Sunday, October 18, 2009

Up the Great Chain of Being with Jalal a-Din Rumi

One corner of my mind remains open to the possibility that mystics tap into something real. Here's a poem by the Sufi Jalal al-Din Rumi Rumi (1207-1273), aka Mowlana, that seems pumped out of the central artery:
I died as mineral and became a plant.
I died as plant and rose as an animal.
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as Man to soar
With angels blest; but even from angelhood
I must pass on: "All save the face of God doth perish."
When I have sacrificed my angelic soul,
I shall become what no mind has ever conceived.
Oh, let me not exist! for nonexistence
Proclaims in organ tones: "To Him shall we return."

-- cited in Roy Mattadehedeh, The Mantle of the Prophet: Religion and Politics in Iran
"Let me not exist" -- a similar impulse was spun out a bit more than a century later (circa 1375) and a world apart in the anonymous English mystical primer The Cloud of Unknowing, which counsels the contemplative to seek a state in which avoiding of all knowing He who is is always unknown he is knitted unto Him in the best manner; and in that he knows nothing, he is made to be knowing above mind.

Indeed, nonexistence, unknowing, erasure or dissolution of the self in the all-encompassing reality of God, is a staple of mysticism in many times and regions.

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