Monday, April 25, 2005

the other world

You, who make all my hardship easy
And the garden, trees, flowers, drunk with your gifts;
The rose is drunk, the thorn is lost in dream;
Pour one more cup, they'll join in your wine's stream.

#544: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

I found today's quatrain using keywords fashion and craft without success, finally settling on make. I felt a little disappointed because the poem was not about the act of making something, the act of creation. This is starting to feel like a real relationship in which "the other" is unpredictable and not under one's own control. Clearly I am conversing with a part of my soul that expresses itself through Rumi's quatrains, a part I think of as "Rumi" pure and simple. This Rumi is not under my control: I am creating him as much as he is creating me.

This is what Jung referred to as an autonomous complex, a part or aspect of ourselves that appears or presents itself to us as a person, exactly as if we are relating to a ghostly companion. The famous complexes that Jung identified are the persona, the shadow and the anima/animus. For me, Rumi would be functioning pretty much as the animus but his relationship to Shams would not be so simple. Shams was a male friend, a mystic with whom Rumi spent hours discussing and meditating. Shams suddenly disappeared one day, possibly as a result of abduction and subsequent murder. For years Rumi worked on resolving his grief through these love poems to Shams that comprise the Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi volume out of which these quatrains have been selected for translation and then further selected by me for daily inspiration.

I've retold this story about Rumi and Shams by using an implicit reference to the work of Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross, thereby coming dangerously close to reducing Rumi's efforts to a perhaps obsessive response to the loss of someone close. (The Shams collection does comprise 40,000 lines of love poetry.) A gay lobbyist would put quite another spin on it, much to the intense chagrin of orthodox Islam. At the site devoted to Rumi, a clearly heroic and spiritual tale is told as follows:
What is clear is that Shams's disappearance was the catalyst for Rumi's extraordinary outpouring of poetry. Rumi makes this point explicit in many passages. He alludes to it in the first line of his great Mathnawi, where he says,

"Listen to this reed as it tells its tale,
complaining of separations."

For Rumi, separation from Shams was the outward sign of separation from God, which is only half the story. As much as Rumi complains of separation, he celebrates the joys of union. Shams, he lets us know, never really left him, nor was Rumi ever truly separate from God.

"Shams-e Tabrizi is but a pretext-
I display the beauty of God's gentleness, I !"

- Professor William C. Chittick

So where does the title of this piece come in? The idea of another world distinct from our everyday world is one way of expressing the mystery of deity, of transcendence or eternity, this wine that Rumi refers to. A central mystery here is that of separation and union for the ultimate insight encompasses both in a paradoxical union-in-separation. A classic image from alchemy is that of the two worlds as shown here below. To my mind, it tries to capture and communicate this paradox.

the two worlds of alchemy



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