart. A person is like a city: if the secret heart is not well furnished and "occupied with God," though the rest of the city be richly decorated and full of "a hundred thousand accomplishments," it were better off in ruins. Or as Rumi says elsewhere,
"Though the whole world be ablaze with light,
except there be light within the eye, that man will not behold that light.
The root of the matter is that receptiveness that is within the soul."

The next few pages will investigate Mawlana's view of the makeup of the human person, and the agony and ecstasy of humanity's attempts to bear the trust offered by God.

The Body and the Nafs

God's fashioning of clay, semen, and flesh into a living body with heart and spirit is primary proof of the Resurrection. Body is a beehive containing the wax and honey of the love of God. The hive is moulded immediately (that is, proximately) by mother and father; but ultimately the hive is made by the gardener, without whose tending the parent bees could not act as they do. Bee and hive are merely forms or "garments" appropriate to a certain stage of existence. When that stage has been transcended, the garment must be exchanged, but the person (shakhs) remains the same. When the house of the body is young and small, the thoughts that are its guests are few and can be easily accommodated. As the guests increase in number and begin to include reason, perception, discrimination, and passionate love, the house must be enlarged. Demand for space continues to escalate until finally an infinite space is necessary to welcome the King's entire retinue with appropriate hospitality. Body is then dispensed with and all veils are removed. [35]

Body is the tent of the spirit, but has little else in common with the spirit in this world. At the Resurrection, however, the body will be given the form of spirit. In the meantime, body is expendable. It is a lie before the truth of spirit; it is the buttermilk within which the butter of spirit goes unnoticed. Like a coat of mail, body is appropriate neither for winter nor for summer; yet body is not merely neutral. It is an absolute hindrance. It is the fish that prevented the Jonah of the spirit from seeing the light of dawn, a hoodwink. Too much attention to the body is like eating chalk: it will make the eater ill. People enslaved to body have no eyes for the hidden world, and they make war against the heart. Like a horse whose stable is this lower world, the body seeks fodder. Even if the heart is present, it is powerless so long as the horse is dominant. [36]

That which "motivates" the body is called the nafs, the "fleshly soul." Nafs represents a thoroughly negative attitude, a tendency toward disintegration, a sort of spiritual entropy resulting from overinvestment in the five senses and the 6 directions. Nafs is the triumph of lust over intelligence. A person who is so oriented becomes hopelessly encapsulated and isolated, so that he is incapable of authentic relationships with either people or God. Such a person can feel only the chill wind of autumn. Because the Devil is his only friend, even as God is the prophet's only friend, he becomes a deceitful dragon. Like the Devil himself, the nafs is of fire and must therefore flee from the light of God which can extinguish the fleshly soul's flame with its water of life. [37]

Because of the overwhelmingly earth-bound qualities of both the body and the nafs, Rumi likens the human person to a dunghill or a sack of corn. Both the manure and the grain are of surpassing value, nevertheless, for the King has lost his seal-ring in the manure and his gold cup in the grain sack. The ring and the cup are hidden in the person like a
"passion, an agony, an itch, an importunity such that,
though a hundred thousand worlds were his to own,
yet he would not find rest or repose."

Reason itself must pay respect to the lowly body, for within the body resides that spark of longing for the other world that even mighty Reason cannot fathom. The falcon lowers its wings before the partridge; and even the Prophet asked the poor for their blessing, for he knew the King was wont to hide His treasure in ruins. [38]

Spirit and Intelligence

Spirit, Intelligence, and Heart are the royal treasure. Rumi often speaks of intelligence, or reason, together with spirit, so that "aql u jan" is nearly formulaic in his poetry. Both faculties are hidden in the body, and together they are the essence of spring in thawing this world's winter. Body is the spirit's cage and nafs is intellect's arch-enemy. If intelligence is bested by nafs it becomes nafs. All creatures, from lowest beast on up, are endowed with 'aql and jan, but in differing degrees. In some human beings intelligence and spirit are scarcely operative. Infidels and enemies of the prophets, for example, are personifications of the nafs, whereas the prophet is the very embodiment of 'aql and jan. Believers and infidels tend to associate with their own kind because intellect attracts intellect, and nafs attract nafs. [39]

Intellect takes its lessons from spirit. As a result of the impression spirit leaves on intellect, intellect is enabled to exercise a certain governance over the whole person. From the spirit intellect receives understanding and enlightenment. Of the two faculties, intelligence is the more concealed and is jealous of spirit's greater proximity to the source of true knowledge. [40]

Lofty and refined though they are by contrast with body and nafs, spirit and intelligence must still transcend themselves and be further purified if they are not to remain merely partial. They must sacrifice themselves to the Sea, in which soul is swallowed up and the "opinion" of intelligence is superseded by the "vision" of bewilderment. In other words, the intelligent person must become a fool in order to keep the heart pure. [41]
So long as spirit remains partial and individual it can never be more than a deficient teacher of intellect, and intellect can thus never attain to complete knowledge. Full knowledge is synonymous with Revelation and True Belief. Since complete knowledge comes to rest in the Heart, we must turn at last to Mawlana's treatment of that noblest of human faculties.

