Friday, May 06, 2005

the rainbow king

The king who pleaded mercy for all sins

Has gone. Gone the night bright as a thousand moons.

If he returns, and sees me not, then say,

"Like you who just pass through, she's gone away."

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

A king, a rainbow king, appeared tonight in my dreams. Just the words rainbow and king. I'm reminded of a rainbow kingfisher and the Fisher King of the Parsifal legend. A Google search revealed no actual rainbow kingfisher but I found out how kingfishers - and peacocks - produce their rainbow colours.

The vivid colours in kingfisher plumage are iridescent. Iridescence is more correctly known as structural colour. Pigment colours are seen when certain wavelengths of light are absorbed and all others are reflected. Structural colour is a result of interference between different wavelengths of light as they are reflected from different layers in the surface of a substance. This is how the rainbow colours are produced on the surface of bubbles. The pigment in kingfisher feathers is actually dark brown but the structural colour produces blues, greens and oranges. The feathers on the bird’s back can seem blue or green depending on the angle they are viewed at. Whereas pigment colours break down after time and exposure to light, structural colour does not.

from the Wildfacts page on the Common Kingfisher at

On the peacock, see also: Peacock Plumage Secrets Uncovered by John Pickrell for National Geographic News, 2003.

On the Fisher King, see: The Fisher King and Maimed King at Timeless Myths.

Getting back to today's Rumi quatrain, this "king who pleaded mercy for all sins" sounds to me like Jesus. This view might be a prejudice or colouring from my own Christian background but Rumi was well aware of the Christian teachings and who else is known to have been both a king and a bringer of universal redemption? Rumi then goes on to refer to His return (the Second Coming) and the final Judgment Day.

It is only five days ago that I watched the TV movie The Second Coming, originally shown in the UK on ITV (Feb 2003), but this time on ABC TV, over two years later. Tonight, on DVD, I will be watching Martin Scorsese's film adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis' novel The Last Temptation of Christ (which I read about 30 years ago now).

So Jesus really is in the air just now.

When Rumi writes of "the night bright as a thousand moons" this is reminiscent of the scene in the TV movie where the hero, Steve/Jesus, performs a miracle of bringing daytime light to the stadium where people are gathered to hear him. From the stadium walls outward, it is night, but inside it is day. I guess a thousand moons would also create that effect.

I was writing just last night - under a feminine vision - how women are somehow blamed, through association, with man's impermanence, his mortality. Here, in this quatrain, Rumi is saying that, to the extent that he is impermanent (one who will "just pass through") he can better be referred to as "she". God, the immortal, is "he" while man, the mortal creature, is "she". As a modern woman, I can choose to take offense here, or not. I have a similar choice when confronted with the last saying in the Gospel of Thomas.
Gospel of Thomas Saying 114 (Blatz)
Simon Peter said to them: Let Mariham go out from among us, for women are not worthy of the life. Jesus said: Look, I will lead her that I may make her male, in order that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who makes herself male will enter into the kingdom of heaven.

source: Gospel of Thomas Commentary

As it is, I choose not to take offense.


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