The Heart

At the very core of the person lies the ultimate index of human quality: the heart (qalb, dil). Spirit and Intellect are able to sacrifice themselves to the Sea only through the tank of the heart, which has a hidden channel to the Sea. People of heart are therefore those, whose insight penetrates to the most secret realities, while people of body are trapped in nearsighted particularity. Because the heart is invisible, one knows it by seeking the company of people of heart, and by seeking to know their thoughts, which are the plants growing from the heart's soil. [42]
To give clear vision, the mirror of the heart must be highly polished by patience: it must be free from the rust of lust that deafens and blinds the heart and disquiets it with falsehood. [43]
A pure mirror allows one to see beyond the world of water and clay, to see both image and Image-Maker. More importantly, the heart must be so reflective that God can see His own face in it and make the heart His Throne. [44]
Rumi alludes to a famous Sacred Hadith and discusses God's relationship to the heart:
"I am not contained in the heavens or in the void
or in the exalted intelligences and souls;

(But) I am contained, as a guest, in the true believer's heart,
without qualification or definition or description,

To the end that by the mediation of that heart (all)
above and below may win from me sovereignties and fortune.

Without such a mirror neither Earth nor Time
could bear the vision of My beauty.

I caused the steed of (My) mercy to gallop over the two worlds:
I fashioned a very spacious mirror.

From this mirror (appear) at every moment fifty (spiritual) wedding-feasts:
hearken to the mirror, but do not ask (Me) to describe it."

Upon the heart God sends His Revelation and His Light in new and different ways at each moment, as He holds the heart of the believer in His hand. Once God has given knowledge to the heart, that knowledge and light begin to transform the senses. [46]
Parallel to the 5 external senses are the 5 internal senses, which in turn are related to God's senses as part to whole. Various listings are given for the internal senses. Nicholson includes:
common sense, fantasy, judgment, memory, and imagination.
These faculties are tributary to the heart as streams or fountains flowing into the Sea or Meadow of Heart:
Since these five fountains of the senses are flowing over your body,
know that it is by the superintendence of that fairy (intellect in the guise of a jinn)
that sometimes they are stopped up, sometimes set flowing.

Know also that those five inward senses, such as imagination and conception (tacavvur),
are likewise five fountains running toward the pasture
. [47]

All of the senses, both internal and external, are under the aegis of the heart. They can render a faithful accounting only in proportion to the degree of polish or rustiness of the heart. [48] Both pairs of senses are integrally linked among themselves, so that the eye's impressions affect the speech, and vice-versa. If the heart is bright the internal eye will see clearly; and since the external eye is "derivative" of the internal eye and "turns to" it, the bodily sense of sight will also render an accurate picture of the world. A true assessment of the nature of the six-directional cosmos is crucial, for the human person is essentially eye and becomes whatever the eye beholds. When the senses are illumined by the heart, they become heart and no longer need to function as physical senses; for they have transcended, or "by-passed," the world of shape and color. [49]

To this process Rumi alludes when he writes:
When you wish to go to a certain place, first your heart goes and sees and informs itself of the conditions prevailing there; then your heart returns and draws your body along.
Now all these other men are as bodies in relation to the saints and prophets, who are the Heart of this world
. [50]

III. Conclusion

Rum's images of the person in the world raise numerous questions that are never quite satisfied with tidy answers. Since he was not a systematic thinker primarily, and indeed often referred to Reason as a "highway robber" and a trap, Rumi rarely approached head-on the issues of theodicy (whether this is the best of all possible worlds, whether the existence of evil diminishes God's power, etc.) so energetically debated by Islamic philosophers and theologians.

That does not mean, however, that one must come away from a study of the poet's works with only the vaguest clue as to what he really believes about the Creator's works. Rumi's underlying convictions as to the meaning and value of individual and cosmos are as consistent as his images are protean.
Beneath and between the poet's lines one can discern certain key issues that will serve here as a summary of his thought on this paper's theme.

1. The world came into being as a kind of concession to God's need to be "discovered," hidden treasure that He is. Rumi does not argue over the eternity or temporality of the cosmos; the utter necessity (metaphysical, but perhaps even logical) that Beauty Itself be somehow revealed is the foundation of his cosmology.

2. The Divine Manifestation must be received in some way. Creation as the theater of God's "signs" must be cherished and taken care of — it must be "entrusted." After heaven and earth refused, for the burden seemed too weighty, humanity freely chose to accept the Trust.

3 However, even though humanity answered the creator's question "Am I not your Lord?" with a resounding and unified "Yes, we testify to that," the struggle to see the world for what it is most profoundly must be waged unstintingly within the self. Humanity is most forgetful of its true source.

4. The primary epistemological axiom for Rumi is: "Things are known by their opposites."
For example, non-being, the quality that best describes this world in relation to the "unseen world," is the opposite of Being. By knowing and experiencing the non-being of this world, one can get an intimation of the true nature of the other world.
God, however, has no true opposite and therefore cannot ever be fully comprehended in this manner. One can nevertheless approach the Mystery by the via negativa, by knowing all that is not God.

5. Human beings seem to have a natural tendency to accept the world at face value, and thus mistake accidents for substance and form for meaning. That natural tendency is fundamentally a kind of egocentricity symbolized by the "lower self," the nafs (a term Rumi uses almost exclusively as a technical term — not as the reflexive pronoun for "oneself" — for all manner of centrifugal propensities that distort one's view of the universe).
The "lower self" battles continually with the spirit and intelligence for dominance over the heart. When nafs is in the ascendancy, spiritual insight is blurred; when spirit reigns, vision is restored through the refurbished mirror of the heart.

6. Unaided human intelligence is of itself "particular" or partial, and hence cannot transcend this "6-directional" world so as to make sense of it in terms of the unseen world. In conjunction with the Universal Intellect, however, as embodied in God's prophets (and saints), the partial intellect has access to the Light necessary to interpret the Signs in creation.

7. Rumi maintains that God's infinite Power and Wisdom do not take responsibility away from humanity, and that human freedom in no way contradicts the Creator's sovereignty.


[1] Hereafter all textual references will occur in footnotes. Citations from Rumi's works will be made as follows:
- Mathnawi (Nicholson edition; London: Luzae, 1925-40) by Book and verse, e.g., IV: 2710; H refers to Heading in text above line number cited. Translations from the Mathnawi are those of R.A. Nicholson.
- Fihi Ma Fihi (Arberry's Translation as Discourses of Rumi, New York: Samuel Weiser, 1972; and Furuzanfar's Persian edition, Tehran: Amir Kabir, 1338/1959) by Arberry page/Furuzanfar page, e.g., F 35/27.
- Diwan-i Shams (Furuzanfar's edition in one volume, Tehran: University of Tehran, 1351/1970) by Poem and verse, e.g., D 2714:12
- Rubaiyat indicated as R, e.g. R 643.
- Maktubat (Persian edition of Y. Jamshidpur and G.Amin, Tehran: Bungah-1 Matbu'antiyya-yi-Payan-dah, 1335/1956) by Letter/page number, e.g., M 67/148.
In order to minimize the number of notes, I have tried to collect wherever possible all references to material mentioned in a single paragraph into one note at the end of that paragraph.
[2] D 3426:1-3. The Hadith Qudsi "I was a hidden treasure ..." occurs also in F 184/176, 186/179; see also B. Furuzanfar's "Ahadith-i Mathnawi" (Tehran: University of Tehran, 1955), number 70 (hereafter referred to as, e.g., AM 70)
[3] IV: H. 1592-1635; quotation from V: H. 2786
[4] II:1276, IV:3083; III:1733, IV:3654-61, F 112/100, 194/185; AM 223, 436. F 69/57, III:1008ff, D 166:10
[5] I:H.3948, ffl:4551, V:H.3591ff, VI:3475; AM 705
[6] II :1300; IV:818; D 478:4
[7] D 532:8-9; I:2122; III:1011-12; IV:3532-6; V:H. 3591; F 231/224
[8] Seed-plot hadith in F 60/48; AM 338. F 32/20; H:994ff
[9] F 51/39. IV:100-14, F 92/80; VI:3640. D 451:7; hadith in 1:927, M 32/88, 9:55, 89:180, 105:210, and III:220; AM 21
[10] I:866, III:2988. III:3209-11, I:610
[11] IV:3708-10, quoting hadith related to Mc'raj; also in I:128; AM 3
[12] F 235/228. F 215/207, 120/109. F 151/154
[13] F 70/58-9
[14] IV:2381; 1:843-6, III:2514-5. F 233/225, II:1303
[15] F 149-50/140-1
[16] I:1144-8; also II:1000-2
[17] F 200/191; D 26:1, 887:4
[18] Rumi's contemporary Ibn al-'Arabi departed from the Ash'arite position with his critique of atomism on the grounds that it overlooks the existence of the Reality that underlies the accidents and ends up in self-contradictory claims that accidents do not subsist individually but do subsist when gathered together. See T. Izutsu, "A Comparative Study of the Key Philosophical Concepts of Sufism and Taoism" (Tokyo: Keio University, 1966-67); I:197-207
[19] Quote from F 205-6/197. Preceding paragraph based on F 88-90/76-8, IV:H. 1497 - 1532
[20] Nicholson's Selected Poems from the Divani Shamsi Tabriz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952), poem number 36
[21] IV:553-4
[22] F 32/20; see also Nicholson (n. 20), poem 12—a poem quite likely written by Rumi's son Sultan Walad
[23] III:3901-6; IV:H. 3637-67
[24] III:4159ff. Miracle here translates karamat, F 129/118
[25] III:4190-5; grape image also in F 229/222
[26] VI:2900-5. Also (for items in following sentences of this paragraph) II:308-9, VI:523, 1894-5
[27] IV:H.521-4, II:970-3. IV:810-11, VI:1935-6
[28] F 149-140; also F 170-5/166
[29] F 207/199. F 186-7/179. Quotation from F 108/200, and similar imagery also in D 304:11 and 771:9
[30] IV:401-4; III:H.2900ff. V:2795-6
[31] D 455:3; I:377-80, 84-6; I:472-3. After an excellent summary of Rumi's thought on this matter, K. Hakim writes: "At the end freedom and determinism are synthesized. Life starts with determinism at the lower plane, develops to the capacity of free choice in man in order to rise to a higher determinism again, where man makes a free offer of his freedom. So determinism is of two kinds, forced compulsion and free compulsion..." [The Metaphysics of Rumi [Lahore: Institute of Islamic Culture, 1965], p. 79)
[32] V: 1542-54
[33] F 27/14. See also F 197/187; 1:1957-9
[34] F 195-6/187. F 68/56 for second set of images (eye)
[35] IV 889 - 896, F 228/221, F 166/148
[36] II:455; V:1900. V:2591. IV:3031-2. VI:1404. II:3140; F 238/230, F 165/157, II:1361, 3219, 3253, F 29/16; II:3310
[37] II:20-1; III:2690, I:2051, III:2548, 3197; II:1252-3
[38] Quote re: ring and cup from F 75/64; also F 208/200 alluding to the story of Joseph's hiding a gold cup in Benjamin's sack. VI.1625-34; F 133/123
[39] I:2051-2, III:3973, I:1548-9; II:2266-71, IV:409-10, II:3310, III:3689; V:167
[40] III:3584-5; I:1064-7. II:3252; VI:686ff
[41] II:1358ff; IV:1407ff, IV:1421
[42] II:1364. II:3220-9, VI:1294ff; IV:1318
[43] VI:2041-3; I:3459-60; V:1365; II:2734
[44] II:72-3. F 195/187; I:3158ff, 3665-6
[45] VI:3072-7; Hadith Qudsi in AM 63
[46] F 174/165, 200/190; III:1641-5, 4259; AM 13, I:1010-7, 3461
[47] D 188:4-5, in A.J. Arberry's "Mystical Poems of Rumi", Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968), selection # 22
[48] I:3575-8, 2710-4; VI:1024
[49] II:3233-8, 45-6, II:610-11, VI:812, III:4314-17; I:3164
[50] F 177/168; also V:1065-7

John Renard, S.J. is Associate Professor of Theological Studies at St. Louis University (St. Louis, MO 63108), teaching courses in Islamic Studies, History of Religions, and Religion and Art. He received his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies in 1978 from Harvard University's Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. His translation of 16 letters of spiritual direction, "Letters on the Sufi Path" by Ibn Abbad of Ronda, with Introduction and Notes, is scheduled for publication in late 1985, in the Paulist Press Classics of Western Spirituality series.

Renard's CV
: http://www.slu.edu/Documents/arts_sciences/theology/Renard_CV.pdf
Renard's books: http://www.amazon.com/John-Renard/e/B001IXQ994
Tags: rumi, бог, зеркало, космос, мирИной, мистик, фаллосопея, эго

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